How to Plan a Disney Day + FREE Planning Tool

While planning your Disney vacation, you've probably heard other Disney bloggers talk about the importance of having a plan. Crowds, hot weather and the sheer size of the parks can make any Disney vacation daunting, especially during peak season. But when you enter the parks with a plan, you can conquer your day at Disney before most people even enter the parks. Sharing my tips for how to make the most out of your day at Disneyland is for another post, and there are many great bloggers out there with awesome tips who keep up with the latest crowd flow trends (like DLR Prep School, The Happiest Blog on Earth, and Trips with Tykes). Today I'm excited to share with you a method I've been using for many years, along with a tool to keep you organized.

Planning your Disney vacation

When I was a little girl, planning our Disney vacation was a six month process. I would print out the latest Disney map (or hand-draw it from the computer screen... before the days of good printers) and literally draw out our path through the park. I would highlight which rides we would target first, and which dining locations we wanted to stop at. Yep, at the ripe old age of 8, I was dragging my poor family through the parks at an alarming rate, getting in all our favorite rides before lunch.

I still use the same process, but a little refined. Whenever I'm planning a full day at the park with someone, I lay out the latest park map, picking out the "Must Ride" attractions from each land. I will plug in any existing reservations we have, and make a rough plan for the other meals (counter service and carts don't require reservations). We also check the entertainment times and decide which showtimes we want to catch.

From there, I can draw a rough picture of what our day will look like. The most important time to have a plan is the morning, so you can make the most of lower crowd levels and cooler temperatures. Know which ride you want to hit first, second and third, then a rough plan of the direction you want to move in the park. The rest of your day will be dictated by FastPass distribution times, entertainment times and reservations, so be prepared to adapt according!

This method works great for planning a day at the park with any type of group. For example, my mom can't ride anything that whips around too fast, so we focus on the slower rides and entertainment. When my best friend was in town, she's a ride junkie, so we made sure to hit up rides like Tower of Terror early in the day in case we wanted to double-back for a second ride. And if I'm visiting the park with my little nieces? You bet our day will be filled with character meet-and-greets and storyteller shows.

To help me plan a Disney Day, I created the Disney Day Planner! I'm a planner junkie, so this is a totally normal thing in my world. Using this tool has helped me feel way more prepared and confident when in the parks with a new group of people. I can easily refer to the schedule to remember which rides we still need to fit in and make sure we don't miss any showtimes. I can even hand off the planner to the group if I need to step away for a bit (like to run home and check on the pugs). It definitely takes off the pressure as the go-to Disney planner person!

Remember, all free downloads are for personal use only. Any part of the design may not be sold or used for commercial use of any kind. But please share it with your friends!

I would love to hear about your Disney vacation planning! How do you plan a Disney Day? Do you go to the parks with a plan? Do you think this planner will help you?

Celebrating Easter at Disneyland

Disneyland is great at ever-changing their experiences for attendees with the passing of the seasons and the years. In the past few weeks, I explored the amazing selection of activities available to celebrate Easter and springtime at Disneyland. Besides the fact that I have a bias towards springtime, I was overwhelmed with everything Disneyland had to offer for this time of year. Celebrating Easter at Disneyland

Our Easter day started off with a very special character brunch at Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel (which you can read all about here). This was my first time eating at Storytellers Cafe, so it's hard to say what was different for Easter, but it was delightful nonetheless and a great way to start our day.

Disneyland Easter Egg Hunt 2Disneyland Easter Egg Hunt 3Disneyland Easter Egg Hunt 1

We then moved on to conquer the Disney Egg-stravaganza 2015 scavenger hunt. Disneyland created two egg hunts for each park in California (one at Epcot in Florida). Maps were sold beginning the end of March and ended on Easter day. I completed both egg hunts on two separate days. The hunts involve visiting every corner of the parks, so I definitely recommend doing one hunt per day! Of course Disney being the nice people they are, let you redeem your prize whether or not you finish or get the answers right.

