How Do You Ensure a Great Vacation?

What do I call a great WDW vacation? Based on past visits, it’s usually one where my pre-vacation expectations match or surpass the actual experience. I think expectation is the important word here. It means I’m completely capable of having a great visit provided I set reasonable expectations.

So how do I do that?

First, I take Disney Parks marketing for what it is….marketing.

Disney Parks Sample Commercial

No one does a better job of marketing their product than Disney. At the same time, no one creates a more unrealistic expectations of their product better than Disney. A Disney Parks commercial can totally convince me Mickey and Minnie plan to watch fireworks with my family on our next visit. So while WDW is pretty magical…it’s not quite the version of magical the marketing suggests.

Second, I resist the urge to stretch my budget beyond comfortability.

It’s simple – the more money I sink into a vacation, the higher my expectations are.

That said, I always choose the “get in the door” cost option and and hope expectations are surpassed. This rather than over-spend and expect more than is likely to be delivered.

For example, I always book the cheapest category room and hope for a free upgrade rather than paying for the upgrade and risk disappointment when the it’s not exactly what I expected.

With costs continually on the rise (e.g. hotel, tickets, food, etc.), one thing I struggle with is paying more for each subsequent WDW visit- even if it’s virtually the same as the last visit. The increased cost results in increased expectations – expectations that simply can’t be met at some point.

How do I mitigate? I basically make every non-meaningful budget cut and/or dig for every discount option I can. Beyond that, I accept that fact that as WDW demand continues to increase so will too the cost of going.

Third, I keep up the research.

Hollywood Studios Sample Wait Time Data. -
Hollywood Studios Sample Wait Time Data. –

I’ve never gotten to the end of a vacation and said “wow, I really over researched that one”. The point of research within the context of the discussion here is making sure I’m reasonable in my planning.

This goes double for WDW frequent flyers who risk assuming today is operationally the same as yesterday at the parks.

For example, if I check wait time data and realize wait times for a particular attraction has recently sky-rocketed, I can budget both my time and expectations accordingly. I can also avoid that “sticker shock” moment in the parks.

Finally, I try to account for reality.

At the end of the day, I’m visiting a vacation destination alongside thousands of other folks generally with the same goal I have – the perfect trip. Inevitably, those goals collide – or boarding passes for Rise of Resistance wouldn’t be gone in a matter of seconds each morning. Said another way, friction and frustration in-between the fun is just the nature of visiting a wildly popular theme park – something I try to account for in my expectations.

So how do you keep expectations in check? Is the takeaway go cheap, keep your expectations in the gutter and you’ll have a good time? Nah. I just think it’s a good to keep balanced expectations so you have a chance at a great WDW vacation.

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Has the cost of a WDW trip outkicked the value delivered?