Tuesday, December 15, 2015

5 Reasons Disney World is for Adults too: #4 Special Events at Epcot

By: Ashleigh

Welcome back to

Five Reasons Disney World is for Adults too!

RECAP: Last time, I began this series by making the case that Walt Disney World offers a great vacation for adults who are traveling with or without kids. I said I would give you five reasons, with the first being all the wonderful restaurants and fine dining experiences you can find around the resort. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, though, stay with me! I’ve got four more reasons and you’ll want to know all about this next one.
If you read my last post and thought to yourself, “Big deal. We can try great restaurants anywhere in the world,” I get that. But ask yourself, where else can I go to one place to try foods, wine, beer, cocktails, and desserts from 25 different countries and regions around the world? Give up? Yep, it’s Walt Disney World. Specifically, we are talking about the Epcot Food & Wine Festival hosted every fall at WDW. But there’s so much more!

#4 Special Events at Epcot

Any time you go to WDW is going to be a special trip. But if you do a little research and time your trip just right, you’ll find a little extra magic in the special events that take place throughout the year. In particular, Epcot is widely-accepted as being the most “adult” park at WDW, and there is good reason. Here are some great times for adults to visit Epcot to catch a special event:
  • The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (March 2, 2016 – May 30, 2016)

    (One of the many, many topiaries seen during a family trip in May 2004)
    • Best time to go: We went in early May one year and it was my favorite time I have ever been to WDW. The crowds were non-existent. Possibly, this is an unpopular time to take your kids out of school because they’re about to wrap up the year and are taking tests. Whatever the reason, we had no waits for rides all day long and this made the trip very enjoyable. Also, we had consistently sunny weather without too much humidity.
    • What it is: A springtime festival at Epcot for gardening enthusiasts that features seminars by horticulturists and garden experts. Throughout the park, are displays of over 100 topiaries in all shapes and sizes and featuring your favorite Disney characters. It’s truly something to see
    • What to do: Several hands-on presentations, tours, and demonstrations take place throughout the festival. The best advice is to check the schedule before you plan your trip to see what you want to do. The 2016 festival schedule has not been announced yet, but I bet it will be soon after the new year. There is also a concert series that takes place during the festival at Epcot. This past year, they had acts like Gin Blossoms, En Vogue, and Starship.   
  • The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (September 2016 – November 2016)
    (Me and William, trying the lamb meatball at the New Zealand booth, Oct. 12, 2015)
    • Best time to go: September or November. If you go in October, avoid the second and third week. This is when most schools are out for fall break and it was miserably crowded when we went this past year on Oct. 11 – Oct. 15, 2015.  
    • What it is: Heaven for foodies, wine connoisseurs, and craft beer lovers! It’s a culinary festival featuring booths from 25 different countries/regions around the world. Each booth features small plates, cocktails, wine, and beer from that region. This past year, The Chew TV show also filmed a few episodes at the festival. There are many, many special dining experiences and we took advantage of the culinary and mixology demonstrations on our trip.
    • What to do: Eat and drink, and then eat and drink some more! You’ve got to have a plan when tackling something as big as the Food & Wine Festival. Months of advance training like a world champion hot dog eater wouldn’t be unreasonable, either. Go hungry and then pace yourself. Some tips from our recent trip
      • Make your FastPass+ reservations for Soarin’ or Test Track around opening (say 9:30am or 10am) and give yourself plenty of time to ride the other before your reservation window. Get those out of the way because you’re going to want to spend the rest of the day touring the Food & Wine Festival
      • The Festival opens with the World Showcase at 11am. We went to the Festival Center at 10:30am to get our “passports” and festival maps. When you visit each of the booths, you get a stamp in your passport! We also got these bad boys (below) and I can’t recommend them enough.

