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By Darlin’ DivaRecently I was visiting with some friends who just returned from their first Disney vacation and when I asked them the usual questions:  “What did you think of Space Mountain?”  “Did you see Wishes?”  How’d you do on Toy Story Midway Mania?”  The answer was “We didn’t get to do those things.  There wasn’t enough time.”  WHAT?!  That’s so sad!  I’m thinking that if you missed out on the best stuff:  parades, major rides and attractions, popular dining experiences, etc…if you left thinking about all the things you didn’t get to do instead of remembering how much you enjoyed it all…it can only be because you didn’t PLAN!

So if you’re one of those folks who needs a small nudge to make a few plans – let me tempt you with this…my tips are guaranteed to help you get the most out of your investment in a Disney vacation.  I know what you’re thinking – you’re going on vacation. You want to rest and relax.  You don’t want to live by the clock and have every moment spoken for – I hear ya’!  I feel the same way and planning with built in flexibility is what I’m talking about.  Spring Break?  Christmas?  July?  We’ve been there during all of those times and still did everything we wanted to do.  It CAN be done and I’ll tell you how.

The art of planning is based on this philosophy:  Plan part of every day AND leave part of the day to chance. Chance as in spontaneity, free-styling, and going where the winds of Disney take you.
Here’s what works for our family (typical, average Disney-vacation-type people):
     1.  Choose ADRs first.  It doesn’t matter if you pick breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Make dining reservations at the first available opportunity.  Trust me on this.  If you want character meals or like to eat at “normal” dining times, you’ll want to have some ADRs.  My family prefers dinner together to talk over the day’s highlights and what’s in store for tomorrow.  It has become a much loved tradition.  We like the flexibility of counter service for breakfast and lunch.  Note:  If you want any spa treatments, book those early too.
     2.  Plan park days around Extra Magic Hours when staying on Walt Disney World resort property. It doesn’t matter if you are early birds (we are) or night owls. This is a perk too good to pass up.  With FastPass+ as part of the WDW experience, EMH’s allows us all to ride our favorite rides with the shortest wait times. It also allows us to save those limited Fast Passes for a different time of the day (or at another park perhaps).  This one tip alone will keep you from missing out on rides because you don’t want to wait/waste 75 minutes (or longer) OR miss something else because you spent 75 valuable minutes of your vacation waiting in line.
     3.  Leave a big block of time unplanned.  Yep, you heard me.  Plan to be unplanned as it were.  When our kids were small, we kept afternoons open for returning to the hotel for nap-time. Sometimes, they just napped in their strollers and we kept on touring.  Now we still keep the afternoons open because we have found that if we want to, we can avoid the thickest crowds and the hottest part of the day by leaving the parks and doing something else.  Or not.  Some of our favorite Disney memories happened during these unplanned times.  My husband fondly recalls building a Mr. Potato Head and enjoying a cold beer on a rainy afternoon at Disney Studios.  We all remember the time we magically scored VIP parade seating in the Magic Kingdom – which we were happily able to enjoy since we had nothing else planned that afternoon.  Many days we return to our hotel to relax by the pool before cleaning up for our dinner reservation.  Do what works best for you.
There you go.  That’s it.  Three little tips to help you squeeze every magical drop out of your Disney vacation.  Give it a try and see how much more you’ll get to see and do! I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Until next time….Darlin’ Diva