Disney is a truly magical place and to have the best trip possible, you really need to spend a little bit of time planning. When people ask me about Disney, they usually either have a trip coming up in the next couple of weeks or are looking at something in the future several months away and almost always people ask how soon they should start planning things. Let’s start at the beginning.
Once you know you might go to Disney, get familiar with the Disney website for the resort you’ll be visiting: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line or Adventures by Disney. Those are the main places to begin looking for more information that’s most accurate and up to date. Disney tends to change things and bring new experiences without a lot of notice sometimes so be sure to keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog for more information. Of course My Pixie Dust Diary will also keep you up to date too!
Sometimes it’s helpful to get opinions and advice from others to make plans for your trip. There are lots of different message boards out there and groups on Facebook so you can talk with others and get their opinions on all things Disney.
People tend to shy away when I mention researching their vacation. I’m not suggesting you spend the afternoon locked up in the library reading through books planning out every second of every day. What I mean is just getting some information so you’re prepared before your trip and have a realistic idea of what to expect from your vacation. As I read through stories of how terrible Disney is, it seems that the common thread from those travelers is having unrealistic expectations. Either reading about someone’s magical experience staying in the castle suite and thinking that would happen to them (chances are not good unfortunetly) or being overwhelmed by the number of people or strollers makes me sad for them. With a couple of minutes on line, it’s easy to learn more about what a typical day of your vacation at Disney will look like. Here are some great ways to do some research:
- On line – once you’ve visited the official Disney websites, spend some time reading here, Googling and just browsing through Disney sites. Take everything with a grain of salt – there are sites out there who will show you everything is sunshine and roses while other sites will only show you all the terrible things that happened while on vacation. Disney is amazing and they do an awesome job trying to make every moment magical. That doesn’t mean the real world doesn’t sneak back in sometimes.
- In Print – the internet isn’t for everyone and that’s ok! Good old books are still available. Spend an afternoon at your local library looking through the different books available to see which one is most your style before you go out and purchase one. You can also read excerpts on Amazon before you make a decision too for some books.
- Friends – chat with people who have been with Disney both that share your interests and not. Listening to lots of different opinions will help you get a better idea of things to do and things you might be ok skipping on your next trip. Hearing from people who have visited multiple times and just one or two times will bring lots of different things to your attention.
- YouTube – I don’t think you should look at every video of every attraction or show before your trip. Save something to enjoy during the actual trip. However I’m not opposed to looking up something you’ve read about to get a better idea of the experience or make a better decision for your family before they experience. In that case, I’m all in.
While you can have a perfectly fantastic Disney vacation at the last minute (I had two and a half days to plan our first trip), giving yourself several months to plan is much better, especially for a first trip. Guests staying on property can make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) 190 days before they check in (all others can start at 180 days). Hardcore planners will have their ADRs all lined up so if there’s somewhere you must eat, you really need to have a plan and be making those reservations as soon as you can. As crazy as it sounds, six months before your trip, you will already know where you’ll be having dinner if that’s your thing. If you’ve never been, you really should start planning your trip about a year out to give yourself the most time.
When do you start planning your Disney vacation?