Zamgwar’s Confessions of an Obsessive Planner

By Zamgwar
All Ears® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the August 12, 2003, Issue #203 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Okay here's the plan. Sunday we have Priority Seating for: character breakfast at Cape May, lunch at France, and dinner in Germany. We're going to head straight for Mission:SPACE at park opening, and then work our way around Epcot counterclockwise. We'll split up after lunch, then regroup when it's time for dinner. Monday we have breakfast in the Grand Floridian, lunch at the Crystal Palace and dinner with Cinderella at the Castle. Don't forget we're going to catch Goofy's new show at the Diamond Horseshoe at 2 p.m. Look over the schedule of meals and shows for Wednesday through Friday. Remember we meet 15 minutes BEFORE each time and DON'T BE LATE. Now go have fun.

Walt Disney World and vacation planning — the two phrases seem synonymous. Most Disney vacation guides recommend you not even cross through the fabled main gates without an appropriate three, five or 10-day plan. Failure to properly prepare may result in dazed and confused adults, extremely whiny children, overpaying for a "Squeeze Breeze", hunger pains from sit-down dining waits and most important, not seeing it all.

Naturally, with all the preparations necessary for any vacation, in each household someone must be ordained "Planner". It's the Planner's job to arrange flights, rent cars, make dining reservations, research attractions, compose a recommended daily "must do" agenda, prepare a list of necessary travel items and in general keep everyone excited about the upcoming vacation.

I am not a "Planner".

I am an "Obsessive Planner". It wasn't my choice — I was made that way.

An Obsessive Planner begins plans for the next vacation before the first vacation actually occurs. The very DAY a future vacation time and place are selected, airfare and car rentals are researched and booked. Soon after Zagat's dining guides are purchased and online restaurant menus are perused. Questions are posted on Internet message boards. Planning videos are watched and when available, 360 degree virtual tours are taken.

By the time they arrive at their vacation destination, it is done in full knowledge of which stairs to take to the rental car, what's the quickest route out of the airport, and what highway exit to get off if a sudden craving for a B.L.T. sandwich should strike. Once at their resort destination, without hesitation, Obsessive Planners can find their room, the pool, and a good martini or the perfect milkshake. Our navigation skills are a result of having walked the resort mentally dozens of times each night, before dozing off with a guidebook in our hands.

It is all done effortlessly to those of us who enjoy it.

Planning is after all, part of the anticipation process, and those who have followed my ALL EARS® articles know what an important part the "anticipation of a vacation" is to me. (See Zamgwar's other ALL EARS® articles at

That being said, you can understand the look of complete shock on my wife's face when she asked, "What's the plan for Disney World this year?" and I responded, "To just have a great time." A plethora of questions followed.

"Where are we going to eat? Which days will the parks be the most crowded? What about E-Ride night? What about Extra Magic Hour? What about a Pal Mickey? What about our annual dinner at Portobello's?"

I'm sure she contemplated sending me for an MRI.

For the first time since MY first time (when I was taken to Disney World as a birthday surprise), I have no daily "loose" agenda typed out and inserted in my travel folder alongside my airline tickets and car rental information. In fact, I have pulled off the ultimate Disney Vacation dream.

I booked this trip more than a year ago, and as unbelievable as it may seem, had completely forgotten about it. I'd like to think this oversight was partially due to a very busy year, having made many WDW "re-mousing" trips and my obsessive planning of our NEXT vacation (a February 2004 cruise with a large group of long-time friends). "She Who Must Be Obeyed" (aka my wife) attributes it to my dulling 49-year-old brain cells, which will eventually result in requiring Post-it notes on my mirror that say, "John, put on pants before you go out." It wasn't until my airline called with a flight change that I realized my annual trip to the Mouse was only weeks away.

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah-Day! I had surprised myself with a Disney Vacation. What could be more perfect than that?

