Our first trip was 2003, walked into a travel agents in february and booked to go in may - that was before dd so we actually had money! :lol:
We bought our tickets through the travel agents (not disney ones though), used to the brochure for a bit of information but didnt really plan anything at all - and weve never planned anything on our other trips either!
My first staying onsite Disney trip was planned as a surprise visit to the Beach Club for Herself's birthday. I went to a travel agent and had her book everything. Little did I know then... I spent more than needed for the initial bookings, but live and learn, eh? (For example I bought the length of stay park hoppers available then, when an AP would have been cheaper!).
Now, we had gone "down to Disney" and stayed off site prior to this visit, but it wasn't nearly as nice an experience and taught me quickly that I far preferred to stay onsite when visiting. Of course, I'd never tried an offsite villa, so that would have made a big difference. I would surely look into an offsite villa if I still lived far away and were not a DVC member.
(I did do a one day visit years prior to this trip, but that seriously doesn't count. NOT a good experience and involved nothing more than a visit to the MK on a day pass).