Yea, it's Friday, time for another installment of Destination Disney hosted by Jennifer at Snapshot. I love this carnival! We are huge Disney World fans, and besides my dh and children, there's nothing more I love to talk about! Last week we shared our most magical Disney moments, this week we are sharing our best planning tips.
From Jennifer's site: "When do you go and why? How far in advance do you plan? What do you do first? What resources do you use--websites, books, forums? How much thought and detail do you put into your daily itinerary?"
We have been to Disney World at every time of year. Our favorite times are February, May and November. In Feb it's not so hot, but still gets warm enough at midday to swim in the pools. It has become a tradition to go for my ds1's bday (we celebrated his 18th bday there this year!) We go in May because it's not super hot, the crowds are reasonable, and Epcot has a festival with gardening and music that is super (our fave performer to see is Davy Jones.) In November, if you go late enough in the month, you have small crowds, pleasant weather, and the holiday decorations are up. We have been in the summer...don't do it! It's unbearably hot and the crowds are enormous (they even have to close some parks due to crowd limits.) We've
been at Christmas and it is lovely and magical...it just put too much strain on me to deal with a Disney trip and come home to having to shop and wrap and bake...you get the idea. We've been during Spring Break...it's manageable, but takes lots of patience and planning to pull off.
You can plan as far in advance as you want! The Disney website will save your plans and let you change them as you go, and you can even book dining reservations 6 months in advance! When we went this last February, Disney was running a deal where you got a discount on your lodging if you booked a room before you checked out...this is rare for Disney and I only wish we could have taken advantage of it. While at the Disney site order the latest planning dvd and some really cool, customizable maps of the parks, both free.
What do we do first? Book the hotel. We always stay on Disney property and those rooms sell out fast. I also always use the 1-407-W Disney phone number to book...it's easier to talk to someone and I've always garnered the best rates this way.
My favorite planning resources? Well, for books I use the Passporter series. Not only is it packed with info on lodging, the rides, the dining, etc, but it also serves as a planning tool with pages for budgeting and comparing hotels and as a journal with pages and pockets in the back for recording what you do during your trip and saving receipts and such. For websites you can't beat AllEars.net. Two ladies named Deb run this site and it is super friendly and packed with info. Sign up for the weekly newsletter to get tips, read about upcoming events or ride closings, and just keep yourself in a "Disney mood." WDWMagic is another good site, complete with a message board filled with current cast members very willing to answer any questions you have...often people log on to ask about the current weather and crowd conditions. Talk about up to the minute info! While the moderators on WDWMagic try their best, it is a public forum, and sometimes the discussions can get out of hand or have some language...just be forewarned.
Our daily itinerary...well, we are Disney veterans. We know what's there, what we like and what we want to do. If you are a first-timer or haven't been in a while, I would suggest much planning for your day. Become familiar with each park...how it's laid out, what rides are where, etc. Plan each day to your family's interests...those with young children could spend all day in Fantasyland, those with older ones could hit the various "mountains" for the thrill rides, etc. I would kindly suggest not following any pre-planned itinerary or "touring plan" you may find in books or websites. You are just setting yourself up for a stressful day imo. You have to account for everyday life and those plan don't do that. If we had followed step-by-step itineraries we would have passed right by the race cars ride that morning when we saw on our way somewhere else that the ride was completely empty and we wound up being the first ones on! My kids still talk about that! Or the day my dh stopped to look at a map and several ducks joined him on the bench...what a sight. There are so many magical unplanned moments at Disney that you will miss if you follow a rigid schedule.
We do have a pretty standard daily routine while in the parks: Whichever park we choose to start the day with we go early and hit the rides that get long lines quickly, first. We get fastpasses for rides that have them and hit other rides while we are waiting for the fastpasses to come open. We break at lunchtime...sometimes we eat in the park we are in, sometimes we head to the hotel to eat. After lunch we always take a break to swim in the pool or let little ones nap and older ones explore. Then we head back to the parks (usually a different park than the morning) refreshed and ready for more. This routine helps us make the most of our vacations. I hope some of you can use this info to make your Disney planning experience a better one.