Five Things To Do Before Your First or Fiftieth Disney Vacation

Congratulations, you have just booked your first (or fifitieth!) Disney vacation! But, now what? You’ve figured out your hotel, your flight, and booked an amazing package with tickets included. Nothing left to worry about, right?

That’s not quite true. Most people think that’s the end of vacation planning, but it’s not, at least where Disney is concerned. A decent plan in place could vastly improve your Disney vacation.

First and foremost, follow a reputable Disney Blog. You’re already here at Chip & Co. though so I won’t include that on my list.

  1. Read a guide book. Most people recommend The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (for the most comprehensive look at the resort) or The Passporter (the most fun and personalized). I don’t have an opinion either way, except that buying one, or checking one out from the library, is a good idea for planning a stress free vacation.
  2. Sit with your family and decide if you want to do any Character Dining or Signature Dining. If you do, decide and book those 180 days prior to your arrival date. Some of the restaurants book up fast, so it’s important that you do this early in your vacation planning.
  3. Figure out what attractions that are “Must-Do’s” for you and your family. Walt Disney World is a huge place. Not many people realize just how huge it is until they arrive. Most people cannot accomplish it all in one vacation. Spend time looking over the attractions, you can even view them on YouTube, to pick the ones that you really want to experience the most. Some rides, such as Soarin’ and Toy Story Midway Mania can have upwards of 3 hours projected wait time during peak crowds. If those are attractions that intrigue you, hit them first! On the other hand, if you’re nostalgic and want to be sure to experience The Carousel of Progress or The Great Movie Ride, these don’t typically have long wait times so you could visit them just about any time.  If you use Chip’s touring plans, he goes over all of this park-by-park.
  4. Create an itinerary.  I know not everyone likes to plan their days on vacation like I do, however, I do find it’s important to discuss and decide tentatively whether you will participate in any Extra Magic Hours or arrive at Rope Drop and how a crowd calendar prediction will affect your desired park each day. When I create my personal itineraries, I pick a park per day based on projected crowd levels. I aim for the lower or middle graded park unless I’m participating in an EMH park. This works great for us, most of the time. There are flukes, days where the lowest rated park will have an insane amount of Guests. We just roll with it. With a good touring plan (like Chip’s), you can still hit all the headliners and have time to people watch.
  5. “Soft” Pack your luggage. We begin a few weeks before our departure date packing the non-essential items we’ll need on vacation like extra socks, zip-lock bags, paper towel rolls etc. This not only minimizes the chance we’ll forget something, but it also gives us time to pack the things we would have forgotten about otherwise.

This list is a good start for planning a Disney vacation, but it’s not comprehensive by any means. I’m a planning nerd and will spend an insane amount of energy planning a Disney vacation by looking through menus, contemplating what each person in our family would order, torturing each of us with countless photos of all the yummy goodness available until we’re all feeling so starved that our tummies are begging for a bite of what’s on the screen. And that’s just on step two. I try to not drive my family insane with the planning, so I also create Disney Mix-tapes and implement a family movie night with Disney movies as our countdown. They don’t mind me so much then, or well, at least they tolerate me. Mostly.

Also Chip recommends if you are a Disney Foodie try out his 100 Disney Foods to Eat Before you Die Challenge or 100 Disney VEGETARIAN Foods to Eat Before you Die Challenge. Let us know how many you have tried!

Anyhow, even if you’re the spontaneous type, these five steps could greatly improve your Disney vacation. By preparing a little ahead of time, you can reduce the amount of time you spend saying “what do you want to do next”. Instead you’ll already have a good idea and not waste precious (and expensive!) vacation time.

What is your booking ritual? Do you completely wing it or are you a planner like me?

Lisa writes here at Chip & Co. as well as her blog Adventures in Mousedom. As a local to Disney World, she offers a different insight into visiting the parks. If you’re super cool like Chip, you should check it out. Okay, even if you’re not super cool like Chip, you should check it out. Trust me. What’s could go wrong?

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Lisa is a homeschooling mom who is a local to Disney World. She loves to share her unique perspective on visiting Disney World.
  • Aaron Slutsky

    Buy ponchos from the dollar store.

  • Myria Johnson

    More of a winger, I suppose. The biggest plans my family makes is “Tomorrow we are going to X Park”. Usually Epcot. And then someone gets a hankering to ride The Jungle Cruise (usually me) so we split up and tromp on over to MK. One time a group of us went to MK and rode 4 rides and returned to Epcot all while the rest of our party stood in line at Toy Story Mania.

  • Marcia Hewey

    I hadn’t thought about checking a guidebook out of the library. Thanks for the tip.