Did you know that Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world? It’s true – the happiest place on Earth welcomes almost 60 million visitors through its gates every year!
But Disney World isn’t just any vacation resort. It truly is an entire world in and of itself, including four theme parks, two water parks, several shopping districts, and a number of other exciting attractions. This means a Disney family vacation takes a bit more planning than your typical trip might.
If you’re beginning the process of planning your Disney World vacation, you’ve come to the right place. Outlined below is a guide to help you plan the ultimate trip to Disney World. Keep reading to learn more!
Choose Your Dates
The first step in planning your Disney vacation is to choose your dates. This decision might be made for you if there’s only a certain window you can take off work or your children are busy with school.
But if you have a little more freedom to choose, there are two things to keep in mind. First, certain times of year are busier than others. If you visit Disney World during Spring Break or the summer months, for example, you can expect it to be quite crowded. On the other hand, visiting in January or early fall can mean much shorter lines.
The second thing to consider is Disney’s many festivals and events throughout the year. If you and your family want to participate in Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween, for instance, you’ll need to visit the parks when it’s taking place (September-October).
Book Your Hotel
Once you have your dates booked out, it’s time to start thinking about your lodging. Now, there are several options when staying in Orlando to visit the Disney parks.
Your first option is to stay on-property. This can be more expensive but offers a variety of perks, such as free transportation (including to and from the airport), additional hours in the parks, and early access to dining and FastPasses.
For true Disney enthusiasts, joining the Disney Vacation Club is an option. The DVC offers even more perks than simply staying on-property for one trip. Check out this DVC cost calculator to see if this option appeals to you and fits your budget.
In addition, there are of course many hotels and resorts around the Orlando area that offer an easy commute to the parks. Though these are less expensive, you’ll need to either rent a car or book daily ride shares in order to get to and from the parks, which might negate the savings.
Plan Your Meals
It might sound strange to book your meals months in advance of arriving to Disney World, but the seasoned Disney World vacation planner knows that it’s crucial.
If you want to enjoy any of the special meal experiences, such as breakfast with Mickey or dinner at Cinderella’s castle, you need to plan ahead. These experiences book up months in advance and are extremely difficult to get into if you try to book at the last minute.
On top of any special dining experiences, you’ll need to plan your daily meals as well. Disney offers dining plans for their on-property guests that will allow you to prepay for a certain number of meals and snacks. That way, you can simply scan your ticket or your MagicBand and get your food while at the parks.
If you’re not taking advantage of the Disney World vacation packages, you won’t have access to the dining plans. That said, it’s still a good idea to take a look at the restaurants each park offers so you know where you want to go when you start to get hungry.
Pick Your Parks
Speaking of looking at the different parks, it’s time to choose which ones you’ll visit. If you’ll be staying in Disney World for a more extended vacation (5-7 days), you don’t have to pick and choose. You’ll be able to spend a full day at each park if you wish.
For those making a shorter trip to Disney (under 5 days), you’ll need to choose what you want to do with each day. Now, if you’re going during the cooler months, you should be able to see everything in 4 days, although you’re going to be busy.
Make a Schedule
When you know which parks you want to visit, you need to make an itinerary. Using all of the information you’ve put together so far – your travel dates, dining reservations, hotel accommodations, and park preferences – make your schedule.
Let’s say, for example, that you booked lunch in Belle’s castle on Wednesday. Well, you’ll need to plan to spend that day in Magic Kingdom. Disney does offer transport between parks if you have the Park Hopper upgrade, but it’s much easier to dedicate a whole day to each.
The final step is to book your FastPasses. These are now done in the My Disney Experience app rather than kiosks at the parks, so they fill up much faster than you might expect.
You get 3 complimentary FastPass selections per day, use them wisely! You’ll be able to skip the line for your favorite attractions, cutting your wait time down for notoriously long lines such as Space Mountain down significantly.
Have an Unforgettable Disney Family Vacation
With all the Disney magic that Disney World offers, you don’t have to worry about whether your family will enjoy themselves. However, taking the time to plan out your Disney family vacation is still essential.
Having a plan will help to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything and that you’re able to keep your vacation as stress-free as possible. With all the questions out of the way, you’ll be free to soak up the fun at the happiest place on Earth.
Need more tips and tricks for planning your next family vacation? Be sure to check out our blog!
Andrea Parker is a reporter for Zobuz. She previously worked at Huffington Post and Vanity Fair. Andrea is based in NYC and covers issues affecting her city. In addition to her severe coffee addiction, she’s a Netflix enthusiast, a red wine drinker, and a voracious reader.