Every once in a while, I like to test my anxiety. I like to stand wayyy back and poke it with a stick. I like to do something so incredibly against my anxiety's better judgement; something that I know will make me lose sleep, overthink, mentally dwell for days on a small detail, and generally push the boundaries of my medication.
So I decided to plan another Disney vacation.
I know what you are thinking. I could easily call a travel agent and have them literally plan the entire event and I would not have to worry about anything. All I would have to do is show up.
But, here's the thing. I like to plan stuff, it's why I love teaching. I enjoy the process of molding and shaping an idea into a viable entity - no matter how nutty it might make me.
So, I knew I was going to have to Pinterest the shit out of this.
It has been a few years since I have been to Disney and it's probably a science teacher thing, but, I love to do research. So I have been researching the crap out of Disney Vacations. I have a pinterest board full of blogs, links, and websites all geared toward the dos and don'ts of vacationing in the land of ultimate happiness.
Abby and Aurora in 2014
But the truth is, no matter how well planned this sojourn of glee to Disney is, there is a black void of uncertainty that goes along with it. I can't plan every minute of every day because that would take the fun out of it for "the normals" that are accompanying me. And I know that I don't want to over plan and miss out on opportunities in the parks and I don't want to underplan and not get the most for our money.
This blog post and its companion pieces will chronicle my process (and instances of insanity...probably) for planning my family's expedition of merriment to Disney World.
1. When are you going to go? And other questions that, if you are a teacher, pretty much have one answer.
Now, there are all kinds of fancy "charts" and "graphs" that you can find on the internet and "the pinterest" that talk about "peak times" for crowds. First, let me tell you from experience, there are ALWAYS crowds at Disney. You will never show up at Disney and be like "It's like a ghost town here...look at that tumble weed blowing across Main Street." But there are better times than others to go.
I am a teacher and my husband is an educational administrator so we can pretty much go during one time of year...summer.
Which is kind of where a lot of families are- you can when you can go. You go when the schedules and planets align just right so that your family can all go without missing too much work, too much school, too many athletic, dance, or drama events. So, I get it. But here is a short list of when the crowds are the worst...
* Major and Minor Holidays = Bad. Anytime there is a federal holiday (memorial day, labor day, Martin Luther King Day, 4th of July, etc), avoid Disney World. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years are all also going to be CRAZY!! Pretty much avoid the end of November and all of December.
* June, July, beginning of August = Bad. Traditional vacation months...you saw this coming. Also, the later you get into the summer, the hotter and sweatier the armpit of the United States becomes. Keep this in mind. You will never say, "my what temperate weather there is here in Florida!" But end of July and August increase the risk of heat stroke and dehydration in small children and the elderly. Important safety tip.
Short List of when crowds are better...
* May and the beginning of November = Really nice from my own experiences. Smaller crowds and the weather is pretty good. I mean "pretty good" because it usually rains at least once a day in Florida. It's a freaking swamp state surrounded on three sides by the ocean...it's going to happen. Luckily, the little daily storms are short and sometimes refreshing depending on what time of year you go.
2. Where are you going to park your sh*t?
I have been to Disney World probably ten times in my 38 years. Many times as a kid and on my honeymoon as an adult. I have never once, stayed on Disney property.
Now for those not in the know, if you stay off property, you must first, drive to the Disney parking area. Then, just to get you ready for standing in a queue, you must wait for the tram to take you to the area where you will wait in a queue to either take a ferry or a monorail to a park entrance. Then, you will finally be allowed to wait in a queue to get your stuff checked by security and wait in the queue to enter the park.
The bottom line, unless you stay on the property, leaving the park and going back to your hotel (where you then have to repeat the above process in reverse-minus being checked by security), is just not practical. Once you are there, you will want to stay and not leave because leaving and returning will be a HUGE pain in the ass.
When my mother said that she would like to take my kiddos to happiness central, we briefly considered staying off property to make the trip cheaper. Then, this little voice of experience in my head said "Not this time Satan, not this time."
Because really, how much is my sanity worth? If my son (who is autistic) forgets one of his precious pocket trinkets at the hotel, get's his clothes wet, or his feet get "too hot" all I have to do is hop on the monorail for a quick ride back to avoid a total meltdown. Worth it.
If my husband, who hates the heat, large groups of people, and waiting in lines needs to take a break? (I know, why the hell is he going anyway because that is pretty much all Disney World is?) He can get back and forth quickly and efficiently. Worth it.
Also, I heard they mix some awesome drinks there...BONUS!!
So we will be parking our sh*t at the Polynesian Resort.
3. They are not even kidding about planning at least 180-190 days in advance.
When I was a kid, we would just show up at Disney World, get a hotel, and go to the parks. But our vacations were not not "Disney based" vacations. Disney was usually a stop on our way to, or from, Ft. Myers beach. This is still more than a viable option if Disney is just a stepping stone in your vacation. But if you are going "balls to the wall" Disney; if you are going to be birthing a huge Disney baby; you need to start planning 6-9 months ahead of time.
I started planning about twenty days later than I should have. I wanted to do the vacation planning over Thanksgiving break and got distracted. Instead, I started planning during Christmas Break which was about 160-ish days ahead.
Believe it or not, I have ran into issues scheduling character dining for my family. When Disney says start planning 180-190 days ahead of time, those mouse-eared f&*kers mean it.
This is especially true if you are going with a group of 4+ people. We are a group of five and it was a challenge to get a group of that size into some of the more popular character meals. But I managed it. See #3.
4. Do not lose all hope...call Disney to help out.
The Disney website https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/ and the associated mobile app are AWESOME; but they have their limitations.
I was faced with a couple of incidents where I could only get part of my family into some of the character dining. Before having a nervous breakdown about it, I decided to call Disney and find out if they could help me.
They were more than happy to help and were really nice about it. Although I think they could probably sense that I was like a ticking time bomb of nerves. I don't hide it very well, I give off nervous vibes like guys with creepy-looking moustaches give off "molestery" vibes.
Is "molestery" even a word? Well, it is now. Someone with connections please alert the Websters dictionary people.