Beth is wrapping up this month's Minnie Moms topic: advance planning tips. Thanks for joining us this week! If you've missed an installment of the mini-series, I invite you to spend a while with us.
----------------------------------------------(Note: Beth normally travels with her family of 5 plus her parents and sometimes her brother and his family, up to 12 people.)
We are hardly on the plane home from a trip to Walt Disney World when we are already beginning plans for our next trip. There are many things we do to plan a Disney vacation, but one thing is for sure, we start as soon as possible.
Year Round: Whether we have vacation dates determined or not, the one thing I do year round for Disney trips is to start looking at the Dollar Store and other department stores for Disney goodies I can pack for the kids. These range from Disney playing cards, band aids, glow sticks, etc. I find if I pick these things when I see them, then when it is time to pack, I have quite a selection of items for the kids’ carry on bags, as well as things we use while in the theme parks. By looking year round, I can also purchase things I find in the clearance section or on sale! It can be quite a money saver.
1 Year Out: We book our room one year out from our vacation dates. The great thing is the travel agent we use, and many of the travel agencies out there, will keep an eye out for deals. So it is well worth putting down the deposit early to make sure we don’t miss out on any great Disney discounts.
6 to 8 Months Out: Being in New Hampshire, we have limited options for direct flights out of Manchester airport. As a result, we only fly Southwest. It is one of the only airlines that has direct flights to Orlando from Manchester. We book our flights the day Southwest releases the schedule for our dates. Just a quick tip: if you want to know when Southwest will be releasing flights for your dates, you can call or e-mail them, and they will let you know. By having this info, we are able to book the first day they are available, which is usually when we can book the flights at their cheapest.
180 Days Out: Before we have our countdown to our trip, we have our countdown to ADRs (advanced dining reservations). This is one of my favorite parts of planning our trip. Being a large group, we make our reservations on the 180th day out as early as the online reservation system will let me. This is my best strategy for getting the places and times we want.
2 to 3 Months: At this point, I purchase my children new sneakers. This gives them plenty of time to break them in. Plus at this point, we start taking longer walks around the neighborhood to prepare our little legs for all the park touring we will be doing.
1 Month Left: With just one month left, we start watching our photo montages from previous trips, the Disney vacation planning video, and start preparing the kids for what we will see in Disney. This is also when we take out our Countdown to Disney Chart, which we created all together with a little help from my Cricut machine. It is a great way to start getting ideas of what we will have on our “must do” lists for each park.
2 Weeks Out: This may sound odd, but this is when we buy our park tickets. Yes, we wait until the last minute. This way I do not have to worry about purchasing tickets early, and then find out a package deal is released that is better than purchasing my room and tickets separately. Also, the tickets are nonrefundable and you just never know.
1 Week: With just one week left, the packing begins. We line up our suitcases in the dining room. Over the week, I start adding things from my list (yes, I have a permanent list that I use every trip! I am thinking of getting it laminated!) Having to pack for three little ones, I find giving myself the week makes the last night a stress free night.
So for us, we are always in the process of planning a trip to Disney. By starting early, we can find deals to save us money, and it keeps the Disney magic alive here at home while waiting to return!