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Top Disney Guide Books

disney world trip planner book

One tool to use when planning your Walt Disney World vacation is a Disney guide book. There are many to choose from, but we have selected our top Disney Guide Books to help you get started.

disney world trip planner book

Walt Disney World Hacks Maximize the magic of the happiest place on earth with these 350+ tips on everything from improving your travel experience to getting the most out of each theme park to make your trip to Walt Disney World your best vacation ever!

disney world trip planner book

Unofficial Vacation Guide to Walt Disney World 2024 This Unofficial Vacation Guide to Walt Disney World 2024 is your essential guide to planning and having the perfect vacation at the Most Magical Place on Earth.

disney world trip planner book

Walt Disney World Resort Free Quote

Start planning your Walt Disney World Resort Vacation with The Magic For Less Travel . Use the form below to request a free no-obligation quote, and one of their counselors will get in touch with you to begin planning. The Mouse For Less recommends the Walt Disney World vacation planning services provided by our sponsor, The Magic For Less Travel. Their expert planning advice will help you make the most of your vacation time and money. The Magic For Less Travel is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and provides service free of charge.

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disney world trip planner book

  • Crowd Calendar
  • Disney Springs
  • Transportation

disney world trip planner book

  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Early Theme Park Entry
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Extended Evening Hours
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Front-of-Line Services: Genie+, Individual Lightning Lane
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Character Greetings
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Rider Switch for Small Children
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Special Needs Guests (DAS)
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Live Entertainment & Show Schedules
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Refurbishment Schedule
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Lines Mobile App
  • Attractions, Parades, & Fireworks
  • Height Requirements
  • Touring Plans
  • Attractions & Fireworks
  • Cheapest Disney Tickets
  • Park Reservations

disney world trip planner book

  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Basics
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Build-Your-Own Plans

Magic Kingdom

Disney's hollywood studios, disney's animal kingdom.

  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Ratings for All WDW Restaurants
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Overview
  • Magic Kingdom Restaurants
  • EPCOT Restaurants
  • Hollywood Studios Restaurants
  • Animal Kingdom Restaurants
  • Disney Springs Restaurants
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Resort Hotel Restaurants
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Reservations
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Tipping (Gratuities)
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Menu Search
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Disney Dining Plan
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Benefits
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Room Finder
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Compare Hotels
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House)
  • Disney's Beach Club Resort
  • Disney's BoardWalk Inn
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort
  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney's Yacht Club Resort
  • The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter
  • Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside
  • Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney's All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney's Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort
  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Jambo House
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village
  • Disney's Beach Club Villas
  • Disney's BoardWalk Villas
  • Disney's Old Key West Resort
  • Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • Disney's Riviera Resort
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Treehouse Villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort
  • The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort

disney world trip planner book

  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Early Park Admission
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Tickets
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Front-of-Line Service: Universal Express Pass
  • Halloween Horror Nights
  • Rock the Universe
  • Gradventure
  • Special Needs
  • Kids and Babies

disney world trip planner book

  • Universal Studios Florida
  • Universal's Islands of Adventure
  • Universal Studios Florida Restaurants
  • Islands of Adventure Restaurants
  • Volcano Bay Restaurants
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> CityWalk Restaurants
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Resort Hotels Restaurants
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Hotel Basics
  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort
  • Universal Helios Grand Hotel
  • Universal Stella Nova Resort
  • Universal Terra Luna Resort
  • Universal's Aventura Hotel
  • Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort
  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
  • Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites
  • Universal's Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites
  • Downtown Disney

disney world trip planner book

  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Early Entry
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="block text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Rider Switch
  • Lunar New Year
  • Food & Wine Festival
  • Disneyland Park
  • Disney California Adventure Park
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Dining Reservation Finder
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Ratings for All DLR Restaurants
  • Disneyland Restaurants
  • California Adventure Restaurants
  • Downtown Disney Restaurants
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Disneyland Hotel
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
  • sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo mouseover->sidemenu#activeChildLayerTwo" class="text-black text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-start gap-2 pt-[20px] leading-18"> The Villas at Disneyland Hotel
  • sidemenu#activeChild" class="text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-between pt-3 md:pt-14 leading-30"> Planning Your Cruise
  • sidemenu#activeChild" class="text-base font-eucliarSemiBold flex items-center justify-between pt-3 md:pt-14 leading-30"> Tips for During Your Cruise

Disney Cruise Line Icon

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is a daunting task, even for repeat visitors. But TouringPlans can simplify with our step-by-step guides and easy-to-use tools, saving you time and money all along the way.

Our Crowd Calendar shows when the Walt Disney World parks will have the lowest wait times.

disney world trip planner book

With hotels ranging in price, theme, and location, there are a lot of options. Let us help you decide whether it’s worth staying on-site or off-site with in-depth overviews and photos of every on-site hotel, plus other ways to save money on your stay.

disney world trip planner book

With four theme parks and two water parks, there’s so much to do! Want detailed reviews of every ride, show, and attraction? Want to know the best times to visit each attraction, whether an attraction is right for your child, handicap accessibility features, and ratings? Our 70,000 reviews include comments from other families, so you can get a wide range of opinions on every experience.

disney world trip planner book

Pick how many days you want to spend in the theme parks, and we can help you find the best deals. Disney’s Park Hopper ticket option lets you move from one park to another on the same day, so add that if you'd like to explore one park in the morning and a different one in the afternoon or evening.

disney world trip planner book

Guests with date-specific tickets do not need to make park reservations. If you're using an Annual Pass or some other non-date-specific admission, you’ll need a My Disney Experience (Disney World's official website and app) account and valid theme park admission linked to that account in order to make your park reservations for any dates that are not "good-to-go" days.

We have complete menus, reviews, photos, and pricing for every restaurant! 60 days before your trip, make reservations for any table service restaurants on your list. If you have trouble getting the times you want, use our Reservation Finder to get alerts when slots open.

disney world trip planner book

Walt Disney World Restaurants

disney world trip planner book

Dining Reservation Finder

disney world trip planner book

Disney's resort transportation was so amazing we will probably never stay off-site again.

October 18, 2020

I think Disney may have won me over - the experience was wonderful. The hotel was quiet, the pool was uncrowded, and the Mickey beignets were as good as promised.

I think Disney may have won me over - the experience was wonderful. The hotel was quiet, the pool was uncrowded, and the Mickey beignets were as good as...

September 22, 2019

I was so pleased with the Touring Plans that were generated on your website. I customized them for our family and used the Optimize feature and the plans sent us right every time! It felt magical!

I was so pleased with the Touring Plans that were generated on your website. I customized them for our family and used the Optimize feature and the plans...

July 22, 2019

disney world trip planner book

Follow our Touring Plans (or create your own computer-optimized plan with our Personalized Touring Plan tool) to help you plan the best times to experience the attractions. Download our Lines app to your phone to help you build plans that let you experience everything the parks have to offer while spending the least amount of time waiting in lines.

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We’re sure that you’ll save time and money and have a better Disney vacation with TouringPlans.com. If you don't, at your request we'll provide a full refund within 45 days of purchase.*

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5 ways using an authorized Disney vacation planner will improve your trip

Tarah Chieffi

It's not uncommon to begin planning a Walt Disney World Resort vacation a year or more before you actually step into the Magic Kingdom and lay your eyes on Cinderella Castle. It can be a whirlwind of ticket purchases, hotel bookings, dining reservations and itinerary planning that can be overwhelming even for frequent Disney World-goers.

Luckily, there are magical genies who will plan your vacation for you ... and you don't have to make the daring journey to the Cave of Wonders or even spend one extra penny to find them.

Related: Everything you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World Resort

Authorized Disney vacation planners are only an email or a phone call away, and they will help you plan the Disney trip of your dreams at no cost to you.

Yes, this is real, and no, there's no catch. This works because Disney vacation planners make their money off commissions they receive from Disney when you book a trip through them. Their vacation prices are not inflated, and as we'll discuss, they can often help you find the best available rates.

Here are the top five reasons you should use an authorized Disney vacation planner to book your next trip to Disney World.

disney world trip planner book

They do all the work

Booking a Disney hotel and buying theme park tickets may seem easy enough, but a complex array of options and add-ons can make it daunting to do anything from picking the best Disney World hotel for your trip to choosing the best Disney World restaurants for your family.

"The goal of a travel agent specializing in Disney destinations is to take the guesswork out of your vacation and make it as stress-free and seamless as possible," Mary Helen Law , a Disney travel agent with Mouse Counselors, told TPG. "We will take the details you give us and use them to curate a trip specifically designed for the needs and preferences of your family."

FOR NO-COST ASSISTANCE WITH PLANNING AND BOOKING YOUR NEXT DISNEY VACATION, CHECK OUT TPG'S DISNEY BOOKING PARTNER, MOUSE COUNSELORS .

Popular add-ons like behind-the-scenes tours and character meals book up well in advance. If you have your heart set on brunch with Mickey and Minnie, you sometimes have to be faster than Dash from "The Incredibles" to secure your spot.

Unless, of course, you use an authorized Disney vacation planner.

"Certain add-on experiences like a princess makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or a behind-the-scenes tour of Magic Kingdom open at midnight or 6 a.m. Eastern time, so having someone else handle the booking can be advantageous," Law shared. "Many agents will also take care of scheduling airport transfers and crib and stroller rentals," she added.

Related: These are the best credit cards for Disney

disney world trip planner book

For the best possible experience, there are a few important pieces of information you should provide for your vacation planner.

"We'll obviously need your dates and the names and ages of everyone in your travel party, but there are other details that can help us build the best vacation for you," Law said. "If you aren't familiar with the details of Disney World hotels, for example, you can help us find the right one by telling us what you are looking for in a hotel. Do you want proximity to a certain park or the best pool for kids? Are you on a budget, or do you want to splurge?"

Knowing the answers to these questions before you begin working with your planner can help them guide you in the right direction.

disney world trip planner book

They actively search for discounts

It's no secret that "Disney World" and "budget vacation" aren't exactly synonymous, but there are ways to save money on a visit to Walt Disney World .

Disney periodically offers discounted tickets and hotel sales that can help you save hundreds on your vacation.

Availability for these discounts is limited, though, and you sometimes have to stalk Disney's website so you don't miss out when a new offer is released. However, a good Disney vacation planner, whose literal job is booking Disney trips, will be up bright and early to ensure you get one of the discounted rooms or packages when they are released.

Related: Are the Disney Visa credit cards worth it?

They also monitor your reservation for price drops, and if something lowers for your dates, they can wave their magic wand and modify your existing reservation to take advantage of the lower price.

disney world trip planner book

They can plan your itinerary

If you're paying a large sum of money for a vacation, the last thing you want to do is wait in long lines, miss out on activities because you're in the wrong place at the wrong time or spend time doing things you don't want to do. If you want to maximize your time at Disney, you need a wealth of knowledge to know what to do and when to do it.

You can research and learn much of it yourself. However, if you're a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime Disney visitor, researching crowd calendars and in-depth planning guides may not be the best use of your time.

Related: Disney World making changes to simplify visits and bringing back a fan-favorite perk

Without a doubt, having your vacation planner lay out a daily itinerary for your specific dates is a valuable asset. You need to find out before you book how detailed your vacation planner will be if that is a service you are interested in. However, this is where your agent's time may come at a bit of a cost to you.

"Most agents do offer help with itinerary planning, but some charge a fee for this service and some don't offer it at all," Law said. "It's important to speak to your agent before booking to ensure you are on the same page with the expected level of hands-on service."

disney world trip planner book

You can be as involved as you want

If you're a Type A personality and want to be involved in every step along the way, you can work hand in hand with your vacation planner to make sure you're comfortable with the itinerary and cost of your trip.

If you're hands-off and want someone to handle all of the details and tell you where to go and when, you can also do that.

disney world trip planner book

"In addition to booking your vacation, travel agents can assist with navigating the Disney app, linking your resort reservation, and explaining the Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane systems," Law said.

It's also possible for your Disney vacation planner to make your dining reservations at the exact time they open up to you before your trip. The experience you have with your agent is entirely up to you, but if Genie+ and Lightning Lane are foreign terms to you, your Disney vacation planner can be there to guide you.

It's free

Other than a cup of ice water and the celebratory buttons available at each park, there's not much that's truly free at Disney World.

However, the booking services an agent provides come at no cost to you. Disney pays authorized Disney vacation planners commissions from the sales of hotel rooms, tickets, dining packages and more.

They can book anything you see online or find the lower prices you may not have found yourself. So while your trip to Disney probably won't be inexpensive, the added benefit of having an agent doesn't add to the cost.

Some agents may charge an additional fee for specific add-on services, but most Disney vacation planners offer the majority of their services free of charge to travelers booking a Disney trip.

Do know that they make their money off commissions from Disney. This means if you book the bulk of your hotel expenses yourself elsewhere, it may not make sense to work with a vacation planner on that trip unless you do find one who charges a la carte fees for planning services.

disney world trip planner book

Bottom line

These planners can typically book trips not only to Disney World but also to Disneyland , aboard Disney Cruise Line ships , with Adventures by Disney and to Disney's Aulani Resort in Hawaii.

To that end, TPG has partnered with Mouse Counselors, an authorized Disney vacation planner , to provide our readers with the chance to use an agent at a company we've had good experiences with at no additional cost. If devoting a chunk of time to planning a Disney trip doesn't make sense for you, give an authorized Disney vacation planner a try.

After all, they are the magic-making experts.

Ziggy Knows Disney

Home » Walt Disney World » Planning and Tips

2024 Disney World Planning Guide | How to Plan a Disney Vacation

By Author Ziggy Oskwarek

Posted on Last updated: January 13, 2024

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Planning a trip to Walt Disney World in 2024 or 2025? We know it’s stressful, but don’t worry, our Disney World Vacation Guide will give you everything you need to know to get ready for your upcoming trip!

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse Partners Statue in front of Cinderella Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Whether you are looking for information about the Disney World Parks, hotels, dining, transportation, the best rides, how to save money, or how to avoid the crowds, we have you covered in this guide. Think of it as Disney World Vacation Planning 101.

This guide is especially great for beginners who have never been to Disney World or go rarely, but we also pack in a lot of good tips for regular guests too.

While we do have some of the most important tips & info on this page, we don’t have ALL the answers directly written out here. This guide organizes some of the best Disney planning content into categories giving you an overview of what you are looking for and then links to more in-depth guides on each subject.

In this post we will specifically cover:

  • How to Plan a Disney World Vacation
  • What You Need to Know BEFORE Going
  • When to Visit Disney World in 2024
  • Important Disney Vocab
  • Where to Stay
  • Buying Tickets
  • Rides & Attractions
  • Dining & Restaurants
  • Disney Planning Timeline, & more…

How to Plan a Disney World Vacation

Since this guide covers a lot of the planning steps of your whole trip in general, if you are looking for specific info on the Disney World Parks , then check out the following links:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom

Unfortunately, Disney World is one of the most complicated vacation destinations in the world. We know planning a Disney World vacation has become one of the most frustrating exercises and you’d just like to be there already having fun. Hopefully, we can help you do that as painlessly as possible.

We’ve been going to Walt Disney World multiple times per year since the early 1980s when we were babies, and we continue to spend way too much time there today trying all the new food, rides, events, and hotels. To say we are huge Disney fans would be an understatement.

The byproduct of countless hours spent visiting Disney World means that we have some valuable tips that we are eager to share with you. We aren’t going to lie, it will take some work on your end. But in the long run, it will be invaluable for your trip. Let’s get right into it…

Table of Contents

Changes in 2024 and 2025

Going to Walt Disney World in 2024 or 2025 is a MUCH different experience than it was just a couple years ago, and different again from even last year.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Lobby

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last few years, you know that the parks closed down in 2020, and when they reopened Disney installed many new procedures to let guests back to the parks.

Thankfully, for the most part, the Disney theme parks have gotten back to normal again, and the restrictions Disney put in have gone away one by one. The Walt Disney World vacation experience should be “close to normal” once again.

For example, Fireworks are back with nighttime spectaculars happening in the parks nightly.

Many stage shows like Festival of the Lion King, Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage, and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular are back. There are still some missing, but the lineup of entertainment is heads and shoulders above where it was not too long ago. Not to mention, the overwhelming majority of attractions and restaurants have also returned.

Japan EPCOT fireworks

If it’s been a few years, there are a ton of new attractions you have to experience, EPCOT in particular has gone through a pretty big transformation and the construction walls are almost all down now. There are still a lot of additions Disney would like to finish at some point during 2024, including what’s left of the massive EPCOT overhaul project .

There are also new hotel projects on the way including the new DVC tower at Disney’s Polynesian Resort and the Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort .

This should be a great time to visit, but if you are worried about the changes, you may want to wait until the end of the year.

That’s what to expect this year, now let’s get into some of the Disney vacation planning basics.

How to Plan a Disney Vacation

Planning a trip to Disney World

Believe it or not, some of the most important planning steps of your Disney World trip happen as much as one year BEFORE your vacation starts, or even more.

Some things you are going to have to think about are:

  • What dates do I want to go? Are those dates flexible?
  • What is my budget?
  • What type of hotel do I want to stay in?
  • How many days do I want to go to the theme parks?

The most important suggestion we can give you is to get organized. The more work you do before your trip to plan everything out, the easier things will be for you and your family once you get there.

Can You Go to Disney World Without Planning?

As always in life, what you CAN do and what you SHOULD do are two entirely different things, and that is also true in this case.

Yes, it is physically possible to go to Disney World without planning your trip, but I would highly recommend against such an action. Organizing everything months ahead of time is a lot of work and a big pain, but it is vital if you want to have a successful trip.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom

Your choice of hotel will be severely limited if you don’t book it well in advance. You won’t be able to get dining reservations at the best restaurants in Disney World. You won’t know which attractions to reserve with Genie+. Right now, you can’t even get into the parks without a prior reservation.

If you are looking to go to a destination where you can just “wing it” and not have to make any plans ahead of time, we recommend choosing another destination besides Disney World.

How Do I Start Planning a Trip to Disney World?

STEP 1: Write down notes. There are going to be a lot of details, prices, and dates to remember so get a dedicated notebook for your upcoming trip. If you prefer, you can take notes on your phone or computer, but make sure you have a way of jotting down notes in a convenient place where you will be able to find them.

STEP 2: Set a Budget. Make no mistake about it, a trip to Walt Disney World is expensive and costs can add up very quickly. So before you start choosing how many days you want to stay, your hotel, and ticket types, make a budget. It will be much easier to organize your vacation if you already have an idea of how much you are willing to spend.

STEP 3: Get familiar with Disney World. Even if you are not ready to book your vacation yet, start reading up on Disney World and familiarize yourself with all the locations, attractions, restaurants, and special events. A website like this is one way to do that, but also look through the official Walt Disney World website and download the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device.

STEP 4: Choose your Dates. These don’t have to be written in stone, but we recommend at least having some idea of when you would like to plan your trip for. Later in this guide, we will show you how to decide on those dates.

Once you get these four things done, you are ready to start planning the details.

When Should I Start Planning My Disney Trip?

Tree of Life Animal Kingdom

When is the best time to start planning a Disney World vacation? We recommend to start planning as soon as possible , but at least one year before you plan to go.

The sooner you start planning your Disney vacation, the better. In fact, once you finish reading this guide, you should start writing ideas down for your trip.

As you will see in our vacation planning timeline, some of the first steps can be completed as many as 499 days before your vacation starts.

We believe the sooner you start the process of organizing your trip, the better. Starting now will give you a leg up on other guests when it comes to getting reservations for dining, hotel rooms, the parks, and any special events you want to attend+. I will also make you aware of discounts to save money on your trip.

What Do I Need to Know Before Going to Disney World?

Here are 9 main things to know about Disney World before going:

  • There are 4 Theme Parks in Disney World: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom
  • There are 2 Water Parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
  • 31 Resort Hotels to stay in.
  • There are countless Outdoor Activities to do such as swimming, fishing, golf, boating, and more.
  • WDW has 5 golf courses and 2 mini-golf courses .
  • Disney Springs is the nighttime entertainment hub with dozens of first-class restaurants and shops
  • You can catch a Dinner Show at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue or dine at one of the many character meals .
  • It is a self-contained city with its own fire department, water treatment, waste disposal, and power generation.
  • Disney World is HUGE at 25,000 acres. That means travel time can be long between two places.

How Many Days do you Need for Disney World?

How to plan a Disney Vacation

There is really no wrong answer to how many days you need for a trip to Walt Disney World, and it depends on many factors, including if this is your first trip or not.

  • The ideal Disney World vacation is 7 days long . That allows for 2 travel days (arrival and departure), and 5 open days to visit the parks and have fun.
  • The bare minimum we recommend for first-timers is 5 days , ideally with an early arrival and late departure.

