An Expert Shares Tips on Preparing for a Disney World Vacation
A trip to Walt Disney World can be very rewarding - both relaxing and fun - but in order to fully take advantage of all the opportunities open to you on your trip while still enjoying the moment, you have to be properly prepared. A little bit of planning goes a long way into improving your trip and making sure that your vacation is really a break from stress, not a cause of it.
My favorite thing about Disney World is the entire atmosphere. Everything is clean (as theme parks go) and beautiful, music plays, and happy people, both cast members and guests, surround you. It’s just a peaceful place where the biggest decision you have to make is which ride to go on first. The overall friendly and excited attitude of the cast also makes the whole experience that much better. I remember the magic and excitement of coming back to our hotel room and finding a foot tall white chocolate sculpture of Mickey Mouse waiting for us just because one of the hotel staff thought it would be a nice thing to do. Another time when I was little, at the same Disney hotel (the Yacht Club) another one of the staff decided to give me a fistful of balloons because they thought I was cute. True, this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time, but they go to show my other favorite thing about Disney World – you never know what can happen. I wouldn’t expect it, but once in a while guests will be surprised with a little something extra that brightens the whole trip.
Cast members will also always go out of their way to accommodate people with disabilities and allergies. Almost everything is wheelchair accessible and I could never forget a meal at Boma, a restaurant at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. My family and my friend’s family were there together. My friend’s sister has a severe peanut allergy and has to watch what she eats very closely. The head chef came out to talk with the family about the allergy, which is customary, but when he found that she did not like any of the peanut-safe dishes they had, he went back into the kitchen and personally put together an incredible concoction just for her, a tower of fruit and something else that looked delicious but nobody could identify because everything was covered in a delicious looking sauce. He never gave it a title and we still don’t know what it was, but she was certainly the envy of the entire table.
I have been going to Disney World at least once a year, sometimes more, every year since I was one year old. After about fifteen visits, the whole experience is no longer novel to me, but it is never boring and there is always something new to try each time. I know my way around the Magic Kingdom as well as I know my way around my own neighborhood and we (my family and I) have worked out a kind of strategy for enjoying the trip while still getting done what we want. Fortunately, the frequency and length of our trips gives us the freedom to make the decision not to wait on any line over half an hour.
Whatever your budget, group size, or experience, though, there’s a book, The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012, which can be very useful in planning a Disney World vacation. It offers unbiased reviews of all the rides, attractions, and activities in the whole “World,” including approximated wait times and which rides could frighten younger children. The book also includes equally unbiased reviews of restaurants and hotels both all around the “World” and in surrounding areas, as well as advice and plans for getting the most out of your money and time. My favorite parts are the restaurant reviews, because there are just so many restaurants in Disney World. It’s nice to have a list with descriptions and reviews of all of them, including the reader responses, because it’s interesting and helpful to hear about other people’s personal experiences.
Bob Sehlinger, co-author of The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012, kindly answered my questions and provided some advice for visitors traveling to Walt Disney World.
Q: What would you say is your top tip for traveling to Disney World as a family?
A: Less is more. Disney World’s not going anywhere so you can come back if you don’t see everything. The objective is to have fun rather the run yourself ragged trying to “get your money’s worth.” Build in breaks for naps and swimming at your hotel, as well as down days and sleep-in days. The more rested and relaxed you stay, the better the vacation will be.
Q: What would you say is your top tip for traveling to Disney World on a tight budget?
A: Have a car (rental or your own) so that you can take advantage of inexpensive lodging and dining outside Walt Disney World.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for people traveling to Disney World who are going for the first time or have gone to Disney Land but not Disney World?
A: You’ll have a great time no matter what, but it’s better to have a plan. The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World provides all the detailed information you’ll need to develop your plan.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for people travelling to Disney World who have been several times, to keep the experience fresh and interesting?
A: With new attractions, parades, live entertainment, hotels, and restaurants, Disney makes sure that there are always new things to experience. Even our research team that spends more than 50 days at Walt Disney World every year is constantly bumping into surprises.
Q: Is there anything about Disney World travel or planning Disney World travel you have learned the hard way that you think people taking a trip should know?
A: We’ve pretty much learned everything the hard way. It’s the only way that you can put yourself in the shoes of your readers. One of the big things folks should know is that you’ll walk up to 13 miles a day in the parks. If you fly a desk or are a couch potato, start taking long walks and hikes several months before your trip to get in shape.
Q: Is there anything you have learned about Disney World travel from writing for the Unofficial Guide that you hadn’t noticed before?
A: We’re always noticing new things. Disney is not afraid to tinker with the status quo. If it’s not broken they’ll fix it anyway. Sometimes this is good, sometimes not.
Q: What do you enjoy most about writing the Unofficial Guide?
A: The research. The Unofficial Guide uses cutting-edge research techniques and data analysis to provide useful insights and strategies to our readers.
Q: How do you think the Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012 could help Disney travelers?
A: If you use our step-by-step touring plans we can save you four hours of standing in line each day.
Q: Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?
A: Disney is raising prices on everything. They know they’ll put Disney World out of reach for many families but will make up the lost revenue by charging other families more. Also, there are major changes upcoming for the FastPass program that will be detrimental to guests not staying in Disney resorts.
The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012 is available in both print and digital versions and can be found in bookstores and on the Internet world wide.
Just remember that Disney seems to be in a perpetual state of Christmas. Things are magical and exciting but busy. Some people get caught up in the craziness but those who keep their heads and stay above all that seem to be in a nicer mood than they are anywhere else and enjoy the whole thing much more. As long as you are well prepared for the Disney World experience, the good and the bad, and have a good plan for navigating your way through the “World” you and your traveling companions will have a great time and may find yourself preparing for a return trip!
Kathryn Blanco is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.
Publisher's note: Frommer's graciously provided a copy of The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2012 and allowed media access to Bob Sehlinger to our student. Thank you, Frommer's and Mr. Sehlinger!
To read more interviews with Bob and book reviews of the Unofficial Guide, please see: