Trip Planning – More Important Than Ever
Carol and I have been to Walt Disney World so many times that we no longer feel compelled to rush around and try to do it all! We take our time, we savour the experience! Over the years we've picked up some "insider knowledge" from other Disney addicts and we've learned a bit through our own mistakes. Our friends often ask us for advice before they visit our happy place.
What do we tell them? Plan ahead!
Experts in real estate will tell you that the three most important factors in assessing a property are Location, Location, Location. The three most important steps to ensure an enjoyable Disney vacation are Planning, Planning, Planning!
We often sit and chuckle after we check in for dinner at some of the nicer Walt Disney World restaurants. As we wait to be seated there is an endless stream of exasperated guests who hope to find a table service restaurant with available seating at the last minute. Many guests don't understand that the most popular Disney restaurants are fully booked months in advance!
A long time friend of Carol's asked her, "I want to take my niece to Disney and I think we'll go at Christmas. Any suggestions?" Carol was quick to reply, "Don't even think about going at Christmas, it will be too crowded."
"How crowded?" the friend asked? "Imagine the entire population of Toronto trying to fit into your local Legion Hall." They didn't go at Christmas!
There was a wonderful article on planning in the Disney Magazine about a decade ago, in Spring 2004. It was written by Kim Wright Wiley who was a Contributing Editor at Disney Magazine and continues to author many books about Disney vacation planning. The article looks at planning primarily for those who've never been to Walt Disney World, then adds a second section for Disney veterans and a final chapter for Disneyland.
I've included scans of the 2004 article above and below. Click on the images to see a larger version which is easier to read. There's some very good information there!
So what has changed in the intervening decade? It has only been 11 years, but technology has changed the booking and reservation process in a very big way. You no longer have to use a telephone; it can all be done on your computer, tablet or smart phone using the My Disney Experience system. You had better study up on a few new concepts such as Disney's Magical Express, MagicBands and FastPass+ which did not exist in 2004 when the article was written!
Is planning still important? Yes, it's still important to plan, in fact, it's more vital than ever before.
The parks are busier now than they were just a decade ago. Since that article appeared Disney has opened Saratoga Springs Resort (2004), Animal Kingdom Villas (2007), Bay Lake Tower (2009), Art of Animation Resort (2012), The Villas at Grand Floridian (2013) and the Polynesian Villas (2015). These resorts add up to almost 5,000 new guest rooms and suites. While the hotel capacity grew there were no significant expansions to the theme parks; the result is longer lines and busier parks.
The low seasons are nowhere near as low as they used to be! There could be 10,000 to 20,000 people in those new guest rooms and some of them might be standing in front of you as you wait to ride Peter Pan's Flight or buy a hot dog at Casey's!
Many of the booking "windows" have changed as well. For example, you can now book your Disney hotel room up to 499 days from your departure. Our friend (and AllEars.net Photo Blogger) Scott Thomas has developed a handy tool to help you calculate those oh-so-important dates. You can find Scott's online Planning Strategy Calculator HERE.
Magical Gatherings have changed too. They're now called Disney Group Getaways. If your group will occupy 10 or more rooms in a Disney resort you might qualify for some special treatment! Look for details HERE.
If you're looking for a place to get up-to-date information to help you formulate your plans, look no further than the AllEars.net planning page HERE. It's updated regularly with the latest information available . . . and it's free!
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There are a number of other resources available to help in your planning. Check your local book store or search on Amazon for planning guides by Disney Vacation experts such as Birnbaum, PassPorter, The Unofficial Guide and many others. Find the Amazon link HERE.
Do I have any planning tips for you?
Nope, I don't . . . Carol does all of the planning for us. BUT I do have a few suggestions for you:
• Don’t plan every minute of every day. Leave some “down-time”, time to kick back and relax or time to do something spontaneous.
• At the end of your vacation think back to the thing you enjoyed most, then go do it again. Savour the experience a second time!
• Act silly! Wear a funny hat, dance in the rain, sing as though no one can hear you. That’s what Walt Disney wanted you to do!
• If you’re a frequent Walt Disney World visitor, try to do something new and different each trip. Take an archery lesson, a backstage tour, go fishing or take a romantic moonlit ride in a horse-drawn carriage. There’s an almost endless list of things to do there!
The time you spend planning will ensure that you and your family fully enjoy your Disney vacation; it's an investment that really does pay huge dividends!