Continuing with the "wish I was at Disney this year, but I'm not so I'll blog about it" theme, I thought it would be fun to share how I plan for Disney.
On the off chance you're not familiar, I'm a planner to a fault (if such a thing exists) and being able to plan for an upcoming Disney trip proves nearly as exciting for me as actually going on the trip (I know, I'm freak). However, all planner obsession aside, mapping out ones trip in terms of: a schedule (including dining options, entertainment, etc) really does make a significant difference. The reality is, you're never going to be able to take it all in while at Disney (that's why you go back!), but establishing a gameplan in advance of the trip, will at least ensure you are able to enjoy all of the must-do things on your family's list!
The key things I plan for (in my Disney binder no less) are:
1. Park days - You'll likely have to do this anyway with your ticket purchasing, unless you have a hopper pass. However, even with a hopper pass, it's nice to plan so you can make sure you're able to see a lot of the highlights (parades, fireworks, etc) at each park during your trip. Not all parks offer their shows on a daily basis.
2. Dining options - Again something you're almost forced to do if you want to enjoy some of the noteworthy restaurants (especially the Character Dinners). When we have stayed off property (aka didn't have a dining plan), I still made a point to map out where we were going to eat for each day we were at a park. I did this because otherwise, I knew we would spend far too long trying to decide where to eat and waste valuable park time (not happenin' on my watch). So, I spend time in advance of the trip looking over menus (and let's be honest, prices) to find the most convenient option.
3. Spending allowance - It is SO easy to get carried away with all the beautiful things there are to buy at Disney, especially when you have little ones who want it all. For this reason, I set aside a certain amount of money each day for: spending allowance for each child, meals and incidentals. We also ensure that, despite their young ages, our children understand that they only have a certain amount of money for each day. We also provide them with a little lesson on saving up a couple of day's worth of money to buy one big thing. Establishing a budget, ensures that we are able to enjoy spending money each day without coming back to a huge Visa bill.
4. Highlights - In advance of the trip, we ask each member of the family what they really want to make sure they're able to see or do while at Disney. We make sure that we schedule and prioritize these things as close to the beginning of our park day as possible. The reasoning for this is, should something happen where we don't stay at the park for as long as we hoped or someone has a meltdown, etc. at least we know we already took in the main highlights and everything else is just a bonus. 5. My Disney park bag - Oh, yes... I'm one of those who wear a "hip" (aka fanny) pack at Disney and let me tell you, it's the best. In fact, it's so practical that you'll see as many people sporting one as not. For reference, this is the one I have. A hip pouch allows me to carry the essentials separate from the inconvenience and bulk of a purse or backpack. Before we leave for our trip, I make sure to pack everything (except my phone) in this bag, which often means I travel with duplicate items, but because it's just a few things, I'm okay with it. I would rather know I have everything I need than be disappointed at the park (side story: I learned this through not having packed ahead of time once and forgot sunblock... which cost nearly $25USD at the park). The essentials include: phone (with MyDisney app), money, sunblock, sunglasses and a hair elastic. Everything else is in our main bag (which I will do a blog post on in the future).
If you also plan well in advance for your Disney vacations, I'd love to hear about it! Please leave a comment and share your tips!