Well, here we are, the day before we fly out and two days before embarkation. It felt like we would never reach this point when we started counting down at 250 days and going through the various increments including the 100 day milestone. Ive learned a few things in this preparation that Ill share with you all. Take it for what its worth. But before I launch into my list, I want to say that when I first joined the Meet group on the DIS I was convinced we would be a small, inactive group. It was January when I joined and the group was pretty quiet until about April. As we started seeing more activity I setup the Facebook group, move people joined, and from there it exploded. Over the last six months Ive had the opportunity to know my fellow travelers and my kids have been able to connect to a certain extent with their kids. Our Texan contingency was fortunate enough to have several meet ups. I had a couple here in Colorado but we were less in number than our neighbors south of here. Some people have eschewed Facebook and stuck with the DIS. I respect that but would add that there are ways to join a Facebook group without engaging in the whole Facebook experience. Facebook was easier to share ideas, pictures, and just commiserate with each other as we waited for time to march on. I always thought it was odd that people could make friends on a vacation but I now get it and know there will be people from this cruise that Ill always stay in touch with in the future. What a blessing it has been to get to know these folks and meeting them in person will be, to some extent, like meeting old friends. Okay, now on to my list of Lessons Learned for planning. 1. Its never too early to plan and work on FE gifts. I completed my entire stateroom gifts but the kids gifts were a bit challenging and so I procrastinated. Ive got most done but Ill need to finish on the ship. Thats cool because I can watch a Disney movie and sip wine while I do that. 2. If you have a tendency to over pack, its worthwhile to go through your suitcase and sanity check yourself. Be real. Heres a great site that includes a PDF of a packing planner. I used that to help ensure I brought what I needed. http://blog.touringplans.com/2013/08/18/trip-planning-102-packing-for-your-disney-cruise-line-vacation/ 3. Dont sweat the small stuff. I had hoped to get a mani/pedi before we leave but it just didnt happen. Thats okay. Is someone really going to worry about what my toes look like, well, unless of course theyre really disgusting? Which theyre not so I let that go. 4. Along the same lines of the FE gifts, things that you can do way ahead of time, like printing magnets, do it. As the time grows near I found there were several things that kept getting added to my to do list and our normal day-to-day life was busy. Yesterday we had a school fundraiser that my husband was in charge of and most of our day was shot with that. 5. If you work, take a few days if you can before the trip to get stuff done. We fly out on a Friday but I took Tuesday through Thursday off as well so I could get myself in a vacation state of mind and to take care of the packing without feeling rushed. 6. If you dont want to deal with a lot of packing, do not take a Halloween cruise. I dont regret that were cruising over Halloween and I think it will be a lot of fun. However, there are clothes we had to pack that we dont typically pack for a vacation such as pirate costumes and Halloween costumes. Weve got ninja swords, Meridas quiver, bow and arrow, and a few other awkward sized items. The quiver is stuffed with socks and underwear to make the best use of space. 7. If youre a first time cruiser pick the brains of the veterans. It will help in your planning. However 8. When taking advice from people remember that everyone has an opinion and they may not match yours or your lifestyle. I often see where people write that you wont spend much time in your stateroom. What they may not be considering is that some of us are introverts and I cant do people and crowds all day. I need quiet time away and my husband is the same way. I do expect to spend time in the stateroom, especially the verandah. So take in the data but always keep in mind your own likes and disposition. 9. Make sure you get travel insurance! We had a few people in our group who had to cancel for medical reasons and job changes, none of which were expected. Ive seen people post that they dont need it because theyre not of an age where health is an issue. Well, the first person to cancel was in her thirties, and the two subsequent people who cancelled were in their forties. You never know. 10. Plan ahead for the little expenses. Preparing a budget so you know what to expect will help minimize surprises. Factor in excursions, souvenir shopping, drinks, tips, and expenses to get to the ship. Whatever you can pay ahead of time, do because it will help spread the cost. You can prepare a very simple budget spreadsheet where you can create a line item for your expenses. I did this and included things like on board booking and a budget for souvenirs. Its also good to have extra money budgeted as a buffer for any surprises. As an example, make sure you know the details of baggage charges from your airline. We had a person in our group who was surprised to find her baggage fees exceeded her budget by $140 and she was not ready for that. 11. Dont sweat the small stuff. At the end of the day, youre on a Disney cruise and the name of the game is relax! 12. I only hope that we dont lose sight of one thing that it was all started by a mouse. Walt Disney Thanks for reading my ramblings! See you all on the Trip Report forum!