It's the time of year when people are planning trips! I admit though, I always cringe at Disney Facebook Group posts that say something along these lines: "We just booked our first trip, tell me everything! Where to eat, what to do, everything."
Why do I cringe? It's not because someone is asking! Never! It's because I know that most likely the same person is going to be posting a short time later something similar to this: "We had a horrible trip. I hated the restaurants, we stood in line FOREVER, spent $9,000 and didn't even get to see Mickey. Worst trip ever, we are NEVER going back."
A previous post, about it isn't about luck, why some planning is important comes to mind each time. A Disney trip should rejuvenate you, awaken your sense of childhood and wonder, give you magical experiences, delicious food, and also very importantly, NOT bankrupt you! You do NOT need to spend $9,000 to have an amazing vacation. Even just a single day at Disney can be an unforgettable experience!
While it can be overwhelmin, and stressful to plan your Disney trip, a few hours of planning ahead of time, with the right tools, can make your trip effortless. You'll be cruising along enjoying everything the park has to offer and come back ready to plan your next trip, wiser for the experience, not writing it off forever!
Let's get to the basics. Here are a few helpful ideas to help make it easier to plan. Click anything underlined to go into a more detailed post!
1. Determine your budget
Figure out what you can spend. $1000? $3000? figure it out, and start saving. You might be surprised at how much money you can save. Remember, things like bringing your own drinks, or using this trick here to save a minimum of 5% off your trip price really adds up. You can also bring your own food, or even snacks, the same ones Disney sells, but way less, or maybe there's some ways you never knew you could save so much, but could! Some of these tricks are going to make that budget streeeeeetch pretty far, and make it seem bigger.
2. Buy a current guidebook and READ it
My favorite guidebook is the Unofficial Guide Series. Yes, they are so big it seems intimidating, but the book is written in bite sized pieces. Start at the beginning. read the whole first part, and then you'll start to have a general concept of how things are done, how to ride the Disney bus for example, or the busiest times of the year. After that, you'll find hotels, restaurants, rides, and helpful advice from people with the same questions you have!
3. Mark up that guidebook
If you know your toddlers aren't going to want to ride something, cross it out! If you know that someone in your group loves BBQ, and Flametree at Animal Kingdom is where they want to eat for lunch, mark it! Fill that book with your notes, dog ear it, whatever. After a year it's outdated, so mark it up, so it's easy to refer to later as you make your plan.
4. Ask people who have been what they like, but...
Keep in mind that asking just tells you what THEY like,and not everyone has the same experience. For example, your kids might want to just do rides. Don't feel like you'll ruin your trip if you skip all the Princess lines! Another example, a lot of Disney groups are all about the Table Service dining. That's great, but a first timer will be pretty happy with Quick Service eating places, and parents of tiny tots or teens who just want to go, go go, aren't going to want to stop for 2 hours a meal, 2-3 times a day, whereas something with a lot of dietary restrictions, or who has been to Disney a hundred times and seen it all, might prefer to take it slow, and be waited on at every meal. Ask, but then research yourself. Quick Service isn't just like fastfood. You can get ribs, half a chicken, even steaks at some places! Quick Service is just ordering at a counter, and walking the food to your table.
5. Make a plan
Using your notes, your circled things, and your feedback from other Park goers, start to make your plan. Use Youtube for ride-throughs, to see if you really will like something. Maybe pay, and make yourself a touring plan, or use some of our free ones! A plan , even the most basic of them, will put you ahead of at least 50% of the people there. Remember, it's not luck, to have the perfect Disney trip, it's planning!
6. Stick with your plan, but...
Don't get upset if you have to cross something off the list. Sometimes, your perfect vacation isn't perfect. People get hurt, or sick. (You can read about our experience in that link!) Do what you can, and do it with a positive attitude, and you will enjoy yourself! Sometimes you can't do it all, but you an always plan for next time!
7. Remember, you can't see or do it all
Disney FOMO is a thing. Remember...Disney is so huge, you just can't do it all in one trip! You can do a lot though, and take a ton of pictures, and best of all, get that first trip out of the way so that you can learn what did, or didn't work for you! Your second trip will be so much easier, you'll be an expert by then!
Hopefully some of these tips have helped you to not feel so overwhelmed! You like climbing a mountain, it starts with one step at time. Break your planning into little steps, and you'll be amazed at how well it all comes together!
Good luck! Have fun, and tell me all about it when you get back! I can't wait to hear how much fun you had!