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Tips for Walt Disney World Vacations
By Abagail Bloodworth

Planning a trip to the happiest place on Earth can be overwhelming, even to veterans. For a first-timer, it's easy to get bogged down in the details and end up too stressed to truly enjoy yourself. Fear not--here's a list of helpful tips to ease your mind:

- Especially for a first-timer, the easiest way to make plans may be via a travel agent. Find one who specializes in Disney vacations, and let them take care of the fine details.

- If possible, avoid summer vacation. Between the massive crowds and the hot weather, you're bound to end up miserable. Some of the best times of year to visit include January to February, late April to early May, and late November to early December. Of course, between work schedules and school age children, your schedule may be fairly restricted.

- Pack comfortable, well broken-in shoes. Walt Disney World is not a place for flip-flops, high heels, or new shoes. You'll be doing far more walking than you realize, and uncomfortable shoes are a good way to end up with painful blisters.

- Pack sunscreen, and don't forget to use it. Florida can be hot and sunny--yes, even in the winter--and you don't want you or your children to end up miserable with sunburn.

- Consider staying at one of the Disney resorts. Walt Disney World has a variety of on-site hotels for varying budgets. You'll get amazing theming, quality service, and unlimited use of the Disney transportation system. There are also other nice perks, such as the ability to have merchandise bought in the parks sent back to your hotel room, so you don't have to carry it around all day. The Disney hotels do tend to be more expensive than a room of the same quality in the Orlando area, but they're well worth it.

- Longer park tickets have the best value per day. For instance, whereas it might cost you $90 for a one-day ticket, the difference between a nine-day and a ten-day ticket might be only $15. If you're planning a return trip at any point, it can be worthwhile in the long run to purchase longer tickets and add in the No Expiration option. (Without No Expiration, all tickets will expire 14 days after their first use.)

- Make sure everyone in your party has a cellphone, or consider buying walkie-talkies. That way, you have an easy way of contacting each other if you decide to split up, and there's no need to fear anyone wandering off and getting lost.

- If you're traveling for a special occasion--birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, etc.--make sure to tell a Disney employee, known as Cast Members. Special pins are available for birthdays and many other special occasions. Wear them on your shirt while walking around the parks, and you might just be surprised with some extra-special treatment.

- Remember to relax! There's a lot to see and do at Walt Disney World, and it's easy to want to rush around everywhere trying to take it all in. Instead, take the time to stroll around leisurely, people-watch, and enjoy the theming and little details of the park. Hurrying too much is a good way to miss out on much of what makes the Disney parks so magical. Even if you don't see as much, you'll enjoy yourself more.