Disney Vacation Planning: Debbie’s Favorite Tips

Welcome to another chapter of planning tips.  I have found making basic plans before leaving can make your trip a little less stressful.  Below are some of my favorite tips that have worked well through the years.  Disney is so large; it can overwhelm even the expert traveler.

Favorite Disney Travel Planning Tips (this is before you travel)

Plan * Plan * Plan!   These are some things that should be planned out several months in advance.

  • Decide what time of year is best.  Do you have school schedules to work around or will you have the flexibility to travel in the value season (Yes, even Disney has some off season or value season).
  • How long do you feel comfortable being away?  This depends on commitments at home such as those left behind, pets and the biggie – MONEY!  Would it be practical to spend 10 days, if you will worry about cost constantly?  Or would a 4-5 day trip work better and free up your budget to enjoy it more that Disney has to offer?
  • Next start reading and surfing the web.  There are many valuable forums and priceless information online – check out the Disney Vacation Planning Worksheets available right here at The Affordable Mouse – they are easy to use and covers all aspects of your trip.  Start a folder with important information to keep with you at all times.  This could be an online folder or if your old school – a folder to carry with you.

Favorite Tips for Choosing Where to Stay

Don’t get lost in “hotel-land” and on-site / off-site; start with the basics to narrow the list.

  • To us the most import factor is money. The value hotels on-site are our favorite; they are less expensive, eliminate parking fees and are more convenient. Off-site hotels can be less expensive, but is it worth it after adding the cost for parking fees and extra time getting to the parks?  Where you stay will also depend on if you are able to drive or fly.  Flying to WDW and then staying off-site could prove to be pricey.  Off-site hotel shuttles do not follow the same time-frames as Disney Transportation, so add to your travel time from hotel to park and back.  Be sure to check the hotels to confirm if they do have shuttles and their schedules.
  • What is the age group involved?  While the Value hotels can accommodate 4 people comfortably, if you have 5 people over the ages of 12, this isn’t a good option.  There are a limited amount of family suites available for larger groups, but be sure and check early.  We have found adjoining rooms work well most of the time.
  • Is this a special occasion trip – would it be a special treat to stay at a moderate or deluxe hotel?  If springing for a more expensive hotel, do you plan to spend less time in the parks and more time around the hotel pool?  If you are only at the hotel from mid-night to 7 each morning – is this worth it?  I prefer a moderate if I will be at WDW a little longer and not going to the parks every day.

Favorite Touring Tips & Strategies

I have a stack of books that I have kept year after year.  And each one has notes written everywhere though-out the book.  These are invaluable to me for sharing with others.  Just this week I sat down and used an older book for my son’s girlfriend.  They are making their first trip as adults to The Food and Wine Festival this year.  Are you jealous?  I am!

  • Get everyone involved making a list of their favorite rides / things to do – keeping the list down to the top 5 in each park.  This gives you a loose agenda and will keep you from wasting time.  There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning and saying “what-do-you-want-to-do-today” and get an “I-don’t-know – doesn’t-matter-to-me” response!
  • Fast Pass!   These are a life saver – grab them first thing upon arriving at the park for the most popular ride.  The fast pass will give you an hour window of when to return.  This allows time for rides or shows in between, thus accomplishing more than the ole’ “Let’s start here and work our way around trap”.  Fast Pass entrances move much quicker then the queue line.  If it is your first time on a ride, skip the fast pass – you will miss the great queue areas!  Save the fast pass for your 2nd time around!
  • Plan on splitting your days into early morning and then evenings.  It allows for a break during the hottest part of the day to rest, chill out at Downtown Disney or take a cooling dip in the hotel pool.  The parks tend to crowd up during the middle of the day also.

Favorite Disney Dining Tips

Disney has so many options, from their quick service to their sit down meals.  We generally plan for one nice sit-down meal during each trip.  A great tool available online is Magical Meals, the affordable Disney Dining Guide.

  • Everyone in the party is allowed to have some input on where to eat.  Children’s menus are available at all locations, so no one gets left out.   Advance Dining Reservations for sit-down meals can be made 180 days out.  Another good reason to plan ahead.
  • If you’ve saved enough on the travel and hotel – think about a character meal.  There is something available for everyone whether you are a pirate or princesses.  Don’t worry – age doesn’t count here.  Our favorite is the Crystal Palace for Pooh, Tigger and Piglet.
  • We have found a decent breakfast works best for us and then plan on an early dinner.  Two meals are the norm for us – we drink plenty of water but don’t eat a lot.  Eating dinner early gives more options, since the nicer restaurants fill up quickly during the normal dinner time.

Favorite Tips for Saving Money

I haven’t found anyone out there that doesn’t enjoy saving money when at WDW.  It is my goal to show everyone that Disney can be affordable; you just have to do your homework.

  • Purchase passes based on how long you stay.  Don’t buy more of a pass then you will really need.  Decide if the park hopper is better or one park per day.  The park hopper will cost more, but if you like the idea of doing everything, then moving on then the one-park per day choice is better.
  • Carry water with you – bottles are easily refillable. Water fountains are everywhere.  For those who do not like the taste of Florida water – try the flavor packets.  These are easy to carry, change the taste and eliminate the “I’m thirsty” all day.  Cokes don’t hydrate like water does, especially in the hot Florida sun.
  • Start a souvenir savings.  When my son was just 7, he collected over $150 in change before we left. He never asked me for money, knowing he could spend his on whatever he wanted!   Even as adults, we set aside money for souvenirs.  Orlando has several outlets that have Character (Disney) outlets, where you could find some real treasures.

Don’t be afraid to start conversations about Disney whether online or running errands.  Some of my best conversations started while standing in line at a store.

Want help planning your Disney vacation? Find out how the FREE services of a Disney World travel agent can make it all simple…and save you time and money too!

Debbie and her husband live in Collegedale, TN where her youngest son is going to college. She is a huge Disney fan who dreams of someday retiring and working as a tour guide at Walt Disney World. She has enjoyed many trips to WDW with children, grandchildren and sometimes adults only. It is her ultimate goal to make sure everyone who visits WDW has the same magical time that she enjoys every time she visits.

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