Time is Money: Saving Time through Smart Daily Preparation

by Margie Binder, contributing writer

You’ve spent weeks and months planning your dream trip to Walt Disney World. If you have followed my advice from my previous Time is Money articles, you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you’ve made your advanced dining reservations, and you have a rough idea of where you want to go each day.

The day has finally arrived when you're at Walt Disney World—without a doubt, you want to soak in every minute you can. Let's look at how to save time through smart and consistent daily preparation, minimizing aggravation. Because if you are anything like 99 percent of the population, we all have habits that don’t necessarily equate to efficient traveling.

Designate Homes for Your Stuff

Hopefully you packed light—the fewer things you have to lug around, manage, and dodge in a hotel room, the more time you will have to enjoy the Disney experience. But even with less stuff, you still need to organize those things soon after you enter your room, then at least once per day during your stay.

Start by designating a home for dirty laundry. No separate piles or shedding at whim. As you unpack, ensure that all the travelers in your party have their own space for clothes. Help your kids and the chronically indecisive put outfits together for each day, or for at least the next two days. Assign a spot by the door or closet for shoes and jackets. Younger children in particular tend to shed shoes in every nook and cranny, and naturally not at the same spot for each shoe (nor when you are conveniently paying attention). Unless shoes are given a consistent home and this home is enforced each time your children come in the door, you will waste precious minutes and increase the stress level every time you leave the room.

Next, designate a spot for items necessary almost every time you leave the room, including park tickets, identification, cell phone, money/credit card, small first aid kit, confirmation numbers, contact information, and room key. You can also consider designating a second home for less critical but still important daily items, such as camera, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, water bottles, snack items, umbrella, and/or ponchos. Of course, if you have young ones in diapers, those supplies also go on the daily critical items list and need a designated home in your room. When everyone returns to their room, make sure they place these things in their designated locations so that they are easy to find the next time you leave. There are few things more frustrating than wasting time in the morning searching for your wallet, or worse, someone else’s, or getting to a park and realizing your admission ticket is back in the room.

Finally, identify a spot to keep your paperwork, such as receipts, park maps, reservation confirmations, Walt Disney World information, and any journals or notebooks where you keep trip notes and budget information in. I usually bring an envelope from home for receipts, or within the first day or two of a trip acquire a small shopping bag where I stuff receipts I need to save. My designated spot for these items is usually on top of the entertainment center, or on a shelf or in an extra drawer.

Daily Packing

Take a few minutes at the end of your day to reorganize and double-check the contents of your day bag. Even if you are dead tired, muster five minutes of energy to sort through your bag. Repack as you take the next day’s plan and weather into consideration, and refill snack containers. If you can muster more than five minutes, go through receipts you may have accumulated that day, jot down any financial information you are tracking, and tear up and toss receipts unless needed. Ridding my small backpack of receipts and other paperwork each evening makes it much easier to find what I need during the day.  

Unless you oppose carrying a bag to the park, I highly recommend carrying a small notebook and pen in your daily bag. Take it from someone who has lost her cell phone on a Disney trip—you don’t want to depend solely on information stored on your phone. I usually bring a 4-by-6 inch or 5-by-7 inch spiral notebook, and use it for important contact information, confirmation numbers, budget and trip notes.

If you are keeping a journal, the evening is a fine time to jot down notes. You may encounter obstacles to this plan, however, in the form of cranky family members, late nights at the park, and wanting nothing more than to veg in front of the television at the end of a long day. Grabbing snippets of time for trip notes during a typical day of park touring is usually easy to do, and will help create a nice record of your trip, along with avoiding the stress of blocking off larger amounts of time or trying to remember it all when you get home. Other great times to sneak some trip notes into your journal include while you ride Disney transportation, wait at a restaurant, take a people-watching break, or while you wait for others in your party as they shop. I do not advocate obsessing on trip notes to the exclusion of all else. In fact, capture the opinions of travel companions of all ages, including asking about favorites and things that surprised or disappointed them. As we age, one may find these collective memories far more complete and accurate than ours alone.

Organizing your hotel room as soon as you arrive, spending small amounts of time and energy at intervals each day with room upkeep, and unpacking and repacking your daily bag the night before will help you maximize entertainment time and minimize stress. Assigning responsibility to your spouse or an older child to ensure items have been put in their homes, especially their own things, will lighten your load. Instead of frantically searching for a lost item or packing up in the morning while impatient family members hover, you and your well-organized family will be happily off to enjoy the World!



  1. By Jimbo996

    These tips are busy body like. Do you really have to remind yourself of these things? I do a variation of these things every day. It might work for me, but not everyone is so meticulous. However, I never take notes. Notes get lost. I might have a shopping list, but that is different.

    The designating a home for your stuff seems strange. How many stops are you talking about? Goodness, one stop is all you need especially in a small hotel room. Could there be more spots? How about a dresser drawer, which is out of view?

  2. By carolinakid

    Some of these trip columns are getting really weird! Do people really do this stuff?

  3. By GoofyMomInMN

    Jimbo996 and carolinakid- Thank you for your responses. I don’t think I am alone in organizing my family on a trip to Walt Disney World in this manner or similar. Please keep in mind that this is just one person’s perspective, and my view comes primarily from traveling to Walt Disney World more than a dozen times as a solo parent with one, two or three young children. With my kids, I find that without some structure the room is quickly trashed and items are misplaced. I prefer a leisurely, calm start to the day and hitting a park at opening instead of scrambling to find stuff and barking at one another to get out the door. Obviously the need for organization is much lower if I am traveling alone or with a friend.

    What are your travel situations (who and how many people usually travel with you)? Do you have any organizational tips based on your experiences? Jimbo996, if you do not read the trip reports on MousePlanet, I highly recommend them, and encourage you to write up your own sometime. As someone who does not bring a laptop and keep a running digital diary, I would never be able to remember the details of a 5-6 day trip if I didn’t keep notes, whether for a trip report or just the family archives. I think most trip report writers would agree.

    Margie (aka GoofyMomInMN)

  4. By Eighty8Keys

    I really enjoyed your article Margie. I do a lot of the same things you do and even though I don’t travel with kids and I’m usually the only one in my room. I too designate a spot for the essentials I carry with me to the parks and like to take a few minutes at the end of the day to get things organized so that the morning is leisurely and I don’t forgot something important. I keep all the important confirmations/paperwork in a binder and stuff receipts into a clear sheet protector at the back of the binder to enter into a spreadsheet later. We like to know exactly how much we spend on each trip to help us more accurately budget for the next one. Like you, I carry a small notebook along to jot down notes on what we’ve done so I can write up a trip report when I get home. A lot of the details start to run together after a few days. I know many people may not care for this style of vacationing, but I do and I appreciate knowing there is someone else out there like me. Thanks again.

  5. By stan4d_steph

    I think it's a good idea to have designated spots for things. I know how stressful it can be searching around for items, and who needs that extra stress on vacation? We use a shoe organizer on cruises over one of the bathroom doors that has clear pockets. It's a great place to keep items like sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, etc. that can easily get misplaced or clutter up what little counter space there is in cabins.

  6. By kimmybear

    I can certainly relate to you with having designated places for things. I can't tell you how many times we've searched around the hotel room at 7am searching for sunglasses. Or worse, picking up a piece of clothing and trying to decipher if it's clean or not. Thanks for the article, Margie!

  7. Discuss this article on MousePad.