Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Disney World Trip Report: Planning for the Trip

I thought it would be fun to journal my latest trip to Disney World. Yes, this may be a bit off-topic from a Pixar-related blog. But Pixar is owned by Disney, and Pixar continues to have a growing presence at the parks. So I think some posts can be justified! Our family (my wife Lynn and our 3 kids, aged 13, 14 and 15) will spend a week at the Happiest Place on Earth. In this first report, I'll cover some of the planning we did for the trip.

Living in Minnesota, most of our trips to Disney World happen during the winter to get away from the lovely, freezing weather that seems to stick around 6 months out of the year. But there are a few occasions that may cause us to book at a different time of year. For instance, last year Epcot hosted the Pixar Weekend in May, and so it wasn't hard to talk Lynn in spending a long weekend there (not to mention it was during the Flower & Garden Festival, another great occasion to visit).

But probably my favorite, non-winter time to visit is mid-late October during the Food & Wine Festival. First, the crowds are on the lighter side. Second, the weather is usually wonderful; the humidity and temperatures have moderated and it's usually mostly sunny. Finally, it's the Food & Wine Festival! We love to eat, especially when we can try out appetizer-sized portions from a couple dozen countries across the world at our favorite park (Epcot). This year, the kids had 3 days off of school in mid-October for conferences so it came together nicely to spend a week there.

We are Disney Vacation Club members, so always stay at a Vacation Club resort. My favorite DVC resort is the Boardwalk Villas, but given this was a last-minute trip, the only place we could get into was Saratoga Springs. We've never stayed here so I'm excited we're staying here. While not as convenient as Boardwalk, it's nice being able to walk to Downtown Disney. But wow, it's a big resort! I'm still trying to get my bearings, but we're on the end of the resort closest to Downtown Disney and it only takes us 10-15 minutes to walk there.

As for tickets, we are coming back in March for another week-long vacation, so buying annual passes was the most economical. We usually get the regular APs, but just as I was getting ready to buy the passes, DVC announced members could buy premium annual passes for only $399! OK, easy decision! And the kids are excited because access to the water parks is included in the passes, and we've never gone to either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach.

Next big decision is dining, i.e. Dining Plan or not. In general, I am not a fan of the dining plans. We don't usually do a lot of sit-down restaurants, and with the popularity of the dining plans it's pretty important to make reservations. I dislike this because it forces you to be at a specific location at a specific time, and I don't know where I'll be when I make the reservation weeks or months in advance. We like to keep our plans flexible. And for us, it seems we end up with extra food and credits. This causes us to use credits on the last day on items we probably don't want, and so it doesn't seem cost effective. Plus, sit-down restaurants take up a lot more time than counter service dining; we'd rather be on rides than sitting in restaurants. Instead, I would rather plan a couple nice sit-down meals, use our villa kitchen for breakfasts and then do counter service meals while touring the parks.

The counter service plan is more our style, but still for some reason we don't use all the credits. We are also spending a day at Islands of Adventure, so that would have been a whole day not at Disney so I'm sure we would have even more extra credits.

OK, so we have the hotel reserved, park passes and eating figured out. Next, transportation. I don't know about you, but I like my vacations to start as early as possible and end as late as possible. On this trip I think I nailed it! Our flight from Minneapolis left at 5:55am, and we won't be getting home until almost midnight. These also happened to be the lowest cost tickets I could find. It wasn't perfect, as we had to make a stop in Chicago both ways, and we're flying different carriers. Having different carriers isn't a big deal, and in October I don't see much change of weather-related delays flying through Chicago.

We always use Disney's Magical Express. It's great to be able to get off the plane, walk right onto a waiting motorcoach and be transported to our resort without waiting or hauling luggage around the airport. It does require a bit of extra planning, as it can take 3 hour for the luggage to arrive - we pack shorts in a carry-on so we can change when we arrive. But I think the convenience is worth it. When it comes time to leave Disney, we can get our boarding passes and check our luggage right at the resort. We won't have to deal with our luggage until we get back to the Minneapolis Airport - more convenience!!

This turned out to be a longer post than I expected, but I know I skimmed some of the topics to try and keep the length down. If you have questions, or would like me to go into more detail on anything in this, or any of the future posts, let me know in the comments! My next post will highlight our first day at Disney!

Other Trip Report Posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment