When I first started planning for Disney I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. However, as the process continued, I learned so much about Disney. I know it will help me anytime we want to go back there, and I can help family and friends plan as well. I learned a lot along the way, and I would like to share that with you.
When to Plan
If you want to go to Disney, start planning now. It’s never too early to start planning You have some people that plan 3 years ahead of time. That’s not me at all, but I do recommend that you start 1 year before you want to go. Learn Disney. Ask yourself what it is that you want to do most. Do you want to see all of the princesses? Is it more important that you do all of the rides? Do you care for seeing the shows? Are you seeking out the Fab 5 or all things Star Wars? Knowing the answers to questions like these will help you decide which parks you want to go to and how you want to spend your time there. If you know what you want to do, but aren’t really sure how to make that happen, I suggest you go to the Disney website and take a look at what each park has to offer. Then I would pay for a subscription to Touring Plans. Touring Plans can help you greatly with every part of your planning. There are even schedules you can copy. For instance, we used the princess schedules to get an idea of how we should spend our time. I tweaked it a lot, but having a blueprint was very helpful.Plus Touring Plans seems to be more up-to-date than the Disney website when it comes to which shows are showing when, which rides are closed, and even on how long wait times are for rides!
When to Go
This was easy for us to decide because we knew we wanted to go for Johanna’s birthday, but it may not be as easy for you. Take into consideration your budget – Can you afford to go during the high seasons, or should you wait until the off season to go? Do you want to go for one of the big Disney celebrations like Halloween and Christmas? If so and you plan to do all the things that come with that (the parties and special events) that’s going to take more $$$. Do you hate summer? Then you may want to consider not going between May – September. Is swimming a must for you? We found that you could swim in the coldest month (January), but everyday is not a guaranteed swim day like it is after February. Do you want late nights at the park? If so, winter is not for you. The parks close earlier in the winter than they do the rest of the year. However, January is the cheapest time to go, so if your budget is the biggest determining factor, take that into major consideration. It did not suck at all to go in January. The weather was perfect for us (66-80 degrees). We didn’t get all hot, sweaty, and disgusting while bouncing from ride to ride, the parks aren’t as full, and Johanna was still able to swim. If you go in the summer expect the exact opposite. If you’re ok with that, then have a great time! Stay cool, get some frogg toggs cooling towels and stay hydrated.
Where to Stay
I already touched on this earlier this week, but I will reiterate that if you are a family with less than 5 members, and your kids are Disney obsessed, I would definitely consider staying at one of the POP resorts because they scream DISNEY. However, my number 1 resort choice would be Art of Animation, and they have suites! If your kids could care less about how Disney the room is, Port Orleans Riverside was awesome! But if you can afford it, definitely consider the more luxurious resorts. Their more spacious, grand, and on the monorail system making it easier to get to the parks. Keep this question in mind when you are making your decision – How much time will we spend in the room, at the resort? If you don’t have resort days built into your schedule and you will simply be going back to the room to shower and sleep, then staying at the grandest resort will probably be a waste of your money.
Also, I think it’s important for you to know that the resorts do allow early check-in when they can. Of course it’s easier in the off season than it is in the thick of the high season, but it does not hurt to request an early check in. We did, letting them know we would get there at 11, and as I mentioned in the resort post, there was a room available, just not the one we wanted. The one we wanted became available at 1. That gave us time to eat, and see a bit of the resort.
The Dining Plan
We got the dining plan, but not the deluxe dining plan. I can’t ever see us getting the deluxe. It’s just way too much food! The regular dining plan was too much food for us, although on paper it does not look like it will be. What people don’t tell you is that alot of the restaurants are buffets, quite a few give you healthy portions, and only a couple give you regular sized portions. I promise you that if we ate breakfast we still weren’t necessarily hungry at dinnertime. We ate only because we didn’t want the money we spent on the dining plan to go to waste. Here is what our plan included:
- 1 Quick Service Meal (entrée and non-alcoholic drink)
- 1 Table Service Meal (entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink or full buffet meal)
- 2 Snacks
- 1 Resort Refillable Mug per person
When we got out plan it seemed to be a mixture of the old and new. We got 2 snack credits a day (which is new), but we still got a dessert with our Quick Service entree (which is old). The refillable mugs can be used at any of the resorts, and even if you don’t have the dining plan you can buy your own mug at the resorts. As I mentioned before snacks can really fill you up as well, so don’t ever think you’ll go hungry eating a snack. If you aren’t interested in doing character meals, I think going without the dining planning and simply paying out of pocket, or getting the Quick Service dining plan will be sufficient for you. The QS dining plan includes:
- 2 Quick Service Meals (entrée and non-alcoholic drink)
- 2 Snacks
- 1 Resort Refillable Mug per person
That is more than enough!
My biggest advice is to use your fast passes as early as you can with the rides that run out of fast passes first, like Frozen Ever After. Once you have used your 3 fastpass+ reservations, you can get one additional FastPass reservation at a time on the day of your visit.
Fast Pass+ is basically a reservation system that allows you to reserve a time on a ride or an attraction at the theme parks. You have one hour from the time of your reservation to use your fast pass. If you make a reservation to ride Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train at8:30am you have until 9:30am to use your fast pass. If you find yourself running behind you can cancel your fast pass in hopes of booking later. If you miss your window of time, that’s it, you can’t jump in the fast pass line for that ride, you just have to wait. I suggest you show up 5 minutes early for your fast pass.
For more information on the fastpass+ system, go here.
Last Piece of Advice
Have fun! Do the things you normally wouldn’t do. Have a silhouette of your children made. Go to the parades! Enjoy the shows. They are all apart of the magic. Disney is so much more than rides. It’s the experiences and the encounters that really make it magical. Stay late for a fireworks show, meet new people, try something different to eat at Epcot. While you are there let yourself enjoy it! The time goes by so fast, and you’re so exhausted in the end. You might as well make some magical memories while you’re there. Oh, and get memory maker. You don’t have to get it every time, but if it’s your first visit, just do it. DO IT! There’s nothing like seeing Johanna’s face the first time she was on 7 Dwarf’s Mine Train. Nothing like it.
The posts this week were in no way intended to be an end all be all on how to do Disney. There are plenty of websites that offer that. It was supposed to give you a snapshot of how we did Disney, what worked for us, and what did not. I hope you enjoyed checking it out as much as I enjoyed reliving it! I feel very blessed that the Lord has blessed my husband and I with the opportunity to share Disney with our kids.Happy plannig! Have a magical time, and if there are any questions I can answer for you, please feel free to ask!