Being Spontaneous at Disney World
There’s a lot of pressure to plan for Walt Disney World down to the smallest detail. Advance Dining Reservations, dessert parties, dining packages, and other upcharge offerings–plus fear of missing out all makes it seem necessary to meticulous planning. This can create stress and sky-high expectations, and we want to underscore that months of planning are not essential to have a fun Walt Disney World vacation. (Updated November 15, 2022.)
While we stress the importance of slowing down and having balance on Walt Disney World vacations, the sheer volume of the planning resources on this blog and sites like it no doubt compounds the stress people have when it comes to trip planning. I sense that there’s a feeling that if you don’t spend 100+ hours planning, getting all of the “best” ADRs, having detailed itineraries every single day and a sound strategy for scoring the top Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations, the trip is a categorical failure.
This simply is not true, and we’ll cover why in this post. I was going to title this Tips for Being Spontaneous at Walt Disney World, but direct strategy for spontaneity sort of misses the point. Instead, this is more generalized; think of it as reassurance that you can have a great trip even without planning every minute detail months in advance.
I’ve discussed this before, but usually we don’t follow our own advice when it comes to Walt Disney World planning. There have been entire trips where we’ve only made one or two Advance Dining Reservations. What we do beyond that is often impulsive, determined the day-of.
Walt Disney World planning obsessives will probably consider this heresy, but I hate spreadsheets. From my perspective, spreadsheets are antithetical to the core concept of vacationing. I understand others vehemently disagree, so to each their own. If you enjoy making spreadsheets, feel free to go nuts at it.
We have done other trips that have involved more planning. Particularly when we take family or go with friends for whom it’s a less frequent experience, we do a solid amount of planning. (We also do a lot of “practice days” that are highly choreographed, but are really for research and not for personal enjoyment.)
In other situations, our visits are more impulsive, booked only a few weeks in advance. For us, spontaneity isn’t just nice from a relaxation perspective, it’s also helpful for learning and improving our planning resources. We make mistakes, stumble upon surprises, and report back with our findings.
For most readers, impulsive trips and doing things for the sake of research are not the norm. You’re usually starting to think about vacation a year in advance, booking hotels and airfare around that time, making other reservations a few months in advance, and doing the more granular itinerary-building inside of a few weeks.
That’s where blogs like this one and social media come into play. While you’re planning your ADRs, Genie+ priorities, or daily plans, you might do some research, and encounter a barrage of advice consisting of various must-dos, step-by-step strategy, and lists of mistakes and pitfalls Walt Disney World guests make. This blog is certainly guilty of some of those things.
With that in mind, I want to reiterate that the tips on this blog are just that–suggestions. Nothing here is an imperative. Instead, think of this in a holistic sense: you read from our knowledge base, incorporating the helpful tips into your own plans.
You should disregard whatever does not appeal to you, is not pertinent, or just seems like crumby advice. If you utilize even 10% of the tips on this blog, you’re way more prepared than the average guest, who still thinks “the Harry Potter park” is at Walt Disneyland Florida.
I don’t believe that are any specific things you absolutely must do or avoid in order to have the perfect Walt Disney World trip. To the contrary, there is no such thing as a “perfect” trip, and trying to chase that illusion is a fool’s errand.
In an abstract sense, I think there is danger in extensive planning: the expectations and stress it creates. If you have a binder filled with daily printouts of customized, step-by-step itineraries, you have no doubt spent dozens (if not hundreds) of hours planning for the trip, and intend for things to go a certain way.
There are a couple of problems with this. First, it can create unrealistic expectations. If you work really hard to get a Be Our Guest Restaurant ADR, and find yourself building up the hype months in advance, there’s a reasonable probability you will be disappointed.
Personally, I think this is one of the big reason so many new things at Walt Disney World have drawn polarized responses. The build-up and anticipation for some of these experiences are just crazy. This often leads to two polarized results: disappointment because the experience was not as good as expected, or heaping of praise due to a desire to confirm one’s preconceptions. (And so the cycle continues.)
You know the adage, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’? Well, the Walt Disney World counterpart to that should be that ‘the best planned itineraries of mice and tourists always go awry.’ Walt Disney World runs like a well-oiled machine most of the time, but there are simply too many moving parts for plans to go perfectly.
