By Martha Nichols with Aladdin Travel

It is no wonder why so many moms planning a family vacation to Walt Disney World are overwhelmed! WDW is 54 square miles consisting of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 25 Resorts, 4 golf courses, and over 500 different types of dining experiences. If you are like me, I opened the planning guide, flipped through a few pages and put it back down. I had no idea where to begin. The more I asked for advice from others, the more confused I became. Have no fear! Triad Moms on Main has your answer to a Disney Vacation that can be planned stress-free. Let me introduce Martha Nichols, who is an Independent Travel Consultant specializing in Disney Destinations.

Martha is a mom herself, who lives right here in the Triad. She provides a concierge style service for no additional fee that includes resort & travel reservations; vacation and itinerary planning services; and dining, tours and recreation reservations. Because the quotes come directly from Disney, they are the same prices that you would be given if you booked the vacation yourself!

Martha monitors Disney’s Special Offers to maximize your vacation dollars, saving you money. Martha has specialized knowledge of Disney Destinations Travel from Disney’s College of Knowledge and onsite Agent Education Programs for Walt Disney World® Resorts and Disney Cruise Line®. She is with Aladdin’s Magical Journeys, an Affiliate of Aladdin Travel & Meeting Planners. Aladdin Travel is designated by Disney Destinations Travel as an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” agency. Aladdin Travel is a locally owned and operated travel company that has been in business for over 35 years.

One of our readers, Karen C., had this to say about her experience with Martha and her trip to Walt Disney World®. “Earlier this year, my husband and I decided we would surprise our girls (ages 5 & 3) with a trip to Walt Disney World®. We had been a couple of years ago, but this time, we enlisted Martha to help us plan our trip. We couldn’t have been more pleased! An experienced Disney traveler & Mom herself, Martha was full of great ideas and suggestions that really fit our family’s needs. She handled all of our accommodation and dinner reservations ahead of time, suggesting fun character meals and shows that my girls would like. Before our trip, she worked with us to provide a basic “itinerary” of our week with helpful information and tips for our days at the various parks. Planning with Martha, we were definitely able to maximize our family’s experience without overwhelming our little ones. She took care of every detail, making this one of the easiest and most pleasant vacations ever! Our time at Walt Disney World® was truly magical…we made priceless memories with our girls. We hope to go back one day – and, when we do, we’ll certainly call Martha again!”

Martha has such a grand knowledge of Walt Disney World®, and she has even provided us with some spectacular tips that you will no doubt need to keep at your fingertips…

• Try to keep to your child’s schedule while on vacation. Plan meals during their usual eating times, and take a midday break. This will help to minimize tired melt downs that can ruin everyone’s mood.

• Locate the Baby Care Center is at each of the parks if you are traveling with little ones. This is an air conditioned oasis that is equipped with changing tables, rockers, highchairs, private nursing areas, and bathrooms. In addition to having a stock of diapers, wipes, and baby food, they have children’s Tylenol and Motrin. The cast members are welcoming to children of all ages (even my 6 year old who had a headache and needed Tylenol).

• Don’t want to go all the way back to your resort for a break? Hop over to one of the resorts close to the park. Get something cold to drink from one of the quick service restaurants, sit in the lobby, enjoy the AC, and explore the resort. It will be quieter and less crowded than the parks, offering you a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Often the resorts offer activities in the afternoon for little ones. Check with the concierge desk for a list of activities. You do not have to be a resort guest to participate and they are often free of charge.

• Because of show schedules and crowds, it is difficult to do and see everything that a park has to offer in 1 day. Understand that you cannot do and see everything that Disney has to offer in one vacation. Prioritize each family member’s want-to-do list and focus on enjoying the magical moments that happen at Walt Disney World®.

• If you desire to dine at a sit down restaurant, make Advanced Dining Reservations well in advance. Because of the popularity of Disney’s Dining Plans, many restaurants book up well in advance and cannot accommodate guests without a reservation. Currently Disney has a 90 day window for making those reservations, but is planning to extend that window to a 180 day window in October 2009. For those guests that are staying at a Walt Disney World® Resort, you can make all of your dining reservations 90 days in advance of your check in date. Now you can make your ADRs online or over the phone.

• Want to get pictures with and autographs of the characters? Character Dining Experiences are a great way to do so and allows you to avoid standing in line at the parks to see the characters.

• At each of the parks, there is a Character Breakfast at a restaurant that opens before the parks operating hours. Try to schedule your meal for a time before the parks open. If you can get a reservation time at 8 AM, you should be finishing your meal and time with the characters close to the park opening time. You will already be in the park and closer to the attractions that you want to experience.

• The crowds at Walt Disney World® start to pick up between 11 AM and 1 PM. Plan to arrive at the parks when they open so that you can enjoy the attractions with less crowds. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World® Resort, take advantage of the Early Extra Magic Hour and get into the park an hour before it opens to the general public.

• Consider getting the Hopper Option added to your park passes. This will allow you access to more than 1 park a day. Each of the parks tend to be more crowded on the days of Extra Magic Hours. The Hopper Option allows you to take advantage of the EMHs, but leave when the crowds pick up and hop on over to a less crowded park. It also allows you to spend the morning at one park, leave for a midday break, and return to a different park for dinner and the nighttime activities.

• Traveling with little ones that do not meet the height requirements? Disney offers “Parent Rider Switch” which allows one parent to ride, while the other parent stays with the smaller child. A cast member will give you a pass that will allow the second parent to avoid standing in the stand by line. This is great if you have an older child, because the pass will allow you to take the older child on the ride for a second time!

If these tips were helpful to you, keep in mind that this is just the beginning of what Martha can offer you in advice and planning. Contact Martha Nichols at or 336-671-1995 for more information or a free quote for travel to Walt Disney World® Resort, Disney Cruise Line®, Disneyland® Resort, Adventures By Disney, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, or Disney’s Hilton Head Resort. Then just sit back, relax, and wait for your vacation day to arrive!