So you’ve weighed all your options & you’ve decided to come to the most magical place on Earth for vacation! Now what? Where do you even begin with the planning? Many people have asked us this question & with so much to see, do & experience, it can be overwhelming to think of planning a vacation to Walt Disney World. All the options & add-ons can be confusing. Not to mention the Disney-ese that you will need to learn – such as Fastpass+ or MemoryMaker or MagicBands. How do you use the dining plan? Is it worth the extra cost? Research & planning are an important aspect of a successful & destressing Disney World vacation. And, for me, it is almost as much fun as the actual trip.
I’ve assisted several friends with their vacation planning to see the Mouse. In my opinion, the first decision that needs to be made is when to go. Do you want to see the holiday decorations? Maybe you want to come experience the Food & Wine Festival in the fall or the Flower & Garden Festival in the spring. Many parents like to plan around school holidays or summer break. Maybe it all depends on when discounts or free dining are offered. These are choices completely up to you & only you can decide! Traditionally, room discounts are offered most of the year. The amount of the discount varies based on season. Package discounts are offered in the spring & fall. The coveted “free dining” has been offered in the fall for the past couple of years. Of course, there are specific dates for check-in & booking as well as blackout dates which may apply to the offers, so read the fine print. Need help sifting through all the offers? Enlist the expert assistance of a travel agent who specializes in Walt Disney World vacations. Their services are free to use & they do all the hard work for you. We recommend Destinations in Florida & our dedicated agent Becca will be happy to help you make your dream vacation a reality! Click here to contact her.
After deciding when to go, it’s time to think about budget. Major factors of the budget are park tickets, hotel costs & dining expenses. Figure out how much you want to spend & be realistic. But you say, “where do I do begin to come up with a number?” The Walt Disney World website allows you to price customized vacation options with no obligations so take a few minutes to check it out by clicking here. This should help you come up with a realistic number to shoot for when planning.
Once you’ve decided when to go & how much you can spend, the next step is deciding how long to stay. Maybe you want a romantic weekend getaway or a massive family reunion trip. Deciding the length of stay is important for other decisions such as park tickets & dining plans. Some of the discount packages require a minimum length of stay so, again, read that fine print! Now on to the major decisions!
How many days worth of tickets to buy? I hear this question a lot & I always say it depends on each person & trip. Walt Disney World consists of 4 theme parks & 2 water parks. Begin your decision with what you want to experience & what your budget will allow. Then think of the days of arrival & departure. If you are arriving or departing after noon, carefully consider whether you want to include these days with what you purchase. Again, be realistic. I know you are excited to see Cinderella Castle as soon as you arrive but will the rest of the family be up for that? Tired & cranky from travel will not make for a pleasant first experience (trust me on this!). Also, personally, if my vacation was a week long, I would plan a day off at the mid-week point. We would sleep late, have some pool time, explore the resort or other resorts, do some shopping or spa time, or maybe see a movie. The parks are extremely stimulating for kids & that can be exhausting after a few days. A day off can help everyone rest & relax which, after all, is the point of vacation! Another question with tickets has to do with the park-hopper option. I think that most first timers should plan a day per park & perhaps not need the park hopper option. More experienced park-goers will know which parks they want to hit & how long it will take. Will you, realistically, need that park-hopper option? If not, that’s a few dollars saved.
Now, where should you call home when you’re at the World? Walt Disney World resorts are divided into 4 categories: Value, Moderate, Deluxe, & Vacation Club. The value resorts are the cheapest on-site option. They are well-themed, fun for kids, have great pools & food courts. The Moderate resorts are slightly more expensive, have nicer furnishings, usually a table service restaurant, pools with slides, & more on-site recreation activities. The Deluxe resorts are more expensive, have many dining options including some character meals, on-site child care, & beach & monorail access. The Vacation Club resorts are the most expensive on property & feature such amenities as the best restaurants on property, amazing pools & recreation activities, full kitchens, & room arrangements of different sizes to accommodate larger parties or families. The benefits of staying on-property include: free parking resort-wide for the duration of your stay, package delivery to your resort, the ability to add a dining plan, the ability to make fastpass reservations 60-days before check-in, & free magicbands. Off-site accommodations are a more-budget friendly option, but remember to add in the cost of parking to that number (currently at $17/day). You will also not receive magicbands, although you may purchase them at the parks, & you can make fastpass reservations 30-days before check-in. Orlando has some amazing properties very near to the parks! Weigh your options before making a decision.
Now you should be ready to book that vacation & move on to Phase II of the planning – making dining & fastpass reservations & a trip itinerary. This is my favorite part! Look for part 2 of this article for tips & information on: Magicbands, fastpass+, Memorymaker, dining options, & more!
Do you have questions about an upcoming trip or planning tips you’d like to share? Leave us a comment!!