Again, do note that I am just sharing my experience. I do not claim to be a Disney expert or even a Disney fan. But I did contact 2 full fledged Disney nuts and am going to share their insider tips in addition to my own this week. So that will be a treat!
Today I want to share 3 Tips to Make Planning Your Disney Trip Easier:
1. Use a Disney Travel Agent. There is no charge to do this; they get a kick back from Disney. It really is absolutely free and there are so many perks to using a travel agent that specializes in Disney Travel.
I used Ginger at TMC Travel and she made the whole process smoother and took a lot of pressure off me. I liked using Ginger at TMC Travel (my sister used her too and told me about her) because I only worked with Ginger; TMC is not a call center. Also, the gals who work for TMC Travel work from home so I felt like Ginger was easier to get a hold of. I did not have to make sure I called between 9am and 5pm. Ginger was always so prompt in returning both my emails and phone calls. I mean within 20 minutes I heard back from her. I liked having someone to go back to and ask "What about this?" or "Do you think we should do this?" Ginger never seemed in a rush or "bothered" by my questions (which I am sure she answers the same ones repeatedly throughout the day).
And then there were the "extras" that came with using TMC Travel such as the tip cards that are personalized for your trip. Sized to fit in your back pocket or park bag, the tip cards make sure you know park hours, parade times, fireworks times, magic hours, and the dining reservations you have for each day of your trip. Another "extra" you get when using TMC Travel is little Disney gifts like autograph books, Cinderella Carriage necklaces, and lanyards with trading pins, all which made our countdown to Disney a little more fun and built the anticipation even more.
A good travel agent can help you plan, but not overplan, and help you get the most out of your budget. If you want to work with a travel agent that specializes in Disney, look for the “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” logo in their office or website. This is Disney’s highest designation and is awarded only to travel agencies that have proven themselves and have been in good standing for several years. A travel agent can help you find the perfect resort for your family, navigate the ticket options and help you tackle dining. Some agents offer discount checking, meaning they look for any offers or discounts that may not have been available when you originally made your reservation and will automatically apply the promotion to your existing reservation. Agents specializing in Disney cannot only let you know about options you may not be aware of, but they often offer you a few extra tips and tricks that can help you plan the vacation of a lifetime. They can be your sounding board and can help with many last minute questions. The best part? Most travel agents do not charge a fee for their services…hidden or otherwise.2. Actually Plan Your Trip! This was Ginger's second tip for a great Disney vacation and I could not agree more. I had that as #2 too. Start planning early; do not wait until the last minute. Rob and I spent hours researching. We actually looked at the calendar last Feb and started thinking about dates that would work with the kids' school schedule, but also dates when Disney would not be super crowded. And then over the summer, I started reading books, websites, blogs, and emaling my friends.
It may sound ridiculous to tell your readers to plan, but there are families who spend thousands of dollars on a Disney Vacation and do not do one ounce of planning. There are people who leave the Magic Kingdom furious that they could not find the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Others leave frustrated because their excited 4-year-old could not have breakfast with the Princesses because her parents did not realize reservations for character meals are a must. Can a family show up at the last minute with no research and have a great time at Disney? Of course. However, I am a firm believer that a little Disney Knowledge goes a long way toward the overall enjoyment of a trip. There are great sources of information available for little or no cost (which is my tip #3).
3. Check out these resources:
The #1 website that I used was touringplans.com. It does cost $11.95 to access the info on this website but oh, it is so worth it. And if you do a google search for "promo code for touringplans.com", you can find codes for $2 off. But I tell you, I would have easily paid $50 for access to this website.
Touringplans.com has a crowd calendar that shows you which parks to visit each day of your trip. Touringplans.com also has customized touring plans. You plug in your favorite rides, meals, breaks, and character greetings, and the website gives you a plan of attack so you are not waiting in long lines. The guy behind this website did his thesis on Disney line wait times. His site gives your the best strategy for your given day and your specifics.
Rob and I loved going into each day with a game plan and not having to make decisions of where to go next on the fly. I tell you the biggest time waster in Disney is pulling out the map and trying to figure out where to go next. Having a clear outline of what your day looks like saves so much time (you are so efficient!), keeps you and your hubby from fighting over where to go next, and keeps everyone on the same page (kids know what is coming next). I cannot recommend touringplans.com enough.
Blogs I used:
Ginger's blog is The Mouse Connection. There she answers questions such as Should you get a Park Hopper ticket or not? Should you get the Dining Plan or not? Should you stay on property or off property? Check out Ginger's list of helpful planning posts here.
Couponing to Disney. This blogger, Kristin is a couponing addict and a Disney addict. She uses the money she saves couponing to pay for her yearly trip to Disney World. Couponing to Disney is where I learned all the basics like what is a Fast Pass and how to use one, details of the dining plan, what is rope drop, what is rider swap. Check out Kristin's list of helpful planning posts here.
Book to check out: The Unoffical Guide to Walt Disney World is almost 2 inches thick and has everything that you ever wanted to know about going to Disney World. There is no need to read the entire book cover to cover, but focus on pertinent information for the planning stage you are currently tackling. This book is the companion to touringplans.com.
We also spent time on You Tube with the kids checking out the rides and our resort (we stayed at Pop Century because it was a value resort and we could get 2 adjoining rooms). Watching You Tube videos not only helped Jonathan and Daniel (our 6 and 8 year old) know what to expect (some of the rides are in the dark and can be scary if you don't know ahead of time what is coming), but it also got all of us really excited about our trip!
We also watched Disney documentaries on Netlfix before we left.
And then the last resource I used was friends. I emailed my friends and asked them for pointers. I asked them what rides and restaurants not to miss. I asked them what must I absolutely not forget to pack. I asked them what they would do different next time. On that note: I would totally skip the Tiki Room and Stitch's Great Escape in Magic Kingdom. Both were not worth the time and all my kids (even the youngest) thought they were "boring and stupid".
Back to checking in with friends about Disney. I had one friend email me all the quick service meals he recommended and all the snacks he recommended for each park I had another friend email me the cost of her last 2 trips as well as a list of what rides were "musts" in each park.
Oh, this is getting long. . you really could write for days on Disney, but hopefully you found some nuggets here to help you plan your upcoming Disney trip. Let me know if you have any questions you would like to see answered this week. This is Day 1 of my Mini Series of Disney Tips. Come back tomorrow for 15 Things to Definitely Pack for Disney.
Disclosure: No disclosure needed. This is not a sponsored post. These are not affiliate links. I get no compensation for mentioning these businesses or websites or blogs. I am just sharing what helped me plan my Disney trip. I am sharing the exact same thing I would share with my sister or my best girlfriends.