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We recently took our 1st family trip to Disney World! In the next few blog posts I’ll share with you everything that goes into planning a trip to Disney World (planning, packing, dining, extra magic).
Let’s start at the beginning: Planning.
Planning a trip to Disney can be overwhelming, especially for someone like me who likes to plan every detail. I’m sure you can book a flight, book a room, buy a park ticket and have a blast without an extra ounce of planning. But there are just so many things you can plan (dining, experiences, etc.) and as a planner I feel I must. And there’s so much information out there, tips, tricks, charts, etc.
Disney Travel Agent
Luckily a friend recommended a great travel agent. Having a travel agent costs you nothing, reduces stress and sometimes includes some extra perks. I really liked having someone to help narrow down options, set up an itinerary, set up dining reservations, make suggestions and answer my questions.
Planning A Trip To Disney World
Here are 8 steps to help you with planning a trip to Disney World. Ideally you should start planning your Disney vacation about 7 months ahead of time.
Step 1: Pick A Date
At first we were planning on taking our trip for B’s birthday in February, but my husband’s sales convention was at the same time. After consulting the Disney World Crowd Calendar we settled on Sunday, April 26-Friday, May 1st. My thought was to avoid going to the parks on a Saturday and still have the weekend to recover when we got home. In hindsight I wish we would have stayed one extra day to have a day to spend enjoying the resort pool.
Step 2: Pick A Place To Stay
We chose to stay at a Disney resort. Disney resorts are broken into three categories: Deluxe, Moderate and Value. We chose to go with a Deluxe option.
I totally messed up on our resort choice though. My husband wanted to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and somehow I transformed that into the Wilderness Lodge. They’re both lodges and sound animal-like. So when we checked in my husband was a little confused. He wasn’t thrilled about our view of the maintenance parking lot (I figured we wouldn’t be in the room much so didn’t upgrade our view) and when I called to see if we could upgrade to a view of the animals the front desk thought I was crazy (there aren’t any animals there). We didn’t end up changing rooms but found out we had a perfect view of the Wishes fireworks. It was awesome to snuggle up on the bed and watch the fireworks every night. So in the end my mess up wasn’t a bad thing at all. We loved the Wilderness Lodge.
Step 3: Purchase Park Tickets
There are 4 Disney theme parks and 2 water parks. We chose a 5 day park pass. We did a half day at Magic Kingdom the day we got there and a full day at each theme park. Since this was our 1st trip base tickets that allow you to visit one park each day worked great for us. On our next visit we might add the park hopper option that lets you visit multiple parks in one day.
Step 4: Create An Itinerary & Make Dining Reservations
I left this to Heidi. I let her know what things we wanted to do (Pirate’s League, Jedi training) and where we wanted to eat (based on a friend’s suggestions). She was very helpful in making the reservations, explaining pricing and laying out an itinerary with helpful suggestions that I used as a base and added more details to. You can make your dining reservations starting 180 days before your trip. We ended up adding the dining plan. More on that in my post about Disney dining. I would suggest not over scheduling yourself. By the 2nd day we were tired of having to be somewhere and cancelled our last dining reservation, which everyone we talk to keeps raving about.
Step 5: Make FastPass+ Choices
60 days before you check-in you can begin making FastPass+ choices. Most attractions (rides, shows and some character meetings) have a regular line and a FastPass+ line. Using the FastPass+ you can spend less time waiting in line. You can choose 3 FastPass+ attractions per day. You select an hour time frame for your FastPass+. With the MyDisneyExperience App you can make changes to your FastPasses at any time either on your computer or phone. Some FastPasses really saved us time and other attractions didn’t really need them. Our travel agent sent us a list to help us prioritize which attractions to select as FastPasses.
Step 6: Set-Up Memory Maker
I also added the Memory Maker to our trip package. It was great to have someone with a professional camera take our picture in front of various photo-op spots and during character meetings. You just have them snap your picture then scan your magic band. With the memory maker we also got all of the pictures from rides, sometimes even a video. They also do fun things with the pictures called “magic shots” where they add characters into your photos. With Memory Maker you can download all your photos and some extra stock shots. You can also order prints, create a photo book and order other items.
Step 7: Customize Your Magic Bands
Your magic band is the key to your vacation. It’s your room key, park ticket, FastPass+, links to your photos, links to your dining plan and can be used to make purchases. You can customize your bands with your name and choose a color. Magic bands are usually mailed to you before your trip. Since we already had ours we got an email that our room was ready and went straight there instead of standing in line at the front desk.
Step 8: Book flights
Our flight to Orlando got us there around noon. We took the Magic Express to our hotel, unpacked, took the boat and were at the Magic Kingdom around 4:30. I booked one-way flights and used two different airlines to get more flexibility on flight times. Our return flight left at 3:00 so we were able to get a late check out and enjoy the pool before we left for the airport.
Whew, after all that planning you need a vacation from planning your vacation. It really is worth it in the end though. Check out next week’s post for some tips on What to Do Before You Go to Disney World.
See something I missed or have any questions? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
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