Are you considering Disney as a vacation spot for you and your family? If you have never been, deciding where to go and what to see can be a daunting task! We know how valuable your time and money is, and we know that most people can’t afford to go to Disney very often. So how can you maximize your time and money? Today we’ll discuss how to plan a trip to Disney World, and hopefully at the end, you’ll be excited and eager to begin the planning stage of your vacation!
When to go to Disney
The first step is deciding WHEN to go. There are a couple key points to remember as you try to plan for your Disney World vacation. First of all, you need to consider the weather. Orlando is EXTREMELY hot and humid in the summertime. If you aren’t a big fan of heat, I would suggest going in the fall or winter.
Second, you need to consider crowd levels. A good rule of thumb is this: If school is out, Disney will be PACKED! So if you can go to Disney while school is in session, I highly recommend it. However, if you can only go during holidays or summer vacation, you can still be ok, you just need to be extra careful with your planning! For more details on choosing the proper time to visit, see our article entitled, The Best Time to Visit Disney World.
What are the “Must-Do” Disney Attractions?
Once you decide when you are going, you need to make a list of the events, and decide what to put on your “Must-Do” list. Here are some items you need to consider:
The four major parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios. Especially if this is your first time, you need to try and try out all four!
Restaurants — Disney is known for it’s amazing food! Don’t miss a chance to try many of the unique restaurants that are located at the parks and resorts!
Special Shows — The Magic Kingdom firework show, and the nighttime parade are not to be missed! Hollywood Studios has a great evening show entitled “Fantasia”, and Epcot has a firework show every night entitled “Illuminations“. I highly recommend these three events! If you have children, make sure not to miss these!
How Far in Advance to Plan Your Trip?
You can have a great time regardless of when you go. However, if you plan on eating at the best restaurants, staying onsite at the resorts, and taking advantage of many of Disney’s deals, I highly suggest booking your vacation 7 months in advance. That is typically when the schedule comes out for the month you are going. Then as you approach the 6 month point, you can begin booking your dining reservations.
However, if you aren’t interested in dining and don’t plan to stay onsite, than you can book your trip anytime. I’ve been on a number of “last-minute” trips and had a blast!
One of the key decisions you need to make is your choice of lodging. Disney has a number of wonderfully themed resorts ranging from the inexpensive to the VERY expensive! Staying onsite allows you to get a number of perks. First of all you get free parking if you have a car, and free transportation on the bus or monorail system. You can also get picked up from the airport at no charge! Another perk is what is known as “Extra Magic Hours“. These are special hours in which the park is only open to Disney resort guests. Finally, resort guests are going to be among the first to use the new My Magic Plus system that is being rolled out in 2013.
A final benefit to resorts is that the Disney theming keeps the “magic” alive for the entire vacation. Many guests don’t like to leave the Disney gates and head into the “outside world”!
As far as benefits to staying offsite, there really is only one. You can find cheaper accommodations, and get more bang for your buck in terms of the quality of your hotel room. If a significant factor in your vacation enjoyment is the actual hotel room, than this might be something to consider.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the Disney Dining plan. When you decide how to book your vacation, choosing the Disney Dining plan (you must stay at a Disney resort to take advantage of this plan) can add a lot of fun to your vacation! Essentially, the Disney Dining plan is a way to pre-pay for your meals. It doesn’t honestly save you a whole lot of money, unless you happen to get free dining, which doesn’t come all that often.
But it does allow you to experience many of the wonderful restaurants Disney has to offer, as well as give you snacks and drinks during the day. For more information on the Disney Dining plan, I highly recommending reading our article entitled “Choosing a Disney Dining Package.” This article discusses the different types of Dining plans, and can help you make the correct decision!
Regardless of whether you stay onsite or offsite, you will need to make some decisions on the ticket packages that you purchase. Rest assured that there are not many ways to save a lot of money on tickets. So purchasing directly from Disney or an authorized ticket seller is all you need to do. In fact, if you find really cheap tickets, you probably are getting scammed.
I highly recommend adding the “Park Hopper” package. This greatly increases your flexibility, and allows you to travel to a different park in the morning and the afternoon. This can really come in handy as you make dinner reservations and try to hit all the different evening events. Also, if you go to a park and don’t really like it, you aren’t stuck there all day. Finally, the Animal Kingdom often closes at around 6pm. Without a park hopper, you are stuck. With a park hopper, you can head over to Epcot or the Magic Kingdom and continue the fun!
For a detailed analysis of all the options that come with purchasing tickets, see our article entitled “How to Book Disney Ticket Packages.”
Planning a Wonderful Vacation
Hopefully these tips have helped you learn how to plan a trip to Disney World. For Disney veterans, the planning process is a big part of the fun! Making out schedules, deciding where to go, where to eat and which parks to attend are something we enjoy! Mousehints.com has a number of article that will help you in all aspects of your planning, and I highly recommend bookmarking our site and taking in all of our free information!