In fact, most Disney World vacations are between 4 to 7 days long. That gives you enough time to visit all the theme parks at least once, and have extra time for staying at the resort and swimming or shopping.

If you want to visit any other Orlando-based attractions like Universal Studios, for example, you can still do that in 6-7 days total.

It’s possible to visit Walt Disney World in only 3 or 4 days, but you will feel very rushed. You can make the highlights of each park, but you won’t really have time to do all the rides, see all the shows and take in the details.

Disney Trip Planning Guide

One thing to keep in mind is the longer your trip, the less you pay per day for your park tickets. So in a way, it’s advantageous to stay longer than only 5 days.

If you have the time and money , we recommend doing a 9 or 10-night stay and really taking the time to soak it all in. That gives you enough time to visit all 4 parks multiple times, and have days off to relax.

How Much Does a Trip to Disney World Cost?

Disney World Vacation Planning Guide

Let’s get to the bottom line…how much does a Disney World vacation really cost?

Everyone has different budgets, so the cost is going to depend on how many days you go, how many people are in your group, and how you like to vacation.

The major costs to consider for a Disney World vacation are:

  • Park Tickets
  • Souvenirs/Shopping

We’ve made our estimated costs based on a family of 4 on a 5-Night vacation to Walt Disney World in the Summer, with 4 days of theme park passes.

For a family of 4, a Walt Disney World vacation in 2024 costs: $5,895.26 , $7,378.61 , or $10,757.96 . These prices include the above expenses and are broken down our price estimates into 3 categories: Budget , Moderate , and Expensive .

  • For a family of 2 adults , the prices change to: $3,667.10, $4,684.80, and $7,323.00 .
  • For a family of 3, the prices change to: $4,689.19, $5,861.19, and $8,768.94 .
  • For a family of 5, the prices change to: $8,862.35, $10,005.00, and $12,203.90 .

Of course, there are many more factors to take into consideration, especially the time of year you visit. We calculated these prices based on a Summer vacation, but they can change by hundreds of dollars in either direction, so keep that in mind.

Read our post on the Average Cost to go to Disney World for more details and how to save money on your trip.

Should I Use a Disney Travel Agent?

2 bedroom suite Wilderness Lodge

One option you might want to consider is using an authorized Disney Vacation Planner when planning your trip. Even though there is a ton of great information on the internet to read, sometimes it’s just too much and you prefer having someone take care of the work for you.

The nice thing is most Disney travel agents don’t cost any extra money to work with. That means you can have someone personalize your trip for you and make the tough reservations, all for free. In fact, most of the time, using an agent will actually SAVE you money since they know when the discounts come out.

Using an authorized Disney vacation planner, your trip will be much better organized, less stressful, and save you money.

If you like the hands-off approach to trip planning, we highly recommend Rene Cittadino and her amazing team from Show You the World Travel. We’ve worked with Rene and her team of experts many times before and she is our Disney Travel Planner of choice.

  • Contact René at Show You the World Travel for all your trip planning needs, including a FREE quote.

List Your Priorities

There is way too much to do at Walt Disney World, no matter how long your trip is. That means you need to make a priority list of must-dos.

  • Is there a restaurant you absolutely must go to? Write it into the schedule.
  • What are the attractions you have to do at each park?
  • Which shows do you want to see?
  • Which characters?

When we are planning a trip to Disney World, we put all the must-dos in one column and then find a place for them in the program. We also have a secondary list of things we’d like to do if time allows, and we fill in the cracks with those.

When to Visit in 2024 or 2025?

Above all things, deciding when to visit Disney World is the most important decision you have to make when planning your trip.

Factors such as crowds, price, weather, and special events should all be taken into consideration when choosing your dates. Unfortunately for some, it’s not always up to us to decide. If you have children in school, you might be forced to only choose dates during the holidays or summer break, and those can be the worst times to visit.

Let’s look at some of the factors, meanwhile, our post on The Best Times to Visit Disney World goes into more depth.

When to visit Disney World

The crowds are probably our most important factor in deciding when to go to Disney World. Trust us, there is nothing worst than going to Disney World when the parks are their busiest.

Crowds at Disney World tend to follow the school calendar, which means holidays and the Summer are when they are at peak levels. If you can avoid going during those times you will be better off, but sometimes this is not possible, especially if you have to take your kids out of school.

Read our 2024 Disney World Crowd Calendar post to see which months are the busiest and least busy.

Whether in Orlando, Florida can be brutal for a good part of the year with scorching temperatures and unbearable humidity. Even though it’s known for sunshine, Disney World also gets tons of rain during some months.

The best weather for the parks tends to be from November to March when the climate is mild and there are few rainy days. You also need to know when there are Hurricanes at Walt Disney World and how to avoid them.

What is the Cheapest Time to Go to Disney World?

EPCOT Spaceship Earth lighting package

Going to Disney World is expensive, so planning a vacation for cheap can be a huge help to many guests. So what is the cheapest time to go?

Disney World offers the best rates and the biggest discounts during the off-season when kids are at school. Prices are the highest during the summer and during holidays. Things like ticket prices, airfare, and hotel rooms are all more expensive during those times.

If saving money is important to you, try booking your trip in January, February, or September.

Read our post on the Cheapest times to go to Disney World for more info and tips for guests on a budget.

Special Events

Disney World Special Events

Disney can throw quite the party, and many people come to Disney World specifically for the yearly special events put on. Depending on your needs, you might want to come during one of the events or avoid them altogether.

Here are some of the biggest special events to make note of in 2024:

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 3-7, 2024)
  • EPCOT International Festival of the Arts (January 12- February 19, 2024)
  • EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival (February 28 – Early July, 2024)
  • EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival (Mid-July – Mid-November, 2024)
  • Walt Disney World 100th Year Celebration (Most of 2024)
  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (Select nights from Mid-August – October 31, 2024)
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (Select nights November and December 2024)
  • EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays (Late November – December 30th, 2024)

Park Pass Reservations

Right now in 2024, Park Pass Reservations are no longer required for most ticket types (there are some exceptions for Annual Passholders and other special tickets) , and for the most part you no longer have to worry about park capacity.

If your ticket type does require Park Pass Reservations, make sure there are open dates for the parks you want before booking your trip, then once you buy your tickets, make your park pass reservations so you are sure to get in.

However, the good news is that park reservations are no longer required for the majority of ticket holders starting January 9, 2024.

We explain it all in our post on how to make Disney Park Pass reservations .

New Attractions

If you love attractions, then you might want to plan your trip around some of the new rides that are opening up. This is especially true if you’ve been to Disney World many times before and want to hold out until something else is new.

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Concept Art Xandar Gallery

Here are the biggest new attractions opening in 2024:

  • Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
  • Test Track 3.0
  • New Country Bear Jamboree Show
  • (Opened on April 4th in Magic Kingdom)

We have been spoiled with a lot of new attractions over the past few years.

EPCOT has been a big focus of recent additions with our favorite being Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind which opened on May 27, 2022, and it has immediately become the most popular ride in EPCOT and a must-do on your visit.

Other new EPCOT attractions include Moana: Journey of Water , Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure , Space 220 Restaurant , and the new Luminous The Symphony of US Fireworks Show .

The TRON: Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster similarly has been a smashing success at Magic Kingdom when it opened on April 2nd of 2023.

Those are just a taste of what’s coming next. Read our guide on New Rides Coming to Disney World which will help you decide when to plan your trip.

Disney World coming attractions

What Month is the Best to Go to Disney World?

In general, we find that January and September are the best months to visit Disney World .

Both are incredibly quiet times of the year. January has nicer park weather for long days in the park. September can be wonderfully quiet if you can endure 90-degree days.

For a variety of reasons, we feel that September and May will also be great months at Disney World in 2024. Read our post on Disney World – Month by Month Rankings for a comparison of each one.

Wait Until 2025?

Unlike in 2020-2022 years, most of the health restrictions have now been removed from the Disney parks, making it much more like a normal visit. In our opinion, most guests don’t have reason to be fearful like at the beginning of the reopening.

If you have been waiting for a couple of years to visit, 2024 and 2025 may be the perfect opportunity for your perfect Disney World vacation with all that is coming down the pipeline.

Our article “Should you visit Disney World in 2024?” can help make the case for each year and includes the positives and negatives for both.

Limited Experiences & Closures

Animal Kingdom Crowds

Some of the normal experiences guests are used to at Disney World are not running right now. Since a Disney World vacation is not cheap, this can be a huge factor in deciding whether it’s worth the cost at this time.

Some of the things missing are:

  • Some Stage Shows
  • Fewer Street Entertainers
  • Fewer Characters in the parks

This is another problem brought on by the fact that Disney is not able to find enough cast members to fill the roles required for all the positions in the parks. That’s why we still have limited entertainment options compared to a few years ago.

Thankfully, we have seen the return of fireworks to the parks on a nightly basis and dessert parties to go along with them. Character meets are open again, and at least you can get hugs and autographs from them too!

We are also excited to know that more special events are running again in 2024 with the Disney After Hours Events in full swing. On top of that, the Disney Dining Plan is made its long-awaited return on January 9th, 2024! Guests can begin booking it for trips on that date and after.

ABC Commissary cash registers

At least park hours are pretty much back to normal once again so you can expect to stay in the parks like before.

Important Disney World Vocab

Genie+, PhotoPass, ADRs, MDE, EMH…anyone else confused yet?? In fact, before you start planning your Disney vacation, there are some basic vocabulary terms you need to learn.

Below we’ve listed the most Disney important terms you will see while planning your trip:

My Disney Experience

Everything starts with My Disney Experience when planning a Disney World vacation. Also known as MDE, this is Disney World’s app that handles dining reservations, Genie+, mobile ordering, park maps, resort stay information, itineraries, PhotosPass pictures, and much, much more.

My Disney Experience is accessible through the website or the mobile app on your phone. Get familiar with it, because it’s a necessary tool to use before and during your vacation.

Carnival scene in Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway

As you may have heard, FastPass+ has been retired and replaced by the new Disney Genie service . Disney Genie is a day-planning app in My Disney Experience that includes two paid ride reservation systems, Genie+ and Lightning Lane selections.

They allow guests to reserve access to the most popular theme park attractions, essentially skipping the lines and saving you time along the way.

Genie+ is not free like its predecessor was and instead costs between $15 and $39 per day, per guest. With that fee, guests can make reservations for attractions they want to ride throughout the day in a specific time slot like FastPass+. They then come back when that time slot arrives.

Reservations are limited to one at a time, so you can’t have 3 all at once like before. Once a two-hour window passes from making your first reservation, you can then make a reservation for the next attraction.

A few of the most popular attractions instead use Individual Lightning Lane selections. These let you skip the line for a one-time fee between $10-$25 depending on the ride. Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane selections are two different pay-to-ride services and guests can use one without the other if they choose.

If you choose not to use either of these services, you will just wait in a standby queue to ride the attraction like normal.

  • READ: We cover everything you need to know about Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes in our guide which is essential reading before deciding how to tour the parks each day. I also recommend reading our post “ Is Genie+ Really Worth the Cost? ” which helps you to know if you should spend the extra money.

Early Theme Park Entry

Early Theme Park Entry allows Disney World Resort hotel guests to have access to the theme parks in the morning before the general public . This is one of the biggest benefits of staying at a Disney World Resort hotel with guests experiencing fewer crowds in the parks.

It works in a similar way as Extra Magic Hours did only that Early Theme Park Entry runs every day of the week and lets guests in 30 minutes before the parks open. It’s unclear if EMH will ever return or if Early Theme Park Entry is here to stay long-term.

One thing is clear, you get a big advantage showing up early and it can really help you get the more popular rides in each park done before the crowds arrive.

MagicBand+ front band

MagicBands are an all-in-one mobile connectivity device disguised as colorful bracelets. These devices connect with My Disney Experience and can be used by guests to buy food or merchandise, unlock hotel room doors, redeem Genie+ selections at rides, and use them as theme park tickets.

In 2024, MagicBands are no longer free to guests but can be purchased for a small fee online or in the parks. The future of MagicBands and replacement technology is much more clear now that Disney finally launched MagicBand+ a couple of years ago.

Park Hopping

Park hopping is Disney’s system for allowing guests to visit multiple theme parks on the same day. It is an add-on feature to your Disney World theme park admission and is an extra cost. Whether or not it’s worth it to you depends on if you prefer hopping around to multiple parks per day or doing one park per day more thoroughly.

Park Hopping is alive and well in 2024 after being unavailable for a while after the parks reopened. Read our post on Disney World Park Hopping to see what changes there are to the system now.

ADRs is an abbreviation for Advanced Dining Reservations and it is how you reserve a table at Disney World restaurants. Dining reservations are a MUST to get into the more popular restaurants, especially for character meals, theme park restaurants, and the more elegant dining experiences.

EPCOT Le Cellier dining room

If you are staying at one of the Disney World Resort hotels , ADRs can be made 60 days in advance of your check-in date, and reservations can be made for up to 10 days past the check-in date, for a total of 60+10. If you are staying off-site, you are at a disadvantage because you can only make reservations 60 days in advance of the dining date.

Read our Disney World Dining Reservations Guide for more details and tips on getting into the restaurants you want.

PhotoPass & Memory Maker

PhotoPass is Disney’s photography service offered at the Walt Disney World Resort . Professional photographers (and machines) are stationed throughout the parks and are available to take pictures of you and your family as a memory to take back home with you.

PhotoPass with Tigger at 1900 Park Fare

These photographers are set up in the most scenic areas, with many of Disney World’s famous icons in the pictures with you like Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, etc. These photos are connected to your My Disney Experience account and can be downloaded or printed at a later time.

Many of the photographs include MagicShots, which are photos with a little bit of extra Disney magic in them, often including the characters and funny poses. On-ride photos are also available on many of the attractions and also can be downloaded.

In order to get these photos, you will need to purchase the Memory Maker package for your trip. It is an additional cost of $210 + tax (or $185 + tax if you purchase it at least 3 days in advance) but gives you unlimited photo opportunities for your whole travel party during your entire vacation.

You also have the opportunity to purchase Memory Maker for only one day, and that costs $75.

Disney photographers will also take photos of you and your family with your own phones if you ask, so don’t be afraid. This service is free of charge.

Where to Stay?

Where to stay Disney Vacation Planning Guide

The next step in booking your Walt Disney World vacation is figuring out where you want to stay.

Some of the factors to consider when deciding where to stay are:

  • Staying On-Site or Off-Site
  • Accommodation Type
  • Location and Convenience
  • Hotel Amenities
  • Airport Transportation
  • Extra Perks

Some of these will be important to you while others not so much. Base your decision on the accommodations that check off the most boxes for you and your family.

The first step in this process is deciding if you want to stay at a Disney World Resort hotel (on-site) or outside of the resort property (off-site).

Disney World Resort Hotels

Staying On-Site Benefits

  • Location – Resorts are located near the Disney theme parks which means less travel time each day. You can also go back to your hotel for a nap in the afternoon before heading out once again later.
  • Genie+ – Staying at a WDW resort hotel means you can make your Individual Lightning Lane reservations at 7:00 am, before guests who are staying off-site.
  • Early Theme Park Entry – You will have extra time in the parks in the morning before the general public arrives.
  • Transportation – Disney includes free transportation to and from the theme parks, Disney Springs, and other hotels. Free airport shuttle service is no longer provided through Disney’s Magical Express , and you’ll have to take care of getting from Orlando Airport to Disney World on your own. Options include the Mears Connect Shuttle , taxi, or a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft.
  • Theming – Most Disney World hotels have unique theming that you and your kids will love.
  • The Disney Bubble – There is something magical about stepping into Walt Disney World at the beginning of your vacation and then not stepping out until the end. You feel tucked away inside this magical world that you never want to leave.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge Planning Guide

Staying Off-Site

Benefits of Staying Off-Site:

  • Lower Cost – This is the biggest benefit, one that could make a huge difference in your decision. Compared to each other, non-Disney hotels cost significantly less than Disney hotels of the same hotel class (value vs. value, deluxe vs. deluxe). You could save between 30-50% on hotel costs by staying off-site.
  • Transportation – Some of the off-site hotels have a free transportation service between the airport and the hotel so make sure to ask for your options.
  • Genie+ – While you don’t have the advantage with the Individual Lightning Lane selections, making Genie+ reservations is the same for guests staying on-site or off-site.
  • Better if Visiting Other Orlando Destinations – If going to Orlando, Sea World or other destinations, a more central location outside Disney World is nice.
  • More Luxurious – Some of the hotels available in the Orlando area like the Four Seasons Orlando or Ritz-Carlton Orlando, are true luxury hotels, and offer more amenities than the Disney World Resorts.

On-Site vs Off-Site

If you are looking for the easiest, most convenient choice and money is not your number one deciding factor, we recommend staying at a Disney World Resort hotel . The only real negative is the cost, and most of the time the benefits outweigh that, but it will depend on your priorities and budget.

We recommend exploring both options and weighing the cost vs value for you and your family. If you are only going for 4-5 days though, we think staying at a Disney hotel is the smart play since time is of the essence. If you have a longer stay (7 days or more), you might find more value in staying off-site.

Our On-Site vs. Off-Site Disney World Hotels Comparison will help you decide if the benefits are worth the extra cost.

Disney Hotel Types

Disney World Boardwalk at sunset

There are 4 tiers of Walt Disney World Resort hotels and they are organized by cost:

  • Value Resorts
  • Moderate Resorts
  • Deluxe Resorts
  • Deluxe Villas

Value Resorts are the cheapest of the hotel types and can be booked anywhere from $130 to $415 per night depending on the season. They have the fewest amenities, the smallest rooms, the cheapest theming, the worst dining options, and the transportation is the slowest.

Moderate Resorts are a step up from value, but not nearly as nice as the Deluxe resorts. The rooms are bigger than value rooms, and the dining is much better at most of them. Prices range from $260 to $505 per night.

Deluxe Resorts are our favorite hotels in Disney World and for good reason. Most of the rooms are large and can fit more than 4 people. The best dining locations are located here with some world-class restaurants. The pools are the best and the locations and transportation options can’t be beaten such as the monorail, Disney Skyliner, and most are within walking distance of the parks.

Of course, expect to pay for this upgrade and prices can vary between $490 to $1350 per night depending on where and when you stay.

Deluxe Villas are Disney Vacation Club properties located at the Deluxe Resorts. Some guests own timeshare points they can spend at these resorts, while other rent points from members. This is the cheapest way to stay at one of the deluxe resorts without breaking the bank and a strategy we highly recommend.

We recommend reading our Guide to the Best Disney World Resorts where we rank them all from best to worst and share the pros and cons of each resort.

Vacation Packages 

Disney World Vacation Packages are your hotel room + theme park tickets in the same bundle. These can be a mixed bag. Sometimes they can be a great value and offer deep discounts on room rates or even include discounts on food like the Disney Free Dining package included.

Most of the time we find you can save more money by getting a hotel room-only discount and buying tickets separately. You should do your due diligence and compare prices between the two options. Disney World Vacation Packages can be booked at www.DisneyWorld.com

Again, we highly recommend you use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner as they will always be able to find the deepest discounts for you and save the most money.

Disney Resort Hotel Planning Guide

Airbnb and Nearby Hotels

Instead of staying at a hotel, if you are really trying to save money on your trip , then consider staying at one of the many third-party hotels or an Airbnb near Disney World.

If you aren’t familiar with how Airbnb works, it is a service that rents out peoples’ residences to travelers like a hotel room.

The Airbnbs in Orlando include vacation homes, apartments, and condos. Besides the lower cost, guests have more privacy and space in a private residence than at a hotel. There is also usually a full kitchen so you can prepare your meals and save even more money.

Another cheaper alternative is staying at one of the nearby off-site hotels, or a hotel located on Disney property, but not run by the mouse. This can save you a lot of money, just make sure you are aware of the extra costs that could be involved.

The biggest downside for off-site hotels, Airbnb, or vacation homes is the distance from the parks and not being able to use Disney transportation. You will either have to rent a car or use a ride-sharing service like Uber to get around, and that can be inconvenient. If you already will be using a car, then consider this a great alternative.

Read our Complete Disney World Resort Hotels List for a look at all the Disney and Non-Disney hotel options in the area and what to expect.

Park tickets can be the most expensive part of a trip to Walt Disney World, even more than dining and your hotel. That’s why it’s important to do your research beforehand and know how to save money when buying them.

You also need to decide exactly how many days you want to spend in the parks so you don’t end up paying for more days than necessary.

Disney Vacation Planning Guide Tickets

Where to Buy Tickets

Options for buying Disney World Tickets include:

  • Directly from Disney
  • Authorized Ticket Reseller
  • Travel Agent

Getting your tickets from Disney on the official Disney World website is your first option. It’s almost always more expensive, however, and it pays to look elsewhere.

