Disney World 2014 Trip Planning Guide

The Wishes! fireworks at the Magic Kingdom are the perfect conclusion to a day at Walt Disney World! WDW Trip Planning Guide: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-world-trip-planning-guide/


Planning your 2014 trip to Walt Disney World can be intimidating, especially for first-time visitors. There are four theme parks, dozens of hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and a variety of additional entertainment activities and options that can really complicate planning. Plus, 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, 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, you’re in luck, as this guide will assist you. Think of it as Walt Disney World Trip Planning 101. 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, as many first-time visitors don’t realize Walt Disney World planning can be so complicated! (After all, 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!)

Even after 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 (the relevant stuff, at least…). 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. In addition to cut-and-dry facts, expect to read both critical and positive opinions on the aspects of Walt Disney World being discussed. If that’s not for you, there are plenty of other planning sites that offer only positive or only negative spins on Disney.

This page is designed as a jumping off point to give you some general background information on each aspect of your trip, with links to some of our posts that offer much more detailed information.

1. When to Visit

Walt Disney World ResortMagic KingdomChristmas on Main Street, USAHere's a photo looking up at the Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle during Christmas at Walt Disney World. Such a beautiful sight!For more photos and information about Christmas at Walt Disney World, check out my Walt Disney World Ultimate Christmas Guide


The first question arguably has the biggest impact on the trip. Walt Disney World can be a crowded place, and the time of year you visit can have a dramatic impact on crowd density and the wait times you encounter for attractions. If you have kids in school and aren’t willing to pull them from school, you’re looking at visiting during school breaks, which is when the parks are busiest due to the vast majority of Walt Disney World guests being in the same circumstances. The week (or so) long breaks are absolutely the worst in terms of crowds. Summer is a bad time to visit due to the combination of heavy crowds and hot, humid weather. If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning with Kids guide in addition to this post.

If you’re not traveling with kids or don’t mind pulling them from school, the first thing you want to do when planning is to eliminate any days when school is out of session. The early fall, December prior to Christmas vacation, and mid-January through early March are all good times to visit from the perspective of crowds. We have more thorough tips regarding when to visit on our When to Visit Walt Disney World page, which takes into account school schedules, crowds, weather, park hours, and special events. Check it out for more detailed information!

Of the considerations on that page, special events at Walt Disney World should be your next biggest factor when determining when to visit Walt Disney World. Visit our Walt Disney World Seasonal Events page to view the list of major events around which you might want to plan. Christmas, Halloween, Star Wars Weekends, Flower & Garden Festival, and Food & Wine Festival are the big five as far as these events are concerned. Click on each seasonal event for our guide to that event to see whether it’s enough of a draw for you to plan around. Our favorite, by far, is Christmas at  Walt Disney World. All four parks get decked out for Christmas, Cinderella Castle looks breathtaking with icicle lights, and there’s some seasonal entertainment.

2. How Long to Stay

How long you should stay at Walt Disney World depends largely upon the type of trip it is. If you’re not much of a Disney fan but are taking your kids on a “once in a lifetime” rite of passage trip, how long you should stay is dramatically different from how long a Disney fan who visits twice a year should stay for a Food & Wine Festival trip.

If you’re a frequent visitor, you probably know what length of a trip is right for you, so let’s assume you’re a first time visitor. For the first time visitor, we recommend a trip of 6 to 8 days. The exact length will still vary a bit depending upon how much vacation time you have and if you plan on visiting non-Disney theme parks or destinations.

Walt Disney World has four theme parks, each of which a first timer should spend at least one day experiencing. Arguably, Magic Kingdom and Epcot could each take two days, whereas Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom could each take a little less than a day each. If you park hop, which we recommend doing mainly to maximize your time in the parks since some parks open or close earlier than others, and want to experience most attractions, 5 days for the 4 theme parks is a good number. If you go at a whirlwind pace or cut things from the itinerary, you could do the parks in as few as 3 days; if you take your time and go at a slow pace, the sky is the limit on how many days it could take you.

Beyond the theme parks, there’s a lot to do at Walt Disney World. There’s Downtown Disney, golf, restaurants, water parks, and a lot of “other stuff” outside the theme parks. You will probably find at least another day of “other stuff” you want to do and/or will want to spend a day in the middle of your trip relaxing at your hotel. This gets you in the 6-8 day range.

3. Park Tickets

If you book a package, you may not have a ton of say over which park tickets you purchase. Assuming you have complete autonomy, we recommend purchasing tickets for for the full length of your stay or possibly one less day than your entire stay. Read our Tips for Buying Discount Walt Disney World Tickets post for everything you need to know about choosing the right tickets and saving money on them.

You’ll probably want to spend a couple of days outside the park, but it’s nice to have tickets that give you the option to visit parks every day of your trip. This gives you the option of spending part of the day relaxing at your hotel or visiting Downtown Disney, and spending part of it in the parks. It might seem like a waste of money, and it sort of is. But it gives you more freedom and isn’t that pricey. Single-day Walt Disney World tickets are quite pricey, but multi-day tickets are much cheaper per day. The incremental cost of additional days on a ticket is low, as this low cost is a “hook” Disney uses to get people to stay at Walt Disney World, rather than spending a couple of days in the Disney parks before wandering off to Universal, SeaWorld, etc. In fact, the price difference between a 3-day Walt Disney World ticket and a 10-day Walt Disney World ticket is less than the cost of a 1-day Walt Disney World ticket!

Unless you have small children who are can’t spend more than a few hours each day in the parks, we also recommend adding on the “Park Hopper” option to your tickets, which allows you to visit multiple parks in the same day. This allows you to make changes to your itinerary on the fly based on crowdedness, and also allows you to visit another park after the first one you’re visiting closes for the day (Disney’s Animal Kingdom often closes at 5 pm, and that same night Magic Kingdom might be open until midnight!). It also allows you to always end your night in the park with evening Extra Magic Hours.

There are also a number of ways you can save money on Walt Disney World park tickets. We highly recommend Undercover Tourist, which is a Disney-authorized discount ticket seller for multi-day tickets. Buying there allows you to book FastPass+ selections up to 60 days before your trip. Whatever you do, don’t wait to buy your tickets at the front gates of the parks (or on eBay…they won’t work!), because then you can’t book your FastPass+ attractions (see below) in advance!

4. Where to Stay

The threshold question here is “on-site or off-site?” This means, should you stay on Walt Disney World property in a Disney-owned hotel, or stay in a non-Disney owned hotel within driving distance of Walt Disney World. A lot of serious Disney fans think it’s an issue of staying in a nice, well-themed Disney hotel or slumming it in a $30/night crack den down on I-4, but this isn’t the case. There are a number of luxurious non-Disney hotels in Orlando, and there are Disney-owned hotels that aren’t exactly 5-star accommodations.

In general, you get more bang for your buck when staying in an off-site hotel, as there are a lot of non-Disney hotels competing with one another, and they can’t charge the premium Disney charges for its name recognition or location. Conversely, non-Disney hotels are typically farther away from the parks, and don’t provide the same immersive vacation experience that many people describe as being in the “Disney bubble.” We have a comprehensive Off-Site v. On-Site Walt Disney World Hotels article that you should read if you need help deciding which is for you.

We always stay on-site, even if that means paying more for accommodations that offer less than comparable off-site accommodations. There is truly something to be said for the “Disney bubble,” and it’s one of those things you shouldn’t dismiss until you’ve tried it, especially if the trip is for the sake of your kids. If you know you want to stay on-site, but are not sure which Walt Disney World hotel is right for you? Check out our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page, which offers quick-hit capsule reviews of the strengths and weaknesses of every Walt Disney World hotel, plus links to our reviews and photo pages for every hotel we have reviewed.

