If you have kids, you’ve been in a store with a toy section or a snack area at some point and had your ears bleed while your child demands, in their own special way, to GET ALL THE THINGS. I tell my daughter she can wish for whatever she wants, but all her wishes may not come true. I’m not trying to be a total buzzkill, but let’s face it, she’s not likely to get that 8-foot stuffed bear or a face full of jellybeans every time we go to Toys R Us. I think the same is true of any vacation, especially when planning for a group. Everyone has an opinion and all of them should be mine. I kid. Sort of…
Planning a family vacation at Disney World is an exercise in balance. It takes a lot of wishing and a lot of compromising. I’m pretty sure there’s some faith, trust and pixie dust in there, too, because that’s really the only way I feel like this is actually happening. I’ve been in the hospitality and events industries for a long time, but this is the first vacation I’ve taken with more than four people, so I was a little freaked out by the thought. I was ready to pull out all those event planning skills and get to work the second we decided it was game on.
I think the hardest part was figuring out where to start and if I didn’t have 15-years of conference planning experience, I probably would have melted from the anxiety. With any event, I start out by asking what we want to accomplish. What do we want people to take away from this experience? Basically, if you close your eyes and I say “Disney World vacation,” what images come to mind?
I treat every event as though it’s the only one ever happening, so I tend to start big and whittle my way down to reality. Vacations are the same. I realize that not everyone gets to do this, so I treat any vacation as though it’s the one and only time we will ever get to do it. Disney World is no exception, because honestly, when will we ever be in this moment ever again? You’ve got to make the most of what you have, while you can, so bring on all those “I want to’s” and “we have to’s!” Start building the picture you saw in your head. These wishes will help you figure out what time of year you want to go, what parks you want to visit, how long you want to stay and anything not on Disney property you’d like to experience.
If you haven’t ever been to Disney World or haven’t been there in a long time, you might want to do a little research before you make a decision. Give yourself a chance to see what’s there and sort out what you’d like to do. We lived in Orlando for a combined total of 13 years and went to the parks a million times. We haven’t been back in five years and plenty has changed in that time. Just because you’ve been before doesn’t mean a refresher isn’t worth your time. Don’t worry about fine tuning the details just yet. If you’re like us, your budget will dictate what you actually get to do, you’re just rolling in the magic right now. If you’re going with family, you all have to get on the same page and that’s more than one conversation right there.
Focus on the timeframe so you can get some accurate estimates on your transportation, hotel, park passes and food and beverage costs. That gives you a vacation you can afford and then you can start filling in what you can fit in that time to do and add on any extras you’d like to add, like special activities and souvenirs.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. We started with a piece of paper and a bunch of scribbled notes of what we wanted to make sure Miss O and Mister A got to do and the rides and food we loved and had to have. Hubs’ cravings for a Dole Whip started the second we said “Disney.”
Enjoy the wishes your heart is making while you can. Planning isn’t pretty and it can get daunting, but it will be so worth it when you can make those wishes come true!
What’s your favorite thing about a Disney vacation?
Featured image credit: Dandelion wish by John Liu