Are you heading to Disney World, possibly for the first time, and don’t know where to start? I get it – your first time in this real life fantasy world could be a bit overwhelming – especially if you have kids in tow. Not to worry – this post will walk you through the best Disney trip planning tips.
We’ll cover tips on booking everything from accommodations to theme park tickets, as well as how to make your experience there a smooth and happy one. I’ve been to Disney World over 25 times, so you can rest assured that you have someone with real experience walking you through it.
1 | Booking Disney Accomodations
There are of course two main options when booking accomodations for Disney World. Those are (1) Booking outside Disney property and (2) Booking on Disney property. Here are the pros and cons of each, as well as tips on how to book according to your preferences:
Booking on the Disney Property
I think that booking a Disney hotel really is the best way to go. These are the primary reasons why:
- Free Transportation to All Disney Theme Parks: If you stay at a Disney hotel there will either be bus, boat, or the ability to travel by foot to all of the Disney parks. And you don’t have to pay a single dime over your what you pay for your stay. In addition, your transportation to and from the airport is part of the deal too.
- Great Dining: You can count on excellent dining options in each of the hotels there – In fact, I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad meal anywhere (to date).
- Magic Bands: As a guest at a Disney hotel, you’ll use your Magic Band to access your room and pay for meals. You’ll then be able to use those same bands to get into the parks too.
- The Experience: I mean it when I say that you really get the full Disney experience when you stay at a Disney resort. Each resort is themed so perfectly, providing a unique experience depending on where you stay. If you are looking for a seamless experience, you will not be disappointed.
Disney Report Price Ranges
I’m sure you may have reservations on booking a Disney resort because of the pricing. You’ll be happy to know that Disney offers a variety of pricing for their hotels, as you’ll see below:
- Disney Campgrounds – There is one campground where you can bring your campers / tents and plug in. From $60/night
- Value Resort Hotels – These hotels are akin to the level of a Holiday Inn or Best Western. I’d recommend Pop Century, as I have stayed there before, but you can expect similarly fun-themed resorts from all four options. Those focus on Sports, Music, and Movies. From $99/night
- Moderate Resort Hotels – These hotels are probably somewhere between a Hampton Inn and a Hyatt, but a lot more fun! For a unique Spain-themed experience, try the Coronado Springs Resort. From $198/night
- Deluxe Resort Hotels – The room quality is slightly higher than the Moderate resorts, but the main benefit you get for upgrading is added benefits. My preference in this category is the BoardWalk Inn, where you get that 1920’s boardwalk feel along with a large resort feel. From $363/night
- Deluxe Villas – The villas are an extension of the Deluxe Resorts, with pretty much each one offering villas now too. The villas are primarily for Disney Vacation Club members, who use a points system to book them. (And get a lot of savings this way). From $456/night
Note: Details on booking the resorts mentioned above can be found by clicking the links.
Booking Off the Disney Property
If I haven’t conviced you to stay on the Disney property yet, here are a few ooptions for nearby hotels you might want to consider:
- Dolphin Resort – This is actually owned by Disney but is not under the same umbrella as the other hotels, but still offers many of the same benfits
- Swan Resort – Neighbors the Dolphin Resort, and operates similarly
- Hampton Inn – This hotel’s located just south of Disney World
- Four Seasons – Thiss one is located nearby Disney World as well
2 | Reserving Disney Restaurants
If you have clear preferances on where you’d like to eat at Disney or particular dietary restrictions, it’s a good idea to book restaurants EARLY. Reservations tend to go quickly, so I’d book at least 3 months early if possible. Thankfully booking is quite easy – you can do it by using the “Disney World” app or the “My Disney Experience” portion of the Disney World website.
See the shots below to show you how to make the reservations:
From the website, you’ll click the “Make Reservations” option as shown below:
Once you get to the restaurant you’d like to book, just add in details on the date, time, and party size. From there you’ll enter credit card information and you should be all set!
Note: When reserving your reservation you have to put a credit card down and pay $10/pp. This guarantees your spot and is standard practice.
Here are a few of my restuarant recommendations, if you don’t have any idea on where to start:
- Tony’s Town Square Restaurant – This Lady and the Tramp themed restaurant has wonderful italian food options. It’s our family’s favorite – we don’t visit Disney without at least one trip here.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table – If you’re interested in character dining, you can do it – right inside Cinderella’s castle! You’ll find American-style fare here
- Sci-Fi Dine In Theater – This restaurant is great for lunch (think hot dogs / hamburgers) and is set up like you’re heading to the drive-in movie theater.