To save money on your park tickets, we recommend using one of the authorized resellers online such as Get Away Today or Undercover Tourist . They are legit resellers so you don’t have to worry about being ripped off like other places online.

If you really want to save money, we highly recommend Orlando Va cation which often has the best prices for any of the Disney World ticket resellers.

Depending on what type of ticket you are buying, these options can save you as much as $50-$70 per ticket! That’s a huge savings, especially if you have a big family. Once you buy your Disney World park tickets, they can be linked to your My Disney Experience with a code.

In our Discount Disney World Tickets Guide , we cover the best places to buy tickets from and how to get the absolute cheapest tickets possible.

Ticket Types

50th Anniversary Disney World Annual Pass

There are three basic types of Disney World theme park tickets: Standard tickets, Park Hopper tickets, or Annual Passes . Both standard and park hopper tickets can be purchased as single-day tickets or multi-day.

Standard Tickets – This is the cheapest ticket type. They allow you admission to one theme park per day for the number of days you purchased. You can visit the same park for multiple days if you choose.

Park Hopper Tickets – This option allows you to visit multiple parks per day for the entire amount of days you purchased. Technically you can visit all 4 parks in one day if you like. There is a Water Park version too. They are more expensive but allow for greater flexibility.

Annual Passes – There are multiple versions with different restrictions but the higher-end options give you unlimited access to the parks letting you visit whenever you want. If you live close to WDW or are planning on visiting multiple times in a one-year period, an annual pass could be a good investment.

Here are some links that explain about all the various ticket types, differences, pros and cons, prices, and their unique features:

  • Disney World Tickets Complete Guide
  • 1-Day Disney World Tickets
  • Disney World Annual Pass Guide
  • Florida Resident Disney World Tickets

Planning a trip to Disney

Disney World park tickets are priced on a date and length-based system. That means the prices will fluctuate greatly depending on when you go.

For example, in 2024, a 1-Day standard park ticket starts at $109 per day and goes all the way up to $189 per day (plus tax) . That’s a huge difference and you can get a lot of savings by going in the off-season.

Another important factor is that tickets cost less per day the more days you have on your ticket. In fact, Disney’s motto is: “the longer you play, the less you pay per day.” Once you get higher than a 3-day ticket, the price per day drops dramatically.

To find out the latest prices and how much they’ve increased this year, read our Disney Tickets Prices Guide .

When to Buy Tickets

There are multiple reasons to buy your Disney World park tickets as soon as possible . One reason is you can’t make Park pass reservations without them. That is important because the longer you wait the less likely you will get into the park of your choice when you want.

Disney tickets never become less expensive, so buying early also locks in your price before the next price increase comes.

Buy your tickets whenever your budget allows, just never wait until you get to the gate or you will pay more.

How to Travel to Walt Disney World

Now that you have your hotel and tickets all set, you need to decide how to get to Walt Disney World. This will depend on how far away you live and what your plans are when you get to Orlando.

Walt Disney World entrance road sign makeover

Drive or Fly ?

These are the two most popular options for getting to Disney World and depend mostly on where you live.

Drive – If you are within a few hours of Walt Disney World, your best option might be to drive. You also might decide to drive if you are live close enough nearby, or if you are staying off-site and will be visiting other destinations outside of Disney World.

One thing to keep in mind is that many Orlando hotels charge parking fees for each night of your stay, and that will cost you an extra $20-$30 per night. These can be avoided if staying at one of the WDW Resorts.

Fly – For most guests, an airplane is the most convenient way to get to Disney World. The Orlando International Airport is the best choice and is located only 30 minutes from WDW. There are multiple flights per day arriving from most cities in the United States and Internationally.

Airfare is also not expensive and good discount flights can be found online with many between $150-$250.

Booking Airfare

We recommend setting your dates and to start looking for airfare 1 year before your vacation. That will give you the best chance to score a deal.

If you are booking airfare yourself, we usually find the best prices on ITA Software by Google , AirfareWatchdog , or Skyscanner . You can set up price alerts and they give a flexible dates option to find the best price.

Transportation to and from Airport

Inside Disney's Magical Express

The Orlando International Airport is located approximately 20 miles from Walt Disney World, which means you will need transportation to get to your hotel.

The popular & free Disney’s Magical Express transportation was discontinued in 2022 so now in 2023, you’ll need another option to get from the airport to your resort hotel, which means you need to pay out of pocket.

One solution when staying at Walt Disney World is the Mears Connect Shuttle , the most similar replacement for the Magical Express.

Other options no matter where you are staying include taxi service or ride-sharing such as Uber or Lyft .

  • Taxis are by far the more expensive choice and will cost around $50-$60 each way plus tip depending on where you are going.
  • Uber is a much cheaper option and will cost between $30-$40 each way.

Allow sufficient time to get to your hotel from the airport. If you have a 10:00 am arrival you can expect to get to your hotel by around 11:30 am if taking a cab or Uber. It will be longer on one of the bus services and in that case you will probably arrive between 12:00 pm – 12:30 pm.

Read “ How to Get from Orlando Airport to Disney World ” for the full breakdown of all your options and how to save money with transportation.

Attractions and Rides

Rise of the Resistance ride vehicles in motion

Most people come to Walt Disney World for the attractions, and you want to plan them out as best as possible in order to do all the ones most important to you.

Pay special attention to this section if this is your first time or you haven’t been to Disney World in a few years as there are many new attractions to experience. Make sure to check the Disney World Ride Closures List to see which rides will be open during your trip.

If you are going to EPCOT, make sure to read our post on How to Get a Boarding Pass for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind , and How to Get a Boarding Pass for TRON: Lightcycle Run over at the Magic Kingdom. These are two of the hardest attractions to ride in Disney World at this time.

You’ll definitely want to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance , and right now you’ll need to use the standby queue to ride. You can also read How to Get a Boarding Group for Rise of the Resistance for the times it uses the virtual queue system.

For a detailed look at all of the attractions, be sure to check out our other Disney World Ride Guides:

  • Best Rides in Disney World Ranked
  • Magic Kingdom Rides and Attractions Guide
  • EPCOT Rides and Attractions Guide
  • Hollywood Studios Rides and Attractions Guide
  • Animal Kingdom Rides and Attractions Guide
  • Best Rides for Toddlers at Disney World

Pick Your Park Days

In front of Chinese Theater at Hollywood Studios

First, you need to pick how many days you need for each park and how many park days total. Depending on your interests, some parks you can get done in half a day, and some will take you multiple days.

If it’s your first time we recommend 1 full day for each park, and an extra half-day or more for the Magic Kingdom since it has the most attractions.

  • Magic Kingdom – The best park for small kids and has the most rides.
  • EPCOT – Best park for foodies, festivals, and culture.
  • Hollywood Studios – Best park for teens and thrill-seekers.
  • Animal Kingdom – Best park for animal and nature lovers and a good selection of rides and food.

The highlights of EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom can all be done in 3 half-days, but we recommend spending at least a day in each to soak up the atmosphere and not feel rushed.

Must-Do Rides

There are some truly special ride experiences at Disney World and each park has a number of Must-Do attractions you won’t want to miss. Here are some of the best ones:

Magic Kingdom – TRON: Lightcycle Run , Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, The Haunted Mansion, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, Jungle Cruise

EPCOT – Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind , Soarin’ Around the World, Test Track, Frozen Ever After, Spaceship Earth, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

Hollywood Studios – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance , Tower of Terror, Slinky Dog Dash, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway , Toy Story Mania!, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Animal Kingdom – Avatar: Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Na’vi River Journey

Must-Do rides Disney Vacation Planning Guide

Those are by far the most popular attractions in each park and the ones that should be at the top of your list. That is a great starting point for any park itinerary.

Make sure to leave enough time to fully explore all the details in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora: The World of Avatar , two of the most immersive lands we’ve ever seen!

Characters are a huge draw for guests when visiting the parks, especially kids. Character meets can be found in all 4 theme parks and include favorites such as Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Princesses, and characters from the Pixar films.

Character meets were suspended temporarily for two years, but they returned in 2022, and you can hug the characters and get their autographs now just like normal! You can also see them in the new Character Cavalcades that go through the parks at various times of the day.

Entertainment

Epcot's Disney Harmonious

Besides rides, Disney World also offers first-class entertainment with amazing stage shows and nighttime spectaculars. Here is a list of the ones you shouldn’t miss and where to find them:

Fireworks/Nighttime Spectaculars – Happily Ever After (MK), Luminous the Symphony of US (EPCOT), Fantasmic! (HS), Tree of Life Awakenings (AK).

Stage Shows/Street Shows – Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire (MK), Dapper Dans (MK), Jeweled Dragon Acrobats (EPCOT), Voices of Liberty (EPCOT), Serveur Amusant (EPCOT), A Frozen Sing-Along (HS), Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage (HS), Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (HS), Festival of the Lion King (AK), Finding Nemo – The Musical (AK)

Parades – Character Cavalcades (All Parks), Festival of Fantasy Parade (MK)

Most of these entertainment options are now back in 2024, and we are hopeful more will come back later this year.

High Priority Genie+ and Lightning Selections

FastPass+ has been retired and Disney has shifted to its paid replacement Genie+. However, not all Genie+ or Lightning Lane reservations are equal, and there are some attractions where it’s much more advantageous to use them.

Disney Vacation Planning Guide high priority FastPass+

After all, you are limited to one Genie+ reservation at a time for the most part, so you need to choose wisely.

You should use Genie+ selections on higher-profile attractions that always draw long wait times like Peter Pan’s Flight or Test Track. Using a Genie+ on Alien Swirling Saucers at Hollywood Studios for example would be a waste.

Here is our list of High-Priority Genie+ attractions:

  • Peter Pan’s Flight (Magic Kingdom)
  • Jungle Cruise (Magic Kingdom)
  • Test Track (EPCOT)
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (EPCOT)
  • Frozen Ever After (EPCOT)
  • Na’vi River Journey (Animal Kingdom)
  • Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios)
  • Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run (Hollywood Studios)
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (Hollywood Studios)
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios)
  • Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios)

Not all the Individual Lightning Lane selections are worth the money either as some don’t usually have long enough wait times.

Here is our list of rides we would spend an Individual Lightning Lane selection on if the circumstances were right:

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (Hollywood Studios)
  • TRON: Lightcycle Run (Magic Kingdom)
  • Avatar: Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (EPCOT)

Here are some other posts about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes that you should read before planning your trip:

  • Ultimate Genie+ & Lightning Lane Guide
  • Is Genie+ Worth It?
  • How to Purchase Genie+ at Disney World
  • How to Purchase Individual Lightning Lanes

For some, dining is their favorite experience when visiting Walt Disney World, and there is an unlimited number of choices available for every palate. In fact, there are over 400 restaurants at Walt Disney World, with varying menus and themes to choose from.

Disney Vacation Planning Tips

Some restaurants are table service where you sit down and a waiter serves you and some are quick service/counter service which is more like fast food.

Among the decisions you have to make are where to eat, when to book reservations, and whether or not to use the Disney Dining Plan or not.

Choosing Restaurants

The first decision to make about dining in Disney World is which restaurants you want to go to.

It can be hard to make a decision, especially if you haven’t been to any of them before. We suggest reading through the menus on the Disney World website to see what stands out to you and reading some of our Disney Restaurant Reviews for more info.

Character dining and buffets are options to consider, and some restaurants are more kid-friendly than others.

Here are some of our rankings of the top places to eat at Walt Disney World:

  • Best Walt Disney World Restaurants
  • Best Restaurants at Disney’s Magic Kingdom
  • Best Restaurants at EPCOT
  • Best Restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Best Restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Best Restaurants at Disney Springs
  • Best Disney World Resort Hotel Restaurants

Making Reservations

Once you’ve picked out your restaurants, it’s time to make reservations. They can be made using the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device or on your computer on the Disn e y World website.

Advance Dining Reservations can be made 60 days before your check-in date for the length of your vacation (Previously 180 days) . We highly recommend making them as soon as possible as the most popular restaurants fill up months ahead of time.

Read our Disney Advance Dining Reservations guide for more tips on how to book the restaurants you want and the highest priority restaurants.

High Priority Restaurants

Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White

Here is a list of the hardest-to-book restaurants in Disney World and ones that should be booked right at the 60-day deadline:

  • Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)
  • Chef Mickey’s (Disney’s Contemporary Resort)
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort)
  • Le Cellier (EPCOT)
  • Oga’s Cantina (Hollywood Studios)
  • ‘Ohana (Disney’s Polynesian Resort)
  • Space 220 (EPCOT)
  • Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White (Disney’s Wilderness Lodge)
  • Victoria & Albert’s (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort)

There are other hard-to-get ones like Via Napoli and California Grill, but the above ones are by far the hardest.

Our Favorite WDW Restaurants

Our favorite WDW Restaurants for First-Timers are:

  • 50’s Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios)
  • California Grill (Disney’s Contemporary Resort)
  • Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios)
  • Liberty Tree Tavern (Magic Kingdom)
  • Morimoto Asia (Disney Springs)
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Cafe and Inn (Magic Kingdom)
  • Satu’li Canteen (Animal Kingdom)
  • The Boathouse (Disney Springs)
  • Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)

That list has something for everyone no matter your budget or tastes.

Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan returned to Walt Disney World on January 9th, 2024 ! For all the news on the new dining plan, check out my post here .

Even though we aren’t fans of the Disney Dining Plan, many guests love to use it and it’s something you need to understand to make an educated decision on how you want to pay for your meals.

Three Dole Whips at Magic Kingdom

The Dining Plan lets guests pay for their meals before their vacation starts giving each person in the group a number of credits they can spend on meals each day. This makes it very convenient since you don’t have to pay for food “out-of-pocket” during your trip, and your budget is already set.

There are 4 levels of the Disney Dining Plan, (Quick Service, Standard, Plus, and Deluxe) each with different prices and tailored to how much you plan on eating during your trip.

In general, we don’t recommend the Disney Dining Plan because it is a bit too expensive. In order to make it worth it, you need to do a lot of research ahead of time, and pick the “right” restaurants and the most expensive items on the menu. Most people don’t end up using all their credits, essentially paying for food they never eat.

Disney World Transportation

Disney Vacation Planning Guide Transportation

Next, it’s important to know how to get around Walt Disney World once you arrive. With almost 500 buses, dozens of watercraft, a monorail, and a gondola system, Disney World has a larger public transportation system than many American cities.

Should You Rent a Car?

Renting a car at Disney World has its positives and negatives and is a big decision you need to make. It comes down to if you are going to visit other places outside of Walt Disney World or stay on property the entire time.

If you are going to spend the entire vacation at Walt Disney World, there is absolutely no need to rent a car. Disney’s public transportation is more than sufficient for your needs.

If you are just going to spend one day in another Orlando destination like Universal Studios, you don’t need a car and you will save money by catching an Uber or a taxi to your destination.

The best reason for renting a car is if you plan on spending multiple days outside Disney World. Just know that parking fees at the theme parks can add up if you aren’t staying at a Disney World Resort, so expect to spend an additional$25 per day on top of rental car fees.

Just remember, if you have a car, in some cases, you will need to pay parking fees either at the hotels or theme parks which is an extra expense on top of the cost of the car itself. Sometimes both. We explain it all in our Guide to Parking at Disney World .

Disney Vacation Planning Guide buses

The most common form of transportation at Walt Disney World, and also the worst. No matter where you are staying, you will eventually have to use a Disney bus at some point in your trip to get to at least one of the theme parks.

They can each hold 100+ guests so they can get very packed and uncomfortable. Buses also tend to be the slowest way of getting around at Disney World, so if there is an alternative to where you are going, take it.

If you do end up taking the bus, make sure to show up 20-30 minutes before the time you want to leave as they are notoriously late.

Disney World Monorail pulling into the station

When Disney World’s monorail system debuted back in 1971 it was an instant hit with guests and become the most popular mode of transportation.

The monorail has 3 lines loops. 2 of them (Resort and Express) go around the Seven Seas Lagoon and connect the Magic Kingdom with the nearby hotels at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, and Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and the Ticket and Transportation Center.

The third line connects EPCOT to Magic Kingdom lines allowing access to the surrounding resorts.

We love the Monorail and it’s still a great time riding from resort to resort, but they are outdated and in great need of refurbishment. The trains haven’t been replaced since 1989 so it’s beyond time for a new system.

This is the newest transportation mode at Disney World and our current favorite. Reminiscent of the old Skyway buckets from the Magic Kingdom, this gondola system brings guests between Disney parks and resorts with a wonderful bird’s-eye view.

Disney Skyliner Stops – EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

Disney Skyliner at sunset

Read our Full Guide to the Disney Skyliner for more tips, maps, and everything else you need to know.

Disney World has a fleet of watercraft that 3 of the theme parks with various surrounding resort hotels. It’s a fantastic way to get to the parks, and to relax with great views on the way.

  • Parks with Watercraft Service – Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios.
  • Resorts with Watercraft Service – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort (and Bay Lake), Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort, Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resorts, Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort (Treehouse Villas).

Expect to wait 20-30 minutes between boat arrivals.

Ride Sharing (Uber/Lyft)

Sometimes you just don’t have time to wait for Disney transportation and you need to get to your destination fast. A ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft is perfect at Disney World in that situation.

Ride-sharing such as Uber will bring you anywhere you want in Walt Disney World. The only place they can’t go is to the front entrance at the Magic Kingdom. Instead, they drop guests off at the Ticket and Transportation Center.

Disney doesn’t offer hotel to hotel bus service, so we often use Uber to get from our hotel to another one where we have a dinner reservation. This is a big-time saver instead of taking a bus to Disney Springs or a Park and then over to the second hotel.

Minnie Vans

Minnie Vans are Disney’s attempt to counter the popularity of ride-sharing services over the last few years. They are now back at Walt Disney World after being discontinued for 2 years.

They were run through the Lyft app and would bring you anywhere on property for a fee. Cars were painted red and black with white polka dots to resemble Minnie Mouse’s patented dress. They were much faster than Disney buses, but in the end, 2-3x more expensive than an Uber and not worth the high cost.

Getting from Park to Park

If you are park hopping you will want to go from one park to the other in the same day. Thankfully, Disney offers park-to-park transportation for resort hotel guests.

Traveling between Disney World parks

You can take the monorail between the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. If you want to go between the Magic Kingdom and any other park, you will need to take the bus. Right now they run from 2:00 pm daily between parks.

Hollywood Studios and EPCOT have multiple transportation methods between them with boats, walking, and the Disney Skyliner all options.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the most difficult park to get to from another park and can only be reached by bus.

Other Stuff to Do

Most guests only come to Walt Disney World in mind, not realizing there is a whole world of other activities and entertainment to enjoy. There are water parks, boating, fishing golf, spa treatments, shopping to enjoy. You can even take a private tour or get a ticket to a special event.

Disney Vacation Planning Guide other things to do

You can celebrate a special moment in your life like an engagement or anniversary. Believe it or not, there are even a bunch of free things to do on your trip! There is something for the whole family.

Let’s take a look at some of the other things to do at Disney World.

Water Parks

Disney World has 2 water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. To go, you need to purchase the water parks add-on to your regular theme park admission or buy a single-day ticket.

  • Typhoon Lagoon has 7 water slide rides, one kiddie slide, one kiddie play area, one lazy river, one wave pool, and one small exploration trail. More family-friendly.
  • Blizzard Beach has seven water slide rides, one kiddie play area, one lazy river, one wave pool, and a chairlift. More thrilling water slides.

Both water parks are fun, but if we are going to spend one day at a water park, we choose Typhoon Lagoon every time. The overall theming of the park is amazing, and the lazy river and wave pool are much better than at Blizzard Beach.

Disney Springs

This is Disney World’s main shopping and dining district and where you go if you are looking for nightlife at Disney World. Disney Springs underwent a major refurbishment and expansion a few years ago and now has countless must-try dining options as well as a Cirque du Soleil show, a movie theater, a fun bowling alley, and more.

Most of the restaurants at Disney Springs are much easier to get a reservation for than the restaurants at the parks and resort hotels, so keep that in mind if you have difficulty.

Read our rankings of the best Disney Springs restaurants for suggestions of where and what to eat.

Resort Days

Planning a Day at a Disney World Resort

Disney World can be exhausting running from one park to the next. We recommend spending at least one day doing absolutely nothing at your resort hotel. When I say nothing I mean lounging by the pool with a drink.

A good strategy is to have one resort day in the middle of your trip so you can recharge your batteries before doing the rest of the parks.

