Disney World 2015 Trip Planning Guide


Planning your 2015 Walt Disney World trip can be intimidating, especially for first-time visitors. This guide will give you tips to save money, time, and make the most of Walt Disney World, navigating its four theme parks, dozens of hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and a variety of additional entertainment activities and options that can make for really complicate planning. Walt Disney World is a busy place, so determining when to visit and how to tour the parks to avoid crowds is a critical step in the process. Add to that trying to save money on park tickets and hotels, and planning can be daunting, especially for first-time or infrequent guests who want to plan a memorable trip.

If you’re feeling yourself being sucked into the rabbit hole that is Walt Disney World vacation planning, our updated-for-2015 Walt Disney World trip planning guide is here to help…or perhaps drag you deeper into the rabbit hole. Think of it as Walt Disney World Trip Planning 101, organized into the 10 most important aspects of Walt Disney World vacation planning. As complicated as the process might seem right now, it’s really not that bad, and the ultimate payoff will be huge. You’re also a bit fortunate that you’re being sucked into the rabbit hole now, as many first-time visitors don’t realize Walt Disney World planning can be so complicated until they arrive, and are then overwhelmed. The commercials make it look like a carefree world where everyone runs around holding hands with Mickey Mouse while laughing and riding all of their favorite attractions without any problems…but that’s definitely not the reality.

Even after dozens and dozens of trips to Walt Disney World, we still don’t know everything there is to know about the place, but this post contains most of what we do know (most stuff, at least…not the nitty-gritty details like which drinking fountains are coldest!). We wouldn’t visit so much if we didn’t like it, so our opinions are colored by the fact that we are Disney fans. That said, we don’t see the world through rose colored glasses, and we try to stay as objective as possible here, sharing the good and the bad. If that’s not for you, there are plenty of other planning sites that offer only positive or only negative spins on Disney.

This vacation planning guide applies to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. That might seem silly to point out if you’re a seasoned Disney fan, but a lot of people don’t know. (You did see the episode of The Middle where they made that mistake, right? All TV is obviously based on real life!) World=Florida, land=California. If you are visiting California, please consult our Disneyland Resort Trip Planning Guide. If you’re trying to determine which coast is right for you, read our Walt Disney World v. Disneyland post.

This page is a jumping off point to give you some background information on each aspect of your trip, with links to other blog posts that offer much more detailed information. Each post opens in a new tab, so click away as you read and prepare to waste the better part of a day or more reading all this.

We promise that the payoff will be worth it, so let’s get started! (more…)

When To Visit Disney World in 2015

People often ask, “when is the best time to visit Disney World?” Some days and times of year are better to plan your trip to Walt Disney World. The least crowded times of the year are typically after Labor Day until the week before Thanksgiving, early December, the entire month of January and early February, and late April. That said, nowadays especially in 2015 now that New Fantasyland is complete and ‘Frozen Frenzy’ is at its peak, there really is no “slow season” at Walt Disney World.

Crowds should not be your only consideration when planning when to visit Walt Disney World. There are some great seasonal events, such as the Halloween and Christmas seasons, Food & Wine Festival, runDisney, and other fun events. You may also be constrained as to when you can visit by school schedules, vacation time, and other factors. Add to that weather and various other considerations, and when to visit Walt Disney World isn’t as cut and dry as visiting in late September, early December, or February when crowds are low.

Of course, choosing which days to visit Walt Disney World is just one aspect of planning a trip. To make sure you tackle everything, make sure you read our Guide to Planning a Walt Disney World Trip, which covers all of the essentials.

With that said, let’s take a look at when you should and shouldn’t visit Walt Disney World… (more…)

Disney World Christmas Time Lapse Video

Merry Christmas! No new post for today, but above is a time lapse video I shot back in 2011 at Walt Disney World during the Christmas season. I’ve played with time lapse photography a lot since, but I haven’t tried anything this ambitious since then; one of my big goals for 2015 is to get serious about time lapse. Although I look back at some parts and cringe a bit, it’s still a fun video that I enjoyed making–hope you like it if you haven’t seen it before! (more…)

Disneyland 2015 Trip Planning Guide

This post is a guide for planning your 2015 visit to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Here we cover tips and tricks for experiencing Cars Land and Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary, making 2015 a great time to visit Disneyland. We first posted this guide a few years ago when Disney California Adventure had its big reboot, and have updated it multiple times per year since. We have received messages from a lot of people who had great trips thanks to our recommendations, and this guide has been refined based upon numerous visits to Disneyland in 2014 (we didn’t do trip reports for the 2014 visits, but here’s our most recent Disneyland Christmas Trip Report).

Disneyland Resort kept the ball rolling in 2014, expanding upon the success of its big recent addition, Cars Land, with the opening of Mickey and the Magical Map, plus World of Color – Winter Dreams, seasonal celebrations, and more. 2015 is Disneyland Resort’s “Diamond Anniversary”, which is slated to begin in May 2015. While all of the details have not yet been announced for the 60th Anniversary, we know that it will be based in nostalgia, and strong rumors suggest a new nighttime parade (a modified version of the Paint the Night Parade from Hong Kong Disneyland), new fireworks, significant upgrades to Fantasyland dark rides, and more.

