What I Wish I'd Known Before I Went To Disney World
How to Plan a Disney Vacation
For many people around the world, taking a “Disney vacation” means heading to Walt Disney World in Florida. And, while it can be the vacation of a lifetime, the sheer number of things to do there can turn planning the trip into a stressful ordeal. To ease your worries, start the process at least six months ahead of time. Create a "must do" list that is prioritized and logically organized, and don't forget to factor in time for relaxation, spontaneity, and unforeseen circumstances — especially if you’re bringing the kids. Whether you're heading to Orlando or another Disney destination, make sure you don't need a vacation after your vacation!
Arranging for Travel and Lodging
Go when crowds are smaller but events are happening.Disney World events and hours vary from season to season and day to day. Planning your trip around special events and extended hours is an excellent way to enhance your magical experience. Consult one of several unofficial Disney Crowd Level Charts online for information on how different special events and holidays impact crowd levels.
- Avoid the biggest crowds and save some money by scheduling your Disney World vacation during the offseason:mid-January to mid-March, excluding Presidents Day Weekend; mid-April to mid-May, excluding Spring Break; mid-September to mid-November, excluding Halloween weekend. The parks are also less busy Tuesday through Thursday.
Simplify things by booking a Disney vacation package.Travel groups and the Disney company offer packages that include park tickets, hotel accommodations, and airfare. Purchasing a vacation package can ease the stress of planning a vacation. Compare the costs and perks of a variety of packages in your price range.
- Disney employs travel agents that are available to assist you. The phone number for this service is 407-939-5277 (U.S.).
- You may (or may not) save money by booking an all-in-one vacation package; you’ll definitely save time.
Stay at a Disney resort for convenience and proximity.Do you want to experience the magic of Disney 24/7? Disney resort packages are available at multiple price points. You may stay at the campground or book a deluxe villa. Staying at a Disney Resort also grants you several privileges:
- Disney resort guests receive free transportation to and from the airport.
- If you drive in, you will have the luxury of parking for free.
- You will also have the ability to enter the park early and stay after regular hours.
Book a flight as soon as you know your vacation dates.In order to snag an excellent deal on airfare, you must search for flights early and remain persistent. Begin your search for flights 6 months in advance. If you intend to visit Disney over a school vacation or holiday, it is especially important that you book your flights early.
- Search for flights every day.
- Use online tools to find deals on flights.
- Consider flying in or out on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday.
Make your own arrangements for even more options.Ideally, Disney wants you to land at Orlando’s airport, take their shuttle right to your Disney resort, and stay within the Disney World complex for the entire vacation. But, you can escape Mickey’s grasp from time to time if you prefer.
Search for discounts.Many organizations and associations offer Disney discounts to their members. For instance, if you are a member of AAA, you may have access to discounted Disney Resort accommodations.
- United States Military members are eligible for discounts through the Shades of Green Foundation.
- Disney also offers group rates.
Planning Your Days Wisely
Evaluate each Disney World park individually.Before you set an agenda for your Disney vacation, research the different parks and features. Disney World has six parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach.
- Start jotting down a prioritized list of must-see Disney attractions. Note the shows and exhibits you want to see while you are in each park.
Compile your list of “must see” and “must do” attractions.Check the Disney World calendar for special events, like parades and firework shows.Make note of any events that are essential for you and your crew. Highlight any days that a park will close early for special events.
- If you are staying at a Disney Resort, take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (EMH). Every day a different Disney park offers EMH for guests of their resorts. The park either opens 1 hour early or stays open 2 hours later than normal. Visiting a park on an EMH day ensures that you will have additional time to explore and enjoy the magic of Disney.
Rank and organize your essential itinerary.Once you’ve created your list of “must see”/“do” items, organize them by date, time, and location so you won’t be racing back and forth across a Disney park (or, even worse, shuttling between parks) to get from a character dinner to a fireworks show.
- For instance, if the Magic Kingdom has a parade at 5:00 pm and fireworks at 9:00 pm (and both are on your list), see if you can squeeze in a “must do” character dinner and a few high-priority rides in the vicinity.
- Even if you do end up buying “Park Hopper” tickets so you can visit multiple parks in a single day, limiting travel between parks whenever possible will make your day that much less hectic and tiring.