The good news is that the online knowledge base for Walt Disney World you reviewed extensively while planning taught you how to approach Walt Disney World. You learned how to approach the park, resorts, restaurants, etc., and that can be applied dynamically to myriad hiccups and snafus as they arise. As with all things in life, knowledge is power.
Usually there is one planner in the family/party and everyone else is going along for the ride. The issue here is that, even though the people going along for the ride offered no input during the planning stages, they will have input upon arrival. This can cause bitterness in the person who spent so much time planning, who now feels that their effort is unappreciated or is going ignored. It also can cause frustration in those along for the ride, who are told the plans are already set, and it’s too late for the input.
Neither perspective here is invalid, depending upon the approach both sides take. On the one hand, advance planning for Walt Disney World is important and your (I’m assuming the “planner” is reading this post, since it’s a planning blog) time and effort to plan should be appreciated.
Conversely, the word “vacation” has a certain connotation, and a trip to Walt Disney World flies in the face of the conventional understanding of that meaning. Many first-timers simply do not know what they are getting themselves into when it comes to WDW. They are not totally to blame by underestimating its complexity; nowhere we’ve visited in the world is as complicated of a destination as Walt Disney World.
Sometimes this dichotomy works out perfectly. Those along for the ride go with the flow, and end up viewing the planner as some sort of freakishly omniscient Walt Disney World tour guide, elevating them to ‘Vacation Hero’ status as they weave past the crowds and lines, and have an amazing trip.
Just as often, it leads to meltdown. Meltdown of a parent who put so much effort into planning the perfect trip, and has found their plans derailed or their efforts under-appreciated. Meltdown of a child who cannot do what they want, or has been forced to tour at a whirlwind pace, when really, they’d be perfectly happy to just play in a splash pad for an hour.
This is something to consider before even starting to plan a trip, and is a good conversation to have before throwing away dozens upon dozens of hours doing potentially-unnecessary planning. This is also why we recommend a balanced approach as the ideal, with pre-planning as well as room to wander and do things on a whim. (Or “planned spontaneity” as we call it.)
In all situations, it’s still important to remember that hyper-planning is not a strict necessity. One of the things we’ve been stressing lately is that it’s often easier to book Advance Dining Reservations last-minute rather than 60+ days in advance. (See our recent Top 10 Tips for Difficult ADRs at Walt Disney World.)
Obviously, this is a YMMV situation as you won’t always have your ‘must-eat’ restaurants available for last-minute bookings, but you very well might. Since we take more last minute trips, one of our top strategies is regular refreshing of the MDX app for last-minute cancellations or ADR drops, and this strategy has proven quite successful for us.
Rather than offering comprehensive strategy for being spontaneous at Walt Disney World (since that’s a contradiction-in-terms), the salient point we hope you take away from this post is that you can be spontaneous at Walt Disney World. Planning is great. We recommend it. But your entire trip does not need to be planned down to the minute.
Moreover, you should not buy into planning recommendations (or hype) that has a dire sense of urgency to it. When it comes to trip planning and social media, there’s a pervasive sense of FOMO that drives many people to spend on unnecessary experiences at Walt Disney World. Consider it a form of keeping up with the online Joneses (or Kardashians, these days). This is exacerbated by certain popular experiences booking up quickly, but that’s less a reflection of quality and demand than it is limited supply and the FOMO machine.
In short, Walt Disney World is a big place with a ton to offer. Even on a “highly successful” trip, you’re barely scratching the surface of the great things to do. Absolutely no single thing at WDW is make or break in the grand scheme of a trip. The pressure to plan a perfect trip is optional, because there’s no such thing (and paradoxically, every imperfect trip can be perfect in its own way if you let it).
