5 Steps to Start Planning for Disney

I LOVE amusement parks. The crowds, rollercoasters, food, and fun all of it make for a wonderful experience. BUT there isn’t a more magical place on earth that Walt Disney World. While Disneyland, at 500 acres, may have been built first, it doesn’t compare to everything that is offered on the 25, 000 acres that make up WDW.5 Steps to Start Planning for Disney

It was in 2000 that I had my first trip to Disney. Jackson was 18 months and Audrey was 6 months. Neither one of them remember the trip and honestly, I was pretty miserable with sun poisoning. I spent ALL of my time during the day at the house we rented while the rest of them got to truly experience Disney. There were some fun parts, but it wasn’t as fun as it could have been.

Stephen is convinced

I have been trying to convince Stephen for the past 21 years to make a family trip to Disney. I have begged, whined, begged, pleaded and FINALLY he caved! My hope is that the kids will have such a great time that he will want to do it again soon. SO, I only get 1 shot to get this right.

This means doing one of my favorite things in the world, planning. I’m great at planning and researching. I honestly enjoy planning the trip in some ways more than the trip itself. It builds an excitement an anticipation that the trip itself had trouble fulfilling. Especially how perfectly behaved my kids are going to be and how the weather will fully cooperate with my ideals and dreams. I know, funny right, but a girl can dream.5 Steps to Start Planning for Disney

Getting Help

My dear friend Carmen is a HUGE Disney fan having gone multiple times, she is becoming a Disney expert. Recently she was back in Indiana and we sat down for coffee and ended up talking about my Disney Dream! She gave me some great advice and helped me get started on my plan.

5 Steps to Start Planning for Disney

During that session and another one since then we talked strategies to help me begin the process of planning the trip of a lifetime. When we talked last week I asked her to give me 5 things to help me get started. I want to share those with you, so if you are thinking about planning your own trip you can get started too.

5 Steps to Start Planning for DisneyLET GO of any and all expectations

When I read this it about made me sick. I have LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of expectations! This trip has to be AMAZING so it doesn’t take me another 20 years to convince Stephen to go again. I don’t want to be in my 60s when I go again. My dream is to take all of my children at least 2 if not 3 times. It would be so much fun to share the magic with them during different stages of their lives.

I do understand what she is talking about, though. By having all of these expectations I’m setting myself up for failure. When I get there I will be so worried about everything I won’t be able to enjoy the moments, and that will REALLY kill our trip. No one is going to want to go again if I spend the whole time being stressed about it being perfect.

On our last vacation, my kids enjoyed the time at the pool the most! Lesson learned!

Know your budget5 Steps to Start Planning for Disney

This was hard for me at first. I had NO IDEA what a Disney trip could cost. I threw a number at her and she said: “Yup, for 8 people, that sounds about right.” WOW! Now some of this I will have to save over the next year, and some of it will come from our tax return in January.

Disney actually has a savings account you can use to save for your trip, but the money has to go to the tickets, resort, and air fare, but only if you book through them. While this is a great idea, we won’t be staying at a resort, my tickets will be paid for with our tax money and we will be driving. For a family of 8, it is much cheaper to drive. Yes, it is 12 hours, but I’d rather spend my money on fun things there than flying.


5 Steps to Start Planning for DisneyDo your research well in advance

This is especially important for ADR, Advance Dining Reservations. One of the things I want to do is eat at Be Our Guest! Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance and the most sought-after can be gone in a few short hours. Over the next few months, we will look at restaurant options and decide what is important for us and plan to set up the ADRs.

We are planning on going when most people are in school, just another advantage of homeschooling. Our trip is next year, and we leave on Black Friday and come home the following Saturday. We will stop about half way and spend the night on Black Friday, get up the next morning and finish the drive. This does add more expense, but travelling with little ones this will be worth it. Also, we don’t kill an entire day driving, but break it up and allow for breaks.

One of the best things about our last vacation was our 2 hour stop in St. Louis. We LOVED it!

Plan but be flexible5 Steps to Start Planning for Disney

Carmen told me to plan out the most important experiences but leave PLENTY of room for flexibility, rest, explorations and spontaneity. My teens want to make a coast to coast trip to see the sun rise and set on the water. Also, we aren’t just staying at any hotel we will be staying at a Westgate Resort, which has an indoor water park. There will be lots of things to do besides Disney.

This is also why are only planning to visit 2 parks during our stay. We will have tickets to see each of them twice at least. Stephen wasn’t pleased with this at first, but I reminded him that HE would want to go to Hollywood Studios. When he gave me a funny look, I reminded him that it is where Star Wars was, and he was sold. This will allow us to get the most for our experience.

Stephen also didn’t like having so many days at the park, but when I told him what Carmen said about how it gives us the freedom to go back to the hotel and relax and not feel bad about “missing” something, he understood. Our plan is to take a break in the afternoon to rest and then go back in the evening. As she said, “Everyone will thank you for it. See #1.”

5 Steps to Start Planning for DisneyEmbrace the magic and have fun!

Now this is something I’m really looking forward to, THE MAGIC! I’m so ready to not only experience the magic myself but to see it on my children’s faces. All of the planning will happen when I am home. The journey starts when we leave our drive way, and I plan to enjoy every moment of it.

I didn’t do this so well on our trip to Branson earlier this year. Although we were well packed, I was still tense. I do plan on adding 1 thing to what I had in THAT article. I’m looking into purchasing a portable DVD player that will attach to the ceiling of our van.

My Plan

This is a great start for me. The plan is to keep you guys updated at least once a month on my planning until I’m 180 days out and then I will bump it up. This is kind of like OB appoints, except you don’t have late nights with a baby for your effort when you were done, just amazing memories.

If you want to follow my planning check out my Pinterest Board HERE!

If you have been to WDW world before and have some advice for me, PLEASE share it! I’d love to know anything and everything! Place I MUST see, things to avoid! I’ve been told I should hit at least 1 more par. Which 1 do you think and why? Please tell me in the comments below.