What is there to do at the resort hotels you ask? Tons! Here are some of our favorite recreation activities at Disney World:

  • Boating/Jet Skis
  • Horseback Riding
  • Organized Resort Activities & Games
  • Painting, Pottery & Crafts
  • Sports – Tennis, Basketball, Golf, Archery
  • Jogging/Trails
  • Movies Under the Stars

Those should keep you busy for a while!

Visiting Other Resorts

Another option is to visit other Walt Disney World Resort hotels during your stay. The theming on some of them is really incredible (Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian, Animal Kingdom Lodge), it’s free to do, and it’s fun to just walk around and check out the grounds.

Visiting other resorts on a Disney Vacation

No, you can’t swim in the pools at a resort you aren’t staying at, but you can scout out the hotels to find the resort you will stay at on your next trip to Disney World. Many enjoy doing this during the holidays to see the various decorations at each resort.

If you don’t want to take a whole day visiting other resorts, we suggest booking a lunch or dinner reservation at one of the restaurants in the resorts and then going early to check things out.

Sure you can go to the parks and ride the attractions, but did you know there are dozens of tours (paid and free) that you and your family can take? Planning a tour can be a great addition to your vacation and there is one for the whole family.

Best Tours at Disney World

  • Keys to the Kingdom (Magic Kingdom)
  • Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour (Magic Kingdom)
  • Behind the Seeds (EPCOT)
  • English Tea Garden Tour (EPCOT)
  • Star Wars Guided Tour (Hollywood Studios)
  • Savor the Savanna: Evening Safari Experience (Animal Kingdom)
  • Wild Africa Trek (Animal Kingdom)
  • Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour (All Parks)

(Some tours are back right now at Disney World and others are still suspended.)

Keys to the Kingdom Tour Magic Kingdom

Extra Magic

There are also other special experiences at Disney World we like to call “Extra Magic” as they add just that extra touch you or your family member is looking for on your vacation. Be sure to look into these, especially for a special occasion.

  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – This is a special salon that transforms your little princess or prince with a complete makeover. There are multiple packages that include costumes, make-up, manicures, and hair styling. Packages range from $75-$450.
  • Dessert/Fireworks Parties – Each of the theme parks holds Dessert Parties on almost a nightly basis. These parties include all-you-can-eat desserts and a reserved view of the fireworks shows. Prices range from $40-$70 per person.
  • Hard-ticketed Parties – Periodically there are events at the parks that require an extra ticket to and private from the general public and are some of the most popular events in Disney World each year. These include Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party , Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party , and various Disney After Hours events . Expect to pay between $109-$200 for these events.

Have a Daily Itinerary

No one likes being tied to a schedule on vacation, unfortunately at Walt Disney World that is not an option if you want to have the best experience possible during your visit.

Best Disney Vacation Planning Guide

We’re not saying you have to walk around with a clipboard and spreadsheet, but you need to create a general itinerary for the parks you are going to, which restaurants, etc.

The hard truth is, Disney World is too big and you can’t do it all even if you are there for 2 weeks. That’s why you need to make a plan and prioritize the most important things to you each day.

Some of the general questions about your Disney World trip that you need to think about are:

  • How many days are you going to spend in the parks?
  • How long will you go to the parks each day? Full days? Half days? Leave and come back in the evening?
  • What order will you visit the parks in? Do you need to visit some parks more than once?
  • How many sit-down meals per day? Where will you have those meals, at the parks or resort hotels?
  • Which extra experiences are important to me? Special events?

The clearer your answers are to those questions, the easier it’s going to be to plan your days, and ultimately the more fun you will have.

When You’re In the Parks

Assuming you know how many days you want to spend in each park, the next thing you need to do is choose the attractions that are most important to you. Make a list of the ones you absolutely NEED to go on and prioritize those first.

Once you have your list, you will know which ones to prioritize when making your Genie+ reservations . When you have those it will be easier to map out the park and decide what order to do the attractions in.

We recommend looking at the park maps and doing the rides systematically. If you are in Adventureland for Jungle Cruise, then do the other rides on that side of the park while you are there. It will save you valuable time instead of walking back and forth multiple times.

What to Pack & Bring

We are almost there, the only thing left to do is pack your bags. Walt Disney World is a unique place and there are many things you might not think about packing that will be very helpful on your trip. We usually think we packed everything, but inevitably leave something at home, that’s why it’s best to have a list.

Packing bags for Disney Vacation

Here are the most important things to pack:

Luggage/Bags – Make sure your suitcases are in good condition before packing and are big enough to hold all your essential items. Decide how many bags each person is bringing. This will also depend on how many bags your flight permits.

We always pack too much on our trips to Disney World and we find ourselves swimming in bags. If you have a room with a washing machine, take advantage of that and do a load of laundry to save space in your bags.

If you have colorful, character-themed bags, this is the time to use them, your kids will love them. Also, make sure to bring a small backpack. We like to carry one during the day so hold our camera, a bottle of water, sunscreen, medicines, and other necessities.

Shoes – This might be the MOST important item on the list. If you don’t have comfortable shoes in Disney World, you are going to have a miserable time. On average, we walk between 8-10 miles PER DAY on our trips. You may not walk as much as us, but it will be at least 2-3 times more than what you are used to back home.

Here are some other important things you need to bring with you to Disney World:

  • Medications
  • Phone Chargers
  • Travel Documents
  • Water Bottles
  • Frogg Toggs Chilly Pads (when it gets too hot)

Disney Vacation Planning Timeline

Now that you understand the basics of planning a Disney World vacation, it’s time to put it all together. When are you supposed to do all these planning tasks?

Sunset over Seven Seas Lagoon Contemporary Resort

Most planning items need to be completed a certain number of days before your trip. We’ve created a planning timeline for you to make it easier to know when you need to get all these things done by.

One rule you should live by with Disney vacations is “it’s never too early.” Start planning as soon as possible and things will go much smoother.

499 Days Before Your Trip

You have to be kidding right? I need to start planning my trip 499 days before I go? While it’s not absolutely necessary to start this early, it will give you an advantage.

Start Thinking about Travel Dates – Get at least an idea of the dates you want to go to Disney World. Consult our Best Times to Visit Disney World guide to see which months are the best and worst.

Research/Book Hotel Reservations – Disney makes resort hotel reservations available for booking as many as 19 months in advance. If you know where you want to stay already, you may as well book your hotel now because you’ll have a better chance of getting a room.

This is especially helpful if you plan on going during the holiday season or other very busy times of the year. Read our article on How to Book a Disney World Vacation for all the details and booking tips.

Download My Disney Experience – Even if you don’t have dates in mind, travelers should download the MDE app and open an account right away to start getting familiar with the layout. It’s also time to go on the Disney World website to start doing research on the hotels and parks.

1 Year Before Your Trip

Decide Travel Dates – By this time you should have picked out when you want to take your vacation. If you need help deciding, it’s wise to look at a Disney World Crowd Calendar to find out when the busiest and least busy times of the year are.

How Many Days at the Parks – You also need to think about how many days you are going to spend in each park and how many days total of your trip. Think about which parks you want to go to and if you want to visit one of the water parks.

Research Attractions – Familiarize yourself with all the top attractions at each park and think about which ones you really want to do.

Price Airfare – It’s never too early to start looking up prices for airfare if you are flying. You should aim to get your tickets no more than 6 months before your trip.

Peter Pan's Flight queue bedroom

9 Months Before You Go

Make Hotel Reservations – By this time you should know when you are going and which hotel to stay at. If you wait any longer you really run the risk of not getting the hotel you want. Lock in your room and then wait and see if a better offer opens up.

Get Everyone on My Disney Experience – You should already have an account, but you also need to make sure your family and all members of your travel party also are signed up. You will need them to be in the system for your dining reservations and FastPass+ reservations down the line, so take care of it early.

Buy Tickets – It’s always good to buy your Disney World park tickets as early as possible. First, the price never goes down and you will not find a lower price than what you see today so lock it in. Secondly, you need to have your tickets before making park reservations which tend to sell out early, especially if going at a busy time.

Make Park Pass Reservations – Once you buy your tickets, you can now make your park pass reservations. Don’t waste time, they sell out quickly.

180+ Days Before You Go

Park Hours – A few days before the 180-day mark arrives, look at the park hours for each day. This will let you plan out your day and will play a park in where you plan your meals and which Genie+ reservations you plan on booking.

Write Itinerary Rough Draft – Start writing out your ideal vacation itinerary day by day. Go through which parks you will be at on which days and which restaurants you would like to dine at. You now have a good idea of how your days are going to play out. Do this a few days before the 180-day mark as you need to have all the restaurants decided by then.

Disney Vacation Planning Timeline

Book Special Events/Experiences – Decide which special experiences you and your family want to do. After Hours events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party should be booked once they are available. Experiences like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique take reservations 180 days before and they sell out quickly.

Decide to Rent a Car or Not – If you are renting a car, start looking a prices and book one when possible.

Disney Dining Plan – You need to decide if the Dining Plan is worth it to you or not. If so, you can add it to your package.

Book Airfare – This is a good time to buy airfare and if you’ve been monitoring it for a few months, you have an idea of what a good deal is.

75 Days Before Your Trip

New Hotel Deals – Throughout the year, Disney introduces new discounts on hotel rooms. Periodically during the planning stage, check if any new deals have come out for your hotel. If a better room opens up at another hotel, so still have time to switch resorts.

Last Call on Tickets – If for some reason you haven’t got your park tickets by now, this is almost the final opportunity with park reservations sometimes filling up a couple of months before your trip. Make sure you have your tickets before then.

30-60 Days Before Your Trip

Disney Trip Planning Guide

Book Your Restaurants (60 Days before your arrival date) – Wake up early and be on your computer by 6:00 am sharp to make dining reservations. This is the most stressful part of planning as it can be hard to get the most difficult restaurants. Write backups for the most popular restaurants in case you can’t book your favorites.

Write Final Itinerary – Now that you have your parks and dining reservations locked in, you can write a final copy of your itinerary. You can always make adjustments later but you now know how most of your vacation will go.

45 Days Before Your Trip

Order MagicBands – Even though MagicBands are no longer free to guests, we still recommend ordering them for a small fee. They are $5-$20 per guest depending on what type you order. These must be ordered no more than 11 days before your trip to arrive at your house in time, but we recommend doing it earlier.

10 Days Before Your Trip

Shuttle Service – You can make a Mears Connect Shuttle reservation or other shuttles sometimes even 24 hours before departure, but there is no reason to wait. Get it done early.

Online Check-In – To skip going to the lobby upon arrival we suggest using Disney’s Online Check-In through My Disney Experience. You can set your credit card for room charges and set a pin for your MagicBand.

3 Days Before Your Trip

Memory Maker – This is the photo package with unlimited photos and downloads during your trip for you and your whole family. This must be ordered 3 days before arrival to get the lower price.

Pack Bags – We sometimes start earlier if we have time, but you should start getting out everything on your packing list and seeing how it fits in your luggage.

Keep Looking for Dining Reservations – If you weren’t able to get any high-priority dining reservations, keep looking periodically from the 60-day point to now. Reservations are more likely to open up the closer you get to your dining date as other guests cancel and change plans. Keep trying up until the morning of the date you are looking for.

Double Check – Run through the list one more time to make sure you have everything covered.

Get Excited – You are going to Disney World, the most magical place on Earth, so get happy!!

Disney Vacation Planning Guide

Right now. Do it as early as you can and start making plans even up to a year or more before your trip.

The average guest vacation to Walt Disney World is 4-7 days. We recommend 5 to 7 days for first-timers depending on your budget.

You can, but it is a bad idea. Walt Disney World is one of the most complicated vacations you can take and it needs the proper planning to make the most out of your trip.

Your Thoughts

I want to know what you think about our Disney Planning Guide…

  • What are your best suggestions when planning a trip to Walt Disney World?
  • What are your biggest questions about planning a Disney vacation?

Let us know in the comments section below!

If you enjoyed this article, as always I appreciate it if you’d share it with others via social media.  I work hard at making this website into a useful resource for you and your family to plan your visit to the Disney Parks and I hope it can help you! Thanks 🙂

Ziggy Knows Disney close

My name is Ziggy and I love Disney, everything Disney! I grew up on Disney and it has and continues to be a huge part of my life. I started young when my parents took me to Disney World when I was 18 months old. Little did they know that would be the first of an uncountable number of trips we would take. I have so many amazing memories going to Disney with my family and friends and it has been interwoven into my DNA.

Sunday 14th of January 2024

My special needs son and I are going on the Disney Wish in early March. Have you ever tried a Disney cruise?

Thursday 22nd of June 2023

Can dining reservations be made 6 mo in advance or 2 mo in advance please?

Monday 19th of June 2023

I just love your site. All the information provided is extremely helpful and useful. Thanks so much for everything!!!

Yvette Parent

Tuesday 6th of September 2022

Hi Ziggy I would like to get a PDF copy of your guide. Would this be possible? Thank you

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

Hello my friend. We will be staying on Disney property this Sunday and we have a reservation for Epcot on Monday morning. Our plan is to ride Ratatouille and would like your advice to go directly to that ride and have a short wait. What should our strategy be? Thank you for your help. Dan and Lora ps we also just purchased an annual pass holder ticket that is only valid on weekdays - I am not sure if that helps.

Ziggy Oskwarek

Hi Dan. That's a good question you have. If you aren't planning on using Genie+ or Lightning Lanes, then going to Remy's Ratatouille Adventure right at rope drop is a good strategy. The day doesn't make a huge difference as it will be morning and festival crowds tend to come more in the afternoon. Have an awesome time and let us know how it goes!

Mickey Chatter

  • A. When will you go?
  • B. How will you get there?
  • C. Where will you stay?
  • D. What pass should I get?
  • E. How Much Planning Do You Want To Do?
  • F. My Disney Experience Account
  • B. Off-Site
  • C. Transportations Options
  • A. Types of Dining Plans
  • B. Free Dining Promo
  • C. Dining Plan vs. Paying Out-of-Pocket
  • Part 4 – Planning a Schedule
  • B. Making Dining Reservations
  • C. Character Meals
  • D. Dinner Shows
  • A. What is Fastpass+?
  • B. Why Should I Use Fastpass+?
  • C. Best Attractions for Fastpass+
  • A. Stroller/Scooter Rental
  • B. Grocery Delivery
  • C. Packing List
  • D. Park Bag List
  • E. Special Events
  • G. Memory Maker
  • Magic Kingdom
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Free Worksheets

Top 8 Recommended Disney Planner Books for Walt Disney World

Top Disney Planner Books for your Disney World vacation #waltdisneyworld #disneyworld #disneyplannerbooks #travelagent #disneyplanning #disneytripplanning

Are you looking for some good Disney planner books to help you with your Disney World vacation planning? There are soooooo many to choose from and it can seem overwhelming.  Below I am sharing with you some of the top rated books for planning a Disney World vacation.

These books cover everything you would need to think of and the information is well presented. The majority of them are planning books and some provide information with secret tips. I always love reading about secrets that others share because then you have a chance to learn something that others may not know. Sometimes it gives you the advantage in your planning 🙂

disney world trip planner book

Of course, don’t forget to sign up on my email list to get copies of my FREE planning worksheets. They are perfect to use with any of the books above to help you get organized with your planning. You can also check out my Disney World Budget Planning Worksheet blog post to download some free tools to help you calculate your vacation budget.

Are there any books that you would love to share with us? Go ahead and add them in the comments!

Top Disney Planner Books for your Disney World vacation #waltdisneyworld #disneyworld #disneyplannerbooks #travelagent #disneyplanning #disneytripplanning

Our preferred travel agency is Click the Mouse. They specialize in Disney destinations and will help you plan out all the little details. Best part is that their services are FREE when you book your vacation with them. Personalized service at no extra cost to you! To get a quote from a Click the Mouse travel agent, simply click on the quote button below and they will be back in touch with you:

Laura is a mom of one adorable girl with a love of all things Disney. She traveled to Disney World with her family in 2010 and was hooked. They have since been a total of over 15 times. With all her knowledge of planning Disney trips, she now wants to share that with others. She loves giving guidance, tips and advice to others planning their magical vacation!

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Thanks, Houston Garlock for mickeychatter.com

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2024 Disney World Planning Guide

disney world trip planner book

Our Walt Disney World vacation planning guide offers tips & tricks for 2024 on how to avoid crowds, save money & time, with info on Genie+ & Lightning Lanes, best rides, restaurant reviews, and itineraries for Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios. (Updated December 17, 2023. )

The latest update comes as the holiday season winds down (if you’re still visiting this year, be sure to see our Ultimate Guide to Christmas 2023 at Walt Disney World ). The big thing to know before you go this time of year is that crowds will be varying degrees of bad now through January 9, 2024. That date is also a major milestone for Walt Disney World in restoring normalcy , making the experience closer to what it was like in ~2019. Suffice to say, it’s been a very slow return to pre-closure normal for Walt Disney World.

Beyond the holidays, a ton is happening and changing at Walt Disney World. There are new attractions, nighttime spectaculars, and other additions on the horizon, as well as the Disney100 Celebration at EPCOT. We visit the parks regularly, reporting on everything as it happens–if you want to receive updates when discounts are released, new things are announced, etc., sign up to receive our FREE Walt Disney World Email Newsletter .

There are a few important things you need to know if you’re visiting Walt Disney World soon. First, the big new ride is TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom. This attraction is very popular and can be difficult to experience due to not having a standby line. Improve your chances for success in scoring virtual queue spots by reading our TRON Lightcycle Run Virtual Queue Strategy Guide & FAQ .

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT, which was last year’s big addition, also does not have a standby line. At least, for now. Walt Disney World has been setting up overflow queue and seems poised to ditch the virtual queue for that once the off-season rolls around.

Second, there’s the paid Genie+ service that offers Lightning Lane line skipping service (free FastPass+ was retired a few years ago). This can be purchased in the My Disney Experience app for variable, date-based prices that now differ for each park (Magic Kingdom and Park Hopping are most expensive). While advance-booking of Lightning Lanes is coming at some point in 2024, it will not debut in January alongside all of the other changes.

Genie can be confusing, but we’ve used and tested Genie+ and Lightning Lanes a ton . Everything you NEED to know, including ride priorities, where it’s NOT necessary to buy Genie+ or Lightning Lanes, and much more is covered in our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World .

However, if you’re visiting after around March 2024, we’d recommend  not  reading that just yet. Advance-booking of Lightning Lanes is going to dramatically change the system yet again, and will likely render a large portion of that guide and current strategy obsolete. It’s a great resource for the next few months, but probably more confusing that worthwhile for travel dates in Spring 2024 and beyond.

If you’re looking for ways to avoid waiting in long lines  without spending extra on Lightning Lanes, see our Best Time-Saving Strategies for Walt Disney World , which covers the best & worst ways to do that in each park–and is accurate for the entirety of 2024. That’s the result of extensive testing, and the optimal methods for outsmarting the crowds aren’t always intuitive. For 3 of the 4 parks, you’re better off using a ‘free’ strategy rather than paying extra for Genie+ and Lightning Lanes!

disney world trip planner book

As noted above, there are also several things are returning to normal starting on January 9, 2024 at Walt Disney World. Those include the following:

  • Return of the Disney Dining Plan
  • End of Disney Park Pass reservations for most guests (almost anyone reading this)
  • Return of all-day Park Hopping
  • After Hours Parties come back (January 10, but close enough!)

Some or all of these changes might seem insignificant if you’re a first-timer, and it’s true that they may have little bearing on your vacation. But they’re a big deal for a lot of Walt Disney World diehards, and if you’re visiting after January 9, you may not even realize how much friction has been removed from your trip. (Given that you’re reading a planning post with several thousands of words, there’s still a good amount of friction…just not as much as before!)

Speaking of things changing, winter is also typically ‘refurbishment season’ at Walt Disney World. For a look at what’ll be temporarily unavailable during your trip, see the 2024 Walt Disney World Refurbishment & Closure Calendar , which we update regularly with return and downtime dates.

Beyond getting back to normal, things are always changing and being added at Walt Disney World. Splash Mountain permanently closed to make way for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure . That’s currently scheduled to open in Late 2024, but that timeline could move forward to summer…or be delayed until early 2025!

Then there’s the colossal EPCOT overhaul, which is now mostly finished now that new Luminous: The Symphony of Us nighttime spectacular and World Celebration Gardens have debuted. The only thing left is the CommuniCore Hall event space, which will likely debut during the 2024 EPCOT Festival of the Arts.

There’s a lot more on the horizon than just those things–here’s everything exciting being built: What’s New & Coming to Walt Disney World in 2024 & Beyond .

disney world trip planner book

With those updates out of the way, let’s tell you about ourselves and why this guide is useful to your trip planning. We are obviously big Disney fans, but with this guide, we share our objective and unbiased tips. This covers the good and the bad, and the hard realities of planning Walt Disney World trip. We don’t sugarcoat everything or feel the need to put a positive spin on things. A lot about Disney is great, but that’s plenty that’s overpriced and not-so-great. If blunt, honest advice is not for you, there are many other sites that are all-positive.

