25 Disney World Planning Tips

25 Disney World Planning Tips

25 Disney World Planning Tips

Disney World planning tips

Need a little help planning your Disney World vacation? These 25 Disney World planning tips will get you ready in no time.

1. Pick Your Dates Carefully

There are low, moderate, and high crowd times in Disney World, so you need to plan accordingly. If you are willing to have your kids miss a few school days, or don’t have school aged kids, you’ll be able to take advantage of some of the lowest crowds in the parks if you’d like to. These are also lower cost times to visit. If you have school aged kids who can’t miss school, be prepared for higher crowds and higher costs. If possible, avoid Christmas break at all costs – absolutely the busiest and most expensive time of year. Also keep an eye out for special events that can draw bigger crowds. For example, Star Wars weekends have historically brought large crowds to Hollywood Studios in May and June. Run Disney events also bump up park attendance on the weekends they run.

2. Plan The Length

How long should you visit Disney World for? Is this your first visit? Do you plan to come back after this? For most people visiting for a first time, I recommend no less than 5 full park days, not including a day for travel on either side. If you have the time and the means, add extra days from there, which gives you more time to work your way through attractions, plus time to visit areas like Disney Springs, Disney’s Boardwalk, the water parks and more.

3. Choose The Right Resort

One size does not fit all here. Let me start by assuming that you know that staying on property is the best bet. Once that’s true, you have a vast amount of choices ranging from value resorts to deluxe resorts and even villas. Each resort has a very different feel and different pros and cons. Don’t choose one blindly – take the time to study each resort, or find a resource that can guide you in choosing the best match for your family. For example, if you have a larger family of 6, you’ll have the option to choose between a family suite at the value resorts, two connecting rooms at moderate or deluxe, Fort Wilderness Cabins or a villa. These are not all equal and it’s not only because the pricing is different! Picking a resort that is a good match for your family is the start of a well planned trip.

4. Choose The Right Tickets

Start by figuring out how many park days you want. Will you want to visit the parks on the day you fly in and fly out? Each additional park day costs less than the day before, so this may be a good value for you, but consider whether you will actually use them or if you’d rather have a little down time.
Park Hoppers are a good value for those who plan ahead for how to use them. If you think you just want to add them on “in case” you might decide to hop parks later in the day, you might not get as much use out of them as you think. But if you plot out a plan for what you want to see when you can get a good idea of a Park Hopper makes sense for your family. You can also add the water parks as an option to the tickets. Be sure to build in at least full day for water park fun if you want to make good use of this.

5. Consider A Dining Plan

There are several dining plan options. Realistically, for most families, if you are going to get one, the Plus Dining is your best bet. Most families don’t want to eat enough fast food to make the Quick Service plan worth it, and many don’t want to devote enough time to sit down meals to make the Deluxe Plan worth it. If, however, you plan to eat at several Signature Restaurants, the Deluxe Plan can be a good way to go.
The dining plans can be a savings over paying out of pocket if you plan your restaurants in advance. But more than that, they tend to be an excellent stress reliever when you know your dining is paid for and no one has to grimace at the prices on the menu at every meal!

Disney world dining plan

Seriously, the food options are amazing. Plan ahead to enjoy them.

6. Figure Out Which Park To Be In On Which Day

Not all days are equal. There are in fact very distinct crowd patterns. Often, a park with Extra Magic Hours tends to be busier than other parks. When the Magic Kingdom has special parties going on, party days are far less crowded than non-party days. Enjoy a little digging to find how it works, or have a Disney planner do it for you.

7. Consider A Rest Day

The parks are a blast but a LOT of work. If you want a little more balance in your vacation, consider a rest day during your trip with no park planned. Enjoy your resort, play in the pool, do a little shopping and some nice dining. Your feet and body will thank you for it!

8. Decide On Dining Options

Under NO circumstance should you wait until you arrive to see where you’d like to eat! Many restaurants book out completely far in advance and others have very limited availability at odd times if you wait until the day of. Look over the many dining choices and plot out where you’d like to eat when.

9. Use Dining Credits Wisely

A credit is a credit no matter how much your meal costs. If you want to get the most out of your meal plan, maximize the amount your credits can be worth. Buffets and character meals for dinner tend to be excellent values with credits. Breakfasts tend to be worthless. Plan accordingly.