You can have an incredible trip dining booking all of your ADRs same-day and eating exclusively at hidden gem restaurants. You can do attractions on a whim without spreadsheets or even our semi-structured itineraries. You don’t need to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance or Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind to have a memorable trip. This is important to remember, and we hope this post has helped you take a step back and potentially re-evaluate the way you think about a Walt Disney World vacation.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you agree or disagree with our advice about being spontaneous at Walt Disney World? Do you have any hacks for making last minute trips go better? Any tips of your own about balancing pre-planning with spontaneity? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Fantastic post. I am a super type A planner. I get it down to the minute. However, I know my family and they have lots of time for input along the way. We know what is mandatory and what can be skipped to make up for time. We know to build in down time and spontaneous time. We can also split up with the kids when they don’t want to do the same things. It works for us. I’m a big believer in “The More You Know” the more you can get accomplished. The MDX app is a lifesaver too. If someone decides at 2 PM that they can’t live without seeing Jasmine today, we might have the ability to make that happen. They know we might have to give something up to make it happen. All that said, some of the best Disney moments are the ones you stumble across and didn’t plan for.
I think this article is helpful, but with that said for some (like myself) a lot of the fun is in the planning. I currently booked a Christmas trip for 2018. That’s booking 448 days before we leave. Normally my husband and I share in the planning. We watch YouTube videos, read blogs and make an action plan. And every “planning session” we get more and more excited for the trip, even if when we get there we throw all plans to the wind. This particular trip is a Christmas Surprise. My husband has no knowledge of the Christmas trip, and thinks I am planning a trip home for Christmas to New Mexico. Little does he know that when I said I want to go home for Xmas 2018 I meant Disney World. I have a lot of time between now and Dec. 2018 and being the only one who knows about the trip, I think the base planning is important, after that its all Disney Magic once we get there.
I also LOVE the planning. I go with my two adult daughters…..before we go I ask them what rides they absolutely have to do and what restaurants they absolutely have to eat at. I love pouring over all the articles, reviews and youtube videos; making reservations and then fine-tuning our plans. We do have one night where we’re at Magic Kingdom and not staying for Mickey’s Christmas. I mentioned to my daughters that we could either go to another park, go to Disney Springs or go back to the hotel to swim. We decided that that could be our “play it by ear” night.
Really great points. I’m the planner and I LOVE doing the planning. We usually travel in a group of 5 (2 adults, 3 kids) and I always ask each of them what is their one “must do” and make sure we book it. Other than that we just go with the flow. This time it’s just my daughter (age 8) and me traveling in December (one month from to day!) and while I’ve booked our ADRs and fast passes, I’ve also told her if she’s tired or really wants to do something else one day we can just cancel everything. Much more relaxed when it’s just the two of us, and we can just wander around.
As the OCD planner who tried to make everything happen for the group on the last trip, I also want to stress that you need to really _know_ the people you’re going with, and how they vacation.
Whether you’re planning to get everything YOU want, or planning to get everyone else what THEY want, make sure everyone agrees to be honest and open – voicing disappointments, wants or concerns right away (and nicely) during the planning process, and during the trip so no one (including you, planner!) feels left out or like they’re missing out.
Otherwise, no amount of magical/impossible ADRs or FP+s you just scored for them will make up for missing the Talking Mickey line you didn’t know they wanted.
This is a great article and so true. I just have one comment, which is that the ability to go with the flow is really dependent on who you are going with. We do always leave a lot of slack time in our plans, we set walking speed to slowest when we use online tools to make sure we don’t feel like we’re rushing, and we often don’t spend more than half an day in the parks.
However, as our kids have gotten older and more opinionated we have really gone from a “mostly unplanned” in-park schedule to a default of at least a rudimentary plan, because we have discovered that having no plan at all is a recipe for spending a lot — and I mean a LOT — of time arguing about what the plan should be rather than actually doing anything. I suspect that this principle is generally more or less applicable as the size of the group increases.
Ah Tom, it’s as if you had a ring side seat to the worst fight my mom and I have ever had! It was about her casually telling me she wanted to swap park days after months of planning a family trip including a family meeting where everyone signed off. She claimed she didn’t “remember” the plan and wondered what I was so upset about!!!!! As the planner in a family of waffler/wishy washy/procrastinator types, I was furious. It did indeed feel like my precision planning was not appreciated. We all (11 of us), ended up having a wonderful trip and are hoping to return again as a family clan. In the meantime, I happily return annually with my son and husband. My husband appreciates the structure of a plan, but we also spend a lot of “unscheduled” time in and out of the parks with our 5 year old.
Thanks, as always, for your insight and information. 🙂
Susan, you’re a saint. 11 people – I thought 6 was herding cats!
