Planning Disney Family Adventures in 2014 and Beyond

by Adrienne Krock, staff writer

Happy New Year!

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays behind us, many of us put our pencils to paper (or fingers to keyboards) to start planning out our 2014 vacation plans and entertainment budgets. Sometimes it seems that we Disney fans do nothing but take Disney Vvcations, but we do take some breaks, too.

This week, we asked our Parenting Panel: What Disney travel plans do you have for 2014?

MousePlanet columnist Chris Barry, his wife Diane, 14-year-old Samantha, and twin 11-year-olds Casey and Alex, live on Long Island and are all major Disney and Walt Disney World fans. Chris writes:

2014 is now upon us and as usual, one thing remains constant: I’m always planning the next Disney trip in my mind. We had the pleasure of a long weekend just this past September at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort at Walt Disney World. That means that only three months has past since our last visit, but I’m already itching to go back. The big question of course is when? When will we head back in 2014?

In my head, I’d go back this weekend, but practicality rules in this world and, unfortunately, I need to think that way, as well. Considering that a trip to Disney is consistently on my mind, we don’t actually sit and plan that much in advance, and I don’t anticipate 2014 to be any different. The great thing about being experienced Walt Disney World travelers is that we don’t need too much extensive planning. We know how to do a Disney trip ... and planning is a breeze for us.

For the past several years, we have based our Disney trips on the availability of a good deal. We never book a Disney vacation package. We’re not fans of the dining plan. We’d rather get a good price on a room-only reservation and let the rest of the details fall into place. When we get notice that Disney is offering one of their deals, let’s say 30 percent to 40 percent off a room-only reservation, that’s when we start planning. So, the price narrows down when we’re going to travel. As far as when, as a teacher my vacations are pretty much set. I know a year in advance when we can go away and when we can’t. My wife, on the other hand, runs her own business. Despite the fact that her three kids and her husband all follow the same schedule, her vacation windows are never set in stone.

Sometimes school vacations change from year to year, and an unexpected trip opportunity comes up. For instance, this year the Jewish holidays offered us up a four-day weekend in September, which quickly turned into our quick escape to the BoardWalk. That trip wasn’t planned far in advance. There was coincidentally a 30-percent off deal being offered. Next thing you know, we were checking into the BoardWalk. Things just aligned for us and we made it happen.

So, as far as the upcoming year goes, as I sit here writing this, I have no idea when I’m going back. I can’t see going a year without setting foot on Walt Disney World property. It’s a safe bet that we’ll get down there at some point. It won’t be during a major vacation, like February or spring break. My wife turns 50 in August and there’s talk of a trip to mark this milestone her homeland of Germany, so I’ll bet summer is out. I’m guessing another short escape is in the stars for us. I’ve never been to Star Wars weekends and I’d like to try that out once. I’d love to see the Flower and Garden Festival again and ,it’s been a while since we were there in December for the holiday festivities. I see a long weekend in our future in Orlando and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The choices and opportunities are there for sure. All I have to do is wait for the Disney/Barry cosmos to align, and they usually do, and I’ll be back in the most magical place on Earth before you know it.

Jen, also known as *Nala*, is an engineer, a Disney fan, and a MouseAdventure fanatic. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two future MouseAdventurers, ages 2 and 4. Jen writes:

I started running in early 2013 as a way to help me get back in shape after having two kids, and I completed my first half-marathon, the Disneyland Half Marathon, in September. I plan to continue running next year and since the best way to keep me motivated is to have a couple of runDisney races on the calendar, much of our 2014 Disney plans will center around races.

Starting in January, my husband and I are both running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort. This is a local race for us, so doesn't require travel or a lot of advance planning. One new thing for the Tinker Bell race weekend is that both kids will be running their first runDisney Kids Races. Our daughter, now 2, will run the 100- meter dash, and our son, who is about to turn 4, will run the 200-meter dash. Both kids are excited to run the "Peter Pan kids race" and earn their medals.

The Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November is our other planned runDisney event for the year. This one takes place at the Walt Disney World iResort in Florida, so we are making a week-long vacation out of it with family and other friends who are planning to run the race. We love the Food and Wine Festival, and I am looking forward to my first night race, and especially to running through Disney's Animal Kingdom Park. This trip has the added bonus of happening when our daughter will be almost 3, so her park entry and meals at buffet restaurants will still be free. We took a similar trip when our son was almost 3, and we found he was old enough to look forward to the trip and enjoy a lot of the attractions, while we were able to save the expense of his park tickets.

And, of course, as Disneyland locals, we'll definitely spend time there. We enjoy seeing how the parks change with each season, and watching the kids grow tall enough for new rides and become interested in different things. We are looking forward to a great 2014.

Elizabeth, who posts on our MousePad message board as eabaldwin, has been a Disneyland Annual Passholder since 2010. She and her husband have two daughters, Katie (3) and Josie (14 months). Elizabeth writes:

We have quite a bit of travel planned for 2014. Some of it is dictated by events that we are going to attend, which limits time we could spend going to Disney Parks. My brother is getting married in New Jersey in October and my husband’s friend, who was the best man at our wedding, is having a huge birthday in New York City in June. That means two big trips back east from our current San Diego location. Air travel, rental cars, and a few hotels, since we can mostly stay with my parents in New Jersey, means most of our travel budget is already spent.