10. Make Dining Reservations 180 Days In Advance

Remember when I said that dining books up in advance? Yeah, like waaaayyyyy in advance. The reservation window opens at 6am EST online, 180 days before your arrival date. Have your list ready and hop to it!

11. Carefully Choose Your Flights

Several factors go into selecting your flights. If you plan to use Magical Express for free transportation to you resort, know that after 10pm arrivals, they don’t offer luggage service. Also consider your departure flight. While the 8am flight might be a good deal, that is a VERY early Magical Express ride before your flight, as they generally pick up three hours before your departure time!

Magical Express for Disney

Your free transportation awaits – just make sure you plan for how to best use it. (Photo credit: Michael Gray via Flickr)

12. Learn About The Rides And Attractions In Each Park

Before you get into the next phase of planning, you’ll want to review the rides and attractions to see what your kids are tall enough for, which thrill levels are acceptable, and what’s most important to you. Knowing this will help you when it comes time to make Fast Pass+ reservations.

13. Have A Plan Of Attack For The Rides And Attractions

Once you know what you want to ride and see, try organizing it into your days. If you have two days to spend in one park, see how you might split up the rides and shows in a way that makes it easy to get around and not feel too rushed. With this, you are creating a basic touring plan. (You can get even more advanced, strategically avoiding lines, with a professional plan).

14. Book Fast Pass+ 60 Days In Advance

Fast Pass+ opens up at midnight EST on the 60th day before your trip. If you are hoping for some of the harder to get attractions, like meeting Anna and Elsa or the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, do not wait until the next morning when it feels more convenient – these may well be completely gone. Choose your Fast Pass+ options carefully by looking over your plan of attack so that you can make your choices work most to your advantage.

15. Think about a stroller.

Little feet get tired long before adult feet. And I promise, adult feet get tired often in Disney World. If you have kids 6 or younger, consider a stroller for your vacation. You can bring one from home, or, if you’d rather not haul it along, you can rent one there. I very much prefer off site stroller rentals to in park stroller rentals, partially for cost reasons but also for convenience and comfort. Offsite rentals offer much more comfortable options and you can take them outside the park to stroll napping kids back to their resort or to have when visiting non-park places in Disney World.

16. Plan to Arrive Before The Gates Open

If you could follow only one piece of advice in this list, this one should be it. Please just trust me on this. This will make the most difference in your days. DO NOT arrive right when the parks open and definitely don’t arrive after the parks open!

17. Consider An Afternoon Break

When you get going bright and early in the morning, it’s nice to have a mid-day break. The middle of the day is the most crowded anyway, and the hottest, and it’s a great time for a nap and to enjoy your resort pool. This takes a little more strategic planning, as mentioned in #13, to do well, such that you can really make it through a good portion of rides in the morning hours. When you do so, you’re able to feel great leaving the parks after lunch for a little while. Your resort is awesome – why not actually enjoy it a little each day?
Plus, when kids get a chance to rest in the afternoon, they can make it much farther into the evening. Rested kids are the happy kids at firework time… un-rested kids tend to be the ones having meltdowns right about then.

Grand Floridian Pool

Use your downtime to really enjoy the gorgeous pools! (Photo credit: Christian Lambert https://goo.gl/5iLYUQ)

18. Plan Ahead For Firework And Parade Show Times

Speaking of fireworks… Know when the show times are so you can plan for them. The shows and parades are great, but you need to know when to go find a place to stand to view them. You’ll miss out on the shows if you aren’t paying attention to the times in advance and just happen to be in line for a ride when they start!

19. Practice Long Walks

No, really, I’m serious. Park days add up to miles of walking, and a lot of us aren’t used to that. Before your trip, go on some longer walks to get your body ready for the trip. It’ll thank you! Take your kids along, too, if they’re not stroller aged, to build up their endurance. I started doing this way back as a little girl, when my dad would take me on long walks to prep me for Disney World! It works!

20. Buy And Break In Comfortable Shoes

This trip is NOT a time to wear those cute new sandals for the first time ever. By now you get the point that there is a lot of walking…so break your shoes in to be ready for that. Choose comfort over fashion. If you’re like me and still want cute shoes, just be sure you choose a type that has good support and cushion. There are several brands of sandals out there for women that look cute and feel good – Clarks is just one of them. Think of this for your kids, too – nothing worse than a kid who wants to be carried all day because their shoes hurt!

