Every year, millions of people visit Walt Disney World, it is after all the most popular tourist destination in the world. Even though you may stay in the same hotel as another family, and go to the exact same theme parks, everyone has a different Disney vacation. Here are our top 10 tips for planning your WDW vacation. If you are going to spend the money, you might as well do it right.
#10: Plan for down time – Walt Disney World is huge, and often very crowded and hot. Nothing can ruin a vacation to Walt Disney World, especially if you have little kids, than trying to do too many things in one day. During your planning, make sure you figure in some down time at the resort for naps or swimming. You will be surprised how refreshed your group will be near the end of the day, while others are having to go home early after trying to stay in the parks for 16+ hours at a time.
#9: Disney Message Boards – Visit a few different Disney message boards while planning your vacation. You can ask questions, or read about other’s trips. Any tips you can pick up will help you on your vacation, plus you might make a few new friends. We suggest DisBoards, they are the biggest, but can be overwhelming to find helpful information. Also check out MouseBuzz, smaller and more intimate that DisBoards.
#8: Pick your resort wisely – Making sure you stay in the right resort for you is very important. Whether it is the location, theme or quality of the resort, each Disney resort differs, and most likely, one resort may be better for you. If you are unfamiliar with the resorts, make sure you spend time doing the research to find the right resort. Looking at pictures and maps is the best first step. We suggest SuiteDisney, for each Disney resort, they have hundreds of quality photos. They also have great photos of the parks and resorts.
#7: Check Park and Parade Hours/Plan your days – Disney World posts park, parade and fireworks hours 6 months in advance for each park. They also post a schedule of Extra Magic Hours for the parks as well. You need to check out the hours and schedules for each park, and plan out which parks you will be doing each day. While you don’t need to stick to the schedule once you are there, things always change, it is nice to have the schedule set up, and go from there. You can see current Magic Kingdom park hours here, and from there, you can get to the other Disney parks and other months.
#6: Plan and Book Early – Make sure you start your planning as early as possible. Planning early allows you time to figure out where you want to stay, gives you the best opportunity at getting the resort and room type you want, and get discounts on your reservation. You will also then have plenty of time to make dining reservation and any other plans you need. We usually plan 12 months in advance for our trip.
#5: Disney Guide Book – We suggest you pick up a good Disney Guide book for your trip, even if you have been 100 times before. A good guide book will inform you about changes at the parks, new rides or restaurants, and will give you good insight to what will work best for your family. We suggest either the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World or the Passporter’s Guide to Walt Disney World. Both books are honest and insightful. Our friends over at Disney World Guide have a great overview of all Disney Guide Books.
#4: Travel During the Off Season – No one likes crowds. Try to plan your trip during an off season time at WDW. If you can avoid summer, which is very crowded and very hot, and also Spring Break and Christmas, which while not hot, are just as crowded, you should have a much better Disney vacation. Please note that you will need to do more research than just making the assumption that any month will not be crowded. With the numerous Disney sites and guide books, people have figured out that some months are really good times to go, as they historically have very low crowds. Those months are now extremely crowded. For example, for years, early December was the best time to go, no crowds, great weather and you get to take advantage of all the Christmas activities and decorations. The last few years, the first two weeks of December have been sold out, and just as crowded as Christmas week. This is a good question to ask on a message board.
#3: Disney Discounts – Disney World typically offers discounts on rooms and packages throughout the year, but more specifically, during slower times of the year. Another great reason to plan early and travel during the off season. Lately, Disney has been releasing discounts about 5 months before the travel dates, and they usually only last a few weeks, and if you miss them, you are out of luck. We suggest checking out MouseSavers, they do a great job of keeping people up to date on current Disney discounts. There is usually no problem adding a recently released discount to an existing reservation, so no need to wait for the discount to be released to book the reservation.
#2: Use a Disney Only Travel Agent – In all honesty, this should be #1, but it was a toss up, so I switched places. Using a Disney Travel Agent will help you immensely, and usually will save you money over booking directly with Disney, or heaven forbid, and internet travel company such as Expedia (please, please, never, ever book your Disney Vacation this way). A Disney specialist will be able to help you pick the right time to travel, help you with your resort choice, make dining suggestion, and answer any other question you may have. They also should take care of any discounts for you, assuming you booked early. We strongly suggest Mouseketrips, the only Disney Travel Agent we would ever use.
#1: Advanced Dining Reservation – I cannot stress how important making your Disney Dining Reservations are to the quality of your trip. Since the introduction of the Disney Dining Plan, all of the resort and theme park restaurants are for the most part, sold out all year long. Disney now allows you to make your Advanced Dining Reservation up to 180 days in advance of the day you check in (assuming you are staying on Disney property). Some reservations, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table sell out quickly, usually within a month of opening, most restaurant are still available 3 – 4 months before your travel, but the earlier you can make your reservation, the better choice you will have of restaurants and times. The planning early and planning your days really helps when planning your dining reservations.
With this ten Disney planning tips, you should be well prepared for your Disney World vacation, and should be set to have a fantastic time.
6 thoughts on “Disney Top 10 Tips to planning your WDW vacation”
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wow….. im fascinated but terrified reading your top 10s… how can you make a reservation for a restaurant so early? If I need to book ALL my meals in advance, it means I have to be THERE, in the right park at the right time so I dont “miss my food”. Wow.. this means… I have to plan for example.. DAY 1 Magic Kindom.. pick a restaurant and book a reservation at some Disney restaurant IN THIS PARK.. but if its raining that day and we decide to go to MK another day instead to fully enjoy it….. ???? omg.. if I get it right.. you have to make plans and rain or not.. you follow the plan or youre screwed right?
* SO sorry for my english, I speak french*
Advanced Dining Reservations up to six months in advance??? What??
I’m a little concerned now, as I didn’t anticipate the possibility of starving at Disney! O.O
I guess I’ll be packing lots of sandwiches and brandishing more than one water bottle–Um..They do have water fountains, don’t they? Or do you have to have a reservation for those too?
I realize these comments are very old but for anyone else who reads this and is also very worried about the need to make reservations so far in advance I would post my experience. We Did a disney trip in July of 07 and had all our dinner and character breakfasts scheduled before the trip (made reservations about 6 weeks before trip and had no issue with anything we wanted other than cinderella’s castle). We changed a couple of reservations after we were there due to changes for our plans. We were not able to get reservations the same day, but we had no issue at all finding a nice place to eat allowing walk-ups. In Feb 09 we made all our reservations the day or two before (other than we this time made the Cinderella reservation 6 months earlier the minute we were allowed to). We had no issues getting reservations. I would say if there are specific restaurants you really want to eat at reserve all those at least a couple months ahead of time. Maybe even make some other reservations you think you may want. No penalty for cancelling on most just call that morning if you think your plans are changing. You will still be able to find someplace to eat; just maybe not your first choice.
I agree with Mike. The thing I was not aware of (and told by a CM) that the reservations are not a specific reservation but more of a guarantee for the next available table at that time. When you think a restaurant is all booked up it may actually have an available table. There may be people that just don’t show up for whatever reason. Keep trying!!!
I have been to Disneyland and world in the past 2 years. This year I am going to Disneyworld.
Like before I am planning it all out.
These are my steps. I get a chart and I mark the following.
What day each park is open including magical hours.
What parks are less busiest.
What special event are going on and where.
Then I decided where I am going to go.
Then the next step is putting in the reservations to eat.
Someone talked about raining…if it is raining in one park most likely it is at another park. So i don’t see why my plans would change because of it raining.
Also all 3 times have been in October.