So, as I’ve noted in my about page everywhere, we’ve been planning our upcoming WDW trip ever since our son was born. I’ve been to WDW a few times with my parents (once with my wife and parents), and my wife used to go every year as a cheerleading coach, so we have a decent feel for it, but I like to delve into travel plans, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading reviews and tips, watching videos, and crunching numbers to try and get everything just right. I thought I’d write this post to give you an idea of some of the things we’ve considered in locking down our plans for our reservation.
First off, this is what we’re calling our “all-in” trip. For us, that means we’re trying to knock out as many quintessential must-do Disney World things as we can in one trip, so that future visits don’t have to be so inclusive. Thus, if our plans exceed your personal budget or thoughts, don’t worry. There’s a WDW plan of attack for everyone and on a lot of budgets.
One of the first things to consider is “When can we go?”. For us, we ended up with a 1-week window to work in. I’ve only ever been in the summer, and it’s always ridiculously humid and crowded. My wife used to go for Cheerleading competitions in the fall, and really liked the weather and crowds for that time of the year, so while her teaching schedule doesn’t work for the fall, we found a week in the Spring that we should be able to go. If you want to find a less crowded time of the year (the park is pretty much always somewhat crowded at this point in time), TouringPlans.com posts crowd calendars and I think weather estimates, so you can get a feel for how your dates are going to look. I know that when I was looking at dates, going in the summer was 50% more crowded than going the week we ultimately chose.
The next important things to consider are where your priorities are. Our son will be 5 years old when we go to Disney. He’s a pretty chill kid, but even so, he’s probably not going to have the best temperament if you try to drag him around a park all day. Therefore, one of our priorities is to make sure we can build in several hours of rest time back at the hotel to nap or swim or do something aside from being dragged around a crowded park all day. To this end, we decided to prioritize a resort on the Monorail, as these resorts are fairly convenient to Epcot and Magic Kingdom (and with the new Express Transportation option in the parks, pretty convenient to any of the parks at mid-day).
You also have to consider the makeup of your party. We have our son, who’ll be 5, and we may also have my brother and sister in law, with their daughter, age 6, and son, age 9. With all the kiddos in tow, we know we’re going to want to do a lot of the age-appropriate rides and get in some character meals. The character meals keep your kids from getting bored at a meal time and allow you to skip waiting in line for pics and autographs from your favorite characters in the park. We decided since a lot of these character meals best fit at breakfast time and using a table service credit for breakfast is not exactly the best value, we decided to go with a Deluxe Dining Plan, so we can have the extra meal credits to use on nice dinners and show packages to get the value out of our plan. Once we knock out some of these experiences, we can go out of pocket or on a more traditional dining plan on future trips. The makeup of your party also helps determine how many days you need to devote to each park. With kids in your party, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to want to devote 2 days to the Magic Kingdom, you might can cut back on Epcot (a lot of attractions more catered to adults, and won’t keep kids’ attention). Depending on your kids, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studio can be anywhere from a half day to a day and half (or 2 if you want to spend a lot of time exploring Animal Kingdom). If you’re in an adult only group, you’ll probably spend more time at Epcot, and maybe enjoy more of the shows and music at Animal Kingdom, or spend a good amount of time at Disney Springs.
All in all, we’ve targeted 7 nights at the Contemporary or Polynesian with a Deluxe Dining Plan and Memory Maker and 6-day park hoppers. I crunched a lot of numbers in the process, but generally didn’t do it across the board for a lot of things, so I’ll try to spend some time doing that, so I can give you rankings based on specific data points, like the ones I used in planning our trip. Good luck in your planning, and feel free to send me any questions you might have.