My kids help with our trip planning even though they are only 5 & 7 years old. We discuss when to go, where they would like to eat, which characters are important for us to see, what rides are a must, what parades we have to watch. This helps us plan our time there and what is a priority for each of us. At Christmas, the main goals were Rapunzel and Santa. We planned 2 mornings in Magic Kingdom to be in line for those characters as soon as the park opened. For Star Wars weekend, the goal was to do Jedi Training and see the Hyperspace Hoopla. This upcoming trip, we are excited about Storybook Circus, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom & Agent P!
I think it is important for them to realized that this costs us money and we have to save and plan each time we go. In order to do that, we have a Disney savings jar. I washed out an applesauce jar and the kids decorated it with stickers. Every time we are planning a trip, we start filling up the jar with our extra change, money we get as a gift and anything we receive or earn that is unplanned. When it is full of coins, we spend some time learning the differences and worth of the types of coins and then we count and roll them for the bank. The kids get very involved and will put half their birthday money in the jar and empty out piggie banks to add to the cause!
When the time comes to plan our meals, we sit down and talk about where they want to go again and which character meals they want to do. The biggest requests are always Princesses at Norway and Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. The restaurants most requested for noncharacter meals are Teppan Edo in Japan (we had a wonderful time last trip) and 50’s Prime Time Diner. The kids love the 50’s because of the interactive cast members and they now know how to harass them to get the maximum fun there.
Another way we get ready for a trip is to make a paper chain. My kids LOVE paper chains and it gives them a much better gauge of time. No more “when are we leaving? How many more days? When is August?” They just count what is left of the paper chain we made. I usually start when the trip is paid off but there have been times that I have made a 60 – 80 day chain for a trip. That one reached across the kitchen ceiling!