Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Favorite Disney Park planning resources - Part 1

"Elliot" in the Main Street
Electrical Parade - Nov. 2010
Every year it seems family and friends ask me for help on their Disney trips, and I really do not mind. However, if they -or you- are like me, planning makes it all the more fun. So instead of having me do all of the work I typically start out by pointing them in the direction of some free - or nearly so - resources that will help in the planning.

Not sure how many actually use the resources, but I assure you that they are a must use. They will give you a better perspective of what you can accomplish no matter what time you go. I cannot imagine doing a Disney trip without at least a bare minimum of planning - especially a Disney WORLD (you know, that park in Florida) trip. Disney is more than just a theme park, it's an interactive entertainment experience. From the time you enter a parking lot you are already immersed into the experience, and it just grows as you walk up to the entrance and make your way into the parks.

So, how do I keep from having a major headache, and a family or friend away from the mega meltdown I've witnessed? I'll be honest, I've been there - twice - even after the planning. I guess what I'm saying is, plan for the inevitable. Families and friends irritate each other. Add in the crowds and something "going wrong" or not meeting up to expectations and it'll happen. Especially in the heat. So, nothing is fool proof, not even the plans that some of these sites give.

First, and this is a no brainer, go to DisneyParks.com. There are tools that are helpful to your trip planning. I hit these sites first to do a number of things. The first stop is ordering the FREE (see, they do give SOME things for NOTHING) vacation planning DVD. These change every year or so and give you a look on the top attractions, coming additions to the parks, and a great overview. Mind you, this is a biased outlook where every bit of magic is available to all. If you're travelling with kids - or family - this is a great resource because it builds the excitement AND gives you a great jumping off point to discuss what each member of the travel party's must dos are.

Once you have the dvd ordered, go to the specific destination/vacation you want to plan. DisneyParks is only the jumping off point. Disney Cruiseline, Adventures by Disney, Disney's Aulani Resort (Hawaii), as well as each park destination are represented on this site. You can price a vacation package, bone up on the options, see what promotions they are offering (discounts!), and if you're headed for a park you can look up the schedules for the park(s) to being planning your daily itinerary.

Once you've decided where you're going, and you've gotten that free planning video, now it's time to get a more unbiased assessment of your trip. There are tons of sites for Disney World (you know, that park in Florida) but not as many for Disney's other destinations. Most are footnotes to a Disney World site. That's fine, Disney World is - by far - the biggest of all their destinations. Just be aware when you click on a link as to what it refers to. All of the parks have things in common other than a Disney name and the characters.

One of the things I swear by is my fake-leather bound Passporter Guide - especially when I am headed to Disney World (you know, that park in Florida). Not only is it probably the most uptodate and comprehensive - in English you can understand and full of technicolor goodness - book on the market. This is NOT a Disney authorized guide. It is a well researched book and a new edition comes out every year (for that park in florida, the other parks don't need to be updated as often).

Even if you don't purchase the book, join their message boards. It's free for everyone to use and you can learn so much. This is my main haunt online for Disney information. News is broken here before many news outlets report on happenings at the park. It also links to other great resources. There are Disney expert travel agents as well as folks that live near, work in, or visit the parks regularly. It's a bank of knowledge that is friendly, and open. People don't mind answering the same question over and over again (and believe me that does happen, so don't feel bad if you're a "repeat offender" ha ha).

The board is well organized by parks, and even has sections for travelling to other parks/attractions in the general area (for example: the Walt Disney World section also has a board for Universal Studios Orlando and Sea World). Again, people are friendly, and it can easily become addicting. Once your trip is over be sure to stay on the board and share your experience in the trip report section. Impart wisdom to others. It's a great community - and if you do join stop by and say "Hi!" I'm Tonichelle on there.

Part 2 to come soon!

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