So you’ve decided you would like to go to Walt Disney World to visit The Mouse and assorted princesses, but aren’t sure how to go about getting a good deal. Planning a holiday to any Disney destination is a complex job, and can be a daunting experience for the uninitiated.
We’re here to help you through the process. Here are some of our best tips for planning. We can create or assist you as well, just fill out our questionnaire and we’ll contact you directly.
- Know your holiday style: laidback, or hard-charging, or both in turn. Understanding your style will help you choose the appropriate ratio of days in parks versus chilling at the resort, etc.
- Start planning far in advance to take advantage of special pricing opportunities. Disney periodically offers free dining packages with resort and ticket reservations, but typically more than a year in advance, especially for high season times, such as summer and other school holiday times.
- Decide roughly when you would like to experience Disney. Many groups are locked into their children’s school schedules, so if your dates are flexible, it pays to determine times with the lowest crowd levels. Disney continuously works to even out demand, so most of their rooms are filled constantly, but some times are less crowded than others: for example, the last week of April 2020, park crowds should be low. One of the best resources to research crowd conditions is touringplans.com. You can explore the site on a limited basis without a subscription, but have access to a wealth of information with a paid subscription (yearly basis).
- Carefully consider your lodging options, and consider the pros and cons of each type of lodging: Walt Disney World resort, Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points rental, close-by Good Neighbor hotel (currently 47 different hotels), vacation house rental (think AirBnB or VRBO), or even a Universal resort, if you also plan to go to Universal parks. Here are some of the comparative perks.
- Decide how you will travel to and around Walt Disney World. Options abound, with various price points. Disney’s Magical Express (ME), free coach bus transfer with a Disney package, is economical but time-consuming (about an hour wait when you arrive at the airport to board, then multiple resort stops, adds a couple hours to the commute). Rideshare services, such as Lyft, are approximately $30 one way – faster and more direct than ME, but about $60 roundtrip (pending traffic and surge pricing). Private car transfer (ie Blacklane or similar), cost more ($75-$100 each way), but can provide grocery stops and a very plush ride (think Mercedes or Lincoln Towncar), Renting your own transport provides the most flexible transfer option, as well as the ultimate flexibility traveling to and from the parks, but is much more expensive. If you stay at a Disney resort, you’ll pay daily parking fees at the resort, but get free parking (a $25 value) at all the theme parks. If you use DVC points, you park everywhere with no fee. All other options incur a $25/day fee to park.
- Carefully consider lodging prices and perks. If you prefer making your own food, consider renting Disney Vacation Club (exclusively Disney resorts timeshare) points and save money and time eating in your villa. DVC villas come as small as a regular hotel room (with a tiny refrigerator, microwave, paper products, sink, tea kettle, toaster, and coffee maker) through one bedroom, two bedroom, and grand villas with three bedrooms. Almost all the 1+ bedrooms have sofa beds as well as a king master, and 2 queen beds in other bedrooms, making this a cost-effective way to carry a large group to Disney World. The 1+ bedroom villas also come with a fully equipped kitchen (stove, oven, microwave, dishes and cooking implements), and a soaking tub or jetted tub – rent points for DVC and save money eating in your lodging. See a lodging comparison here.
- Determine how many days of theme park time you would like (travel style should help you decide), and whether you’ll want to ‘park hop’, ie enjoy more than one park per day. Walt Disney World theme park admission varies considerably. The base ticket works for 1 park/day. Add the park hopper option, and you can visit up to all four major parks in one day. Add the park hopper & more option to also have access to the water parks. The first day of access is quite expensive, but every day added on is tremendously less expensive, making the average ticket price/day much lower the more days you purchase. Tickets do expire 14 days after activation (the first park you visit), so plan accordingly.
- Consider tickets from various sources. If you choose to purchase a package from Disney (as mentioned, Disney offers free items in packages at different times, mainly for far-future reservations), you will get the type of ticket you choose from Disney. If you are staying in a DVC rental or off-property, consider other sources. Several companies are authorised resellers, and offer small discounts for longer use ticket packages. https://www.mapleleaftickets.com/disneyworld_tickets.htm discount starts with a 3-day ticket and increases with number of days’ entry purchased, and https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/walt-disney-world-resort/#category_1 also offer discounts that start with a 3-day ticket. Also consider Disney’s Annual Pass option, especially if you plan to explore the parks for more than 20 days in a 365-day year. Note that Annual Passholders also receive other perks and invitation to passholder-only events.
- Read up on Walt Disney and Walt Disney World to both heighten your anticipation as well as enrich your travel experience:
- Nonfiction: The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (planning and anecdotes), Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa; The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World (park and resort hidden details), Susan Veness; Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World (legal history), Chad Denver Emerson; Hidden Mickeys: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World’s Best Kept Secrets (find hidden mickeys), Steven M. Barrett; Dream It! Do It! (autobiography), Marty Sklar.
- Fiction: Kingdom Keepers (science fantasy series about Walt Disney World), Ridley Pearson, Tales From The Haunted Mansion (spooky series about Haunted Mansion, a ride at Magic Kingdom), by Amicus Arcane.
- Download the MyDisneyExperience app to store all your plans in. This comprehensive and powerful app allows you to book dining, fastpass+, and more on-the-go. Once you attach your hotel reservation, or only your tickets (if staying off-property), you can book all your plans via the app.
- Once your trip is booked and your tickets purchased, set a countdown for the 180-day advance booking window for table service dining, as well as the 60 (or 30) day fastpass+ scheduling window. Note that the more popular a restaurant or attraction is, the more important to book right when the window opens to secure your spot.
- If you belong to Sam’s or Costco, look for deals on multipacks of Disney gift cards (usually before Christmas). You can get a small discount, and the gift cards can be used to pay for your vacation expenses.
- Plan to go more than once? Enjoy shopping at the Disney Store? Look at Chase Bank’s Disney credit card – you’ll receive 1% or 2% (regular v premier card) back on your purchases in Disney reward dollars which can be used for airline tickets (no blackout dates), used at Disney stores, resorts, and parks. 0% financing for 6 months on vacation packages, extra in-park/resort card holder perks, like card holder only spots for photos with Disney and Star Wars characters, discounts on food, merchandise, and spa appointments, and more.
- If this trip is an occasion celebration (eg birthday, anniversary, cancer-free, first job, graduation), you might order a gift package from Disney. Pricey, but impeccably Disney-themed.
- If you’re staying in accommodation that provides a kitchen, pre-order your groceries (both Publix and Whole Foods grocery chains offer delivery) and ask the delivery folks to leave with Bell Services. Be sure you give the delivery folks your contact information.
- Useful planning and preparing websites:
Start planning your trip