        At the Festival Center, you can get these small gift card bracelets that help you stay on a budget as you wine and dine around the world. We each put $50 on our cards and it was more than enough. It made visiting the different countries and paying for our small bites and drinks very easy to do. Technically, you can also use your magic band to pay for food, but I found the lag time on the payment processing kind of annoying. It was fine when paying at the gift shops, but not when I was on a boozy mission!  
      • Be ready to start making your way around the world right at 11am. We did that and never stood in line for the booths very long. By the late afternoon and evening, they got longer, but at that point, we were going to demonstrations and visiting the craft beer expo. 
      • Resist the temptation to make lunch reservations and make the festival small plates your meal instead. When we went in October, we had not been to WDW in a few years and I was itching to get into some of the good World Showcase restaurants. While I will never regret eating pizza at Via Napoli, I wish we had saved it for another trip when the Food & Wine Festival wasn’t running. It took up valuable real estate in my stomach and I didn’t make it for the crème brulee in France. Quel dommage!
      • Don’t miss the mixology class! It was only $15/a person to do this class and well worth it. Make sure to book this reservation as soon as you decide to go, though. These book up fast. Our instructor was Peter Heering and he was amazing. We learned how to make three drinks and got very generous samples to test out. He even stayed after the class was scheduled to end and taught us a few more cocktails. 
      • The culinary demonstration class was not our favorite thing. It was not very detailed and the entrée we learned about seemed very difficult to make with hard-to-find ingredients. I would not recommend it. There’s too many other things to do
      • Do your research before you go and know what items sound good to you. You’ll need to prioritize to make sure you have room in your stomach for everything you want to try! I’m still kicking myself for not saving room for the pulled pork sliders at the Hawaii boot
  • The Holiday Season at Epcot
    • Best time to go: early December, after the Thanksgiving crowds dissipate but before the kids get out of school for Christmas break. If you hate the heat and love Christmas, this is a great time to go to WDW. The mornings and evenings will be chilly, but a light jacket is all you will need. The afternoons are pleasantly in the 60’s and 70’s. We wore shorts but dressed in layers and it worked well. 
    • What it is: A celebration of Christmas and other holidays traditions from around the world. Between Halloween and New Year’s, Christmas is EVERYWHERE at WDW. Each of the parks and the resorts are festively decorated in special ways and Epcot is my favorite place to enjoy the season. If you have been to the World Showcase more times than you can count, I recommend visiting during this time of year, as the special holiday festivities add a new experience
    • What to do: Enjoy the beautiful Christmas and holiday decorations throughout the park, including giant Christmas trees celebrating different places and cultures. From the pickle ornaments in Germany to Père Noël in France, you will learn about holiday traditions unique to each country around the World Showcase. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the World Showcase also hosts the Candlelight Processional in which celebrity guests narrate the biblical story of the savior’s birth at Christmas. A 50-piece orchestra and giant choir join the show with beautiful Christmas hymns. Popular narrators this year include Neil Patrick Harris, Meredith Vieira, American Ferrera, and Whoopi Goldberg
  • An event for adults to miss at Epcot:
    • New Year’s Eve: When my beloved Arkansas Razorbacks football team made it to the Capital One Bowel in Orlando one year, I knew I had to be there to support them…. and also squeeze in another WDW trip. Might as well! Unlike a lot of people, I don’t believe there is ever a BAD time to go to WDW. While some times are better than others to visit, I firmly believe that if you stick with a good touring plan at the parks, you can still do and see everything you want. This belief, however, only applies to touring the parks right at opening and getting everything done by the afternoon. The year I went to WDW for the New Year, my group decided on Epcot to see the World Showcase fireworks for New Year’s Eve. Boy, was that a mistake. Around 10pm or so, cast members started handing out little paper horns, which is a fun idea…. until you think of what it would be like for thousands and thousands of people to be randomly blowing their horns every few seconds for two hours until midnight. It wasn’t magical. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the oppressive crowds. I have never seen crowds like that at Disney World and I hope to never again. It was impossible to move and took us 45 minutes to get from the World Showcase to the front entrance bus stops after the fireworks were over. I still think New Years is a fun time to be at WDW, but avoid the parks after 8pm on New Year’s Eve. Instead, try Disney Springs or a resort restaurant with a good view of the fireworks!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

5 Reasons Disney World is for Adults too: #5 It's a Culinary Cabaret

By: Ashleigh

“You’re going to Disney World without kids??”  We get that question a lot.  Most people think of Walt Disney World as a place geared only for children and nothing more.  Well listen up, most people, because I am about to change your mind!

