Planning a Disney Vacation


Planning — the act or process of making or carrying out plans.”
-Merriam Webster’s Dictionary

As I stated in my previous Disney World post, planning a Disney vacation is one of my favorite things to do.  Even when I'm not planning a vacation soon, I still like to check out what's new and the sales going on for the Resort.  Planning a Disney vacation can get a little overwhelming, especially when it's your first time going.  Something my parents and I always do when planning a Disney trip is use a travel agent.  It doesn't cost extra, but they stay on top of your relevant documents for your trip and can help you get the best deal on rooms and flights!  And now, here's my advice on planning your own Disney vacation!

When to Go

Planning when to go is probably one of the most critical things to figure out when planning a Disney trip is the time of year you go.  As of last year, the ticket prices vary based on the different periods, such as Value, Regular, and Peak seasons.  These seasons depend on the usual amount of guests which visit the park each year.  More guests = higher prices for tickets.  The same goes for hotel rooms, which can vary as much as $100 and even more throughout the year.  Disney also puts on various sales throughout the year, like their Summer room sale, free dining plans in the fall, etc.  Typically the only time of the year that may not have a sale is during the Winter holiday season, so that's one of the most expensive times of the year to go as it's also a Peak season. 

Another reason that timing is everything rests solely on the shoulders of Florida weather.  Florida is always pretty warm, compared to the Northeast part of America.  My trips to Disney World have fallen in the periods from the middle of May to the end of October. One thing that has been pretty consistent between all of those trips is the consistent afternoon rain that happens almost every day in Florida.  Obviously, it's a lot warmer during the middle of the summer, and temperatures can get over 100.  Although it gets very warm during the day in the summer, my parents and I typically go to the parks in the morning and at night when it's cooler and a lot of the families with little kids aren't in the parks.

Where to Stay

Personally, I suggest staying on a Disney property, even given the price of the hotels.  There are a lot of perks that Disney resort guests get that staying off property doesn't get you.  One of the big ones for me are the Extra Magic Hours at a different park every day.  What Extra Magic Hours mean is that resort guests get to go into the park an hour early or stay two hours late at the park, which are prime times for riding those hot “E” ticket rides.  Resort guests also get to book their FastPass+ selections 60 days prior to arrival, where everyone staying off property can only book their FastPasses 30 days in advance.  Another big benefit my family takes full advantage of when we go to Disney:  transportation.  Staying on property means you don't have to drive yourself everywhere and parking isn't an issue.  

Although all Disney resorts provide transportation to and from the parks, some resorts have slight advantages in this regard.  Some hotels are closer to specific parks and areas of Disney so it helps to anticipate where you might spend most of your time when in the parks.  However, being closer to a specific park means a more expensive hotel.  The most expensive hotels fall into the category of Deluxe hotels, followed by the Moderate hotels and the Value resorts.  Just because some hotels are less expensive than others doesn't mean that they don't have a lot of the same amenities as more expensive hotels.  The most expensive set of hotels are on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop, but they are the most luxurious of the resorts and get you to Magic Kingdom in less than 10 minutes. 

What to Bring

Just as important as where to stay and when to go are the things you should bring with you to Disney.  I have a long list of things I bring on vacation almost every year, but there are a special few that are must haves for Disney.  In regards to clothing, I'd suggest anything lightweight and quick drying.  Florida heat can be brutal all year round so lightweight clothes help to keep you cool.  A lot of rides at Disney involve water so having clothes that won't stay wet for hours are an essential.  Comfortable shoes are also a requirement since the average person walks about 10 miles a day while at Disney World.  Ponchos, umbrellas, or rain jackets are also a must since it rains a lot in Florida and at a moment’s notice too.  Also, a nicer outfit is good to pack if you're planning on eating at a fancier restaurant.

A lot of essentials are available at the parks so I don't like to bring too much extra, like shampoo, conditioner, soap, and a hair dryer that are all available in your room. My parents and I do like to bring our own snacks since everything at Disney is pricey and you can get it much cheaper at home.

What to Plan on Doing


Dining at Disney World is one of my favorite things about going to Disney World; the food there is amazing!  Much like everything else in Disney World, there are three different levels of restaurants:  quick service, table service, and signature dining.  Quick service restaurants are quite literally like what they're named.  You order at a counter, and your food is made relatively quick.  Table service restaurants are your typical sit down restaurants, where a server takes your order and are a more formalized meal.  Signature dining restaurants are essentially table service restaurants with a higher price point.  Some have a more formalized dress code than other table services and are a lot more fancy.  When I got to Disney, I usually eat at a variety of the three.  I particularly think that quick service restaurants at hotels are the best for quick and affordable breakfasts so you can splurge a little more on dinner. 

Parks, Shopping, and More

Now that I've been to Disney World a multitude of times, I don't feel the need to spend the whole day in the parks.  But when I do go to the parks, I like to get my FastPasses for the rides I view as must sees, like the rides new since the last time I went and some of my  old favorites that always bring long lines.  We usually try to hit any other rides when there's shorter lines: during parades, the fireworks, and any shows.  Something that makes Disney better than other parks to me is the sheer amount of different experiences.  If you're not into thrill rides, you can still enjoy your time at the parks with the wide variety of boat rides, theater shows, character meet and greets, and the list goes on.  If you love the thrills, there's plenty of rides that will cater to your interests as well, like my personal least favorite, Tower of Terror.

In addition to all of the rides, there's plenty of shopping as well.  Downtown Disney just underwent a multi-year renovation into Disney Springs, a shopping and dining district on Disney property.  It has so many wonderful shops that you could definitely blow your budget there.  There's plenty of shops with Disney merch as well.  Pretty much every hotel has at least one souvenir shop and every park probably has at least 20 so you'll never be far from a shop selling the cutest Minnie Mouse ears. 

Outside of all of the Disney related goodness, there's also a lot of other activities as well.  There are three different full service spas that will definitely make you forget you're in Disney World, fishing expeditions, a miniature golf course, three actual golf courses, and a variety of water sports you can participate in as well.  I'd definitely recommend any of these for a special occasion; the spa’s my favorite. 

So that's my brief overview of how to plan a Disney vacation.  I'm sure I could think of more tips and tricks from my times at the parks, so let me know if you want more!

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