First Things First
First point of call for us was deciding which parks to visit and where to stay. With some very helpful advice from friends and then the travel agent, we settled on 14 day flex tickets with an on site hotel Caribbean Beach Resort to include a quick service meal plan. We booked this nine months before our holiday was to take place. At the same time the flights were booked, and despite a preference for flying with Virgin, the cost was a lot higher than booking with BA. Flight costs will depend on when you’re flying and even the day of the week to fly. Keep your eye out for the best possible price.
Doing Your Research
Back at home and the excitement building, it was difficult to focus on anything apart from browsing the internet for rides, views of the hotel etc, but quickly we searched for a good deal on insurance. We got this quickly so we would be covered from the date we purchased the insurance, rather than waiting until nearer the time of the holiday.
Since planning our first trip, I have been compiling a huge list of Walt Disney World Planning, research and review posts.
My Disney Experience
Disney have a great website called My Disney Experience. On this site you can create an account to sync all your planning and itinerary together in one place. This has been a valuable tool to be able to plan our holiday and book Fastpasses.
Eating And Drinking
Character meals can be booked 180 days in advance. I would strongly suggest you work this date out if you are planning on a meal with the princesses or other characters. They are a little pricey, but you’re paying for the experience as well as the food. We booked ours on the 180th day so 7yo can have lunch with Cinderella in her castle. I have checked in the past few months and there are no times left for during our stay for a meal with Cinderella, so I’m glad I was organised about it. The more popular restaurant Be Our Guest also requires an advanced reservation.
FastPass+ allows you to book rides 60 days in advance of you travelling when staying in a Disney Resort (30 days if staying offsite). My Disney Experience will give you a clever countdown to let you know when this may happen. We have found it a good idea to have a rough idea of what we would like to do in each park. Everyone will want to go on different rides, and see different attractions, so it’s a good idea to have plenty of conversations about it prior to booking. The good thing about FastPass+ is that everything can be changed and amended (even on the day).
Recording Your Memories
Memory Maker is a package which allows you to store all photos taken by Disney photographers in the parks and syncs them to your Magic Band (room key / park entrance etc). All photos are taken for free and synced to your account which you can then view immediately or back home, download and print off at your leisure.
Booking Allocated Plane Seats
Do you want specific seats? Do you need them? Only you as a family will be able to answer that, but it may be something to think about. We recently managed to sit in the upper deck on the Virgin 747 otherwise known as the bubble. Without booking our seats in high season these wouldn’t have been available upon check in.
Esta – (Electronic System for Travel Authorization)
If you’re travelling from the UK, you will need this before you land in America. It costs around £14 per person and can take up to 72 hours to be authorised. Get it early and then it’s done. It also lasts for two years or until you get a new passport whichever is sooner. I have heard horror stories that some websites charge a lot of money, but if you go to the authorised Esta website you’ll be fine.
How will you take money? Cash dollars? Travelers Cheques? Credit Cards? There are so many options available so work out the best one for you and your family. We take a credit card with no overseas fees and a small amount of cash for tips etc.
Will you need to leave your car at the airport? If you will, search for a good deal and book it early. Leaving it until the last-minute can cost more. We found it was quite stressful to travel the two hour journey to the airport on the day of our flight. We now travel the day before and book a hotel with parking package.
You can see how all of the above can spiral out of control in terms of costs if you’re not careful. I have learnt very quickly that we need to be very organised about the planning side to be able to enjoy the holiday when we get there. I have compiled a list of items you should buy before you go to Walt Disney World.
What have I missed from this list? Anything I should know?
Once we’re on the plane, I have plenty of ideas on how to keep 7yo busy.