It’s 2012 and I’ll bet a lot of you are planning trips to Walt Disney World this new year. We have made quite a few visits and over the years have developed a viable plan involving a number of steps that have proven very reliable over the years. Let’s take a look what we do in order to make the planning as simple and orderly as possible:
- Decide Who Is Going: This seems pretty obvious but if you don’t know who is definitely going on the trip the rest of the steps will not fall into place.
- Decide When You Are Going: This is why #1 is so important. The trip needs to be planned around everyone’s availability to travel taking into account work and school commitments in particular.
- Get A Great Travel Agent: Having a great Disney Specialist as a Travel Agent (TA) takes the detail load off your back. The TA will generally do as little or as much as you want them to but the most important thing they possess is KNOWLEDGE. They know when and where to look for available discounts and how to get them applied to your trip.
- Book A “Room Only” Reservation: We do this because this locks the room to you and everything else depends on your having someplace to sleep. Fear not, as discounts or deals become available your TA can present you with options and you can decide on the direction you want to take. You can add to your reservation at any time without fees (this includes applying discounts as they become available). “Room Only” reservations can be made up to 500 days in advance of your check out date. TA will do this.
- Book your Flights: It’s important to have the room first because it’s easier (and definitely cheaper) to adjust your room reservation as opposed to flights. TA can do this, we do our own.
- Give Disney’s Magical Express (DME) Your Flight Information: Your TA will do this. Airlines do make changes to times and flight numbers and if they do, at 45 Days prior to your arrival call DME with the changes. Once again, your TA can do this. Do it as close to 45 days as possible so changes can be made to your DME paperwork before they mail it to you.
- Take Advantage Of Planning Websites: By planning websites I mean both fee based sites (Tour Guide Mike, TouringPlans.com etc.) and discussion boards (Passporter.com,Dis Boards etc.). You can get help, advice, and very valuable planning information from these sites. Personally we use Tour Guide Mike and the Passproter Boards.
- Begin Formulating Park Plans: Approximately 6 months in advance, Park Hours become available and the fee based sites from #7 put together their crowd estimates for each park. They actually do this quickly, about 10 days to 2 weeks after Disney releases hours. Use these crowd estimates to determine Which Park/Which Day for your trip. Do this before you do #9.
- Book Advance Dining Reservations(ADR’s): This can be done at 180 days prior to your arrival and you can book the first 10 days of your vacation if you stay on site. Most very experienced Disney visitors seem to agree that you base your ADR’s on where you will be rather than planning where you will be based on your ADR’s. You can make exceptions to this if you get an ADR that you absolutely must have (Le Cellier) and you were not planning to be at Epcot that day but be a bit careful. Don’t lock yourself into a very crowded park just to have lunch or dinner. TA can do this (at least a good one will), we do our own.
- Take It Easy, Your Trip Planning (with Disney) Is Done: Now that you have completed these steps your basic planning involvement with Disney is done except for paying off your package (if you bought a package) 45 days prior to your arrival (TA can do this too). If you keep your “Room Only” and buy the rest separately you can wait until you arrive to pay off your room balance (total cost minus deposit). You can do some planning refinement as you approach your trip if park hours or other circumstances change but basically the hard work is done.
These 10 steps have worked well consistently for us and you can use them or develop your own planning strategies. Please, please,please do some planning especially for ADR’s because when Free Dining or other deep discounts are available, a place to sit down for a meal can be impossible to come by. ” Winging” it just doesn’t work anymore. I have recommended the use of a Disney Specialist TA, remember, they do not charge for their services because Disney pays them. As always, enjoy your visit to Walt Disney World!!
- Disney’s Magical Express Tips & Details (chipandco.com)
- I Don’t Need a Disney Travel Agent…or do I? (chipandco.com)
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