No, I am not a pro-planner when it comes to visiting the happiest place on Earth, though after working on this big family vacation for more than a year, I feel like I should pass on some helpful things we've learned throughout the process... hoping this can help some of you when you decide to head to Disney World with your pirates and princesses, too!
The first and most important piece of advice: I'm telling you, if you want a less-stress vacation, then please solicit the help of a certified Disney travel agent... they know what they are doing, set you up with anything and everything you need to know beforehand, and act as your liaison to everything Disney so that you get exactly what you're looking for from your trip. And did I mention?!?! They are absolutely free to use so you'd be crazy not to.
For anyone planning to travel to Disney, I can't say enough great things about Sarah [AKA I'm Your Fairy Godmother]. She has been with us since the beginning, walking us through the entire pre-planning process and I would highly recommend her as she is an avid Disney fanatic and knows the ins and outs of the most magical place on Earth. I think she's probably pumped for our trip as much as we are, because she is going the exact same week AND that she won't get emails from Mimi and I constantly anymore... haha.
P.S. If you're a total Type A/Planner like me, save your sanity and work with her upfront... you can thank me later!
TWO. Start Planning Early
I'm sure some people think we are crazy, as we began planning our Disney trip last August, but I knew there were certain attractions and such that we wanted to book and I had researched enough to know they had to be made early. For us, this allowed us to have a few conference calls with Sarah to ask questions, determine the best type of hotel for our family and our needs, and get the full Disney experience. She can recommend different hotel price points and resorts, time of year to travel, must-sees depending on the age of your children, etc so write down your questions and don't be afraid to ask! Starting early also helped us know how much we needed to budget for our trip and save accordingly [and then go above that --oops, sorry Jeff].
Depending on your family, kids ages, interests, etc, you may have certain things that are must do's or you may know of specific attractions/rides/meals you're not as interested in. From the beginning, our number one to-do was the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique [shocking, right?!?!]. We saw that you could book this beauty day 180 days before our trip, so we let Sarah know in advance the package we wanted for Caroline and Carson, and Mimi and I mapped out the days of our vacation so we knew what parks we would visit each day of the trip. I'm not going to lie, it was a bit tedious and time-consuming because we wanted to make sure we were able to go to each park, eat at specific restaurants on certain days, and I'm almost positive most aren't as picky as we are, but that's us and it helped us stay organized! And yes, I am happy to pass on our planning documents for anyone needing to start getting their ideas in motion.
Four. Plan Accordingly for Outfits, Goodies & Trip Necessities
Just last week, Mimi and I were going through our packing lists for the girls and she told me I didn't have enough outfits for the girls... cute the horror!! I know, it wasn't THAT big of a deal, but of course we immediately got to working with some of my favorite small businesses to get a few last minute necessities and now we are good to go...thanks to some quick fingers, chats on the phone, and priority shipping. My best advice for this is to search Pinterest for Disney packing lists and things you may need so you can scout them out early on and have a running tally for all the things to bring along.
FIVE. Remember, Something Will Go Wrong
I'm convinced this last piece of advice is for me more than anyone else, but as we are in the final countdown to Disney [only 5 days to go], I have to remind myself that at some point throughout our trip, even our best laid plans will go awry and something unexpected will happen... and you know what, I am totally OK with that. To be honest, the only thing that matters is that we are going to enjoy this special time in our girls' lives with each other and make it one heck of a trip to remember. And that's the definition of perfect to me.
Cheers friends!! I promise to be back with more Disney round-up posts, including a packing check-list, a full feature dedicated to my favorite shops I worked with for all our outfits and goodies, and then once we are back home, a few [or more] posts specifically devoted to our Disney vacation. OXOX