I’m often asked for tips on how to plan a Disney vacation, but when I give advice to people who aren’t hardcore Disney fans, I can see that it’s overwhelming. And it is. I mean, a Disney vacation is pretty involved. Sure, you can go and just wing it and probably have a good time, but to have a great time, and to get the most out of your money, you have to do some planning and research. This made me think about my favorite Disney planning tools, the kind I like to recommend to people. Here are the ones that top my list.
1. Disboards and Passporter. Ask a question on these sites and it will get answered by knowledgeable Disney fans. Disboards and Passporter differ in size, mainly. Disboards is huge and it’s easy to feel a bit intimidated by the wealth of information out there. Passporter is smaller and more intimate. I post on both sites and like them equally as much and have found that my questions are answered pretty quickly on both sites. Most of the posters are very friendly, so even those who are shy about posting online shouldn’t feel intimidated.
One thing I like about Disney message boards is that no mattter how good your travel guide is, some of it will become outdated pretty fast. The posters on these sites are very passionate about Disney and keep up with changes, some of which they’ll hear about before they’re even officially announced by Disney, so if you’re unsure about something, look there first.
2. Disney Food Blog. One of the few sites, besides this one, that I check almost every day. If there’s something new in Disney food, AJ is going to have it. Great reviews, pictures and foodie news.
3. Kevin Klose’s dining reviews on WDW Info (part of Disboards). I really enjoy Kevin’s reviews. He’s honest, loves food, and has a good sense of humor. Sometimes when I read food reviews on Disney message boards, I don’t feel like I’m getting the total picture. I trust Kevin to tell it like it is. You can also hear Kevin’s reviews on the DisUnplugged, one of my favorite podcasts.
4. The Unofficial Guide. Yes, it’s huge, but it’s also the best Disney guidebook out there, particularly for first-timers. You don’t have to read the entire thing and commit it to memory. Although it does help.
Looking for something smaller? Try The Complete Guide to Walt Disney World. I love the Unofficial Guide, but if you’re looking for a guidebook to supplement your UG or if you find the UG to be just too much information, check out this book. The writers live near Disney World and have been there hundreds of times and most importantly, they are clearly passionate about Disney. The photos are great. I especially like the descriptions of the rides, which are the best ones out there. They even tell you a bit of ride history and trivia. A lot of work goes into this guidebook and it shows. This is the guidebook my kids (even the two who can’t read yet) fight over.
5. Mousesavers. Information to help you save every penny, including historical data on Disney discounts. Very up to the minute.
6. All Ears. Probably one of the best sites for resort descriptions. Lots of great pictures of things you wouldn’t even think to ask about, like bathroom sinks and doorknobs. Hey, someone needs to know that.
7. Touring Plans. It’s hard to convey to someone who’s “just taking a trip to Disney” how important it is to have a plan in the parks. Most people don’t even consider the need to put that much effort into a vacation, right? But a little bit of work can go a long way. If you’re going when it’s hot and crowded, don’t even consider going without some sort of touring plan. You don’t have to follow it exactly. It’s pretty rare that I do. But it will give you a general idea of how things work and how to maximize your time in the parks.
8. YouTube. One of the best places to see Disney park videos. Want to know what you’ll see when you ride the ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom? Or what the inside of Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin looks like? Resorts, rides, and oddities. It’s all there. Good way to prepare hesitant kids as well. Or scare the heck out of them even more.
9. PSCalculator. This is one useful tool. Put in your arrival date and it will tell you when you can make your dining reservations.
10. The Weather Channel online. Orlando weather can be dramatically different from one day to the next. Yes, there are about six months out of the year where it’s going to be hot. Hot and humid and little else. But the rest of the year can fluctuate quite a bit. In fact, from January though March this year, the weather was freezing cold on many days, even snowing on marathon day in January. When I was there in December, it was in the 40s and 50s for the first few days and then record high temperatures after that. So keep up with the weather and pack accordingly. And even if it says it’s going to be hot, bring a sweater. Your mom was right.
What are some of your Disney Planning Trips? Let us know in the comment section below.
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