Congratulations! After much thought and decision making regarding dates, resorts, length of stay, and Magic Your Way add-ons, reservations have been made and the countdown has begun. You’re going to Disney World!
But what’s next? Is there still more planning to be done before departure day? Absolutely! Let’s discuss what steps to take in getting ready for a Disney vacation once the trip has been booked.
First look on the Disney World website (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/) to find out park hours for the dates you will be visiting. Disney resort guests will want to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours for getting into a park early or staying late, choosing their park days based on those hours. Guests staying off of Disney property may want to avoid the parks with Extra Magic Hours on a specific day.
Based on the park hours and early or late admittance for Disney resort guests, determine what days you will visit each park during your vacation. This piece of planning is vital for guests without the Park Hopper pass. Your daily park schedule effects any dining reservations you choose to make.
Once a calendar of park days is formulated, the next step is making reservations as much as 180 days prior to the trip for any character, buffet, or sit-down meals. While reserving seats for dining seems simple enough, a bit of preliminary work is necessary. Decide first which restaurants appeal most to your party. Parents with younger guests will not want to miss a meal with characters at places like Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s. Other sit-down favorites include the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, Le Cellier Steakhouse, and Tony’s Town Square.
Determine the exact location of each restaurant you have chosen. If you do not have Park Hopper, confirm that the restaurant is in close proximity to the park you will visit that day. For example, if you reserve a meal at the Crystal Palace, you must plan for that to be a Magic Kingdom day if you do not have Park Hopper. On a Hollywood Studios day, you may choose a meal at Sci-Fi or 50s Prime Time, but not Le Cellier, which is located in EPCOT. Knowing what park you will visit each day and where restaurants are located will guide you as you make dinner reservations accordingly.
Once dining plans are confirmed, consider making a small, laminated calendar or agenda which lists a general plan for each day. For example, you may plan your first day for Magic Kingdom. Include under that day on the agenda the park hours, Extra Magic Hours, parade and fireworks times, and any other available information on Disney’s website that may be helpful to have on hand. Be sure to also list dinner times and reservation numbers.
With all of the major details in place, focus next on the minor, yet helpful, details. Request from the Disney World website a free Vacation Planning DVD. Research specific attractions and shows, determining which rides are “musts” and which can be skipped. Be aware of height restrictions for younger guests in order to avoid disappointment at particular rides. Find suggested routes to take within each park. Familiarize yourself with the Fast Pass system, a method of quickly getting through some queue lines.
The amount of walking necessary at Disney World should also be considered. Get in shape now, taking regular walks around the neighborhood or at a local park to build up stamina and prevent soreness while on vacation.
Be sure to begin a countdown, marking off the days until your dream vacation. Free countdown apps are available on some computers and smart phones. As departure day approaches, pack appropriately. Don’t forget sunscreen, bottled water, and ibuprofen!
Last, but not least, enjoy the process of planning for your trip. A little advanced preparation and research will not only build anticipation and excitement, but also make your vacation even more memorable!