Disclaimer: I’m not a “Real Mom.”  Not yet, anyway.  My husband, William, and I have been married for four years.  We love taking Disney trips together even though we haven’t jumped on the baby train just yet.  (We’ll get there, Mom, I promise!) I am, however, friends with a “Real Mom,” and when she asked me if I would like to write as a guest for her blog based on a recent trip to WDW, I enthusiastically agreed.    

That doesn’t mean that you should stop reading if you are a parent.  My goal is to not only prove that Walt Disney World is a great vacation for adults traveling without kids, but it’s also a great place to take your kids and still have fun yourself.
#5      It’s a Culinary Cabaret

If you thought the only meals at Disney World consisted of fair foods like corndogs and hamburgers, think again!  WDW actually has many fine dining restaurants throughout the parks and resorts that would impress any foodie.  When William proposed several years ago, he had never been to Disney (gasp!).  One thing I knew for sure, though, is he loves to eat and that was the best way to get him hooked on Disney. 

The World Showcase at Epcot is my favorite place where you can find a good table service meal prepared by internationally-acclaimed chefs.  But the resorts have just as many great restaurants too.  Here are some places I recommend for adults to dine at Disney:

v  California Grill (Disney’s Contemporary Resort): This restaurant is perched on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort.  While it overlooks Magic Kingdom and has a great view of Cinderella’s Castle, it also has a decidedly adult atmosphere that is sleek and modern.  If you are looking for a place to wear a fancy dress on your trip, you will fit right in here.  When you check in for your reservation, you are escorted up the elevator in VIP-style to an elegant but modern dining room.  If you like sushi, this is your place.  If you like wine, this is your place.  But there are other yummy things on the menu like the Oak-fire Filet and Pacific Halibut to please the non-sushi folks.  We got the cheese plate and really enjoyed it, too.  Don’t forget to check out the cocktail menu.  The Blood Orange Mule is my favorite drink there, but I’m a sucker for any variation of the Moscow Mule.  

v  Le Cellier (Canada Pavilion, World Showcase at Epcot):  Dimly-lit and intimate, this cozy little wine cellar is a hard-to-get reservation, but oh-so worth the effort!  I snagged my first ADR at Le Cellier on our most recent trip and it was everything I expected and more.  They have an extensive wine list to choose from and you have to order the Canadian cheddar cheese soup as an appetizer.  Try dipping the pretzel bread in the soup – YUM!  I got the filet mignon with mushroom risotto and it changed my life.

 v  Monsieur Paul (France Pavilion, World Showcase at Epcot): Cards on the table, I ate here back in 2006 when it was called Bistro de Paris and have not been since the name change.  I had to include it now, though, because eating here is such a special experience for adults wandering the World Showcase.  It is tucked off a quiet corner of the France pavilion and truly feels like you are dining along the streets of Paris.  It is romantic and an authentic Parisian experience.  My food was wonderful nine years ago and I hear the quality has not changed with the name.  If Victoria and Albert’s sounds too intimidating and expensive (like it does for me), I think this is a great up-scale alternative for your trip.  Plus, you will have an easier time getting reservations here than some other places.

 v  Sanaa (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge):  God gave us three meals a day for a reason and I believe it was to maximize our restaurant opportunities while at Disney.  On our last trip, William and I took a quick five-minute bus ride from Animal Kingdom at lunchtime to go eat at Sanaa.  It was one of my favorite meals and provided a quiet, air-conditioned chance to see the animals on the resort’s savanna while we ate.  Because this restaurant was more secluded at the Kidani Village, which houses the resort’s DVC villas, it proved a great option for our adults-only trip.  It was an up-scale environment that captured the setting of the Animal Kingdom lodge well.  It has a great combination of African and Indian fusion entrees and we especially liked the naan bread service, which came with nine flavorful dipping sauces.  Truly, the best thing about Sanaa was seeing the giraffes without tripping over strollers. 