With hundreds of trips dating back to the 1980s when we were kids, we’ve learned a lot about all things Disney. (In 2024, that’ll come full circle as we start taking our daughter to Walt Disney World!) We visit every month to see what has changed, taste-test new menu items, analyze crowds, offer recommendations for things you should do on vacation, share updates on construction, and much more.

This guide distills the key things we know about Walt Disney World into something easy to absorb and less overwhelming. Think of this planning guide as WDW101, with everything organized into the most important aspects of planning. The reality is that Walt Disney World is one of the most complicated vacation destinations on earth, and having a smooth and good trip requires doing your homework. With that said, we promise that taking the time to learn about Walt Disney World will be worth it, so let’s get started…

1A. Best Times to Visit for Avoiding Crowds

disney world trip planner book

“When is the best time to visit Walt Disney World?”  This is often the first question readers ask, and it’s not an easy one to answer because it’s subjective. What makes an experience the “best” differs from person to person. With that said, in helping first-timers plan over the course of the last decade-plus, there are usually three distinct components to this:  crowds, cost & fun.

The first two variables are the overriding factors and, thankfully, those are objective. If you’re primarily concerned with avoiding long lines and high wait times, consult our 2024 Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars . That takes into account Orlando area school schedules, conventions, youth sporting events, park hours, special events, and more to provide you with specific dates that are the least and most crowded.

While that’s all about crowds (and can be overwhelming), we also have something more holistic: our list of the  10 Best and 10 Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2024 & 2025 . As the title suggests, that identifies the ‘red flag’ dates to avoid, as well as the ideal times to visit. It’s really more than just 10 weeks, as a number of the good and bad windows are far longer than a single week.

For example, pretty much the entirety of August and September are great from a crowds perspective, but we zero in on a single week that’s the best-balanced (from our perspective) as it combines low crowds, seasonal events, weather, and other factors. Same idea for a number of other dates throughout the year.

Rather than our objective crowd calendars, those are our subjective picks for when to visit. In addition to wait times, those rankings take other things into account: seasonal offerings like Christmas & Halloween, weather, new attractions, and more. If you find the crowd calendars intimidating, go with the Best & Worst Months post instead.

The good news is that, as a general rule, lower prices and crowds coincide with one another. Meaning that if you book your trip around the cheapest dates, you’re more likely to also have lower crowds. Prices are higher and discounts are weaker when crowds are higher, meaning you get hit with a double-whammy if visiting during these times of the year. (Spoiler: the highest prices and crowds both occur when school is out of session.)

1B. Best Times to Visit for Saving Money

disney world trip planner book

The second component is cost. This one is especially significant now, as prices are up across the board. If you’re a first time visitor or it’s been a few years since your last trip, you might be in store for sticker shock. We take a look at this topic in How Much Does a Walt Disney World Vacation Cost? with sample pricing for multiple ‘trip tiers,’ from budget to luxury.

However, it’s not as straightforward as that. Some people don’t realize it, but prices vary significantly based upon when you’re visiting. If you visit for New Year’s Eve, you could end up spending close to double what it costs to visit a few months earlier, in September. Cutting to the chase, here are the Cheapest Times to Go to Walt Disney World .

The good news is that there’s considerable overlap between the cheapest times to visit and the least-crowded times. Visiting during the least-expensive and least-crowded times is entirely possible, and those goals align pretty well. Conversely, the most expensive times are usually also the most expensive.

Intuitively, this should make sense. When demand is highest, prices are highest. Like most other businesses, Walt Disney World charges what the market will bear, raising prices when able and discounting in order to incentivize visits when attendance and hotel occupancy are lower.

To that point, the other good news is that deals are starting to return to Walt Disney World after a couple years of very strong pent-up demand! See All Current Walt Disney World Discounts   for a full rundown of special offers through Spring 2024. There are a TON of discounts available right now, some of which offer up to 40% off hotels!

disney world trip planner book

If you want to save even more money and do WDW as cheaply as possible, we have the 14 Best Tips to Save Money at Walt Disney World in 2024 . Those tips cover a lot of excellent ideas, such as buying discount Disney gift cards or having Groceries Delivered to Your Walt Disney World Hotel Room .

Those are just a handful of ways to save a ton of money on a trip to WDW! It also covers several options for the biggest expense of your trip–lodging. Among other things, you can stay at Walt Disney World’s best resorts for a fraction of full price by renting DVC points .

The idea behind all of these money-saving tips is not cutting corners and compromising on the quality of your vacation. To the contrary, we aim to “cut the fat” from your budget and recommend ways to save while also improving efficiency. Taking grocery delivery as an example–we do not recommend cooking dinner in your room or packing picnic lunches. Instead, we advice ordering nutritious breakfasts (the weakest meal at Walt Disney World restaurants) to have quickly have in your room or on-the-go each morning to save money and time .

1C. Best Times to Visit for Having Fun

disney world trip planner book

Now we’re getting into the much more subjective area of determining when to visit. What makes a time of year more or less fun? Will you enjoy the parks more or less during certain timeframes? That’s really difficult to say. As a general matter, our mantra is this: “A rainy day at Walt Disney World is better than a sunny day at home.”

This is to say that you can have a great Walt Disney World vacation no matter what time of year you visit. The smile and laughter of your child hugging Mickey Mouse for the first time; the delicious taste of a Dole Whip or Citrus Swirl; the sight and sound of fireworks exploding over Cinderella Castle at the end of a long and satisfying day at Magic Kingdom. Absolutely none of that is seasonal. Those joys are possible 365 days of the year at Walt Disney World, and your trip will be made up of moments big and small exactly like those that happen all year long.

However, it’s also fair to say that a sunny day is better than a rainy day at Walt Disney World. Most people probably are more comfortable during mild and temperate days than oppressive heat and humidity. Seasonal events can likewise add a lot to the baseline experience, taking a trip from “memorably magical” to “magnificently magical” on our  highly scientific scale of magicalness.

Hopefully you get the point here–that every day at Walt Disney World has the potential to be great, but also, that greatness has its own sliding scale, with weather, seasonal enhancements, and more cranking things up to the next level of magicalness.

disney world trip planner book

The holiday season is our favorite time of year at Walt Disney World. It’s not even a close call. If we could only visit Walt Disney World one month of the year for the rest of our lives, we’d pick November or December. (Super-specifically, we’d pick the week after Thanksgiving that straddles the two months.) If you’re thinking of a holiday vacation, we’d implore you to start by reading our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World .

Every park, resort, and Disney Springs gets into the spirit of the season. The last few holiday seasons have been scaled back, first as the parks reopened and then for the 50th Anniversary. With that now over, things are almost 100% normal for Christmas 2023, minus the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights.

This year, there are two hard ticket events: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and the brand-new Disney Jollywood Nights at Hollywood Studios. (Families with small children–and just about everyone else–will want to stick with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.)

disney world trip planner book

There are other seasonal events throughout the year, starting with the EPCOT Festival of the Arts in January and February. Following that is the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival from March through July.

It’s also possible that Magic Kingdom will once again do a special event in Summer 2024. In fact, we’d expect this to occur, with new entertainment debuting and smaller scale additions. Walt Disney World’s big new attraction (Tiana’s Bayou Adventure) won’t be ready in time for Memorial Day, so they’ll need something else to market in the first half of 2024.

Even if a summer-time event doesn’t happen, Pride is celebrated in June, and there are other smaller-scale events throughout the year. It’s also likely more After Hours parties will occur in Summer 2024.

The special events kick into high gear in August, which will kick off the 5-month long ‘party season’ at Magic Kingdom. That starts with Halloween time in Magic Kingdom, from August through the 1st of November. Our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Guide offers info & tips for Magic Kingdom’s fan-favorite Halloween-themed event.

While it has nothing to do with Halloween, another staple of fall is EPCOT’s annual culinary event. Read our Guide to the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival to prepare for that park’s colossal culinary celebration. This just scratches the surface. You can see everything that happens throughout the year in our Calendar of Seasonal Events at Walt Disney World .

2. How Long to Visit

disney world trip planner book

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, we recommend a Walt Disney World vacation of at least 6 or 7 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.

In addition to visiting Disney’s theme parks, you’ll also probably want to build a day into your itinerary for relaxation, and this is good to plug into the middle of your trip so you don’t get worn out by the theme parks. The other consideration for planning trips to Walt Disney World might be how much time to spend doing other things.

You might want to do Orlando-area theme parks like Universal, SeaWorld, or Busch Gardens. We recommend at least a couple of days at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Use our Universal Orlando Resort Trip Planning Guide for strategy. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is absolutely mind-blowing, even if you’re not a fan of the books. The new Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the best roller coaster in all of Orlando–and that’s just one of several excellent recent additions.

We also have a post titled Walt Disney World vs. Universal Orlando that covers a lot of the pros and cons of visiting Universal. If you want to broaden your horizons and do something beyond Central Florida’s world-class theme parks, check out our 50 Things to Do in Orlando, Florida (Outside Disney’s Parks) . That covers beaches, manatee-watching, outlet malls, and much more.

3. Booking Vacation Packages

disney world trip planner book

Vacations booked via DisneyWorld.com 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. If you’re looking further into the future, 2024 Walt Disney World Vacation Packages are now available! (For those already wanting to plan 2025 WDW vacations, you’ll need to wait until late June or early July 2024, unfortunately.)

If you’re already overwhelmed, you might want to consider using a travel agent. If you go this route, look for one who primarily or exclusively does Disney-related bookings. As you can probably gather already, planning a Walt Disney World vacation is incredibly complex. If a travel agent doesn’t specialize in Disney, they probably won’t know the many nuances of Walt Disney World vacations. (For this reason, we don’t recommend AAA or Costco, even though some of their agents have Disney knowledge.)

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 commission from Disney). If you are unsure of which package might be best for you–or need personalized help with any aspect of your trip–we recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” ( here’s why we recommend one ) to get a quote and to help you plan. Request a quote from our recommended Authorized Disney Vacation Planner here .

4. Park Tickets

disney world trip planner book

If you opt to book things yourself and without a vacation package, we recommend buying your tickets from an authorized third party ticket seller to save money. 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.

Normally, prices increase in February and/or October. They increased twice last year, with the second occurring later than usual in December. This October, the only admission costs that increased were on Annual Passes, which raises a question about whether tickets will increase again in December, or if Walt Disney World is waiting until February 2024. Either way, it’s not a bad idea to buy now to lock-in current prices no matter when you’re visiting between now and December 31, 2024.

If all you want to know is where to safely buy the cheapest, legitimate Walt Disney World multi-day tickets from an authorized reseller click here to buy via Get Away Today , our recommended & Disney-authorized ticket seller. You can save an extra $5 per ticket with discount code DTB5 at check-out. In total, that’s up to $79 off multi-day tickets with their deals and that coupon.

Disney’s mantra is “the longer you play, the less you pay per day.” It’s corny but true. Single-day Walt Disney World tickets are expensive , but multi-day tickets are much cheaper per day. The cost of additional days on a ticket substantially decreases with each day you add after 3 days. In other words, longer trips are not proportionately more expensive than shorter ones.

This is just one of the many tips we cover in our post about saving money on Walt Disney World park tickets . Whatever you do, don’t wait to buy your tickets at the front gates of the parks or on eBay…they won’t work!

5. Where to Stay

disney world trip planner book

One of the very best posts on this blog is our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page . We have stayed at every Disney hotel, plus many off-site ones. That page offers links to each of our hotel reviews, room photos, thoughts on the amenities, pros & cons, and more.

When deciding whether to pay the premium prices that Disney-owned hotels charge, one important consideration for many will be on-site perks. Unfortunately, there aren’t many anymore–basically just some extended hours (see our Guide to Early Entry at Walt Disney World ), location, theme, and more convenient transportation. Since reopening, many benefits have been eliminated–either permanently or temporarily. Read about this in Is Walt Disney World’s On-Site Advantage Disappearing or Reappearing ?

When pricing out Walt Disney World hotels, you’re bound to have some sticker shock. Prices have gone up considerably in the last few years, and discounts are not nearly as abundant as they once were. If your budget is tight but you still want on-site luxury, consider getting a quote from Disney Vacation Club point rental company ( click here to book with the cheapest point DVC rental company ).

For more info about renting points, you might want to read our Guide to Renting Disney Vacation Club Points article. This is a great way to save money on nicer accommodations than you otherwise might be able to afford.

disney world trip planner book

If you’re going to stay on-site at Walt Disney World, 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.” Looking for the best hotel in each tier? Check out the following posts ranking the various Disney hotels:

  • Value Resort Hotel Rankings
  • Moderate Resort Hotel Rankings
  • Deluxe Resort Hotel Rankings
  • Deluxe Villa (Disney Vacation Club) Resort Rankings

Debating whether to stay off-site to save money or on-site at Walt Disney World for convenience and to be immersed in the magic? We have an Off-Site vs. On-Site Walt Disney World Hotels article that goes into great depth about the pros and cons of both options.

If you’re also visiting other theme parks in Central Florida, one alternative is to stay off-site. Our Universal Orlando Hotel Rankings & Reviews covers the pros & cons of those resorts, many of which we love for their locations, theme, on-site perks, and value for money. Additionally, refer to Universal Orlando v. Walt Disney World Resorts for a comparison between Disney’s and Universal’s hotels to see what each does better.

6. What to Pack

disney world trip planner book

It might sound hard to believe, but packing for Walt Disney World offers ways to save money and improve your experience. There are some wrinkles to Walt Disney World that make packing a bit different, and by bringing certain “clever” (we think) items in your luggage, you will improve your experience. We go over the best stuff in our Walt Disney World Unique Packing List .

Two of our favorite examples from that list are Frogg Toggs Chilly Pads and this Compact External Charger . Seriously, you’ll wonder how you ever travelled without these (and many other) items on our list!

One of the most important things to pack for Walt Disney World is comfortable shoes. This can trip people up, as you probably walk  far, far less at home than you will at Walt Disney World. Suffice to say, what’s best for logging tens of thousands of steps could differ from your day-to-day footwear. See our picks for the Best Shoes to Wear at Walt Disney World for guidance–and be sure to plan ahead, breaking in your shoes before your trip!

Comfort is also key when planning your clothes for Walt Disney World–and weather can make that challenging. If you’re going in the colder months, check out our Packing for Disney in Winter post. For summer months, read Tips for Beating the Summer Heat at Disney .

disney world trip planner book

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 Disney Pin Trading pins in advance for less than $1/pin (versus $10+/pin at Walt Disney World) . If you’re a female looking for cute outfits to wear to Walt Disney World, my wife has a post covering What to Wear to Disney .

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. If you are contemplating letting Disney’s roaming photographers around the parks take photos for you, read our Memory Maker & PhotoPass Review .

7. Itineraries & Attraction Advice

disney world trip planner book

Having an itinerary is a big deal, even for some frequent Walt Disney World guests. Some visitors create binders, spreadsheets, and schedule every step of their day. People get serious and obsessive about this. We are not those people. Planning is important, but going to those lengths is unnecessarily stressful and creates unrealistic and rigid plans. The best laid plans often go awry, and when that inevitably happens, it can be disappointing if you’ve over-planned.

With that said, we also recommend first-time visitors do not “wing 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. As with most things in life, balance and moderation are key.

We have the following flexible step by step plans for each park that cover our perfect days using standby-only:

  • 1-Day Magic Kingdom Park Itinerary
  • 2-Day Magic Kingdom Park Itinerary
  • 1-Day Epcot Itinerary Park Itinerary
  • 1-Day Animal Kingdom Park Itinerary
  • 1-Day Hollywood Studios Park Itinerary

For step-by-step single day itinerary using Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, see these itineraries:

  • 1-Day at Magic Kingdom with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes
  • 1-Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes
  • 1-Day at Epcot with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes
  • 1-Day at Animal Kingdom with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes

Additionally, we have itineraries for Universal Orlando offering the same type of step by step advice:

  • 1-Day Universal Studios Florida Itinerary
  • 1-Day Islands of Adventure Itinerary
  • 1-Day Universal Park Hopping Itinerary ( both Islands of Adventure & Universal Studios Florida )

disney world trip planner book

If you’d prefer to create your own itinerary, we recommend reading our Disney Parks Ride Guides and getting a rough idea of which attractions you want to do:

  • Magic Kingdom Park & Attraction Guide
  • Epcot Park & Attraction Guide
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park & Attraction Guide
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park & Attraction Guide

We also have guides for the Walt Disney World water parks and Disney Springs:

  • Blizzard Beach Water Park Guide
  • Typhoon Lagoon Water Park Guide
  • Disney Springs Shopping & Entertainment District Guide

With that said, we’d strongly recommend using our pre-made Walt Disney World Park Itineraries . Those step by step guides are maximized for efficiency, and will save far more time than ones you put together yourself, or just winging it. These are good, flexible itineraries that offers attractions, dining, and other things to enjoy without going crazy with mapping out every bathroom stop of your day.

disney world trip planner book

Those with small children should also know that some Walt Disney World rides have height restrictions, requiring kids be a certain number of inches tall (usually 38 to 44″) in order to experience. Measuring sticks are outside attractions with a requirement, and kids who do not meet the minimum height are not allowed to enter the line. There are no age requirements for any attractions. See  Height Requirements at Walt Disney World for a comprehensive list, updated with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

Attractions that have height requirements also offer Rider Switch (also known as child swap, baby switch, rider swap, or parent swap). This is Walt Disney World’s system that allows parents with small children to take turns experiencing thrill rides and other attractions with height requirements via Lightning Lanes. See our  Guide to Rider Switch at Walt Disney World   for everything you need to know about this service. If eligible, it can save you a ton of time.

8. Where to Eat

disney world trip planner book

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.

To figure out where to eat, consult our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. That page has reviews of 75+ restaurants at Walt Disney World, plus other resources like our Magic Kingdom Counter Service Restaurant Rankings , and lots of other specific topics. Another great post with random quick-tips is our 101 Walt Disney World Dining Tips post.

Good dining experiences can make a trip, so if you only read more on one topic in this guide, make it dining. 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.

disney world trip planner book

If you’re starting the planning process far in advance, you might want to subscribe to our free newsletter for updates . We also provide subscribers with news from the parks, and have given a heads up on Free Dining and ticket price increases before they have been officially announced. This makes the newsletter especially handy for scoring discounts and being in the know as to what’s going on before your trip.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re trying to do “Disney on a Dime,” one of the easiest ways to save money is to not eat at Walt Disney World restaurants. Dining at Disney is expensive, and unlike park tickets, it’s not mandatory . You can save a lot of money by eating off-site, or better yet, getting groceries and preparing your own meals. We have a comprehensive Tips for Buying Groceries at Walt Disney World post that covers grocery delivery, local stores, and much more.

Even if you don’t want to make your own meals, grocery delivery is great for getting fruit and other small grab and go snacks, both of which are really over-priced at Walt Disney World. It’s also excellent for beer–for less than the cost of a single beer in the parks, you can have a 6-pack delivered to your hotel room!

9. Transportation

disney world trip planner book

Walt Disney World transportation can be hit or miss, and can take a lot of time. For the most efficient transit options, read our Time-Saving Walt Disney World Transportation Tips post. This covers shortcuts, when to use buses v. monorail v. boats v. your feet, and more!

One of the other big considerations is whether you want to stay at a Walt Disney World hotel that offers a unique form of transportation, such as the monorails to Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, or the boats, walking paths, or Skyliner to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. These can be a huge time-saver.

disney world trip planner book

Disney’s Magical Express has now ended, and following a merger of two competitors, it’s indirect replacement is essentially Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine. This does cost money, but otherwise it’s roughly analogous to Disney’s Magical Express–it’s even operated by the same vendor that ran Disney’s Magical Express (same buses and everything, just no Disney branding!). For a broad overview of alternatives, see our Airport Transportation Guide to Walt Disney World .

An alternative to a rental car is Lyft (or the Minnie Van service powered by Lyft) or Uber. For the basics on using these ride-sharing services, read our Tips for Using Lyft or Uber at Walt Disney World post. This post also shares the easiest way to get to Universal Orlando Resort (in case you want to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, too)

10. What Else to Do

disney world trip planner book

Your imagination is really the limit here. Most first-time visitors only know about the theme parks, Disney Springs, 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 Walt Disney World Honeymoon Tips article. Here are some other posts that cover “other stuff” at Walt Disney World, and other ways to improve your vacation, that don’t really fit the categories above:

  • Free Things to Do at Walt Disney World
  • Best Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Spots
  • Best Harmonious at Epcot Fireworks Viewing Spots
  • Tips for Celebrating at Walt Disney World
  • First-Timer Tips for Walt Disney World

If all of this is really overwhelming, we (again) recommend contacting an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and letting them do the work for you. This is Disney’s term for their affiliated travel agents, and the huge upside to them is that they don’t charge for their services–Disney pays them directly at no cost to you! Click here to get a vacation quote from our recommended no fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner .

