How To Plan A Disney World Vacation In 7 Steps
Disney World vacation planning is kind of like building a house you start with the foundation and work your way up.
And, just like with building a house, you might end up with something youre not very happy with if you try to do it out of order.
These 7 steps are the basis of everything youll find on this site.
If youre new to planning, this is where you need to start.
Set Up A My Disney Experience Account
My Disney Experience is Disneys fancy way to refer to your Disney World account. If you set up an account on the Disney World website , youve done this. If you havent , go to the Disney Website and set one up right now. Not every member of your traveling party needs their own account, but we recommend all adults have their own account.
Choose Your Transportation Wisely
Picking how you get to and from the theme parks and your hotel room can make or break your day. Disney has a variety of transportation options, including a fleet of buses to take you just about anywhere on property boats that can take you to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios the Disney Skyliner that connects some hotels to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios and of course the iconic monorail that takes guests to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.
THRILL RIDES:13 Best Disney World Rides for Adults and Teens
While Disneys public transportation often takes longer than driving yourself, its a nice perk for those staying at a Disney hotel. If you do choose to drive yourself, plan at least 15 extra minutes to walk from your car to the front entrance at EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
If at all possible, do not drive to Magic Kingdom. Not only will you need to walk or take the tram to the Ticket and Transportation Center, you will then need to take a monorail or ferry boat to the entrance of Magic Kingdom. This is a big time eater. The best option for Magic Kingdom is to take a bus or monorail to the park, depending on what resort youre staying at. This will drop you off as close to the front entrance to the park as possible.
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Are These Disney World Hotels Underrated Or Overrated Click Here To See What Thousands Of Our Readers Said
Another thing youll need to think about is how youre going to get from Orlando International Airport or any airport nearby to your hotel. Disney currently has a FREE transportation service called the Magical Express that takes guests and their luggage from the airport to their Disney hotel.
Im Going to Disney World!
But, this service is going away in 2022, so youll need to arrange for other transportation from the airport to Disney World. Speaking of, another consideration to make if you plan to drive or rent a car from the airport is parking. Just keep in mind that Disney does charge a parking fee if you bring your car and park it at one of their hotels BUT Disney-owned resort guests get complimentary parking at the theme parks.
Finally, before you book your trip, youll want to check and see if there are any special deals or discounts being offered on Disney World hotel stays.
Disneys Wilderness Lodge This is a Gorgeous Resort
How To Get Disney World Vacation Concierge Service
As Ive mentioned, a Disney World vacation has a lot of moving parts. This includes booking Fastpass+ reservations, Advance Dining Reservations, and keeping up-to-date on price changes. What if there was someone to take care of ALL this for you, at no additional cost?
My travel partners at Get Away Today offer this concierge service and more, to anyone booking a Disney World vacation package. To request a complimentary Disney World vacation quote, complete the form and a friendly rep from Get Away Today will be in touch!
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Decline Mousekeeping For Disney Gift Cards
This is newly added to online check-in but has been available at the front desk for a while. If you decline housekeeping for your stay, youll be given an electronic gift card for $10 per night minus one night.
So if you decline for a one-night stay, you get $0, for a two-night, $10, three-night $20, and so on. Just keep your room clean so that it isnt in poor condition when someone does have to clean it at the end.
Everything You Need To Know About Purchasing Disney World Tickets
Purchasing Disney World tickets may be the most expensive part of your Disney vacation planning.
Make the best decision for your trip and your budget by following 4 simple steps. Time needed: 1 hour. 4 Simple Steps for Finding the Best Disney World Tickets for Your Vacation Understand your ticket options There are three types of
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Walt Disney World Planning Basics
Through the planning process, you will need to do the following. You can grab our First Disney Vacation Printable Worksheet to help nail down these decisions to get you started. You can also check our Helpful tips section at the end of this post for our best recommendations on each of these steps.
Know Where To Get Your Information Online
You’re here, and we think that’s great! But we’re only one good source of information on Walt Disney World. There are lots of places to go, but we’ve got two sites we especially love.
First, Disney Tourist Blog is a great site dedicated to all things Disney travel. We always start our search for information at Disney Tourist Blog.
