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Monday, January 19, 2015

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation

I have the best job in the world. I plan Disney vacations- meaning, I help people make lifetime memories with their friends and families they will never forget. Of course, there's plenty of work in the middle- budgeting, choosing a hotel, dates, etc.- but in the end, it's all about those happy memories that you'll only get at a Disney theme park.

I talk to a lot of families planning trips, and answer a number of questions-you'd be surprised how many of them are similar. No complaining here- its a big reason why I have a job. There's just so much to Disney- from dining plans, to time saving tips, to park transportation- that it is so easy to get lost, or lose some of the details. It's silly to go all in on a Disney trip alone when you can have expert service, for free!

That being said, I've put together a list of five things you should probably know before you think about planning a trip.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 1:
Your Dates Do Matter. 

No, this isn't a message to your husband about buying you flowers and taking you to a nice dinner...although that's always nice! No, this is about selecting dates for your Disney vacation. There are peak seasons- meaning you may or may not have to wait a longer time than others in line for rides. Restaurants may fill up. There may be different events going on- like Star Wars weekend, or Epcot's Food and Wine Festival (my favorite!). There are times when select rides are usually shut down for refurbishment. And let's not forget Mother Nature- there's time when Florida/California get hot, and there's times where it may be freezing cold where you are at and you can't wait to get to the coastal sun! Needless to say, your dates do matter.

Disclaimer: You may be pigeon holed into your dates already- maybe your kids summer vacation, you or your husband may have specific vacation time off from work, or something else. And if that's the case- then ok, no problem. Any time you are going to Disney is a good time. But if you have flexibility, there might be some better times to visit than others.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 2:
There are specific advantages to each hotel category at Walt Disney World.

There are three hotel categories at WDW- value, moderate, and deluxe. They are priced in a manner than makes sense- value is cheaper, deluxe is more expensive.

In a nutshell, here are my reasons for picking a resort from each category.

Value- You are on a budget. You know you are going to spend every waking moment in the park, and you really just want to take your family to Disney. All beds are doubles. All restaurants are quick service. Look, the other option if you really want to save money is to stay off property. However, let me tell you, this is not something I recommend. By staying off property, you'll lose the immersive Disney experience, and first class service. You'll also lose the bus transportation that runs all day (and night). There are some wonderful options in this price category if you are looking to save some cash.

Moderate- You want to a hotel that is a little less crowded. They take it up a notch for themeing in some of the room options. They are also typically located closer to the theme parks, so your bus ride may be shorter. Rooms are a little larger, the pools have a slide. There are restaurants you can sit down at. They have queen beds. If there is a battle in your battle to stay in a nice resort, but the other person wants to save a little money, then one of these options are for you.

Deluxe- You want a larger room. You want top of the line theme-ing, and awesome food options in your resort. On top of that, you'll receive first class transportation options. Most of the Deluxe options reside on the Monorail... which is a super cool way to get around. It's typically much quicker and is extremely easy to get a stroller on. Another one of the Deluxe resort options feature a safari outside your room- zebras, giraffes, and more. Most rooms are also closer in walking distance to the lobby. These hotels also feature excellent pools.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 3:

There is no guarantee that Disney will release free dining or other promotions each year.

Look, as a Disney travel expert, I have a number of tools at my dispersal. I know historically when Disney will release a discount, and I could guess a timeframe for dates. That being said, Disney comes up with new promotions, release them at different times, and they don't always match up exactly with what they have done in the past. Often I will get a client requesting a trip and ask me for free dining. The problem is, if Disney has not released the promotion yet, that's not something I can promise as part of your trip, and you'll have to plan on paying for it. Just consider it a nice bonus if Disney just so happens to release free dining for your trip dates. Even better, if Disney were to release a promotion and you have already booked your trip- I automatically contact Disney and get it applied to your trip, if you qualify. 

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 4:

Dining on Disney property can add a new experience to your vacation.

I know there is no dollar menu to be found at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. I know some families maximize their budget on park tickets, souvenirs, or staying at a resort. We could probably add airfare to that list.

But, if there's any way you can fit it in your budget, dining at Disney can take your vacation to a different level. From singing dinner shows to steaks you can cut with a plastic fork, Disney offers a dining experience that you can't recreate elsewhere. On top of that, you can save time in the parks. Would you rather wait to meet Mickey and Minnie in a never ending line or maybe uses up one of your Fastpass+ options, or wait to meet Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, AND Goofy, all the while sitting in an air conditioned restaurant and eating all you can ribs, chicken, ice cream, and a number of other options. Really, for that reason alone, dining in Disney restaurants makes sense.

Five things you should know before you plan a Disney Vacation Item Number 5:

Disney has probably changed since you last visited. 

Sometimes it's a small change. Maybe your favorite restaurant has changed menus. Maybe a ride is closed- or an attraction has been added. Park hours are always changing. A new event could have been added, like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party (what do you mean... I have to leave the park early if I don't have a Halloween Party ticket!!?). There could be new resort options. Then there is the My Disney Experience website and app, which has totally revamped dining reservations, fastpass selections, and more. Disney is changing every year, and it's my job to stay on top of those changes- so you spend less time wondering, and get the experience you want.

As I started this post- I love my job. My services are 100% to anyone planning staying on Disney property for a Disney Vacation. From dining advice, to maximizing a budget, to being on call almost 24/7 to the number of questions that you may have- I'm here to help. And guess what- you may not have a bunch of questions. You might just want to go to Disney, and don't need a lot of help. That's ok- I can book your vacation, and save you the hassle of spending the time quoting your trip, or applying discounts when they come out.  As mentioned above, the other plus is I'm here to help 24/7- if you book a trip with Disney directly, there's not someone like me who will help you out in any situation.

So there you have it. My five things you should know before you go to Disney...until my next top 5 comes out!

Thinking about planning a Disney Trip? Send me an email at or visit me on facebook at

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