Disney World: Pre-Planning (Part 1 of ?)

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If you’re looking to stay at the Walt Disney World resort, my blog series about our recent Disney World trip (Christmas 2018) and experiences will be very helpful.

Part 1: Pre-Planning

The last time our family had been to Disney World was August of 2012, but we couldn’t remember everything we should have remembered for staying on the resort and visiting the parks, so we had to start our pre-planning with some research. (In all honesty, I’m not sure if it would have mattered if we had remembered every detail, because Disney has changed a lot since 2012.)

(Photo above: Disney World in August of 2012 – just prior to our daughter’s diagnosis of leukemia.)

A return to Disney World has always been in the back of our minds, especially since it was almost our daughter’s choice for her Make-A-Wish trip. Ultimately, her first choice was to meet the YouTube stars (shout out to Mommy & Gracie) who helped her get through treatment, so she chose to meet them; it was a fantastic time.

(Photo above: On the way to meet YouTube stars, Mommy & Gracie. A return to Disney World was her second choice for her Make-a-Wish.)

Christmas at Disney World was not on my radar. I didn’t realize Disney was still on our daughter’s radar, and she’s a planner. The day after Halloween, she wrote a letter to Santa, requesting that he send back her elf, Chippy, with a message about whether she could go to Disney World for Christmas – instead of receiving presents and taking the trip north to the Upper Peninsula to see family. Our elf typically returns on December 1st, so there was a lot of anticipation during the month of November.

Chippy and Santa worked miracles. Let me just start by saying, Christmas Day at Disney is busy! Insane! And crazy!

For pre-planning: Santa started by doing research and decided that staying on the resort would be the best option for our family. It was appealing to have everything included and our daughter has a disability from her cancer treatments, so staying near the parks with public transportation was appealing as well.

(Photo above: Disney World – All Stars Resort – our resort for this trip.)

We didn’t know how many days at the parks we would be able to do (with a daughter who often can need rest and two young siblings, so Santa played it safe and opted for the package of three parks in five days (planning in rest periods).

Once some concrete decisions were made – these steps were followed to book the trip!


Step 1: Visit Disney’s Website – Create an Account

Use the website: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/ to create a Disney account.

Step 2: Options for Various Packages

Once you have created an account, you’ll be able to log in and you’ll be able to find various options for your stay. There’s an immediate tutorial to help you navigate, so setting up plans, reservations and tickets was very easy.

(Please note: We did find a glitch in the system. Since the trip was booked prior to our daughter’s third birthday, and we arrived to Disney World shortly after her third birthday, we were sent out of line and told to pay the difference in order to enter the parks. We did speak with Disney management, but this could happen to the various age brackets for park pricing. This should be something their system catches to compensate for a change in age between booking time and times arriving.)

To give you an idea of what you’ll be able to choose from: Family & Friends; Resort Hotel; Park Tickets; Dining; Fast Pass+.

Step 3: Add the Names of Guests

Add the names of those who will be going. (Remember to consider birthdays and when you’ll arrive to consider package prices.)

Step 4: Choose the Resort.

Choose the resort. We have stayed at both the All-Star Music and All-Star Sports. The rooms are very small, but you can’t beat the convenience. Also, there is only a mini-fridge in the room and several times we mentioned how a microwave would have been helpful.

We have heard rave reviews about other resort options, but we have only stayed at All-Star Sports and All-Star Music.

Step 5: Park Tickets

You can choose Park Tickets in advance – which is very smart, but we have so many things to consider with our daughter’s special needs that this just didn’t work for us. Weather and energy play so many factors for us, but if you can – try to map out your days and parks.

When you choose in advance, you are even able to get your Fast Pass+ Planning! I think Disney allows 30 days in advance! What a great feature.

(I’m not sure, but I believe you can also choose the Park Hopper Pass as well. With young kids on both trips, we have always picked one park for each day.)

Step 6: Meals (Dining)

Dining. Last time we went, we added the dining package, but we felt like it was not something that would be worth the money this time.  We were hoping to do more grocery shopping prior to getting into our room, but that didn’t happen since the local stores were packed for Christmas.

You are somewhat limited on your choices, and there are shopping centers like a Walmart nearby to get some things for your room (again, there is a very small fridge – no microwave) We did use the dining options for many of our meals this time, but we didn’t want to be locked into the meals if we wanted a different option.

One thing we did do was buy a cup that we could refill on the resort.  That was something that paid off – especially filling up with caffeine to be able to keep up with the kids.

Step 7: Fast Pass+

Again, Fast Pass+ is an excellent idea! It wasn’t something that we could do the 30 days ahead of time, because we were unsure of exactly what we would be able to do each day due to our daughter’s special needs.

However, we did try to use Fast Pass while we were there, and it never worked for us – as in it said it was full or not working, but if you’re a planner and pick your parks ahead of time, I’m sure this is a feature that works really well. Also, we were there during a time when the park was extremely busy, so I’m sure it was an issue of the Fast Pass+ being full.

Step 8: My Disney Experience App

If possible, get the App (My Disney Experience) as well.

In the next post, I’ll discuss food (more in depth) while staying at Disney World. I’ll also discuss the MagicBands and photos.

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