One of my favorite Disney World resources is the "DIS" website located at http://www.wdwinfo.com/. The DIS is the largest unofficial on-line guide to Walt Disney World. There are a lot of great Disney World websites on the net, but the DIS is a great "one-stop" shop for quick information on just about everything related to the happiest place on earth. The DIS is set up with the left side of the home page displaying all of the major categories including Disney News, Theme Parks, Resorts, Dining, etc. Several of these topics have sub-categories that allow you to quickly get to the information you are looking for. I'm going to briefly talk about the sections that are specifically related to trip planning.
First and foremost is the "Theme Parks" section. This is a great place to get detailed information about every attraction, show, store or restaurant on the entire property. This includes things like ride lengths, height requirements and pictures. Two helpful sub-categories in this section are "Disney Park Hours" and "Disney Park Maps," both of which can be very useful in planning each day of your vacation. The final area under the topic of theme park is the "Rehabs and Closings" sub-category. This is one of the first places I check before booking a Disney World vacation. It is where you can find the dates that certain rides or even an entire water park may be closed for refurbishment. I certainly wouldn't want to book a trip for a time that our favorite attraction, The Haunted Mansion, wasn't going to be open!
The second category to look at while planning your Disney World vacation is "Disney Resorts." This area has detailed information on every Disney resort as well as nearby off-property resorts. Here you will find everything from room rates, to room sizes with diagrams, to resort maps. There is a description of each resort that includes great pictures to assist you in choosing your accommodations.
The next major category on the DIS is "Disney Dining." This is a place where you can find all you need to know about eating on at Disney World. This is an extremely comprehensive section that includes restaurant reviews, menus and everything there is to know about the Disney Dining Plan. It even addresses special dietary needs, dress codes and tipping guidelines. This is an excellent place to research restaurants before making reservations prior to leaving on your trip. However, it is also a good resource to look up dining information while actually on your vacation via your laptop computer or internet capable cell phone.
The final category that is designed to help you plan your next vacation is called "Events." Walt Disney World hosts many annual events throughout the year. Some of the biggest are the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, Star Wars Weekends, and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. This section of the website is useful for two reasons. First, there is detailed information about each event to educate and peak the interest of potential visitors. If one of these events sounds fun to you, it could help you decide when to book your trip. However, if you were planning on specific dates for your vacation and realize there is an event scheduled that you weren't going to attend, you may want to change your plans. Often times the crowds can be pretty thick during major events, especially around the holiday season.
There are many other excellent areas of the DIS website that aren't directly related to Disney World trip planning but are certainly worth visiting. There are large sections that are dedicated to the Disney Cruise Line, Disneyland, and the Disney Vacation Club. Finally, I want to mention the section called "Discussion Boards" where Disney fans can communicate with each other. This is a great place to ask a question that you would like answered quickly. There is sure to be someone on the boards that will post a reply to your question in a very short period of time. I will actually be dedicating an entire article on Disney World discussion boards, forums and chat rooms in the near future.
Have a Disneyriffic day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!