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The Joys of Trip Planning

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sometimes I think that I enjoy planning my trips to Walt Disney World almost as much as I enjoy the vacation itself. And in fact, the New York Times tells me that science backs me up here:

Researchers from the Netherlands set out to measure the effect that vacations have on overall happiness and how long it lasts. They studied happiness levels among 1,530 Dutch adults, 974 of whom took a vacation during the 32-week study period.

The study, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, showed that the largest boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation. In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

I'm heading down to WDW for the WDW Today Reunion in just 89 days, woo hoo! Since I'm traveling on frequent flier miles, I booked my airfare many months ago. I also tend to book my rental car as soon as I know my flight times (checking rates from time to time to make sure I've still got the best deal). And since I own a time share near WDW, I've already got my accommodations sorted out. So you might think I've already received my eight weeks of happiness boosting. But no! Most of my favorite things to plan for Disney trips are still in the early stages.

  • Park touring schedule. Which parks do I want to see each day? Since this trip is for Reunion, many of my decisions are already made; I'll simply go where the meets are. But there are also other groups holding meets that same weekend, and I seem to have a few waking hours that aren't (yet) scheduled. My biggest internal debate right now is what to do the evening of December 7, before Reunion begins in earnest. Should I buy a ticket for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, which I've (gasp!) never attended? Should I settle in for a long bubble bath at my resort, and watch Stacy's Must Do's? Should I make an ADR at one of the Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurants (I love Boma, and haven't yet tried Jiko or Sanaa)?

  • Advanced Dining Reservations. Speaking of ADRs . . . we're still in the window where I could make a couple if I want, if I'm not looking for anything in a league with Cinderella's Royal Table. Some would argue that I'll be too caught up in all the Reunion festivities to bother with sit-down dining, but I can't help giving it just a little thought. 

  • Packing list. Huh? How is THIS fun? I hate packing! But somehow, making the list is fun. I'm determined to make this trip with as little luggage as possible, preferably just a carry-on. (Yes, my resort has laundry facilities, and I must also tell you that Febreze is my friend.) What Disney-themed t-shirts might I want to wear? Since I'm a bit of a contrarian, what non-Disney t-shirt would be most amusing? Do I have enough comfortable, pocket-intensive pants and shorts? Have I stocked up on batteries for my back-up phone charger, so I won't be stranded without Lines and SMS? And most importantly: DO I HAVE THE PERFECT HANDBAG OR SMALL BACKPACK? You simply must not underestimate the importance of the right bag.

  • Shopping list. Yup, there are a few things I might need to pick up before I travel (handbags, anyone?). But that's not all. Since I usually stay off site and rent a car, I have easy access to local grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. And since I like to pack light, this means I often want to pick up a few extra things once I'm on site. But I like to stay in the Disney bubble as much as possible, so I try to limit myself to one grocery stop, usually made before I check into the resort. So, I'll put together a list for that grocery excursion. Do I think I'd forget something without the list? Well, maybe not. But making the list is one more way to think about trip planning.

And thinking about trip planning is indeed rather important this week! I had a  family vacation in Germany last month, which was wonderful, exciting, and relaxing. But the post-vacation glow didn't last as long as I would've hoped. In fact, my post-vacation experience has been much like the New York Times might have predicted:

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

And hey, thinking of my Germany vacation, I just remembered that my BFF asked me how the real Germany stacks up against Epcot Germany. Guess I'd better ake sure my December vacation plan includes plenty of time exploring that part of the park . . . let me get back to my schedule spreadsheet now . . .