(This post on Disney World vacation planning is the first in a series of topics about Disney – we plan to cover the 4 parks, hotels, rides, FastPass system, shows, character meetups, packing, dining, crowds and more. Please comment if there’s something about Disney or Disney planning you’d like to see us cover!)
Several years ago, my children were old enough to be out of diapers and still young enough to be obsessed with all things Disney (are you ever too old for Disney?). My Facebook feed seemed to be dominated with friends going to Disney World and meeting characters, riding rides and taking perfect pictures in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
This seemed like the perfect vacation for our family. We were coming off a week in Destin that, while lovely, still wasn’t quite the speed for our busy family. I thought about my boys and their love for “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”, Winnie the Pooh and even the inescapable “Frozen”-mania. So, I started researching how to book a Disney vacation.
It took all of 5 minutes before I closed that browser window and decided we’d just never go to Disney World – it wasn’t in the cards for our family. The stress of understanding the FastPass system alone was more than I wanted to deal with. I made some kind of sassy remark on Facebook about it, and a friend quickly responded that I didn’t have to worry about any of that. The key to having an amazing first-time experience at Disney World is to use a (FREE!) Authorized Disney Vacation Planner!
What is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (ADVP)? The best description I can find is this one on one of my favorite websites about planning a Disney trip. The key here is that they are a lot like a travel agent, except they are Disney-trained and focused. Best of all, they are FREE to you! They are a wealth of knowledge and handle however many details you want them to handle – they will handle booking your entire trip, or just answering a few questions.
As first-timers, I called my friend’s recommended ADVP and she immediately began sending me recommended dates, hotels, restaurants and itineraries. She had special extra ideas for the boys in mind, and knew exactly the rides we should try because, and this is key, you’ll never be able to do everything in one trip.
I enjoyed our trip so much more because I had someone else do the planning for me. I asked questions as we went along, told her the characters that we just HAD to meet and she made it happen. I cannot recommend an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner enough. I am, of course am partial to mine, but Google ADVP and you’ll find scores of options to provide you with an amazing experience.
Other keys to starting your Disney plans as a first-timer:
- Go download the My Disney Experience App today – you’ll spend more time on this than any social media app once you decide a Disney vacation is in your future!
- A trip to Disney takes planning – especially a first trip. Those who have been there many times could easily make a last-minute trip work because they know their favorites, but first-timers need to make a plan, and that takes months. To get reservations at the most popular restaurants (think Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Castle, Be Our Guest in Beast’s Castle, and fan favorite O’Hana) you must book at the 180-day mark. Otherwise, you’ll spend months stalking the app, hoping for cancellations.
- As tempting as it may be to save some money and stay off-property, staying on property at one of Disney’s many resorts eliminates a lot of headaches. There are advantages to both that we’ll explore in a future article, but I’d recommend exploring the opportunity to stay on-property. From value to moderate to deluxe options, Disney resorts give you many benefits, not the least of which is Disney transportation and earlier opportunities to book FastPasses.
- Is your spouse or partner hesitant to make the trip? It’s OK! If they haven’t been there before, ask them to approach it with an open mind. My husband just didn’t get the hype and, dare I say, even dreaded the trip before we made it. We’ve gone 4 times since that original trip and he’s hooked! If they still don’t love the idea, here are some great suggestions for surviving.
- My favorite tip for first-timers is to start your trip at Magic Kingdom. Planning a trip to Disney, even with a Planner helping you, takes months and it can be stressful getting there. Stepping into any of the parks is magical but none more so than Magic Kingdom with the castle that you’ve pictured and dreamed about for so long.
Believe the hype – Disney is great, and don’t be afraid to get help in planning your trip. It makes it so much more enjoyable to have someone else stressing about the details and getting everything right so you can sit back and soak in the magic!
Want to pin these ideas for later?