Remember, what’s in this post is just a starting point. To recap, you’ll also want to read our When to Visit Walt Disney World post for the best time of year to plan your trip. If saving money is important, read Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post to buy the cheapest tickets from legitimate sources. To figure out where to stay, our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page is a great resource. Want to know where to eat or if the Disney Dining Plan is right for you? Our Walt Disney World Dining Resources will help!

These are just a few of many posts mentioned in this article that will provide the foundation for your planning…but these 4 other posts are probably the most important of the bunch! If you enjoyed this Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide, please help us out by sharing it with your friends via social media. We put a lot of ongoing work into this, and hope it’s as helpful as possible to as many trip planners as possible. Thank you so much for your support–we really appreciate it!

Your Thoughts

Are you visiting Walt Disney World in 2024? If you are a Walt Disney World veteran, what tips would you add to this? If you’re a first-timer, is there anything else you’d like to know? Are you excited to experience the parks for Disney’s 100th Anniversary, or will you wait until Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens or more on-site perks are restored? We love hearing from readers, whether it be questions from newbies or tips from seasoned Disney pros with tips of their own to add!

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Written by Tom Bricker

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Every traveler must read this crucial information before visiting Disney for tourism. I love the way you write for travelers this is easy to understand and the information itself is quality content.

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Hey Tom! Will you do an article on how to navigate busy times of year like spring break? We have historically been off season travelers to avoid crowds but older kids in school prevent us from being able to do so and I am a bit anxious about what to expect during spring break and how to best manage the crowds!

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Hi Tom, my wife and I are planning a trip to Disney World after Thanksgiving to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. We have never been to Disney World and want to make the most of our time (and money). We are really good at Genie+(Disneyland) and are willing to arrive for rope drop and stay until the parks close.

Which of the following 2 options would you recommend? 1. A 4-Day Park Hopper and do MK on a MVMCP day and park hop to HS. On another day, do a half day at HS and park hop to MK to enjoy the evening with fireworks and the “Frozen” Castle Experience 2. A 3-Day Base Ticket and 1-Party Night Ticket (Jollywood Nights or MVMCP)

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Hi Tom. Myself and my family spent 2 weeks in Orlando middle of August, including 5 days at WDW and we would like to thank you very much for all the advice you give. I read all of your blogs and the advice/information was so valuable to help us to get the best out of our holiday (we are from UK so we can’t visit as often as we would like!). Using Early Entry, Extended Evening Hours and very quick fingers on the Virtual Queues, we were able to do everything we wanted to do and much more!! The only thing that went wrong was when after doing Early Entry at MK we took the monorail back to our hotel (Yacht Club) via Epcot forgetting that we would technically be park-hopping so are restricted by the 14:00 rule. We arrived to EPCOT just after 13:00 so had to wait a bit. It was only a minor issue but thought I would mention as reminder to anyone else. We also learnt through this incident that although Park Hopping is officially allowed from 14:00, you can tap through from 13:45. Again, might be useful for others… We are already starting to plan our next trip and I continue to read your blogs every day! Thanks again and hope everything goes well with the baby!

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Hi Tom! Do you have any articles or good tips for room requests (timing, method, hotel cast member insight, etc)? I would really appreciate it! I am a bit of a Disney veteran, but the art of the room request has eluded me (for example, old online articles suggest faxing things – that can’t possibly still be applicable, right??) – and if I ever post any questions on Facebook groups, the comment section eventually spirals into negativity and chaos. Thanks!

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Hi! Thank you for everything you do, it is such a huge help when planning a Disney world trip when I’m used to just going to Disneyland. Do you have any tips on booking flights? Such as when is the best time to book, how far in advance and recommendations on which website to book through?

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This information is crucial for every traveler. It is common to encounter health issues during our journeys, which is why this comprehensive guidance blog is essential for everyone. I greatly appreciate your kind words about the post, and I’m glad that the information shared in the article has proven helpful to you. bali tours

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Hi Tom! Any tips for doing the Parks in the rain? We’ve been waiting months and see there maybe showers when we’re there next week. Thanks

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Tom, My family and I planned for a 2-day Epcot experience in June. I am using your itineraries for the other parks and I thought I’d ask if you have a 2-day for Epcot?

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Just amazing help for us in planning our vacation – thanks, Tom!

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This is in dire need of updating. Rock n Roller Coaster is down, Toyland is open and fabulous, we did Lightning Lane at Rise of the Resistance. And more.

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Have you heard anything about package service returning? It seems advantageous for Disney. I wouldn’t buy a large collectible if I have to carry it around all day. Having it sent to my hotel would’ve been nice.

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I have not heard anything about that specifically, but I have recently been hearing about very big, very comprehensive announcement plans to coincide with 2024 Walt Disney World vacation packages. Normally, that news would be released in June or July, but I suspect it might be coming earlier this year.

Again, no clue if resort package delivery is among the changes (it was not one of the things mentioned to me), but it very well could be given the potential scope and scale of the news.

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Hey Tom! What do you know about Typhoon Lagoons re-opening for 2023? I was thinking about adding the water park option to my annual pass renewal but wasn’t sure it would be worth it if both aren’t open. Thanks!

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I’m grateful you recommended we consider opting for a week-long Walt Disney World vacation if we want the kids to enjoy the experience and all the attractions available without wearing them out. I’m planning to take my kids to Disneyworld this spring, so I was wondering how I should plan the trip. I’ll keep your suggestion in mind while I look for a Disney VIP tour to book in advance soon.

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Hello Tom, I tried to use the code DTB5 at get away today and it says code is invalid?? Do you have another code that can be used? Also I love Sarah’s Mickey Mouse purse, where did she buy it I have to get one!! Thanks Lori

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The Get Away Today website tells me that the DTB5 discount code is invalid, so this article may need further updating (that or there is an error on their side – just thought you should know).

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This article is awesome. It was wonderful and I really like it. Thanks for sharing this post.

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disney world trip planner book

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disney world trip planner book

Walt Disney World Planner - Trip Travel Organizer Paperback – October 9, 2020

Purchase options and add-ons.

This Walt Disney World trip planner organizer will guide you through every step of your Walt Disney World adventure - in full colour and with cute pictures to help make planning fun . The planner also takes into account the latest changes due to the pandemic and is valid both during and after.

In this planner:

  • Step by Step - What to do Now, 9 months before, 6 months before, 2 months before, 1 month before, and the week before your trip.
  • My hotel shortlist - with colour pictures of all Disney hotels
  • Budget and savings - including fun savings tracker
  • My Wishlist - we include all the rides and shows at all four parks, as well as things to do outside the parks, characters and dining
  • My Daily Planner - a day-by-day overview, plus for each day you note park opening hours, locations, Fastpass+ selections, dining reservations, character meets, show times and more!
  • Packing list - with suggestions
  • Photo space - This guide doubles as a memory book when you're back with dedicated space for photos and space to write about your favorite memories!
  • Finalized plans area
  • Comparisons area - Package, offers and deals comparisons
  • Notes - Space for notes
  • * And more!
  • Print length 42 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Independent Guides
  • Publication date October 9, 2020
  • Dimensions 6 x 0.09 x 9 inches
  • ISBN-10 1838277307
  • ISBN-13 978-1838277307
  • See all details

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independent Guides (October 9, 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 42 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1838277307
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1838277307
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 0.09 x 9 inches
  • #537 in Theme Park Travel Guides
  • #1,225 in South Atlantic United States Travel Books
  • #3,385 in Tourist Destinations & Museums Guides

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disney world trip planner book

Best Disney Travel Agents

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Disney Travel Planners. Why would anyone use Disney travel agents in this fast-paced digital world when they could just book their own trip online, right? Well, not exactly. You certainly can book your own Disney vacation, but we wouldn’t recommend it.

While there are plenty of online resources to go it alone, the truth is booking your Disney vacation with a specialized Disney travel planner can bring a lot of added value to your trip. And since not all Disney travel agencies are created equal, it’s especially important to work with a reputable one. Therefore, you should always book your vacation with the best Disney travel agents so that everything is done correctly and, ultimately, your Disney trip is as magical as it can be.

Below you will find our list of the top 6 best Disney travel planners in the business today. We follow this list with some of the key reasons why you should always seek out the assistance of a Disney travel agent in the first place. So let’s get started!

Top 6 Disney Travel Planners

(best disney travel agencies).

As you’ll discover later in this article, booking with a Disney travel agency is the smart approach. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at some of the best Disney travel agencies in the business today. Here’s our list of the top 6 Disney travel planners (in our opinion):

1. The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer Travel Agency Logo

Our top-rated Disney travel planner award goes to The Vacationeer because of their impressive track record of customer satisfaction and professionalism. And we aren’t the only ones who are impressed.

A Diamond Level Earmarked Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

Disney has recognized The Vacationeer for its success and professionalism. As such, Disney has designated The Vacationeer as both a Diamond Level Producer and an Earmarked Authorized Disney Vacation Planner . These designations are only reserved for top-tier Disney travel agencies.

Earmarked Diamond Producer logo

Satisfied Customer Base

The Vacationeer is a boutique travel agency specializing in Disney , Universal, cruise line, and destination resort vacations. With a satisfied client base from around the country, Vacationeers gives their clients personalized touches that larger agencies do not. They go above and beyond their competitors and strive to exceed their client’s expectations from the start to the completion of a Disney trip.

The Vacationeer’s goal is simple: to create magical vacations filled with memories that will last a lifetime. Sounds great, but how do they accomplish this?

Depth of Disney Knowledge

It starts with a staff of knowledgeable “Vacationeers” – all graduates of the College of Disney Knowledge – who not only know a lot about Disney but are also passionate Disney fanatics. In other words, this isn’t just a job; crafting their client’s stress free Disney vacation is rewarding and exciting.

To have this kind of in-depth knowledge, the Disney travel agents at The Vacationeer frequently visit the park. This allows them to keep abreast of all the frequent changes that happen there. That first-hand expertise is something you won’t find with travel wholesalers such as Costco !

The Right Vacation Package For You (At The Lowest Cost)

Vacationeers also stay on top of the latest Disney promotions and best deals. This allows them to pass on as many savings to their client as possible.

Each vacation package is uniquely tailored to the client’s specific goals to ensure satisfaction. At every step of the way, The Vacationeer is there to help you and ensure your vacation is as magical as possible.

Whether you are looking for the best value, a luxury vacation fit for a king or queen, or something in the middle, The Vacationeer has you covered!

You can rest assured that the Disney travel planners at The Vacationeer are some of the best in the industry. They’re in the business of satisfying each customer’s expectations while striving to be among the friendliest to work with. And the proof is in the pudding: The Vacationeer has hundred of 5-star Google reviews.

So, whether it’s your first trip to Disney World or your 30th, we think The Vacationeer is the premier agency to depend on. Contact them today!

Disney Travel Services

The Vacationeer will help you plan and book your hotel accommodations , theme park tickets, advanced dining reservations , and more. In addition, they will advise you through making your Disney Genie+ selections and seting up a payment plan that fits within your monthly budget. And it’s no small bonus that they’ll contact Disney for you if anything pops up… much better than you waiting on hold!

Besides Disney World, the agency is well-versed and fully authorized to book travel for other popular resort destinations and cruise line vacations . And if you’re considering cruising with Disney , you’ll be happy to know that The Vacationeer offers one of the highest onboard credits around — that’s free money to use while you’re onboard the ship! So whether it’s a family vacation, honeymoon, romantic getaway, or just a solo trip away from the grind, The Vacationeer is the best travel agency in the business (in our opinion).

And, of course, their services are 100% free . Click the button below for a free, no-obligation quote, or call them toll-free at  1-833-4MY-TRIP.

Prefer to work with a travel agent who lives near you?

The Vacationeer has agents in most states:

AL ∙ AZ ∙ CA ∙ CT ∙ FL ∙ GA

IL ∙ IN ∙ KY ∙ LA ∙ MA ∙ MD

ME ∙ MI ∙ MS ∙ NC ∙ NJ ∙ NV

NY ∙ OH ∙ OK ∙ PA ∙ RI ∙ SC

TN ∙ TX ∙ VA ∙ VT ∙ WI

The Vacationeer books the following travel destinations:

✓  Walt Disney World Resort (FL) ✓  Theme Parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios ✓  Water Parks: Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon ✓  All Disney World Resort hotels, as well as non-Disney resorts ✓  Disneyland Resort (CA) ✓  Disney Cruise Line ✓  Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa ✓  Adventures by Disney ✓  Universal Studios (FL and CA)

✓  SANDALS® Resorts: Caribbean 5 Star Luxury Included Resorts ✓  BEACHES Resorts ✓  Atlantis Bahamas ✓  Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

2. EnchantAway Travel

The Logo for EnchantAway travel, a rose inside a compass-point enclosure

We know the team behind EnchantAway Travel very well. It was founded by the owner of one of the top selling Disney Travel Agencies in the country, and their leadership team boasts more than 30 years of experience in the travel industry.

EnchantAway is a boutique travel agency staffed solely by dedicated Disney fans just like you, who’ve chosen to use their vast knowledge (and love) of the parks and resorts to help other families plan the perfect trip.

EnchantAway and its agents are true professionals, through-and-through. Agents must graduate from the College of Disney Knowledge, and they have decades of Disney experience. EnchantAway holds its agents to the same high standards of service and accuracy that apply to Authorized Disney Vacation Planner agencies twenty times their size.

Thanks to their love of Disney and their dedication to a mission of “fans helping fans,” EnchantAway is already garnering rave reviews from its clients. We’ve heard from several who can’t say enough about the dedicated, one-on-one service they get. A consistent refrain is that “they cared about my trip as if it were their own” and “I think my agent was just as excited about my vacation as I was!”

Whether you’re planning for the parks, considering a cruise, or looking to adventure further abroad, you’re sure to be enchanted by the exceptional service you get from the passionate, expert Disney vacation planners at EnchantAway Travel.

Their planning services are completely free, so get your no-cost, no-obligation quote today!

EnchantAway Travel can help with these destinations:

✓  Walt Disney World Resort (FL) ✓  Disneyland Resort (CA) ✓  Disney Cruise Line ✓  Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa ✓  Adventures by Disney ✓  Universal Studios (FL and CA)

3. Glass Slipper Concierge

Glass Slipper Concierge logo - best Disney Travel Agencies

Glass Slipper Concierge is a division of Sanborn’s Travel Service and is based in Corpus Christi, TX. The Agency is headed by author Cara Goldsbury, whose travel articles have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Travel Weekly, Forbes Traveler , and more.

Cara’s agency has received praise for its dedication to its customer base and is staffed with enthusiastic Disney fanatics. However, what really differentiates them from other Disney Travel agencies is their focus on crafting luxury Disney vacations . So if you refuse to settle for anything but the best in Disney accommodations, fine dining, and services – and have the budget for the golden treatment – Glass Slipper Concierge may be the people you need to talk with.

Please note that Glass Slipper’s “Gold Key Advisor” planners charge a vacation management fee for their services.

Glass Slipper Concierge books the following travel destinations:

✓  Walt Disney World Resort (FL) ✓  Disneyland Resort (CA) ✓  Disney Cruise Line ✓  Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa ✓  Adventures by Disney ✓  Four Seasons Resort Orlando ✓  Other Destinations

4. Mouse Vacation Planning

mouse vacation planning

Jeffrey Merola is a busy guy. He’s a husband, a father, an author of 11 Disney guidebooks, and the founder of the Disney travel agency Mouse Vacation Planning, LLC.

Jeff has toured Disney World over 340 days despite being situated in upstate New York. There’s no question he is a Disney fanatic!

As a Disney travel agent, Jeff is committed to providing his clients with the 1st class service they deserve. His goal is to make their vacation dreams become a reality.

So whether it is your 1st visit or your 21st, Jeff will be there to help you create the most magical Disney vacation possible.

He’ll take the stress out of planning and booking your family vacation so that all you have to do is pack your suitcase and go!

Mouse Vacation Planning books the following travel destinations:

✓  Walt Disney World Resort (FL) ✓  Disneyland Resort (CA) ✓  Disney Cruise Line ✓  Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa ✓  Adventures by Disney ✓  Universal Orlando

5. Fairytale Journeys

Fairytale Journeys Travel logo

Fairytale Journeys has been helping clients save time and money since its founding in 2009. As authorized Disney Vacation Planners and a Universal Orlando Preferred Travel Agency, Susanne and Steve’s team of more than 150 agents certainly know the ropes when it comes to traveling to Orlando’s major attractions.

Thinking of cruising? They can book your trip on Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian, Virgin, and more!

The agency has been designated as Earmarked Platinum through Disney, and its agents consistently receive high marks from their clients.

Fairytale Journeys specializes in the following travel destinations:

✓  Walt Disney World ✓  Universal Orlando ✓  Disneyland ✓  Adventures by Disney ✓  Disney’s Aulani ✓  Disney Cruise ✓  Other Cruise Lines ✓  Sandals/Beaches Resorts

6. The Magic for Less

best disney world travel agencies

The Magic for Less Travel is another large Disney travel agency. Located in Cranberry Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania, the agency currently employs over 40 Disney travel planners. Their mission statement reads: “We make dreams come true by providing the best vacation planning services so our guests will experience a truly magical vacation.”

The Magic for Less Travel professionals are there to help you find the best price, features, and value at the various Disney Destinations. As an added bonus, they also book Hawaiian vacations and Disney’s Hilton Head and Vero Beach resorts. So if a larger agency focusing on value is music to your ears, The Magic for Less Travel may be the right Disney travel agency for you.

The Magic for Less books the following Disney destinations:

✓  Walt Disney World Resort (FL) ✓  Disneyland Resort (CA) ✓  Disney Cruise Line ✓  Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa ✓  Adventures by Disney ✓   Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort ✓   Disney’s Vero Beach Resort ✓   Universal Orlando Resort

Top Reasons why you should use

Disney travel planners.

Disney Travel Agents

Is a Disney Travel Agent the Way to Go ?

Simply put…YES!

Not only can Disney travel planners answer all of your questions, but they also find you the best possible vacation package – at the best promotional rate available anywhere.

Disney travel planners also do the time-consuming “heavy lifting” of booking as many aspects of a Disney World v acation as you wish. And- trust me – there are plenty of time-sensitive details to book!

But what is most surprising to a potential client is that the services of Disney World travel agents are entirely free of charge. No hidden fees, no fine print – nothing.

When you add all the pluses and minuses, there’s really no advantage whatsoever in booking your own trip. So when you see the value Disney travel planners can offer you, it’s a no-brainer decision.

With that said, let’s review some of these key advantages in greater detail.

Here are the main reasons why booking your Disney World vacation with a specialized Disney travel planner is the smart choice:

⭐ A Disney Travel Planner’s Depth of Knowledge of Walt Disney World

This one is especially important if you are visiting Disney World for the first or second time.

Since Disney is a massive theme park filled with all sorts of parks, attractions, resorts, restaurants, entertainment, and transportation options, you need someone who can help you plan and navigate through every step of your Disney World trip. Of course, your input is the most important. But their help and guidance will be invaluable if you don’t already know the ropes.

As amazing as Disney World is, it fast becomes less amazing when you realize you don’t know where you are going. In addition, your experience suffers when you encounter crowded attractions, can’t get a table at popular restaurants, or have booked a vacation package that isn’t perfect for you.

Guidebooks and online blogs can be helpful, but you need to talk with someone with first-hand Disney knowledge of the park’s aspects. A Disney Travel Agent can help you navigate through all of these unknowns and craft a vacation package that’s right for you.

Not all Disney travel planners (and Disney travel agencies) are created equal. Thus, it is important to find a dedicated Disney travel planner whom you can trust for the correct information and guidance.

When you first contact a Disney travel planner, don’t be afraid to ask questions like: how many times have you been to Disney World? When was the last time you were at the park? Which restaurant has the best buffet? Which Magic Kingdom attractions have the shortest lines ? What are the most popular Disney Genie+ (Lightning Lane) attractions? Etc., etc., etc. Many things change over the years, so you want to be sure the person making your recommendations has the most current official Disney information and knows the ropes.

⭐ The Personalized Service Disney Travel Agents Provide

The best Disney Travel Planners should make you feel like they are “on your side” and looking out for your best interests. For example, if you tell them you want to spend 4 nights at a budget-friendly Disney resort, then a good Disney travel planner will respect your goals. They will never try to up-sell you with a more elaborate Disney vacation package.

