We just returned from an amazing week long trip to Disney World. I have been taking the boys since they were just wee little, and it is perhaps our favorite place on Earth. I thought it would be fun to create a post on how to plan for a Disney World trip for those who might be thinking of going themselves. For the best Disney trip, plan 1 year in advance. It will allow for plenty of time to plan everything that you want to do on your vacation. A Disney vacation is so much more than just a trip to a theme park, it is a true experience. You can also opt to have someone else plan your trip by using a travel agent. There are agents who specialize in Disney planning services.
Plan Your Date
This is the first step in your wonderful Disney adventure! Plan the date that you would like to go and when you’ll be returning. You’ll want to know these dates as far in advance as your schedule allows to be sure that you can get off of work, kids off of school, etc. Be sure to keep in mind the weather; going mid-summer is going to be hot and crowded, while going in the winter months will be a little cooler and a little less crowded.
The best times of the year to visit in relation to crowds is the end of January, end of August through the first few weeks in October and then the week after Thanksgiving to the first two weeks in December.
Choose Your Hotel
After you have finalized your dates, start figuring out your hotel situation. Would you like to stay at a Disney resort hotel? Would you rather stay a few miles away and pay less but need to drive to the park each day? These are important choices to make as soon as you have decided your date.
I highly recommend staying on property. Not only can you take advantage of on-site Disney transportation, but you get other perks like free Magic Bands, access to Extra Magic Hours both in the AM and PM at different parks throughout your trip, as well as the ability to make your Fast Pass+ reservations for rides at the 60 day mark before your trip in contrast to only 30 days in advance for off-site guests.
Plan Your Dining
If you are staying at Disney, does your package come with food? Is there free dining at any restaurants within your hotel? If you have a kitchen, where will you be purchasing the food to make? Make reservations for food up to 180 days in advance for anywhere you’d like to eat in the park as well as for character dining. The most popular places like Cinderella’s Royal Table, O’hana and Le Cellier fill up fast!
You may want to visit a site like AllEars.net, where you can view the menus for each restaurant on property and see whether the dining plan offered by Disney would be a good value for you versus paying on your own. Also, certain times of year usually in the Fall, free dining is offered by Disney to those booking packages. One of my top tips is to take juice boxes into the park for your children. Drinks can cost $3 a piece inside the park, but any counter service location will give you free ice water if you ask.
Make Plans for Each Day
You’ll want to make a list of everywhere you’d like to go in the park, everything you’d like to do, places to eat, rides to go on, etc. Plan each day as detailed as you can for the best outcome. Be sure to have backups in case your first plan doesn’t work that day. You initially want to create it itinerary style and tweak it where need be. It may rain, so having a rain backup plan is a nice addition to your planning.
Even if you do not usually plan your vacation days out, at Disney it is a must to get the most out of your trip. Not every second needs to be arranged, but with the new Fast Pass+ system, you must at least plan out your first three fast passes for each day to pick out at your 30 or 60 day mark before your trip.
Find Flights and Arrange Transportation
Flights can be planned a bit closer to the date you are going. You will want to book your flight no later than 3 months in advance if you prefer a certain airline, or time. Closer flight booking is fine if you are using a discount site or something to that effect that will book you any time any airline. Also be sure to check out the transportation available, you will need to get from the airport to your hotel, as well as the park, and back to the airport. Some tickets offer bundle packaging for this.
Check Out the Disney Secrets
There are tons of Disney secrets! Be sure to check them all out so that you can be well prepared for your trip and know how to navigate to see the best parts of the park, and find the characters that you’d like to meet and take photos with. Be sure to get your fast passes.
Fast passes are available for FREE! Unlike other parks, Disney World offers fast passes for free, make sure to sign up online. These will allow you to either keep your place in line and come back when it’s your turn, or go straight to the front of the line with no waiting. A full review and how-to on the new Fast pass+ system will be coming soon, look out for that information in a separate post.
Planning a trip to Disney World can be one of the most magical things you will ever do together as a family. Get everyone involved, plan ahead and use tips like those above to make sure your family has the most magical time possible on their visit to the Mouse.