The prizes are a randomly chosen Easter egg decorated to resemble a Disney character (adorable!). I redeemed the second prize before completing the map due to the recommendation of a cast member. Supplies are limited (they had run out of maps by Easter day), so purchase your map as soon as possible if you are interested in participating in this adventurous activity.


Another wonderful addition for the season is the Big Thunder Ranch Springtime Roundup located behind the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The ranch is transformed with floral decorations, springtime activities (ear decorating of course) and special Disney characters. It was amazing to see all the Disney bunnies out for meet-and-greets (with very small lines!). My personal favorites are Thumper (Bambi), Rabbit (Winnie the Pooh), and Briar Rabbit (Splash Mountain/ Song of the South). They rotate with other characters including Roger Rabbit, The White Rabbit (Alice in Wonderland), Pluto in bunny ears and Mickey & Minnie in their springtime best. You can join them on the dance floor every hour to do the bunny hop!

A personal favorite part of the Springtime Roundup is the Egg Decorators. It was such a pleasure to talk with some of the creative minds that work for Disney, including Ray Brown (a sculptor of many talents!) and Lacey who created many of the amazing 3D eggs. I shared some pictures of their creations on Easter (that you can find here), but here are more of their beautiful eggs from the last day of the season!

Click to view the incredible details!

Although the Egg Decorators are gone for the season (so sad...), you can still catch most of the Springtime Roundup festivities through June on weekends only. And if you find yourself planning a trip to Disneyland in the springtime, make sure to watch for these special activities!

How to Meet Rare Disney Critters at Disneyland

From the day I found out that Meeko is a regular guest at the Critter Breakfast, I knew I would soon be able to fulfill a lifelong wish of meeting my favorite Disney character. The character breakfast at Storytellers Cafe in the Grand Californian Hotel features the critters of Disney, including several rare Disney characters. How to Meet Rare Disney Critters at Disneyland

For proof of my love & devotion to Meeko, here is a photo of my brother and I in our handmade costumes on Halloween (thanks Mom!). I am also now the proud owner of two pugs (which is the breed of Meeko's foe-turned-friend, for those of you not up on your Disney trivia). Coincidence? I think not.

We made reservations at Storytellers Cafe for a special Easter brunch, featuring egg-shaped desserts and a savory eggs benedict with corned beef, however the Chip n' Dale Critter Breakfast is available year-round. The food is served buffet style, aka all you can eat breakfast! If you are an animal lover like myself, you will love the group of characters that visit your table during your meal. We were entertained by Chip & Dale, both the Brother Bears, Briar Fox & Briar Bear (who was so tall!) and, my spirit animal, Meeko.

Despite the fact that it was just my husband and I at our table, each character spent lots of time with us posing for pictures and giving great big bear hugs. Briar Fox & Bear were very excited when I mentioned their names (because I obviously knew who each of them were) and talked about riding Splash Mountain later that day. As they circled the room, Briar Fox picked a fight with Chip (or Dale?) and started rubbing his tummy. Chip fought back by launching into a karate pose. It was magical.

Disneyland Critter Character Breakfast 5

Just when I was starting to get really worried that "Meeko was hibernating for the day", I spotted his unmistakable grey back and striped tail. I'm sure he could see how crazily eagerly I had anticipated his arrival by the time he got to our table. I let him know about my costume, my pugs, and that we had come just to see him, to which he gave me the biggest hug and an Eskimo kiss. Dreams do come true.

Meeko Mashup from Pocahontas

The more you talk to the characters about the special memories you have of them, the more time they spend with you, making your visit extra special. Make sure to do your research before you arrive to find out which characters may be visiting your table, but remember, the line-ups are always subject to change. There are several different character breakfasts at Disneyland and Disney World, featuring all sorts of Disney characters. Find the breakfast with your favorites, and let the magic begin.

A special thank you to my husband for putting up with my crazed energy and extensive criticisms on picture taking. And thank you for taking several dozen pictures of me with Meeko.