It is hard to imagine a more exciting, magical, and eagerly anticipated vacation than a Disney theme park adventure.

And because the prospect of the trip is so exciting, the planning process can be half the fun. Here is how to get started planning the trip of a lifetime, for a lot less than you might think.

Order Your Free Disney DVD
One of the first things you will want to do is take advantage of the free Disney Parks Vacation Planning DVD. This official Disney DVD takes you on a complete tour of both resorts. Go inside the parks and get an overview of the Disney complexes in both Florida and Southern California. Preview the water and roller coaster rides and get tips on where to go and what to do. The DVD also features planning guides, information on affordable places to stay, things to do, and upcoming special events. You can order it on the official Disney Parks website. (Simply do a Google search for “Free Disney Vacation Planning DVD.”)

Hotel Deals
The second thing on your list will be to find the best Disneyland and Disneyworld hotel deals.

Keep in mind that you will pay lower prices on both lodging and park tickets if you book your trip during the off season, which runs from October through April.

Disney resorts have a number of on site hotels, which bring lots of advantages, including discounted ticket prices and, of course, convenience. But the experience of staying in a resort hotel comes with a price: as much as triple the cost of other hotels.

If cost is the foremost consideration in planning your Disney vacation, begin an online search for hotels near the resort instead. Many of these neighboring hotels offer comfortable, clean lodging and may provide a complimentary shuttle service to the resort.

Accommodations range from value priced to deluxe, with amenities to match. Make a list of the features that are most important to you and refer to them when deciding on a hotel. If you do not mind parking your car and walking instead of using the valet, or if you do not mind limited room service, then you do not need to pay more for a deluxe hotel stay.

The distances to and from the park can differ, so be sure to ask about the location of the hotel in relation to the park, as well as whether the hotel offers complimentary transportation, such as shuttle bus or monorail service. There are lots of choices and you can find many different package deals depending on your budget and preferences. The Internet has made it so easy to compare Disney area hotels (and their amenities) at a glance.

Saving on Meals
Disney does not allow you to bring food into the park. But you can save money by having breakfast before entering the park and eating dinner after you leave. Lunch prices tend to be quite a bit lower than dinner prices at the restaurants inside the park, so you can experience the magic of a meal in the park for less.

You will be permitted to bring in bottled water, which is much less expensive than buying sodas and bottled water inside the park.

More Disney Travel Tips
1. Some hotels and travel agents offer discounts to nurses, teachers and government workers, as well as AAA, AARP and Entertainment Book members.
2. Make sure to purchase your tickets before you get to the park, so you do not have to stand in line when you get there.
3. Read your tickets and passes and make sure you understand what you are paying for. Remember, too, that some rides have certain height requirements for children.
4. Walking the parks may be fine for the adults, but you may want to either bring your own stroller or rent one for your child.
5. If you have a child who is too small for a particular ride, take advantage of the Disney “Baby Swap” option. All you need to do is tell the attendant. When you reach the front of the line, one parent will be able to ride while the other parent holds the child. When the ride is over, you switch. That way, neither parent has to sit out.
6. The weather can be unpredictable so do not be caught off guard. Make sure to bring an umbrella, ponchos and some cool weather clothing. Plan ahead for rainy days by having a list of indoor activities you want to do in the area, as well, just in case of an extended downpour.

Though a Disney vacation may seem overwhelming during the planning stage, rest assured that a little bit of planning now will make for a more relaxed, memorable (even magical) vacation that you and your children will remember for a long time to come.