Top tips for planning a Disney World vacation
I had been to Disney World a few times as a kid, but this was the first time I was actually doing the planning. The trip was to include me, hubby, our daughter, and my mom, and I was pretty much left to my own devices to find us a resort, book meals, etc. (Don't feel too sorry for me, I love to plan). Here are a few lessons and tips I learned along the way. Hopefully this wisdom can help some of you, too!
Start planning early
Walt Disney World isn't set up to be a last-minute vacation. That is, if you want to stay "on property" (aka at a WDW resort), take advantage of the dining plan and get the reservations you want. For one thing, dining reservations can -- and in many cases must -- be made 180 days before your departure date. This may seem outrageous, but the fact is this: Disney World is a busy place! if you don't book early, you won't likely get all of the perks that a Disney vacation has to offer.
Watch for deals
At various times throughout the year, you'll be able to score different deals on your DIsney vacation. Free dining, for example or deals on rooms. Thanks to the Internet, it's easier than ever to score a deal.
If you want something, ask for it
This should be your mantra for your whole DIsney trip, from planning to all throughout your stay. If there is something you want, ask for it. When you call to make your reservations, don't be shy. If there is something you want, or aren't sure if something can be done, asked. Disney is unparalleled in the world for being accommodating their guests. Call it a bit of Disney magic :)
When you make your dining reservations, it's a good idea to go into it with an open mind and an open schedule. Even if you hop online or on the phone 180 days before your arrival date, you may not get all of the reservations you want, so it's important to have a few options ready. Also, instead of making your schedule and then making the dining reservations to fit into that plan, do it the other way around. Make your dining reservations first and then decide which parks you'll visit each day, etc. You'll have far fewer headaches that way, trust me!
Choose the right time of year
There really isn't a "right" time of year to go to Disney World. It depends on your particular situation and preferences. For example, I would never go during the summer months (even though it's off-season and may be cheaper) because I simply can't hang with the Florida summer heat. Even in October there were a couple of days that were on the toasty side for me. It's also important to be mindful of hurricane season. Hurricane Matthew delayed our trip slightly, and it could have derailed it entirely. Not good. Also, you need to weigh the pros and cons of taking your kids out of school to take advantage of a less-busy season versus going on a school break when it might be busier and more expensive. Some kids can handle a week off school, where for others it might be too much of a struggle to catch back up. You know your child best.
Get the Disney Dining Plan
One of the most common questions people have regarding a WDW vacation is whether the dining plan really is worth it. Although I will get into the nuts and bolts of why in a separate post, my opinion is that the answer is a resounding yes! And if you play your cards right, you can even score the dining plan for free, which can really have a positive impact on your trip budget.
Ask for a preferred room
When you book a room at a WDW resort, you'll usually have the choice between a standard room or a preferred room. My recommendation is that you choose a preferred room, but with a caveat. A preferred room is the same in every respect as a standard room, except its location. A preferred room will be located in much closer proximity to the resort's main "hub," which will include the food court, main lobby, gift shop, etc. If you get a standard room in a Value Resort, for example, you could have quite a walk to get to your morning coffee. However, if you are looking for a way to decompress at the end of a busy Disney day, and don't mind a leisurely walk to get to the amenities, a standard room might actually better suit your needs. You'll save yourself about $20 USD per night that way. Because of my mobility issues, however, I chose a preferred room and I am glad I did.
Schedule some downtime
So many people get caught up in the thrill of planning a Disney vacation (and it really is an exciting vacation!) that they forget to schedule some downtime. When making your schedule, it's a good idea to either leave a full day or two with nothing scheduled, or schedule things later in the day a few times to facilitate sleeping in, or schedule everything early in the day once or twice to allow for an evening of lounging in the pool or by the bar. Whatever works best for you to have the chance to stop and soak in the Disney atmosphere without running thorugh the parks,
So there you have it: my two cents on how to start planning your Disney vacation! Tuned to the blog for more of my tips, tricks, do's and dont's for making your Walt Disney World trip the very best it can be!