Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Favorite Disney Park planning resources - Part 2

Click here for Part 1.
Dumbo Ride, Disneyland 2011
So you've gotten the hang of it by now, you're ready to take the next step and book your trip. This is where it gets tricky. You have your Passporter to write plans down in (use pencil!), but wait! Don't just rush and pick those dates that look the less crowded. Did you make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck? Switch dates sometimes means less money and more fun for you and your fellow travellers - and they aren't during busy seasons!

This is where comes in. It's a travel agency site (that's been trained and approved by The Mouse), but it's also so much more than that. It actually keeps travellers and potential travellers up-to-date with all of the latest and greatest promotions. If you're not going through a travel agent this is where you have to be pro-active.

Disney doesn't just automatically put you into whatever promotion that might come out after you book - you do. As long as you're more than 45 days out you're not penalized for making travel changes to your package. This is how two years ago we ended up with FREE DINING for most of our stay, and three years ago (this month actually) we ended up with a moderate resort for the same price as a value! INSANE! And these are DISNEY promotions! Once you book, watch for the deals. If one becomes available call down to Disney. The guy on the other end of the phone will help you get into the promotion if they can. You may have to break up your reservations into two seperate - but linked - packages, but it is SO WORTH IT! (again this is if you book an entire package through Disney.)

Now, you're booked to go, so what are you going to do when you get there. You want to be spontaneous, but there are so many options - especially for Walt Disney World - to fill up your time. Where do you begin? Well, aside from the great reviews in your Passporter, try these on for size (and remember these are more for park destinations!).

My next stop is either purchasing The Unofficial Guide to *your destination here* it's a book that comes out every year and is even more critical than Passporter. They often get a bad wrap for being anti-Disney. They aren't, they are just more of a "worst case scenario" as far as prices and crowd count. They take a very critical look about Disney but are Disney enthusiasts themselves.

Another great feature with the Unofficial Guides it that they have a partner website, This is a paid site, but what's really cool is that if you purchase one of the guide books you can get your subscription at a discounted rate! They are also completely mobile with a great phone app (yes, I am a subscriber, and yes I play with their app even when I'm not anywhere near the parks!). The two best features are their crowd calculators, which gives you an idea of how crowded any day of the year will be, and their wait times. The wait times are accurate and update more often than the Disney waittimes (and are probably even a little more accurate than Disney).

Once you've got an idea of where you're going to be and when, it's time to decide where you're going to eat. This is especially important for Walt Disney World as you want to book your dining reservations as soon as you're able to (180 days if you're staying on property for WDW, 60 days if you're going to Disneyland - on property or off). The best place for that is They have the menus for every eatery - sit down, counter, and snack! - and they keep them as up to date as possible. There are sections for reviews (though if you want current reviews, ask on, and it also gives you the prices.

  • Quick Tip: The one thing you have to do is BUDGET, and I always round up by at least five dollars per. Figure in tip, and tax, and so it's always better to budget more and save than budget less and come up short towards the end of your trip. The money that you don't end up spending on food you can put towards more souvenier's or, like I do, the next Disney trip!
I must warn you, however, that this site will get you hungry. Just the thought of all of these amazing foods is enough to get my mouth watering. There is nothing like Disney Dining. If you're going to Disney World all I can say is GET THE DINING PLAN (this requires you stay on property). It is so worth it. We were able to eat at places we never could afford without it. AllEars - and, really passporter - have a great way of explaning the program and how to best use it. That in and of itself is another blog entirely. Ha ha!

Speaking of mouth watering, a great site for reviews on the food experiences at Disney is the Disney Food Blog. Whenever I have a hard time deciding where to eat, or if I'm not quite sure about a newer establishment I go to see if it's been reviewed (and it normally has) by this team of Disney Foodies. This is one of the few websites I follow year round, even when I'm not planning a trip! But, again, it will make you hungry. I've warned you, so don't come crying to me that your tummy is growling... or that your keyboard is wet because you drool.

So there it is. These are the "secrets" I use to plan my trip when I go. Nothing fancy, and it is a bit of work, but it's your hard earned money going to a well deserved vacation. There are others sites I've reccomended to friends that aren't on here. Typically those links that you've been given by me were links I was given by friends that I trust. is a great way to get discounted tickets - or so I've heard. I've never used them as I prefer to just do everything through Disney when I go to Disney World. Disneyland seems to be cheapest if I buy directly from, so, again, I don't need to go through a third party to get the best rate. And really MouseSavers is all I need to make sure I'm getting the best deal with Disney or with an outside company.

So enjoy, don't let it over whelm you. I typically spend nine months planning a disney world trip before going. And it took over a year to plan my first one. It does get easier, especially when you use these free (or nearly free) resources. You can log onto them at anytime. And, when all else fails, you can use a travel agent (USE A DISNEY SPECIALIST) and if you want names, I can point you in that direction as well (rememeber I don't use them, but I trust them and bug them all the time with my own questions ha ha!)

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