Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is no small feat. There are hotel rooms to reserve, tickets to purchase, dining reservations to secure…and that’s all several months before you even leave for the Orlando, Florida, theme park. As your vacation gets closer, you’ll need to also decide what to pack, which parks to visit, and how to fill your Disney days. You want to get the planning just right and Disney just so happens to have a team of experts who can help you make it happen.
planDisney is an online resource for tips, tricks, and planning questions and each panelist is hand-picked for their Disney knowledge and enthusiasm for the parks. Fodor’s reached out to the planDisney team to find out some of the biggest planning mistakes they see people make, and their tips to help you avoid these common traps.
INSIDER TIPHave a question you want to be answered by the planDisney team? You can ask them directly or search the planDisney site to see if your question has already been answered. They’re also on Instagram and Twitter.
Create a Realistic Itinerary
One of the biggest blunders they come across is overplanning—essentially trying to cram everything Disney World has to offer in one trip. To combat this, panelist Angie G. recommends having everyone in your travel party make a priority list of the top three things they want to see, do, and experience on your trip. “The responses I have received from my family have ranged from restaurants where they want to eat to a request to sleep in late one morning. This helps me to ensure that while we’re unable to do everything, we can do the things that mean the most to each one of us while on vacation,” Angie told Fodor’s.
Keeping your itinerary in check also leaves space for spontaneity. Panelist Lauren B. advised that “part of the magic of being at the Walt Disney World Resort is the atmosphere and the energy. Rushing around tends to take away from that, so we really try to focus on being present.”
Of course, too little planning can lead to the opposite issue. According to Betsy S., “A few moments of spontaneous wandering can be a fun change of pace. An entire vacation like that is stressful!” Sticking to the aforementioned priority list should allow you to hit up all your favorites without missing out on the little details that make Disney so special.
Another common mistake is not factoring in time to rest and recharge. Depending on the length of your vacation, this could be a day off in the middle of a five-day visit or even just a half-day for shorter trips. On a day off from the parks, Betsy S. suggests you “sleep late, go for a long morning walk, and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee on your balcony or patio. Then, relax poolside and have lunch at your resort before you dress up for a nice dinner.”
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A Travelers Valentines Day Gift Guide
Valentine’s Day is approaching and with that holiday comes the challenge of finding yet another perfect gift.
Hints have been dropped—hints that, unfortunately, have gone right over your head. So now you’re sitting there, only two months out of December’s holiday reign, wondering what in the world is left to buy for the person you love. First things first, remove the robe-slipper duo you read zero reviews about from your cart and say it with me: “I can do better.” While you might not know exactly what to get your loved one this year, you do know something: travel is their favorite past-time. When life is normal, the two of you are more often found at someone else’s cozy retreat than your own home. To help you navigate this tricky holiday, we’re helping you by finding the perfect gift (sometimes romantic, sometimes practical) for your most-loved traveler.
For the Wine Snob
Years of travel and fine wines have made this loved one quite the wine snob (though you lovingly call it their refined palate). While you usually spend this holiday abroad sipping a regional wine over an aged cheese, this year you can surprise your loved one by bringing that very experience to them—monthly! Winc brings quality wine to your doorstep every month, catering to your taste and preferences. By filling out a questionnaire, they can customize a wine selection, making sure each month’s selection is more than just drinkable—these will be booze shelf staples.
For the Person Needing a Hotel Getaway
To make this Valentine’s Day at home extra special, turn their bedroom into a luxurious hotel room for the night. Because, depending on the city, hotels in your area might not be a good option, creating this space for them to relax as they take in the finer things will be the gift they didn’t know they needed. This robe from Serena & Lily is designed to keep you cool on hot days and warm on cold and happens to be quite beautiful. A spa gift set will allow them to relax as they soak in a well-deserved bath, and these cocktail packets from CraftStirs will seriously elevate your minibar.
For the Person Who Prefers Something More Homey
If they tend to enjoy a bed-and-breakfast type experience over a hotel stay while abroad, there’s nothing quite as practical as an Airbnb gift card . This gift is versatile, as it gives them the chance to travel wherever their heart desires and their mind can dream up—there are no hotel chain limitations, the world is their oyster (and always has a bed)! And while you can use it on your next stay, you can also use it on your next experience while there.
For the Sweet Tooth
A Classic Valentine’s Day gift upgraded. A box of chocolates is about as traditional as it gets but, for your sweet tooth who has traveled the world indulging in the best chocolate there is to offer, it can be hard to find something that lives up to their standards. For something personal, order from a candy shop the two of you visited during your travels, whether in France or Switzerland. The thoughtfulness will warm their heart while the delectable treats will fill their stomachs. And if this box of chocolates is simply to hold them over until their next chance to jet-set, give them a taste of the trips to come; this gourmet assortment of truffles is sure to satisfy.
For the Person Missing Nature
Because nature seems to be one of the few places we can escape to at the moment, parks, lakes, and our favorite, typically quiet places are seeing a heavy influx of visitors. Where they were once respites to escape crowds, many natural spaces have become tourist hotspots. Rather than taking them out into nature, bring it into their home with a touch of green. The Sill offers a monthly subscription service that provides your special someone with the perfect piece of greenery for their home (this is like a dozen roses, but better). Choose between a beginner’s subscription and expert level depending on your SO’s green-thumb, and turn the home they’re getting a little sick of into a place they don’t want to leave.
