One of the worst things I hear is when someone comes back from a trip and had “no idea” about major happenings at the park. What do you mean, Haunted Mansion closes before Halloween? Halloween party? Never heard of it. While we can’t all know every tiny detail that only a seasoned regular would, we can be up to date about our own trips.
To accomplish this I’d recommend reading a blog or two (hopefully ours!) – but keep it simple. Disney Parks official “Disney Parks blog” covers all the major happenings so adding 1-2 others that are reputable, report good information (not random rumors!), and have good writing that you like the style of is what to watch for. We’ll talk more about that another day.
The other thing you’re going to want to do is lay out either on paper or via computer your plans. I recommend doing a spreadsheet style for this so that you can see the days lined up back to back. Why? Well doing this you’ll catch things like “hmmm, booked 2 buffets in a row” or “whoops! Late night is next to an early morning!” and other small details that could derail your perfect trip.
I like to make an excel document and fill in the few must or “I think….” items. Print it out. Then fill in more, adjust, and take a look at it. As someone who does best with something to write on/look at in her hand this works really well for me. I will play with that printed paper until I feel I have revised it enough to make it adjusted, then will make adjustments, sit back, and re-evaluate.
While there is no need to try and guess what time the potty breaks are going to be or what rides you’ll be on in what order – some basic planning and research goes a far way towards a smooth trip. This includes:
- Assume flights/travel will be delayed and don’t make firm plans ASAP for arrival
- Find a good group or message board (more on those another day!) to ask questions/get advice
- Know your travel party limits and avoid making guaranteed meltdowns
- Get input and advice, but have one clear “main” planner
- Encourage others to research & report for the group
- Peek at those menus in advance – don’t miss out on great food!
- Plan for less, be glad when it is more
As a general rule I try to have one “this for sure” item, and everyone gets to pick one ride or priority each day (show, character meet, ect). Beyond that it is flexible in case of weather, exhaustion, injury, ride closure, or other beyond your control to plan things happening. When I see people having the worst day ever – a lot of time it is about managing expectations. It’s important to not expect too much from any given day of the trip – that way you’ll find yourself excited and wowed vs disappointed.
Another vital planning component? Know where to go for on-site info! Last visit to Disney World we ended up having a day where we needed to cancel 1/2 the day. My daughter was having terrible pains in her hips and truly just needed to be off her legs altogether. So the question was: what is there to eat at our hotel? I knew to jump on the MDE app (we were in Disney World), read off the closest menus, and we picked a new lunch spot and took the break- cancelling all but our “must” for that day a Disney Villain event.
Perhaps that is the #1 planning tip I can share: You must be ready for it to go badly, and prepared to take a deep breath, smile, and roll with it! Rides go down, people can be rude, lines can be long, and people in your travel party can get maxed out no matter their age.
When people ask me why I don’t just book & show up to Disney, this is why:
If I am going to spend my vacation dollars and time going to one of the most popular spots on earth, I’m also going to make sure I maximize my chances of having an awesome trip. Doing the pre-planning and research, knowing options, and having realistic expectations about crowds (assume it’s gonna be real crowded, and you’ll be set!), what you can do in a day, and being ready to bend the plans is all key to having a perfectly imperfect vacation.
Even Mary Poppins is “Practically” perfect. We can’t expect more than that!
Stay tuned for more additions to this series where I will dig into timing out a good day, how to handle late & early days, and so much more!