Some people like to have every detail planned out when it comes to their vacation; others like to leave things to chance.
When you’re visiting Disney World, it’s certainly a good idea to leave some time for spontaneity, but you simply must make some reservations beyond the basic flight and hotel unless you want to spend much of your vacation waiting in line and eating quick-service meals.
If you’re a planning type of vacationer, you might want to create a planning spreadsheet. However, it’s hard to figure out where to start. With so much information, how could you possibly condense it into one sheet? Well, I’m here to help you with that!
I’ve created a simple spreadsheet that anyone can use to plan out a vacation. Of course I would love for you to use my sheet, but you can also modify it to fit your needs or create one that works for you.
I believe there are five pieces of information that you should include in any reservation sheet. Whether you use something simple like just a piece of paper or document or create something more elaborate like a fancy Excel or Numbers sheet, this information is essential.
Anytime you get a reservation number, add it to your sheet. If you look at my example, you’ll see that I’ve added reservation numbers to the time of the event, so your flight information is at the time of your flight, and your hotel information is listed at the time of check-in. ADRs would be listed at the time of your ADR.
While reservation numbers associated with Disney World should be on your MyDisneyExperience app, it’s also helpful to have everything together in one place even just for a second point of reference.
2. Parks of the Day
Check crowd calendars and park schedules, and choose your parks for each day based on this information.
Some things that might contribute to this decision include Extra Magic Hours (EMH), parties, and special events. When a park has EMHs, you might be able to see a second showing of the nighttime show and it will be less crowded than the earlier showing. You also might be able to visit two parks in one day if you can match a morning EMH with an evening EMH or if one park is open late for regular hours. If you have tickets to, say, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you might want to plan to spend the whole day in Magic Kingdom, but if you don’t have tickets, you might want to visit a different park that day, especially if you don’t have a park hopper, because Magic Kingdom will close to the public earlier than normal.
The crowd calendars will help you figure out which parks will be most crowded on which days and even down to the hour. You can decide to skip the most crowded parks all together for that day, or you could choose to arrive early so the park doesn’t close due to capacity.
Once you choose your parks for each day, fill in the “ATTENDING” row.
3. Park Schedules
After you’ve chosen which parks to attend on which days, fill in the park’s major events including parades, shows, etc. If there’s more than one showing of, say, Wishes, fill in which one you think you’ll attend. (Hint: the later showing is almost always less crowded.)
Filling in this park schedule doesn’t mean you have to visit each of the events, but you should know that they’re going on. For example, if you’re traveling with older children or all adults, you might want to skip the Festival of Fantasy Parade. However, you’ll also want to stay away from the parade route and especially the HUB in front of Cinderella Castle since there will be major crowds during this time. If you want to watch Wishes at 10PM, consider finding a viewing spot around 9PM. You can add all of this to your spreadsheet, which can be much more detailed than your MyDisneyExperience calendar.
4. FP+, ADRs, and Events
Next, you’ll be making your final reservations for the parks including FastPass+, Advanced Dining Reservations, and special events.
While you can simply fill in “FP+” or “ADR”, you could get more specific with the location. The MyDisneyExperience app will have the details, and you should be able to access it while you’re in the parks.
If you have any special events scheduled like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Cirque du Soleil, or a dinner show like Spirit of Aloha at Disney’s Polynesian Resort or Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Lodge, you can add those to your schedule.
5. Free Time
Even if you really like to have everything scheduled to the minute, it’s important to remember to leave some open spaces. Why? Well, there are a few reasons.
Sometimes things last longer (or don’t take as long) as you expected. You might be able to squeeze something else in or you might have to add some time to your plan. Regardless, if you’re scheduled to the minute, you’re going to have a hard time adjusting accordingly for extra wait times, longer meals, and larger crowds. You should also leave time for some impromptu things like a drum show in China or a belly dancing show in Morocco. Vignettes like this pop up all over World Showcase, and you won’t want to miss them because your schedule is too tight.
You’ll also probably want to enjoy things other than the parks like your hotel pool, Disney Springs, Disney’s Boardwalk, or even other Disney Resort Hotels.
It’s also good to schedule a mid-day break for a quick rejuvenating nap or a dip in the pool. At some point, the family just might need some time to rest. Free time is important and necessary.
Do you track your Disney vacation info in a planning spreadsheet?