For the New Camper
Because this might be a new, quarantine-inspired hobby, there’s a chance they don’t yet have all the equipment they want. While a new water bladder might not seem that romantic, buying them the nice, quality CamelBak they’ve been eyeing but not been willing to drop the big bucks will mean a lot (they want the nice things, they just don’t always want to be the one buying them). There’s also the option to upgrade their hiking boots with new insoles or getting them new ones entirely, which are recommended to be replaced every 300-500 miles.
For the Beach Goer
With the world being a bit of a mess at the moment, maybe your loved one has found serenity at the beach, listening to the waves roll in as they bask in the warm sun. But maybe what they really want to be listening to as the waves roll in are not the seagulls swarming beachgoers food or the waves crashing feet away, but instead their favorite album or podcast. Complete their day at the beach with a portable speaker that they’ll love now but will get even more use of post-pandemic when it’s not just you two on a blanket but your closest group of friends (plus some!). This one is great as it’s not only waterproof but can be attached to a bike—a speaker as versatile as your partner.
For the Person Who Swears by a Carry-On
They’ll never check a bag—they’ve got places to be, and those places don’t include baggage claim. To make their trips all the easier, give them the gift of a new and highly-reviewed bag. This luggage from Travelpro’s Platinum line ranked first in The New York Time ’s ranking of 2020’s best carry-on luggage for its ease of use, durability, and price. But if they already have a suitcase they swear by and are unwilling to part ways with, this fun duffle bag is a statement piece absolutely perfect for easy weekend trips.
For the Romantic
It’s always been their dream to have a romantic day laying out on a gingham blanket below the Eiffel Tower, a spread of fresh food surrounding them. Though that fantasy destination might not be possible for many at this time (you can forgo the Parisian landmark for something equally stunning but more local), the romantic picnic is still more than achievable. Many local wine bars and restaurants are offering prepared picnic baskets, so check with your favorite businesses first and foremost. But if no one around you is supplying a picnic package, don’t worry because there are places online committed to it. This antipasti set, though on the pricier side, is perfect for the couple forgoing their traditional date night out (with some restaurants closed to dine in) but still wanting something fancier than take-out.
Disney’s resort hotels have some awesome activities and amenities, like outdoor movies, Disney trivia, pool parties, and other family-friendly activities. Each hotel is a little different, but you can usually pick up an activity calendar at check-in.
Shantel G. shared a slightly different approach that allows you to branch out and discover new hotels you might want to stay in on your next visit. “I always recommend scheduling a breakfast or dinner at a resort you have not yet stayed at yet. It’s a perfect way to check out the resort and enjoy a nice meal.”
Plan Your Meals
While on the topic of food, there are hundreds of dining options at Disney World and even the planDisney team members have made some common mistakes (they’ve since learned from). Tabitha D. remembers, “On the first Walt Disney World Resort vacation my husband and I enjoyed together, we had dining reservations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. We tried so many delicious dining locations and enjoyed every last drop of it…but we were stuffed!”
To avoid getting stuck in the trap of spending your entire vacation in a restaurant, Tabitha now recommends planning only one or two (or some days none at all) table service meals per day and fill in the gaps with “snacks, quick-service meals, and lots of treats.” She also prefers to save her sit-down meals for some of Disney World’s more unique dining options, like character meals, dining in a 50s-style car at Sci-Fi Dine-In, or watching Irish musicians and dancers at Raglan Road.
The planDisney team also shared a lot of helpful packing tips. If you’ve ever been to Florida, you know the sun can be scorching and monsoons can pop up out of nowhere. You can also walk upward of 10 miles a day while exploring the parks, so packing essentials like comfortable shoes and sunscreen is, well, essential. “Never, ever be tempted to wear brand new shoes during a day at Walt Disney World Resort,” Jane D. cautioned, “even if they are super cute and totally match your Minnie ears.”
Tabitha D.’s packing list always includes “ponchos, small handheld fans, a light jacket for cool evenings or air-conditioned spaces, and extra socks. And don’t forget sunscreen, because the sun can make an appearance at any time, even on the cloudiest of days!”
You can also walk upward of 10 miles a day while exploring the parks, so packing essentials like comfortable shoes and sunscreen is, well, essential.
Of course, you aren’t required to lug every item around with you everywhere you go. Shantel G. likes to pack her park bag the evening before or in the morning before visiting the parks. “Check the weather, think about what you wish you had the day before, and what you could do without. As an overpacker myself, I have found that repacking my personal bag and diaper bag each morning before hitting the parks has me feeling 100% more prepared for the day.”
Even if you do forget to pack your toothbrush or a swimsuit, you won’t have any trouble finding what you need after you arrive. When Angie G. found herself in this situation, she searched the resort gift shop(s) and the stores at Disney Springs for what she needed. “Also, Front Desk Cast Members are always extremely helpful in pointing guests in the right direction to find the items they require,” Angie added.
With so much to see and do, there’s no one right way to “do Disney,” but these expert tips will help you steer clear of some of the most common Disney planning mistakes to ensure your vacation is maxed out on the magic.
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