Friday, 27 July 2012

Planning your Disney Vacation

To plan or not to plan that is the question!

source: Orange County Archives

When we book a Walt Disney world holiday, we have to plan just a little. Dates, accommodation, dining reservations, special events etc, we cannot really escape planning the details that put our trip together (and would we want to?)!

What I want to talk about is itineraries! When you plan your Disney trip, do you create an itinerary? Is it set in stone, every minute of every hour planned out to maximize your time in the parks? Or, is it a little looser? A dining reservation over here, maybe one or two must do extra magic hours? I have to admit, when I first started travelling to Walt Disney World over 10 years ago, our itineraries where set like cement! Though we never went as far as pencilling in the toilets breaks, we had every day planned from start to finish. These days, things are much more ‘free spirited’ but we still can’t help putting an itinerary together.

All this being said, when I travelled to Orlando this year, June 2012, I actually didn’t go with an itinerary. I wanted to know if it could be done, if I really could give myself complete freedom each day to step out of my hotel and go wherever my feet may take me, I went with park times in one hand and only two days specifically reserved for Busch Gardens (we had to book the transport pre-trip).

The results where mixed.

I know many people who do not travel with itineraries, they just get up and go and always seem to have an amazing time (it’s hard not to enjoy yourself out there though isn’t it?) and their reports always make it sound like they had it so easy every day. It felt far from easy. I actually felt lost without my precious itinerary! As decisive as I can be by partner is equally indecisive and it doesn’t make a simple decision as ‘which park shall we go to today?’ any easier. I started to panic that we might spend too much time in one place, not enough time in another etc, even when it came to dining with no firm ideas we ended up in the same place quite a few nights (not that I’m complaining, it was delicious). It meant that when we finally switched to a thrown together plan (I’ll get to that next) we finally got to eat at the new places we’d wanted to try but too late in the holiday to go more than once!

I have a wide variety of Disney planning tools that I use when planning a Disney vacation and each one of these help me piece together my holiday. A variety of dining reservations can be put together after browsing through menus, touring plans that give me an idea of which parks to avoid on what days, and as much as I have learnt from experience over the last 10 years, I still find tons of helpful advice and new ideas on the forums. My days feel much easier when I have a plan set in front of me. It’s not as set in stone as it used to be, but just having it there takes away, some stress.

By the 5th day of our trip, I grabbed my park hours and started putting something together. I pulled out a map of International Drive, looked up reviews and menus online, and started making notes of places we wanted to eat and slowly started putting them next to a particular day.

It all sounds a little OCD now I’m reading this post back but it really did make such a difference. Having it all set out and ready meant we knew the night before were we where off to the next day! What time we had to be up and out for opening and could look forward to where we were going that night without spending 2 hours wondering about where to go eat, only to settle for the same place again.

I always feel as though I do and see more when I have a plan. That first trip back in 2002 was planned like a military operation, we didn’t stop from start to finish and it was an amazing trip, but looking back now, everything was so precise that we missed out on a lot. There is such thing as over planning and we’re careful now not to let our plans take control of our freedom. Maybe I should stop calling them plans altogether and start calling them ‘guidelines’? Dining reservations can be moved around during the quieter seasons and if you wake up one more morning and fancy going to Hollywood Studios instead of Epcot then do that!

Are your Disney travel plans set in stone or are you a free wanderer hopping on the first but that pulls up each morning?

Until next time,

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