 v  Breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom): In keeping with the above point about maximizing your meals at Disney, I wanted to include CRT on this list.  My Disney fans may be skeptical about this, but I stand by it.  Whether you are dining with or without kids, I consider it a must-do at least once.  If you are on your family vacation, it is obviously great for kids; however, know that you will enjoy it just as much.  For one, our 8:05am reservations allowed us to enter the park at 7:45am, when rope drop wasn’t until 9am.  This was huge for several reasons.  For one, we were able to experience the magic of walking down a secluded Main Street, USA, and see the castle appear for us without throngs of sweaty tourists.  Secondly, the restaurant is beautiful with detailed décor.  The view of a quiet Fantasyland while you eat breakfast can’t be beat.  The dining room is small and intimate, so you do not have the noisiness that comes with most character breakfasts.  I had heard horror stories about the food while planning prior trips, but we really enjoyed our meals.  I got French toast and William had the beef tenderloin.  As I am typing this, I asked him how he liked his food at CRT and his response was “It was REAL good.”  FYI, that’s a glowing endorsement from my picky-eating husband.  We also got free-flowing juice, coffee, and a basket of pastries and fruit.  This kept us full until dinnertime and helped us maximize our touring time in the park that day.  We finished our meal around 8:45am and found, to our delight, that they had opened the line for Seven Dwarves Mine Train early and we got a chance to ride before the crowds swarmed at 9am. 

v  ‘Ohana (Disney’s Polynesian Resort): If you want to see Wishes, the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, but have no desire to sit on concrete for forty-five minutes and fight thousands of people to exit the park, I recommend a late dinner at ‘Ohana.  If you have hit your theme park limit around 4:00pm and need a good drink and an air-conditioned place to relax for dinner, I recommend dinner at ‘Ohana.  ‘Ohana is my favorite way to end a Magic Kingdom day and I think other adults would agree with me too. On our most recent trip, the Fall Break crowds were getting to us and we needed to get out of the Magic Kingdom for a break.  I had made 6:30pm dinner reservations at ‘Ohana but we decided to take a boat ride from Magic Kingdom to the Polynesian resort at 3:30pm and hang out until our ADR’s.  The boat ride itself was a relaxing respite from the crowds.  Before our trip, I had been reading about Trader Sam’s Grogg Grotto and Tikki Bar.  It was brand new to the Polynesian Resort and sounded so cool.  A mixology experience in true Disney Fashion, Trader Sam’s derives from the Jungle Cruise story and strange things happen throughout the bar whenever you order certain drinks.  We enjoyed the Shrunken Zombie Head (delicious and STRONG!) and the crazy antics of the bartenders for a while before heading upstairs to ‘Ohana at 5:00 to see if we could get a table earlier than our reservations.  Proof that it never hurts to ask, they were able to seat us right away.  At ‘Ohana, you have a direct view of Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s Castle.  During the Wishes fireworks show (usually around 9 or 10pm), they lower the lights and pipe in the music for you to enjoy as you dine.  If you get reservations for about an hour before the fireworks, you should be good to linger and watch the show.  The view itself makes it an enjoyable dining experience for adults, but I haven’t even told you about the food yet.  William marks ‘Ohana as his favorite Disney Dining experience and I can’t argue with him.  For one, your meal is served all-you-can-eat family style, and the quality is on par with the quantity.   You get pineapple-coconut bread, salad, pork dumplings, honey-coriander chicken wings, stir-friend veggies, teriyaki noodles, and bread pudding for dessert.  Don’t make the same mistake I did on my first ‘Ohana trip: Pace yourself!  It’s all delicious and you want to save room for dessert!