21. Personalize Your Magic Bands

If you want colorful magic bands, you have to customize them yourself inside of My Disney Experience. If you don’t do this, you will get gray magic bands for everyone at check in. That’s no fun! Be sure to order yours right after you book your trip so that you don’t forget to do this. You can also purchase fancier Magic Bands in advance at www.DisneyStore.com, if you prefer.

Disney World Magic Bands

Use your downtime to really enjoy the gorgeous pools!

22. Bring A Care Kit

Nobody wants to think about something negative happening on their trip, but being prepared with a few things makes it easier. Pack some bandaids, blister remedies, pain medication/fever reducer for adults and children, and maybe some itch relief cream in case of bug bites. Simple things on hand make quick treatment easy so you can get on your with your day – and it saves you money because these items cost more in the gift shops.

23. Make Breakfast Quicker

For most people, dining in a restaurant each morning before the parks is just plain hard to do if they want to make it to opening. Plan accordingly. One of the easiest ways to have a smooth morning for my family is to bring along really easy breakfast options to have in room. Breakfast bars, instant oatmeal, uncrustables, granola bars and juice boxes – lots of options that save lots of time. If you are staying in a resort with a mini-mart in the gift shop area, you can also get milk and cereal. Or, consider grocery delivery if you think you will want enough to make the delivery worth it. (Keep in mind in most resorts you only have a mini fridge, though!)

24. Pack Smartly

Be sure you put some thought into what should be in your suitcase vs your carry on. Your carry on should have your Magic Bands, which are needed to board the Magical Express, plus your bathing suits if you plan to arrive at your resort before check in time OR if you have Magical Express handle your luggage. If you are arriving before check in time and want to swim, you’ll hand off your luggage to bell services, and having your bathing suit easy to grab in your carry on makes it a lot easier than digging through suitcases on the floor. Likewise, Magical Express can take up to 3 hours to get your suitcases to you, so if you want to swim, you’ll need to have those swimsuits in your carryon with you.

25. Create A Countdown

With the planning behind you, the countdown begins – why not help build the excitement with a fun countdown? Mark your days off on a calendar or make this cute paper chain to countdown your days. Or try one of these fun chalk board options. A visual like this helps kids, too, and saves a little bit of your sanity when they don’t have to ask daily, “How many more days until Disney World!”

There you are! 25 Disney World planning tips to make your Disney World vacation better! Cross the items off the list as you go to have a much better Disney vacation experience

Subscribe to our newsletter for more great tips!

Should You Use a Disney Travel Agent?

Should You Use a Disney Travel Agent?

Should You Use a Disney Travel Agent?

use a Disney travel agent

Plan a Disney vacation all on your own? Or get specialized help?

So, you’re scrolling through Google, looking up stuff about booking a Disney vacation when you come across the idea of using a Disney travel agent.  Should you?  Let’s find out.

First, let’s clear the air on one thing:  The title of “Disney Travel Agent” is one that Disney itself frowns on.  That’s not really an official title.  What you are actually looking for a is a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations.  What you are not looking for is a general travel agent that just books everything.  Typically, they won’t have the detailed, in the moment knowledge to give you the benefit you’ll get from working with a Disney specialist.

So now that we’ve got that covered, let’s look at how the difference between booking your Disney vacation yourself and using an expert in Disney vacations.

Booking on your own means either booking directly via Disney or via an online booking engine like Expedia, Orbitz, etc.  In order to do this, you will want to spend time researching your options to figure out where you should actually stay, what kind of tickets will be the best value for you, which dining plan, if any, makes the most sense for you, how long you should stay to reasonably accomplish all that you want to do.  Once you know these things, you can go online and book your choices.  You will from that point complete the vacation planning yourself.  In no way is your vacation planning done when you click “book.”  That’s just a small part of a good Disney vacation.  You see, if you just click “book” and then show up at the parks hoping for a great time, you may be sorely disappointed in what you find.  So please, please, please dedicate time to researching all the aspects you need to plan in advance and then devote some time to it!

