Ready for your most magical Disney vacation ever?
Good news: you’re in the right place.
Disney World! It’s magical. It’s expensive. It requires so. much. planning.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the complicated, sometimes contradictory Disney information out there, don’t worry — you’re definitely not alone. That’s where I come in.
Hey! I’m Ali. INFJ who can quickly disguise as an ENFJ.
Left-brained human. Efficiency and strategy enthusiast. Numbers nerd (like… I actually enjoy doing my taxes. For real).
When I’m not zipping through the Disney parks with a stopwatch in hand, you can usually find me at home in North Carolina – either creating new content for this community or listening to jazz with glass of wine. And probably eating pizza or cake. Under my fuzzy blanket.
I’m the founder of Wish Upon a Planner® and The Insider’s Digital Strategy Guide to WDW.
The short version:
I teach busy people like you how to plan stress-free WDW vacations, learn super strategy to avoid waiting in long lines, and use algorithms and technology to your advantage so you can have fun, relax, and enjoy that Disney magic.
Oh, and still, ya know, be on speaking terms with your family (and bonus points: not totally broke) when vacation is over.
The Longer Version
Like a lot of you, I grew up loving all things Disney. I went to Disney World for the first time when I was eight. My parents made a rule that each kid had to be potty trained and able to walk before we could go, so when my little brother turned five, it was finally time. After that, we were lucky enough that family trips to Walt Disney World became an annual thing.
I remember getting my first Annual Pass even though I lived in Kentucky (back when an AP would pay for itself in two visits, and Southwest flights were always $49).
I remember that so-excited-you-can’t-even-sleep, better-than-Christmas-Eve feeling I’d get a few days before every single vacation.
And then walking into the Magic Kingdom and feeling like I was entering another world. Even as I grew up, there was still nothing quite like going through those gates, leaving the real world behind, and living in a bubble of nostalgia and happiness for a few days.
But just like going to Walt Disney World can be one of the most magical, exciting experiences ever, it can also be confusing, overwhelming, and stressful… not to mention expensive and crowded. Especially these recent years with all the changes.
There’s so much WDW-related information out there, and a lot of it is out of date, overfluffed, vague, or just plain clickbait (ew).
That’s why I wanted to do things a little differently around here. I want you to know how to maximize your time and dollar, and all of the snacks you should be shovin’ down yer gullet.
Whether you’re casually reading the blog or diving deep into The Insider’s Digital Strategy Guide program materials and group, my goal is to always make sure you have:
- The most current information available
- Strategies for planning and touring that are actually backed by numbers — not estimates or guesses — and then tested and re-tested
- In-depth feedback to help you decide what’s best for your group and your budget
- Concrete, objective data that you can actually use
- Easy-to-understand analysis
- Tips, tricks, and reviews for people who are traveling with or without kiddos
- Information presented in a way that’s convenient and fun to consume
Most people like to avoid applying efficiency, data, numbers, and testing to their vacation plans, but not me. Honestly? I love it.
This is how I’m able to travel not just to Disney frequently, but all around the world.
I’ve always been information-obsessed. Like, I’m the kind of constantly reading, always-looking-at-data, forever-brainstorming-about-how-to-make-things-more-efficient, let’s-make-a-spreadsheet, and researching-new-ways-to-determine-whether-a-purchase-is-actually-worth-it kind of obsessed.
And while I truly do love Disney, I also love being an efficient consumer. And this is my goal with everything I write on this website and my products: expertise via efficiency.
That’s why you can always count on our team to give it to you straight: no bias, no nonsense.
So, how did I get here? A brief life story, if you care
I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and I could not wait to get out of school and get outta there. It’s a nice place to live, but I grew up wondering why people don’t live at the beach when that’s an option, heh. I’ve lived everywhere from South Carolina to San Francisco to Tanzania, Africa. I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and then got a second Bachelor’s in Nursing and was a Registered Nurse for eight years before starting Wish Upon a Planner.
