Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Minnie Moms: Advance Planning Tips, Heather

Our Minnie Moms mini-series continues.  Today Heather shares her family's approach to Walt Disney World vacation planning.

Yay for considering a WDW trip! I dare say that if you are a first time visitor the amount of resources and websites can be daunting. Starting at a year out is optimal but our first time we managed a great trip in a 5 month planning window. With 4 theme parks and 2 water parks even the most seasoned traveler benefits from preplanning a WDW trip. I personally found the following sites helpful in pretrip planning.

12 months out-Discuss time of year, crowd levels, possible holidays themed events, impact on school schedule, begin to research on vs. off property lodging, discount programs, airfare.

9 months out- Settle on time to visit, lodging, book tickets and any other prepaid plans. Consider travel insurance. Investigate restaurants, character meals, and plan your top restaurants to book reservations.

6 months out- If you haven’t booked lodging and airfare already DO. You are now 180 days from your trip allowing you to make all dining reservations for WDW restaurants. These can be changed at any time without penalty. DO NOT TAKE FOR GRANTED THE POPULARITY OF CERTAIN DINING LOCATIONS. Many sell out within minutes on the first available day. Have a backup plan for character meals and premium restaurants. TAKE advantage of your preplanning to schedule optimal times around park closing, parades and fireworks. **One of the best meals we had was a late dinner at Ohana while we watched the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom.**

3 months out- Finalize travel. Consider renting a vehicle or alternate modes like Amtrak if airfare is expensive. Orlando is serviced by the Amtrak Silver Star line on the east coast. Begin to develop a plan for which days you want to tour each park. Note Magic hours and special events. Check the WDW Moms Panel and the Minnie Moms past topics for great ideas about doing WDW.

1 month out- Confirm all reservations, check travel insurance policy, finalize a daily plan including restaurants, parks with Must see/Hope to See/Ok to Miss by park area. Break in shoes and pack a medical bag to avoid premium prices on site. Get your kids involved with a 30 day countdown to Disney Chart. Buy an extra battery and memory card for your camera. Begin to set aside travel snacks, games, and advanced packing so you can enjoy a stress free final week.

1 week out- Reconfirm reservations, pack, get extra sleep if possible and anticipate a wonderful, memory filled trip.

Once there… play things by ear. Even the best laid plans sometimes benefit from extra time at the pool, skipping a ride, sleeping in after staying out late, letting the kids pick.  Enjoy the time together as a family regardless if your plans take a detour.

You can always go back. We did.

Contributed by Minnie Mom Heather V. of Raleigh, NC. Wife to Bill, proud mom to Ben and Ian, and creator of Freeze Ahead Frenzy

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