Since this wild cast of characters came together in late 2012 to create the MouseQuest we have imparted lots of great information on planning practically perfect Disney vacations. So to help everyone starting their 2018 vacation planning here is a listing of the best 50+ Disney planning tools from the MouseQuest which we have posted over the last four years.
So where do we start? At the beginning, of course. Our Ultimate Disney Planning Timeline starts almost two years before your vacation and counts down all the way to the morning of your trip. However, along the way we need to delve a little deeper into the particulars of a trip to Walt Disney World.
Unfortunately, any Disney vacation must start with the yucky stuff… the money. There is a reason we start with the money first. If you start with the money you will match the money you have available in your vacation budget to the research instead of the other way around where you would try to find money to afford the options you found in your research. Sounds convoluted but it’s true.
Some ideas we have for helping you in the money department are saving almost 9% on your vacation before you even get to Disney. All you have to do is go grocery shopping. By the way, this works on any vacation you take, not just Disney.
Another ingenious way you could save money is by buying an annual pass. This doesn’t work for everyone but when it does, oh boy, the savings really compounds.
DISNEY RESEARCH – THE BASICS
When starting any research into Disney, you need to understand Disney’s unique lingo. Before you open a guide book, a website or a Facebook page, you have to know the difference between DME and MDE, what the heck is the DDP and why do you have to worry about ADRs and FP+ before you even get to Disney. So let’s take a look at Dawn’s guide to the lingo of Disney.
After you have the lingo down, you will want to download the My Disney Experience app. This app will be your go-to for all of your planning needs. There are also a plethora of other Disney apps which will help you plan for, make the most of, and even make your Walt Disney World vacation last well after you are already home.
And don’t forget the numerous websites which will help you research everything from park times to restaurant menus.
Your next area of research will be which resort you want to stay in. From value resorts to deluxe villas, we have highlighted many of the resorts on Walt Disney World property:
• Monorail Resorts
• Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and The Villas at the Grand Floridian:
• Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Kidani Village
• Disney’s Art of Animation, Disney’s Coronado Springs & Disney’s Old Key West
• Disney’s Pop Century, Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside & Disney’s Beach Club
• Disney’s All Star Movies, Disney’s Caribbean Beach & Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
With all these great on-site resorts, don’t forget about the option to stay off-property. There are hundreds of resorts, condos and hotels near property to consider. There are advantages and disadvantages of staying off property so you will need to do a little due diligence to see the option that works for your family.
Still don’t know where to stay? Try our quiz to help you decide which Disney resort is best for you.
WHEN TO GO TO DISNEY
When to visit Walt Disney World to get the best prices, lowest crowds, best amenities, and great events all while accommodating your personal schedule can be exhausting. Our MouseQuesters have done a podcast where they gave us some great nuggets of info on when to visit. Also, in Part 2 of the ‘Disney by Land & Disney by Sea’ blog series there are tools you can use to decide when is the best time for your family to go to Disney.
Finally, it’s time to book your trip!!!
If you didn’t book a package which includes airfare your next major decision is how you are going to get to Disney. There are several options to get to Orlando so you will want to check out our easy-to-follow guide to calculate the cost of driving vs. flying. If driving is your decision make a fun road trip of it… maybe even include rousing game of Road Trip Bingo. If you want to fly, we did a detailed review of discount Spirit Airline.
Transportation needs don’t stop when you get to Orlando. Walt Disney World has an intricate system of transportation to get guest to and from their resort and theme parks.
TO DINING PLAN OR NOT TO DINING PLAN
Dining at Disney comes with so many options from deluxe dining plans all the way down to purchasing each meal as you go. As part of your research, you will want to find out if a dining plan is right for your family which led us to ask the perennial question of whether Free Dining was really ‘free’.
We also discussed what it’s like to go to Disney during the free dining period when it comes to trying to secure Advanced Dining Reservations and FastPass+ selections. HINT: Sometimes it can be very un-magical.
