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Planning to plan for Disney

Even those of you who are regular readers probably wouldn't guess a few things about me. I don't talk much about the importance of greyhound rescue work to us. I used to run my college radio station. I once ate at the same Olive Garden as Jerry Springer. In that same spirit, during the early days of the internet circa 2000, I used to help run one of the first Disney fan websites. For awhile there, I was going to Walt Disney World about once a year. We were on one of the inaugural sailings of the Disney Cruise Line. I've been on a school trip, stayed at multiple resort properties, been to Disneyland, too. So after a decade away, it's interesting to come back to it now that my kids are old enough to be thinking of going. 

I know what I like about Disney. But figuring out what my kids will like about Disney--or even how to plan a trip for children, generally--brings an intriguing twist. I have to take their personalities, likes, and tolerances into account. Then, on the other hand, I have to account for their mother...who absolutely hates Disney. Ok, she doesn't hate it. She's been before when she was younger and is willing to indulge the 3 of us who are excited. I'd say it's like peanut butter...she doesn't mind peanut butter, but she wouldn't want to eat the whole jar. Nor would she want to eat peanut butter for every meal for a week. She, ideally, wants me to plan the whole thing without involving her in any of the details. She'll show up, ride the rides, laugh at the towel animals on the bed, but she's not going to claim the experience as a highlight of her life. 

Our rule is that the kids have to be 5 before we can go. They'd go now--they're already looking forward to it. But it's not in the immediate budget or schedule with everything else we have going on. If you know anything about it, you also know that an unplanned trip maybe isn't the best idea these days. In fact, it's one of the complaints that you can't go "wander" per se...or, at least, we're being nudged not to. Restaurants can be hard to get reservations to, rides now can be reserved in advance on a special wristband, and the best deals require some planning to get. 

Which basically means we're about 6 months away from needing to make some reservations if you go by the "year in advance" guideline and we want to go during 2016. After doing some crowd/discount research, I think the best way to go is going to be pulling the kids out of school for an October trip. (Though late-April or May are good times as well so we could do 2017.) Really, narrowing the time of year is small potatoes compared to everything else though. 

Fly or drive? Stay on-property or off? How much is your budget? Do you spend less on the hotel room that you'll probably not spend that much time in or splurge to be closer to activities you think you'll be doing most? Do you bump up to a nicer resort to get the most out of potential promotion like Free Dining if it's offered? Can we get away with the one-park-per-day Base Ticket or would we get more out of a Park Hopper upgrade? 

In our case, one big decision for us will be whether we want to rent points from a Disney Vacation Club member. That would allow us to spend about the same amount we would on a Moderate resort, but stay at a Deluxe resort Villa that would have a small kitchen with sink, microwave, fridge, toaster, etc.. Which could end up being super handy if we drove, did some grocery shopping, and planned for, say, breakfast and lunch to be on our own versus a restaurant in the parks. But DVC resorts often sell out 11 months in advance so you need to book if there is a specific resort you want. If we flew, we probably wouldn't rent a car and would rely on Disney transportation...and that would make the kitchen idea make less sense. Maybe we want to drive, stay in a Value resort to save some money, then take a side trip to spend a day at Kennedy Space Center? 

Add to all this the list of dining possibilities, live shows, figuring out where your kids can see their favorite characters, height requirements, scare factor on various rides, and learning how things like rider switch policies work. It's no wonder one of the most common emotions that vacationing families express is "overwhelmed." Open the official Birbaum book (which we've had home from the library several times and may need to buy) and they have a schedule of when to perform various planning-related tasks. Dining reservations can only be made 180 days in advance, for instance. It's daunting. 

And we're not even one of those families expecting to "do everything" or "have the perfect vacation." We just want to go to Disney World with the kids and ride It's A Small World, Dumbo, eat a Mickey Mouse waffle, see some fireworks or a parade, and ride the monorail. Not overly ambitious. Yet still complicated. It's almost to the point where I'm considering putting it all into the hands of one of the free Authorized Vacation Planners. Even then, our specifics probably require an e-mail explanation. We're planning on skipping the Studios. Only one day at Epcot or Animal Kingdom. Lots of time in Magic Kingdom. On a budget. One kid likes princesses and Minnie Mouse. The other really just wants to ride the train. 

Maybe I should just send them the link to this blog post? I'll make sure I do a follow up when we finally get around to making a reservation.