Schedule at least one “free” day into your vacation.If you schedule each day down to the minute for several days, you’ll definitely “hit the wall” by the third or fourth day — and probably sooner if you have small children! For every two (or possibly three) fully-scheduled park days, set aside a non-park day with no set times or plans. It is supposed to be a vacation, after all!
- You’ll find plenty to do at your lodging resort, especially if it’s a Disney property. You can hit the pool(s), play games, shop, or just sleep!
- If you can’t stand just hanging around the pool all day, head over to Disney Springs on your “free day” — it’s full of shopping, dining, and activity options.
Take your fitness, comfort, and kids into account.If you’re an in-shape pair of twenty something honeymooning at Disney World, you might be able to hoof it across the parks at a fast pace for several days straight. But, most traveling parties need to be realistic about how quickly they can go and how long they can keep up the pace. You can easily walk several miles during a day at a Disney park, and stand for several hours when you aren’t walking.
- If your kids can still fit in the seat, bring (or rent) strollers, even if they don’t use them anymore at home. Worn-out five-year olds equals cranky preschoolers equals a less than “magical” day.
- Likewise, if you’re traveling with anyone with any type of mobility limitation, check into getting a wheelchair or motorized scooter — even if they usually don’t use one at home. Or, at least schedule more frequent breaks and less hectic days.
Don’t try to do everything.There are so many great things to do at Disney World that it’s easy to go overboard with your planning. That’s why you need to prioritize your “must” list and be realistic about how much your traveling party can manage in a day. It will be tough, but some things you’d really like to see or do will have to go on the “cut” list.
- Be an optimist — think of this trip’s “cut” list as the beginning of the “must” list for your next Disney World vacation!
Finalizing Your Schedule
Make special meal reservations 6 months in advance.Experiencing the magic of Disney in its themed dining rooms and exclusive restaurants requires planning. You'll always be able to find somewhere to eat, but high-end / high-popularity restaurants and meals with Disney characters take reservations 180 days in advance. So, if you want to dine with Cinderella, book early.
Buy park tickets.Disney provides its guests with the ability to customize their ticket package. Once you have decided which parks to visit, create your custom ticket package.
- Guests may chose to buy a one day or multi-day ticket. The cost of tickets becomes considerably cheaper the more days you plan to visit.
- For an additional fee, you may add a “Park Hopper Option” to each ticket. This allows you to visit multiple Disney theme parks in one day.
- Fans of water parks can select the “Water Park Fun & More Option.” Save money by combining the “Park Hopper Option” and the “Water Park Fun & More Option.”
Finish off your daily itinerary.Once you have made all of your travel arrangements, purchased your park tickets, and made your restaurant reservations, create a detailed Disney vacation agenda. Highlight the times and locations of the key events you’ll be attending. Pass out copies to your traveling party. Use your itinerary to keep your trip on schedule, or just as a casual reminder of what you have planned for any particular day.
- Create your itinerary with the My Disney Experience Planner, which is available on the Disney website.
QuestionWho drew the images in the article?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost likely the author of the article.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if I'm black? I'm low-income.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYour race makes no difference. If you don't have enough money right now, then save some up over time if possible. If not possible, consider working on improving your financial situation by finding a better-paying job, working for a promotion, working overtime or taking on a little extra work (within reason), or going back to school so you can get a better career. See How to Save Money, How to Make Money, or How to Switch Careers for tips that might help you.Thanks!
QuestionIs it easier to drive or fly?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on how far away you live from the Disney park you want to visit.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I live in Brazil?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThen you will have to fly to the Disney location you wish to visit.Thanks!
QuestionCan I still book fancy dinners less than 3 months before my vacation?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, but you should make reservations as far in advance as possible to make sure you can get into the restaurants that you would like.Thanks!
If you’re planning a Disney vacation and your dates are flexible, search for dates when the parks will be less crowded. No matter when you’re going, try to book your flight as soon as you can, and make hotel reservations, too. You might also want to consider staying at a Disney property, since they’re close to the parks and often come with extra services. Before you go, try to decide what you most want to see and do. Then, organize your time so you won’t be running across the park or from one park to another to get to your favorite ride or show.
- If you would like additional information on planning a Disney vacation, request a free planning DVD from Disney.
- Pack comfortable shoes for your days of walking the parks. You should also bring sunscreen to protect your skin from the Florida sun, even in winter. If traveling during the winter months, you should pack sweaters and jackets for cool days and nights.
- Make sure to check if your family approves your plans before booking.
Sources and Citations
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