Second, WDW Prep School is an extensive, exceptionally deep resource for Disney World planning. If you need a site to guide you from trip planning, beginning to end, start there.
Third, Josh at easyWDW is the person we trust most when it comes to actually navigating the parks. Besides reviews of pretty much everything at Walt Disney World, easyWDW has some of the best minute-by-minute reports from inside the parks.
Finally, if youve got questions, the /r/WaltDisneyWorld subreddit over on reddit is a good place to post.
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Disney World Crowd Calendar
Our Crowd Calendar shows how busy each Disney theme park is every day of your trip, on a simple 1-to-10 scale. Using our crowd calendar, you’ll be able to planwhich park to visit each day to avoid crowds. You’ll also see:
- Each park’s opening and closing times
- Any special events that might affect your visit
We’re so confident in our crowd predictions that we show yesterday’s results our predictions and what actually happened in the How We Did section of the page for everyone to see.
If you’re trying to decide when to visit Walt Disney World, the Crowd Calendar will show you how busy Disney is across different weeks, months and seasons.
About This Planning Guide
Not a day goes by when someone on the internet doesnt bemoan the amount of planning that goes into Walt Disney World vacations these days. Some people think Disney requires too much planning, and others think that bloggers simply tell you theres too much planning.
While this guide doesnt cover every nook and cranny of Disney World planning, it is pretty thorough, and we wont apologize for that. We write primarily for people planning a first or only visit who want to put in all the time they can to make sure their experience is magical.
Can you have a magical experience at Walt Disney World with no advance planning? Definitely. Will you miss out on a ton with no planning? Definitely.
Heres the thing, you can always stop reading about Walt Disney World if you feel youre just getting too deep or you run out of time. You cannot go back in time to learn things you missed out on once youre there.
At about 6000 words, this guide should take an average person about 30 minutes to read straight through. Of course, as I said, this guide links out to a ton of other material.
Regardless, 30 minutes to introduce you to pretty much every concept you need to know for booking a Walt Disney World vacation really isnt a bad use of time, especially as some of the tips and tricks in here can save your hundredseven in rare cases thousandsof dollars.
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A Disney World Checklist For Planning Your Vacation
When it comes to planning a Walt Disney World vacation, it can be hard to keep track of the many moving pieces. While this article has been designed to walk you through the process step by step, weve also provided a Disney World checklist. Its a shorter version of the article above and can be used to check off steps as you complete them.
and get started planning your magical Walt Disney World vacation.
What Disney World Park Is The Best Helping You Decide
If youre visiting the Walt Disney World theme park for the first time or taking a short trip, youre probably wondering what Disney World park is the best. Unlike many Disney parks in other countries, Disney World is comprised of 4 distinct parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom. Understanding which is best for Read more
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Mind Your Reservation Times
I get lots of questions from people who schedule their breakfasts for when the park opens and then need advice for ride strategy. Well, the best time to get on rides without Lightning Lanes is when the park opens, so this is a real problem and hard to give good advice for .
If your time in the parks is limited and youre trying to fit in as many rides as possible with short waits, any meal is better to reserve than breakfast. Relatedly, dont schedule a lunch that will conflict with a parade or a dinner that will conflict with a nighttime show .
Do I Need Disney Park Pass Reservations And A Park Ticket
Yes. In order to get into any park, you must have a Disney Park Pass Reservation. Add your required Park Pass Reservations, in the My Disney Experience App, based on which park you chose for each day of your vacation. You are able to select park passes for everyone in your travel party during the process. But will have to do each day separately. Read more about How to Make Disney Park Pass Reservations.
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Why You Should Plan
Did you know that lots of people visit Walt Disney World every year without doing any planning at all?
And while that may sound like a relaxing way to travel, it doesnt work for Disney vacations, and heres why:
Not planning ahead means standing in long lines for rides and struggling to find places to eat.
And that doesnt sound like much fun at all.
It is important to understand that even with planning, you will not be able to see and do everything at Disney World in 1 trip. You wouldnt be able to see and do it all in 10 trips.
Instead, the goal should be to have fun and make memories. And it is a lot easier to do that when youre prepared.
