Thursday, February 25, 2016

Disney Nerd + Spreadsheet Nerd = Me!

I work with spreadsheets all day, every day. I found uses for spreadsheets in my everyday life thanks to falling in love with them at work. The ability to organize information is key. I'm not generally a list maker or a particularly organized type of person.


When it comes to Disney.

I am part of a group on Facebook that is connected to my travel agent for Disney vacations. (Her name is Katie and she is awesome and you should contact her if you are thinking of going to Disney!) In a recent discussion, I happened to share that I keep a spreadsheet with many tabs when planning my vacation. My travel agent does the planning work and makes recommendations and helps me make decisions. My spreadsheet helps me stay excited about my trip, stay organized about all the different aspects of planning a dream vacation, and lets me relax more once we are officially on vacation!

My organizing for Disney includes 3 important tools.

1. My spreadsheet
2. The My Disney Experience website/app
3. Touring Plans

The Disney website and app are a tool that I use with my travel agent while planning and also while on our trip. I use MDE to choose our MagicBands, select our Fast Passes, and keep track of all of our reservations (dining and extra experiences). While on property, I can use the app to check wait times for rides and make decisions about what experience we will head to next!

I have a membership for Touring Plans. I use their Crowd Calendar to help us decide when to travel, what park to visit on what day, and to loosely plan out the attractions and rides we want to hit! I use their app while on site, too, for live updated wait time info and recommendations on what to do next.

And then there is my spreadsheet.

I start my spreadsheet when I first start thinking of planning a trip. It's where I keep track of quotes, resort ideas, flight options, and more.

When Jeff and I went to Disney without kids in 2014, my spreadsheet had tabs for: Quotes by resort, parks plan, flight info, cost, packing list, and Garden Grocer order (this is a service where you can order stuff to be delivered to your room). The Quotes by resort tab compared the total price for the resorts we were considering - Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, and Coronado. We ended up choosing the Contemporary. The Parks Plan tab has information on which park we would visit on which day, the times and locations of our dining reservations and confirmation numbers, and the attractions in each park that we wanted to visit (including entertainment and times). Flight info had details on our flights - flight number, departure and arrival times. Cost tab was my payment plan. I always pack for longer trips with a list so of course my packing list gets a tab of its own. And then info on what I had ordered from Garden Grocer - mostly grocery items like breakfast food, snacks, and toiletries.

This year's family trip spreadsheet has the following tabs:

Travel Dates
Resort Info
Park Plans
Payment Plan
Movie Prep

Travel Dates shows what day we fly in, what day we visit which park, what day we fly home. I've also included all the flight info on this tab.

Resort Info has a Walt Disney World map that shows where the resort is located on property and a map of the resort itself.

Park Plans started out as the place where I was keeping track of Crowd Calendar data from various sources, just to compare. It's really an unnecessary tab after we made our decisions.

Dining is a VERY important tab! We love the Disney Dining Plan. It's wonderful to show up and basically have almost zero expenses. We bring cash for tips and souvenirs. But by using the Dining Plan, we don't have to pay every check or stress about how much we are spending on food. We get the tab, sign it, leave a tip. And we will not go hungry. For every night of our stay, we get 1 table service, 1 quick service, and 1 snack. Table service - sit down, waited on, order from menues or enjoy a buffet. Lots of character meal options with table service. Quick service - walk up to a cashier and order from a menu hung above a counter. Snacks - there are some amazing snack options that could basically count as a meal at Disney World. On my Dining tab, I keep track of when we will be using each of the table service credits, when we have our reservations booked, the quick service places we would be most interested in (I study the menues on the Disney site and read various Disney food blogs), and note any special snacks at each park.

Fast Pass is where I start making lists of what attractions we might want fast passes for. Touring Plans is hugely helpful on this one - they even make suggestions of what attractions might be a good option for Fast Pass. Once i have them booked, I have them listed.

Payment Plan. Once of the best parts of working with a travel agent like Katie at Hi Ho Vacations is that I book our trip with just a $200 deposit. I then have until 30 days before the trip to pay in full. And I can make payments! So I schedule it out, budget for it, and keep track of my payments on my spreadsheet.

Movie Prep - I like my kids to be familiar with the characters and themes they are going to see while at Disney. I don't want them to be disappointed in not seeing the Disney things they love so I feed them certain things they will see more of before we get there. We aren't going to see Disney XD stuff too much while there. Teagan loves Disney channel shows like Gravity Falls, Jessie, Liv & Maddie and there just isn't much in the parks for these things.

Packing List - I started out using the list from WDW Prep School. Put it into a spreadsheet and I can totally customize it to what we need. Here is a little snippet:

Here are the 2 most important things about my spreadsheet.

1. It is constantly changing. I use it to remember things, investigate options, keep track of various details.

2. Just because I keep a spreadsheet and totally overplan doesn't mean I strictly adhere to all of it once we're on the ground. The best way to have fun at DIsney is to know what you're getting into but also be able to just let go and have fun. By "over preparing" before we go, I feel like I am really knowledgable about all the options and can then make on the fly decisions more confidently.

There you have it. My Disney planning obsessive spreadsheet weirdness. When I'm stressed at work, I open my spreadsheet and feel a little better. When I'm reading blogs and websites and don't want to forget a tip or packing item or snack to try, I pop over to my spreadsheet. My spreadsheet is just my way of keeping track of the information overload required of a Disney vacation. It's not fancy or particularly pretty. I don't make it printable or color code it. But I do use it throughout the months of planning that it takes to really embrace a Disney vacation!

sig jan 2014 photo owlsig.jpg

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