Saturday, August 24, 2013

Disney Tips & Tricks

I have a "series" lined up! Ah! This hasn't happened since I blogged on my old blog (or since After Your Heart.. which, by the way, is in the works for a revamp. Feeling inspired).
ALSO. If you're not a Disney fan/aren't planning on going to Disney anytime soon (or ever)/don't like super long blog posts that mean pretty much nothing to you... feel free to skip this post!

So as I was saying.
I have been working on a series of posts based on my experience of planning a Disney vacation. There's a million Disney resources out there, all of which helped me, but I wanted to talk about my own experience planning my Disney vacation, not only as my first time planning a Disney trip, but planning my very first vacation ever. Really! This is the first big trip I've planned on my own and the first without one of my parents! (Okay, so I've been on trips without my parents, but none that have been way out of state. I swear, I'm not a child!)

We haven't actually gone on our trip yet (it's our honeymoon destination!), but as soon as we get back, I'll put together a couple of posts about what I packed that was useful/what I probably needed that I didn't pack/my experience as a whole. I'm pretty excited about that!

So! Part this post is more of an intro to it all, and about how I started out in my planning.
Right from the start, I need to put a tiny disclaimer on this: We were incredibly fortunate to have Blake's parents offer to pay for our honeymoon as a wedding gift to us. We are poor college students, and without them, we probably wouldn't have gone on a honeymoon at all. So we are so blessed to be taking this amazing trip! We did work with his parent's travel agent on this vacation, but the bulk of planning was done by myself. Our agent really only booked the vacation!

When I started planning, I didn't know where to begin. I scoured Pinterest for blog posts (similar to what I'm doing now!), I checked out all the books about Walt Disney World from the library (and, uh, kept one for about 9 months... oops), and I read everything I could get my hands on. I researched the crap out of Disney. Fortunately, my boss, who is a Disney addict, goes to Disney often and has accumulated a ton of helpful tips, which she gladly passed on to me!

We never really worked with a clear budget. Which was hard for me, whilst planning. I had no idea what kind of restrictions or boundaries I had to work with when looking at hotels, dining plans, extra activities. So, what Blake and I did was put together a "Walt Disney World Information Pack" for his parents.
We included information about all the resorts we were interested in (that were at all different price points), we put in photos of the resorts, what restaurants they offered inside the resorts, what amenities were available. From there, we worked with his parents to narrow down what we wanted/could get.
After deciding on a resort (Wilderness Lodge! - which is so out of character for me AND Blake, but we're so excited), we worked on our dining plan (more on that soon!).

As a whole, the starts of my planning were really scattered and all over the place.
A lot of Pinterest posts I saw recommended keeping a binder, and while that is a great idea, and I even have one now, it really didn't help me when I was starting my planning.
What did help though, were these few tips I've learned here and there:

1. Research all of your options. All of them. All different price points, even if you think something is out of your budget, still look into it. At first, we really didn't even look into "deluxe" resorts because of the price. In the end, we chose a resort based on location and atmosphere: we are on our honeymoon, and we wanted something that wasn't going to be completely swarming with a ton of families (of course, this is Disney, after all. There will be families at any resort you go to. But the amount of families at a deluxe resort, compared to a moderate resort is vastly different!). If you're a family, though, you're not going to want to stay at a resort like The Grand Floridian. Another big thing was the location - all of the main deluxe resorts are in the Magic Kingdom area. 3 of them are on the monorail system which will take you directly to Magic Kingdom from your resort. The Contemporary Resort is on the monorail system, and not only that, but you can request a "castle-view room" upon your arrival. I went to Disney when I was 10, and my parents requested this - we were able to see the Wishes fireworks show at Magic Kingdom from the beds in our room! So be sure to look into these sort of things, if that's what you want out of a vacation.

2. Look into discounts that are available. One of the big advertised discounts are the 20-30% off of room prices in the spring and the free dining plan in the fall. They do these specific discounts mostly when crowds are at their lowest. For instance, the free dining is a discount available to us right now, and it's offered in the height of hurricane season. As soon as that discount became available I looked into it a little more, but then realized - it's just not right for us. Yeah, it would save some money, but the overall savings is not substantial enough for us to go through the hassle of canceling our room reservations and rebooking, just to get the discount. Now, for a family of 4 or more, it's definitely a good discount. 2 free meals a day for a whole family? That's not a bad deal!

3. Check dates. Check dates. Check dates. One of our big things was wanting to go to the Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and it really worked out that we were going to be there during the party season. (I'll touch on party schedules when I get to itinerary planning!) Check crowd forecasts for the week, make sure you aren't going during the week of a holiday (unless, you know, that was your original plan. Then by all means, go!). Another big factor in our trip was making it there for the Food & Wine Festival at Epcot - it starts the weekend we arrive! So if there is an event you want to go to, or even want to avoid, double check your dates!

That's all I have for now!
I'll be back soon with what I've learned from dining plans (there's a lot to know about that junk!).

Thanks for reading!

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