Why Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations Are More Important Than Ever
With capacity restrictions in place across Walt Disney World theme parks, making Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations is more important than ever. Even as capacity restrictions are lifted, the importance of ADRs at Disney is likely to grow as more people visit the parks to take advantage of the year-and-a-half long 50th anniversary celebration. Read more
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Who Are You Bringing On The Disney World Trip
With so much to do and see at Disney World, the people in your vacation group will absolutely determine the kind of trip youll have. Families with babies and toddlers will have vacations that are dramatically different than those traveling with teens. Even more so if youre traveling solo to Disney with a baby as I did with my daughter when she was 5-months old. Guests traveling with those who have special needs, disabilities or are pregnant will have a varied travel experience. Im sharing below some notes with links, based on various ages and needs.
My baby woke up and the first thing she saw was Mickeys face. She was not amused.
- Babies A baby can ride anything at Disney World with their parent that does not have a height restriction. Disney World guests with a baby can also use Rider Switch, allowing adults to enjoy thrill rides while taking turns staying behind with the baby.
- Toddlers and PreschoolersDisney World with a preschooler is a one-of-a-kind experience! Plan for plenty of time at Magic Kingdom with toddlers and preschoolers, as theyll have plenty to do in this park. A stroller is a must-have and I highly recommend Kingdom Stroller rental.
Is This Your First Disney Vacation
If this is your first Disney trip, try not to put too much weight on all the decisions youre about to make. In fact, our BEST recommendation for any first-time visitor to Walt Disney World is dont try to fit it all in. Speaking from experience, its easy to push yourself into breakdown mode if youre trying todo all the things. Especially if you believe that this is your one and only Disney World vacation. This is one of our Top 12 Disney Mistakes to Avoid. Treating this vacation like it will be your only Disney Vacation will compromise not only your planning efforts but also your mindset throughout your vacation.
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Year Before Your Trip
By this time you should have picked out when you want to take your vacation. If you need help deciding, its wise to look at a Disney World Crowd Calendar to find out when the busiest and least busy times of the year are.
How Many Days at the Parks You also need to think about how many days you are going to spend in each park and how many days total of your trip. Think about which parks you want to go to and if you want to visit one of the water parks.
Research Attractions Familiarize yourself with all the top attractions at each park and think about which ones you really want to do.
Price Airfare Its never too early to start looking up prices for airfare if you are flying. You should aim to get your tickets no more than 6 months before your trip.
Disney World Resort Hotels
Staying On-Site Benefits
- Location Resorts are located near the Disney theme parks which means less travel time each day. You can also go back to your hotel for a nap in the afternoon before heading out once again later.
- Park Pass Reservations More reservations are allocated for Disney Resort guests and are still available closer to the arrival date.
- Genie+ Staying at a WDW resort hotel means you can make your Individual Lightning Lane reservations at 7:00 am, before guests staying off-site.
- Early Theme Park Entry You will have extra time in the parks in the morning before the general public arrives.
- Transportation Disney includes free transportation to and from the theme parks, Disney Springs, and other hotels. Free airport shuttle service is no longer provided through Disneys Magical Express, and youll have to use the Mears Connect Shuttle, taxi or a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.
- ThemingMost Disney World hotels have unique theming that you and your kids will love.
- The Disney Bubble There is something magical about stepping into Walt Disney World at the beginning of your vacation and then not stepping out until the end. You feel tucked away inside this magical world that you never want to leave.
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What Is Your Disney World Vacation Budget
Figuring out the travel budget is a must-do before you can even schedule the trip. While this post is talking about Disneyland, the free printable checklist is still helpful when used towards budgeting for Disney World.
Several things to discuss when figuring out a travel budget:
- Driving or flying to get to Orlando?
- How many days will you spend on vacation?
- Where will you stay? Onsite Disney World hotels offer complimentary transportation from the airport as well as to the parks, which may aid in the decision making process.
- Will you need a rental car if you stay at an off-site hotel? What would be the cost of ride share or does the hotel offer a shuttle?
- Are you on a tight budget or splurging on your trip?
- Eating in the parks or packing in food? A big way to save money at Disney World is to budget food. Pack in personal water bottles and snacks then read these additional tips to save money on food at Disney parks.
- Will you purchase souvenirs, and what is the budget per family member?