The three main tiers are Value, Moderate, and Deluxe, which are exactly what their names sound like they are. There’s also a Deluxe Villa tier, which is basically Disney-speak for “timeshare room.” We’ve compared and contrasted Value and Moderate Resorts, but have yet to do the same for Moderate and Deluxe Resorts. We also have ranked our favorite Moderate Resorts, our favorite Value Resorts, and our favorite Deluxe Villa Resorts. Our favorite Value Resort is Pop Century, our favorite Moderate is Port Orleans Riverside, and our favorite Deluxe Resorts are Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Boardwalk Inn.

However, if you’re only visiting Walt Disney World because you think it’s an important rite of passage for your kids, but you otherwise can’t tolerate more than 8 hours per day of Disney “magic,” you might stay off-site. For booking these hotels, use tools like Priceline and Hotwire.com to score substantial discounts. With both services, you can determine the quality of the accommodations in advance, and most of the time you can narrow down the location pretty well, too. You can travel frugally to Walt Disney World with the services in this article.

Throughout early 2014, Walt Disney World will continue to roll out its MyMagic+ program that includes FastPass+, Magic Bands, Memory Maker, and more for on-site guests. You can read more about each of these components in this MyMagic+ FAQ article. FastPass+ is now live in every park, and paper FastPasses are no more.

These things are all elements of a big trip management system that Disney is introducing. Thus far, this had been rolled out in “test” mode, with hit or miss results. Lots of adjustments have already been made as a result of this testing, and it’s unclear what additional adjustments will be made once it ends the test and is rolled out in “final” mode. The point of mentioning this here is that there is some speculation that Walt Disney World will begin to offer better benefits (more FastPass+ reservations, etc.) to guests staying on-site. Currently, this is not the case, but the possibility that it might become the case is something to consider when booking a room. We will update this post as more becomes known and changes with regard to MyMagic+.

5. Booking Airfare & Transportation

For finding cheap airfare, we recommend ITA Software by Google. You can’t book through ITA, but it’s the most robust airfare search engine out there. It gives you latitude in choosing multiple airports to see if nearby airports might offer better pricing, and allows you to check out a calendar of dates for travel, among other things.

Expedia is another option for a flight search engine, and many people prefer it because it still searches multiple airlines, but has a simpler interface and allows for immediate booking, as well as their “Best Price Guarantee.”

If you’re not booking a trip for set dates but are willing to travel whenever a deal pops up, another great option is Airfarewatchdog. You can signup for their deal alerts for trips between two cities. We opt for their daily email, which provides listings for the cheapest future airfare to numerous destinations departing out of our home airport. We use Airefarewatchdog a lot when planning last minute trips.

The other aspect of transportation you’ll want to figure out is rental cars. If you’re visiting other destinations outside of Walt Disney World or are staying at an off-site hotel, a rental car is pretty much a must. If you’re only doing Walt Disney World and are staying in an on-site hotel, Disney will provide complimentary transportation everywhere you need to go. Some people complain about the inefficiency of this transportation, but we really like it, and have assembled Walt Disney World transportation tips to help make it as efficient as possible for you. We always rely on Disney transportation rather than renting a car when visiting Walt Disney World, but rental cars do offer more freedom.

If booking a rental car for other trips, we typically find that the best prices are available via Hotwire.com and Costco, but we only rent cars a few times each year, so our experience is relatively limited.

6. Booking a Disney Package

Disney's Contemporary Resort and Magic Kingdom as viewed from Bay Lake Tower. Here's the view of the Fantasy in the Sky (New Year's Eve) fireworks from up there: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/fantasy-in-the-sky-disney-world-fireworks-photo/

The most popular direct-from-Disney vacation packages cover some combination of hotel, park tickets, and dining. Sometimes these packages offer excellent savings off rack rates, sometimes they’re merely full price elements of the trip bundled together. We have rated the various Walt Disney World discounts, many of which involve a package.

Most travel agents specializing in Disney are “no fee” agencies, meaning that it costs you no more to book through them than it does to book through Disney (they get their cut from Disney). If you are unsure of what package might be best for you–or need personalized help with any aspect of your trip–we highly recommend contacting an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (those are the magic words to look for) and having them help you.

Even though you can save a lot with these packages, you’re saving that off Walt Disney World’s somewhat inflated on-site pricing. We believe it’s worth it to pay a premium for the “Disney Difference” and location, but that may not matter as much to you. If your main criteria is to visit Walt Disney World inexpensively, you might want to look beyond the on-site packages Disney puts together.

An alternative that is worth considering to save more money is booking a package through Expedia or Travelocity. Expedia offers a number of discounted vacation packages, but to get the best discounts, you need to bundle multiple aspects of your trip together. If using Expedia, look at the “Book together and save” amount saved before booking.

7. Where to Eat

A lot of the posts on this blog detail dining at Walt Disney World, which is a surprisingly complex (and fun!) topic. The most important thing for first-timers to know is that the tired stereotype that Disney dining is all burgers, hot dogs, and other fast food is not even remotely true. Disney has a lot of wonderful dining options that can be an experience in themselves. Once you get past that stereotype, you open a world of possibilities for your meals at Walt Disney World.

To figure out where to eat, you should definitely check out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. Seriously–good dining can totally make a trip (and bad dining can break a trip), so if you only read more on one topic in this guide, make it dining. There’s a lot to cover, but it’s well worth it. We know a number of people who have had their opinions of Walt Disney World changed for the better simply because they “discovered” the right places to eat.

Once you start salivating over all of the places to eat, you need to consider whether you should add-on the 2014 Disney Dining Plan. From time to time, the Disney Dining Plan is included for “free” as a promotion in vacation packages, and this promotion is by far the most popular with Disney visitors. If free dining is being offered during your visit, give it some serious thought. Before you book Free Dining, take a look at our Best Walt Disney World Hotels for Free Dining post. If you do book the Disney Dining Plan, make sure to make Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs). Some popular restaurants fill up in advance, and without ADRs, you might not be able to utilize the Dining Plan to its fullest.

8. Which Rides & Attractions To Do?

Planning an itinerary is a big deal, even for some frequent Walt Disney World guests. Some people create binders, spreadsheets, and schedule every step of their day. People get serious and obsessive about this. As mentioned above, Walt Disney World can be a crowded place with some really long lines. Having an itinerary, even a loose one, is important for first-time visitors. Doing things inefficiently can mean a lot more time spent in lines or having to skip attractions completely if lines are too long. All you need to develop a basic itinerary are our attraction guides for each park. We highly recommend reading our Disney Ride Guides and getting a rough idea of which attractions you want to do, and where you want to book your FastPass+:

These are enough for a loose and helpful plan that will still allow for plenty of spontaneity. If you want to get really in-depth and map out your entire day in advance, we recommend TouringPlans.com for this. TouringPlans is a subscription-based website that offers a wait times app, step by step plans for visiting attractions, and a crowd calendar for picking the best days to visit. If you’re more “old school,” you might prefer a tangible book, like The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014, to plan your itinerary.

Regardless, the most important things to know are: 1) how to use FastPass+, which is a free ride-reservation system allowing you to “reserve” a slot in advance for three attractions per day to skip most of the line at select attractions and, 2) to arrive at the parks just before they open.

