Planning a Disney World Vacation via iPad

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It's vacation season. 


And like many people with 7 year old kids, we're off to Orlando this August for a long weekend at Walt Disney World.

I knew it was going to be on the expensive side, and we were ready for that.

I had no idea how much was required in terms of comparison shopping, advance planning, and dinner reservations.

Fortunately, Disney and Apple are ready for that. Meet the My Disney Experience website and (more specifically) the iOS app.
Over the last 4 years, I have traveled a LOT for work. And I've gotten pretty good at it.

But when you're planning a Disney vacation, there are a few extra moving parts, and it can get pretty complicated pretty fast.

As with any trip, you need flights and hotels. And even if you're staying at a Disney hotel, you can generally book through anyone. (We booked through Expedia, for instance.)

But you also need things that are exclusive to Disney - theme park tickets, the coveted on-site restaurant reservations, show tickets, and so on.

In some cases, these aren't available through my usual online sources.

Unbundling

There are three major expenses on your Disney trip - flights, hotel, and tickets. There are a number of places you can buy all three together - but on Disney trips, it's tough to get much of a bundling discount. 

Even though we're staying on-site, we found that the best prices were NOT directly from Disney - Expedia got us our hotel, and I booked flights directly with American Airlines.

Disney hotels are great with their cancellation policy - no charge for any hotel cancellation up to 5 days before your trip. We were originally at Swan, moved to Coronado Springs when a great rate was posted, and have our eyes on the Wilderness Lodge. Stay tuned....

Park tickets just got a bit more expensive. We're going to arrive on a Friday morning, and leave on a Tuesday afternoon - all told, 5 days, but 2 are travel days.

Strangely, a 5 day ticket is essentially the same cost as a 3-day ticket. The best rates we found were with Expedia, where a 5-day Park Hopper ticket is $300. (I have no idea how long that promo rate will last - it is substantially less than we've seen elsewhere.)

The Disney Experience App

Even if you unbundle your travel purchases, you can re-consolidate them in the Disney World Experience App. Just enter your confirmation numbers, and it's all there. Hotel, Dining - even the park hours for every day of the trip.

We made sure to get a Chef Mickey breakfast reservation for our first full day on-site - but by the time I started planning in earnest, some of Disney's more famous restaurants were long-since fully booked. 

(No Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom, or Le Cellier at Epcot, for us on this trip. That's okay.)

My favorite feature, though is the map. I know that sounds odd... but... it's a really cool map. A scaling map of the entire WDW complex, which is hand-drawn at every zoom level! 

I understand that once you're actually AT the parks, you can use the app to make and track FastTrack ride reservations. But even now, it's useful for browsing attractions and booking restaurants. 

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