v  San Angel Inn (Mexico Pavilion, World Showcase at Epcot): William likes to tell a story about his Polish grandfather who denounced soup as a meal, famously saying “If I wanted to drink my meal, I’d go to a bar!”  He, himself, adopts this principle and I have never been able to convince him to eat soup… until we got it for free at San Angel Inn.  We were relaxed and enjoying the atmosphere when our waiter brought bowls of Sopa Azteca to try.  It is a traditional tortilla soup and the flavor knocked our socks off.  William finished his and then ate some of mine too.  Besides the soup, San Angel Inn is a beautiful and romantic place to dine.  It is indoors but looks as if you are dining under the stars at a Mexican marketplace.  Below your tables is a river for the Three Caballeros boat ride and a volcano sits off in the distance.  Keep an eye on it throughout your meal and you may notice it erupt.  Besides the romantic atmosphere, the margaritas alone make San Angel Inn a good place for a date on your vacation. 

So those are my favorite places to eat on our trips.  Whether you are traveling without kids, taking the kids, or leaving the kids with grandma in the hotel room for the night, there are so many good fine dining options at Disney.  Honestly, picking restaurants is my favorite part about planning a Disney trip.  Just remember to set your calendar 180 days before your trip to make your reservations.  Some places won’t book up, but always better safe than sorry!


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Planning: Finding Your Way Around Disney Parks

By: Melissa

You’ve planned. You’ve prepped. You’ve packed, and you’ve arrived. You’re at Disney! You walk up to the park gate, and…how do you find anything?

Disney World is a big place. There are lots of things to find, and while Disney is pretty good at signage, it really helps to know where you are headed before you start out.

Knowing where you’re headed also saves time and frustration. You don’t have to memorize the map or plan your every step, but having a general idea of where things are, how to get there, and what direction you’re going next will be a big help.

My absolute favorite resource for pre-trip park maps is EasyWDW. Josh has done an awesome job of creating color-coded maps that help you not only know where things are, but when it’s best to visit them. His Cheat Sheets with maps were my lifeline for our first trip, and I’m using them again right now! My advice is to print the maps and spend some time studying them as you plan your day. Of course things look different when you’re actually there, but if you have a general idea of where you’re going, you’ll be in much better shape. (I still get lost in Hollywood Studios, though. Every single time!)

On your phone, you have the option of quite a few apps that provide maps and attraction wait times. I like to keep things simple, so I stick with My Disney Experience (MDE). You can use it to help you find your way around the park while you’re there, as well as see wait times posted on attractions. And with the new Shop Parks app, you can even locate specific merchandise!

If you are “old school” and prefer the park’s paper maps, you can pick them up at park entrances. Disney has begun to scale back on these locations, probably because more and more people are using their phones. The front desk at your resort might have them available as well.

Asking for directions is always an option, though I know it’s sometimes a hassle. Every now and then, it’s unavoidable. Cast Members have always been very helpful and kind when we asked where to find something. If you’re asking about locating a character, they might even give you a special tip. You never know when someone might spread a little Pixie Dust at Disney!

What’s your favorite way to find your way around the Disney Parks?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Planning: Deciding Which Attractions to FastPass+ (FP+)

By: Melissa

The first time we took our kids to Disney, FP+ was in the testing phase. And due to our touring strategy, we didn’t really even use the old Fast Pass system very much. Like it or not (it’s actually a huge debate among Disneyphiles), it looks as if FP+ is here to stay. So how do you decide the best attractions to use it on?

First, I think it’s important to understand what FP+ is and isn’t.
  • It’s free! Anyone with a ticket can use it. If you’re staying on site, you’re allowed to make your selections 60 days in advance. If you’re staying off site, you can make your selections 30 days in advance.
  • You do NOT have to have FP+ selections in order to visit or ride attractions.
  • You’re allowed to make 3 FP+ selections per day, and they must all be at the same park.
  • Your selections are made online, and you can change them through My Disney Experience online or via the app.
  • You can make FP+ selections for part or all of your traveling party.
  • Your FP+ selection is for a certain window of time during the day. If you miss your time window, you’re out of luck.
  • FP+ is not a walk-on guarantee. It’s kind of like calling ahead to a restaurant. It’s not a reservation, but when you arrive, you’re in a shorter line.
  • You’ll redeem your FP+ at attractions by scanning your Magic Band or ticket at the FP+ line.

