Saturday, July 28, 2012

Disney Planning Tip Highlights

If you've spent much time at all with me in the past year, then you know that a new obsession has entered my life. Ever since I can remember, my family has loved to roll their eyes lovingly joke about my list-making, plan everything obsession. Well, while sitting at my parents house over Christmas in 2010, we were discussing vacation plans and somehow decided we'd do an adults trip to Disney in the fall of 2011. We decided on this for a couple of reasons:

  1. My mom has mentioned going to Disney off and on for the past several years. Her last trip was when my brother and I were still in strollers. She wanted to experience the Disney magic without kids in tow.
  2. Dad and I thought Disney sounded great. But Orlando in the heat of the summer? When crowds are at their highest? Umm no. Not happening. Enter fall timetable.
  3. After doing a little bit of online research, I discovered that every fall, Disney holds the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. It starts at the end of September and goes through the second week of November. My birthday is November 4. SOLD.
So, we booked a trip for November 3-8 to attend the Food and Wine Festival. We booked it on December 31, 2010, which gave me about 11 months to plan (or obsess, depending on your definition of plan). I say me, because other than deciding on dates, my parents told me to plan and they'd do whatever I booked. I never knew there was so much information about there about planning Disney trips! Like I've already mentioned, I developed a slight Disney-planning obsession, but once we boarded the plane, it was totally worth it. We had the most relaxing, fun, and perfect vacation we've ever had (and this coming from someone whose idea of perfection is laying on the beach doing nothing for a week). Since returning, we've booked another trip for this fall, and I've had several questions about planning. I thought I'd give an overview here for anyone who is interested. Click through to read more!

Where to Stay

  • There are tons of options. The biggest being on-site or off-site? You can get great deals on timeshares, condos, and rentals off-site. Since we were visiting Disney and no other parks or attractions, we were most interested in staying on-site. Here are a couple reasons why it was best for us:
  1. Magical Express. This is a service that gives you transportation to and from the airport to your resort. Of course, this wouldn't matter if you're driving. We flew and it was amazing. We were sent luggage tags to attach before we checked luggage. They really were magic, because doing this mean that once we checked our bags in Charlotte, we didn't see or worry about them again until they arrived in our room after our arrival. When we arrived in Orlando, we just followed the Magical Express signs, were pointed to the correct bus, and were taken straight to our resort. On check-out day, we took our bags to bell services, they held them all day, and we the bus picked us up from our resort and dropped us off at the airport.
  2. Resort Transportation. The one major stress point of previous family vacations has been driving. Ever driven a rental car in San Francisco, New Orleans, and other busy cities? Not fun for my family. Staying at  a Disney Resort means having the use of Disney transportation. (Of course you can still use your car if you choose.) At our resort, we never had to wait for a bus for more than 10 minutes. Busses pick up at all the resorts and will take you straight to the parks or Downtown Disney. Score! (We did use cabs a couple of times to get to our dining reservations...but taking Disney transportation would have been doable.) If you're lucky enough to stay at a monorail resort, you can take the monorail to Magic Kingdom!
  3. Extra Magic Hours. Disney Resort guests can take advantage of extra hours at a park everyday, either in the morning or at closing. We never got up early enough to use the early ones, but loved using the evening ones!
  4. Dining Plan. We knew we wanted to add this to our package, and you can only do it if you stay on property. I'll discuss more about it later.


  • There are of course several ways to book a Disney trip. Many people utilize travel agents. I didn't. Not because I don't like travel agents, but because I wanted all the control. I booked everything myself through Disney's website. After booking, you can make any changes you want by calling Disney. I did make a change (or several), and never had an issue when calling. If you want to avoid doing much research on your own, and want to put that stress in someone else's hands, do it through an agent. Before booking, make sure you check out Disney's Special Offers page to see if there are any offers for your time period. If there aren't make sure to check back frequently! If an offer is released more than 45 days before you travel, you can call and have it applied to your reservation (as long as it is available for your chosen resort...if not, you can still apply it if you're willing to change resorts). 
I think that's long enough for one post! In the next I'll cover Resort Choice, Restaurant Choices, Park Day Choices, and more about Epcot's Food and Wine Festival!


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