As an RN, I wanted to contribute to a warm, caring environment for the people who needed it most. But nursing kind of turned out not to be the best career choice for me and my personality type, I was either drained or just plain low, mentally and/or physically, most of my eight years of nursing (although my last job was in a prison and it was the best nursing gig I ever had, minus the day a supersize can of tear gas exploded in my face).
I knew I had to find a new career, but I wasn’t sure what. I’ve always been interested in a very large variety of things and have major FOMO issues with whatever path I don’t get to choose.
So I did what any normal Elder Millennial™ does: agonized a lot and talked to my husband about what I could do next. Go back to medical school to finally become a family physician? Maybe law school? Get a PhD in Psychology? But the jobs that sounded the most fun to me, like working in a bookshop or a wine store, didn’t pay much more than minimum wage. I have also never liked following anyone else’s rules but my own, and I had a notion that working for myself would probably be the only thing that ever truly satisfied me.
If only I could do something from my computer, and work from home (just a techy creature of comfort here). Something that was better for my more hermit-y but expressive self, while also using my left-brained strengths like pattern analysis, number crunching, and strategy.
Wouldn’t it be fun if I could combine that with my love of Disney, food, and planning?
But nah… the Disney blogging niche already felt so busy and oversaturated.
At the same time, friends and family were always asking me for Disney tips and tricks, and it was so hard to explain the detailed strategies I knew without having a teaching session with them. Not everything would just make sense reading some text.
And the request people had over and over? They wanted to spend less time waiting in line.
What if I could combine my sense of humor, love for efficiency, talent for analyzing data, and 15 years of Disney expertise to help people plan better WDW vacations, while still being in control of their plans?
You know, the kind where they could do ALL of the things they wanted to do, avoid blowing money on stuff they wouldn’t enjoy, and not end up needing another vacation to recover from their Disney vacation?
I mean, I had already been tracking wait times, menu changes, and price increases for my own enjoyment for 15 years. Maybe I could use that knowledge and skill to help other people never wait in line for more than 20 minutes, ride everything they wanted, and hit every restaurant on their wish list — even if FastPasses and dining reservations seemed next-to-impossible to come by without stress?
Maybe this could be my thing: the perfect career that would allow me to help people and do what I do best.
(Spoiler alert: it was 😆)
Thousands of (amazing) community members and three years later…
Here we are!
Between the Wish Upon A Planner blog and our signature product, The Insider’s Digital Strategy Guide to WDW, my work helps over 20,000+ dedicated readers & members a year spend less time stressing about planning and more time thinking about the stuff that matters, like enjoying a vacation with the people they love most.
Yup, instead of sitting up until 3:00 AM with 14 tabs open or waking up at the crack of dawn to try to get ahead of everyone else, they were able to grab the FastPasses and dining reservations they couldn’t before vacation, stay within their budgets and splurge on only the high quality, high-value experiences, and go on amazing vacations instead of feeling stressed out during the planning and totally exhausted and overwhelmed during the actual trip.
If it sounds like the best job out there, that’s because it is. Minus the occasional rip-my-hair-out tech glitch, I finally love what I do. My favorite part? Having the chance to get to know so many of my community members in the VIP group by name, helping to put their minds at ease answering questions that Dr. Google just can’t solve, and seeing you guys have seriously kick-arse vacations at Walt Disney World.
In case you’re looking for a source for data-driven, statistically-supported, unbiased Disney information, here’s what I can promise you:
- Every strategy you’ll read about in any of our materials is based on actual data.
- The tips and tricks you’ll find on Wish Upon a Planner, our email newsletter and in The Insider’s Digital Strategy Guide come from going to the parks as tourists (just like you!) — not through attending carefully-curated media events. While we live in Colorado and NYC, we’re in the parks at least 8x a year.
- With openings, closings, refurbishments, menu updates, and price increases, change is constant at Disney World. That’s why we are forever testing and re-evaluating to ensure you get the most current, accurate information. Yes, that means we’re always visiting WDW — on our own dime.