Arriving at the parks early is self-explanatory (with this you’ll also want to know which attractions have the longest wait times…there’s no use going early to avoid the crowds only to hit attractions that rarely have long waits), but FastPass+ can be confusing, which causes a lot of people to simply not use it. Since you can book your FastPass+ reservations 60 days before your trip (if you already have your tickets), we highly recommend buying your tickets before you get to Walt Disney World, so you don’t waste time at kiosks when you arrive–only to find out popular attractions like Toy Story Mania and Soarin’ are fully booked.

With all of the rest of the planning that you’re doing, we strongly recommend first-time visitors do not adopt our practice of “winging it” for your daily itinerary. You don’t need to plan every movement so that there’s no spontaneity in your trip, just make sure you have at least a loose plan of what you’re going to do.

9. What Else to Do

Your imagination is really the limit here. Most first-time visitors only know about the theme parks, Downtown Disney, and the water parks. That’s just the surface of what Walt Disney World has to offer. There are tours, golf, fishing, nightlife, shopping, fireworks cruises, babysitting, spas, and much more. An exhaustive list would ultimately be longer than the rest of this already long blog post!

Most of our favorite things are couples or adult-oriented, which you can read about on our Walt Disney World for Adults page. Honeymooners (aka “Disneymooners”) should read our Disney Honeymoon Tips article.

There are just as many (if not more) special experiences available for families. If you want to add on something in addition to the “normal” experiences, we recommend contacting an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (as mentioned above in the “Booking a Package” section) and seeing what they recommend. Or, you can post a question in the comments here and we’ll recommend something!

10. What to Bring

Once you have all the details set, the last thing you need to do before your trip is pack your bags! Packing for Walt Disney World is pretty comparable to packing for any trip you might take, but there are some things wrinkles to Walt Disney World that might make packing a bit different. Check out our Walt Disney World Packing List for tips on unique items to bring to improve your stay. In addition to those things, you might also want to bring some pins for Disney Pin Trading. Read this article to find out how to buy pins in advance for less than $1/pin (versus $10+/pin at Walt Disney World).

Since a Walt Disney World trip will be (for many of you) a memorable experience for your kids that you’ll want to cherish, getting good photos is also important. To read about the equipment I used to capture the photos on this page, read our Photography Gear Reviews page and our tips for good vacation photos. Alternatively, if you are contemplating letting Disney’s roaming photographers around the parks take photos for you, read our review of PhotoPass+.

Compared to the rest of the Walt Disney World trip planning you’ll want to do, packing is a cinch!

Once you’ve got the hard planning out of the way, check out our 101 Great Walt Disney World Tips article for some fun tips that’ll improve your trip!

For updates on Walt Disney World, the latest news, and tips, sign up for our free monthly newsletter!

Your Thoughts…

If you are a Walt Disney World veteran, what tips would you add to this? Which would you emphasize, and with which do you disagree? If you’re a first-timer, is there anything else you’d like to know? Chances are if you have questions still, so does someone else! Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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132 Responses to “Disney World 2014 Trip Planning Guide”

  1. Criswell3000 says:

    A couple of tips for parents who are bringing babies ( I know, everyone thinks we are crazy). I recomend bringing a lightweight portable stroller like a Combi, where you can fold it up and sling it over your shoulder when you are boarding the trams and busses. There is a lot of walking in between transportation and entry to the gates, not to mention walking around resorts. We always travel by car, so I’m not sure how that would shake out with the airlines, but that is my family’s top recomendation. You can rent a stroller, and that is what I would recomend if you have older kids, say ages 3-6, who normally walk everywhere but a WDW trip would wear them out. Carrying around babies, however, will wear YOU out, and is worth the expense of a good lightweight travel stroller.

    • Criswell3000 says:

      I guess that was only one tip, so the other one would be to get your babies first haircut on mainstreet at the barber shop so they can get the certificate and the mouse ears that say “First Haircut”! We are planning a trip in October around that for our newest addition.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Excellent tips! Comments like this offering more specific suggestions complement the over-arching stuff of the post very well!

      • mrsbailey717 says:

        Do they still do the first hair cut deal? We are planning a trip in June and it would be awesome for our youngest!

    • Patrick says:

      Our girls are 5 and 6, not exactly stroller age, but when we go in June you can bet we’ll be renting a stroller. Kingdom Strollers was great to us on our last visit. They had a HUGE stroller for rent which fit our kids great. The downside is that yes, you will be the guy on the bus blocking half the aisle. On the other hand you will have kids that are more rested and better prepared to enjoy their stay. Personally the hundred bucks to rent that thing was an extreme value vs carrying our kids miles every day. It keeps the kids and parents from having a tantrum from the heat and exhaustion that can come with a Disney vacation.

    • Kevin says:

      Airlines will gate-check a stroller for free, so it is a good option for those flying as well. We’ve taken our “normal” stroller and it works just fine on the Disney busses. It’s defenitely worth having; we did over 10 miles every day except one of our last vacation. that’s a lot of miles for little legs.

    • Jo says:

      Our family is going on our first trip to Disney this May. We are traveling with a 5 year old and a 1 year old. Instead of flying with car seats and strollers we are renting them from Babys R Us travel. We rented a booster car seat for the 5 year old and a car seat for the 1 year old and a double stroller all for $118 for the 7 days we will be there. Babys R Us is delivering everything to the airport car rental so we can have it when we land in Orlando.

    • Christina says:

      You could also rent a stroller from Orlando Strollers. That’s what we did this past time and I loved it! I didn’t have to worry about ours and it freed up space in the car. They have singles, doubles, and a couple of different styles. It works but may not be for everyone.

    • Stephanie B says:

      My husband and I took our son to Florida right before his 3rd birthday (since he was still free…another money saver) and the stroller was a lifesaver. We flew and they allow you to gate check the stroller and car seat for free on most airlines. Very convenient and money saving.

    • Zilmita says:

      Great tip. Another tip that I can give you (if u have the money for it) is to buy a stroller at Disney. I believe they range from $15.00′s & up. We went a few years a go with my nephew that was about 4 then & we bought a stroller at Epcot for $15.00′s. My brother & his wife still have it & use it for their younger kids.

  2. Tonya says:

    My husband works for AAA. They have travel agents that specialize in Disney. She made our ADRs. Disney pays the travel agents commission. Since we booked thru AAA, we received a one year subscription to Touring Plans . We went in January for the half marathon. I found Touring Plan’s crowd counter very helpful & accurate.

  3. Kevin says:

    That is a nice succinct summary. I remember that there was a lot to learn the first time we visited. Now it is an “easy” vacation for us because we know the ropes.

    I agree with your comments on staying “in the bubble”. Also, even though Disney’s transportation system gets maligned at times, they really do move millions of people efficiently. And there is something to be said for the simplicity of wanting to go to the Magic Kingdom and leaving your hotel room and getting on a bus that says “Magic Kingdom”.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      There are few things I enjoy more than the early morning stroll from Boardwalk to Epcot’s International Gateway entrance. That, alone, is worth a fair amount to me…but to a “normal” person? Probably not nearly as much.

  4. Marybeth says:

    Are handicapped tickets discounted? Due to some serious foot surgery, I have to rent something electric to use.

    • Linda says:

      randy’s mobility off site rental rents scooters that come apart to put in trunk of car. Disney rental for scooter is $70 to75 a day randys is $30 day minimum rental is 2 days. this really saves us a bunch as both of us are disabled.

