Trip Planning

Walt Disney World Trip Planning Tips

So you’ve decided to take a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, and you’re trying to come up with a plan to make the most of your time and money, but the same question keeps running through your brain, “Help! Where do I start???”  I mean let’s face it…….this place is huge! The resort covers an area of 47 square miles and includes four theme parks, two water parks, and 24 on-site themed resorts.  There are eight more resorts on site that are not owned by Disney. There is also a campground, a huge sports complex, and a large shopping area known as Downtown Disney. Let’s just say that things can get overwhelming in a hurry!  So, let’s try to break it down step by step.

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Plan, Plan, Plan, Ahead

If I gave you only one piece of advice, this would be it. Because of the size of the “World” it can get crazy very quickly. Once my family and I decide to take our next trip to Disney, I start planning, reading, making reservations, and I keep a journal of everything. Now I’m probably a little on the extreme side, but I don’t go so far as to plan each hour of each day, because you have to be willing to enjoy what I call the ‘Disney Unexpected Experience’. For example, I will plan what park or parks we intend to visit each day based on a number of things like our dining reservations, park hours, Extra Magic hours, and even daily expected crowd levels(yes, you can actually find that out ahead of time!). I might even have a plan of what attractions I would like to do in a certain order. However, you have to be very flexible with your schedule because unexpected things always happen. You may be heading to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and suddenly your wife spots Peter Pan and Wendy and insists you stop for the kids to get an autograph and a picture. A small show or parade may pop up out of nowhere that you didn’t know about. You may see a PhotoPass photographer and want pictures taken with the family. These are what I call Disney Unexpected Experiences. To me this usually makes the trip more fun and memorable, so trust me and don’t let those little unexpected surprises pass you by because you think you have to stay on a schedule. It’s best to have a plan, but let it be flexible so you can still enjoy your vacation. I’ve heard many stories of families returning from their trip and complaining that they had a horrible time. Each of these experiences were a result of a lack of planning, and just showing up at the parks with no clear idea of where or what they were going to do. People who do this are quickly overwhelmed with everything, get frustrated, and end up having a miserable time. And let’s face it, there are a lot of people that visit the parks, so a little planning ahead of time can go a long way in helping you avoid the heaviest crowds. There is so much to do and see, and you may not get to do everything that you want to, but again a little planning will make your experience so much more fun and productive.

 

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When To Visit

The perfect scenario here is to visit the parks when the crowds are low, the weather is perfect, no waiting in lines, there are special events going on everywhere, and everything is open and operational. Oh, and Mickey and Minnie are there to escort you around the parks. Okay, now pinch yourself and wake up because all of this is NOT going to happen!  I’ve visited Disney World at many different times of the year and experienced many different scenarios, but irregardless of what time of year I’ve visited, I’ve always had an awesome time! If your children are young and not of school age yet, then you can plan your trip for the times of year that are least crowded and the weather is better. Most people don’t have that option, so if you do then count yourself lucky and use it to your advantage. Below is a guideline for crowd levels during the year:

January:  The second week of January through the end of the month are typically some of the least crowded days of the year.

February: The first part of the month are again some of the least crowded days of the year. President’s Day week is typically very busy, but the week after is much better.

March: The first week in March will be the least crowded week of the month.  About the second week of March, Spring Break crowds commence and will be very crowded until mid-April. Weather is usually very nice this month. The Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot usually begins this month and runs through April. If you are able to plan your trip during the Flower and Garden Festival then you will not be disappointed. Epcot is transformed into a beautiful, flowering garden of vibrant colors, elaborate Disney character topiary, and butterfly gardens.

April: The first three weeks in April will again be very crowded due to Spring Break.  The last 10 days of the month will be much less crowded. The Flower and Garden Festival will still be going on at Epcot.

May:  The first three weeks in May are great times to visit. You will beat the summer crowds and some of the summer heat.

June: The first week of the month will see the lowest crowds. The rest of the month crowds will be building and the heat rising.

July: Summer time is a crowded time so July is a month without a real break in the crowds. Pick the week that works best for your schedule and plan for crowds. Fourth of July week crowds will increase each day and the Fourth of July itself will be very crowded.

August: Each week in August the crowd levels will decrease, so plan for the last week if you are looking to avoid the long lines. But be prepared for the heat!

September:  After Labor Day is a great time to visit with much lower crowds. Schools are back in session and the weather is cooling down. Disney has been offering a free dining plan promotion the last few years to entice guests to visit.  They have now extended this promotion to include most of the least crowded weeks now through mid March.  Typically the room rates are lower and the free dining plan is a great incentive to go. Since they’ve been offering this promotion, it has caused an increase in the crowds during this promotion so you still need good planning. The Food and Wine Festival also begins at Epcot this month.

October: October is a great time to visit with typically nice weather and moderate crowd levels. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is going on this month and is a fun event with or without the kids.  If you do have kids, I strongly suggest you purchase tickets to attend the party. It’s a fun event where children can dress up and go trick or treating throughout the park and see the characters dressed up in costumes. Warning! If you are visiting the Magic Kingdom the day of one of the parties it will be closing early to non-party guests, so always check park times ahead of time when you are planning a trip.

November: With the exception of Thanksgiving week, November is a great time to visit. The holiday decorations are starting to go up and it’s a fun time to visit and enjoy some of the holiday events without the crowds.

December: The first two weeks of December used to be among the lowest attendance weeks, but that seems to be changing with the free dining plan incentive. It’s still a fantastic time to visit. You get to avoid the heat, experience all of the holiday excitement and activities and enjoy the moderate crowd levels. The crowds will really pick up the week before Christmas and last until after New Year’s, which is the most crowded time of the year.  This is typically the only time you will see the parks at full capacity to the point of the gates closing.

 

If your schedule is flexible enough to allow you to travel during one of the least crowded weeks, fantastic! If not, that’s okay. With some advance planning you can avoid the long lines even on the most crowded days. When the crowds are heavy there are usually a lot more events going on and this can lead to some of the best times to visit. You also may want to visit during specific events such as the Flower and Garden Festival, Food and Wine Festival, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s.
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Where to Stay

Now that you know when you want to visit, you have to decide where to stay.  Being the largest vacation destination in the United States there are accommodations for every budget. First you should decide if you want to stay on Disney property or off.

Here’s what staying on Disney property offers:

1.  Free bus transportation(Magical Express) from the airport to your hotel and back.

2. Free bus transportation from your resort to the parks and back.

3. Package delivery(for all of those Disney souvenirs you purchase in the parks) from the parks and Downtown Disney to your resort. That way you don’t have to carry them around the park all day!

4. Extra Magic Hour’s which allow you to enter certain parks an hour early or stay three hours after regular closing on selected days.

5. The option of using the Disney dining plans.

6. The ability to make advanced dining reservations 180 days in advance.

There are 8 Deluxe Resorts, 6 Moderate Resorts, and 5 Value Resorts on Disney property. There are also 8 Deluxe Villas and the Fort Wilderness Campground. The Swan and Dolphin Resorts are on Disney property, however they are not owned and operated by Disney but share the same on site perks.

If you are traveling with small children it’s also nice to be staying on Disney property to be a little closer to your room, so that you have the option of returning to your resort for a nap and then returning to the parks. You may pay a little more depending on the time of year you visit, but the quality, cleanliness of the properties, convenience, and perks make it worth the cost.

Check out our Disney Resort Page to help you decide which resort best fits your needs and budget for your upcoming trip.

http://diswhiz.com/accomodations

 

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Ticket Information

Choosing the right ticket for your family or group is easy once you’ve decided a few things:

  1. How many days will we be going to the parks?
  2. Are we planning to go to one park each day or go to more than one park each day?
  3. Are we planning on going to the Water Parks?

Disney’s base ticket is called the Magic Your Way ticket. It’s based on a visit to one park for each day. The cost of tickets decreases each day if you purchase multi-days. The most significant cost break occurs when you purchase a 4-Day or higher Disney World ticket. Important! All Disney tickets expire 14-Days after first use unless the No Expiration Option is purchased. Now that you’ve decided on how many day’s you wish to purchase, you can decide which option you want to add to your ticket, paying only for those features you want, such as the ability to visit multiple Disney theme parks each day (Park Hopping) or to visit water parks, or other exciting venues (Water Park and Fun option).

Please check out the Walt Disney World Ticket page for more information and prices. 

http://diswhiz.com/tks

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 Transportation

If you’re traveling by air or by car, both options have advantages and disadvantages. If you’re flying into Orlando International Airport and staying at a Disney resort, you’ll be able to take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express. This is a complimentary shuttle service to and from your resort.

Check out our Disney’s Magical Express page for details.

