Planning for a Disney vacation is part of the fun, excitement, and anticipation. I am an advocate of planning for a Disney vacation just like you would plan for any other vacation to a major tourist destination. But can planning go too far? When does planning cross the line into worrying about minute details?
Having been to Walt Disney World ten times (and number is 11 is a countdown away) and sailed with Disney five times, we have seen our fair share of touring and traveling styles. Even our style has changed over time. We have seen the guests at parks with their 3-ring binders and page protectors with touring plans highlighted and ready and we have also seen folks at the turn styles without a park map and without a camera—they forget it at home. Now, each of these families is going to have a memorable times, but both may experience some frustration; one by feeling that they have to follow the touring plan and the other because they will miss some things and feel like they “didn’t know”. I will say that both families were at rope drop at Magic Kingdom so good for them that they made it to the park early—that in itself took some planning!
So, how do you find the balance? Well, each family is going to find it for themselves but for us, finding the balance means we have some things decided before we even touch down in Orlando. We know which park on which day and have our dining reservations made for any sit down or table service meals and special events. We also know that we will arrive at the designated park in time for the park opening, so we know park hours. Then, we grab a park map and Times Guide, plan the first 2-3 destinations or steps for our day and after that, we leave a wiggle room letting location, Fastpass return times, attraction waits, character appearances, and weather help us decide what is next. I can tell you that we typically know where we are headed next prior to leaving an attraction. We use any wait time before an attraction to help us figure out what is next rather than waiting until we exit. Again, this works for us.
Some Walt Disney World guests plan extensively regarding their resort stay—location of their room, proximity to bus stop and/or main building, timing of luggage delivery, how much sun the pool gets during the day, etc. Trust me, I have seen all of these questions asked by prospective Disney travelers.
I will preface this with we love and appreciate the Disney transportation system. We are happy to rely on Disney to schlep us and our luggage to and from the airport (click here to read more about Disney’s Magical Express Service) and throughout the Walt Disney World Resort—click here to read more about various transportation options at the resorts. For others, this becomes a “control” issue and they prefer to drive themselves using personal vehicles or rental cars.
Now, having said that, we don’t typically worry about the location of our resort room and proximity to resort offerings. Only one time the location of our room made a difference in our vacation and that was our second stay at Caribbean Beach, so we just haven’t returned to that resort. Disney has done the math in terms of distances to and from food courts, pools, bus stops, etc. One of their pillars is efficiency. They want guests to have an enjoyable time, so they aren’t going to purposely make access to amenities and services difficult. Therefore, I don’t spend a lot of time scouring resort layouts and determining the best location.
The balance in planning also applies to Disney Cruise Line. Again, we have seen a variety of travelers from those just arriving at the ship with no plans to those who want to know the best location to watch the fireworks on Pirate Night or the best location for a stateroom. For us, planning means having any port adventures or shore excursions reserved prior to our cruise and then reviewing each day’s activities in the Navigator and planning as we go. (Click here to read more about Navigators.) As far as the best place to watch the fireworks at sea, I would remind cruisers that the fireworks are a part of a show, a stage performance, and that if you can see and follow the show, then you will be able to view the fireworks.
I certainly recommend planning to prospective Disney travelers as it will help you get the most out of your vacation and therefore your vacation dollar. At the same time, trust that Disney will handle or can help with the small details so you can relax and enjoy your vacation! No worries, you’re with Disney!