  5. artie says:

    we have visited every year since my now 23 year old son was 18 months old. When he was a toddler, we stayed at the Monorail hotels knowing we’d be back for naps etc. I always brought a collapsible stroller that we would gate check at the airport, it always worked well for us.
    I strongly suggest staying on property and establish an itinerary. We continue to do this by using lunch and dinner reservations as our guide. They can always be changed but nothing is worse than wasting time deciding where to go each day

  6. Ewan says:

    I notice “Point 5 – Where to Stay” doesnt really touch on the vast off-site resort rental community market. There are so many villa rental resorts within 2-5 miles of the main WDW complex there is a whole world of advice for holidaymakers in this space such as where to stay and how to get the best deal. So many holidaymakers stay off-site in the same set of resorts every year for their trip to Disney without ever staying on-site.

    Thanks,
    Ewan

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think the on-site v. off-site distinction covers all types of off-site accommodations.

      • Ewan says:

        Thanks for response Tom. i was more thinking about the off-site residential resort market. Many frequent Disney visitors never stay on-site or off-site in any Disney owned accomodation or hotels. They always book villas, condos, townhouses in the various resort communities within a few miles of Disney. Its the best way to get value for money on a trip to Disney and worth some tips/guidance on your site as its such a large market.

        Thanks,
        Ewan

  7. Wendy says:

    What a GREAT post! I read here often, but I have to say this is one of the best articles I’ve seen on here. Covers all the important need-to-know info with links to more in-depth looks. I’ll definitely be saving a link to this one to send out to anyone looking to book a trip.

    Thanks Tom!

  8. Linda Jones says:

    This is one of the best lists I’ve seen, Tom. I especially appreciate your comments regarding park tickets and airfare. Those are always the most complicated part of our own vacation planning, so I’ll definitely be referring back to these on our next trip!

    Linda

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yeah, airfare especially can be difficult since the prices fluctuate so much. You don’t want to wait too long, as there’s always the concern prices might skyrocket! It’s all about knowing trends and having alerts when prices hit their (likely) lows.

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Tom, great Disney tips. My husband is taking me to Disney World for my 60th birthday in September 2013. Living in California for many years we have loved visiting Disneyland, however our dream vacation has always been Disney World and Epcot. I can’t believe we are finally going. Yeah…. What would be a good central hotel for older adults who want to have fun. And should we include the meal planning.

      • LoisAlene says:

        We loved Port Orleans Riverside and the French Quarter looked really nice too. You can catch the boat to Downtown Disney from these 2 resorts, a very nice plus for a moderate!
        Make advanced reservations for dinner or you won’t have nearly as much fun. We like to make one sit-down reservation a day and then counter service for the rest -and don’t forget to check out restaurants at various resorts. Our fave is Ohana’s at the Polynesian.

  9. Meghan says:

    This is our first trip with our two children who will be 8 and 5. I am not trying to make our dinner reservations and have to decide now which parks to visit as we are not getting Hopper Passes. Now, are the parks with Magic Hours extra busy? With kids, the extra hours may not be necessary as this is a long day at one park already without adding to this. Would you suggest avoiding those parks on magic hour days?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I would recommend avoiding the parks with evening Extra Magic Hours if you aren’t going to stay that late. Morning Extra Magic Hours don’t have as much of an impact on crowds.

      • Sarah says:

        that is reall solid advice, to actually avoid the parks that have the evening magic hours if you have little ones to avoid the crowds. Thanks!

      • Lauren V says:

        Hi,
        can you find out in advance what parks have the extra magic opening hours? Would make planning my itinerary much easier!

      • Hilary says:

        The hours for the different parks as well as Extra Magic Hours are usually posted 180 days in advance on the Disney World website

  10. magie says:

    hi, my first time to vacation on disney, need help 3 adults 1 child under 13 planing trip on labor day weeken 6 days coming from puerto rico. help with the best deal. thanks

  11. Poop says:

    Did you know that if you go to Disney world with a friend you can poop on their faces?

  12. Kg says:

    I love this site!

  13. Tina says:

    First I just want to say I love your blogs and your photography helps feed my “Disneyaholicism” until my next visit, so thank you! My comment is regarding the where to stay conundrum. I have a large family, when I say large I actually mean to say LARGE! My husband and I have 6 children and 6 grandchildren, so if we all get to go together that is 14 people and the only way that is economically feasible is to rent one of the hundreds, if not thousands of vacation rental homes in the area. I am pleased to say that I have never had any real problems when doing this and the homes have been clean and what was expected from the web sites. Last year only 9 of us could make the trip but I still rented a house with 4 bedrooms and 3 baths for $700 for the full week. I would have spent that in 2 nights at an on-site hotel, so for those families out there who think they could never afford to take the whole family, it is doable with a little research.

    • Chas says:

      Wow, can you give me a name/number so i can try and rent out a house for $700 for a whole week?

      • Mickey says:

        check out http://www.vrbo.com for weekly rentals. We have rented homes on this site on several occasions for different vacations; Myrtle Beach, Honolulu and Disney parks. It has always worked well for us and we have been very happy with the homes we have rented.

  14. Lacey says:

    Hi Jenna!!

    My family will be planning a trip to Disney for next fall. I noticed your an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and would love to get in contact with you about planning a trip. Could you please email me your website and contact info?

    Thank You
    Lacey

  15. Carolina says:

    I’m planning my first WDW vacation with my kids(7yrs-4yrs & 11mths)for 5 day. could you give us some tip with tickets & help me with the best deal?
    Thx

  16. Brenda says:

    Love this post! Great info, I am planning my third visit to WDW with now three kids ( 7, 3, 9 month) for 5 days.we did waste a lot of money the second time, due to we did not get the time to read n find info how to plan our vacation.Could you please give us some tips with tickets, place to stay, things to do out of parks.thanks

  17. kelly says:

    I’ve checked out the touring plans on the unofficial guides site. How important is a touring plan if you are going to have a GAC that provides for an alternate entrance to the attractions since Disney’s Mom’s panel says that you don’t need fastpass with this type of GAC?

  18. Shelley says:

    We will be in the Disney area June 1-June 6. We will likely be back next year as we now have a condo there. We were thinking of a two day pass only. Two full days may be all we can handle. Or would you suggest a 3 day hopper pass? Also, we have not made reservations for dinner in Epcott. Is it too late??

  19. Dawn says:

    Love this article. Being the Disney fanatic that I am, I always have our whole trip planned out before we go. Of course bad weather, or a cranky person could change the plans for the day, but for the most part we stick to it. I start out with a spreadsheet, and go to the Disneyworld website and list all the hours to the parks for the duration of our stay. Then we figure out where we are going for the day depending on which parks open early or stay open late, to maximize our time in the parks. Then I make our dining reservations depending on where we will be. I keep track of all the confirmation numbers so there is no confusion about where we are eating, and I print out menus from the AllEars website, so my picky eaters know what the restaurant has to offer before we get there. Of course we have our favorites that we visit every trip! We usually plan our trip around the free dining offer, and last year I kept all the receipts for our meals and snacks and we saved over $2000 on an 8 day trip for the four of us! I keep all my info in a Disney folder so everything is in one place. I know I am OCD about it, but it comes in handy to be prepared ahead of time, instead of trying to wing it, especially for first time visitors.

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  21. kristy says:

    Where is the best (cheapest) place to buy park hopper tickets.

  22. Kerry W says:

    We just got back from Disney World, and thanks to this and some of your other posts, we had the best trip yet! We really worked hard to pay attention to the details, and the amazing theming of Disney, to take a lot of unique pictures (and I worked to get into the pictures more!). We saw the Goodnight Kiss for the first time! And we had some fabulous meals and snacks (unfortunately Cosmic Ray’s will have to wait for the next trip! 😊) Thanks so much for all your tips and ideas! It really made our trip unforgettable!

