or How to Get Everyone Involved
in Vacation Planning

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by Jennifer Watson and Dave Marx

This article appeared in the June 27, 2000, Issue #35 of ALL EARS®
(ISSN: 1533-0753)

Does your dear husband roll his eyes when you start talking about your upcoming vacation? Do your kids hound you to stop reading RADP so they can use the computer? Are your co-workers ready to relocate your desk to the store room so they don't have to hear another word about The Mouse?

You're not alone. Many planners find it challenging to get their family and friends into the spirit of organizing a great vacation at Walt Disney World.

Those who seem most reluctant to plan usually have misconceptions about Walt Disney World. We're sure many of you have heard these excuses before:

"I don't even like roller coasters. I'm just going to watch anyway."

"It's all for little kids. There's nothing for me to do."

"This is your vacation. You're the Disney expert."

You know and we know that there is something for everyone at Walt Disney World. Perhaps you've even mentioned this yo your family or friends. Maybe you showed them pictures, maps, and videos. But as the old proverb goes, "Tell me, I'll forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand."

No more excuses. It's time you involved your family and friends in planning that perfect Walt Disney World vacation! We offer these tips and tricks for converting all your skeptics, grouches, and martyrs.

Make it easy. You may enjoy hunting down the names of all the snack carts at the Magic Kingdom, but it's a good bet no one else does. Can your family and friends find answers to their questions easily? (No, being available to answer their questions doesn't count.) Put out all your Disney guidebooks, guidemaps, brochures, and videos where folks can get to them easily. Sneak a few in the bathroom. If you share a computer, make a list of favorite Disney Web site links in your browser, or even set your start page to a Disney site (we recommend http://allears.net).

Turn them on. You love Disney, but what do your family and friends love? Golf? Shopping? Sunbathing? You'll get a different reaction to "Honey, we're spending a week at Walt Disney World!" than you'll get to "Honey, you can shop 'til you drop!" Find out what turns them on, then turn them on to doing it at Walt Disney World.

Harvest their ideas. Sit each person down with a guidebook, map, or Web site and instruct them to make a list of anything that sounds fun. Be careful to match the individual with the information. Got kids? Try a copy of "Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids, by Kids". Teens may feel more at home on a Web site. And we hear from our readers that reluctant spouses enjoy "PassPorter Walt Disney World." Once you've got their ideas, you've got them involved.

Relate to them. Almost everyone is familiar with Disney's characters, even if they haven't been to Walt Disney World. Ask each person to choose his or her favorite Disney character, then together you can find ways to incorporate that character into your vacation. A Belle fan may enjoy a visit to Fairytale Garden at Magic Kingdom, while a Martin Short fan (hey, he's a character!) will get a kick out of "The Making of Me" at Epcot. Encourage your kids (or kids at heart) to make their own autograph books featuring their favorite characters and those of their family and friends.

Bring it home. Speaking of characters, wouldn't your kids love to get mail from their favorite Disney character? If they still believe in Santa Claus, they'll have no problems becoming pen pals with a giant mouse or princess (and you'll have a ball playing that mouse or princess). Just find some appropriate greeting cards or stationary and send a letter to your child, signed by the character. Encourage your child to respond and share his or her trip plans. Even older kids may appreciate a "see you soon!" card from their character before their trip. E-mail works too, especially if you can create an e-mail address with the character's name in it (how about Tinkerbell4U@aol.com or YourFriendMickey@hotmail.com?).

Anticipate the trip. It's hard for most people to think about a vacation until it's almost upon them. To encourage advance planning, set out a suitcase or box in a central location and have everyone add some things they'd like to bring along. It's a daily reminder of the upcoming trip, plus it's fun to see what gets put into the suitcase. We know some families that start a "Disney Chest" as soon as they decide on a trip, tossing in everything from pocket change and Disney Dollars to books and magazines they want to read.

Divvy it up. Have everyone pick one eatery or the first attraction of the day, and appoint them as hosts of their respective events. Encourage them to learn something fun about the attraction (or restaurant) that they can share with the group. Who knows? Once they have "ownership" of a small piece of their vacation they may be eager to plan an entire day (or evening) on their own.

Hold Nights of the Roundtable. Schedule a weekly planning meeting with the whole family or group. Watch a Disney video, crank out some Disney tunes, or play a Disney game to get in the mood, then gather around the table to discuss your vacation plans. Spread out the maps, open your guidebooks, and attack one small part of your itinerary. Keep it short, keep it light, and wind things up before everyone gets antsy.

Make them magicians. The Secret Mickey (or Secret Walt) game is a great way to involve all the members of a large group and put them in a giving mood. Here's how it works: Put everyone's name into a hat and let each person take turns drawing a name, becoming a "Secret Mickey" to the person whose name they've drawn. Their job? To find ways to make their secret buddy's vacation a little brighter with magical notes or small gifts, without giving away their identities. Hold a Secret Mickey Party at the end of your vacation and have each person guess the identity of their Secret Mickey.

Keep it open. Make sure your plans are accessible to everyone at all times. Use the computer to e-mail itineraries, or create a Web site. Put notes up on a bulletin board or the refrigerator door. Use a PassPorter to record your plans and keep it in the living room or near the phone. Encourage everyone to comment on the plans and make suggestions -- put a feedback form on a Web site, a sheet of paper on a bulletin board, or a page flag on the PassPorter's Notes page.

Of course, you can probably plan your vacation all on your own. But when you involve your companions, you're not just getting a helping hand or a little less grief -- you're helping to make their vacations that much more magical. And just think -- all these little tricks and tips you use today may become the grand traditions and stories of tomorrow's trips.

(c)2000 Jennifer Watson and Dave Marx.