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How a Disney Travel Professional Does Walt Disney World (Part III: Planning: Getting Organized)

Now that you have gotten to know me a bit, it is probably obvious that I am a planner form the top of my Mickey Ears to my toes.  I talked in previous articles about resort choices, what kind of park tickets to purchase, dining reservations, and many other choices….so how does this all tie together when it comes to actually going on your trip? I have one word for you…SPREADSHEETS! 
OK, I know that most of us think of spreadsheets as a place to store boring, tedious strings of numbers but they can also be a helpful tool to keep all of your vacation information organized and easy to access.  So how do you start?  Think of a vacation planning spreadsheet as a recipe for a great vacation.  You gather all of the ingredients, mix it all together and the result is something greater than the sum of its parts.  

Ingredient #1
: Start with the park hours, major parade times and fireworks shows for each park for each day of your trip which can be found by clicking here.   These are usually announced for Walt Disney World about 6 months in advance but they can change so always go back and check for changes a few days before your trip.

Ingredient #2
: Check out the Extra Magic Hours that will be happening during your trip if you are a Disney Resort guest.  Extra Magic Hours are when a Disney Theme Park opens either one hour early or stays open up to three hours late for Disney Resort Guests only.   Only about 25% of Disney Resort guests take advantage of Extra Magic Hours on any given day so they can be a great time to visit attractions with shorter lines.

Ingredient #3
: Add all of your dining and special experiences reservations along with any notes you want to remember.

Mix it all together and you get something like this: (Click here to download this spreadsheet)

  DAY  1/11 Wed 1/12 Thurs 1/13 Fri 1/14 Sat 1/15 Sun
Magic Kingdom Hours 9am-8 pm 9am-8pm 9am-9pm 9am-1am 9am-mid
EMH none am none none PM
Dream Parade 3pm 3pm 3pm 3pm 3pm
Dance Party See Times Guide See Times Guide See Times Guide See Times Guide See Times Guide
Light Parade none ELP 7pm none ELP 7,9 pm ELP 7,9pm
Magic, Mem. and You and Wishes 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm 8pm
Epcot Hours F/W 9am-9pm 9am-9pm 9am-9pm 9am-9pm 9am -9pm
Hours W/S 11 am-9pm 11 am-9pm 11am-9pm 11am-9pm 11am-9pm
EMH none none pm none none
Illuminations 9pm 9pm 9pm 9pm 9 pm
Hollywood Studios Hours 9am-7pm 9am-7pm 9am-7pm 9am-7pm 9am -7pm
EMH none none none AM none
Fun Parade 3pm 3pm 3pm 3pm 3 pm
Fantasmic none  none none  none none
Animal Kingdom Hours 9-5 9-5 9-5 9am-8pm 9am- 8pm
EMH AM none none none none
Jungle Parade 3:45pm 3:45pm 3:45pm 3:45pm 3:45pm
RESERVATIONS   Epcot Beirgarten 6:05 pm MK Castle 10:20am  HS Sci Fi Drive in 11:20 am AK yak and yeti 6:45 pm  
Confirmation # 413051516320 413051519823 413051519345 413051522340  
NOTES Epcot all day MK all day do ELP and Wish HS Am then Epcot PM AK then MK MK all day
Cancel Dining Reservations at least 24 hours in advance by calling 1(407)WDW-CNCL to avoid penalty
Always check your park map and times guide to verify times since they may have changed

Everything fits on one page so it was easy to take with us to the parks.  I create a personalized spreadsheet like this for every family that books a trip with Magical Castle Vacations because I find them so handy myself.  You can also make a spreadsheet to hold all of your airline, accommodations and car rental information although I would keep it separately from the spreadsheet with park information.

Another great way to use spreadsheets is to make a packing list.  No one wants to interrupt their time in the parks to go shopping for toiletries that were left behind.  I use a spreadsheet to mark off items for each family member as they get packed so I can be sure not to miss anything.  Here is what our packing spreadsheet looks like:

 Jeans/Pants      Prescription Medications      
  Shorts      Over the Counter Medications      
 Tee-shirts      Band Aids      
 Underwear      Antibiotic Ointment      
Bras      Sunblock      
 Socks      Tide to Go sticks      
Sweatshirt with hood      Detergent with Fabric Softener      
Sneakers      Nail Clippers      
 Sandals/Flip Flops      Nail File      
Swimsuit      Tweezers      
Swimsuit Cover up      Small Backpack for the parks      
Hat      Eyeglass Repair Kit Travel size      
Pajamas      Purell      
TOILETRIES      Camera with extra batteries      
Shampoo      Video Camera      
Conditioner      Cell phones      
Leave In Conditioner      Cell Phone Chargers      
Hairbrush      Sunglasses      
Curling iron/Straightener      Empty Water Bottles      
Barrettes/pony holders/bands      Water Bottle Straps      
 Razor/Shaver      Credit Cards/Disney Reward Card      
Shaving Cream      Cash      
Body Wash/Soap      Ziplock Bags      
Q Tips              
Toothpaste      FOR BABY/TODDLER      
Skin Lotion      Diapers      
Face Moisturizer      Baby Food      
Deodorant      Formula      
Lipbalm      Breast Pump      
Baby Powder/Chafing Powder      Baby Wipes      
Motion Sickness Medicine      Changing Pad      
Cosmetics      Bottle Warmer      
PAPERWORK      Baby Spoon      
Car Rental Reservations      Sippy Cup      
Car Insurance Card              
Hotel Reservations              
ID for all travellers              
Magical Castle Vacations Packet              
FOR FUN              
Favorite Stuffed Animal              
Coloring pages/Crayons              
Autograph Book              
Activities for the plane/car              
Pins for trading              

I hope that all of this planning advice has given you an easy way to start your next Walt Disney World Vacation.  There is one last piece of advice I would like to offer….be flexible.  Nobody likes to have a plan more than me but I can tell you that even I deviate from the plan as the situation warrants. 

For example, on a recent trip, it was announced two days in advance that President Obama would be visiting The Magic Kingdom on the last day of our trip.  We were planning on visiting the Magic Kingdom that day.  I would have loved to see the President’s speech in front of the Castle but I am afraid I was not on the “special list of guests” so we decided to avoid the hoopla and go to Epcot that day instead.  Being flexible allowed us to avoid the crowds that accompanied the President and have a great last day.

Another good reason to be flexible with your plans is the mood and stamina level of your family.  If you aren’t having any fun, you are doing something wrong and the plan needs adjusting.  Maybe your plan says that you need to get to the park early for morning Extra Magic Hours but what your children really need is some extra sleep.  Extra Magic Hours aren’t so magical with sleepy children in tow.  You may miss the morning Extra Magic Hours but you will have a more enjoyable day overall if you get a few extra hours of rest.   Even the most energetic of families can have all of the get-up-and-go sapped out of them after several days of non-stop fun in the sun.

So, now that you know how a Disney Travel Professional does Walt Disney World, when is your next vacation?

Katherine Schutte  

About the author:

Katherine Schutte first fell in love with Disney as a child on a family trip in 1976.  Her passion for all things Disney led her to her career as the Owner of Magical Castle Vacations where she happily makes the magic of Disney vacations come true for families, honeymooners, adult and senior travelers.  She is a graduate of Disney’s College of Knowledge (yes there is such a thing) and has extensive knowledge of Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line through her many visits.  Visit her website at MagicalCastleVacations.com

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