This post brought to you by Christina Wood of Pixie Vacations, the preferred Disney vacation travel planner of The Disney Blog.
One of the fun things about my job is that I usually learn something from each person I send to Disney World. Maybe it’s something odd, like the best parts of the alligator to eat (yes, this happened), but more often than not, I learn something useful I can pass onto the next client. You’d be surprised how different each client’s approach to their trip can be and what can happen on your average Disney vacation. Here are a few of my favorite lessons:
5. Plan carefully. And then plan some more.
Walt Disney World covers 47 square miles. There are four parks, two water parks, Downtown Disney, golf courses, 26 hotels, and more than 200 restaurants. It’s going to take some planning to ensure that you see and do everything you want. Make your dining reservations as far out as possible. If you’re staying on property, get those fastpasses chosen at 60 days out. I’m not an over-planner by any means, but the new system under MyDisneyExperience means you really need to put some thought into your trip; fortunately, it’s also very easy to do and doesn’t take that much time.
The corollary to this, of course, is that if you over plan you’re going to lose your mind, especially if you’re traveling with a larger group. So make that spreadsheet, use your MDE account, but take it all with a grain of salt. Sometimes you just have to let the magic happen.
4. Don’t add the hopper option unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll need it.
For the right person, a park hopper can give you a ton of flexibility, but many guests simply never use it. If you’re a first-timer, on a very long trip, traveling with a large group, or traveling with individuals with mobility issues, park hopping might be too cumbersome. Since you can always add this option when you arrive (as long as you have one day left on your ticket), wait until then if you’re not 100% sure you’ll use it. For a family of four, that means saving $250. That’s a lot of Mickey Bars.
3. Speaking of needing things, you don’t need most of the extras.
Pirate’s League and other dress-up experiences for the kids, in-room celebrations (from Disney Florists), behind-the-scenes tours, special after-hours parties: They’re all nice but they’re also quite often budget busters. If you can’t book any of these experiences without being worried about the cost, skip them. The truth is, there’s enough to do every day in the parks with just your basic ticket, so much so that you won’t do it all in a typical 7-day trip or even multiple 7-day trips. So don’t feel like you’re missing out if you just do what your park ticket allows you to do.
2. Book the vacation you can afford when you book it, not in anticipation of future discounts.
You probably know that you can apply a discount, which usually comes out a few months prior to travel, to an existing reservation no matter how far in advance you made it. In fact, many guests will book their resort based on future discounts, knowing that if these discounts aren’t available that the trip itself may be in jeopardy.
The problem with doing is twofold: First, Disney has been less generous with discounts in recent years, with even some deluxe resort rooms being discounted as low as 5%. And second, people get emotionally attached to their resort. It becomes an important part of their vacation, so if there’s no discount or if the discounts aren’t deep enough, they want to remain at the resort where they did their initial planning. So book what you can afford without the discount and if a great one comes out later, you can move over the Grand Floridian.
1. It’s rarely “one and done” when it comes to Disney.
This is one of my favorite client stories: A few years ago, I got a phone call from a dad. He’d just finished a Phd program and his wife, who did not like Disney World at all, told him that they could take a family trip as his reward. They were adamant this was it, however, so they did it up big and from all reports, the trip was a success. A few months later, I get a call. It’s the same family. And I asked him what made them change their minds and he said “It was just so easy and so perfect.”
They’ve travelled with me three more times since then and now that I’ve been doing this for a while, it doesn’t surprise me. People who’ve never been to Disney have some negative misconceptions about the resort. They take the worst–the heat, the crowds, the cost–and magnify it multiple times. But what most people find is, well, they find the magic. The slowing down, the ease of it when it comes right down to it, the beautiful surroundings. It’s a wonderful vacation. And that’s what keeps them coming back.
What about you? What have your trips taught you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.