First let me start by saying how excited and honored I am to be part of this awesome site! Everyone’s put a lot of hard work into making this a reality and I know it will soon be filled with lots of useful information on all things Disney!
Why am I writing about planning?
I’m a planner by nature. I’ve always planned everything from birthday parties and weekly schedules to my wedding so why wouldn’t I plan our vacations too? Many people look at me like I’ve just told them I saw an alien at Target (and not the kind from Toy Story) when I mention that I plan our vacations. I usually get “it’s a vacation – you’re not supposed to plan it!” or “how can you relax when you’ve got it planned?”. My answer is simple – I CAN relax when I’ve got a plan. Maybe I should expand on that by saying that I use the word “plan” loosely. I spend time figuring out what our family wants to do on the trip, where to eat and when the best time to do those things is. I don’t plan where we should be every minute of every day and am able to change things up while on vacation and go to another park if there’s something my kids want to do or weather affects us, ect.
I think Disney’s too expensive for my family.
I am the woman in front of you in line at the check out with a handful of coupons who gets a cart of groceries for a few dollars. I plan my shopping lists (See? There’s that “p” word again!) to make sure I’m getting the best bang for my buck and do the same when I plan Disney trips. I’m hoping to share some of my tips and tricks with you along our journey. This also ties into my planning as I’m always looking for a great code or discount to apply to an upcoming trip or start planning another trip. Disney can be very expensive but it can also be very affordable if you plan correctly.
You’ve been how many times?
I’ve only been to Disney World once without a good, solid plan. My husband was offered a job at the beginning of January 2008 in South Carolina and had to start that month. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem but with the job being 1,000 miles away from where we lived, it was a little bit difficult. My planning instinct kicked in almost instantly when he told me he’d accepted the position. We found a house and signed a lease agreement without ever seeing it and began packing boxes frantically. Before I knew it, a Uhaul was loaded with everything we had to our name and we were moving away from everything we’d ever known. I spent the extra week I was back home getting as familiar as I could with our new location and something made me check to see how far away Disney World was from our new house. I was thrilled to see that it was just a short five hour drive. The hubby and I had been talking about taking the boys but knew airfare and the trip would be way out of our budget. I secretly was hoping that with the move, we’d be able to take the kids to Disney.
It didn’t take long and everything was unpacked. Since I didn’t have a job yet, I was at home with my then three year old and 14 month old boys. My husband came home one Tuesday night and asked if I wanted to go to Disney for the weekend. I gave him the same look that people give me when I tell them I plan my vacations. In a few short minutes, we had a hotel room booked, tickets ordered and were going to Disney in two days! I spent the next two days home with the boys trying to read and learn everything I could about Disney. My husband and I had never been before either so this was a first for our entire family! I read article after article about what to do and what not to do, when to visit which parks and where good places to eat were.
We went on that first trip with nothing more than a vision of our heads of what we thought Disney would be like and a general idea of things we wanted to do. I will never forget the feeling of driving under the “Welcome to Walt Disney World” sign for the first time. We basically just wandered the parks, rode a few rides and were overwhelmed by it all. Before long our trip was finished and we were headed back home already talking about our next trip.
That trip really ignited my love for Disney and I knew we had to go back. We started planning and saving to see when we would be able to go again. In the mean time, I took on a part time job, which eventually turned into my full time job, to help earn more Disney money. Then I learned about “free dining” and knew this would be a great chance for our family to try out some different restaurants that we might not normally go to if we had to pay out of pocket. My mother in law went with us on this trip in September 2008 as a surprise to the boys and we all had a good time. I’d done much more research for this trip, made personalized shirts for everyone to wear and really thought I knew what I was doing. The trip went well but I knew I still had so many things I needed to learn to tour the parks more efficiently to get the most out of our days. This was also the trip when we purchased annual passes which just fed into my newfound obsession.
We went back to Disney in December 2008 for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday and again in February 2009 with our close friends for their son’s first trip. I loved putting together ideas and being kind of the “tour guide” for the trip. I surprised my then three year old son and husband who share a birthday with a trip in July 2009 to see the Mouse. I had more research to do for that trip because we’d never been in the summer before and I was worried about the heat. The trip went better than expected and the boys were very surprised which was worth it. We took one last trip in September 2009 with our friends and their new daughter who was born while we were in Disney during our February trip. Since our annual passes expired, we had to save up again to renew or purchase tickets. This left us a long lag time between trips with our next trip being in November and December of 2010. I felt like I was starting all over again learning about the changes, hoping I remembered everything I’d learned for previous trips and having the same excitement. Everything came back when we drove under the famous purple Disney sign – including all the emotions of Disney. With annual passes in hand, I’m planning many trips for the upcoming year and hope to not let these passes expire any time soon!
Well I might not have been on many trips, I’ve done hours and hours of research for each trip and hope to pass some of my knowledge along and help make your trip a bit less stressful and more enjoyable. I’ll share some things I’ve done that have gotten us a bit of extra pixie dust, things that we wouldn’t do again and things I’m dreaming of doing some day. I’ll also share how I save money on my Disney vacations without skimping on any of the Disney magic. Along the journey I’ll also share where I turn when I’ve got Disney questions or need information for our next trip. I also want to here where you go to learn things and encourage you to share what you’ve learned along the way. One of the most important things to always keep in mind is that you know your family best. Everyone’s advice is just that – advice. It may work wonderfully for me but not be possible at all for you or your family.
Lynn Wiltse is the mom of two boys and is always planning a Disney trip. Find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001446658817#!/profile.php?id=1230272111 or Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/lynnsc08.