Having successfully done so, I have not planned accordingly. My "non-plans" are as follows. They should work fine for anyone else heading to WDW without a plan

Day 1

To yell, "We're on VACATION!" real loud the moment we board the Orlando Airport Monorail.
To beep my horn and wave at Disney attraction signs along the highway.
To yell, "We're in DISNEY WORLD!" real loud the moment we cross through the gates.
To check in at my beloved Beach Club, and make the Cast Member at the desk laugh.
To give Art, the Beach Club greeter, a "fine" salute.
To "stroll" over to one of the parks, possibly Epcot, possibly the Studios!
To pause momentarily inside the entrance of the park with a real big smile.
To ask my lovely wife where *she* would like to have lunch. (Others using this list will have to ask their own partners.)
To head to whatever attraction is the closest at the time and chat with whoever is around me in the queue.
To check a ride board for wait times to see what attraction might be next.
To enjoy the sights and sounds of whatever is around me, while sitting on a fountain.
To let the Magic of Disney sand some years off my personal time line.
To run up and hug a big fuzzy headed Character (preferably a costumed Disney one, not a guest in need of a shave and a haircut).
To skip and whistle as much as possible.
To push a button somewhere I've never pushed.
To listen to some fine live entertainment.
To stop and smell some roses.
To snack on something new, somewhere new.
To take a nice break from the parks, back at my resort.
To blow bubbles in an ice cream soda through a straw.
To eat dinner at Norway (OK, that much I've planned).
To try and catch a water blob from the "bloop-bloop" fountains at Imagination.
To watch some fireworks.
To stroll hand in hand past some beautiful lights at park closing.
To have a nice nightcap or two and some warm conversation.

Day 2

To wake up late and go wherever the Mouse leads me for the next three days.

As 21st Century adults we can tend to plan our lives just too much. Our kids now have daily schedules that would rival some CEOs. To most of us, there was no such thing as a "playdate" when we were young. Our mothers would say, "It's nice outside, go out and play!" You would stand under your neighbor's window and yell, "Hey! Mrs. Reynolds, can Tommy come out and play?" It required no plans, just an open window and a loud voice. Modern parents now must juggle soccer practices, unending streams of birthday parties (many of which cost more than most of us paid for our first car), and of course those "playdates". Our Palm Pilots and personal organizers are packed with doctors' appointments, business meetings, and aerobics classes and must be checked moment to moment, to see if it's OK to eat or go to the bathroom.

The result, even on vacation, can be the feeling that you're "running late".

The last thing I personally wish to do on any vacation is run, or be worry about being late.

If there was ever a place on this planet that it is possible to go to without a plan, Walt Disney World is that place. Like their nightly spectacles in the sky, Disney World always explodes before your eyes, in an overwhelming feast of fantasy and imagination. The warm smiles of your fellow guests and the Disney Cast Members welcome you like a long lost family member who's found their way back home. The parks naturally beckon you forward from one wonderful place to another. There's a "storyline" to almost every building for those with the time to find it (read the historical plaques around Pleasure Island, for example), and a neat "inside story" from almost every Cast Member you take the time to speak with. Wide-eyed wandering is perfectly acceptable. In a place where childhood fantasies come to life and every day is a celebration, there are no wrong turns to take, just new discoveries to make.

With or with out a plan, a week in Mousedom is always enjoyable as long as some part of you is still able to smile and enjoy the "wonderful world of color" that is everywhere. Our mutually favorite 47 square miles of Florida is custom-tailored to suit everyone and every type of vacationer. Regardless what language you speak, how much you earn, how easily you get around, who you call your true love, or what (if any) preparations you've made, Mickey and his pals will do their very best to show you a great time.

Because another marvel of the WDW magic is that there is always another show, always another parade, always more fireworks, and always an attraction waiting, for those who choose to sleep late, stroll where the Mouse leads them, and stop and smell the roses along the way.

Office of Disney with (almost) no Plans
The Zamgwar Institute


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.