Friday, December 7, 2012

We're Going Back, Part Three: Isaac on the Horizon

Ready to meet her favorite princesses again!
After many revisions of my "pros and cons" list, numerous cross-checks of flights, hours of searching for the best deals and discounts, and countless groans of frustration from my husband (as I announced, changed, and re-announced our vacation dates several times), we'd finally settled on late August as the best time for our second Disney World vacation.  Now, I was able to focus on my favorite parts of planning a Disney trip: itinerary development and restaurant selection.  And this time around (unlike our first vacation), I had the knowledge and experience to help me with these tasks. Considering factors like predicted crowd levels, park hours, and special events, I created a balanced itinerary for our trip, complete with daily touring plans for each theme park.   

Tip Time: Planning all of these aspects of a Disney World vacation can easily become time-consuming and overwhelming.  A travel agent can help you narrow down your vacation options; best of all, they get paid commission from their suppliers (not their clients), so their services are usually completely free.  Furthermore, some Disney travel agents will design a personalized itinerary and daily touring plans for you (for a nominal fee).  When I plan a trip for a client, I handcraft unique itineraries and touring plans to fit the needs and preferences of that client's traveling party.  Then, when my clients arrive at Disney World, all they have to do is follow the steps in their plan to ensure that they are always a few steps ahead of the crowds.  When everyone else is waiting in lines, they are making memories!  Especially when planning your first Disney vacation, seeking help from a travel professional can help you make the most of your trip. 

Then, I turned my focus to our dining reservations.  We'd chosen to add the Disney Dining Plan to our vacation package.  On this plan, each person in our group would be entitled to one quick-service (fast food) meal, one table service (sit-down) meal, and one snack per night of our vacation.  Guests are able to book Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for their table-service meals 180 days before their trip, so I needed to make some serious dining decisions before my window opened.  Making these decisions, however, is no small feat.  Approximately 70 full-service restaurants operate in the Walt Disney World resort!  From character meals to gourmet dining experiences, these restaurants offer high-quality food and top-notch service.  Furthermore, since my mother was accompanying us on this trip, I was determined to make it the MOST MAGICAL VACATION EVER (warnings on the perils of this goal in my next post).  So, for several days, I pored over all of our dining options, narrowed them down, and made my final selections.  And I was waiting at my computer to make those dining reservations at precisely 7:00am on the 180th day before our arrival date!

Tip Time: When we are planning a family vacation to Disney World, we like to involve our kids in some of the decision-making.  An easy way to do this is to let each child pick one restaurant at which they would like to eat while on the trip. 

Once all of our reservations were in place, the only thing left to do was to build some excitement for our vacation!  So, during the summer, we shopped for Disney t-shirts to take with us on our trip, watched the Disney vacation planning DVD a few times, and downloaded Disney songs to listen to in the car on the way to the airport.  I also purchased a children's Disney World travel guide for my son, and I took my daughter to see the stage version of "Beauty and the Beast" when it came to our city. 

Our Countdown Calendar
Tip Time: If you decide to tell your kids about your Disney vacation, there are lots of fun ways to involve them in trip preparations.  On this trip, I created a "Countdown to Disney" calendar that began 100 days before our vacation.  Each night, the kids took turns crossing off a day.  At the end of each week, they decorated the calendar with a sticker of their choosing.  On the last week, each day was dedicated to some sort of "trip preparation activity": gathering friends' addresses for postcards, throwing a Disney dinner party, making lists of "must-do" theme park attractions, etc.  Anticipation is part of the fun of any trip, and pre-trip activities make a Disney vacation even more magical!  Be careful, however, that you don't trigger a "Disney Overload".  Balance is key!

Before we knew it, summer was coming to an end and our vacation date was quickly approaching.  The anticipation of our return to Disney World was reaching its pinnacle.  Sadie was donning different princess outfits every hour and calling my mom daily to sing a "countdown song" that she composed to the tune of "Happy Birthday To You."  Jack was spending almost all of his free time reading about the different theme park attractions and intently researching the eleven nations represented in Epcot's World Showcase.

In the meantime, I was keeping a close eye on the weather forecast.  August is smack-dab in the middle of hurricane season.  Fortunately, Orlando is far enough inland that hurricanes rarely cause much damage in the Walt Disney World resort area, and resort closures due to hurricanes are highly unusual.  Nevertheless, a hurricane near the Florida coast can still bring torrential downpours and high winds to the Orlando area.  When I booked our vacation for August, I was fully aware of the potential for a hurricane to impact our trip, but the possibility of this happening was SO remote that I pushed this concern right out of my head.

About two days before our departure, this concern returned with a vengeance.  I'd just started packing for our trip, and I was knee-deep in suitcases and clothing, so I asked my husband to check the Orlando-area forecast in the kitchen for me.  I was happily folding nightgowns and swimsuits when I head him mutter "uh-oh" under his breath...

Next Up: Our Departure Day Arrives as Isaac Approaches!!

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