Sounds like you tried really hard to implement communication and involvement – all that planning, and suddenly “fine” was never really “fine.” It’s so upsetting and frustrating! :-/ Glad you recovered!
Disneyland opened the year I was born — so it has always been “MY” park over the years. My family of 3 (2 adults and now a teen-ager) are all Disney people — we love it and plan for it as often as we can. Now that we live on the East Coast, that planning goes into WDW rather than Disneyland. We have an advantage over first timers because we know what we have seen and what we want to see. We have favorites we must see and do (Dole Whip, Astroblaster, Splash Mountain (my son holds the family record of 23 times in four days), Jungle Cruise, certain restaurants and food) and we have something new every time. This year will be our 7th visit to WDW and our 6th over Thanksgiving (I know — we are nuts but we love it this time of year). We always have a great time. But overplanning? Yeah – I am the guilty one here. Over the years, I have begone to realize no one should do WDW in any way trying to ensure they get to every ride in every park in any amount of time. We have ADRs because we have restaurants that are tradition (Momma Melrose and Rose & Crown) we just can’t miss. We also specialize which restaurant food every trip — a different set. This year it is “African” restaurants and we have 5 scheduled. We do one set of Fast Passes every day then just wing it from there. This year’s “theme” is the “language of architecture” that has been developed over the years at WDW which really needs no planning at all — just a good set of eyes looking above and over the heads of the crowds.
I have noticed over years and years of planning that the planning focused on what the web sites and bloggers say are crowded rides and eats and parks rather than what my family really wants to do. High expectations can refocus to what is right in front of you, or above you or next to you — take a deep breath every 10 minutes.
First timers need to find time to see what else is at WDW while they are rushing to rides. Listen to what your family wants and know you just might miss something.
So, Tom, from a multi-timer, yes, over planning is possible and you can see it happening anytime you are in the park. Some planning is necessary AFTER you identify what you really want and expect.
But, you know, from an old over planner, I have learned WDW takes us all and gives us all we can expect. If we just let it.
It is SO easy to get caught up in the craze to get the “hard” ADRs and FP+ that sometimes you don’t even consider whether it’s something you really want. This past trip, I canceled a dessert party ADR at 10pm the night before because I realized that no one in my family was going to eat enough desserts to make the per-person charge worth it. We ended up snagging a last-minute dinner ressie with Minnie and pals instead that my son loved, he still got his pick of some yummy desserts, and we were able to watch the Star Wars fireworks from a perfectly fine spot without waiting at all. We canceled our last breakfast ADR and used up some snack credits on pumpkin waffles with ice-cream for breakfast from Sleepy Hollow while watching the Muppets history show. Because vacation!
With FP, we got one for Peter Pan because the line is always so long, but as we were riding it we realized that it’s kind of boring and we don’t actually like it that much (no offense Tom!)
I DO really enjoy being the magician that enables my family to sail past the lines, but I also leave room for plenty of downtime in the pool which keeps everyone happy!
We did our first trip to WDW last November and the idea of planning so much beforehand was SO STRESSFUL for me. I’m just not that much of a planner, especially for things so far in the future. Everyone has ideas and tips and tries to tell you what, where, when, and how to do things. I finally just made my FP and ADR reservations and decided that we’d wing the rest of it. We did not feel like we HAD to experience any one thing and really just wanted to enjoy the magic of it with our kids. We researched the things we wanted to see and do, and decided we’d do our best to hit all of them.
It was honestly the best choice we could have made. We lucked out and the crowds were relatively low, so we didn’t wait more than 20 minutes for about 95% of the rides. It was wonderful. Yes, it was busy because Disney is just busy, but we never felt any pressure. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
Really enjoyed this post Tom! I really fell foul of the ‘over-planning’ on our first trip. We booked a year in advance as we were travelling from the UK, and being a bit of an obsessive planner by nature meant I just had SO much time to over-think every. little. thing. The Disney World FOMO is so strong it needs it’s own acronym!
We had a great time, but I definitely learned the lesson that it’s not worth coming home from a holiday mentally exhausted from a week of stressing about our reservations and rushing to fast passes.
