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.