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  24. Greysen Vickery says:

    Hi. I’m planning a trip with three of my friends, aged 19-21, and I was wondering when a good time to go is. We’re all in school, so I was thinking sometime in late August early September. Any suggestions?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Mid-September through mid-November is a great time to go. Check out this article for more: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/when-to-visit-disney-world/

      • Kev says:

        This is great advice and ‘the best time to go’ section is well deserved at the head of the article.
        It’s got to be the biggest factor in affecting costs and park crowds.
        Depending how you look at things, the UK government has really tightened up on taking kids out of school during term, which really affects a lot of Brits from 2013/14 onwards.

        Beautiful Photography by the way!

  25. Missy says:

    We will be there Dec 31-Jan 5. One of the busiest times of the year. I have read about VIP tours. It seems pricey for my family of 5. (2,5 and 8 yr old). I found a cheaper tour guide not thru Disney. Do you know if it would be worth the money and be able to avoid waiting in long lines?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I can’t speak to whether it would be worth money since that’s a personal thing, but they only way the guide will be able to help you avoid waiting in long lines is by helping you hit attractions in an efficient order. You can find the same information out yourself online without paying any guide.

  26. linda says:

    My sister has military access, but just found out she won’t be able to make it.
    In one of your blogs I thought you mentioned your father purchased tickets thru the military for your family, and you were able to use them without him?
    Do you know what type of tickets he purchased. The ones I have see state the party in the military has to be with you for the first time use.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      He purchased the tickets on-site at Walt Disney World and was with us for the first use (not sure whether he needed to be, but he was). On some days, we went to the parks without him, though. This was a while ago–the policy might’ve changed since.

    • Keather says:

      The person who bought the tickets does have to be there when you first check in with your tickets. The military tix purchased on base have to be switched out for “real” Disney tickets and my sister had to be there with her ID. In addition, Disney limits it to 6 tix per military personnel. OUr group had more than 6 and thankfully her husband was military as well or I’m not sure what would have happened with the other 3 tix.

  27. Erica says:

    Have you used or know about buying Disney park tickets through expedia.com? They are having a great deal right now, but have never purchased anything like this through them (I’ve only booked flights). Thanks!!

  28. Kazz says:

    We want to visit Disney world Christmas Day is this a good day to go and what happens Christmas Day we are holidaying from Australia. Any info would be greatly appreciated thank you .

  29. michael says:

    Tom – thank you so much for all your efforts and information!
    If not too much trouble, may I pick your brain (get feedback/thoughts) re our upcoming trip to Disney:

    Details:

    Family: 2 adults + 6 kids (ages 16-4)…will be 1st disney trip for 5/6 kids.

    Dates: Sun, Dec 1 (arrive early afternoon) – Fri, Dec 6 (leave early AM)

    Hotel: Lake Buena Vista Resort (3-brm, 2-bath suite) – $140/night…any better suggestion(s) at same or better price?

    Possible itinerary:
    Sun, Dec 1 – Epcot
    Mon, Dec 2 – Magic Kingdom
    Tue, Dec 3 – Hollywood Studios
    Wed, Dec 4 – Islands of Adventure
    Thu, Dec 5 – Sea World

    Quote from undercovertourist:
    3-day MYW = $2,164.10
    1-day IoA = $745.60
    1-day SW = $423.60
    TOTAL = $3,333.30

    Any suggestions/recommendations/changes/advice?

    Thanks again for all your help!

    All the best,
    Michael

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Since you’re talking about price with regard to the room, my only suggestion would be concerning SeaWorld and Islands of Adventure. Instead of doing SeaWorld, I’d do two days at Universal Orlando, doing both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, to cut down on the costs of tickets a bit. That is, unless you REALLY want to do SeaWorld.

      I’d also do DHS on the partial day. The big draw there during the holidays is the Osborne Lights (at night), there’s more to do over the course of a full day in Epcot.

      Let me know if you have other questions. Looks like it’ll be a fun trip!

      • michael says:

        Thanks for the quick response and input!

        We think the kids would really enjoy SW since there is nothing like it on our side of the world.

        Also, we’ve heard that DHS and USF are similar ie one was created to compete with the other…based on our kids ages (16, 13, 11, 8, 7, 4) do you have an opinion which (park) might be more appropriate?

      • Tom Bricker says:

        During the holidays, you can’t go wrong with DHS.

        What about doing Disney’s Animal Kingdom instead of SeaWorld? Not trying to convince you not to do SeaWorld, just thinking of the monetary side of things…adding another WDW onto the trip would be cheaper than buying a 1-day SeaWorld ticket.

  30. alexanne says:

    Hi Tom! Let me just start by saying THANK YOU for your website, it has been really helpful to help me plan my next Disney trip. It’s going to be my 4th visit (but the first where I really plan) and my boyfriend’s first. No kids.

    My question is regarding the fact that you don’t recommend going to a park that has extra magic hours on the evening… We are going from April 29th to May 9th and on WDWprepschool.com it is listed as a time of low attendance… With that being said, do you still think we should avoid extra magic hours on the evenings or since there won’t be a lot of people we could benfit from the extra time? I’m just trying to decide which park to go each day in order to make my ADRs… I just read almost all your reviews and now I don’t want to miss the ones I picked ;)Right now… I’m really excited for Ohana and Sanaa…

    Again, thanks for your help!
    Alexanne

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Where do we have that advice on the site? Please let me know, as that is DEFINITELY not our advice–I just must have something worded poorly somewhere.

      We always go to the park with evening EMH. We’re night owls and love being in the parks as late as possible.

      • alexanne says:

        I went on a lot of sites recently, so maybe I’m the lost one here… I am also French so if I read something when I am tired I might have misinterpreted it… Anyways, I’m glad you confirm we should benefit from the extra magic hours!

        If you have any advice on how to make a not-so-into-Disney boyfriend to love his first trip (he thinks it’s just for kids… I don’t want to feel like I forced him to go haha…)… all will be appreciated :)

      • Keather says:

        It was in one of your repsonses to a comment.
        April 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm

        “I would recommend avoiding the parks with evening Extra Magic Hours if you aren’t going to stay that late. Morning Extra Magic Hours don’t have as much of an impact on crowds.”

  31. BROOKE says:

    My family is also planning a few days at Disney World and wanted to see if you could help us plan a trip on time crunch. If so please contact me.

  32. hi,

    We are a family of four ( self, dear wife, son( 13) and son(9).We are planning a family vacation to the following places arriving on 21st Dec nihgt and planning to leave back for home on 29th Dec morning. Driving all the way from NJ to Orlando and back:

    1. Disneys Epcot, Animal kingdom, Hollywood studios ( 3 day , a day each without Park Hopper)
    2. Universal ( both theme parks — 2 days , a day each at each park)
    3. Kennedy Space Center — a day trip.
    4. LegoLand — a day trip.

    Do you recommend any other additional things to do for the 2 kids. They are keen on Harry Potter world in Universal, Hollywood studios in Disney , Legoland and Kennedy space center visit.

    thanks.

  33. Beth says:

    My family is visiting WDW for the first time March 11-17. Our days and hotel (offsite) were “picked” for us by my daughter’s cheer gym as we are competing at the UCA Nationals at Disney. Part of my daughter’s fees include a 3-day hopper pass (additional days can be added for a fee); what do you recommend as far as tickets/packages for the rest of my family: myself, husband, and 12 yr old son?

    I am completely lost as to what to do!