Booking with a Disney travel agent means that you will contact your specialist for a consultation.  Your Disney specialist will ask you questions and listen to your interests, preference, etc and guide you toward the best options for your package, based on your unique interests.  They’ll take care of arranging the booking for you and THEN the real work starts of putting together your entire itinerary.  A good agent will take care of recommending dining options and arranging all of them for you, will discuss and pre-reserve activities that need reservations, will listen to your preferences and take into account children’s heights and adventure levels and then create custom daily touring plans (including arranging Fast Pass+ reservations for you) to keep you out of the long lines.  They’ll answer your questions along the way, and be your resource even while you are traveling.  They get to know you in a way that a website you book a trip on never will.

So.  Should YOU use a Disney travel agent?  IF you enjoy analyzing, researching and planning every detail of your trip and have the time to do so (and I know this is some of you reading this right now), by all means, you can book on your own and enjoy that you have done every piece on your own.  I absolutely know people who thoroughly enjoy the time spent on such an endeavor (clearly I am one, myself)!  BUT if trying to plot out all the many details of a trip you just don’t know enough about right now, and don’t have the time for or find joy in hours of research, and you love the idea of feeling like you have a personal travel concierge at your side, then working with a specialist in planning Disney vacations is definitely right for you.


Subscribe to our newsletter for more great tips!

3 Ways to Beat the Crowds at Disney World

3 Ways to Beat the Crowds at Disney World

3 Ways to Beat the Crowds at Disney World

beat the crowds at Disney World

Wait in the long lines at Disney World? No thanks! (photo credit: Chris Harrison via Flickr)

It’s no secret that people like to complain about the crowds and long lines at Disney World.  I’ve heard everything ranging from, “Well, we want to go, but my cousin said everything was just huge waits all day long, so my kids need to be teens before I’m willing to do that,” to “It’s so not worth it.  You can barely fit in five rides with how long the lines are.”  The reality is that it is indeed possible to experience that version of a Disney World vacation, but, it’s also possible to experience low waits in lines – it just takes more than simply showing up in the park and deciding what to do at that moment!  As you start your Disney vacation planning, know that you have three options for beating the crowds in Disney World:

1. Hire a VIP tour guide

This is, by far, the most expensive option, enough so that many people are priced right out of this option.  That said, there is a lot of value behind the cost.  If you hire a Disney VIP tour guide, usually running between $300 and $600 per hour with a 6 hour minimum,  you will enter Fast Pass lines for each ride that has them, as well as some expedited entry to other attractions as available.  Plus, you’ll have a knowledgeable guide telling you stories about the parks and attractions as you go.  There are also non-Disney employed tour guides offering services in the Orlando area.  These usually cost less, often around $150 per hour, but they do not get you expedited entry to the attractions.

2. Hire a Disney vacation planning expert

A specialist in Disney vacation planning will custom tailor an itinerary just for you, taking into account the attractions and shows that matter to you, children’s heights, meal times, and more to create a daily line by line touring plan to keep you out of the long lines.  This service is a small fraction of the price of a VIP tour guide. A good plan can create a very similar effect to a VIP guide, when following it closely.  For example, our touring plans help our clients wait no more than 15 minutes on average for their rides and are completely personalized for each family.

These are carefully crafted using strategies and park touring knowledge combined with the Fast Pass+ reservations we choose and the preferences of each family.  Keep in mind – not all Disney focused travel agents offer this specific service.  Some offer itineraries but not custom touring plans, so be sure to find out exactly what is offered.

3. Set aside hours of time to learn how the parks work

It is possible to learn how to navigate the parks to beat some of the crowds if you truly want to invest the time in it.  To do this, you will want to learn all about Fast Pass+ and the priority of which rides are best reserved for your particular family.  You will want to learn which parks are the least crowded on each day, and how Extra Magic hours will or won’t help you with crowds for the parks you plan to visit.

You will want to analyze the park hours and watch wait times to start plotting out plan of attack.  There are some books out there that give some general tips for avoiding crowds, and you can join Disney fan forums to read years worth of posts on the topic.  It’s a LOT of work for one person, but it can be done if it’s something you enjoy!

These three options are your best choices for avoiding the crowds at Disney World.  Any of these three will be better than simply showing up and hoping for the best, or assuming the crowds and waits won’t bother if you.  If you have the budget to do so, you can choose Option 1 and hire a private guide.

If you adore researching many, many small details and plotting out a method of your own, Option 3 will serve you well.  And, if you are like our clients and you are a busy person who values exceptional services and wants a more smooth, enjoyable vacation service, then Option 2 is going to serve you best (and we’d love to talk to you)!


Subscribe to our newsletter for more great tips!