Research is fun (at least for me).
My daughter got a stomach bug the first day on our vacation one year and plans go out the window… Therefore our planned rest day was the first day of the vacation…
You're spot on with the advice, especially with not seeing other people as obstacles. I've always taken time while in line to see if I can't get the person next to me to talk a bit while we're waiting. It's amazing what you can learn, not only about where you're at, but also about places you've never been.
I was really sad to see on my last trip to Disneyland the number of phone zombies there were. Here those people were in one of the greatest theme parks with such rich detail, and what are they doing? Texting and not even looking at the park they forked out good money for.
The best vacations are when I'm relaxing on the off times, when I'm not in a theme park or a tourist trap. Traveling is part of the anticipation (or maybe just getting through TSA) and arriving at the destination.
As for being with strangers, it is really about being friendly with everyone include your travel companions. If you're having fun within your group, you can certainly have fun with everyone else. I major problem is when you might have arguments with your spouse. This has happened on occasion.
It sounds cliche, but attitude really does make all the difference. There have been times in theme parks where I've let myself become stressed and frustrated going in, and all that does is start a cycle of stress and frustration, because you'll view everything negatively and that will just add to the problem.
A week ago I visited Disneyland right in the middle of Spring break season. I knew it would be ridiculously crowded going in, but a friend really wanted to go so we went. I resolved ahead of time to not let the stress get to me, to go in with a good attitude, not be disappointed if something didn't work out and not to be impatient with long lines. I just accepted it for what it was, and that positivity carried me through the day. We wound up having a great time.
What will you have more of: Money or Time?
Once we know that planning is a relative breeze. One of your biggest suggestions (and one we really try to get across) of paying in advance is spot on! We try to get our family to plan at least a year ahead and get all the tickets out of the way very early. That can make a HUGE difference.
When you plan well and pay for things in advance, your vacation "almost" seems free! You miss the bits you set aside along the planning journey much less than a BIG after vacation bill!
We also really try to drill in the fact they could live down here for a year and not do everything, so the thought of non-stop running from the moment they step foot off the plane can be squashed right there!
We try to put a down day at least every three days if not every other. A down day could be a trip to the water park, beach, something local, or just a day to recharge the batteries. THAT is a key to a stress free vacation!
I am very glad this site exists. I used it to plan many a trip to Orlando before we moved here. It's a wonderful tool with great resources!