  34. Kam says:

    Hi there! I am going with my boyfriend christmas day 2013. I’m wondering if our best bet would be to go later in the afternoon/ night time? Or is this getting risky as the park will be closed due to capacity? I just think youngsters will be tired out by the late afternoon/evening and the park will be winding down? Correct me if I’m wrong! lol :)

  35. Jennifer says:

    Question. not sure if this question is already here, there are so many comments, but we will be traveling with a food allergic child. have you come across any guides for traveling with kids with food allergies? are you allowed to bring food in to the park? and what about traveling with his medicine (EPI pen) we need to be sure this is not a problem. thanks

    • Kendra says:

      Hi Jennifer:

      Not sure when you were planning to go or what allergies you’re dealing with but we went to WDW in Jan 2013 with peanut/tree nut allergic child. No guides per se – a couple facebook pages (Aller-Mouse, AllergyFreeMouse.com) but yes, we brought food in, and happily, didn’t even need it. Disney was GREAT with accommodating our FA child – at the resort, at Akershus princess banquet, at counter service and table service, Be Our Guest even has completely nut-free desserts so she had her choice of any offered for a very nice change! We brought multiple epipens – have them hand-checked at airport security & bring the boxes with the script stickers, but other than that, just keep in a cooler if it’s going to be very hot. No problems having epis at the parks. Hope this helps.

  36. Amanda says:

    My question is about tickets and free dining. If I use Undercover Tourist would I still be elgible for free dining if it was offered during my stay? When I called to book just a room Disney employee told me that if I added food plan later that they had to cancel my room and rebook with meals (that it had to w ordered together). Do you know anything about this?

  37. Melissa Shepard says:

    Great tips all the way around! In June we will be taking our third trip to Disney World. I have bought the Unofficial Guide book and also have purchased the touringplans subscription. I am a bit surprised to find the crowd calendar shows the least crowded parks to be those with extra magic hours. Every other website I read says STAY AWAY FROM extra magic hours, because everyone will be flocking to those parks. What is touringplans method to suggesting the least crowded parks for our time of arrival will be those with extra magic hours?

  38. Z. Beckstead says:

    I finally talked my husband into taking our family to Disney World in 2014. My kids are now 16 & 13. His biggest complaint of course is the cost. So thank you for all your tips and I will continue reading as I need to make this as cheap as possible but the best memories ever. Can’t wait.

  39. I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog! You are amazingly informative. We are taking our very first vacation in April with our 4 children, ages 13, 9, 7 and 4..three princesses and a lil’ pirate. We couldn’t be more excited! I am at the itinerary planning phase of our vacation now and quite literally pulling my hair out over it. There is so much to see and do and so many choices to be made that it just leaves the head spinning! SO—thank you for putting together a source of information that simplifies the process just a bit. I am sure I will have covered every corner of your site by the time I am done.
    Julie
    Buffalo, New York

  40. Lori says:

    Heading to DisneyWorld for the first time in the next few months. My kids are ages: 19, 17 and 15 ( 2 boys and a girl ). Is Magic Kingdom and animal kingdom too young for this age group?
    Any recommendations for this age group would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Tom Bricker says:

      It depends on the attitudes of the kids. It sounds like they might like Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot more, but I really can’t say for sure without knowing them. Have a great trip! :)

  41. gilbert chin says:

    iould like a travel guide please and thank you gilbert chin so here is my mailing address its gilbert chin at @ 3528n.e.12st ave portland,oregon 97220 please and thank you gilbert.

  42. tracey says:

    I am hoping to go after september this year so excited reading your blog its fab, can you possibly tell me what the weather will be like around september to november please, was cheaper in november for us, just dont want it to be to cold xx

  43. katie says:

    I was wondering if you have any updated info on the MyMagic+ bracelets. I’m traveling to Disney in April and would like to know where to get the bracelets. we are not staying in the “bubble” but will be staying at the Hilton which seems to have many of the same perks (EMH, free shuttle, etc.)as the Disney resorts. Do we pick them up at the parks when we get tickets or will our hotel provide them?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Unless something changes between now and April, you won’t be eligible to use the MagicBands when staying off-site at the Hilton. That may change over time, but I wouldn’t expect it to change my April.

      You’ll still be able to book FastPass+, though! Just download the My Disney Experience app and connect your tickets once you have them. (A good reason to buy tickets in advance!)

  44. Teresa says:

    My husband and I are planning of taking our kids and grandkids to Disney World for a vacation. We want to stay on site. The remarks I have read have been very helpful as to renting a car and such so I appreciate all the tips. Our daughters will be helping to plan the trip so it won’t be all left up to me. but my questions is which place will be the best for us on site? we will have 5 adults and 3 kids with the oldest at 8. We are planning our trip in 2015.
    thank you for the help.

  45. Renee says:

    Columbus Day Weekend question.
    We (me, my husband, and 5 yr old daughter) are staying at a Disney resort from Oct 6 through October 15, 2014. We have the 9 day park hopper and water park option, plus we are doing a day at Sea World. Our rough plans are as follows:
    3 days Magic Kingdom
    2 days Epcot
    1 day Hollywood Studio
    1 day Animal Kingdom
    1 day Sea World
    2 ‘open’ days – (for example waterpark, golf, resort pool, back to a Disney park, etc)
    Oct 11 – 13 is Columbus day weekend. I am wondering which are the better options on those days in regards to what to do; I plan to have 1 of those days be a pool day at the resort. I am also trying to determine what the best day at Sea World would be. Any advice on the least crowded options to do on this weekend?

  46. Jackie Foisy says:

    Going with a large group of family the first week of April! Feeling panic about Fastpass+! We purchased park tickets through Travelocity. This gives us a voucher to be redeemed at will call. Seems there is no refund! Will we be out of luck for any Fastpasses? Advice??

  47. Allison says:

    I love this blog… I didn’t see anything about Disney transportation included with the “Disney Bubble” (if it’s there, sorry!). One of my family’s favorite reasons for staying on site is the fact that beyond driving to the airport and checking our luggage, (I have no clue how you are able to not check luggage Tom, even after reading that post) we don’t have to drive, or touch luggage until we arrive back at home. It’s great being able to walk down and catch the bus from Orlando International (MCO) directly to our resort and having the luggage delivered to the room and then just using buses or the monorail to get around Disney. Don’t forget that if you stay off site you have to pay for parking…..

  48. I really enjoy your blog..I have a trip planned for May to Disney. I’m really hoping it’s not to hot. Last time we went it was 95 degrees in the shade. My tip for today – visit the parks after dark ! The later night sessions give you the ability to go on more rides and less lines. http://www.disneyad.com

  49. Kathy Butcher says:

    We are planning to spend about 7 days in Florida at a family member’s place so we can have some time at the beaches and other things. Took the older children to WDW when they were 3,5,7 and they give me a hard time cuz they can’t remember it! Imagine that! Now the older girls want to go. We are also bringing an older child and he is 22 but expressed that it is so expensive for one day that we saw for $95/person. And he says not much for older kids to do there. Is that true? Can we get a package deal to make it cheaper for a family of 9? Dad,Mom,4)children ages from 17 to 22 yrs 2 boys & 2 girls,1) 14 yr boy, 1) 13 yr girl. Thanks! Kathy

  50. There is lots of confusion for first time visitors; they can’t schedule their trip as a professional traveler. Crowd is also a big problem for first time visitors; I think all first time visitors should take a great hotel for a better comfort and memorable trip.

  51. JanelleLee says:

    We’re only doing 2 or 3 full days in Disney. What are the most age appropriate destinations for a 1, 4 and 8 year old?

    • Stockholm@Miami says:

      I would do 2 days at Magic Kingdom (arriving super early and leaving fairly early) and one day at EPCOT (arriving later and staying until night. AK and HS I would leave to next time. Magic Kingdom is so big and with so small children you will need to full days (you will still not manage to do everything).

  52. Brandy Smith says:

    My husband and I want to take our 5 year old son and I don’t have a problem with taking him out of school if needed. What is the best time to go? I would love to avoid mid summer and would like it if the water parks were still opened. However that’s not a deal breaker on the water parks. If you could pick anytime of the year to go with a 5 year old when would you choose? Also struggling with if we should pay extra for the disney experience of staying there. My in laws live in The Villages Fl and we could stay there and cut cost but that’s a bit of a drive. My son is super excited about all of it but especially The new Lego land. Any reviews on that? From what I’ve found doesn’t look that great. I’d rather have an extra day at Disney. I’m also going back and fourth on inviting a friend or cousin of his to come with. More than likely that cost would be all on me. I’m just worried he want enjoy it as much without another kid. Even though I’m a kid at heart. :)

    Thanks for you advice

    • Stockholm@Miami says:

      If your 5 y/o likes Lego he WILL love Legoland. It’s an amazing park and especially made for 5-12 y/o. Of course its not as big as Disney but my son (8) has it tied at #1 together with Magic Kingdom. However it is a “one day park” and its far from everything else.

      For me best time for the parks is May. You dont have the cold from Jan/Feb, Spring Break crowds in March, even bigger South American Easter crowds in April. I would not do June/July with small children, too hot, too much lines. May is quite empty and good hotel prices.

      We always travel on a (super) budget. Two strollers with huge storage bins for ice cold drinks, snacks, sandwiches, change of clothes for water rides etc. Hotels we always book via Priceline. We already decoded some properties. A wonderful 5 star resort 30 min from Disney always goes for $90-$110. Last time we wanted a kitchen since we stayed longer than usual so we got a 3.5 star condo (2 bedroom + full kitchen) for $56 last week (spring break week!) only 10 minutes from Disney. I’m not sure I’m allowed to discuss this here so email me if you have questions.

      For us with all strollers, kids, packing etc car is a must so we dont care if we need to travel 15-30 minutes to get to the parks.

      Hope this helps.

  53. Zak says:

    Been checking out your blog here & there. Last year when I went to disney, used my RCI timeshare for only $250 for 8 nights. I was going to be staying for free at the Waldorf, however I had to cancel b/c of the new Fastpass+ making it completely worthless to stay anywhere off-site. I’m pretty skeptical about my upcoming trip b/c I had to book an on-site stay just to be able to use the in-advance option for reserving my fastpass+. I’m a hustler, but I’m not about to wait 30-60 mins in a line as soon as I get to the park to set-up my fastpass+. I used to be the runner taking 5 tickets to each fastpass kiosk and setting up the magical days. Until they allow for everyone to program their fastpass+ in advance I don’t think you anyone should consider staying off-site regardless of the cost difference.

    • Stockholm@Miami says:

      As of tomorrow, April 1 2014, you CAN book FastPass+ 30 days in advance even if staying at a non-Disney resort. You just need your Disney ticket number (should be given to you when you order your tickets with Disney online). Then link your ticket at their website (google ‘my Disney experience’). You can even buy the RFID MagicBand bracelets for $13 (free for Disney resort and Annual Pass holders). WARNING!!! As of tomorrow pretty much everyone can order FastPass+ 30 days in advance. This means noobs will be in for a HUGE disappointment when they come the same day wanting to book a popular ride, at least in high season. I was there whole last week and had to make 2 same day changes – in both cases all the good rides were unavailable. I’m in this very moment looking for all the next 30 days for the meet&greet with Elsa and ehhh (the Frozen princes, whatever she is called). UNAVAILABLE for the next month! This means that Disney Resort guests (the only ones who can book more than 30+ days in advance) have taken all bookings.

  54. Hilary says:

    I am looking for a special experience. We are traveling in September and it is going to be me, my husband, our 4-year-old daughter (2nd trip) and my 20-year-old godson. We have all been to Disney before but were wondering about some ideas of other things to do on Disney property that may be fun for all of us.

  55. Patricia says:

    I been reading tons of these. We are going to disney the first week of June for first time. There will be 8 of us total and we are staying off disney grounds. My sister, her daughters (7 & 1), my other 4 yr niece, my husband, our two kids (5yr boy 2 yr girl), and myself. I keep running into the same problems while I am trying to plan. Everyone’s post all basically tell you how everything works when you stay on disney property. This was spur of the moment thing. Saw a cheap hotel and husband has leave time then since he is military we got the 4 day hopper pass $165 each. So we went for it. We will be driving and have our own vehicle. I’ve spoken with hotel and they offer shuttle too. I am just kind of lost and I keep reading and get way overwhelmed (not normal for me because I always have everything planned). Everything is so big and when I try to talk to friends(rich ones) who have gone all they tell me is I should’ve stayed at a resort on disney. I even checked books out at library but I am still lost. We leave in 7 1/2 weeks and I don’t know even the basics. Please anyone help! Can even email me! I apologize in advance it’s a really old email from when I was like 16 but only one everyone has. [email protected]

    • cassy says:

      the best thing to do when staying outside the park is to plan ahead where you want to go each day. You can look up what times each park opens and closes to get an idea of which ones you should head to early in the morning and what you can go to after a park that closes earlier. If you sign up for the my disney experience app or use it online you can make a rough plan of where you want to go. You can also make dinning reservations on here if you plan on sitting down at a restaurant. You can also make ride reservations with the fastpass+ on here 30 days before your trip. If you want to dine for less there are a bunch of good articles on this site that point out places to each that are cheap and places that give a ton of food you can split it. You can also star the places you like on the app which will help you to remember them when you are at the parks.

  56. Jason Yunker says:

    What a terrific guide! As a person who has been to Disney many times I can say that this is a great guide for newbies and someone who has been before. I very much agree with the fact that you should give at least 1 day per park or more if its your first time but also the last few years my family and I have been slowing down and doing one park a day. We used to always park hop but we have been slowing down and it has been much more enjoyable. I think the 9th thing you can always change every year is where and what you eat. There are so many dining options and I love to try new restaurants or at least a new dish every year. However I do have my favorites that I like to go to each year too lol. Anyways your guide says it all just about.

    Thanks again for this article. I can’t wait to read some more articles from your site! Have a magical day :)

  57. Gina T says:

    What is going in in WDW the October 4-12? I called today and nearly every restaurant/event is booked! Even the Disney worker placing the reservations was shocked. Is there a special offer for that week that I don’t know about? Not So Scary Halloween dates have still not been released and yet reservations are gone:/ I know the food and wine festival is going on during that time but it’s usually not this booked so far in advance. Just curious if I am clueless about a holiday, anniversary or convention of some sort?

  58. Paul Mathewson says:

    Hello, I am interested in using your wife as an “authorized disney” personell to help me plan a trip to disney. It would be my families first time down there so I will need help, We will be driving from Indiana, airfare is too expensive, could you email me at the email that I gave so we can connect and start planning? We are planning an August disney vacation.

    Thank you for all your help!!
    Paul

  59. theresa p says:

    I am so grateful that you have this blog…I sent an email to your wife in regards to some idea’s for my husband and myself when we visit Disney world. This is our first time since 1980 so I am getting very nervous. We are going july 1-8 of 2014 and staying at Buena vista palace. I have already made our dinner reservations and have our tickets. Any other tips or ideas you could share with me. This is our first vacation alone in 17 years. A lot has happened in the past year and we need to have fun and relaxation!!! We need some laughter in our lives right now!!! Thank you in advance for any help. I haven’t heard from your wife…I am sure she is just as busy as you…thank you again for all of the tips and help!!!

