There is often a great debate amongst travelers to the Walt Disney World Resort about how far in advance to you start to plan. What is too early? What is too late? What are the pros and cons to both? Let me start by saying, as an unabashed ultimate fan of WDW that it is NEVER too early to start planning but there comes a point where it certainly is too late.
Case in point: I have a group of friends who I get together with regularly to simply discuss Disney and our trips – whether upcoming or in the past. We are all planners. We basically start our planning up to 18 months before the trip begins. Why so far in advance? It’s simple, it gives you time to do all of your research about promotions and deals while figuring out your finances and family calendar.
I have a son in year-round school. I need to get his school calendar out and see where he is tracked out so that he won’t miss school but so that we are also traveling in the off-season to save money.
We also are a family who, at times, simply lives paycheck to paycheck so planning in advance gives us time to budget ourselves so that we are not feeling the pinch too much of putting money aside for our trip. We only go every three to four years and it is a vacation that we all look forward to so we want to make it the best that we can and proper advanced planning makes that possible.
I think what people may find confusing is the concept of “planning”. Planning does not mean “booking” your trip. You can start gathering your information, shop for deals, get referrals from friends on where they like to stay, etc. and that process can take months! When you feel confident with the information that you have, THEN you go and book. So really, you can start planning two years out if that’s what you’ll need to work your budget and plan and save.
On the flip side, waiting too long will hurt you. There are less options for the last-minute trip goers. Recently I helped a family of nine plan a spur-of-the-moment three day trip to Disney. They were going to be in Florida for a family event and decided that they were going to do this.
Four days before they planned to arrive at Mickey’s door.
I made calls, there was a lot of juggling to find rooms that were close to each other – because they needed a value resort which only allows four to a room so they needed three rooms! There was no free dining, there were no discounts and most of the table service restaurants were booked.
Did they have a good time? Yes. Could they have had a better time if they had had ample planning time? Absolutely! I sent them on their ten-hour drive armed with guide books and DVD’s because they had never been before and had no idea how to plan what parks to see, where to eat, what it was all going to be like!
Another family planned a month in advance and were completely disappointed because they had no plan and thought they could just show up and eat where they wanted and not have a problem. In July. They did not have a good experience anywhere that they went.
So remember, it is NEVER too early to plan. Even if you have no concrete plans to visit the Walt Disney Resort any time soon, it can still pay to keep up with the discussion boards and travel deals that are being offered.