So the date is circled on the calendar and the countdown chain is hanging on the wall… now the real planning beginnings. As wonderful and magical as Disney is, and believe me it is, a fabulous Disney trip doesn’t happen by accident. It takes planning, and some of that can happen up to 180 days before you arrive.
8. Prepare for the weather – Remember that you are going to Florida. Even in December, it’s mild and always humid. If you travel in the fall or winter you should prepare to layer. We always wear jeans or shorts and then layer with a hoodie (yes, usually a Disney one) and stay comfortable for the day. In the spring and summer months, dress to sweat. Sometimes we even wear our swimsuits and when we get really hot, we go ride Splash Mountain, in Magic Kingdom, or Kali River Rapids in Animal Kingdom. No matter when you go, always bring ponchos. Afternoon thunderstorms are fairly common and if you have ponchos then you can throw them on and enjoy quite a few rides while other visitors are looking for cover.
7. Downtime – What’s that you ask? Downtime on a Disney vacations is important and you should plan for it. Everyone in your family, adults included, will want to have time to rest and re-energize for more Disney fun. We have found one of the best places to do that is at your resort pool. Disney has some of the best pools and poolside cast members in the industry. Our kids love the pool activities and parties and we love lounging poolside.
6. Non park activities – Believe me when I tell you that there are many other things to do outside of the parks and you should make time for some of them. Disney has done a great job of spreading the magic to many other places. No trip is complete without a trip to Downtown Disney. If you want to buy it, then Downtown Disney has it. They have Christmas stores full of Disney ornaments (my personal favorite since my tree is all Disney), a home décor store, ESPN store and many others. Don’t leave without a visit to The World of Disney store either. You can also spend time at other resorts that have activities you may like. You can rent surrey bikes and ride around the beach at Caribbean Beach Resort. You can stroll the boardwalk and all its yummy treats at the Board Walk Inn. If you are feeling adventurous, you can go wakeboarding or parasailing at the Disney Contemporary Resort.
5. Transportation – If you are flying to Walt Disney World, make sure you book the Magical Express to take you to your Disney resort. They will send you luggage tags prior to your trip and then once you land, they take care of the rest for you. We loved just checking into our hotel, going straight to the pool and relaxing knowing that our luggage would be delivered to our room.
4. Parade and Firework shows – Sometimes it is necessary to plan your day around a special parade or fireworks show. Make sure that you check these times before picking your Fast Pass times (more on that in #2). You will want to make sure and catch Fantasmic, which will begin seating up to 90 minutes before show time. We also love watching the Illuminations show at Epcot and try to hit at least one parade per park. Remember in your planning that visitors will start sitting on the sidewalks for parades up to 2 hours before, depending on the season and the parade.
3. Special event tickets – We have been to Disney World several times during the Very Merry Christmas Party. This is an event that is separate from your regular park ticket and has its own hours. If you are going during this time or during Halloween for the Not So Scary Halloween Party, you will want to get these ahead of time and plan around the hours of these events. By the way, there is nothing more magical then snow on Main Street during the Christmas party. A definite must.
2. FastPass+ selection and technology – Next to dining reservations (#1 of course), the most important pre trip plan you need to make is for your FastPass selections. Once you receive your Magic Bands, you can begin making your FastPass selections. We planned our days around our daily selections and were so happy that we made them early enough that we had several times to pick from on each day. I added technology to this because you will want to make sure you have the My Disney Experience app already loaded and ready to go when you get to Disney. Everything from Fast Pass picks, dining reservations, memory maker pictures and parade times will be on this app and at your fingertips while on vacation.
1. Drum roll please… the number one pre trip planning you need to take care of is dining reservations. Some of our very best memories are Disney dining times. If you can, make sure you eat at Chef Mickey’s and Ohana, 2 of our personal favorites, and of course the very popular Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest. Don’t forget there are non-character dining experiences that you will want to book ahead of time also. We love the T-Rex in Downtown Disney and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant in Hollywood Studios. There is never a shortage of amazing food at Disney, just make sure you plan ahead so you can enjoy it.
Whew, that was a lot of information. Disney is worth all the pre-trip planning. Hopefully you are able to use this to help make your Disney trip even more magical and less stressful by planning ahead.
Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper