Join Bethany Chapman, authorized Disney Vacation Planner, and me in our Series: Top Tips to Maximize Your Disney World Vacation.
So you’ve made the decision. It’s time for a Disney World vacation. Awesome! You are in for a magical time. Disney World is one of the most sought-after vacations in the world, and it’s no wonder with all it has to offer. From toddler rides to adventure rides, theatre productions to character meet and greets, water parks and sports parks, and everything in-between, there is something to entertain everyone on a Disney World vacation.
But face it. A Disney World vacation does not come cheap! It’s also a vacation that is best accomplished with plenty of planning and forethought to ensure your experience is as magical as possible. Yet it can be daunting sorting through the plethora of Disney World travel information, and overwhelming when the time comes to make decisions.
We are here to help! Let’s start at the beginning with these five top tips you need to know when you begin planning a Disney World Vacation. Let’s find you some Disney Magic, shall we?
1. Determine Your Travel Budget
The very first task is to create a realistic travel budget. Estimating your available vacation dollars will help you decide where and how to spend them. A vacation to Disney World can be an expensive adventure. It can also be accomplished on a budget. But if you don’t plan your dollars wisely, a Disney World vacation can quickly tap out your wallet!
Our Top Tip: Don’t skip making a travel budget! Read more about how to develop a realistic travel budget at Planning A Vacation? Plan A Budget First!
2. Decide When to Go To Disney World
One decision that can drastically affect the overall cost and experience of your vacation, is deciding WHEN to go. Your experience will be vastly different depending on whether you travel during peak times, or if you go during off-peak months like May and October. An off-peak Disney World vacation often means lower hotel costs and certainly less crowds.
Peak times at Disney World typically have higher hotel rates and the parks are much more crowded. That equates to more money spent, and longer wait times for rides. Not to mention the heat during the summer months! Consider carefully travel plans for peak times like Christmas, Spring Break, Easter, summer, and major events such as the Disney Marathon, cheer and football championships.
Our Top Tip: Both May and October are great times for Disney! The weather is pleasant, the crowds are at a minimum, and discounts are often available.
Carol’s Extra Tip: Check with an authorized Disney Vacation Planner like Bethany for the most up-to-date list of events, as they are not always posted on a DisneyWorld calendar.
2. Choose Where to Stay – On or Off Property?
Let your travel budget guide your path to the lodging that best fits your budget and travel needs. The beauty of the surrounding Orlando area is that there is a plethora of lodging options sure to fit your Disney travel budget.
First on the decision detail is whether to stay On-Property, or Off-Property. To clarify, off-property lodgings are those places that do not reside within the Disney “bubble” and are not considered a Disney resort. Each type of lodging has it’s advantage.
Advantages to staying Off-Property:
- Budget! You’ll find less expensive lodging options off-property.
- More lodging styles at a wide range of prices sure to fit any budget.
- More space and larger room options for the same or less money.
- Less expensive meal options at non-Disney restaurants.
- Ability to escape the Disney Bubble if or when on Disney overload.
Advantages to staying On-Property:
- Close proximity to all the action.
- Free transportation to and from airport, and between Disney resorts, theme parks and Downtown Disney.
- Free theme park and hotel parking.
- Extended theme park hours for on-property guests only.
- Free MagicBands. Learn more about MagicBand features.
- Access to Disney Dining Plans.
- Ability to charge park expenses and have free souvenir delivery to your resort.
- Early access to Disney FastPass+ and advanced bookings for special dining options.
Consider what is most important for your family. Is it budget? Is it convenience? Is it total Disney immersion? Or do you need to escape and decompress? These considerations will help drive the decision of whether to stay on-property or off-property.
Our Top Tip: We’ve stayed both off-property and on-property. By far, both Bethany and I prefer on-property, no matter the budget. Convenience and proximity trump everything!
3. Choosing A Disney World Resort
So you’ve decided to stay on-property. Now what?! Disney resorts have a lot to offer, but those features can come with a hefty price tag. Thankfully Disney World has over 25 different resorts from which to choose, ranging from the budget conscious to the luxurious. With price points for most budgets, there’s sure to be a Disney World resort for you.
