Last December we spent eight fun-filled days at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I booked the vacation sort of last minute after finding an opening at the DisneyWorld campground that coincided with our travel route into Florida.
The first thing I did was order the The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016 – but when the 864-page book arrived I found myself overwhelmed by all the information in the book. I barely have time to read my email, how was I going to find time to read nearly 900-pages about Disney?
So then I thought I’d ask for “Disney World advice” on my personal Facebook page. Again – the response was overwhelming. Fast passes, dining reservations, meal plans, park hopping. . . it was a A LOT to keep track of, even when it came as casual recommendations from friends and family.
Within that same Facebook thread, a friend of mine recommended I contact Sabrina at The Enchanted Traveler, a travel consultant who SPECIALIZES in Disney travel planning. My first thoughts were – she’s probably expensive and I could probably do everything on my own. . .
But a couple days later I was still staring at the big Disney planning book, hadn’t made any progress in planning, and what was supposed to be a fun family vacation was now an added stress to my already busy work schedule. So I pulled up the The Enchanted Traveler website and discovered Sabrina’s offered a FREE consultation.
So I took a chance and contacted Sabrina. . . I’m so glad I did. I emailed her on a Thursday morning – explaining my anxiety over trying to plan our last-minute Disney vacation and by that night I was chatting with her on the phone. We talked for about 45 minutes and I shared with her my expectations for our Disney World vacation, along with our family preferences for scheduling, rides, dining, budget and a little bit about our travel history. I knew the minute I hung up the phone that she was the answer to a stress-free Disney vacation.
Overnight she started working her magic. By the following morning I had already a basic itinerary and dining reservations in my Disney account. I felt like I had a fairy godmother who stepped in and was saving the day. Ultimately she ended up scheduling our whole vacation – park schedule, Fast Passes, dining reservations, extra activities (like Disney’s Christmas party) – she did everything and it was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had.
Here are 7 reasons why I will never plan another Disney vacation (and why I will hire a planner like Sabrina) ::
1.) I don’t have the time, energy or desire to become a Disney expert. Disney is expensive and I think this adds to the pressure of wanting to make the most of every day at Disney. I wanted our investment to be worthwhile and I wanted it to be as “magical” as possible. But honestly I didn’t want to have to become a Disney World expert overnight. As a small business owner I learned a valuable lesson early on – you can try to be an expert in all areas, all the time – or you can hire an expert when it makes sense and put your energy instead toward things you do best. I am 100% a Type A personality (Virgo all the way) – so letting go of things is hard for me, I often want to be in control and want to do everything myself. I didn’t have to worry about this with Sabrina – I knew I was in good hands and I was RELIEVED the minute I passed the Mickey planning ears to her and gave her control of planning our vacation.
2.) We saved so much time. THIS. I cannot emphasize this enough. Not only did we save ourselves hours of planning ahead of time by hiring Sabrina, but we saved hours NOT waiting in lines thanks to her strategic park planning. She knows which parks are busiest on what days and she strategically set up our itinerary to avoid the longest lines. It worked. I think the longest ride line we waited in was 30 minutes – although we regularly saw people in line with wait times 120 minutes or longer. She claims most of her clients wait no more than 15 minutes on average and I believe this to be true – I felt spoiled, often we’d run through the turnstiles to hop on rides with nearly zero wait. The year before when we went to Disneyland, I remembered waiting in a lot more lines – this was the vacation we researched and planned on our own.
3.) We saved money. I believe 100% that we easily saved the cost of Sabrina’s services thanks to her advice. By having an itinerary that was realistic and fit well with our family’s preferences we were able to eat meals in our Airstream in the campground – and plan meals and extra activities ahead of time. She helped us decide which “extras” were worth the cost and which ones we might not be worth the additional costs based on our family preferences. We wanted to do the Mickey Christmas party one night and she recommended a night that was less expensive than the one we had originally planned (I didn’t even know prices varied) and it aligned better with our park plans. She also recommended things like buying ponchos ahead of time – which we did and we ended up needing them big time (who knew it rained in Florida!!?). we ended up paying about $6 for four (4) ponchos ahead of time vs. $30+ in the park! She had lots of tips like this that saved us money!
