Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Most Useful Websites For Planning Your Disney World Vacation

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I started a Pinterest board for Disney World minutes after I discovered Pinterest. I was planning paint colors and nursery rooms and a Disney-related pin popped up. With no trip in the foreseeable future, I went with it anyway, in true Pinner fashion. Four years and 191 pins later (I did some culling when we actually booked a trip) I have a board filled with everything from countdowns to lists promising the biggest secrets ever.

My husband and I have been to Disney once each. We were both about ten. So it is just me, our amazing Disney agent, and Pinterest. And every person who has been to Disney. Because sharing Disney stories is like sharing birth stories. You will relive the magic and the trauma to anyone who has been or will be in the same boat.

I don't pin every article I've read. There are so many that repeat the same information, contradict each other, or have become outdated. I skim 20 articles and get 40 new ideas and spend 2 hours trying to figure out where I left one of 90 hot glue guns I own so I can make some felt Mickey ears to hid in the closet for the next 70 days. Not useful. Nothing gets done that way.

What have I found useful in actual planning?
(Aside from my wonderful MouseLady who has had to deal with a joint email with Hubsy and me asking really odd and random questions at weird times.)

First, an understanding of how Disney works, and what kind of trip you want. There is no one place for this. Here is the method I came up with, centered on our character-crazed kids, both under 5. Know the duration of your trip, choose a resort (based on money or proximity to a park or deals Disney runs), and pick if you are in it for characters or rides. Once you have an idea, the following links will be much more useful.

If you are already planning your trip, you likely have set up My Disney Experience. If you haven't, go there, set it up, get the app. If you don't have an agent, get one. Love The Mouse is free to the vacationer, and our woman clearly knows what is what. We haven't had a single question or concern go unaddressed, and they'll do as much as you want them to, or just be there for support.

The most useful non-Disney site has been the park times for your specific stay. This is useful if you want to make reservations before park open, take advantage of Magic Hours (for resort guests only) if you do not have Park Hopper, avoid Magic Hours if you do have Park Hopper, and look at the parade and fireworks schedule. This was permanently open on my computer for a month. I should have made it my wallpaper. It is that useful.

Disney Dining Plan. Oh, mercy. Some people swear by it. Some swear it is a rip-off. I guess it all depends on what you are going for. I've reviewed the plans and studied the charts and tried to figure out based on what our family would chose with a menu in front of them, because most blogs say that you need to order the most expensive entrees to maximize credits. I don't go out to eat to order the highest number, I want to eat what looks good to me. Then I found the Disney Dining Calculator. You plug in your dates, the restaurants you want to visit, and a few other specifics, and it spits out all the numbers. It not only tells you what you would likely spend on your trip without a dining plan, but breaks it down by various meal plans to show if you saved or lost money, used or neglected credits, and estimates gratuity for you as well. It is the most complete picture of what you can expect to spend on dining at Disney. It is the easiest way to figure out which meal plan will work for your family. I wish I had found this before reading all those charts.

This amazing mom detailed her princess-heavy trip to Disney World. I love that she and her daughter came up with questions to ask the princesses while waiting in line. Not only will it help the time pass, but way to make the most of your three minutes!

Like the Old School way of planning a trip? Fodor's Walt Disney World With Kids is the book you need. That, and a rainbow of cut-up Post-Its or book tabs, because you'll want to mark everything. I've flagged reservations, maps, characters, rides and playgrounds to check out, and our FastPass + wishes, which are color-coded by days. (Yeah, playgrounds! Because sometimes kids just don't tire out as quickly as the old people chaperoning them.)
It makes sense to me. Mostly.

Good luck! And have fun!

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