Disney travel planners should give you the personalized attention any client deserves. This means answering your questions, giving tips and advice to help you decide an itinerary based on your goals, meeting your deadlines, and putting in the extra effort to make sure that every aspect of your Disney World vacation is extra magical.

You certainly won’t get the same level of personalized service if you were to book your trip online. And even when you call Disney’s reservation hotline, you will speak with a different Disney employee each time you call. That can get confusing!

Going through a Disney travel planner is the only way to feel like you have a friend helping you.

Unless you already know Disney all there is to know about Disney World, there’s no downside in having someone on your side to help you plan your trip.

⭐ To get the Best Possible Rate: They Monitor Deals and Special Promotions

Another key advantage of using a Disney travel planner is that they are constantly monitoring new discounts and promotions offered by Disney. It’s their job to do this so you don’t do have to do it yourself.

As you book your trip, a Disney travel planner will find the best current rates available (based on any deals/promotions that Disney is running).

Once the trip is booked, your Disney travel planner will continually monitor all Disney promotions available. Suppose any discounts spring up after a trip has been booked. In that case, a Disney travel planner will modify any existing client’s reservation to take advantage of these applicable discounts.

Having an astute Disney travel planner – constantly on the lookout to save you money – is never a bad thing!

⭐ Booking your Advanced Dining Reservations for You

Some clients prefer to be more hands-on than others. No problem! You can still utilize the services of authorized Disney vacation planners while also doing a lot of the legwork – and some of the booking – yourself. This may include the planning/itinerary and booking of things like transportation, stroller rentals , and Advance Dining Reservations. On the other hand, some clients prefer to leave every single detail up to the Disney travel agent. It’s really up to you how involved you want to be.

At the minimum, the only aspects that a travel agent would need to take care of would be to book your hotel/ticket/dining plan package and to process the payments for your trip. Otherwise, your level of involvement is up to you. However, be warned that some of the bookings are confusing to the uninitiated, not to mention time-consuming and time-sensitive.

Most clients are happy to let their experienced travel planners make all the reservations because they know exactly what they are doing. Plus, they have the time – and obligation – to do it, so why not let them handle it?

If unforeseen circumstances arise after booking your trip, your Disney travel agent is there to help. So if you encounter a medical or family issue, hurricane, pandemic, or whatever, your planner will help you change your existing reservations or re-book the entire trip to a later date.

⭐ All of this – and it’s Free!

Most travel planners receive a small commission for booking their client’s trips. However, this commission comes directly from Disney (not the clients). The clear beneficiary of this policy is you – the client. Some authorized Disney vacation planners do, in fact, charge for their services. Avoid them like the plague! No need to pay someone to do the work that most agencies do for free.

And – if you think there is some sort of catch or hidden fees somewhere – rest assured that there are none. The best Disney travel agencies are strictly no fee. And not only are the services of a Disney travel planner entirely free, but they put you in a position to get the absolute best rates offered anywhere (by closely monitoring the discounts/promotions and adjusting your Disney vacation package anytime a better offer becomes available).

Ready to Book? Choose an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner

We recommend working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner . Disney bestows this award on only a limited number of agencies in the country – the few that have proven themselves in terms of exceptional customer service and sales volume. Knowing this, why work with unproven travel agencies when a Disney-approved Authorized Disney Vacation Planner? They are the best in the business and 100% free to use!

So just to make this clear, when you book with a Disney travel planner, you’ll be speaking with a Disney expert who will answer your questions and steer you in the right direction. Your Disney travel agent will also find you the best possible rates. Furthermore, after you decide what to do and where to stay, your dedicated agent will book all aspects of your Disney vacation for you. So yes, you still get to call the shots. However, you won’t have the hassle of booking everything yourself. No headaches and no stress.

How often do you get this level of service for free ?! Probably NEVER! There’s really no downside to using a good Disney travel planner on your next trip.

Have we convinced you? If so, then contact one today. You won’t regret it!

Best Disney Travel Agents

Have a magical Disney World vacation!

Thank you for reading our Best Disney Travel Planners page. For more helpful Disney World vacation information, see our Disney Dining Plan Calculator , Disney World Transportation Map , Disney World Resort Map , Disney World Tips and Tricks , and our Disney World Crowd Calendar pages.

And if doing all of this — and getting a paycheck for it(!) — sounds like your idea of a dream job, be sure to check out our  How To Become a Disney Travel Agent article, too!

Related Posts:

how to become a disney travel agent

WDW Prep School

2024 Disney World Vacation Planner

2024 Disney World Vacation Planner

Our goal is to help you plan your dream Disney World vacation , and that all starts right here.

This page will walk you through planning a trip in 6 easy steps.

After that, we’ll go through some of the other important information you’ll need to know before you go.

Consider this spot a sort of Cliff Notes version for getting started (or even for getting reacquainted) with Disney vacation planning.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

In this article

Important updates for 2024

If you are brand-new to planning a Disney World vacation, you may want to skip over this section. But, if you haven’t visited since the parks reopened in 2020, you’ll definitely want to stick around.

The past few years have brought many changes – some of which are fairly significant. Here are the ones that are the most important for you to be aware of:

  • FastPass+ service is out and Genie+ is in
  • Extra Magic Hours (EMHs) have been replaced with a new program called “ Early Theme Park Entry “
  • Extended Evening Theme Park Hours have been added – but only for onsite guests at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts
  • Reservations are required to visit the parks (only for trips through January 8, 2024, no reservations required for date-based tickets beginning January 9, 2024)
  • Disney’s Magical Express has been discontinued ( no more free rides between the airport and your Disney Resort )
  • Park hopping can only be done after 2 p.m. until January 8, 2024. Starting January 9, 2024 park hopping can occur at any time.
  • Advanced Dining Reservations are made at 60 days out now (instead of 180 days)
  • Disney Dining Plan is not available until January 9, 2024

Our best advice is to make sure you do not assume that everything is the same – because it isn’t .

Take time to explore the links in the box above (and in the sections below!) to get caught up on all that is new.

VIDEO: 9 Ways Disney World Planning Has Changed

Why you should plan

Did you know that lots (and lots) of people visit Walt Disney World every year without doing any planning at all?

And while that may sound like a relaxing way to travel, it doesn’t work for Disney vacations, and here’s why:

Not planning ahead means standing in long lines for rides and struggling to find places to eat.

And that doesn’t sound like much fun at all.

It is important to understand that even with planning, you will not be able to see and do everything at Disney World in 1 trip . You wouldn’t be able to see and do it all in 10 trips.

Instead, the goal should be to have fun and make memories . And it is a lot easier to do that when you’re prepared.

Just like any vacation, how much your trip will cost depends on many different factors, but in general, these are the costs you’ll need to consider:

  • Trip length
  • Number and ages of people traveling
  • How you’ll get there (drive, fly, train, etc.)
  • When you’ll be traveling
  • Where you’ll be staying
  • Where you’ll be dining
  • How many extras you plan to spend money on

Despite all of those variables, we can give you some generic onsite prices to help you get a good idea of what to expect.

Want more details on how much to budget? Check out our guide below:

  • READ MORE: How much does it cost to go to Walt Disney World?

Important note: Keep in mind that while these prices are full rack rate prices, Disney frequently offers discounts . However, if you are planning for a trip a year or more in advance, we recommend using the rack rate prices as a good starting point.

Budget Trip Example

$4000-$5000 plus the cost of getting to Walt Disney World

  • 2 adults, 2 children under 10, traveling during the least expensive time, 1 week onsite, most basic park tickets, staying at a Value Resort, eating at the least expensive places.

Moderate Trip Example

$5500-$7000 plus the cost of getting to Walt Disney World

  • 2 adults, 2 children under 10, traveling during a moderately busy time, 1 week, park tickets with Park Hopper option, staying at a Moderate Resort, eating at half Table Service and half Quick Service restaurants , 1 special event planned.

Deluxe Trip Example

$9000 and above, plus the cost of getting to Walt Disney World

  • 2 adults, 2 children under 10, traveling during a peak busy time (like the holidays), 1 week, park tickets with Park Hopper Plus, staying at a Deluxe Resort, eating at mostly Table Service Restaurants, 2 special events.

As we said above, those dollar amounts assume full-price resort rates, but there are usually discounts available .

And, the good news is you can always add a discount after you’ve booked your trip.

  • READ MORE: Complete Guide to Disney World Discounts

How to plan a Disney World vacation in 6 steps

Disney World vacation planning is kind of like building a house – you start with the foundation and work your way up.

And, just like with building a house, you might end up with something you’re not pleased with if you try to do it out of order.

These 6 steps are the basis of everything you’ll find on this site.

If you’re new to planning, this is where you need to start.

Trip Planning Worksheet

To help you get started, we have a free Trip Planning Worksheet that you can fill out as you work through the steps below.

  • Get a copy of the trip planning worksheet

trip planning worksheet

Step 1: Pick a date

When it comes time to decide when to go, you’ll have a couple of different things to consider.

Historically, Disney has gotten excellent at filling what were traditionally less-crowded times of the year with special events, runDisney races, and sport/cheer competitions.

But, despite Disney scheduling things to draw crowds during the slower times of the year, there are still definitely times that are busier than others.

crowd calendar header

Plus, even though Florida is known for having lots of sun, you’ll likely want to consider the weather , too, especially if you’re trying to avoid the intense heat of the summer or the hurricanes of the fall .

To help you narrow down your options, we have a giant Crowd Calendar post that will show you day-by-day which days we are predicting to be the most (and least!) crowded.

  • READ MORE: Disney World Crowd Calendar

Park Pass Reservation System (only required until January 8, 2024)

Guests traveling in 2024 can skip this section, BUT if you are traveling in 2023, you’ll have another critical planning piece to consider: the Disney Park Pass Reservation System .

This system was put into place after the reopening in 2020 and requires guests to make reservations for each day they intend to visit a park .

The good news is the park reservations are free . The bad news is that, at least right now, this is how Disney is controlling each parks’ capacity.

That means there are limited spots available for each day.

Will I be able to get a Park Pass Reservation?

Unless you are traveling during peak times, in most cases, the answer is “yes”.

Disney is continually shifting availability around, and if you plan your vacation in advance, you should be able to get exactly what you want.

But, keep in mind, the busier the time of year, the more in demand the reservations will be. That is why we recommend you make those reservations as soon as you can .

  • READ MORE: How to make Park Pass Reservations

How to check for availability

Disney makes it relatively easy to check park reservation availability.

They have a handy calendar that will show you exactly which parks are (or are not) available.

Park pass availability calendar

Step 2: Choose where to stay & book it

You have lots of options for where to stay during your trip – including both onsite and offsite resorts and hotels.

Where you decide to stay will have a direct impact on some essential parts of your vacation.

  • READ MORE: Ways to Book Your Disney World Vacation

martinique building caribbean beach resort

Onsite or off?

Things like Advanced Dining Reservations and Individual Lightning Lane selections are tied to whether you choose to stay on Disney property or venture offsite to where you’ll (typically) find less expensive options.

While the price is understandably often the first factor you’ll need to consider, most guests visiting the Walt Disney World Resort may find that weighing the value of the perks associated with the onsite resorts versus the lower costs connected to the offsite options can sometimes be a bit tricky to navigate.

  • READ MORE: Disney World Resort Options

Our favorite way to save money when staying onsite

We’ve already discussed discounts up above, but probably our most favorite way to save money when staying onsite is by renting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points.

Disney's Polynesian Bungelows

This is especially true right now when you can snag some great last-minute deals.

There are some definite pros and cons to this money saving option, so make sure you check out the link below for everything you need to know.

  • READ MORE: How to save big money by renting DVC Points

Consider using a travel agent

Whether you are new to planning or a seasoned Disney World vet, it can be very helpful to have somebody you can turn to for assistance with navigating through it all.

That’s why if planning a trip feels overwhelming, we highly recommend reaching out to a reliable travel agen t .

Not only will they be able to answer all of your questions, but they’ll also keep you in the loop if and when changes happen.

Staying onsite? Consider booking a package.

Booking a vacation package makes it far easier to get all your money back if you need to cancel.

If you purchase tickets separately, you can’t “return” them. That purchase is final, even if you have to cancel your trip.

Don’t packages cost more money?

The argument against packages is that it costs less if you book things separately. And that is partially true.

You can usually save some money if you purchase your tickets separately from an Authorized Reseller. The amount you save typically isn’t a lot , though, at least not when compared to the other components of your trip.

But – the last few years have taught us the importance of being able to easily cancel if needed. And, an easy way to add a layer of financial protection to your trip is to stay onsite and book your trip components as a package so that you have the maximum amount of flexibility if you need to cancel or postpone .

Art of Animation swimming pool cars

Of course, if Disney cancels a special event or has to close due to something like a hurricane , you’ll likely see that they will work with ticket holders to extend the expiration dates.

But, if you purchased those tickets outside a package or from a third-party seller, you likely won’t get your money back. 

For the maximum amount of security in case things go wrong, if you need tickets, we strongly suggest that you book a package.

Step 3: Make a daily plan and select Disney World tickets

After you’ve decided when to go and where you’ll be staying, the next thing you need to do is determine where you’ll spend each day. Ideally, you’ll have this step figured out no later than 61 days out from when your trip begins because you’ll need to know your daily plan before you can do Step 5.

Disney World is home to 4 incredible theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), 2 world-class water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), and a giant shopping district (Disney Springs).

Spaceship Earth

And, although you’ll want to see and do it all, unless you’ll be moving into Cinderella Castle (which unfortunately you can’t), you are going to have to pick and choose.

The first thing is figuring out exactly how much time you’ll want in each park. To help you get started, here are our thoughts:

Suggested number of days in each park

The chart below is just a suggestion. All families vary.

For instance, families with younger children and only 3 days in the parks might want to do 2 days in the Magic Kingdom.

It’s also a great idea to have 1 day out of the parks for every 3 days in the parks.

Suggested number of days in each park

Arrange it however it makes sense for your family.

Once you have nailed down how many days you want for each park, you’ll need to decide where you’ll plug that into your vacation.

  • READ MORE: How to pick the best park for each day of your trip

Here is some general advice to help you decide which park to visit when:

  • Magic Kingdom  is the most popular park overall. It is also the park most first-time visitors think of when they think “Disney World”. Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays are the busiest, with mid-week typically the least busy.
  • Hollywood Studios also remains busy most days of the week due to the popular Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land areas. Your best bet here for the shortest lines are Sundays and Wednesdays.
  • Epcot  hosts  nearly year-round festivals , and those festivals are popular with both out-of-state visitors and locals. And, since a lot of what the festivals are famous for is the alcohol and food, the areas around the Festival Booths can be a lot busier (and a bit rowdier) than what you’d find during the daytime hours on the weekdays. If that isn’t the vibe you are looking for, you may want to skip Epcot during the nighttime on Friday and Saturdays .
  • Even with the new Park Pass system,  Animal Kingdom  remains one of the “easiest” parks to fit into a trip. You should be able to plug it in wherever it makes the most sense for you.

Find your travel month below to see park hours, and any scheduled nighttime entertainment and special events:

Magic Kingdom Train Station

Select your tickets

Now that you know how many days you’ll be in each park, you can select your tickets and either purchase a package or, if purchasing tickets separately, you can go ahead and do that now.

When making your ticket selection, keep in mind that you can almost always upgrade a ticket, but you can’t get money back if you don’t use all your days or components of your tickets, such as Park Hoppers.

That’s why we recommend you make that daily plan first, and then use that as a guide for deciding exactly how many days worth of tickets you’ll need.

  • READ MORE: Disney World tickets

Secure your Park Pass Reservations (for dates before January 9, 2024; no reservations needed for trips on or after January 9)

As soon as you purchase your tickets, you’ll be able to secure your park dates.

Remember: Park Pass Reservations are no longer required for date-based tickets beginning January 9, 2024. This covers most people traveling to Walt Disney World. Annual Passholders, however, WILL still need to make Park Pass Reservations (even if they have a resort stay booked).

This step is entirely new to Disney World planning. 

Because it is so brand new, we have written a complete guide to help you with the process. 

Step 4: Pick dining options

Disney World is packed with lots and lots of fantastic restaurants.

And with so many fun places to eat, it is common for people to want to decide where they will be dining before they ever pick what park they’ll be at that day.

But please trust us: you do not want to do that.

Desserts at Crystal Palace

The reason dining falls at step 5 is that you need to plan your dining after you know where you’ll be each day .

The entire Walt Disney World Resort area is huge (roughly the size of San Francisco), and unless you want to spend hours each day on a bus crisscrossing the property going from meal to meal, you’ll need to be a lot more strategic in how you plan where to eat.

Trust us on this one:

Save yourself a lot of stress by waiting to plan your dining until after you’ve decided where you’ll be each day, and if you do decide to dine somewhere other than where you’ll be, make a plan for how you’ll get there.

Remember: Save yourself a lot of stress by waiting to plan your dining until after you’ve decided where you’ll be each day, and if you do decide to dine somewhere other than where you’ll be, plan for how you’ll get there.

Dining Planning Worksheet

Advanced Dining Reservations

Dining at Disney World is broken up into 2 main categories:

  • Less expensive
  • Doesn’t require reservations
  • Often has the ability to Mobile Order
  • More expensive
  • Almost always requires an Advanced Dining Reservation (can be made beginning 60 days from check-in)
  • Sometimes has “To Go” options (at some resort Table Service restaurants)
  • Includes all Character Meals

If your goal is to dine at a Table Service restaurant, you’ll need to make an Advanced Dining Reservation . Make sure you understand how that works, or you may wind up disappointed.

  • READ MORE: How Dining at Walt Disney World Works

What about the Disney Dining Plan?

The Disney Dining Plan is a hugely popular component and while sales of it were paused for several years, it is returning as an option for trips beginning on or after January 9, 2024.

The  Disney Dining Plan (DDP)  is an optional add-on that people staying in an on-site Disney World resort can get by booking one of these things:

  • A vacation package (that includes a room and tickets) online or by calling Disney
  • A room-only reservation by  calling  Disney or having  your agent  add it (this is sometimes called a “ticketless package”)
  • A Disney Vacation Club (DVC) reservation

When you buy a DDP you are pre-paying for your food (and snacks!) and then using credits to get meals during your trip.

After a long absence, the Disney Dining Plan returns for packages on or after January 9, 2024!

The Dining Plan can be great if you are looking for that “all-inclusive” feel, but before you purchase it, make sure you understand how it works, or else you may actually wind up spending more on food than what you would have done without it.

  • READ MORE: Complete Guide to the Disney Dining Plan (Is it worth it?)

Step 5: Plan park touring

Don’t let the rumors and stories about long lines at Disney World fool you: the people that wait in lines at Disney World are the ones without a touring plan.

Touring plans don’t have to be rigid minute-by-minute lists, but touring plans are something you’ll definitely want to spend some time thinking about.

You can choose to tackle the parks without spending anything extra, but Disney has also introduced an entirely new system called Genie+ which will allow you access to their Lightning Lanes (which means shorter waits).

The Genie+ system can be extremely complicated, but here are a couple of resources we think are good introductions:

  • Guide to Genie+ at Disney World
  • Touring plan strategies for Disney World (with and without Genie+)
  • Best Genie+ Choices (what to book first)

Step 6: Add extra magic

When planning your vacation, the final thing to do is to figure out ways to add some extra magic to your trip .

This step doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to spend more money (although that is certainly an option); it just means you are intentional about ways to add a little extra **pixie dust** to your trip.

Fairy Godmother extra magic

For lots of people, this is the step that ties their entire vacation together (and gets them hooked on planning lots more Disney World trips!).

If you want to think of planning a Disney World trip like the steps in the construction process, Steps 1-5 above help you build your house, but Step 6 is where you get to decorate it.

Here are some of our favorite resources to help you add some extra magic to your vacation:

  • Create a countdown
  • Watch Disney movies and shows that are connected to what you’ll see in the parks
  • Plan a surprise
  • Listen to some podcasts and trip reports
  • Put together some Tinker Bell gifts
  • Book a dessert party

VIDEO: 7-Step Planning Process for Walt Disney World Vacations

What to Pack

You’d be surprised just how many questions we get about this topic.

But it makes sense; when you’re far away from home, things will go a lot more smoothly if you have everything you need with you.

In fact, we feel so strongly about packing lists that we have a H-U-G-E post with everything you’ll need to know about what to pack for a Disney World vacation.

And the best part? You’ll find links to free packing list downloads you can use.

  • READ MORE: The Ultimate Disney World Packing List

And, while you’re busy working on a packing list for your trip, don’t forget to think about what you’ll want to take into the parks with you.

  • READ MORE: What to pack in Your Disney World Park Bag

park bag

Preparing for your trip

Your trip is booked, but now what?