Our spot at Disney Fort Wilderness Campground
4.) She saved us from a big “oops” with our reservation. I had originally booked a 5-day reservation at the campground, but a spot popped up for an additional 4 days, so I snagged it up. I thought this second reservation was confirmed and paid for – but turns out it was only “reserved” not confirmed and our reservation for the additional 4 days in the campground was automatically canceled after 24 hours. I had no idea it was canceled – there isn’t an email sent by Disney when this happens. Sabrina noticed immediately that things weren’t matching up in our Disney account and she emailed me explaining the situation. She could have expected me to make a new reservation and fix the mishap – but she simply just fixed it herself (after emailing and asking if she could fix it for me). She contacted Disney, set up my reservation (again) and confirmed it – so we were good to go. I’m fairly certain I would have completely missed this mistake and not have been able to rebook due to no availability. We had extended our park hoppers already to include those additional days, so this could have been an expensive mistake!
Front and center seats at Fantasia
5.) Fast pass (FP+) reservations. One of the keys to avoiding long lines is to have Fast Passes for the most popular attractions and rides. Fast passes allow you to go in a shorter line for up to 3 rides/attractions a day. These can be booked up to 90 days before your reservation starts! I didn’t realize this and when we booked our vacation 5 weeks out, many of the most popular Fast Passes were already booked. Sabrina watched Fast Pass availability and was able to schedule fast passes for nearly everything we wanted. We ended up having front row seats Fantasia (amazing), Elsa’s Sing-A-Long, NEMO Musical and the Lion King thanks to the reservations she made for us.
Character dining at Tuskers (Animal Kingdom)
6.) Dining reservations. Food at Disney is expensive – there is no sugar-coating this fact. If you plan it just right you can have a good mix of quick meals and character dining. The character dining needs to be reserved waaaay in advanced. We booked our trip last minute and missed out on the early reservation advantage. I could have checked the Disney dining reservation system every day for openings/cancellations – but instead Sabrina took care of ALL our dining reservations based on our preferences. She has the ability to see cancellations and was able to book reservations for us as they popped up! It was such a relief to be able to login to my Disney account and see dining reservations made without any effort or research on my part. Sabrina also gave us advice for quick serve restaurants that fit into our itinerary – and we found her advice on value/lines was more reliable than the big Disney planning book! And our favorite character dining ended up being Tuskers at Animal Kingdom, recommended by Sabrina!
7.) Personal attention and care. This one was the icing on the cake for me. A week before we got to Disney World I had a 17-page itinerary/travel guide sent to my email. It wasn’t a form/template schedule – it was a personal plan for my family. It included Sabrina’s home and cell phone numbers – offering assistance at anytime. It had valuable park tips (best places to see fireworks, parades etc.), important phone numbers and all our dining reservations, fast passes and accommodations.. Sabrina checked in on us during our trip and even sent a follow-up email the day we were home. I honestly felt like Disney royalty having her do all the legwork and coordination for our vacation. Some might argue that with time and energy you can save money by doing this planning yourself – but what a luxury it was to save time, money and my sanity – for what I feel was a very nominal cost.
I am certain I won’t ever plan a Disney vacation again. I’ll have Sabrina do it. I believe her rates are insanely reasonable. The VIP Park Planning Services for Walt Disney World cost $250 (more if you don’t book your reservations through her). Park Planning Services for Disney cost $150. When you factor in all the reasons I listed above, I believe the service she provides is worth every penny. I’m always very intentional about the recommendations I give on this site and I have zero reservations about recommending Sabrina to family and friends (that’s you).
Thinking about booking a Disney vacation? Sabrina begins all her Disney planning services with a FREE consultation.
Visit The Enchanted Traveler for more details.
Sponsored post: All opinions, content and photos are my own. I have not only recommended Sabrina to all my friends and family but I plan to personally use her services anytime we plan a Disney vacation.