From Paper to Pixels: How Walt Disney World Resort Planning Has Evolved by Rachel Horsley
*Setting out to write this post, I wanted to explore how Disney Vacation Planning has changed in the last 30 years. But, what my research led me to was so much more. Some of my first, and favorite, Walt Disney World Resort memories took place before I ever set-foot on Main Street USA.
I take after my father. I’m a planner. And when I say “planner,” I don’t mean, “Today I plan to…” I mean, buy the book, make a spreadsheet and PLAN. That’s not to say I can’t be flexible when life’s more “challenging” moments intervene. I just like to have as much information as possible when decisions need to be made (whether 180 days or 18 minutes before)
One evening in early 1983,my dad was hard at work at the dining room table, paging through a book and making notes in his green ledger. Asking what he was working on, I learned we were going to vacation at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” And, in order to take full advantage, it would require planning. I love this memory.
The book was Birnbaum’s The Best of Walt Disney World 1983, and my father was planning every detail. I love paging through it, seeing his notes for dining and prime park hours. His final product was a very detailed (and hand written) plan for 4.5 days broken into 15 minute increments. Our last day was left open to repeat our favorites.
Epcot had only opened the year before, and my dad made sure we saw everything on offer. I met Figment AND Dreamfinder. We toured The Land and traveled the world (showcase.)And most importantly, at the newly revealed Horizons attraction, I learned that “if you can dream it, then you can do it!” Yes I can!
At the Magic Kingdom, his plan was near perfect. The only line, in which I recall waiting, was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and really, who didn’t wait in that line?) We dined with royalty at King Stefan’s Banquet, and Had Wings with Eastern Airlines (you’re singing the song now, aren’t you? I’ll wait…)
Such a near flawless vacationleft a real impression on me.I learned that a little planning goes a long way and a lot of planning means you don’t have to wait in line for Dumbo, the flying elephant. Never once did we get lost. There were no fights about what we were going to do next, and when we were hungry there was a table waiting for us nearby. Truth be told, my bother’s ear infection on day 2 and a sudden cold snap were the only hiccups.
My father’s tools were a mechanical pencil, a single paperback book and a green accounting ledger. I’m humbled when I think of the detail he managed with just these.
I’m lucky to have far more (and more accessible) tools in my war chest. TouringPlans.com for crowd information, Disboards and AllEars for (sometimes instant) updates and reviews, countless blogs (like TheAdultSideOfDisney.com), Excel and a laptop all enable my passion for Disney planning.
Until last year, I had printed (and laminated) itineraries for myself & others, the old fashioned way. Today, they are viewed via Dropbox from smart phones anywhere,anytime. Meanwhile, apps like TripIt and PackingPro have made tracking and packing a cinch.
And don’t even get me started on how texting has revolutionized the “meet-up mix-up.” You know, when you agree to meet at the castle (or wherever) at an appointed time. Inevitably, someone is late,in the wrong place, or they’ve come and gone. Now I just text, “Where the heck are you?” and go about my day, instead of standing there like an idiot wondering which of the above has happened.
MyDisneyExperience, FastPass+ and Magic Bands promise planners ever more options and possibilities. Scheduling a FastPass+ for Toy Story Midway Mania vs. participating in the daily rope-drop cattle drive to Pixar Place? Don’t mind if I do! Keeping all my ADR’s & plans in the same place with the official maps and wait times? Sign me up!
Sadly, that vacation would be our last as a family. The next year my parents would divorce and I my beloved castle would elude me for a dozen years. For this, and countless other, reasons I’m thankful my dad worked so hard to make our Walt Disney World Resort vacation “practically perfect in every way” …and for teaching me how to work a good plan!
* Here’s the bonus…he saved everything! Coming up next…A Trip Report 30 Years in the Making!