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Ok, so you’ve decided to go to WDW. GREAT… so…. uh… feeling overwhelmed yet? Ok, lets break this planning down kindergarten style!

Step 1. Decide on your dates. Ok, few things to keep in mind here. There are weeks that are packed!! So you need to determine how much crowd you’re willing to tolerate. Basically you need to decide if taking vacation days and pulling your kid out of school a few days is worth it to you. Because if you pull your kid out of school on, lets say, September and do a Wednesday-Sunday (5day) trip you will have a SIGNIFICANTLY easier time getting the resort you want, the meals you want, and much lighter wait times. (Don’t point to the Diva however if your kids teacher gets really mad!) Bottom line is this. If you are there for a holiday weekend, the week between Christmas and New Years (busiest week of the year btw), typical spring break weeks (late march/early april), and summer months expect it to be more crowded. I’d highly recommend that you pay for a subscription to Touringplans.com and check their crowd calendar! It’s a HUGE help! (and you can use their mobile phone app called Lines in the park.)

Step 2. Decide on your resort & book it. I totally understand that some of you reading are on some tight budgets, so obviously you need to work within those. But before you book off-property make sure that you know what specials Disney is running. For example, at times during the year Disney will offer free dining plans for staying on property. So you stay in a value resort, you don’t pay for parking in the parks, or gas, or airport transport if you’re flying… you get free dining for all the people in your party… and you’re telling me you’re still going to stay at an Orlando resort that’s $30.00 less a night? You’re going to pay no less than $100 for dining in the parks for a family of 4 per day anyway. Plus parking which is $14/day. Plus gasoline. Plus the stress of not knowing where you’re going You really need to crunch numbers and decide if you are saving money on property as opposed to off.

There are three levels of on-resort living. VALUE, MODERATE, & DELUXE

Hubby and I have stayed at all of the different Value resorts and liked Pop Century the best hands down. Pay for the preferred room upgrade to be closer to the dining and the soda machine since the resort is huge and if you get stuck in the back it’s a lot less enjoyable since you’re hiking to the front every time you want to get a soda in your re-fillable cup.

For Moderate resorts we have only stayed at Port Orleans:Riverside, which we liked, but honestly did not find THAT much different than Pop Century. Some people would disagree with that however.

For DELUXE I’d say do something on the monorail loop. (Contemporary / Polynesian/ Grand Floridian). If you’re already going to pay THAT much you might as well be able to use the fabulous monorail at will and you can get over to Epcot via monorail as well. We have stayed at Wilderness Lodge and enjoyed it. Liked the boat, but would have traded it in for the monorail in a heartbeat. Boardwalk and Yacht/Beach club are right next to Epcot, but in my honest opinion it just does not compare to being able to access magic kingdom so easily. Animal Kingdom Lodge is ridiculously far away from everything. Yeah, you see some animals, and its pretty, but in my opinion you pay Deluxe prices so you can have convince to parks. Luxury is low on my list in regards to WDW vacations because I’m only going to be in my room to rest in the afternoon and sleep at night, especially with kids.

Step 3. Decide on your travel (book flights) If you’re driving make sure you have a GPS Smile Its easy to get turned around sometimes driving and it’s a really cruddy way to start off a trip. If you’re flying make SURE that if you decide to stay on property that you tell them you will need Magical Express tickets. (saves a lot of time energy because they pick up your luggage and deliver it to your room). I highly recommend if you are flying that you book so that you arrive early in the day to Orlando so you can use that day still and book to leave in the late afternoon on the day you’re going home. Also keep in mind that if you are riding the magical express back to the airport on the way home you will have to be ready to leave your resort 3-4 HOURS before your flight. (I’ve never been madder than when we had a 7:30am flight and had to be outside waiting on the bus at 4:00am. Not a happy camper).

Step 4. Know what is the Best Park & the Park to Avoid for each day.

best parkReason number 865 to be in love with Touring Plans.com… Park Recommendations based on crowd calendars. Each day touringplans.com gives its subscribers (only $10.95 for 365 days of premium access – with a 45-day money-back guarantee- daily touring plans – and the Lines app I told you about) a list of what are the BEST PARK to go to that day and which are the PARK TO AVOID. This is based on crowd estimates and it is AWESOME. So you need to make yourself a little spread sheet and have at the top of each day which is the BEST PARK and which is the PARK TO AVOID.

Step 5. Book your Dining Reservations. I’ve told you before in my article Avoiding Time Pitfalls that Character Meals will save you a lot of time down the road in regards to getting character autographs. Plus they are just darn tasty!! You can make your dining reservations 180 days before your trip. And you SHOULD. Especially if you’re hoping to get Cinderella’s royal table. You can switch these all around so don’t freak out if you decide later on that its just not what you wanted, but you do need to get stuff on the books. The earlier the better. I put this as step 5 because if you know which park you might be in BEFORE you try to book reservations it will cut down on you wasting time traveling between parks. Make sense?

You can book reservations in two ways: Online or via phone (407) WDW-DINE. You can plan your day around reservations to some degree. So book your reservations, keeping in mind best parks, and then move on to the last step.

Step 6. Design your day

Remember that I told you that you need to know what attractions get long lines in my article Avoiding Disney Time Pitfalls? Well you need to plan your day thinking about that. I highly suggest you make yourself a little spread-sheet with times on it and days on the top.

Write at the top what is the best park for the day and what is the park to avoid. Go to http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/hours.htm to see what time the park will opens, what time parades & Fireworks are and put those into your calendar. Something like this.

Next think about those lines that get long (see avoiding time pitfalls) and write down the order you need to do things in. Schedule in free times. SCHEDULE IN YOUR DAY NAP or days you’re going to the resort early. I will be posting a day schedule I’m doing for my friend Emily in the next few days so be sure to check back if you’re needing some help visualizing this.

And there you go friends. Just that easy! Do a little shopping in preparation and, of course, keep checking back at tipsfromthedisneydiva.blogspot.com to get more help!

Happy Planning!

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Kristin is the founder and co-director of Tips from the Disney Diva & Devos. She started writing the blog when she realized there were many people going to Disney World and having a miserable time, and it was all from a lack of planning. She knew that she could help and has assembled the finest writing team she can find !