- We don’t depend on advertisements, so you never have to worry about pop-up ads while trying to read, or whether you’re truly getting an unbiased review.
- Not all information is best presented via plain text! That’s why we’ve created a variety of videos, flowcharts, infographics, and text to give you the information you need in the clearest, most useful format.
- Even if you’re a frequent visitor and already consider yourself a WDW pro, there’s always SO much more to discover! Wish Upon A Planner is for you too, so just stick around for a bit.
There’s not just one way to do Walt Disney World — the only “right” way is the one that works for your budget and your preferences.
Ready for more insider tips and honest, no-BS planning advice? Come follow along:
Q&A with Ali
What’s the biggest mistake people usually make when planning their trip?
Trying to do too much! Most people think every detail needs to be set in stone, so they don’t allow space to go with the flow. But putting too much on your agenda doesn’t make for a very relaxing vacation. It’s just going to leave you even more tired and stressed out. Rain, in the moment food cravings, and ride closures can all change a day real quick.
Also? Listening to friends who don’t really know what they’re talking about (sorry, but the amount of people that say you only get three FastPasses a day is just painful to us FP nerds).
Do you recommend the Disney Dining Plan?
Meh, tough question. In most cases, no. You really need to do the math and be strategic if you want the money to work out in your favor, and you need to be ready to eat a lot (it’s a ton of food and not in the exciting way, and it can keep you on a pretty rigid schedule). But if you want to do a lot of character meals or buffet, then it is worth crunching the numbers and considering.
Favorite Disney resort in each category?
Value: Pop Century, for the Skyliner convenience and the Strawberry Margarita 😉
Moderate: Coronado Springs. With all the recent additions and changes, it’s a foodie’s dream, and the Tower rooms are gorgeous. Dahlia Lounge and Three Bridges have some of best food, drinks, and staff on property.
Deluxe: I have two favorites, and both are 100% because of the theming: The Boardwalk and Animal Kingdom Lodge. I could spend a week at each and never even have to go into the parks.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is dark, relaxing, and cozy. The Boardwalk has everything that makes me happy: views of the water and 1920s – 1930s theming (fun fact: my favorite music comes from that time period, cause I’m actually 90 years old. Play that Glenn Miller, maestro).
Favorite rides at WDW?
Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, stop making me choose.
CHEESE PIZZA! And sushi. Wait, at Disney? Homecomin’ Mac and Cheese. Do La Cava’s Jalapeño margaritas count as food? Another is the Carciofi Pizza at Via Napoli (and I’m a red sauce girl!).
Do you run Wish Upon A Planner all on your own?
Not anymore, we’re fortunate enough to have turned into a full-fledged company over the past few years. My sister and my husband do help out, though, mainly as researchers. I like to think they enjoy their jobs!
Favorite WDW websites aside from yours?
Great question, since most of my business revolves around my community and creating content for people who purchase the Insider’s Guide and my email newsletter. I don’t run ads, so I don’t focus on blogging or Disney news (and there’s already a lot of thorough blogs out there).
For newbies, I recommend WDW Prep School. Shannon is a rockstar; she’s so thorough and her content flows in the methodical manner that beginners need. She manages to cover everything in detail without making the reader feel overloaded.
For news and personally, I only follow Disney Tourist Blog. I like Tom, the author, a lot; he’s a very intelligent dude and I like his more intellectual take on all things Disney. His writing is more advanced and journalistic, so I don’t recommend it as a go-to planning site, but the content is always helpful. Disney regulars will appreciate him and he indulges his readers with speculation too, I commend that since it’s not something I would want to take on.
What’s the #1 thing I can do to make sure I have a great vacation?
Get The Insider’s Digital Strategy Guide to WDW (with Line Hacks™!), seriously. Am I biased? Maybe. But has this guide legitimately helped thousands of people? Definitely. It’s a tiny investment that will save you so much time, money, and stress. There’s even a money-back guarantee! (and a 98% satisfaction rate 😉)