I mentioned yesterday that our Disney trip has been a year in the making.
Really, it wasn’t a year in the nitty gritty planning stages, but the “year-long” part was more for saving money and watching the calendar to pick the perfect date and time for us to go. Spending time reading blogs and articles was helpful, but I did that hit or miss through out the year. It’s not like I sat and read Disney tips for days on end!
In regards to actual plans, I know some of the below is basic, but I felt like it was worth including since I was sharing our entire process. That said, here’s how we scheduled our Disney trip.
1. We officially decided to go. For us this meant committing to the idea of going and targeting “a year or so out” for the actual trip.
2. Next, we made a plan to start saving the dollars. I mentioned how we save and budget for travel in yesterday‘s post but will share more specifics of our package and savings options later.
3. We looked at our calendar to see what major things we already had planned for the year and what we needed to work around or conflicts to avoid. For us, my sisters wedding and international family in town ruled out summer. I didn’t want to go much earlier than summer as it would stress our plan to save the money so that bumped us to at least fall or later.
4. We considered any other factors – summer is blazing hot and with three little kids, that didn’t sound appealing…school start times, school breaks, husbands work schedules, babies due dates, other travel plans, etc. For kids under three years of age, they get in free and can eat off of adults meals for free. Since Brother turns three in November, our ideal was going before that so that he would still go and experience it all, but we would save the cost of paying for another child’s ticket, meal plan, etc.
5. Once we narrowed our time frame down, I chatted with a certified Disney Travel Agent (Lisa) to pick her brain and have my initial booking questions answered.
Disney seems to have a language of its own and as I tried to wrap my brain around it all, I wanted to make sure I understood at least the basics!
6. We found the perfect package that fit our budget, timeframe and all, paid our $200 deposit and booked our trip!
Using this train of thought and the steps as mentioned above, we pulled out the calendar and started checking dates. We decided that spring was too early from a dollars/saving standpoint, summer was the hottest time of year, could be busy with other summer break travelers and crazy with Kristin’s wedding so that basically pushed us into fall/winter.
The kids would start school in August, but really since they are still little, anything after summer and August seemed fair game for us. My husband had a few potential work travel weeks, but we just avoided those weeks. Since Brother turned three in November, we wanted to go before that and basically said that mid September through the first week of November would all be “ideal” times.
Honestly, I was a bit clueless on things like the Disney Dining plans and the options it offered, how Fast Passes worked, options that staying on property would give us and more. All of the above proved invaluable for our trip.
Our specialist helped me narrow down to a few weeks near or within our ideal travel window when the best deals would be offered and that is how we decided what week to go. An agent can do all of this for you, but since I used to coordinate international trips for a former job of mine, I wanted to be somewhat involved in the process.
I used Disney’s website to search packages and deals, compared to a few other resources and then I ran my thoughts by our agent, Lisa. She would confirm, give me more details or let me know of anything I hadn’t considered and after a few days of thinking, we booked our trip.
We were back and forth a few days and in the meantime, we missed out on a deal and the price went up about $300. Not a huge thing in the grand scheme of things, but next time, if I find a fabulous deal, I wont hesitate to snag it. I think we could have gone ahead and “held” the spot and reservation at no expense to us and in hindsight I should have done that. It would have been the same week, same plan, but the rooms we initially were looking at (same hotel and all) sold out and we had to get a higher priced one. Still a great deal, but I would have loved to save the $300!
The Easy WDW website was one she recommended and was my main go to resource.
My goal was to balance low crowds with the best discount and maximize our time in the parks. I will go more into the Easy WDW site later, as I used it exclusively to plan what days we spent at which park and its recommendations truly allowed us to plan an efficient and fun trip!
Check it out though if you are considering going as HERE it lists best times to go, things to consider and even mentions openings, closures and special events.
Ultimately, the week we chose fell on our fall break – so the kids were out of school, was considered a slow time of year for Disney, fit all of our after summer but before November requirements, and was a week that offered a free dining plan.
We selected a mid-level resort (Port Orleans Riverside) and with our package deal, the rooms were discounted from their standard rate.
Free dining at Disney may be the best thing ever and I don’t know if I could go to again without this deal! More later but each day, we had sit down character meals, snacks, and walk up food services for our entire family. If we had paid for that, just alone our meals would have cost us over $800. This benefit saved us a ton and gave us an incredible experience.
Win, win, win and win.
As some of you look and plan your own trip, I want to say that Disney has provision for every need and accommodates each and every family so well. They treat you like royalty and its no wonder that people deem it a magical experience and want to go back year after year.
Given all of the different things to do, no matter the age range, no matter the need, allergy, event or whatever you are looking to do they have options and will take care of you. Should you never talk to one person nor read one Disney blog, I fully believe you can plan the perfect trip and have an amazing time!
Now that our $200 deposit was paid and dates were officially reserved, it was time to focus on what rides we would Fast Pass, where we would make dining reservations and more!
**I also want to mention that I have multiple friends who are certified Disney planners! We used Lisa for our booking, but my good friend Lori also has a travel business and specializes in Disney vacations, cruises, destination weddings, honeymoons and more!
Both are great resources for any travelers out there and I have linked to both of their Facebook travel pages so you can find them and like them.
While I do feel confident that I could have researched, planned and booked this trip on my own, since their services are free to you and me, I would rather have an expert around for questions and let them earn commission off of the booking! It’s an honor to support other friends and women in small businesses, so hit em up if you need help! This is not sponsored, just a shout out to friends supporting other friends!**