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Mike Scopa

Top Disney Web sites: The DisneyDollarless Community

Friday, April 4, 2003
by Mike Scopa, MousePlanet staff writer

In this session on top Disney Web sites, let's focus on Disneydollarless, which recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. This site is made up of two components: a Yahoo e-mail list and a public Web site.


Used by permission of DisneyDollarless.

Actually, I do DisneyDollarless a disservice when I describe it as a Web site. It's more than that. In reality, it's a Disney community.

If you read the site's mission statement, you understand what I mean:

“DisneyDollarless is a free e-mail list and companion Web site where members contribute ideas on ways to raise money and tips on how to cut cost on that next Disney vacation. It's also a terrific place to get all of your vacation planning questions answered — absolutely free!

DisneyDollarless is also a unique vacation support network where members exchange discount coupons, plan WDW meets with other list members, trade used guide books, play games for Disney prizes, share postcards from Epcot, and occasionally give something away completely free for no other reason than the joy of doing it. But most importantly, DisneyDollarless strives to create a bit of Disney Magic for all who join us.”

Special Areas

This site offers some very special areas, such as:

  • Mascots – in which members reserve a small stuffed mascot, such as Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice, then use it in a unique way of meeting and connecting by handing it off to other DisneyDollarless members in their travels.
  • Fairy Godmother/Godfather Program – where members can directly help other members by sending unused coupons, donating hotel shampoo and soap to needy places, offering vacation ponchos to other guests on your last day in the park, and even offering to take a photo of others.
  • Kid's Travel Journal – offers special pages where children can put together a journal of their vacation in Orlando. This section also offers ideas on how to bind the finished journal.

They have fun on this site too, including their own game of Survivor.

The list goes on... information on meets, photos, trip reports, discussion boards, chats, discounts, trip planning, reviews, downloads, and all kinds of fun. This would be everything you would expect to find in a Disney site and more — in a community that Binnie Betten and her staff has built.

Founder: Binnie Betten

Binnie Betten, founder of DisneyDollarless, recalls how the whole idea of putting a Web site got started. Binnie found herself hooked on the rec.arts.disney.parks (RADP) Usenet newsgroup.

She met a group of Disney fans who belonged to a small private e–mail list called the DisneyDieters.

Binnie and another DisneyDieter, Stacy Fultz, began noticing Web sites that awarded prizes or cash for clicking on sponsors' links. That launched an idea.

Binnie recalls, “Our initial idea was to start a small intimate e–mail list where like–minded Disney fans could support each other's affiliates and/or rewards programs, eBay auctions, and so on, as a way of earning money to go to Walt Disney World. Thus, DisneyDollarless was born.”

But Binnie and Stacy had no idea how powerful the Internet was.

“We actually made a conscious decision to limit the size of the group to 50 members in order to build friendships and foster trust,” explains Binnie. “When DisneyDollarless surpassed 50 members, we split the list into DisneyDollarlessI and DisneyDollarlessII, in an effort to remain true to our original concept.”

However, splitting up the site into halves resulted in demands for their time and energy.

Stacy and Binnie found themselves shuffling information back and forth between the sites. It was obvious that the sites had to be reunited. With that reunion came a more solid focus for the site.

“The DisneyDollarless list was now concentrating more on spreading pixie dust, helping members in other tangible ways, and as always, sharing Disney cost–cutting information,” said Binnie. “Just a few months prior to our second birthday, Deb Wills featured DisneyDollarless in an issue of her popular All Ears newsletter. Our membership swelled to double the size — over 300 members almost overnight as a result. We soon reached 500 members and couldn't believe how large we'd grown.”

Binnie and Stacy soon realized that they had an audience who was constantly thirsting for information, especially regarding the best economical steps towards a Walt Disney World vacation.

Binnie explained,“ Our next milestone was to create a 'companion' list Web site where we featured tips from list members, members' photos, and practically anything that our list members wanted to contribute. On the list, we continued to swap discount coupons, trade guidebooks, pick up park maps for new members who wanted them, and do anything we could to encourage members to help each with their vacation planning. And we celebrated! Any and every occasion was a reason to throw a list party.”

That list membership began to grow faster than Binnie could have ever imagined, and as DisneyDollarless celebrates its fourth anniversary, Binnie proudly says, “Today, our Yahoo list membership has swelled to over 6000 members, making us the largest (non–newsletter) Disney related e–mail list on the Internet. We have dozens of volunteers who help us manage the list and Web site. DisneyDollarless has recently begun to receive national recognition and was featured on MSNBC's news Web site and in Frommer's Budget Travel magazine as one of its top 124 money–saving Web sites. New members often tell us that they read about our list in their local newspaper or heard about us on a local radio show. We can hardly believe all of the publicity we have been receiving.”

Is there an explanation for the popularity of DisneyDollarless? Binnie has some thoughts.

“I think we provide a balance between showing members how to save money and enhancing their Disney experience.” She theorizes, “DisneyDollarless offers the planning advice of veteran Disney park fans, lots of useful information on saving money, exclusive discounts from advertisers and sponsors, lots of free giveaways ranging from guidebooks to Disney Dollars and Orlando area attraction tickets, all combined in a lively Internet community format. We actively promote Disney 'magic.'”

Four down, what next?

With fours years behind DisneyDollarless, what lies in the future for this site?

Binnie envisions, “As DisneyDollarless gains more recognition, the number of discounts and exclusive offers will increase. Our goal is to make the best deal possible to secure discounts from Orlando area vendors and other Internet sites that provide products and services that would be of interest to our members and Web site visitors. Our rapid growth over the past two years has been a surprisingly painless process. I think we can safely say we owe it all to our wonderful DisneyDollarless members.”

Well Binnie, you're right — but the DisneyDollarless community and the Disney Internet community also owe you and Stacy thanks for providing not just a site that offers information on discounts, but also a community of “Disney magic.”

This is a fine example of a learning community on the Internet where ideas are shared and relationships are built.

I'm sure Mickey would tip his sorcerer's hat to Disneydollarless, and thank Binnie and her team for everything they have contributed to the Disney Internet community.

Next time

Next time, a little fun and a little flashback — How not to spend the night in the Magic Kingdom!

Class dismissed.


Contact Mike at mike.scopa@mouseplanet.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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