Gotta say, I love her recommendation to use a travel advisor (ahem)… but helping her plan this surprise for her family was a true joy. And I’m honoured she is sharing her experiences and photos with me.
Visiting Disney for the First Time
This past August marked our first visit to Walt Disney World as a family. I visited a very long time ago (15-years ago to be exact!) and while each visit is “magical” in its own way, this time around was even more special because I got to see the looks on my children’s faces as they took everything in.
Going for the first time can be extremely overwhelming. You want to see, do, and, eat everything you have heard about. While it may be possible to do this if you are a superhero, it is pretty unlikely to do if you are a family travelling with young children.
Here are some tips to get you started when planning your first Disney family vacation:
1. Work With a Travel Advisor –Nowadays, being able to book vacations and do destination research over the internet makes booking travel on your own very tempting. But have you been to Disney 20 times? Do you know the ins and outs of all the different packages? Do you have a definite and 100% accurate answer to each and every single question you need to ask? The answer for you is most likely no. The answer for Sheila is yes.
I became familiar with Sheila through Twitter (@sheila_gh and @lushlifetravel), and as soon as we made the decision to go on this trip, I got in touch with her. From the get-go, she provided so much valuable advice about things I had not even thought about. She took care of everything, from advising us about the different resorts, the different packages and add-ons, booking our vacation package and our flights, making all of our dining reservations, to checking in with us the day before our trip to make sure we were all set. She was always quick to answer any questions I had, and she is very patient (oh-so patient 🙂 ) and will help you create the vacation you dream about. I will never book another vacation without Sheila!
2. Get Your Kids Involved In the Planning – The main reason why we chose Disney was for our kids. I’m guessing it’s the same reason you chose it too! Our children did not know that we were going until about 10-days before we left, (it was a big surprise!) so they were not involved right from the start. Once they were let in on the surprise, we showed them videos of some of the attractions, parades, and shows through the Disney website and YouTube.
Getting a good feel for what they are interested in doing will help you plan out your days and help you decide how to tackle the vast amount of things to do in the four different parks. It will also ensure that they feel included in the daily plans and that they get to experience the things that they think look fun.
3. Take Time to Relax – It can be tempting to go, go, go, but remember, this is your vacation. Disney is a place filled with endless entertainment and it is very tempting to want to explore as much as possible each day. Whichever resort you choose to stay at, whether it is on or off site, take the time to enjoy the amenities and take the break that you deserve. This is especially important if you are travelling with children. Dragging cranky, tired children around is not fun. Keep them rested and content so everyone remains happy.
4. Make Dining Reservations That Everyone Will Be Happy About – There are many character dining experiences offered at Walt Disney World and we did quite a few of them! It was so much fun to see the children’s eyes light up when they got to interact with each character. The characters take the time to visit each table and will sign autographs. We were especially impressed with the princesses who were so much in character that they did not skip a beat when the kids asked them some really obscure questions about little details from their respective movies!
There are so many restaurants to choose from that when you sit down to pick the places you want to dine at, it may be a little bit daunting at first. We made our choices based on what we, the adults, enjoy, and of course, what the kids would enjoy and we were very happy with all of our picks in the end.
You can make your dining reservations 180-days in advance of your arrival and people take this seriously! So be sure to get your list off to Sheila as soon as possible so you get the restaurants, the times, and the dates that you want.
5. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to see it all – We didn’t get to see everything we wanted to see, and we aren’t disappointed about it at all. We feel that we did as much as we could have for the time that we were there and what we didn’t see, we will see next time! Disney changes so much from year to year, so even if you somehow were able to see it all, next year there will be something new. It’s how they get us to come back…and this family will be back 🙂
Have a great trip!