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by Aulani Diva

There are 2 types of Disney guests – the guest that goes ALL the time and can’t wait to plan their next vacation on their way home from each visit. And the guest who saves, plans and gets excited for the one big trip that they imagine could be their only visit to the Magic Kingdom.
I have realized that these 2 types of vacations are considerably different and would advise the planning and the structure of the trip be looked upon as such.
Starting with the family who believes they may only go for one trip, I would strongly advise a ton of planning. I would begin with making sure you don’t overlook getting the true Disney feel for your once in a lifetime visit. That begins with staying at a Disney property. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg to stay at a Disney property. Remember also that by staying onsite, you get free transportation from the Orlando International Airport to and from your Disney hotel and free transportation in and around the Disney parks. You can stay at the All Star Movie resort for very close to what a hotel on International Drive would cost you. Or you can splurge and try one of the more luxurious properties. If I thought I was only going once, I would pick to stay at the Grand Floridian. The first time I went to Disney World and stayed off site, this was the one hotel that wowed me as I was on the ferry going to the Magic Kingdom. The red roof and the large structure on the water took my breath away. And if you are only going once and saving for that big trip you want to be wowed! Hopefully the amount of time you have allocated for this trip is plenty enough to see all the parks, experience the fireworks and the parades and eat at some amazing Disney restaurants, including the ones with character meals. I would say 7-10 days would be ample time to do this, especially if you are not incorporating any outside parks like Seaworld or Universal Studios in to the mix.
Then starting at the 6 month mark I would purchase the Disney Dining Plan and make my dining reservations. I would go through each and every park restaurant description and pick the cream of the crop so you can experience the food and the character dining. Some favorites of my own are Chef Mickey at the Contemporary Resort, Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom, Chefs De France at Epcot, Akershus at Epcot, Hollywood and Vine at Hollywood Studios, Sci-Fi Dine-In at Hollywood Studios, and the Rainforest Cafe at the Animal Kingdom. The Disney dining experience can be a huge part of a Disney trip, and it wasn’t until I first bought the Disney Dining Plan I realized there was this whole other side to Disney World aside from rides and parades.

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The next thing I would do is plan my Fastpasses. I would pack your 3 Fastpasses in to the morning and early afternoon each day (via online) so you can then start doing further fast passes once you use your first three. I would maximize each day and try and fit in as much as possible when it comes to rides, and I would also utilize Fastpasses for parades as lining up for a parade means meticulous planning of location and being there early enough to get the right spot. By doing a Fastpass you walk up 15 minutes before the parade and they place you in a prime spot to see everything.
And finally I would make my days long and full. Make the most of this once in a lifetime experience. Get up early and go hard. Take in all there is to see and make sure you stay for the fireworks. You will be tired on the way home, but your memories will be everlasting.
Then there are those of us who can’t get enough of Disney and no matter how much we try other vacation spots we long for our return to Disney. After many trips to Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Aulani, I am changing up my regular go hard routine. I went hard even with a 9 month old, and then a 2 yr old, and then a 3 yr old. It was fun, and we packed it all in, but I want to go and learn to take in other aspects of Disney on a more relaxed level – because after all I will be back!
This year we are going to Disneyland, Disney World and a Disney cruise on the Disney Dream. I purposely stuck a cruise on the end of our 10 day visit to Disney World so we can relax on the cruise. I also picked 10 days at Disney World so that we can spread out our key rides and character dining so in between we can stop to enjoy and not worry about the time as much. I want to be able to get up a bit later and not need to be at rope drop to get to a ride before anyone else. Because I know I will get on that ride – we won’t be only at that park once. I will still do Disney dining as I am a true advocate of it. I believe you don’t have a true Disney experience without the dining added in. I don’t want to rush my lunch and dinner to run off to the next thing on our agenda as I know we have time and I know we can do it all. And if there is something we miss this time I know it will be waiting on our return.

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Disney is a never-ending experience. They are always changing it up and expanding. It grows our imagination and lets us be children indefinitely. I will forever be grateful for my Disney visits with my family and the fact that we are Disney Vacation Club members so we will have Disney in our lives forever.
You may go to Disney thinking it is a once in a lifetime trip but you may come away like me with the craving for more!….and that means you will return.