We highly recommend a visit to Disneyland, as the 60th Anniversary sounds like it’s going to be awesome. Honestly, there hasn’t been a year recently when we haven’t recommended a Disneyland Resort visit. The place is firing on all cylinders. As long as Disneyland keeps doing new things and Cars Land keeps looking great, you may be hearing this same sentiment in 2015, 2016, 2017 and…you get the idea.

disneyland-diamond-anniversary-trip-planning

There are a lot of great times of year to visit Disneyland (read below for our recommendations of when to go to avoid crowds at Disneyland), but our favorite time of year is Christmas-time at Disneyland. The decorations are beautiful, the spirit is festive, and there are some fun attraction overlays and seasonal foods to enjoy.

Read our Guide to Disneyland at Christmas for additional information on visiting during the holiday season. If Christmas isn’t your thing, consider Halloween Time at Disneyland, and check out our Guide to Disneyland at Halloween for assistance planning a trip during that specific time of year. For tips applicable to trips anytime of year, consult the trip planning resources below.

Also, this vacation planning guide applies to the Disneyland Resort in California. If you are visiting Florida, please consult our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014 Tips

The 2014 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Parties at Walt Disney World will occur in September and October. This post covers our tips and tricks for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2014, which is scheduled for the following dates: September 1, 9, 12, 14, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, and 28; October 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 30, and 31. You can purchase tickets (ranging from $57-77 per person) on Walt Disney World’s event page.

On these nights, the Magic Kingdom closes at 7 p.m. to guests who haven’t not purchased tickets for the Halloween Party. So you can prepare for the Halloween Party now, here is our analysis based upon the last several years (we go to it yearly) to help you determine whether this expensive hard ticket event is worth it to you, and if so, what your “Plan of Attack” should be to efficiently conquer the various offerings. Between this party and Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, plus improving weather, the fall months at Walt Disney World are one of our favorite times of year to visit!

Note that this guide covers Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, not Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland. For info about the latter, read our comprehensive Guide to Halloween Time at Disneyland!

Should You Attend?

So at over $60 a pop for tickets to the 2014 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, you might be trying to determine, “is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party worth it?” Our opinion, as Disney-biased tourists, is that it most definitely is worth the price at least once. Once you’ve experienced the party once (it doesn’t change much year-to-year), you might determine that it’s simply too expensive to experience again. For a one time event, it’s definitely worth it if your budget allows. While we prefer Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, we do attend both every year.

There’s a lot of special entertainment including one of Disney’s best parades and a great fireworks show, a great ambiance to the party including special decorations and lighting, lots of unique character meet & greets, and even seeing other guests in Halloween costumes makes for a fun experience.

If you do decide to do the Halloween Party, make sure to buy your tickets in advance, and use any available discounts (Disney Vacation Club member, Annual Passholder, etc.). Tickets are more expensive on the day of the party, and several nights each year sell out completely. It would stink to wait until the last minute and have your dates sell out!

If you’re a potentially returning guest to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, here’s what’s new for 2014. The big news is that there is actually a hard ticket event within this hard ticket event. Called Villains’ Sinister Soiree (we still wish they went with “Mickey’s Halloween Inception”), it’s essentially a dessert party in Cinderella’s Royal Table with reserved seating for the Boo to You Parade and HalloWishes fireworks. This costs $99 per person on top of the ~$60 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ticket. So, if you’ve been thinking that the Halloween party is just too darn cheap, this option is for you!

Seriously though, we have absolutely no intention of doing this party. The reserved viewing area is not a good spot for viewing the fireworks, as it’s too close to Cinderella Castle (for the best spots, check out our Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Locations Guide), and there are just too many other great things to do at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (it’s unlikely you can do all of the regular entertainment in a single night) to justify attending a dessert party, especially at the $99 price point. In fact, we wouldn’t do this dessert party even if it were “only” $25 per person. It’s just not worth taking the time from the regular awesome entertainment of the Halloween party to do this. Plus, the idea of another upcharge event within an upcharge event just makes us cringe.

Fortunately, the other “significant” new thing (besides some minor changes to the Boo To You Parade and a couple of different meet & greet characters) is the Club Villain dance party in Frontierland, and it offers guests the opportunity to ‘mingle’ with some villains without paying the upcharge price. Beyond that, it looks to be mostly the same entertainment as last year.

As for what you should do during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, here’s our guide, fully updated for the 2014 parties! (more…)

FREE Disney World Christmas Tour Tips

Want to enjoy the holidays at Walt Disney World without using a day on your precious Disney World park ticket? Then take the tour we are dubbing the “Self-Guided Walt Disney World Yuletide Tour” during the Christmas season. It’ll take you through the resorts that are best-decorated for Christmas, plus…it’s FREE!

Back when Sarah and I didn’t have Annual Passes and we instead purchased 10-day No-Expiration Tickets that we used sparingly across multiple trips, we took what the Self-Guided Yuletide Tour during the morning of the day we attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Not only did this prevent us from having to use valuable park tickets, but it also saved us money in not shelling out for the actual (expensive!) Yuletide Fantasy Tour or another official tour.

We had so much fun doing this that even since we’ve become Annual Passholders, we’ve kept up the tradition. Make sure you allow at least 3-5 hours for this tour, as you’ll need all of that time to fully explore all of the resorts!

For those interested in following our strategy and taking your own free self-guided Christmas tour of the resorts at Walt Disney World, here’s our plan: (more…)