How to Plan a Walt Disney World Trip: Plus Free Planner!
So you're thinking about booking a holiday to Walt Disney World...good idea! Florida's staple theme park is my favourite place in the entire world. You're guaranteed to have the most amazing time there, however sometimes the planning can be a bit daunting. So today I'm sharing the best way (in my opinion) to plan the perfect theme park holiday.
Flights, Hotel, & Tickets
This might seem like a lot to begin with, but really it's the smallest part of your trip. Take a look at your own calendar and decide the best dates to visit. It's also worth taking a look at crowd calendars as well to determine a quiet time to go, if you have the luxury of choosing any dates you want. Personally I would avoid the summer, as it will be incredibly hot in the Florida humidity and very busy. Unless you're particularly keen to be there at this time, I would also avoid Christmas, as it will also be very busy.
Once you've picked your dates, take a look at flights. Disney offer packages that include flights, but you might find it more convenient to book them separately.
Now that you have your dates decided, take a look on Disney's website and look into booking your tickets and your hotel. If you would prefer to stay off-property there are loads of great, less-expensive hotels and houses that can be booked that are only a short walk/drive/Uber/bus away. Alternatively, there are plenty of hotels on Disney property that are fantastically themed and all have free transportation to each park. There are three price points; value, moderate, and deluxe, so take a look to see what fits your budget.
You will also need to book your tickets. This is a fairly simple process; it's really just picking how many days you want your ticket for. If it's not already offered in your package, it may be worth splurging on Park Hopper, which means you can go to more than one park per day; it just depends on your style of vacationing.
Creating a Schedule
Now that your dates are locked in, it's time to start thinking about what you will be doing on each day. I recommend taking a look at Disney's park calendar to look at the opening and closing times of each park on each day, as well as when the parades and fireworks are. You will also be able to see when extra magic hours are. This is the time that people who are staying in a Disney hotel can visit the parks. I highly recommend using these hours if you are eligible; you can get so much done before most people have even walked through the gates!
Once you've had a look at what's on and what's open when, create an idea of which park you will be visiting on each day. While you may not always end up sticking to this plan, it's always best to have one as a basis.
Now's the time to start thinking about food! When you book your Disney holiday you may want to book the Disney Dining Plan. This is a way to pre-pay for your food before you arrive. The advantage of this is that, when you're on holiday, you don't have to think about paying for food at all, which can be a great weight off your shoulders. A disadvantage is that these packages are expensive, and you can sometimes pay more than the value of the food you end up eating, so it's really personal preference, but I prefer using it. There are lots of different dining plan options, so if you're considering it I recommend taking a look.
Disney have three types of dining. There are snacks, which include items you can get in shops and from stalls, such as pretzels, ice cream, popcorn, etc. There are quick service locations which mean you go up to a counter and order, receive your food, and then go to your table. You do not need to make reservations for these (however I do recommend using mobile order on the app as this really speeds things up). Then there are table service restaurants, which are your classic sit-down waiter service offers. I do recommend making reservations for these, as they can be quite popular. Although please note that there is a $10 per person charge if you do not show up for your reservation, so once you make them you are fairly committed.
Personally, I like to use snacks for breakfast as I'm not a huge breakfast person. Then I do quick service for lunch; something big enough to keep you going when you're right in the middle of the action. Finally, I like to do a table service for dinner. It's a nice way to relax and take a break after a full day of activities. When you're planning, take the time to think about which times of the day you like to eat in, and plan accordingly.
It's also important to consider that you can book your dining reservations 60 days in advance of your trip. If you are staying in a Disney hotel, then you can book them 60 days in advance plus the length of your stay. So if you were staying for 10 days, you could book them 70 days before.
Create a Daily Schedule
This step isn't for everybody, especially those who prefer to go with the flow, but personally I much prefer to know when I'm doing each ride. I look at the rides and attractions that are available in the park I'm going to visit and create a route of how I'm going to visit all those rides, focusing especially on the ones I'm most excited about. I like to use Disney's park maps to look at my route, and then I give rough time estimations of when I will be at each ride, and how long I will queue for, but that's not for everybody! This allows you to get a good sense of when you will be at each place and when you will be eating.
Make Fast Pass Reservations
The Fast Pass system allows you to skip the line on certain rides. This means that rather than waiting in an hour long line, you might only have to wait 5-10 minutes. Fast Pass is completely free, and I encourage everyone going to Disney to use it. You get three a day, and then after you've used your three you can book one again. Then once you've used that, you get another one, and so on. Some parks have tiered Fast Passes, which means you can only book one in tier one, and two in tier two, and so on, so this is important to consider too.
Fast Passes can be booked 30 days in advance. But if you are staying in a Disney hotel you can book them 60 days in advance which means you are more likely to get the Fast Passes for the in-demand rides, such as Flight of Passage and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway.
Look At Attractions Outside Disney
Now you have your perfect Disney plan, but it's important to consider if there are things you would like to do outside of Disney. Universal Studios, for example, is another fantastic theme park to visit. There are also attractions like the Kennedy Space Centre and alligator parks.
And that's your Orlando/Disney trip planned! I hope you have a fantastic time! If you would like more details on any aspects of this, please let me know, I'd be happy to assist! I have also included a free planning guide which might come in handy for you as you plan (it works best in Google Sheets).
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Until next time,