- Mama Melrose Ristorante Italiano – Stop here for an Italian restuarant that has that NYC feel.
- Chefs de France– Experience delicious French fare in “little France”.
- Restaurant Marrakesh – If you love mediterreanean / Morroccan food, you won’t be disappointed here. There is even sometimes entertainment (i.e., belly dancing).
- Yak & Yeti Restaurant – Based in the “Asia” area of the park, you can get great Asian cuisine here.
- Rainforest Cafe – This one is always fun – especially for the kids. Eat “in the jungle” and watch it come to life from time to time.
3 | Purchasing Disney Park Tickets
To purchase your park tickets, you just need to go to the admission site and make your selections! Here are a few of my best tips for buying tickets:
- You get the most bang for your buck by booking several days worth of tickets. For example, a 1-day, 1-park pass is $109 (as of 11/3/19). If you book 4 days, your average price goes down to $101. And if you book 5 days, it goes down to $83/day.
- If your short on time, but want to see multiple parks, purchase Park Hopper tickets. These allow you to visit as many parks as you’d like each day you’re there.
- Choosing the “Park Hopper Plus” option includes the Disney Water parks as well!
- For even more savings, you can book a “Mid-Day Magic” ticket, that allows entry after 12:00pm for a discounted price. Great for those of you who weren’t going to be there early anyway 🙂
I highly recommend booking your park tickets at least 2 months in advance – this will allow you to be able to use FastPass + early, and ensure you can choose the rides that you desire for this benefit. (More on this in Step 5).
4 | Planning Your Park Schedule
You don’t have to actually do this in advance, but your park schedule will be dependant upon 1) the dates of your dining reservations and 2) the timing of your FastPasses. If you book early, you will really have no issues with going to the parks on your desired dates. This will be even more true if you decide to visit the parks during the holidays. If you’re using the
5 | How to Use FastPass Plus
The FastPass + is a great tool to saving time in the parks. As an overview, you can pre-book to essentially cut the lines for three rides/experiences in a single park for each day of your trip. If you’re not familiar with the steps to using FastPass +, then see the steps below:
First, head to “My Disney Experience” as shown below:
Next, click “My Plans” to pull up a screen like the one below:
You’ll then be asked to select a date and location for your FastPass:
After you make the appropriate selections, you can then select the rides / experiences of your choice, along with the time:
The great thing here is that if you do have dining selected, the system will show your conflicts.
Once you’re done, you’ll get a summary of all your selections for that day.
Know that you’ll be able to make modifications leading up to the day of your trip, but if it is a busy time of year, you may not want to risk it.
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6 | Tips for the Disney Theme Parks
Using the Magic Bands
Magic Bands have been a wonderful improvement to the overall Disney experience, in my opinion. Used to their maximum potential, you can access the theme parks, use FastPass +, pay for meals, and access your hotel room. Just remember to make sure you/your kids keep theirs on at all times. If lost, be sure to report it right away so stop others from using your linked credit card.
Know that the bands do come in a basic gray color, you can order the color you desire in advance for free. You can also change the print or overall design for a small fee (~$10).
Making the Most of the Theme Parks
If you like planning out your day, I recommend the following for each day in the theme parks:
- Pick up a map to route out where you’ll ride / eat / play first
- Use the “Disney World” app to learn which rides have the longest times so that you adjust as necessary
- Make sure you are cognizant of the times you have dedicated to FastPass + and/or dining reservations so that you don’t miss out on any of your plans
Final Tips | Planning Tips for Disney World
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful! Before wrapping things up, here are a few final tips that I’d like to share:
- Visit Disney during the shoulder season – which is essentially whenever school is in session / when there are no holidays
- Don’t go to Disney during the holiday season (e.g., July 4th, Christmas) – it’s just ridiculously busy. If you absolutely must – BOOK EARLY! Things will go fast since everyone is making their plans too. Restaurants in particular will go quickly
- Have a great time! Don’t spend time focused on something that hasn’t gone right – focus on the positive, it will make it all better
- If possible, spend some time apart – there is nothing worst than spending time arguing at Disney. This is often caused by spending too much time together / not letting people enjoy what they like (at least in my experience)
Have any tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below!