In honor of my eBook sale on Amazon.com, I'm featuring an entire chapter from my Disney book, Walt Disney World Tips n' Tricks. Enjoy! To read more be sure to snag my ebook before the Kindle Countdown deal is over!
Disney is overwhelming. There is an overabundance of fun waiting at every turn. Planning a “first ever” trip to Disney is no small task. When you add in the cost, the planning, the logistics of getting around and the ages of everyone on the trip, Disney planners usually want to throw in the towel and cry.
It’s just too much to figure out.
What parks? When? Why? Who put me in charge of this?
Stay with me, and let’s get this show on the road.
If you plan on eating meals in Disney restaurants, you need to make advance reservations. You can make these reservations online (www.disney.go.com) or via telephone. I cannot stress this enough, especially if you have the dining plan. Choose where you want to eat, and reserve your tables. If you wait too long to make reservations, you will be eating at 9pm with Chef Mickey.
Even worse, you won't be eating with Chef Mickey at all.
Do yourself a favor and take time to think about where you want to eat, and reserve your tables online. To date, Disney restaurant reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance. Considering there are many Disney planning fanatics out there, the sooner the better. I keep a separate folder in my email for all trip related confirmations.
Around this time, I finalize plans. I buy park tickets and check park hours. I make an outline of what time each park opens and where our meals are for the day.
Remember my folder full of email confirmations? I make an itinerary with the tentative plans for every day of the trip. I list the day, what park we are going to, what time it opens, and any dining reservations WITH the confirmation number. On my itinerary I also add flight information for beginning and end of stay, and hotel reservation confirmations. This becomes our guide for the trip, and keeps us sane. Every night of the trip, Hubby asks where we are going the next day.
He asks what time dinner is and what time we have to leave the villa in the morning. Having an itinerary is essential for us to function in Disney World.
Disney’s website has an excellent “My Disney Experience” tab that will keep track of your family, reservations, FastPass+ attractions and more. This is quite possibly my favorite planning feature on any website in the universe. I swear.
One to two months from departure is a good time to tell the kids. Make a calendar to countdown and get them excited, watch Disney movies and make a list of “must do’s” for the vacation. On Disney’s website there is a link for your kids to customize their own maps (http://customizedmaps.disney.go.com/). You can search by park, and narrow down attractions by age and preference. These maps can be mailed to your child or printed right from your own computer.
Even with the meal plan, you will need extra snacks for breakfast or moments your kids cry they are starving. You will be thrilled for your granola bars at the Magic Kingdom when you see you’ll be paying $5.50 (x how many kids you have) for a churro. When you are snack shopping, think breakfast/granola bars, fruit snacks and any other item that will travel well (more on this in Chapter 8).
Lastly, keep your eyes open for sales on tees, flip flops and sunscreen. Watch for sales on Disney toys and stuffed animals, and buy them as your Mickey Mouse surprises. Purchase any other items you’ll need for the trip, and buy plenty of gum and hand sanitizer. Gum is not sold in Disney (this helps keeps the parks clean) and hand sanitizer is a must for the parks! Don’t forget cheap ponchos, since Disney ponchos in the parks will run you close to $10/piece.
Give your plans a once over. Double check your itinerary. Cash in your money jar and start getting excited.
Two weeks away is when I start to pack. I make piles for every child, double checking there is enough underwear, shirts, shorts and socks. For more independent kids, consider packing single outfits in Ziploc bags (underwear, shirt, pants/shorts and socks), allowing them to select an outfit and dress easily. Pack good walking shoes and a sweatshirt for chilly mornings if you are going during the winter months. Pack your dried goods and Mickey surprises in a suitcase, and set it aside.
Check in online, and help your kids count their money and budget their spending. Explain how much is in their wallet, and that they will only have enough to buy what they love because mommy and daddy’s money is being spent on tickets and food.
Be clear. Be serious. Stick to the spending plan.
On vacation, keep their wallets with yours, and allow them to shop at the end of the day. If you don’t make this rule, you will be wasting much time in gift shops. Every ride dumps you into a shopping zone, I am warning you now.
Here is your checklist, from start to finish:
1. Hotel and tickets (everything bought and reserved)
2. Restaurant reservations
3. Check park hours on Disney’s website; make itinerary with reservation times and what time each park opens.
4. Tell kids, make customized maps
6. Check the weather for dates of your trip and pack (packing list below)
3. Snacks (think cereal, crackers, cookies and granola bars)
4. Sandwich bags (pack snacks, clean clothes, food from buffets for later…)
5. Good walking shoes and plenty of socks
6. Sweatshirts for chilly mornings, jackets and pants if traveling during winter months (trust me on this one.)
8. One outfit per day plus extra shirt for evenings
11. Hand sanitzer wipes and gel
12. Ibuprofen for headaches
13. Cough syrup for winter months (I’ve had to buy this at a Disney gift shop…ouch)
14. Pre-bought souvenirs/trading pins
15. Dress for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (for girls)
16. Itinerary, tickets, spending money
17. Backpack for parks, soft cooler for drinks
18. If traveling with baby, don’t forget all essentials such as diapers, wipes, creams, formula, burp cloths, etc
19. All bathroom necessities