Our Disney rhythm

People are different and families are different. Everyone has his own idea of what the “best” vacation is, and the following is ours. It may not be right for your own family, but we thought sharing our “Disney rhythm” – the way we do it – might be helpful to others planning their own vacation.

  1. Look for deals.
This is our very first step in any Disney vacation. We are constantly on the lookout for deals and discounts. So rather than choosing a time of year we want to go and then hoping for a discount to present itself, we instead wait for the discount and then choose our vacation dates according to when the discount is valid. If you are able to be flexible with dates, waiting is worth it.

How do you get discounts, you might ask? There are a number of ways to get in the loop. First, go to the WDW website and register. Take time to fill out information about your preferences. This will put you in the Disney database, which means you’ll be eligible to receive special deals and discounts. Sometimes Disney will email people at random a PIN number to activate a special discount (We have received these a few times, so it really does happen!). At the very least, you’ll be on the WDW email list, which means you will receive notifications about discounts and deals, such as free dining and resort discounts. However, it’s important to add that these discounts are offered as package deals, meaning you have to stay on Disney property to take advantage of them.

  1. Know your seasons and plan accordingly.
Disney has a number of “seasons” based on holidays, crowds, room rates, and weather. The general seasons are: Value Season, Regular Season, Peak Season, and Holiday Season. Peak and Holiday seasons are the most crowded and expensive, with Value Season being the least busy (usually) and most inexpensive. An easy way to keep track is to think of them as similar to school holidays. For example, it will be most crowded during the school summer and winter breaks, spring break, and holiday weekends. When everyone is back in school – like January or February – it’s usually a cheaper, less crowded season at Walt Disney World. We try to go during Value Season and avoid Regular Season when possible and Peak or Holiday Seasons we avoid like the plague. Wall-to-wall people and hours of ride wait-times are SO not our style.

For more about the Disney calendar, go HERE.

  1. Book your vacation dates.
Normally we book right through WDW. Others find it more helpful to use a travel agent. If this is your first trip to Disney, you may find it worthwhile to use an official Disney travel agent, simply because they know a lot and can do all the work for you, saving you stress and feeling like you’re missing something.

You can book your vacation as a package – park tickets, resort, dining, etc. – or just book the resort now and buy your tickets later. We find it easier to book everything at once. Keep in mind you need to decide whether you will be booking single-park tickets or Hopper passes. We always book Park Hoppers because we enjoy the flexibility of visiting more than one park in a day (which is easier than you may think!) Here's more about park ticket options.

Once you secure your dates, you can really start planning! We recommend Fodor's Walt Disney World With Kids book for planning help. This was a lifesaver when we planned our first couple of WDW vacations. Just make sure to purchase the latest version.

  1. If you’re staying on property and flying to WDW, book your Magical Express transportation. 
We always use Magical Express. It takes a little longer than a taxi, simply because your ME bus will drop off guests at two or three resorts in the same area, so you might have to wait a little longer if your resort is the last stop. Still, our son didn’t seem to mind; he enjoyed the thrill of riding in a huge bus and watching the Disney shows on the TVs throughout. ME also delivers your luggage directly to your room, which means you won’t have to wait for it at the airport or anything – just get off the plane and start your vacation. ME will also take you back to the airport at the end of the trip.

And the best part? It’s free!

  1. Make your restaurant reservations.
You can start making reservations 180 days in advance, and we recommend doing so. This is our favorite part of Disney planning. We meticulously create a flexible itinerary of where we want to eat and when. Then we book reservations  (you can either call 1-407-WDW-DINE or do it online.)

Because restaurants book up quickly, you may have to mess around a little with the days and times until you are able to book your whole party in. This is the advantage of booking as close to the 180-day mark as possible – more options.

You’ll be given a confirmation number; hold onto it and take it with you when you go. The Head Honcho usually creates an itinerary document in Excel with all the times and confirmation numbers mapped out for us, and we carry it with us every day so we don’t miss any of our reservations. You can see examples of our itineraries HERE.

  1. Pack your bags.
You can find a list of what we consider to be essentials for Disney travel HERE

  1. After you arrive, form a plan of action for the upcoming days.
This doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule, but it’s a good idea to figure out what attractions each family member wants to visit at the park(s) you’ll be visiting that day. This ensures that you don’t miss out on something that’s important to someone. This is especially true if you’re going to WDW during a busy time when, realistically, you might not be able to do everything (at least not without long waits).

Also, if the rides on your family’s “must do list” are very popular, planning ahead will allow you to go get FastPasses as soon as you arrive inside the park. The FastPass is the best way to bypass the lines and make the most of your time. Go HERE for a list of rides offering FastPass as well as more information about what exactly they are.

You'll also want to grab a park guide to aid your planning. Here you'll find parade times and routes, locations for character greetings, fireworks schedules, and park hours. Show times and park hours can change day to day, and these guides will give you up-to-date information.

  1. Take time to enjoy WDW.
I always return from our trips wishing I had spent more time simply enjoying the scenery and breathing in the Disney magic. Try to slow down, look around and just enjoy the atmosphere. There are a lot of details all around the parks that often go unnoticed. If you’re staying on property, take the time to explore the resort. WDW is truly a magical place.

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