Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Planning A Disney Vacation

There is nothing more fun for me than planning for a vacation.  Truly, I get way too excited about digging out new and fun restaurant choices, activities and trivia galore for each and every vacation we ever take.

Securing a dinner reservation in advance at a great restaurant makes me happy.  Ditto for putting together an agenda schedule that we can print off and try and follow.

I'm weird that way.

Walt Disney World happens to be one of those places we have visited, off and on, since our honeymoon in the summer of 1993.  It is our happy place -- always has been.  Something about turning yourself back into a 7 year old kid that just makes us giggle.

And when you add in being able to see it through the eyes of The Peanut?  Pure bliss.

We haven't been there in a while because we've had a bit of a rocky road with losses in the family and other obligations.  At this point, after the roller coaster of the last few years, we are exhausted and emotionally worn out, and desperate for a goofy, purely for fun trip -- so we are beginning to plan for another Disney vacation -- hopefully in January of 2012, which is the first space available on our calendars or we'd already be on our way.

A trip to Disney World takes a LOT of planning.  It is huge, there is a LOT to see and do, and failing to plan means that you'll end up standing in long lines in the heat and not having a whole lot of fun.  That's just the truth of it.

But if you plan a little bit?  It can make a world of difference as experience taught us.

We went on our honeymoon in August of 1993, having done little to no planning, making no dining reservations, and really having no strategy at all in terms of which parks and which days.  We stood in enormous lines, sweat like crazy people, barely got to eat at all, and my feet felt like I'd been on the Bataan death march.  If it hadn't been our honeymoon, we would have been miserable.  Mercifully, we were still in that "can't touch us through our bliss" phase, so the foot pain just meant that we kept on going at a hobble pace "to get our money's worth" while we were there and then collapsed into bed the next day.

After that trip, though, I decided to educate myself about Disney World so the next time we went it would be less painful -- we both just really, really loved the rides and the atmosphere of the "happiest place on earth," so there had to be a way to do this that didn't feel like my feet were stepping on shards of sharp glass every day, right?

I have learned a LOT through the years -- including that the foot pain thing may have had as much to do with my having lupus and reacting badly to heat and humidity as anything (we don't book trips to Florida in August any more for that reason alone.) -- and I want to share some of it with all of you in case you are planning your own vacation to Disney World.

1.  Get yourself a copy of The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World. The people who put them together are geniuses at studying the ebb and flow of people in each of the Disney parks, and can tell you a sort of "what day you should go to which park" strategy that really works.  Also a "which rides to do when" strategy that minimizes your time in lines.  It is brilliant and for me, a person for whom standing in line for lengthy times becomes excruciating, it is a lifesaver.

If you really want to plan, take a peek at their "touring plans" website which gives you computer projections on crowds, best days for each park, and strategies that maximize your time.  The way I see it is this:  if we are going to spend the money it takes to go to Disney World for vacation, I want it to be as relaxing and pain free as possible -- so this level of planning makes it all worthwhile for me, and for me not to inflict my constant need for rest on my family.

2.  Go in "low season."  This means not in the middle of summer, not during Thanksgiving week, Christmas week or during Spring Break around Easter.  Those are the MOST crowded times to go because school is out and most families go then -- but if you can go any other time BUT those weeks your life will be so much better.  Our daughter's school is really good about working with us so that we can go during lower crowd times for my sake -- we've worked out a project each time we've gone so that The Peanut spends her time at Disney World actually learning something along with having a blast.  One year it was an ABC's of Disney World scrapbook (for kindergarten) and the other time we've gone it was an "animals" project with photos and little written captions about them (in first grade, when we took grandma with us and took about a bazillion pictures in the Animal Kingdom alone).

3.  Make your dining reservations well in advance.  Disney Dining allows you to make reservations 180 ahead of when your trip will be (you can pinpoint that date using this great calculator via the wonderful resource website AllEars.net.)

4.  Book something fun and full of whimsy for your child if you get a chance.  We booked a Wonderland Tea Party for The Peanut, and she got to have tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter.  She had a blast!  When she was younger, we did a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique package for her, brought her to her appointment in the castle at the Magic Kingdom in a princess dress costume, had her hair and nails done, and all day long cast members in the parks bowed to "the princess" which was such a hoot for her -- and for us.  We are trying to figure out what to do this year for her -- maybe a pirate treasure hunt?  Not sure yet, but something fun for sure. 

There is a lot more to planning a Disney trip, too.  I'll post as I go along in the planning of ours what I'm doing, and hopefully it will give all of you some ideas for your own Disney vacations as well.  Honestly, the planning is as much a vacation for me as going -- I get to research dining menus and think about how much fun we are going to have for months before we actually go, so I get a little vacation every time I think about it.

(Photo of The Peanut with the Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's evil stepmother, and her step-sisters, Anastasia and Druscilla by Christy Hardin Smith.)

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