  60. Mbover says:

    We are going in late sept for 9 days. We have five day park hopper passes and we are trying to figure out what to do with the extra days. My young teen boys want to see alligators and manitee in the wild. Is there any thing close to wdw that is worth going to(besides sea world)? Also, what beach would you recommend for a family? We usually go to California, this is our first time to florida and we are hoping for the clearer water!
    Thanks!

  61. Shaun Fischer says:

    Just came back from Disney World with my wife of 24 years and our 2 children. We were there from 5/2-5/8 and we stayed at the POP Century Resort. We live in North Dakota and flew down to Florida. Best vacation of our lives. I cant say enough good things about Pop Century Resort. They really made you feel like you were on vacation! We are back home now but I am obsessed with Disney World now! I cant wait until next year to do it all over again. The only thing I would change is our meal plan. We had the plan where you had 1 table service,1 quick service and 1 snack. I would switch it to 2 quick service meals and 1 snack. We had way more food than we could ever possibly eat in a day.

  62. Stacy says:

    Thanks for creating this site and for the insightful tips!

  63. Amina says:

    We are a family of 5, two adults and three children (7yr,4yr, and 9 months) staying off-site. Planning on braving Orlando from june 9th for 2 weeks. We are traveling from over seas and are very nervous about the weather at this time of the year. Also, if we have secured a reservation at cinderella’s palace do we need to make further “princess” based reservations?? Secondly, is the disney dining plan only applicable to those living on a disney property? Thank you, your information has been immensely helpful.

    • Kayleigh says:

      Amina-
      We are going in November (family of 4, 1 prince and 1 princess:) We booked the Bibbidi bobbidi boutique for them. They doll up the princess from hair, nails, glitter an if you want the dress and all. We got the works for our daughter as its a once in a lifetime thing according to the reviews. Well worth the money I hear. Hope that helps, good luck hope you can get a reservation.

  64. Gerri says:

    First time blogger. This website is great. We are Disney veterans, having visited over 20 times in 25 years. We are heading down for 3 nights in early December; and I understand from your website that this is one of the “free dining” periods. We are staying at the PO-FQ which I understand isn’t one of the free dining resorts, but I would be willing to change to Coronado Springs if I could get free dining. Here are my questions: Where would I find the free dining information for my dates? Also, if I don’t do the free dining, do you still recommend I make advanced dinner reservations? Thank you!

  65. Brian_87! says:

    This post has added several layers to my already blossoming curiosity and excitement :)
    We all planning to visit Disney World this year and this is for the very first time. Between, Thanks for the post, I am sure this information will help us with clarity. Loved it!

  66. Robyn Page says:

    I know theone special offer for resorts just ended and the free dining plan is good for travel dates starting in July but do you know if they will be having anymore special offers coming out soon? We are looking to book ASAP and normally plan and book months in advance. This is just abnormal for us. We don’t qualify for the military but offers. Thanks

    • Robyn Page says:

      I meant to say the free dining plan was for travel dates in August not July. We are looking to travel the week of July 13th.

  67. Woody Family says:

    Hi! We are going to visit family near Orlando in July, and are trying to plan to do a 1-2 day escape to WDW! I realize this is not near enough time to do very much, but wanted to see what your recommendations are. We have an 8 yr old son and 3 yr old and 1 yr old daughters. I’m wondering where is the best place to be for the 4th of July shows/fireworks. We also will need to do something princess/Minnie related for the girls and something a little more “big boy-ish” for my son. Any and all advice is much appreciated!! Thank you for putting this site together! Great info!!!

  68. Kay says:

    My husband and I are planning a trip to Walt Disney September 2014 with the free dining plan (Quick Service) for 2 people. We are staying at Pop Century for 7 nights. I have a 5 day pass w/park hopper, no water parks. Together we will have 28 Quick Service Meals, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, 14 snacks, 2 refillable cups to use at the resort for drinks. This trip is costing us for 2 adults $1,600.62. For about $250 Disney will upgrade me to a dining plan. I have done both Quick Service and sit down dining plans. I enjoyed the sit down service, but was surprised how many times I didn’t have to eat a hamburger or hot dog on the Quick Service. This left us with more spending money, free time and no tips to pay! LOL! For 2015 we have planned a 14 night camping trip at Fort Wilderness (with our camper) and the cost for just camping will cost us 1,1787.67. We have planned at this time to take 4 adults 2 children over 2. I am allowed up to ten and even a tent! I am planning on my tickets w/park hopper and water parks being about $2,500.OO. So this trip not counting food for 4 adults and 2 children over 3 will cost us for 14 nights $4,287.67. At this time they have a special to buy 6 tickets and save one day but we decided since the tickets can’t be transferred we would skip the deal. I don’t plan on buying the dining plan because there’s not many places to use it at the fort and we will have food in the camper! So even with a couple of character meals reserved for the children I think it will be cheaper to not buy the dining plan. Last year 2013 we went to AOA in the car suites, and for 4 adults, 2 children(1 under 3) For 9 nights and cost with tickets/park hopper/water parks was $4,504.28. My husband kept up with the food cost ( I’m not sure what we spent)but he said even with the character meals we reserved (breakfast Chef mickeys, Breakfast at Animal kingdom, Crystal Palace for lunch) it was cheaper than buying the dining plan or Quick Service. But we had sandwiches, cereal, snacks, drinks in our fridge in the suite. I think we all enjoyed eating a few meals in our suite. We also ate a few times outside Disney at Applebees, Outback, etc..It was nice to get away from Disney food! LOL! The best deal I feel like we ever got was when we were mailed a code number from disney, for free dining. We were staying at Pop already and had 2 character meals reserved. We recieved free dining, and for just $200 they did an upgrade for 4 adults(1 child under 3), for the sit down dining plan. We could not have done all we did for $200.OO, plus tips. The cheapest I ever went to Disney was camping for a week at Fort Wilderness and splitting the cost with another family. You are allowed 10 people. We ate alot of meals at the camper, sandwhiches, hamburgers, hotdogs, grilled steaks, fixed spaghetti, etc. It can b done! LOL!

    • Jan says:

      You did a great job showing many ways to get the most for your money. We have been going to WDW every year since 1996 and sometimes twice a year. You explained how to be able to do it on a budget. So many people complain about how expensive it is, but when I do anything touristy in the Chicago area I always think this isn’t any cheaper than Disney…and of course it is not magical! I love our zoos but recently I ate a hot dog and it was as expensive as at Casey’s in MK, but smaller and not nearly as good! Thank you for writing such an informative piece. We never camp, but know large families who love camping at Disney!

  69. David says:

    All child have to dream that they gone in disney world,but some child not make it true and the children are very happy to go the trip at disney world.

  70. Casey says:

    I have been reading all the comments and seeing that people call disney after they book their package to see about getting a upgrade. I was wondering what number you call and what do you ask them for? It seems pushy to just ask for an upgrade outright . This is going to be our second trip but our first time staying on disney. Any answers would be wonderful. Thanks ahead of time!

  71. Sal says:

    If you are bringing kids to disney in hot weather i recommend camelpacks. You fill them up in the morning and it lasts almost all day.

  72. Thanks for finally writing about > Disney World 2014 Trip Planning Guide
    - Disney Tourist Blog < Liked it!

  73. Goone says:

    no comment! Just want to subscribe to your newsletter!

  74. Leea says:

    Anyone know the cost of a taxi for 6 from all star movies to the Polynesian? We have ADR at 7:30 and monorails are not running that early.

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