I do think that for a first trip having some sort of plan helps make it all manageable because trying to tacking all of the parks and rides can get overwhelming. But.. never again. And definitely not an hourly itinerary with military precision that I thought we needed!
Next trip is possibly this time next year, but I am determined to be more chilled about it. Definitely no spreadsheets…. promise!
Great advice! I’m the planner, obviously, and my husband and I are going for a day before we go on a cruise. I’ve purchased tix to the Mickey’s Christmas party and I’ve written down every place I want to eat, what I want to eat and where it’s located, along with the rides as well. Three of the rides I wanted FP for were already unavailable, but since I plan on getting there before the park opens and have that special ticket to stay after closing, I’m not sweating it. Also, my dear husband will tell you “I’m just along for the ride” so he’s in agreement with my “plans” 🙂
Your finest article to date!
My family was scheduled to come down to visit right as Irma hit and ended up rescheduling the trip for exactly a month later. I went back and got relatively decent Fastpasses (but not the Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After, or Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train ones that I had initially) and struggled with trying to get Hollywood and Vine for my nephew’s first character dining experience. To my surprise, I got an email from WDW Guest Relations saying that they were effectively giving us non-inventory Fastpasses for those experiences (and some others) to make up for the rescheduling. This is definitely not something normal, but it’s good to know that Disney’s commitment to guest service does extend this far (at least when a natural disaster hits)
Thank you! While I think having some general plans is very worth while, I’ve noticed both me and my husband end up much happier when we keep things flexible. I’ve gotten to the point where I pick a few things I really want to do for a trip, and plan around those things and just kinda let it happen from there. In January we have a short trip, and my three actual planned things is doing the Extra Hours thing at Magic Kingdom, doing the Art Festival at Epcot and seeing the Broadway acts (I *loved* that last year), and going to see the new baby tigers (assuming they’re out) at Animal Kingdom. I”m really looking forward to a low key trip
I agree so much with your idea about balance in a Disney vacation. I think that’s why this has become my favorite Disney “planning” site. When I first became the planner of trips (rather than one of the folks along for the ride), I found a lot of sites with full of charts, printables and checklists. I definitely had the binder.
There is not necessarily anything wrong with that type of planning and I got a lot out of it. But with several Disney vacations under my belt, I respond much more to the storytelling nature of your site. It’s like chatting with a fellow Disney obsessed friend, who fills me in on all the cool new stuff I haven’t seen yet. I feel like I have a better idea of when I should put effort into snagging those FastPass+ and ADRs, and when it’s okay to “try it if the line is short enough”.
First of all: Peter Pan is NOT better than Frozen. Its not actually better than staying in the car with the windows up on a summer day.
Second, I do believe ther eis too much stress in a Disney vacation thinking about planning. I usually do plan every fast pass and every moment of the day with pretty good results. Last year I took my mother (who needs a wheel chair) to the parks (maybe for a last time?). Since I was travelling with her, I could no longer make the “rush for SDM”, then run for Space Mountain and keep the trail as I did two years before. I decided then to commit to the “start from the left” program in MK. I planned FP+9 expecting to use them around the time I was supposed to reach each land and that was all (Except for the SDT trin which was impossible).
I have to admit I was troubled and surprised to realize I was able to do the whole park without issues like that. I didn’t do the SDT, but the rest of the park was easily available. I didn’t have to use any FP+ but for the Meet and Greet with Tiara, since we arrived at each place with a considerable short line and was not worth going through it.
Yes, this was beggining of December so it was a slow time (I’m sure it wont work on the 4th of July for sure), but I was more than happy with the result.
Lol…Agreed! Frozen is way better than Peter Pan.
I am the super planner and my peeps seem to enjoy that. But I’ve gone with people who have no set agenda themselves. So it worked fine. The only unsuccessful visit I’ve had was with my fiancé. He’s amazing about all our other trips, but Disney has ZERO interest for him. He harshed my buzz all day- you know that’s not a real cat (Marie); it’s a person in a suit. Riding rides with no enthusiasm or singing along. Sitting on a bench while I did stuff alone. He just can’t be six again, giggle or skip or sing loud on The Little Mermaid. So I would say your tips are SPOT ON and it’s the little unexpected things that make a trip. But make sure you are with people who don’t mind you planning AND who see the experience The was you do. I went with my twin sister this fall to the Halloween party and we had more fun than should be allowed. She let me plan and we giggled, sang and skipped through the park in our costumes and had a magical day. Choosing the right people to go with should be your #1 tip! And then one alpha planner who knows the value of spontaneity per group. Magic is in the eye of the beholder.
