Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's a good thing we're pretty...

For those of you who are new to my blog, I'm going to Disney in less than three weeks. I've been dieting like a fiend to avoid being the fat sister, I've been training on the treadmill, I have been planning and plotting all of the ways to have a great vacation. This trip will include myself (duh!), my sister, my mom, my aunt, and my cousin. My sister and I even have a 'safe word' that we will use should we need to get away from all of the family togetherness.

Code word: cantaloupe

I am a seasoned Disney traveler. I have all of the guide books, I'm even published in one. I am on numerous Disney-related e-groups and get as much up-to-the-minute park news that I can. I help other people plan their vacations. Here are my top tips to plan a perfect Disney vacation:

- Go in the off season: I know this is hard for most people but believe me, it is well worth it. The first two weeks of December are awesome because all of the parks are decorated for Christmas. The crowds are cut in half in the off season.
- Read some 'unofficial' Disney guides: My favorite is actually called "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World". I am quoted in this book but besides that perk, they are brutally honest in describing how long the lines can get and whether it is even worth your time to go on some of the attractions.
- Plan, plan, plan: You cannot go on a Disney trip as a spur of the moment type of thing. You need to research what there is to do in advance and decide - as a family - what you are going to do. Because there is so much to do, there is no way to do it all and if you spend most of your trip going "what do you want to do now?" You'll miss out on a lot.
- Go with the meal plan: Disney actually offers free dining quiet often and this is a must do if you can get it. On the plan each person in your group gets one counter service meal, one table service meal and one snack per NIGHT of your trip. Trust me when I say it is a LOT of food. If you don't get free dining, it is still worth it to purchase the meal plan because you will still save a lot of money.
- Make Advanced Dining Plans: I cannot stress this one enough because most of the 'must see' sit down restaurants get booked 6 months in advance. So if you think you are going to just show up at the Magic Kingdom and just walk in to Cinderella's Castle and eat...YOU'RE WRONG!!! We had two sets of friends plan their trips (without much notice) and seriously thought that they were going to get in to some of the high-demand places. Needless to say they were seriously disappointed.
- Stay on property: You know, you can find hotels a LOT cheaper off Disney property, but believe me when I say that some of them are quite scary. We spent one night in an off-site hotel that I still feel I need to shower from - and that was in 2002! On Disney property, you can stay in a value resort for as low as $79 a night for a family of four and $129 a night at a moderate if you have 5 in your party. It is so worth the extra money because you never have to drive! You take buses to and from your hotel to the parks and it makes it so much easier to go back to the hotel at some point during the day if you want to nap or take a swim. And let me tell you, no one does hotel theming like Disney. They are amazing to just tour! And most of their pools are just outrageous.
- Fly in to Orlando (if you can): There is this great service called the Magical Express that you can get (free of charge) when you book a Disney vacation. This wonderful service gives you special tags that you put on to your luggage and then when you check your bags and fly in to Orlando, Disney fairies pick it up for you and deliver it to your room! But wait, that's not all, there is a magical bus that is air conditioned and wonderful that picks you up at the airport (after you've skipped baggage claim) and takes you directly to your hotel while showing you a short movie about all that you can experience while in 'the world'. How cool is that?

So you see, I do know what I am talking about. I've gone down to WDW 10 times since 1976 - seven of those times I've been the one responsible for the planning. I've planned for my own little family (when we had just one child and then again with two), I've planned a family reunion where there was 15 of us, and I've planned trips for just me and my sister. I am familiar with the planning process.

So where is this all leading, you ask? Well, this upcoming trip was planned back in January. We got a great deal - 40% off room rates. We coordinated 5 different lives and schedules and were all set. We planned where we wanted to eat to please everyone's palettes. We coordinated air travel so that we arrive in Orlando (from separate locations) within 20 minutes of each other. Do you know what we forgot?


(somebody slap me)

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