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Planning Your Trip to Disney World

The fam in front of the castle

The fam in front of Cinderella’s Castle

Disney is the happiest place on earth but it can also be the most overwhelming place on earth!  There are so many things to do!  So many rides! So many places to eat! So many people!  OMG….AAAAAGGGGHHHHH…..Where do I start planning?  Sound familiar?

I can’t lie….I am not that great of a Disney planner.  I did not have printed out “plans of attack” for the parks.  I am Type A enough to do that but I stop myself because my family would KILL me (honestly by the end of the trip they are ready to anyway but this would push them over the edge….they would drown me in Splash Mountain!).  However, if your family is more understanding you can find touring plans for every age group over at

Wait…I’m getting ahead of myself!  I’m going to try to make this as easy to use as possible!

When you start planning your trip, I always start with the Disney websites (Disney World or Disneyland) to see what discounts or deals are available right now.  Often there are free dining offers when you book a Disney resort or sometimes there are days free when you book a certain stay.  This works really well if you are flexible on dates.  It’s also important to check the best times to go to Disney (for Disney World).  I like to determine if there are deals and then choose between them instead of getting my heart set on one week or resort and then going there even though it’s more expensive.  Alas, having children in school does NOT make that easy.

Disney's Old Key West Resort

Disney’s Old Key West Resort

This year we traded in a week of our time share for a week in a 2 bedroom condo at Disney’s Old Key West resort.  It was amazing!  Huge rooms, quiet resort and a nice pool were huge perks especially since we only paid about $400 total out of pocket for the week’s stay!  So if you have a timeshare, it can be a great way to save!

Great websites that have more information than you could EVER absorb about Disney:

We also bought the Birmbaum Guide to Walt Disney World.  I really didn’t use it so much for planning but we did use it to hype up Disney to Evan.  We had to do something….he wanted to stay home and go to Callaway Park!

While at Disney, I found the Disney World Magic Guide app for iPhone a life saver.  It has maps for all of the parks, information on all restaurants including menus (tho some are slightly out of date), wait times and park hours.  This is a godsend especially if you have 3G without roaming in the parks.  Unfortunately, I did not since my phone is from Canada and there is no Wifi in the parks (WHY, DISNEY….WHY????).  The app is kinda pricey but well worth it.  I loved the ability to look at what the wait times were at other parks when making the “do we stay or do we go” decisions about park hopping.

And a word about tickets….while there are a few ways to save money on tickets, I didn’t bother.  We bought our tickets when we arrived and I only purchased a 3 day park hopper pass.  We then added 2 additional days (actually we only had to add one additional days as Disney gave me one free day at the parks….with no request that I write anything…I think they knew that I would either way!).  You see, the additional days will be added at the lower per day rate of the multiday passes.  You don’t have to buy the pass all at once to get that rate.  It’s a scale up.  Cool, huh?  We found this much easier than trying to second guess how many days we needed AND they coded the tickets onto our room keys so I had less things to keep up with.

Don’t forget to check out Disney Restaurant Reviews (including table service, quick service and snack meals), Disney Park Photos and Disney Dining Program Discussion.

As you can tell, I am not a planning maniac but I hope that some of these tips can help you plan the perfect Disney vacation.  Have I missed something?  Definitely leave your favorite tips in the comments!

paula schuck

Friday 7th of February 2014

Love the Disney APP. It's so helpful. We enjoy Disney travel and I don't know how organized we really are, but it helps that there are solo many resources out there for Disney travellers.


Saturday 25th of February 2012

This is making me very excited for my trip. My only concern is my 2yo & how scared she will get. Will let you know how it goes.

Coffee Lovin' Mom

Saturday 25th of February 2012

Thanks so much for this - I'm actually just in the planning stages so this will come in handy!

Michael @

Friday 24th of February 2012

So you had a brief escape from those frozen wastelands of yours, Merry? This is an excellent post, and tremendously helpful! Thanks for your WDW hotel advice on my facebook page, btw. I'm going to be sure my wife reads it, but you two are not dissimilar, so I'm betting she knows most of this already. ;) I on the other hand need all the help and guidance I can get, per my recent posts about Disney. BTW, we're thinking of a pool day in the middle... or at least a partial day as we'll get park hopper tickets, too. I really appreciate you sharing all of this. Have a super weekend!

Nicole Schuman

Friday 24th of February 2012

Agree! Iv'e been to Tokyo Disneyland and I also felt what you've felt! It's really awesome and fun there! You'll feel that you're a kid again...