It’s hard to believe that today I received my 1 month sober chip and that a week ago I was enjoying my last moments lavishing is Disney Magic with my family. Both are big accomplishments in my life and I am blessed for each.
We had an amazing time at Walt Disney World with our children and Mothers. I felt I had done just enough pre-planning to keep myself sane while there and we had enough unplanned time that my husband and kids were able to take the lead once in awhile.
I have had people ask how I planned the trip and what tips I have. I’ll keep it simple to start.
Here are my opinions for planning a Walt Disney World Vacation for your family.
Ok, so yeah – I will say it again – I am a TYPE A trip planner! I like to have all my ducks in a row begore I go. When our youngest was 2, I started thinking about a trip to Disney World. Thinking about what ages the kids would be in different years and what ages I thought would be the best combination for a family trip. We decided we wanted to go before our eldest turned 13 and after our youngest was in school – making fall 2016 to spring 2017 our optimal age time.
My best advice is to sign up for www.MyDisneyExperience.com! This is where you start. Whether you use the desktop version or the mobile app, it is an amazing tool.
My other advice is to read www.WDWPrepSchool.com to get information on the crowds during different months of the year. In my reading, I found out that mid-January to the end of February were the slowest time of year (some rides may be down for maintenance) and that there are often deals during this somewhat of an ‘off season.’
With this knowledge, I began looking at prices of Disney Resorts on MyDisneyExperience for January of that year…just to get an idea of cost. I looked at all sorts of resorts, used the app to add tentative dining plans and built myself a beginning budget to start with.
I did the same with airfare, checking airlines that fly from Sioux Falls, SD to Orlando, FL during January and figured an average cost/person for budgeting.
I then created a spreadsheet – because I’m a nerd who loves spreadsheets! And don’t get me started on pivot tables. Rawr 🙂
The spreadsheet was both a budget tracker, as well as a timeline. I created a week calendar. We chose which park we wanted to hit on which day. Made notes about where we might like to eat and listed our top rides for each park.
2. Start saving.
Once you have a budget in place, start saving. We used www.DisneyVacationAccount.com to start a specifically Disney account away from our bank accounts, as I didn’t want Disney money to become emergency funds unless it absolutely had to be used. With DisneyVacationAccount you can always have all your funds reimbursed (in case of emergency, though there is a short transaction time) and you can gain Disney Gift Card cash based on how much you save in your account. Win-Win
Disney Vacation Account also allows you to set up weekly or monthly transactions, or to make multiple one-time deposits.
3. Don’t do it alone.
Now, this part was a bit hard for me as I am very hands-on with my planning. A friend of mine had taken her family to Disney and highly recommended her Disney Agent, Jillian F. from Magical Moments Vacations. Jillian is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, Specializing in Disney vacations AND is a Fee free agent! That is right…the magic starts in the very beginning (which is a very good place to start).
If you choose to stay on Disney property, Jillian and others like her are life savers! They can help you book advanced dining reservations (ADRs) that you can start making 180 days prior to your trip. She helped us book Fastpasses (the ability to ride certain rides without using often long standby lanes). She booked our official resort, dining plan, and Magical Express (bus from the airport to resort and back again).
And she answered all my questions, for over a year. I sometimes would second guess decisions and she would get me details to help me finalize choices. It was like gaining a friend during the planning and as an expert, she was a valued friend at that.
So how long did it take to plan….I planned over 2.5 years. We made our resort reservations 420 days prior to arrival (which is the first day you can make reservations) and then continued to build our plan over time, getting our ADRs 180 days out and Fastpasses 90 days out. We also purchased our airfare at about 8 months from our leave date because the prices were good. (I keep an eye on Google Flights when I plan to travel and try to check every few weeks, keeping track of fluctuations so I can grab what appears to be on the low side of average – I have flown to Chicago for $150 using this method.)
So…that is the short and sweet of Disney planning. Feel free to ask me more questions or go directly to Jillian 🙂
Make Magic All Year-long,