So you want to go to Disney…Now what??

Planning a Disney trip can certainly seem overwhelming.  You may think “I’ll talk to Trixie she loves Disney” or “I’ll watch YouTube videos then I’ll know what to do.”  Look out my friends…Disney planning can get really overwhelming, really fast.  You can certainly feel like you have fallen down the rabbit hole and landed in Alice’s troublesome Wonderland. 

Well, if you’re trying to plan and currently having that Wonderland feeling, I am here to help you out.  Here are 5 basic questions to get your Disney planning started.

  • When will you go?

Here are some factors to consider for the timing of your trip.

KIDS – Since this blog is called Mousin’ with MAMA, I’ll start with are you taking kids?  If you are traveling to Disney with kids, you may want to factor in school or sports schedules.  Just beware…school breaks = big Disney crowds! 

WEATHER – Take a minute to think about how crazy the Florida heat is and how that will impact your group.  If heat is not your thing, consider going in the winter months.  Another weather factor is hurricane season.  Hurricane season for Florida is Aug through Nov so if you don’t want to have to worry about a hurricane ruining your trip, avoid these months.

CROWD LEVELS – Right now it seems like crowds are consistently high. There are crowd predictor calendars available although most frequent Disney goers will tell you they just aren’t as valid as they were pre-pandemic. Your highest crowds are going to be Thanksgiving week, the week between Christmas and New Years, spring break and summer vacation season.

Hollywood Studios all decked out for the holidays

SPECIAL EVENTS – Do you want a special event to be a part of your trip?  Are you hoping to attend a special holiday or after hours event?  If so, this event will determine the dates for your trip.  Keep in mind if you want to attend a holiday event like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party these are offered at least a month before the actual holiday and the events further away from the holiday may cost less and be less crowded.

  • How long will you stay?

When considering how long you want your trip to be, start with what your family will enjoy?  For my crew our ideal trip is 5 or 6 days.  The 5 – 6 day trip allows a day for each park and a rest or Disney Springs day. A supporting piece of how long you want your trip to be is how many park days you want to do. Do you want to go to all 4 parks? How many rest days does your family need? When my boys were smaller, rest time was much more important. Now they have far more endurance than I do and rest days aren’t something that factor into our trips very much. Other factors affecting the length of your trip will be how much time you are able to take off from work and of course, what your budget is.

  • Where will you stay?

Should you choose an on-property or off-property hotel?

Staying on-property means that you will be staying at a resort on Disney property. Off-property refers to staying in a local, non-Disney hotel or a vacation rental.

Off-property – There are tons of hotels in Orlando to choose from. True confession – my family almost always stay off property. You can usually save a lot of money staying off property. We also usually drive to Disney which means we don’t need to rely on Disney transportation. I would say that is a key factor in staying off property. If you aren’t driving but want to stay off property, I would strongly recommend renting a car.

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a stunning Disney deluxe resort

On-property – Disney resorts are separated into three categories, value, moderate, or deluxe. Staying at a Disney resort does bring you several perks that you will need to consider if they are worth the money for your crew. Some of the perks available are extra park time, free transportation to the parks, making purchases with your Magicband, Disney magic and ease of returning to your room for those mid-day breaks.

  • To Park Hop or not to Park Hop

Park hopper tickets allow you to change parks during the day.  Standard park tickets will only allow you to enter one park per day.  Here are a few things to consider when deciding which ticket type is right for your crew.

What pace do you want to go at?

Do you want more flexibility during your visit?

How long is your trip?

A standard (non-hopper) ticket will allow you to move at a little easier pace and doesn’t bring the distraction of thinking about other parks.  Disney is complicated. There really isn’t any sugar-coated way to put this. You will have lots of decisions and plans to make and eliminating park hopping is one way to simplify your planning. Standard tickets will also save you around $65 per person, per day.

What you gain with the Park Hopper ticket is flexibility.  If you want to be able to move between parks in one day, you will need the park hopper ticket.  Another advantage of the hopper ticket is that if you have a shorter trip, you can cover more parks in less time. Many people think that Epcot and Animal Kingdom are both half day parks and may like to put those 2 together. Of note – currently you can only park hop after 2 p.m. and you have to have entered in to your park reservation park before you can hop to another park.

My crew currently seems to be in a little transition period as far a park hopping goes. We used to always get Park Hoppers and loved having the ability to do things like spend the first part of our day at Magic Kingdom and then hop over to Epcot to eat at all of the festival booths for dinner. Now though we’ve found that we enjoy our days more if we just chill a little, take in some of the smaller park features we might have ignored before and give each park its own day.

  • Where will you eat?
Chefs de France in Epcot’s World Showcase

You could truly make yourself crazy with just this one category.  There are SO many options, locations, types etc… I’m going try to keep this piece as simple as possible.

Are there any must try restaurants for your family?  I strongly recommend keeping this list to just a few.  Talk about this with the crew you’ll be traveling with.  Maybe let each person pick one place.  When you are planning, remember this – the more plans and reservations you make, the more you are tied to.  This frequently means the more stressful your trip will be.  The flipside of Disney having SO many food options, which can seem overwhelming, is that there will always be somewhere you can find food you might just have to compromise a little bit.

Well, hopefully you have found this list helpful and you feel ready to start planning.  Remember, above ALL else your trip and planning should be FUN!!

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