Walt Disney World 101: How to Plan for Your Disney World Vacation

So, you’re ready to go to the Most Magical Place on Earth! This makes my heart so happy. {Want to know why I love Disney so much, check out this previous post.} As an expert Disney-goer and professional travel planner, I want to share some important things you need to know before you go.

While Walt Disney World is the Most Magical Place on Earth there are definitely some things to know to be sure that you make the most of your trip. Spontaneity can make for some great experiences, but this Florida destination requires a little preplanning.

Experts recommend planning your Walt Disney World vacation 6-12 months in advance. Don’t have that much time? It’s ok, there are professionals who can help you plan a spontaneous trip too! I do not recommend a last minute trip that doesn’t use a professional vacation planner. Actually, I don’t recommend any Disney vacation without a professional planner.

Here’s what you need to know. 

when is the best time Go to Disney World?

It’s often the first question anyone asks when they are considering a trip. How can I avoid the crowds? Which time of year has the best cost? When is the weather the best? Generally speaking those two things go together. Low crowds = low cost. The “busyness” at Walt Disney World usually happens when kids are not in school. So think early fall, the beginning of a calendar year, and into February, and late spring between Spring Break and the beginning of summer. Avoid the middle of summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the week from Christmas to New Year. Can a trip be done during that time, yes, of course! {But I wouldn’t recommend it and especially not for first time visitors.}

How Long Should We Visit?​

While lots of vacationers enjoy a quick trip to the House of Mouse, if you plan to take in as much as possible and visit all four parks (yes, there are four: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT), then you’ll want to allow at least one day per park. Ideally, I recommend a 7 night stay. Here’s why…7 nights allows one day per park. It also leaves time for a double back to the Magic Kingdom, the largest of the parks with the most to do and see. This length of stay plans a day of rest, to simply sit back and relax while enjoying your resort and pool.

pro tip star and sparkles

Decide what is most important to you – weather (do you prefer hot or cold), crowds (you can manage them, or definitely want to avoid them as much as possible), budget (some seasons are less expensive, holidays are the most expensive). 

Where should we stay?

There are so many options in the central-Florida area with so much to do and many destination attractions to visit. It can be very tempting to use those hotel loyalty points, stay off site for less cost per night, or even try to grab an AirBnB. Look, I love saving money as much as the next person and I jumped for joy when AirBnB became a thing, but if you wanna “Disney”, do it right. Stay on property! There is certainly a Disney Resort that will fit your budget. Something that often gets overlooked are all the extra smaller costs rolled into an off-property stay. Extras like hotel and theme park parking, rental car and fuel, car seat rental, and the time you spend in Orlando traffic. Choosing which resort to stay at can also be tricky – but we have tips for that. It may not be worth the small bit of savings for that local motel.

Where should we eat?

So, it’s no secret that Walt Disney World is also the Most Magical Place on Earth for foodies. With 100s of choices from quick to casual, and buffet to fine dining, there is something unique around every corner and to please any palette. Disney divides dining into two categories: Quick Service and Table Service. Table Service meals require advanced reservations. {Please note: Disney Dining Reservations are made 60 days prior to arrival.}

Quick Service meals offer guests a tasty meal that can be preordered and picked up at a counter. {Highly recommend using mobile order.} It’s worth noting that Walt Disney World is the very best at handling special allergy and food requests for guests, so be sure to share this with your travel professional.


Plan Your Day

Maybe you want a minute by minute daily plan, maybe you prefer to wing it and see where the day takes you. Either way, that’s ok! But some minimum planning is required for a Disney World vacation – remember when I said, it’s not your everyday theme park or vacation destination? 

Disney World (& Disneyland) now required Park Pass Reservations in addition to your park tickets. These reservations don’t cost extra, but they are the only way to ensure you’ll get into the park. Make your park pass reservations as soon as possible to ensure you get to the park of your choice. They do fill up and eventually become unavailable. This happens quickly for popular times like holidays and spring break time. 

Also, it’s a great idea to decide which rides and attractions are most important to you. Plan around those priorities for your magical day.

Finally, determine if you’re open to closers, rope droppers, or fireworks/nighttime show people. Consider your need for Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes – then add that into your budget. You don’t have to be the same for every park day – for example, you might be fireworks people at EPCOT but not at any other park. It’s ok! It’s your vacation. 

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A travel professional (ahem, like me) who specializes in Disney destinations can certainly help you with the whole process! Contact me to get started.

Hopefully this quick list was enough information to get you excited for a visit and a start on thinking about the basics. Planning a Disney vacation has a lot of steps, and to make the most of your magic you’ll want to take advantage of the knowledge of experts. So, use a Disney College of Knowledge travel planner to help stretch those days, avoid exhaustion, and focus on just the things you want out of your budget and your experience.