I so agree with you Angela. A trip to Disney can take on a different feel just because of the people who are part of the trip. My daughter and I went this past year to the Mickey Not So Scary Halloween Party in costume. I am 54 and she’s 34. It was so much fun. We were kids again wearing a costume and standing in line for candy. It truly was the best vacation ever. I go with my husband and it’s a totally different trip – very enjoyable but more adult feel to it. Nice meals and wonderful relaxation time.
Your tip is spot on.
Great point! The other people in your party will make a bigger difference in how much fun you have than any amount of planning. I went for a multi day family reunion, a few people in our group who posed as tour guide know it alls skipped anything with more than a 15 minute wait. We spent all day walking around doing very little. Lesson learned.
Terrific insight, Angela!
Planning and Experiencing alignment – love that. And communication – if there’s only sulking and no speaking, how can you do that spontaneous thing, or find something that interests Grumpy!?
#yes2allofthis! Thank you for this! our first family trip I obsessively checked and tweaked fast passes, stalked the app for adr’s and none of it worked out! My 3 year old melted down and we never got on Peter Pan, and my coveted be our guest breakfast reservation went to the wayside as I was up with food poisoning the night before and couldn’t pull it together to be at the park in the early morning. In the moment I felt like a failure but when I look back 3 years later it was silly. Our last trip I made a few adr’s and we did the parks at a super slow pace. I think we did 3 rides at Magic that day but we didn’t care! It was all about my daughter meeting all of her favorite princesses. We found a nook where Merida hangs and my daughter colored pictures while waiting in line. We caught the Fantasy parade on a whim. My point is it was much more enjoyable to take our time and discover and appreciate the parks, gardens, people, cast members then just running from cue to cue for a ride. I impulsively just booked a 4 day Xmas trip 2nd week of December to attend mickeys very merry Xmas party and if all we do is that parade – I’ll be satisfied with that!
SOoooo important to remember this, I’m only in high school but I’m part of a group that goes down to Disney World every year for their Y.E.S. Program, and I always willingly take the job of planner (hence why I fell in love with your site) and what I’ve always done is essentially make a skeleton of what the possibilities are, noting what rides we should get fast passes for, good restaurants and stops, etc. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a bad trip (but that could be due to my unconditional love for Disney World in general). Anyways, great post, and couldn’t agree more!!
In reference to the potential for conflict between the “planner” and “those going along for the ride,” I turned to my husband and told him this was why I was trying to involve him more in the planning process. He wondered if there was any advice for how the “planner” can break down the myriad and often confusing options more easily for those who haven’t spent the last 15 months reading planning blogs.
This is _completely_ a geek solution. I am the planner in my family, and we are fortunate enough to go once every couple of years for a couple of weeks at a time (we go in August, so that lets us do only half-days in the parks and therefore survive the heat intact).
Since we make reservations months in advance, I send out Google Forms once a week to do quick surveys on various topics. Things like: rate the following on an ‘I like it’, ‘I don’t care’, ‘I don’t like it’ scale:
— eating table service lunch in the parks after the morning touring and then not having any commitments in the evening
— arriving in the park at 4 and eating table service dinner during the evening
— keeping table service meals separate from touring
Followed by an ‘explain your answer’.
Sometimes I will ask them to rank restaurants in order of preference, or say whether they prefer buffets or a la carte. Which rides are their top three in a particular park. What is the one ride they absolutely can’t miss. You get the idea.
When the kids were smaller, we did this in a ‘Disney question of the day’ format, but now that they’re older they really love getting the form in their email once a week. Either method lets them feel the anticipation of the trip by talking about it and thinking about it, and from a planning perspective it helps them to have input into the *kinds* of things they want to do, with a few specifics, without having to keep the big picture in mind the way I do. When we’re there, I see that they look forward to the things that came from their choices, and seem to enjoy other things more with a sense that the whole family planned the trip even though I did all the grunt work.
This. Is. Genius. Love it!!!!!