Besides work, work and more work, I've been busy working on planning and organizing a trip to Disney World for the wife and I. This is not the first time we've been to Disney World. We went a few years ago for a long weekend and went to Epcot, and another time just for MGM-Studios. We had a blast both time, but figues it was time to go all out and spend an entire week in the parks and just "blow 'em out".
We booked this trip almost a year ago, and over the months I've researched and talked to others on Disney-themed forums such as Allears.net, DIS Discussion board, and TourGuideMike.com. I've also ready through various books from BirnBaum, Passporters, and other authors. But the one site that helped me the most has been www.TourGuideMike.com
. This guy used to be a tourguide for Walt Disney World, and people used to pay him (actually Disney) thousands of dollars a day to take them through the park and hit the rides at teh right time to avoid lines, take them to teh best restaraunts, the least crowded parks, and just have the optimal Disney experience as possible. Well, he's now sharing that information with those that come to his website and sign up for his service for a mere $21.95. What this gets you is all the information you can handle (sometime too much at one time) for the entire time before your vacation till 30 days after (so you can report back on your experiences to others).
Mike covers it all. From hotels, to transportation in Disney, to Dining (from snacks to elegant dinners), to where to stand for the best viewing for the parades and fireworks. But be warned, there is soo much information in this site that you can become overwhelmed very quickly.
While I cannot give out any of his proprietary information (Mike still has contacts within Disney that share information with him), I can tell you that if you are planning on going to Disney, you better start planning around 1 year in advance. While some of the information about "least crowded parks", Special events", Extra Magic Hours, etc.. don't get published till a few months before, you can use last years info for research and reference.
The wife and I are going during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, so I started there and figured out the dates we wanted to go. Then we picked our Hotel - the Carribean Beach Resort. After that we got the Disney Magic Your Way Park Hopper tickets, these allow us to go to different parks each day (park hopping). Then we added on the Disney Dining Plan, this is realy a good deal as each member of your party gets 1 Coutner Service meal, 1 Table service meal, and 1 snack per day for a set price. It cost about $38 per day per person, but you'll easily spend $50 if you buy the exact same things without the plan. One thing to note is that most restaraunts inside Disney get crowded quickly at meal time and you have to get Advance Dining Reservations (ADR's) well in advance. Most places have a 180 days policy, meaning you can book up to 180 days in advance. Some places fill up fast, others slowly. One example is Cinderella's Breakfast, it fills up in the first few days of the 180 day window. But others like Raglan Road, and Irish restaraunt, had plenty of opening for us at less than 45 days prior.
BUT, don;t make reservations just yet. You have to decide if you want to see the fireworks, parades, certain shows, etc... Each of those will determine if you eat dinner at 4:30, 5:00, or later. If you don't want to see the Wishes parade a Magic Kingdom, then eat at 4pm. If you don;t want to see the fireworks, then eat at 8pm.
Then you have to figure out what attractions, rides, shows you want to see as they will determin if you ride it as soon as the park opens or get a fast-pass and come back later in the day. Some rides are easy to ride at park opening, and late in the evening (before closing), and others are easy to get onto any time of day. If you go with children, you have to plan differently then my wife and I would, since we're not going on the smaller rides or children's shows we can skip portions of the park.
It seems like a lot of planning and would seem like you wouldn't have fun at the park because of "the schedule". While it is a lot of planning and decision making, you'll appreciate it when you show up for dinner, there are people waiting around all over the place, and you walk up and give your name and are seated within 10 minutes while the rest wait over an hour for a table. Also, walking up to a ride and getting on it within 20 minutes instead of 1-2 hours. All of this planning will result in you beign able to rind some rides multiple times easily, and even take a 2 hour break in the afternoon, go back to the hotel to freshen up, take a nap, and return to the park recharged and ready to go several more hours while those that were there all day have screaming, cranky, or unruley kids slowing them down.
Anyway...time to get back to my planning....Not really, I'm almost done. I only need to look at the rides for each park and cross off the ones we won't go to. Everything else is planned, reserved and ready to go......Now where did I put my sunscreen and hat????