We’re officially 40 days out and the excitement is mounting! At this stage in the game, all of the planning and scheduling we wanted taken care of in advance is done.
Rob and I really enjoy the planning stages, in some cases almost as much as the vacation itself. Planning helps build anticipation and gives us specific things to look forward to. I understand that some people like to leave a lot of their trip to spontaneity, and I think spontaneity has its time and place (ha..irony). Respectfully, Disney is not one of those places.
My father-in-law, also a planner, introduced me to Disney Worldfor the first time and I am so grateful that he did. For that first trip we only had 1 full park day and he wanted to make sure we got the most out of it. He had strategically mapped out the best route around the park, made sure we rode every ride (this was before the My Disney Experience App, where you can now reserve Fast Passes in advance, none-the-less), and still make it to our 7:30PM dinner reservation in ‘France’. Perhaps, this is where my pre-planning-bias was born.
It’s one thing if you live in or near Florida and can visit Disney World all the time. If that’s the case, it doesn’t really matter if you have set plans before arriving or not. However, as an out-of-state visitor, I really want to make sure that we get the most bang for our buck in the most magical place on earth, during one of their busiest seasons. Especially this year with soo many new and exciting things happening!
That’s where Disney’s planning tools really come in handy.
DisneyWorld.Disney.Go.Com, Plain and Simple
Let’s start from the beginning. Disney World’s home page is an obvious and user-friendly place to start. For us, this is where our magical journey begins (Could I be more cheesy? Yes, buckle up). The website makes it really easy for users to compare prices for resorts on-property. We really enjoy staying on property because of the convenience. Yes, it’s more expensive generally, but also worth it not to fight our way through busy parking lots.
The entire user interface is extremely engaging and easy to use. It is also the place where the proverbial drinking of the Disney ‘Kool-Aid’ begins. All it takes is just one picture of a smiley model family in Mickey Ears riding Dumbo, maybe eating a Mickey ice cream… hook, line, and sinker.
Once we choose a resort, we select our ‘vacation package’. Meaning we add-in park tickets for however many days we plan to visit the parks. Usually, we visit the parks for fewer days than we’re staying on property. This is where you can add in meal packages as well, but we prefer to have more freedom in our dining choices.
This may be my favorite tool of all. You can access your My Disney Experience account from your computer and phone. I visit this page often throughout the planning stages…like, almost daily (Note: There’s no need for this, I’m just excitable).
You can manage your entire trip through My Disney Experience. This is where we make our dining reservations, fast pass selections, check wait times, get park maps… the list goes on. If you wanted, you can plan your whole trip on the app, including booking hotels and park tickets.
This is dangerous for us and has in the past led us to make spontaneous hotel reservations (i.e. trips to Florida from New York) on whims… Uh oh, but PJ… you said spontaneousness and Disney don’t mesh. True, but My Disney Experience allows you to add plans to your spontaneous adventure.
I love having access to My Disney Experience in the parks. If we want to change our fast pass selections, or if we’ve used all 3 of our fast passes and want to make more, we can do it from anywhere in the park. So easy.
Ok, real talk. I have been to Disney World every year since my first trip in 2010, sometimes twice a year. I have visited the DisneyWorld.Disney.Go.Com website multiple times for every single visit since… and only this year did I discover the Guest Services page. This strikes me as the type of page that you really only find out of necessity, which is exactly how I stumbled upon it.
Because we are visiting Orlando for a wedding, we will be traveling with a suit and bridesmaid dress is tow… and because Orlando/the wedding is the last leg of our trip, we imagine those garments are going to need some freshening up before the big day. Luckily, Disney offers dry cleaning services, but the hotel websites are pretty vague about the details. Disney’s guest services page helped with filling in the blanks.
This page is super useful for finding out general information on where you can find ATMs, how to complete an online check-in, find resources for guests who have Special Needs, and where the Nikon Picture Spots can be found around the parks (a service I have obviously been in desperate need of)!
Seriously, get a Countdown App.
I think mine is called ‘Countdown for Disney’, but we use it for just about every trip we go on. There’s just something about a countdown app that adds to the excitement for an upcoming vacation.
There’s plenty you can choose from and many are free to download. Just do it, it’s fun.
YouTube & Streaming Videos
I don’t know if we use this as a ‘planning’ tool per se, but we always look up vlogs and videos on Disney and Universal before we go. It’s a great way to see what’s new at the parks. YouTube is a great resource to find out about new restaurants or construction updates from people who live in the area and visit the theme parks all the time.
Vlogs are also a great resource for finding out information about the surrounding areas, if you need a break from the park (I’ve heard rumors that these people exist, but I don’t know any thank goodness). A YouTuber – see ‘The Tim Tracker’ – is how we found out about Cowfish at CityWalk, which is now one of our favorite restaurants.
Before I really got introduced to the wonders of YouTube & vloggers, Rob and I would watch Disney Parks, Behind the Scenes videos on Netflix. Buyer beware, the song is catchier than Small World and will immediately get you excited for all things Disney. It’s that Kool-Aid again. Unfortunately, they’ve since been removed from Netflix, but you can still find them on Amazon.
As mentioned in previous posts, Rob and I are just a traveling duo of adults. If you’re traveling with kids or if you’re traveling in bigger groups, Disney also has some really excellent planning guides and resources on their website, including a Moms Panel.
Ok, so now you’re fully equipped to go an plan your own Disney adventure. See you at the margarita cart in Epcot!