Why I Didn't Use a Free Disney Planner for Our WDW Vacay

Being a California Girl, I grew up going to Disneyland, and I have such awesome memories of it. Now that we're official Southerners, Disney World is much closer. But y'all. Disney World is in its own league of ridiculousness. I feel like you can do Disneyland on the fly - no advanced warning or planning needed. Disney Word is like one of those elementary schools you sign up for when your baby is still in the womb. I'm not lying when I say you book breakfast reservations six months in advance. Part of the scenario lies in the fact that you'll probably be staying on property, but also that Disney World is just so darn big (the size of San Francisco if you're California literate like me 😉). It's always been very intimidating, but when we decided it was time to introduce our little guy (he was four years old at the time) to the Wonderful World of Disney, I decided to slowly start researching. I'm warning you - it will become an obsession. Everything you need to know can be found online (bless the internet). There are two big timelines of which you need to be aware:

1. Six Months 
This is the general planning mark, and yes I think it's crazy. But six months out you'll be able to book advanced dining reservations, needed at all table service restaurants and the super popular Be Our Guest quick-service restaurant. We didn't pin down our travel dates until about four months out, and even with that time frame, we got into all the restaurants I had wanted but our days and times were super limited (especially with the very popular restaurants like Cinderella's Royal Table and Chef Mickey's).

2. Sixty Days
Windows for fast passes open sixty days prior to your first park day. You'll want to be on your computer right when they open to snag the most coveted ones. I referred to this post when booking ours - it helped to figure out which rides (like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) were really popular and would have the longest lines, so I made sure to either book a Fast Pass or plan to hit the ride earlier in the day when the line wouldn't be as long.

So, on to the Disney planners and why we didn't use one. There are a whole host of Authorized Disney Vacation Planners who will do all the booking and scheduling for you free of charge! They go through extensive Disney training and are paid a commission directly by Disney, so there is literally no extra charge to you. (There are also regular travel agents who do charge their normal fee for booking a WDW vacation, but I'm not sure why anyone would do this when Disney offers accredited agents for free.)

First, I think there are cases in which you definitely should use a free Disney Planner.

1. If you don't have any extra time to dedicate to planning 
One of my local friends was planning a WDW trip around the same time we were - she has three kids and one was a newborn at the time. She did not have the extra time to dedicate so she used a free Disney Planner who did everything for her. Similarly, if you are tied up with work or other obligations, a Disney Planer will put in the time for you.

2. If you don't enjoy researching and planning
If it sounds awful to you to spend hours combing through Disney blogs, then don't. There's no reason to do something you despise when someone else will be paid to do it for you.

3. For a possible money saving opportunity
Disney Planners might be able to help get you a discount if and when one is offered. If booking yourself and you find one, you can apply it on your own, but a Disney Planner may be able to spot a discount you didn't see. Discounts are usually super limited and need to be applied at certain specific times, but it's worth mentioning.

So, on to my reasoning for not using this free service:

1. I can't imagine giving control to someone else. 
After all, my chosen profession (teaching) gave me supreme authority and control over my little kingdom (classroom). I liked being able to make all the decisions, to plan every second of the day without conferring with other adults. So when it comes to planning my family's vacation, I couldn't fathom letting someone else choose the restaurants, the times we would be eating, which rides we would be riding. I'm sure Disney Planners get input as to, say, which rides or restaurants the travelers prefer, but I'd much rather be the one making the final decisions.

2. I don't trust anyone else. 
I'm sure the Disney Planners are amazing, but I wouldn't trust anyone else to be on the computer at 7AM EST (that's 4AM if the planner is in California, or 6AM where I was in Alabama) the day after Thanksgiving (which was when our window opened) to book my family's fast passes. We also ended up booking our flights directly through Disney, but only after checking the price when booking directly with the airlines - I had to see for myself that which was the less expensive option.

3. I actually like researching and planning.
As a homemaker, I feel like it's now in my job description to make sure our house runs smoothly and to also take care of our scheduling. I love learning about new places and areas, and I truly enjoyed all the research I did on Disney World (the Disney Moms Panel was especially helpful). Making the arrangements (park days, restaurant reservations, fast pass selections) was half the fun. In my extensive "research" I came across a number of blog posts from first time WDW go-ers who used planners, then had problems once they were in the park because they didn't understand how things worked (e.g. how and when to get a new fast pass). Because I felt I gained a real understanding of the WDW workings, I was confident going in. There are a ton of decisions to make once in the park each day, and I feel like I was able to guide us in a way to make the best use of our time over our days at WDW.

Now, what about y'all? Are you in the "do it yourself" camp like me, or do you think it's crazy to not use a planner? 

And if you missed my other WDW posts, read about Day One HEREDay Two HEREDay Three HereDay Four HERE, and How We Prepped for Disney HERE!


  1. The researching and planning for any vacation is one of my favorite parts! I don't think I would ever want to give that up to someone else!

  2. You made valid points on both sides! It seems like Disney is such a to do anymore, it would be super helpful to have someone guiding you, but at the same time, like you saidk, by doing it yourself you really get to understand how things work!

  3. I totally get it now! And you know what? Had I been staying at home last July when we booked, I would have done the exact same thing that you did! I LOVE planning and I LOVE researching for trips and I'm a total control freak so I was absolutely terrified to relinquish control to a Disney planner, but since I worked full-time back then I just didn't have the time to do it myself because like you said - SO MUCH WORK. With that said, our Disney planner has been absolutely phenomenal and she booked the best stuff ever for us, so I think we're going to have a great time. Your posts have made me so darn excited!! I'm glad you guys had so much fun, too! Next time we go, I may be able to plan our own trip! ;o)


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