That said, we are going to Disneyland for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend in mid-January. We are doing the 5k with our older daughter, and my husband and I are doing the 10k. We have plans to be there from Thursday through Sunday.

We are also planning on doing the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend this year, assuming we can get registered. I did the Dumbo Double Dare last year, but my husband didn’t register in time so he would like to do it in 2014. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll register for (I know I need to soon!), but we are planning on expanding our family this year, and I’m not sure how much I’ll feel like running the heat.

We also usually go at the end of September for a conference that my husband attends. The Disney hotels are deeply discounted for us, so it’s kind of hard to pass up that opportunity for all of us to join him. In the past, we have made that weekend into a little mini vacation and splurging on things like dinners at Napa Rose. We have done Photopass-plus during that weekend, as well, which we usually do not do since we go so often.

Since we just got our older daughter her Annual Pass and activated it in November, we will be making lots of day trips up to Disneyland, as well. My husband mentioned something about feeling better about spending money on all of our passes when we use them more often (we also have the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld). I guess that means that we’ll have to go to Disneyland more often, too. We like to go mid-week when it isn’t as crowded, and we prefer going during off-peak times.

Our long-term Disney plans include another trip to Walt Disney World and a Disney cruise. There is an off chance we could do a WDW trip this spring, but it isn’t very likely. We would definitely like to go as our girls get older. We are holding off on a Disney cruise until our kids are a little, so that they will be able to get more out of the kids’ areas. Plus, then we can have more adult time, if they are old enough to stay in a fun kid area. I am really looking forward to a Disney cruise.

This week, we welcome a new member of our Panel: Sheena, also known as Mermaid, teaches first grade in Arizona where she lives with her husband, two children, Matthew (3) and Katie (22 months). She visits Disneyland as often as she can and has passed on her love of the parks to her little Mouseketeers. Sheena writes:

My family is taking a Disney break in 2014 in favor of a San Diego beach trip. We decided a house-based vacation would offer more stability and less change in routine for our young children. But, we could not actually go a whole year without seeing the Mouse, so my husband and I are taking a 2-night Disney “Cruise to Nowhere” out of San Diego in May. This will be a good short trial for traveling without our kids. We cruised as a family to Alaska this past summer and, while that was a great time, we are very much looking forward to checking out everything Disney Cruise Line has to offer for adult cruisers. We most look forward to the shorter shows and games like Disney trivia, Who Wants to be a Mousketeer?, and the evening music acts in the lounge areas. We definitely caught the cruise bug in Alaska!

Our family Disney plans do include Disneyland and Aulani in 2015. We are using our off-year to save and plan for those trips, so, hopefully, they will be here before we know it.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

Visit the Parenting in the Parks forum on our MousePad discussion board, and share your opinions about this topic or many others, or send your suggestions via e-mail. Reader-submitted tips might be used in a future article, and you might be selected to participate in an upcoming panel discussion!



  1. By DisneyGator

    I gotta be honest. What is up with all this travel to Disney for a marathon? I can run at home and I hate it just fine - it's a necesary evil. Running at Disneyland won't make me like it anymore, and I certainly don't want to take anymore steps at theme park than I have to. But that's just me.

    I'm also at a crossroads for planning. We had a fantastic Disneyland trip last November, so I'm tempted to go back. It means a 6 hour road trip instead of flying. But for a few thousand more, I can enjoy a WDW trip that lasts 4 more days (if I get a really good deal). How do I decided? The worst part is waiting to see how much I get back from taxes. Once I see that, then I can decide where we're going. So for the next few months, it's just thinking about what we might do. Either one would be great!

  2. By MyTwoCents

    Road trips can be fun, depending on children's ages and planning. If you've never done the extended stay Disney vacation and can afford it, that's worth a try. It's nice to have a day in the middle of a Disney vacation to actually just relax.
    I'm with you on the running and the lopsided bandwidth it gets on this site. I don't pay through the nose and give up vacation to do what I do for free at home. There are many fine, quiet and safe paths at WDW to run or walk without a good exercise habit becoming the focus of a family vacation. But as a stockholder I'm glad Disney's tapped into another steady revenue stream, as that crowd seems more concerned with merch than most niche groups.

  3. By amyuilani

    When I plan my next trip to CA, I try to encompass as much of the trip as I can. I live in OR, so this will be one of the few weekends all year when I can absorb some sun and get a tan. Therefore, I want at least half a day at the beach. I want to be sure the Angels or Dodgers are in town. I want to plan brunch with my girlfriends. I want to plan a trip to the park that involves at least one day of gate-to-gate attendance, with a room nearby that my friends and I can crash in, so that we don't have to think about driving home after 16 hours in the park. Despite all I want, sometimes it's not feasible. I already requested my time off for 4th of July, my next desired time off, but if that doesn't come to be for whatever reason, I can plan for Halloween, a time in the park I haven't had in years. I will likely have to forego baseball, but if I can manage it, maybe the Chargers will be home that weekend and I can rent a car for a nice drive down to San Diego!

  4. By *Nala*

    The reason I don't hate running anymore is *because* I can sign up for a race at WDW or Safari Park or a military base or the beach or anywhere else with an interesting course, cool medal, and a fun celebration at the finish. It works for me, and I'm in much better shape for it. To each his own.

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