Now, in order to make FP+ selections, I think it’s important to know your family and your touring style. For instance, if you don’t want to ride Space Mountain, you don’t need a FP+ for it. I also wouldn’t recommend using a FP+ selection for most shows, as there doesn’t seem to be a real advantage unless you’re going to be there at a high crowd time (there are always a few exceptions).

...Know what attractions you’re truly interested in. If you don’t want to ride something, you certainly don’t need a FastPass for it.
...Have a plan for your park days before your FP+ day comes. Make a list of things you’d like to get a FP+ for.
...Understand the tier system at Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
...Try to book your most important rides/attractions first, possibly starting with the last park day, working backward.
...If you’re planning to hop to a second park during the day, consider making your FP+ selections for the second park. The lines will be longer in the afternoon, and touring will be easier without FP+ in the morning.
...Check out FP+ recommendations on the EasyWDW Cheat Sheets and at WDWPrepSchool.
...Schedule your FP+ for a little later in the day when lines are longer.
...Keep trying to get a FP+ for rides/attractions that didn’t have openings when you first booked. People change their plans and it may leave something open for you.
...Download My Disney Experience on your phone and get familiar with the FP+ section so you can edit your FP+ while you’re in the parks.

...Use a FP+ on something just because it’s available. Some things just aren’t worth it – especially if you have no interest in it. If you must take a selection you don’t particularly like, you can always edit it later. Don’t waste it!
...Book your FP+ for first thing in the morning if you’re doing Rope Drop. That’s the lightest crowd time and you likely do NOT need FP+ that early in the day.
...Be distressed if you can’t get something on your FP+ day. People change their schedules all the time, and things open up. Keep checking back, even while you’re in the park.
...Get FP+ for something just because someone else loved the ride or it’s on a recommended list. Make sure it’s something you truly want to do.

As you look at the list of attractions, it’s tough to only choose three things! Keep in mind that with a good touring plan, you’ll be able to ride most things without a FP+ just fine. I personally reserve FP+ for things we absolutely cannot miss and I don’t want to take a chance on the Standby line. There aren’t 5 hour waits to see Anna and Elsa anymore, but they’re still important to us. You can bet they are on my FP+ list.

Can you ever get more than three Fast Passes? Sometimes! After using your first three, you can get more Fast Passes at in-park kiosks based upon availability. Disney actually tested allowing a fourth FP+ over the summer, and that could mean they’re planning to roll that out in the future. It could also mean nothing.

When you’re ready to learn more about how to make your selections in My Disney Experience, check out Lindsey’s post.

You can check out the Real Moms’ favorite FastPass+ selections if you need more ideas.

How does the FP+ system work for your family?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Should I purchase Disney's trip insurance?

By: Lindsey

When we booked our first trip to Disney, the cast member we talked to asked us about trip insurance. We had never used trip insurance on any trip before. We originally didn’t plan on getting it but after listening to the explanation of benefits, we decided to try it and see what it was all about.
First of all, what if it gets close to your trip date and someone gets sick or an accident happens? Disney’s trip insurance covers it if you have to cancel your vacation after the 30 day mark. This was a big draw to us since our first trip was traveling with a not quite two-year-old. If one of us came down sick or had an accident, we’d be able to get reimbursed for the cost of the trip.

It also covers things like lost luggage, lost items, flight cancellation or a delayed flight, injuries or sickness while on a trip, hurricanes, damage to your property while you are traveling and a host of many other things.  Here is a link to the current (as of 09/10/2015) coverage of the Disney trip insurance plan.
During that first trip, our iPad was damaged. We never figured out if it was in the hotel room or on the flight, but both were covered. We were able to claim this against our trip insurance and we had a check covering the loss in about a week or two. Since that moment, we’ve always chosen to add on the insurance.

