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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Planning For A Trip to Walt Disney World

I bumped into a prospective Disney fan today who had some questions about planning for a magical family vacation. The decisions and planning can be a bit overwhelming. And, as veterans of 6 Walt Disney World vacations (more than most, but less than some), we have uncovered some helpful planning tips.

This post is dedicated to those of you who have decided you're going. Congratulations, you're going to Walt Disney World. Now, let the planning begin. . . There are a few questions you need to consider. Here we go:
  • When are we going? This is important. All the rest of your planning will center around these dates.
  • How are we getting there? For us, to drive would cause severe strain in our family, so we opt to fly. We have lots of airport choice nearby, and we prefer non-stop flights. So, for us the answer is Air Tran which has non-stops from Moline to Orlando almost daily. Air Tran also offers non-stop flights from Des Moines to Orlando on the week-ends. Allegiant also flies from Des Moines to Orlando seasonally. Allegant is now flying into Orlando Interational for guests to take advantage of Magical Express service.
  • How long will we be at Disney? See, you have to answer the first two questions to get to this answer, as how are you getting there may affect how long you get to stay--driving can take longer and eat into your stay.
  • Are we staying on property or off property? This may sound like a silly question, but is actually one of the most difficult questions to answer. There are pros and cons. For us the answer is on property if we are doing Disney. If we plan to go to Universal or Sea World, we make it a non-Disney vacation and stay off property. Click here to read about our non-Disney vacation.
  • Let's pretend for simplicity's sake that you said on-property to the previous question, and now the question is Where will we stay? The answer comes in the form of value accommodations, moderate accommodations, and deluxe accommodations. Value resorts are he "All Star" resorts along with Pop Century--two beds, bath, etc. Your basic room. Moderate Resorts give you a bit more room along with a refrigerator in your room. Deluxe offers more space, proximity to parks or on the monorail line. No matter where you stay, the theming will be excellent, the grounds immaculate, and the service wonderful. We prefer to stay at Port Orleans--Riverside, a moderate resort. We love the convenience to all the parks and the ability to take a boat to Downtown Disney. The theming is great, the resort large but not too spread out. Also, when you are a guest here you can use the pool at Port Orleans--French Quarter and vice versa. Riverside has the most pools than any other resort. It is also the first stop on the Magical Express ride from the airport!
  • OK, now what parks on what days? We decide this first before deciding on dining. Luckily the Disney World web-site offers calendars of hours including extra magic hours up to six months ahead to aid in your planning. We typically only take advantage of Studios during morning extra magic hours and usually plan to be in a park the day after evening extra magic hours. The philosophy being that lots of folks were at that park just last time, and therefore won't be there today. Sometimes it works for us, sometimes it doesn't. Once we have what day we will be at each park, we book our dining. Ah, the choices!
  • What attractions? Once we have an idea of what park we will be at on each day, we rough out a schedule of the first 3 or 4 stops at that park--leaving room for flexibility. After those 3 or 4 stops, we regroup and plan what's next. Click here to read our Magic Kingdom touring plan.

Once you have done all of the above, the rest is cake, or magic! Just know a few things. . .

  • You can't do it all. Don't even try and don't get frustrated when you can't. Just enjoy what you are doing and what you are accomplishing. We have seen some unhappy families in the happiest place on earth--mostly because of frustration.
  • There are some rides the kids aren't going to ride. Even though they're tall enough, they may not want to ride. It's OK. Use rider swap and/or FASTPASS to allow those that want to ride get to ride. Click here to read more about FASTPASS.
  • Plan. Don't wing it. You will be frustrated by wasted time in the parks and wasted energy negotiating decisions. Would you visit Manhattan without a plan? If the answer is no, then know that Walt Disney World Resort is the size of two Manhattans. It is the size of San Fransisco. I wouldn't visit there without a plan either.
  • Leave room for magic. It seems that our best times have been when we weren't Type A touring, but just relaxing and enjoying our vacation. Click here to read about the most magical day of our 6th trip.
  • Find a travel agent, planning guide, friend, and web-site that can answer your questions when they come up during planning. And, trust me, there will be questions. We prefer Passporter's Guide to Walt Disney World as our planning guide. That, and our travel agent Shauna.

Again, Congratulations, you are going to Walt Disney World. You and 16 million people annually. Now, get back to planning!

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