Monday, October 6, 2014

Steps for Planning Our Disney Trip

By: Lindsey

Planning a Disney trip can be overwhelming, especially if you've never planned one before. There are so many resources out there. There are acronyms to learn (What the heck does ADR mean?). There are so many decisions to make. Planning a Disney trip can be time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be hard.

Here is my “to-do list” when planning a Disney trip.

1. Decide on dates, set a budget,

This is my first step in planning my trip. I look at our calendar, crowd calendars, potential Disney offers, and our budget. I try to choose a week that works best for us considering all of the above. We've each written a post about setting budgets. You can read those here, here, and here.

This also involves deciding whether to stay on-site or off-site, researching resorts, base tickets or park hopper tickets, number of days in the park, whether you are going to drive or fly, whether Memory Maker is right for you, and looking at dining options (if you are staying on property).

2. Start saving for our trip.

Some of you might have already saved for your trip. If so, that’s great! Keep going. If you are like me, and you wait until you know more about the trip specifics, now is a good time to start saving. Melissa has a great post on Saving Money at Disney with Gift Cards.

3. Book our trip!

Once we’ve set our dates, decided on our budget, and have started saving for our trip, now comes the fun part. We get to book our trip!

You can also book your airline tickets at this point if you’ve decided to fly. I have several friends that suggest waiting until your trip is closer to book flights; however, I’m not that kind of a gal. I need the assurance and the plan in place so I typically book them right after we book our trip.

4. Calculate dates.

You can make dining reservations (ADRs) 180 days out from your trip. You can book FastPass+ selections 60 days prior to check-in. Here is a great page that helps you figure out what you can book when and calculating those dates. We mark these dates on our calendar so we don’t forget them.

5. Do our research.

If you plan on eating at Disney restaurants, we highly suggest making Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). I absolutely love researching restaurants and deciding where we want to eat. Eating is an important part of our trip. It may not be something that is important to you and if that’s the case, that’s okay!

Remember: when you are using base tickets, take that into consideration while you are looking at restaurants. If the restaurant is in a park, it will need to be in the park that you are visiting that day.

Start reviewing rides and see which rides or shows you may want your FastPass+ reservations for. You can watch YouTube videos to see what rides are like. We do this before every trip and it’s very helpful for our family.

6. Decide whether or not you are going to use touring plans.

Touring plans are not something that my family and I choose to use, but they are a great resource if you feel they are right for your family.

7. Make ADRs.

Once our date has arrived, we make our reservations! I love this part, too. Call me a nerd if you want, but it makes the trip seem so much closer when you have actual plans in the work.

8. Make FastPass+ selections

I love this part, too. I should have mentioned this in the step above, but I make an excel spreadsheet to help me keep up with this. It has about 100 tabs (just kidding, mostly). I have it ready when I go to book our FP+ (and also our ADRs) and it really helps me stay on task and not get confused.

9. Gather info.

This is another favorite of mine. We gather everything we’ll need as far as travel documents, itinerary cards (I love making our daily cards!), packing lists, etc.

10. Trip countdown.

This was something we did for our last trip. Melissa gave us the great idea to do a Disney movie countdown. Every Friday, we’d watch a different Disney movie and do an activity that went with the movie. We had so much fun! Jenna also has a post for you with a FREE!! printable countdown.

11. Have fun!

Obviously there is packing your bags and small things like that, but that’s a part of every vacation. Seriously, that would probably be my biggest piece of advice: have fun. If something goes wrong, it’s okay. If plans don’t go exactly as you planned, it’s okay. You are at Disney. Just enjoy it and have fun!

Do you have any special steps you do to plan your Disney trip? We’d love to hear from you!

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