Since that first trip we, thankfully, haven’t had to use the insurance but it’s always nice to know that it is there. When you are trying to decide whether or not to add that expense to your trip, sit down and weigh the pros and cons. For us, the pros outweigh the cons but that might be different for you.
Have you used or do you plan to use the Disney vacation trip insurance? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

2016 Disney Planning Calendar {Free Printable}

Are you planning a trip to Disney in 2016? Here's a calendar to help you keep your details in order!

Why use a planning calendar? I know lots of people like to keep an electronic calendar these days, and I certainly utilize them myself. But when I'm planning a trip, I prefer pencil and paper. It helps me keep my vacation planning in one spot and I can keep it separated from my "real life" as much as I need to.

What I add to my Disney Planning Calendar:
  • Our trip dates - departure, park dates, and return
  • ADR date (The first day I can make ADRs)
  • FP+ date (The first day I can make FastPass+ selections)
  • Last day to customize our Magic Bands
  • Final day to pay our Disney vacation balance
Those are also the things I add to my "real life" calendar. There's no way I want to miss any of those dates!

Here are some other things I add to my planning calendar:
  • I number the weeks backward from our trip, like a countdown. This helps me keep in mind how much time I have left.
  • Any major "real life" dates that I think are important to planning.
  • Tasks and goals for myself - making sure I know which FP+ selections I want before that date actually rolls around.
  • As we get closer to the trip, I add more details and even write notes and task lists at the top of the calendar.
  • Movie countdown list and schedule.

Need some other printables or downloads to help with your planning? Here are some more we offer:

Dining Credit Planner - need a visual way to help you decide how to spend your Dining Plan credits? Check this out!
ADR Planner - keep track of your ADR details in one place.
Trip Overview - want to see your whole trip at a glance? Try this Trip Overview!

At Real Mom's Disney, our goal is to help you find the resources you need to make your trip planning easier. Let us know how we can help you!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Disney Basics: How to START Planning

by: Jenna

One of the most common questions we hear is this:

"Where do I start? Disney planning just seems SO overwhelming!"

To be honest, you're right! It is overwhelming! One of our missions here at RMD is to simplify the process and help you plan a stress free trip.

If you've decided that you're ready to start planning, here are the basic steps you'll need to take:


What time of the year is going to work the best for you? Is heat a factor? What about crowds? School schedules? Chances are, you already have a time in mind that will work for you.

Once you have your time-frame, (let's say you picked November) then I would recommend looking at what deals might be offered. This is simple! Just visit Disney's special offers page (click here) and see what's available. Keep in mind that you can usually add on offers to existing trips, so if you book something before an offer comes out (like free dining or 30% off room rates) you can call them and they'll apply it to your total. You can find a how-to on that here!


Once you have your dates picked out, you'll need to pick a place. We've written articles on staying on-site vs off-site as well as reviews (like this one on Animal Kingdom Lodge) on some Disney hotel properties. I'd recommend reading those if you're unsure of what you'd like to do.

My personal recommendation is to stay at a Disney property. The short answer is that you don't "lose the magic" by leaving. We stayed offsite the first time we went because it was planned on super short notice, and we will never do that again!


Call Disney! Let them help you book your trip. They'll also explain some of the other Disney basics, like making it a package deal with tickets or offering dining suggestions.


If you are more than 180 days out from your trip, mark your calendar for important dates. Just visit My Disney Experience and put calendar reminders in your phone for the dates when you can book dining and fastpasses. If you've never used My Disney Experience, it's super easy! Here is a step by step tutorial on how to find what you're looking for.


Once you've got the basics down, you can start thinking about some of the more advanced Disney topics. We can help you there too! Here are some quick links:

Advanced Dining Reservations

Booking FastPasses

Adding Memory Maker

Blogging tips