Disney Planning 101 – the 5 W’s of WDW

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Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be a daunting task – one that can be a lot of fun, but can also be overwhelming at times. The hardest part for most people (myself included!) is figuring out where to start, what to plan first?

Using the 5 W’s (and 1 H!) – Who/What/When/Where/Why/How can help you get a grip in what you need to do to make your WDW vacation unforgettable:

Who: First off, who do you want to experience the Happiest Place on Earth with? Are you planning on bringing just your close family or will it be a family reunion of sorts, with 20 people all traveling together? This makes a huge impact on everything from where you stay, to where you eat, and how you spend your days. If it’s your first trip, I would suggest traveling with a smaller group, fewer people means fewer opinions on what you should spend your time doing, so it’s more likely that everyone will get to experience more of what they want to see

What: What will you do while you are there? There is SO much to do, that this might be the hardest question of all! There are 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a shopping/entertainment complex, and countless other places to explore within the walls of Walt Disney World. Personally, I like to start with a day in the Magic Kingdom, it really is the true essence of the Disney experience. Beyond that, it really depends on what you like – there’s Hollywood Studios for the movie buff,Animal Kingdom for the animal lover, and Epcot for the tech nerd/world traveler, and tons of restaurants and places to shop mixed in there too. I recommend checking out a book like Birnbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World (published with updates annually!), or the Passporter (a really cool planner that you can write in!), and of course internet research on www.chipandco.com will help you make the most out of your days at WDW. One tip that will be invaluble is DON’T try and do too much – I have been guilty of it, I want to see and do everything at WDW, and it’s just not possible. If your trip is a week long, chances are good you’ll be able to see all 4 theme parks, but if you’re only going for 3 days, be realistic and pick out the things you know you want to do, and leave the others for your next trip.

When: When will you travel, and how long will you stay at WDW? Busy times at WDW include Spring Break (anytime from February through April), summertime, and holiday time (including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). While there are other “peak” times, these are the main ones, and your best bet is to avoid them all and go at a random time, during the week if possible. That being said, any day has the potential of being crowded at WDW, so the best thing to do would be to prepare yourself for it, and remember that you’re in a magical place where you will have a great time no matter what you are doing!

Where: Where will you stay, and where will you eat? These are two VERY important questions to tackle early on in your trip planning. When it comes to a hotel, there are TONS to choose from on WDW property, in price ranges “Value”, “Moderate”, and “Deluxe”. If you feel like you will only use the room for sleeping, Value might be your best bet (definitely have had lots of luck here, the rooms are pretty basic but the food courts are great and the bus service has been good in my experience!). If you’re celebrating a special occasion and want to indulge, something in the Moderate or Deluxe price range might better suit you. For a rundown of Disney Resort choices, check out this page. Of course you can stay off property too, the hotel rates tend to be better, but you will probably need to rent a car (which is an added expense to consider!). As for FOOD, there are tons of choices! One great thing about WDW is they allow you to make Dining Reservations up to 6 months (180 days) in advance (great for those who like to plan ahead!), plus there is the Disney Dining Plan, which allows you to pre pay for some or all of your meals, so that makes things even easier. Whether you’re into character meals, buffets, snacks, theme restaurants, 5 star 6 course meals, mexican, french, american….no matter what, Disney has it all and more! Quick dining tip: when picking restaurants, try and pick ones that are in the same general area of the park/resort you will be visiting that day, it makes things much easier on everyone, trust me!

Why: Why go to Walt Disney World in the first place? There are so many reasons, but some top ones: It truly is a magical place where you can escape it all and act like a kid again, the theme parks are beautifully themed, the resorts are amazing, the food is out of this world, there is something for everyone to enjoy, and most of all, its FUN and a special place to share with those you love.

How: How will you make it happen – how will you get there, and how will you pay for it? Let’s be honest here, a Walt Disney World vacation doesn’t come cheaply, but there are lots of ways you can save money while you’re there. Some popular ones in my household: make a budget before you go, and stick to it (sounds easy, right? It can be harder than you think!), bring snacks/light meals with you to save money on costly Park snacks/meals (things like granola bars, fruit snacks, and juice boxes work well!), and try to limit spur of the moment purchases that you won’t ever use again once you leave WDW. As for Transportation, if you live in Upstate NY like me, plane is the best way to go, and sites like Travelocity.com or Kayak.com are great for comparing prices and finding the lowest fares. If you decide to stay on Disney property, Disney’s Magical Express shuttle will transport you and all your luggage (for free!) from Orlando’s airport to your WDW resort. Otherwise, there are plenty of car rental companies within the airport, or you can choose to drive from home (can be the most economical choice depending on how many people you’re traveling with and how far away you live from WDW!). Again, the thing I want to stress here is plan ahead, do your research and find which options work best for you

The time you spend planning your WDW vacation will all pay off in the end – no matter what you decide to do, you will have a magical time in an amazing vacation spot. Start your planning by working out the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How, and everything else will come easily. Happy planning!

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