Disney resorts are categorized as Value, Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa. Knowing which price point best fits your budget can quickly narrow your lodging options. Use this guide to find the Disney resort category that best fits your travel dollars.
- Value Resorts start at $96 per night.
- Moderate Resorts start at $182 per night.
- Deluxe Resorts start at $325per night.
- Deluxe Villas start at $415 per night.
The time of year also factors into lodging rates. Peak times can drive prices higher, whereas off-peak times can find some pretty sweet deals! Watch for discounted room, meal and package offers throughout the year, and especially during the off-season months. When you see one, grab it! It might not be available for long.
Don’t base your decision purely on room rates, though. Do your resort homework first. Check each resort on your list for features, amenities, and especially their themes. Prefer a relaxing get-away? Perhaps you want over-the-top animation and action. Both are options. Staying at a themed resort that fits your vacation style adds an extra dimension of fun to your stay.
Our Top Tip: Between Bethany and me, we’ve stayed at all four Disney resort levels. It comes down to what kind of experience you want. Pick the theme that best suits your style, and you should be good to go!
4. Establish Your Disney Experience Priorities
Disney World Orlando offers 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, Downtown Disney, Wide World of Sports, a camping resort with outdoor activities, water sports, 5 golf courses and 2 miniature golf courses. Wow! That’s a lot of action packed into one area! So much that it’s easy to become overwhelmed if you don’t do some “before travel” planning. Establishing priorities early in the booking process can help ensure you get the most out of your Disney vacation.
If you want to visit all four theme parks, as well as explore other Disney resorts, walk around Downtown Disney, and cool off in a water park, then you’ll want at least a full week. If you can’t spare a week, consider cutting back on some of the action to ensure a quality experience. You might also want to keep one day open to revisit a favorite theme park.
Our Top Tip: Budget your time wisely, and don’t try to do everything in your first visit. Plan a down day in the middle of your trip. Disney is exhausting! And if you want to revisit Magic Kingdom, you have a day set aside for it!
NOTE: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and SeaWorld are not Disney parks. If Harry Potter is on your “must-do” list, you will need separate entrance tickets, and more time!
5. Call an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
Pick up Disney World guide books at your local library or book store and acquaint yourself with all that Disney has to offer. Read about the resorts. Check out the theme parks. Make a list of where you want to go. Three excellent book choices are:
- Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World – Bethany’s personal favorite!
- Birnbaum’s Official Guide to Walt Disney World
- PassPorter’s Walt Disney World
Then, contact an authorized Disney Vacation Planner who specializes in all things Disney. They know the ins and outs, the tricks and short cuts, and where to find available discounts. Best of all, a Disney Vacation Planner doesn’t cost you a penny! That’s right. All these services are yours for free. Now that’s a deal in itself!
A Disney Vacation Planner like Bethany not only saves you time and legwork, she might even pull out a discount or two that you would otherwise not find. She also knows how to book those extras, like a princess dinner or a special dinner reservation 180 days in advance. The end result? A fully customized Disney itinerary that meets your specific needs, in your specific budget. Can’t go wrong with that!
Carol’s Top Tip: Check out your local library for Disney travel books. Then call Bethany at (800) 936-3183 ext. 705! You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s Your Top Disney World Planning Tip?
Disney is certainly a magical place, and one that’s on many travelers’ wish lists. We’ve been there several times, and I can honestly, say, planning a Disney World vacation can be a bit daunting to the uninitiated! But it doesn’t have to be. Specialized planners such as Bethany are available to help you get the most out of your Disney vacation. She’ll help ensure you hit the ground well prepared for a grand and magical Disney experience.
Over to you. Are you planning a trip to Disney World? Did you find these travel tips helpful? Have you already been to Disney World? What’s your top planning tip? Do share!
Want top tips for booking a Disney Cruise? Check out Tips To Trim The Cost of A Disney Cruise. It’s an oldie, but still a goodie! The information is still relevant today.
Note: This post is written with the guidance and wording of Bethany Chapman, distinguished, authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
Images by BobBBrown via Flickr (Mickey Mouse Ears), TaxCredits via Flicker (Budget), BethanyChapman (Resorts, Business Card), C.Biederman (World of Disney, Mickey&Minnie).