180 days prior to your vacation you can begin making those Advanced Dining Reservations. Before that date check other these posts and podcasts:
Once you are at Disney one of our favorite places to eat is Be Our Guest. A great feature of this restaurant is the ability to pre-order your meal before you even leave home.
TOURING THE DISNEY PARKS
Now that you have figured out the big stuff of when you are going, where you are going to stay, how you are going to get there, it’s time to put a skeleton touring plan together. To do this check out our podcasts on each of the theme parks where we highlight some of the can’t miss experiences in each park:
- Magic Kingdom – We even have some tips for touring the Magic Kingdom in one day.
- Disney Springs
- Animal Kingdom
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Visiting the Disney Water Parks
Do you have a list of attractions and shows you absolutely must experience? Check out our podcast on Disney’s FastPass+ service strategies. In another post we showed what a Day in the Life using FastPass+ is like. However, attractions aren’t the only things to do in the theme parks. There are countless opportunities to meet your favorite characters.
Downtime is a must when visit the parks, especially with kiddos. Check out some ways to relaxing and Kill Time at Magic Kingdom Park.
Phew, the hard stuff is out of the way. Now that the seeds of your vacation are planted it’s time to add some fun extras.
Disney Cruise Line – Traveling on a Disney Cruise does require some of that same intensive pre-planning that’s required for a Walt Disney World vacation.
- Do you want to participate in an excursion? The Blue Lagoon Dolphin Encounter is a great way to spend a day in paradise or maybe you just want to save some money and stay on the ship is Nassau, Bahamas.
- Don’t forget to join in the fun of the Fish Extender Gift Exchange with the other passengers while on board. We have an easy-to-follow instruction guide to make your own Fish Extender Holder and an easy, frugal idea for a gift.
- As with any cruise, there is a possibility someone in your traveling party might get seasick. We detailed 30 ways to prevent and even cure seasickness.
- We also did podcasts highlighting all four of the Disney Cruise ships the Fantasy, Dream, Magic, and Wonder.
Grand Gatherings are a great way to visit Walt Disney World. Will you be traveling with a large group? Moms, dads, kiddos, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins? There are special circumstances which should be considered when.
runDisney has become one of the most popular destination running events in the country. Whether you are adding a runDisney race to your vacation or it’s the entire basis for your vacation we have some fun tips for you, including how you to pack for a successful runDisney vacation.
The Disney Parks vacation aren’t just about attractions and character meet-n-greets. There are many educational opportunities you can take advantage of such as the Behind the Seeds Tour at the Land Pavilion in Epcot.
When making your vacation plans, there are many times throughout the year in which Walt Disney World hosts special parties and events. Here is a breakdown of some of the fun events throughout the year:
- Epcot Festival of the Arts
- Epcot Flower & Garden Festival
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
- Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
- And imagine how special it would be to celebrate your birthday at Walt Disney World
Now let’s look at some of the other nuances of the parks you should be aware of before leaving:
- Memory Maker
- Traveling to Disney From Great Britain
- Common Trip Planning Mistakes
- Dealing with the unexpected while at Disney
- Traveling to Disney with food allergies
- Child Safety While at Walt Disney World
- Hidden Mickeys
- Celebrating the Holidays at Walt Disney World
- What happens if a hurricane hits while you are at Walt Disney World?
- Beating the heat at Disney
- WDW Scavenger Hunt
- Minimalist’s Disney Park Day Bag
That was a fun trip down memory lane, no? That’s all for now. If you see a missing topic tweet us @MQPodcast and we will be sure to feature it in an upcoming post.
Sue Nowicki is an alumna of the 2014/15 Disney Parks Moms Panel. She is a recovering team mom who is trying to find ways to fill her time after serving secretary, navigator, head cheerleader, treasurer, athletic trainer and team psychologist for her daugther’s travel sports team for 10 years. You can follow her on Twitter @MQPodcast.