by Jolly Frogger Diva
We’ve recently begun planning our next visit to Walt Disney world. Planning any vacation can be a big undertaking, but planning a trip to Walt Disney World can require a lot of time, a lot of research, and a bit of Pixie Dust if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. If you travel with a large party, as I tend to do, it can be even more difficult. Here’s a look at the process I use to plan our trips, as well as a few tips for when you start the process on your own. Obviously each category will require more in depth planning once you make a decision, this is just a rough outline I used to get started.
Step 1- Decide when to go. Sounds simple enough, right? In order to decide when to go, you have to consider what’s most important to your group. Is it not causing the kids to miss school? Then you’ll want to consider Spring, Summer, or Fall Break for your school district. Are lower crowd levels what you’re after? This one is more difficult to pinpoint, but generally whenever most schools are in session, the crowds are lighter. Is it a special event that happens at Walt Disney World? This is usually the case for my family- we love the Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so we usually try to plan a trip when both of those events are happening.
Disney Diva Tip: Dates for special events such as races and holiday parties can change from year to year so be sure to visit Disney’s events page or Run Disney to confirm the dates of the event you’re interested in before booking.
Step 2: Decide where to stay. For my family, there is no question that we will stay on-property whenever we visit Walt Disney World. I have stayed off-property once, and found that I feel I get a much better deal by staying on Disney property. We usually fly to Orlando, so relying on Disney transportation saves us from having to rent a car. Deciding at which resort to stay, however, proves a bit more challenging. We have stayed at most of the value and moderate resorts on our various visits, and everyone in my party has a different favorite resort. Now that my parents have gotten a little older and we travel with my daughter, we prefer a smaller resort so that we don’t have to walk too far to go between the room and the bus. For our upcoming trip, we chose Port Orleans French Quarter since it’s one of the smallest resorts and also one that everyone in my family loves.
If you decide to stay on Disney property, there are a lot of options to choose from. It’s probably easiest to decide which category of resort- deluxe, moderate, or value your budget can accommodate. Then you can see which resorts fall under that category and make your decision from there. It’s also important to consider what you need from a resort. If you have a larger group you may want to consider a family suite at Art of Animation. If your kids are into themed rooms, consider the Royal rooms at Port Orleans Riverside or the Pirates rooms at Caribbean Beach.
Tip: Walt Disney’s website has descriptions and pictures of all their resorts. I recommend you check out every resort in your preferred category before deciding where to stay. It’s my personal belief that you cannot go wrong with any resort on Disney property, so it’s always fun to try one you haven’t stayed at before.
Step 3: Decide what you want to do. There is more to do at Walt Disney World than you could possibly do in one trip. Therefore, it’s important to prioritize what you want to do. My family is mostly fair skinned, so we opt to spend more time at the parks than taking a day to visit the water parks. We also tend to like to spend the whole day at one park so we rarely purchase the Park Hopper option. My Dad used to love to collect pressed coins, so we’d schedule time on a day we weren’t visiting a park for him to visit the other resorts to visit their pressed coin machines. My Mom’s must-do is tea at the Garden View Tea Room at Grand Floridian.
Disney Diva Tip: Have everyone in your party make a list of the top 1 or 2 things they want to do while visiting Walt Disney World and schedule those activities first. That way, everyone feels like they had a say in planning the trip.
Growing up, our trips to Disney World were always planned for maximum efficiency. We knew which park we would visit each day and where we would dine for at least one meal. Even now, the moment park hours are released for the dates of our trip, we begin drafting a schedule of which park to visit and which table service restaurants we want to dine at. We even build in “off” days, where we do something outside of the parks such as visiting Disney Springs and dining in restaurants at some of the resorts. Those days are loosely scheduled as well; we know when and where we’ll be dining and what we hope to accomplish before and after meals. For my family, this thorough scheduling allows us to make sure we make the most of each day. We know how many days we’ll have in a given park so we know whether we want to hit all the must-dos right away or if we’ll have time to work in a few would-like-to-dos. It’s hard if not nearly impossible to get a table at a sit-down restaurant without a reservation, so having those made well in advance allows us the security of knowing we’ll be able to get a spot at our favorite restaurants.
Not everyone enjoys a highly scheduled vacation, however. Some people want to be able to decide on the fly where they’re eating and what park they visit. If this is more your style, just realize that there are some things at Walt Disney World you simply won’t be able to do without scheduling in advance. For instance, it’s virtually impossible to get a table at Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom for dinner if you do not have an advanced dining reservation. Talk to the other members of your travel party and decide what’s best for you.
Step 6: Enjoy your vacation. The most important step of this whole process is remembering to enjoy your vacation once you get there. Go into your trip with the realization that things may not go according to plan the whole time- rides break down and the weather can affect your ability to do certain things such as water parks and outdoor activities. That doesn’t have to ruin your whole trip, however. Focus on the time you get to spend with the people you’re with and the experiences you share. Enjoy the things you do get to do and don’t worry about the things you don’t get to do. Let the Disney magic help you escape your worries from home- you’re on vacation after all!
Disney Diva Tip: If the process seems overwhelming, or if you just want help with the planning please contact Patricia from All for Dreams Travel, the Official Travel Agent of Tips from the Disney Diva, for a free quote.