My best tips for experiencing Walt Disney World encompasses two things : 1) Have fun planning your vacation days – I find that the planning is half the fun and ; 2) enjoy the days with a mixture of running yourself ragged and slowing down to share the Disney ambiance with your loved ones.
The first thing I like to plan is when we can go back next – which I start thinking about on the last day of a Disney trip and is usually planned around my boys sports schedules or my new obsession – RunDisney Races. Then I plan were we are going to stay. We like to stay on Walt Disney Property for Magical Express(the free ride from the airport), EMH (extra – yes extra hours I can visit my beloved parks just because I stay at a Disney Resort) and the whole Disney experience or atmosphere. I use many webstites but my favorite for Resort information is AllEarsnet.com . I like that it has a “Resort Page” for each Walt Disney Resort with pictures and lists of restaurants and activities at that specific reso
At each resort, I plan what each individual resort can offer to my family. At the Boardwalk, I think about entering Epcot through the International Gateway and having a Grey Goose Slushy with my husband while watching Illuminations and then walking back through Epcot afterwards. At the Contemporary, I think about walking to the Magic Kingdom for Park Opening, or riding the monorail to the Polynesian for Ohana dinner. At the Animal Kingdom Lodge, I think about the sound of my children’s laughter on the balcony while watching the Savannah animals. Some might think this research is cumbersome but it provides with the information to fully experience our Disney Resort . I get information about the food courts, the restaurants, pools, tours or other activities that we could experience. We like to take some time to just relax at the resort – imagine that – and a lot of them can be free options – for example at the Animal Kingdom Lodge each night a fire is lit and you can use night vision goggles to see the animals. A Cast Member at the fire can answer many questions about the animals and their home country of Africa. We have really enjoyed this over the years and there is no extra cost for it. I actually plan days/nights to enjoy wherever we are staying and these moments for our family have truly been “magical”.
Next, I plan our park days based on park hours, Extra Magic Hours and I use the Crowd Calendar from Touringplans.com to plan our tour of the parks. This type of planning gives a framework to our trip so that we can enjoy as much as possible or sometimes as little as possible. It also allows me to plan our Fast Pass Plus experiences (to help us ride our faves – I will get into the nuances of this system at a later day) and ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations).
One of my favorite parts of the planning is deciding where to eat – I am a mother of two boys and wife to a wonderful man and this is very important to them. Another website favorite is DisneyFoodBlog.com that helps me plan my ADRS based on menus and reviews of every restaurant. On our adult only trip in September 2014 my husband and I did a Food and Wine Experience . A wine tasting at Tutto Gusto – my DH not a wine guy – loved it but without my research we wouldn’t have known. Each Disney restaurant has its own experience as if we are being transformed to Mexico in LaHacienda (Epcot) or singing along with Mickey at Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort) to eating quick service at Cosmic Rays. We have had some of the best times eating at Disney and honestly some places you can’t get into without planning – I always plan O’Hana – all you can eat with three boys #happyfamily.
I have seen some people with extreme planning – spread sheets -must be at Space Mountain at 10:05 – really not for us – but it works for them. I have a framework of which park, which food and then if we feel like riding Rock n Roller Coaster three times or stopping to eat ice cream or watching the Jamminators (Epcot)or we are done at lunch time and go back for a swim or I want to shop – we do. It works for us.
The other part of my tip I give to others for experiencing Walt Disney World is that you can never see it all so don’t try. Get up early or stay late for EMH if you are staying on property so that you can see as much as possible – you wouldn’t want to miss Splash Mountain or the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Plan what is important to your family to see. You are going to walk a lot. A LOT. Plan some relaxing time at the resort pool, sleep in one morning, talk to Cast Members along the way they are some of the most awesome people. I actually plan time to sit and read a book –imagine that. Walk around your Disney Resort in the am while it’s quiet. Pushing your family to their limit all the time makes for a not fun experience. One favorite time for my kids was a night we rented movies at Old Key West and had popcorn in – we laughed and had so much fun together. Disney is about spending time with your family and friends in a way that is not possible at home due to busy schedules – enjoy the little moments – they pass.