Have you ever been to "The Happiest Place On Earth," otherwise known as Walt Disney World? If not, you're missing out. Disney (World and Land) is such a beautiful place where strangers come together to enter a world of pure nostalgia and fun.
I was raised on Disney and it is a place I travel to frequently (Thanks, mom & dad!) with my family. However, everyone is getting older now and, as much as we all love family vacations, it's time to explore new areas with our friends. What better place to start at than Disney World?
But wait, maybe you don't know too much about the destination or how to plan a trip in today's financial situations. Well, I'm here to help you plan a trip to Disney stress-free!
Here is just how to do it:
Start with a date.
So you want to go to Walt Disney World with two of your best friends? Let's start simple and pick a date! Talk to your friends and figure out what's best for all of you. Avoid conflict with exams, important dates and more. Try to arrange your trip over a break, even if it's just a short one.
Then, check out different crowd calendars, which are predicted dates for when the parks will be lightly packed, crowded and even when there is an event going on. In doing this, you will be able to narrow down what dates are going to be the greatest options.
Decide how many days.
Now that your date is picked, you have to figure out how many days you want to go for. Disney World has four parks, and each one of them is fairly large. Whether you go for a weekend or nine days, you'll always leave feeling like you missed something. To save money, you would most likely go for anywhere from three to five days. You'll have time to hit every park and it won't completely break your wallet.
If going for a week is more of your thing, the best option would be to spend a day or two as a 'free day,' or a day where you don't go to a park. It will save you money because you will only have to buy five park tickets instead of all seven. Also in doing this, you'll be able to spend time at the resort or go to Disney Springs, a shopping and dining area.
Pick a hotel, dining, and add-ons.
You've picked a date and length, and know what people are going. But where are you sleeping? Disney World has over twenty-five resorts to choose from. The prices go by the type of resort, which ranges from value to moderate and deluxe. Each hotel is a different theme, and by reading up on the pros and cons of all of them, you'll easily be able to find which one fits you and your party.
Personally, after staying at a variety of different hotels, if you're going with friends I would suggest staying at a value resort to save money but still enjoy the trip.
Working with a travel agent is something that could make the trip a lot easier. However, Disney has people that are available to chat and answer your questions. These people are SO incredibly helpful while nice as well! A lot of time, Disney World has some sort of deal going on that will save you money and still get you the best experience. Almost every year, Disney offers 30% off rooms. Always check to make sure you're not missing out.
Disney World has something called the dining plan, which is so beneficial. You choose a level of dining and it includes certain things such as snacks, lunches and even fine dining. It really comes in handy when you want to experience all of the restaurants that you can. It may seem like a bother when you have to pay everything at once but, trust me, not having to open your wallet every time you're hungry will be awesome.
Make sure you start making your dining reservations 180 days in advance! Things book up quick, and it is important that you stay on top of the planning.
Memory Maker is an add-on you can purchase for your trip. It ensures that every picture taken will be put onto your pass and you can keep them forever. This is a great thing to add if you've never been to Disney or if it's the first time in a while. Keep in mind that the cast members will take whatever pictures you want with your phone as well.
Disney World isn't cheap. Today, things are so expensive that college students have a hard time paying for things they want. Saving money is easy when you know it's going toward Disney.
I remember, for my sweet sixteen, my parents took my best friend and me to Disney. She lived with me at the time, and we decided that saving money together (since we like the same things) was the smartest route to go.
To equally pay for the trip, I suggest having one piggy bank or bank account and having each person put in the same amount every certain amount of days. For example, each one of you put in a set amount of money every two weeks. It will make everything easy if you break it down and start early enough. There are also endless websites that can give you more tips on how to save the most.
Get to Florida.
If you're flying, always go on the airline websites ASAP. Early bookings = cheaper flights. Beware, booking anything close to certain holidays means a hefty bill. My personal favorite is SouthWest. They don't always have television, but the flight staff is pleasant and we always arrive on time. Consider doing a very early morning flight (5 a.m. or 6 a.m.) when traveling there and a late night flight when traveling home. There is a bus at no charge to take you to the resort as long as you book your dates in advance.
If you're driving, try to leave at the appropriate time depending on how far you live. Living in Pennsylvania, it takes anywhere from fourteen to eighteen hours to arrive. Try leaving at 1 a.m. and driving straight through without sleeping anywhere.
When driving, there is no limit on the baggage you can have. This means that every ounce of makeup can make it into the car with you. It also means that you can bring waters and snacks for the parks each day.
Finally, the countdown has shortened and it's time for you to get your suitcases ready. I could name everything you have to bring, but I think this list sums it up the best. Make sure you check all of the airline regulations for liquids and leave room for souvenirs!
Make your itinerary.
So the hardest parts are done and your trip is paid for, now it's time for the fun part. It's time to make the itinerary for the length of your trip! Always make sure to take Extra Magic Hours into consideration. These are certain times that the parks open earlier or stay open later. They come in handy because only people staying on Disney Resort property have access to the hours.
When making the itinerary, consider using a park map to see which way would be easiest to work around in order to do as much as possible. Think about what there is to do near where you're eating, and which things you want to completely avoid. Write down stores you want to see and budget money toward each store.
I always have in mind what I want before I get there (for example, hat, shirt, etc.) that way I can estimate spending for each park. Remember to work around your fast-passes as well. Do not waste time on things you know that you and your party do not want to see. Remember, you only go to Disney every so often. Don't wait for a mediocre ride for hours instead of seeing something much cooler!
Finally... take on the day!
Now that the stress is over, it's finally time to leave for your vacation. Have your friends all stay in one house the night before or even at a hotel near the airport. Double check all your bags to make sure you have everything.
If you're flying, load all of the bags (besides the ones you need to hold) into the car before bed. Set alarms so that you leave enough time for the drive there, the check-in and TSA. Most airlines recommend being there two hours before the flight boards to ensure you are on that plane. Sorry, sleepyheads!
Make sure every person who plans on being a driver gets a proper amount of sleep. The starting driver should be in bed the earliest, while the others can sleep in the car until it is their turn. Pack food to eat on the way for reduced stops, and fill the gas tank before hitting the road.
Upon arrival, make sure you have all of your paperwork and that you get to the resort for check-in time.
Unfortunately, I was only here to help you plan and can't actually take your trip for you. So the rest is up to you and your party! Remember to have a great time and tune college out for a few days! Relax instead of panicing and enjoy your vacation!