Lessons learned, missed opportunities, and things we’ll repeat
We are one-week post vacation and I feel like I am back into my normal groove. I’ve received a few inquiries about our trip from families who are looking to plan their travels to Orlando, FL with Walt Disney World as the focus. The most frequently asked questions are “how was it”, “what would you recommend” and a few others. In today’s post, I will share the three biggest lessons learned during the planning process for our Disney vacation as well as a few missed opportunities and things we will repeat.
The Planning Process
DIY planning a week-long vacation requires a ton of research, planning, and scheduling. I see why travel professionals make a living out of planning other families’ vacations. For a busy mom, this is another added task to an already busy life. To snag the most sought restaurants and activities, I was up at 5 a.m. 60-days before our park day. The kicker is, that I still was not able to secure two of our desired reservations. I’d check back frequently to see if something would become available but it did not.
Before deciding to self-plan our vacation, I did speak with a very knowledgeable Disney Vacation Travel agent. She was amazing and full of insights and suggestions. One of the main reasons I decided to do-it-yourself a vacation plan was to gain knowledge and insights that I could share with my family and friends who are also looking to travel to Orlando shortly.
Not to mention that I am a planner mom and love all things planning! I enjoyed the planning phase and felt so connected to the memories we were able to create.
Lessons Learned Planning our Disney Vacation
Where do I begin? I have a ton of lessons learned. I shared a few sprinkled in the other blogs, particularly the Planning Break Days During your Disney Vacation – Career Mom Community and the Hollywood Studios Was Most Stressful – Career Mom Community.
The biggest lesson learned was to SCHEDULE BREAKS. I’m not talking about taking a break from rides to sit in a theater for a 12-minute show. These types of breaks serve a good purpose but when you are traveling to the parks with smaller children you will need real breaks. Times where they can nap or refuel.
I believe on of the biggest reasons for my son’s meltdown on our 3rd and final park day (the 6th day of the trip) was due to the fact that he was not getting much sleep. Our kids were staying up late watching television and playing with all of their newly acquired toys and neglecting rest. This routine, or lack thereof, lead to sleepiness and overwhelm. It’s important to remember that the Disney World Parks are full of adventure, stimulation, music, dancing, and more. For some children, or even adults, this can be extremely overwhelming.
Another lesson learned is related to budgeting. I will admit I did not account for the magnitude of spending that we did. I will share a line item review soon on YouTube. Long story short we spent a lot of money. Everything from food to parking (which I neglected to estimate properly) to water and toys in abundance. I hope that sharing our line item budget and actual spending will help you to budget better and spend less!
The last lesson learned is about time management. You can not predict a Central Florida rainstorm and when the rides will go down. I learned that you must maintain a level of flexibility and keep backup plans on deck.
To recap the three biggest lessons learned were:
- Schedule lengthy breaks
- Budget for everything you can ever imagine
- Manage time with a level of flexibility
The biggest missed opportunity was to enjoy the night shows at the parks. We were ready to go by the time the evening extravaganzas started. I wish we would have taken a mid-day break at least at Magic Kingdom so that we could catch the nighttime fireworks show.
We also could have opted for the multiple stroller rental on the first park day and saved $2/day on the rental. Keep this in mind if you are traveling with small children who need a stroller. Now that I think about it we probably could have purchased a stroller from Wal-Mart for cheaper than we paid for the rental and then donated it to a shelter at the end of the trip.
Other things we forgot included:
- Packing ponchos, they cost $12+ in the park
- Packing lunch to cut down on in-park food cost
Things we WILL Repeat
We loved our visit to Disney’s Polynesian Resort! The ambiance was great and they seemed to be a lot of activities for families. We also loved Animal Kingdom Lodge. We are thinking about going back to Orlando in two or so years and one of these resorts will be on my radar for the stay.
If our close friends (who are more like family) plan a trip in 2024, we may tag along. During this trip, we will make Animal Kingdom Park a priority and Universal Studios Parks. We would also revisit Magic Kingdom or Epcot. Hollywood Studio’s may be our once and done.
Once and Done
I’m thankful that I planned and pulled out all the stops to make our trip memorable and magical. As mentioned above, Hollywood Studios is not slated to be a repeat park. During this trip, we skipped Animal Kingdom but I look forward to going in the future.
I’d even say that the International Food Festival at Epcot is once and done. The food was good but it did not blow me away.
By the time we revisit the parks the kids will probably be uninterested in some of the activities such as:
- Rides geared towards smaller children such as Dumbo