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Disney’s transportation is top-notch. If you’re flying in and staying at a Disney Resort, then there’s really no need to rent a car. The bus, monorail, and boat transportation systems can get you around from all of the resorts to all of the parks and Downtown Disney. If you’re not staying at a Disney Resort, many of the hotels offer shuttles to and from the parks. Check with your hotel to see what’s offered.

If you’re driving, there are plenty of options as well. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort you may still want to use the Disney transportation to get around. If not, each park has its own parking area with shuttle transports to the parks main gate areas. Depending on the time of day, this can be a quicker option to get around.  We have found this to be the case everywhere except the Magic Kingdom. When you visit the Magic Kingdom you have to park at the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center). If you park at the TTC you can take a shuttle to the main station. From there you can catch the monorail to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, or you can take a ferry-boat over to the Magic Kingdom. There’s just an extra step involved in getting to the Magic Kingdom if you drive your own vehicle.

 

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Park Hours

For a complete list of park hours for each theme park and Downtown Disney, please click on the Disney World Official Calendar. Be sure to check back right before you leave for your vacation to get the latest information and updates on park hours.

http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/calendars

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I know, it seems like a lot of information, right? Well don’t panic! It really is one of the most amazing places to visit on vacation! So start your planning process one step at a time and it should actually go more smoothly than you might expect. And if you have any questions, you can always call 1-407-W-DISNEY and talk to a cast member. They can be an invaluable source of helpful information. Or feel free to contact us with any questions at info@diswhiz.com . We love to help people plan their trips to Disney if we can’t plan our own!

Walt Disney World Tickets

  Disney’s base ticket is called the Magic Your Way ticket.  It is based on a visit to one park for each day.  The cost of tickets decreases  each day if you purchase multi-days. The most significant cost break occurs when you purchase a 4-Day or higher Disney World ticket.  Important! All Disney tickets expire …

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Disney’s Magical Express

  Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary airport transportation service offered to Walt Disney World resort guests. This service includes: complimentary airport  shuttle to and from your resort, luggage delivery and on participating airlines check-in at their  hotel for domestic return flights. This is basically how it works: When booking your room or vacation package make sure you sign …

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Disney’s PhotoPass

    Disney’s PhotoPass If you are one that loves pictures and enjoys sharing them with others then this is for you.  Disney’s PhotoPass is a professional photography service offered at Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, and resorts.  You will find them stationed in front of iconic attractions such as Cinderella Castle at the …

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Disney Dining Plan – 2014

  2014 Disney Dining Plan Overview     The Disney Dining Plan can be confusing. This is both because there are multiple tiers of the Plan, and what’s offered on the Disney Dining Plan that can change yearly . For the purposes of the Disney Dining Plan, a “counter service meal” means a combo meal …

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Disney World Extra Magic Hours

  Guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotels can enjoy more time in the theme parks with the  Extra Magic Hours benefit. Each day, one of the theme parks opens an hour early, or stays open up to two hours extra after regular park hours. This benefit offers guests more time to enjoy shorter …

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Disney’s FastPass

  Disney’s Fast Pass Service   Disney’s Fast Pass service is intended to keep guests from standing in long lines to see a popular attractions.  This is a complimentary service for all Disney guests. How To Use Disney’s FASTPASS Service:   Look for the FASTPASS® Distribution” sign near the entrance of an attraction. Check the “Return …

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Walt Disney World Park Hours

        For the official Walt Disney World park hours click below: On the calendar pull up the entertainment and fireworks times for each day by clicking on that day. Magic Kingdom –http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magic-kingdom/calendar/ Epcot –  http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/calendar/ Disney Studios – http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/hollywood-studios/calendar/ Animal Kingdom – http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/animal-kingdom/calendar/      

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Walt Disney Attraction Refurbishments and Closings

Current and Upcoming Closures at the Walt Disney World Resort Updated 11/04/14 Here is a centralized list of attractions that are currently closed or scheduled to be closed for refurbishment. Disney calls these “operational updates.” We’ll also list here upcoming and recent permanently closed attractions, if any.   Magic Kingdom Cinderella’s Royal Table– closed 1/5/2015- 3/6/2015 …

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1 comment

  1. Cindy

    Oh my goodness where do you find the time to do this? I read all about the Princess area, and your info about when to go, etc.
    Anyway, good job!!!!
    I’m really, really impressed!
    Way to go.

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