Planning Your Disney Vacation – Creating Mouse Magic!


By Sharon Schierling – Authorized Disney Vacation Planner – Specializing in Disney Destinations

Donald Duck hedge sculpture at Disneyland

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Planning Your Disney Vacation – Creating Mouse Magic

                                           DISNEY WATER FOUNTAIN SCULPTURES   Disney Hong Kong sign

sign entering Disney HK   Mad hatters teacups sign

Everyone knows how much fun it is to take a Disney vacation.  We took our first official “family vacation” to Disneyland about 40 years ago, and we have been hooked ever since.  In those days it was pretty easy to take a Disney destination vacation.  You found a hotel, booked a flight and bought your tickets at the gate and started having fun.  As with most things we did back then, it is not quite that simple to take a Disney vacation anymore.  With all that Disney has to offer today, if you want to have a successful Disney vacation there needs to be some planning and preparation.  

disney cruise ship

So what exactly does Disney have to offer?  What first comes to mind is the parks, Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida.  For those around the world there is Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong, Tokyo Disney Resort and Shanghai Disney Resort.  Disney has also carried the magic to sea with Disney Cruise Line currently boasting four cruise ships and the promise of 4 more in the next few years.  And for those who really like to experience the world up close, there is Adventures by Disney.  So as you can see, Disney is no longer roller coasters and cotton candy.  There is a lot to do and see with Disney, and once you start you get hooked pretty fast.

disney castle       Disney by night

Tomorrowland HK Disney          


For most people the magic starts with the parks.  So let’s start to plan a trip for four, two adults and two children and see where the magic takes us.  If you live in the US you have a choice of Disneyland and Disney World.  Disneyland is the older of the two locations and has two parks to choose from, Disneyland and California Adventures.  Like it’s counterpart in Florida their are Disney resorts to choose from and it is also in close proximity to other hotels and resorts recommended by Disney.  Be sure to ask your travel planner specifically for a Disney approved resort because there are advantages we will discuss later to staying at such a resort. 

If you decide to go to Florida you have more parks to choose from; Magic Kingdom Park, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom Park and Epcot.  Visiting Walt Disney World is lots of fun but can take a little more planning to ensure the best “bang for the buck”.  Planning is the key, so let’s look at a the process I use to help my clients enjoy their Walt Disney World vacation to the fullest.


Step 1 – Choose the dates for your vacation.  When should you visit WDW? The slowest time of the year “crowds wise” is without a doubt January and February.  March is not too bad but the spring break season begins about mid March and the parks are a little fuller.  We also enjoy going in September or October and first part of November.  The Christmas Holiday season is very busy starting in November and of course summer is also busy and it goes without saying is also hot, hot hot.  That is not to say that you should avoid those busy seasons because they each have something magical to offer, but just know that your planning will need to be much more aggressive if you go at one of these times.


Step 2 – Call a vacation planner who specializes in Disney vacations.  I know this sounds a little self-serving, but to be honest if you have never been to WDW or you have but it’s been a while, you will honestly save time and money by gaining some assistance.  Since the vendor pays a vacation planner and not the guest, guests can enjoy that benefit for free and gain back both time and money.  There are so many ways that Disney makes it easy for guests to enjoy their parks and resorts, but in order to learn about all the perks it takes a lot of time and energy.  Vacation planners help you to stay within your budget, decide on the kinds of activities that will enhance your experience and generally save you that time.  Additionally we keep track of your plans and if anything changes, like a new Disney promotion that could save you money, we let you know.  


Step 3 – Reserve a Disney resort.  I cannot stress this enough.  Whether you use a vacation planner or not, stay at a Disney resort.  Disney rewards those guest with benefits that non resort guests do not enjoy.  

  1. Early access to fast pass+ and Disney dining reservations – no matter what time of the year you go, being among the first to pick attractions/rides and dining options will give you back time in your schedule at the park.  You will ride the rides you love and eat where others cannot get in.  
  2. Extra Magic hours – the parks rotate their opening and closing hours, allowing for resort guests to stay late or come early.  That really thins out the crowd, especially in those busy seasons.
  3. Complimentary magic bands – If you stay at a Disney resort you get a free magic band for each party member.  Magic bands keep all guest info in one place allowing access to rooms and parks with just the band.
  4. Complimentary transportation around the parks and hotels and free parking for vehicles.
  5. You never leave the magic – when you leave the park you go to a resort that is Disney themed and is designed to keep the fun going after you leave the park.
  6. Disney offers complimentary transportation to and from the airport using the Magical Express.

The assumption made by most people is that staying at a resort is just too expensive, however Disney has a price point for all budgets.  I have done the math and looked around at all the comparable non Disney resorts in the area and Disney has done a good job of staying competitive, so there is really no reason not to consider a Disney resort.  


Step 4 – Determine how many days you will need park tickets and if you will need the park hopper option. The base ticket allows guests to go to one park per day.  Guests can come and go from that park on the same day, but will not be able to go to another park that day.  This is fine unless you plan to go to Magic Kingdom during the day and would like dinner at the World Showcase at Epcot.  For this guests can add the park hopper feature to their tickets.  The park hopper feature allows guests to come and go all day in and out of all the parks.  In this step it is a good idea to consider how you will spend your time at the parks.  It is much easier to know that before you are standing at the gate trying to decide.  


Step 5 – Determine if you wish to purchase a meal plan.  The Disney Dining plans are simply a way for you to prepay your meals, making your trip virtually all inclusive.  They offer a variety of choices from; 3 quick service meals a day, 1 quick service and one sit down and 3 full service sit-down meals per day.  We always the Disney Dining plan option which provides quick service and one table service meal a day.  That way we can plan one sit down, relaxing meal each day. The table service meals will require a gratuity at the time of service.  The meal plans are a personal choice.  I really don’t see a giant savings by not using the convenience of a meal plan, but it is all personal preference and I let my guests make that choice.


Step 6 – Determine if you need the Magical Express. If you are staying at a Disney Resort, this is a complimentary transportation service which is offered to those who fly into the area.  If you are driving it is not necessary.  However if guests are using it, they need to book it with Disney so they know guests are coming and can arrange for luggage pick up and delivery.  It is so nice to get off a plane and know that Disney is going to take care of the rest.  


Step 7 – Familiarize yourself with the “My Disney Experience” app/web page.  This is the magical way in which guests can aggregate all of their plans into one place and keep everyone on the same page.  I always help my clients set this up, because it makes life so much easier.  Your schedule from room reservations, to fast passes and dining reservations are laid out for everyone to see each day.  It all connects to your magic band and you are set for the trip.  Guests can even add a credit card to the account and never carry a credit card during vacation.  


Step 8 – Have fun! Of course this goes without saying.  If you take the time to do a little leg work before your trip, you will find everything will go like clock work.

Epcot entrance

Disney really has done a lot to give families the opportunity to make memories.  If your family is like mine, these memories will bring you all together and keep the magic going for generations.

If you are considering taking a Disney Destination, considering contacting me early in the process.  I can pull some preliminary prices and help you plan your budget for your vacation. Everyone can enjoy a Disney vacation with just a little planning and a little bit of pixie dust.  

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