We recommend you spend the months, weeks, and days leading up to your trip learning some of those Disney World basics that will help your trip go smoothly.

We’ve listed just a few topics below, but we also invite you to scroll through the hundreds of other posts on the site to find topics that might interest you.

Disney World planning basics

  • Navigating Disney World transportation
  • 101 of the best Disney World tips
  • Ultimate Guide for Visiting Disney World with Toddlers
  • Disney World news & updates

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Disney Theme Parks

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Enchantment Awaits at Walt Disney World Resort

Journey to all 4 parks during your disney vacation for endless fun.

Imagine a place like nowhere on earth, where moments and memories have no limit.

 Magic Kingdom Park Wander through 6 captivating lands, hop on iconic Disney attractions, meet beloved Characters and catch spectacular fireworks displays and animated parades.

 Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park Behold the magic of nature and delight in wild animal encounters, high-speed thrills, nightly entertainment and Pandora – The World of Avatar.

 Disney's Hollywood Studios Embrace the spirit of Tinseltown with a variety of attractions and entertainment inspired by movies, TV, music and theater—including Star Wars - and Toy Story -themed experiences.

 Epcot Ignite your imagination at a park brimming with innovation and global allures. Here, you can travel to outer space and stroll through 11 countries in a single day.

Mix In Water Parks, Dining Shopping and More!

Uncover excitement and leisure outside of the theme parks.

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park

Disney Springs – Shopping, Dining & Entertainment

Disney's Boardwalk

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Create Your Magical Disney Vacation

Begin building your one-of-a-kind escape by choosing from over 25 Disney Resort hotels. Then, customize a package that lets you take advantage of all 4 theme parks, our 2 water parks and over 150 Walt Disney World Resort dining locations.

Start Planning My Disney Vacation Package

View Disney Resort Hotel Guest Benefits

See Ticket Types

Happiness Awaits at Disneyland Resort

Each park boasts a unique vibe.

Celebrate your love for all things Disney at the original home for never-ending fascination and glee.

 Disney California Adventure Park Make yourself at home in a world where the stories of Disney, Pixar and Marvel come to life within 7 vibrant lands.

 Disneyland Park Feel a dreamy nostalgia at Walt Disney's original theme park, where you can float through 8 themed lands, meet Disney Princesses, encounter a variety of Star Wars experiences and take in mesmerizing entertainment.

Mix In Dining, Shopping and Local Hotspots

Unwind with family and friends in a lively promenade located in between the parks—admission is complimentary! Plus, enhance your trip by checking out nearby landmarks.

Downtown Disney District

Southern California Sightseeing Destinations

Plot the perfect getaway by choosing from 3 amenity-packed Disneyland Resort hotels. Then, customize a package that lets you take advantage of both theme parks, Character Dining experiences—and conveniently add travel options like your flight, ground transportation and other popular SoCal experiences.

View Disneyland Resort Hotel Guest Benefits

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Disney Destinations Across the Globe

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Magic Your Way Vacation Packages

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Sample Disney Resort Hotel Packages

Not sure which to pick? Before getting started, take a look at these sample vacation packages currently being offered:

Room & Ticket Package A family of 4 can enjoy a 6-night, 7-day vacation package at select Disney’s All-Star Resorts with tickets valid at all 4 theme parks.

  • $106 per person, per day
  • Total package price: $2,967*

Room, Ticket & Quick-Service Dining Package A family of 4 can enjoy a 6-night, 7-day vacation package at select Disney’s All-Star Resorts with a Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan and tickets valid at all 4 theme parks.

  • $147 per person, per day
  • Total package price: $4,114*

* Sample Package Details Sample prices are based on 2 adults, one junior and one child in a standard room at select Disney’s All-Star Resorts for stays most days arriving in 2020: January 2 - February 10; April 25 - May 11; August 8 - September 28; October 24 - November 15; November 27 - December 5. Tickets are valid for admission beginning on the date of check-in and must be used within a limited number of days, depending on the length of stay and ticket. Visit Disneyworld.com/usage for details.

Walt Disney Travel Company CST: 1022229-50

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Explore the Benefits of Staying at a Disney Resort Hotel

Benefits include:

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Extra Magic Hours – Get even more out of your vacation as you enjoy extra time at one of the theme park each day to experience select attractions and entertainment experiences with the Extra Magic Hours benefit (valid theme park admission and hotel ID required). Plus, each morning from August 29 to November 2, 2019, Guests staying at Disney Resort hotels can take even more time to enjoy select attractions and experiences at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, Magic Kingdom park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Complimentary Resort Transportation & Standard Theme Park Parking – Motor coaches, water taxis and our world-famous monorail make getting around Walt Disney World Resort convenient! Plus, enjoy complimentary standard parking at Disney Theme Parks! You also receive complimentary motor coach transportation between Orlando International Airport and your Disney Resort hotel via Disney's Magical Express service.

Complimentary Airport Transportation – Skip baggage claim with Disney’s Magical Express service, convenient motorcoach transportation and luggage delivery for you and your party between Orlando International Airport and your Disney Resort hotel.

Complimentary MagicBands – Each Disney Resort hotel Guest can receive a personalized MagicBand —available in a rainbow of colors!

Disney Dining Plan Access – Adding one of our unique dining plans to a Disney Resort hotel and theme park ticket package opens up a world of prepaid meals and snacks at all four theme parks, two water parks, Walt Disney World Resort hotels and select locations at Disney Springs area. With several options to choose from, it’s easy to find the dining plan that best fits your family’s needs.

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2020 Is an Incredible Year to Visit!

Magic Kingdom Park

  • Gather ‘round Cinderella Castle at night for Happily Ever After, an 18-minute fireworks extravaganza that celebrates beloved Disney stories.
  • Explore iconic attractions in Fantasyland, including the high soaring fun of Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the whimsical world of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and musical excitement of Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Live your adventure in a galaxy far, far away at the all-new land, Star Wars : Galaxy's Edge, where you embark on a daring flight on Millennium Falcon : Smugglers Run. And beginning on December 5, Guests can also hop aboard Star Wars : Rise of the Resistance, a thrilling new attraction that’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.
  • Discover big fun for kids and grown-ups alike at Toy Story Land. Take a wild ride on Slinky Dog Dash as he stretches throughout the land, dine at Woody’s Lunch Box and encounter “lotso” familiar Characters like Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Jessie.
  • Show off your best dance moves when you party down with some of your favorite Disney Junior pals at Disney Junior Dance Party!
  • Step into the magical worlds your kids love when you explore Arendelle at Frozen Ever After, dive deep into The Seas with Nemo & Friends and let your senses run wild at Journey Into Imagination with Figment.
  • From January 17 to February 24, 2020, savor an enticing mix of art, food and entertainment at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts—including the Disney on Broadway Concert Series with performances 7 days a week.
  • Welcome the upcoming spring season at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, an annual event bursting with brilliant gardens, fresh flavors, interactive playgrounds and rocking entertainment―March 4 to June 1, 2020.
  • Celebrate the past, present and future of the park at Epcot Forever, an all-new nighttime spectacular you won’t want to miss.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park

  • Make your way to Pandora – The World of Avatar, a beautiful land that celebrates the magic of nature. Here, you can fly on the back of a mountain banshee during Avatar Flight of Passage, hike amid floating mountains in the Valley of Mo’Ara and take a mystical boat ride deep into a glowing bioluminescent rainforest on the Na’vi River Journey.
  • Get ready for a roarin’ good time as Simba’s story comes to life all around you in the breathtaking Broadway-style show, The Festival of the Lion King.

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Family Travel Magazine

Tips for Planning a Trip To Disneyland

I f you are a regular reader here, you know that I am a frequent traveler to Walt Disney World in Florida. I’ve been so many times that it’s fairly easy for me to plan a Walt Disney World vacation, because I know exactly what to do, and where I’ll want to go when I’m there.

In recent years, I finally had the chance to plan a trip to Disneyland, and while there are some similarities, there are lots of things you’ll need to know. Since my first trip to Disneyland several years ago, I’ve returned multiple times and have always loved my visits.

Disneyland, with its two theme parks and central Anaheim location, is very different from Walt Disney World . So, if you are planning a trip to Disneyland, you’ll want to do your research and some planning in advance so that you’ll be prepared.

This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.

I visited Disneyland as part of the AWESome Retreat conference and Mastermind and received complimentary admission and some media perks. I have also received a complimentary stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim. I’ve also paid my own way several times.

Save money on your Disneyland California tickets and your Southern California vacation by booking through  Get Away Today . You can also save $10 on your Southern California vacation of 2 days or more with the code FTM10. 

Planning a Trip To Disneyland

Before planning a trip to Disneyland, it’s a good idea to review the two parks – Disney’s California Adventure Park and Disneyland Park. There are different shows, rides, restaurants, and other attractions in each park, and you’ll want to have an idea of how much time you’ll want to spend in each park. Disneyland also offers Downtown Disney, and there are no water parks.

Planning Your Disneyland Vacation 

Unlike Walt Disney World, you probably don’t need to spend quite as much time at Disneyland Resort. The two parks are adjacent to each other, and you can easily walk from one to the other multiple times per day. For our family, I’d probably plan for a three-day trip, although you can even get quite a bit done in just one day.

Before you go, you’ll want to do some research. What time does Disneyland open during your trip? If it’s open late, and you can stay up late, you can get a lot more done. You’ll also want to look at dates and crowd levels.

As you’d expect, weekends, holidays, and school vacations (including summer) can be more crowded. While I wouldn’t completely avoid those dates (sometimes it’s unavoidable), it’s important to know so you are prepared for long waits. You can see the best times to visit Disneyland here .

Disneyland Discount Tickets

When purchasing your Disneyland tickets, you’ll definitely want to get a discount if possible. Our friends at Get Away Today offer discounted park tickets as well as Southern California vacation packages. Use this link to purchase , and you can get $10 off a valid vacation package with the code FTM10.

You’ll be able to buy a package that includes nights at an official Disneyland hotel or an off-property hotel. Third or fourth night free deals are offered at select off-property hotels. Saving money on your hotel and ticket means you’ll have more for souvenirs and food!

Even if you don’t book a vacation package, it’s best to buy your tickets in advance since you also will need a valid park reservation. Get your tickets early and go right to the park entrance.

When purchasing your tickets, you’ll have several options. You can choose the park hopper, which means you will be able to go to either park during the day. A standard ticket allows you admission to just one park.

I’d recommend getting the park hopper. Because the parks are so close together, you can go between them easily.

You’ll also select how many days you want to include on your tickets. If you’d like to experience most of the attractions, I think a three-day pass would be the best for a family. When visiting with my son, we went for three days and had a great time.

Hotels in Anaheim Close to Disneyland

There are lots of wonderful family-friendly hotels located on and off property in the Anaheim area near Disneyland . On property, you’ll find the following hotels:

  • Disneyland Hotel
  • Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
  • Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

Like Walt Disney World, Disneyland also has Good Neighbor hotels . Many of these are located directly across the street from the parks, so they are incredibly convenient. Most are family-friendly chain hotels , so you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. These hotels are located right across from the parks:

  • Anaheim Camelot Inn and Suites
  • Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground
  • Fairfield Inn by Marriott Anaheim Resort
  • Homewood Suites by Marriott Anaheim Resort Convention Center
  • Courtyard by Marriott Anaheim Theme Park Entrance (also offers an outdoor water park)
  • Best Western Plus Anaheim Inn
  • The Anaheim Hotel
  • Grand Legacy at the Park
  • Springhill Suites Anaheim Resort Convention Center
  • Westin Anaheim

During my most recent trip to Disneyland, I had the chance to do a complimentary stay at the Howard Johnson Anaheim Hotel and Water Playground . This family-friendly hotel is about an eight-minute walk from the front entrance of Disneyland. I would definitely recommend staying there.

I’ve also stayed at the Westin Anaheim, and the Courtyard by Marriott – both were excellent. It’s best to choose the hotel that has the rooms and amenities (as well as price range) that best suit your family.

There are other Good Neighbor hotels that are located a bit further away. Some may offer shuttles. If you book a vacation package through the Get Away Today link listed above, you may be able to get a third or fourth night free.

The hotel we stayed at during my first trip, the Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel , was located about 20 minutes away from the parks. They offered complimentary shuttle service throughout the day, but it was on a set schedule and you needed to book it in advance.

If your hotel offers a shuttle, check to see what the schedule and process is. Some may have a separate fee.

Wondering if you need a car during your Disneyland vacation? If you are just visiting the theme parks and are staying within walking distance, you won’t need a car. During my four-night visit with my son, we didn’t have a car and just walked to the parks and Downtown Disney.

Planning Disneyland Dining

Disneyland, like Walt Disney World, offers a wide variety of dining options. While quick-service restaurants don’t take or require reservations, the table service restaurants do accept reservations. It’s a good idea to make reservations well in advance to ensure availability.

Reservations can be made 60 days in advance by calling (714) 781-DINE or by booking online. This is a much shorter window than Walt Disney World, making it easier to make more last-minute vacation plans.

There are lots of different dining venues, including character dining , hotel restaurants, themed dining, and Downtown Disney restaurants. There are also several dining packages that give you priority access to some of the shows.

Mobile ordering on the Disneyland app is available at many of the quick service venues. Order on the app, and select an arrival window. When you are ready to pick up, indicate that on the app and then go to the special mobile order window and provide your order number.

During my visit, I made sure to get two iconic Disneyland snacks – the Mickey Shaped Beignets and a Dole Whip. Both were delicious!

If you are most familiar with Walt Disney World, I’ve found that Disneyland dining is a bit different. There are fewer must-try table service restaurants, with lots of good quick-service options. Therefore, you may not need to make as many table service reservations.

My must-try restaurants at Disneyland are the Lamplight Lounge at Disney’s California Adventure (make a brunch reservation on the weekend), and Blue Bayou at Disneyland Park.

Airports Near Disneyland

When it’s time to book your airfare, you may be wondering which airports are near Disneyland. Luckily, you’ll have some choices. While Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the largest and most popular, there are other small airports that may be easier.

Long Beach Airport (LBG) is a small airport that is so easy to fly in and out of. I flew through there on Jetblue and found it to be so convenient.

John Wayne Airport (SNA) is another option that is relatively small and convenient. Other options in the area are Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) and Ontario International Airport (ONT). If you are visiting San Diego , you can also fly through that airport.

In the past, guests flying into LAX or SNA could take the Disneyland Resort Express, which was offered for an additional fee. Unfortunately, that service has been discontinued. See more details here .

Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane

To maximize your time in the parks, you may want to take advantage of Genie+ and the individual lightning lanes.

Unlike the old Fastpass system, Genie+ is not free. It’s closest to the old Maxpass program. You can add this to your tickets, and it’s completely options.

Once you have Genie+ on your ticket, you can use it to book return times through the Lightning Lanes. While you may still have to wait in a short line, it’s definitely going to be a shorter wait.

Individual lightning lanes are a separate purchase available for the most popular attractions. Again, these are optional but will save you time. The current attractions with an individual lightning lane are Radiator Springs Racers and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Learn more about Genie+ and individual lightning lane here .

Attractions at Disneyland

I love the rides at any theme park, so I was most excited to experience the attractions. There are so many different options – from kiddie rides to thrill rides.

You’ll want to research these in advance so you know what your must-dos are. If you are a Walt Disney World fan, you’ll definitely want to do those attractions that are different. Here are my top rides at Disneyland .

Disneyland offers nine themed lands: Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square, Fantasyland, ToonTown, Adventureland, Main Street USA, Frontierland, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Critter Country.

In Disney California Adventure, you’ll find Buena Vista Street, Hollywood Land, Cars Land , Grizzly Peak, Avenger’s Campus , Paradise Garden Park, and Pixar Pier . I absolutely loved the theming of Cars Land – it looks exactly as I’d expect Radiator Springs to look!

Events at Disneyland Resort

Disneyland is home to several events during the year. These include the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival, which was taking place during several of my visits. During this festival, you can visit various kiosks to purchase drinks and food samples.

We ended up eating both lunch and dinner at the California Adventure Food and Wine Festival. I had some delicious food, like the Salt and Vinegar Parmesan Chicken Wings, the Shrimp Boil Tacos, and the Verlasso Sustainable Salmon Peruvian Poke with Cucumber-Lime Salad and Aji Verde Salsa. The offerings for the California Adventure Food and Wine Festival change each year.

Downtown Disney

In addition to the two parks, there’s also Downtown Disney. It offers dining, shopping, and entertainment, including Splitsville Lanes. Tickets aren’t required to visit Downtown Disney, so it’s a great place to visit on your first day if you don’t want to buy tickets to the theme parks. There are also some fantastic restaurants for lunch or dinner.

Quick Tips for Planning a Disneyland Vacation

  • Book your vacation package (purchase through Get Away Today with the discount code FTM10) and decide whether you want to stay on or off property.
  • Plan your flights looking at all of the nearby airports to get the best prices.
  • Book your dining reservations 60 days out.
  • Download the Disneyland app and create an account.
  • Develop a Genie+ plan if you are thinking of purchasing it.
  • Enjoy your vacation!

Visiting Disneyland CA? Click to see all of our Disneyland posts with reviews, tips, overviews of the best rides, and more.

The post Tips for Planning a Trip To Disneyland appeared first on Family Travel Magazine .

If you are a regular reader here, you know that I am a frequent traveler to Walt Disney World in Florida. I’ve been so many times that it’s fairly easy for me to plan a Walt Disney World vacation, because I know exactly what to do, and where I’ll want to go when I’m there. …

Stay in the Magic… and Play!

Customize a walt disney world resort vacation package to suit your style and budget., start planning your disney vacation, what’s exciting and new, enjoy some of the newest experiences at walt disney world resort—and rediscover familiar favorites., finding nemo: the big blue… and beyond.

Witness a stirring spectacle of puppetry, music and more during this reimagined stage show set in Nemo’s vibrant underwater world.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

Bring the whole family to zip, dash and scurry through Gusteau’s kitchen as you take in the sights, sounds and even smells from Remy’s world.

TRON Lightcycle / Run

Leave the real world behind in this high-stakes race across the Grid—the dark, computerized world from TRON .

Watch in awe as Mickey Mouse’s dreams come alive in a nighttime musical with stunning effects, dazzling pyrotechnics and more.

4 Enchanting Theme Parks

There’s so much magic waiting for you in the walt disney world theme parks., magic kingdom park, explore lands of endless enchantment, where your fantasy becomes a reality..

During your visit, you can:

  • Be dazzled by music, dancing and vivid pageantry during the Festival of Fantasy Parade —a grand tribute to the tales and inhabitants of Fantasyland.
  • Enjoy iconic attractions and experiences across incredible lands—including Seven Dwarfs Mine Train , a swaying family coaster ride that will have you racing through a diamond mine.
  • Rediscover beloved classic Disney attractions such as Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and “it’s a small world.”
  • Delight in family-friendly thrills on ever-popular coasters like Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad .
  • Leave the real world behind for a high-stakes race across the Grid—the dark, computerized world from TRON —on TRON Lightcycle / Run .

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Encounter the magic of nature with animal adventures and entertainment..

  • Celebrate the magic of nature at Pandora – The World of Avatar . Here, you can fly on the back of a banshee on Avatar Flight of Passage, hike amid floating mountains in the Valley of Mo’Ara and take a mystical boat ride into a bioluminescent rainforest on the Na’vi River Journey.
  • Set off in an open-air vehicle across a lush African savanna teeming with exotic animals on Kilimanjaro Safaris .
  • Speed through the Himalayas on a runaway train while avoiding the Yeti as you conquer Expedition Everest .
  • Wave to beloved Disney Characters as they sail along the Discovery River on fabulous flotillas.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Let your adventure begin as favorite stories come to life all around you.

  • Pack your imagination, switch tracks and take a ride on the cartoon side like never before when you hop aboard Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway .
  • Live your adventure in a galaxy far, far away at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge ! Experience 2 thrilling attractions, build your own droid or lightsaber, savor Batuu’s tasty food and beverages, shop for Star Wars -themed merchandise and more!
  • Discover big fun for kids and grown-ups alike at Toy Story Land . Take a wild ride on Slinky Dog Dash and go for a whirl on Alien Swirling Saucers.
  • Watch in wonder as Mickey Mouse’s dreams come alive in Fantasmic! —an extravagant nighttime musical with stunning effects, dazzling pyrotechnics and more.

Dare to discover a place where your imagination comes alive and curiosity waits around every corner.

  • Celebrate every season at themed festivals featuring fantastic food, live entertainment and more—select dates throughout the year.
  • Blast off on an intergalactic chase with Rocket, Groot, Gamora and Star-Lord on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind —a coaster inspired by the rockin’ movies.
  • Board an ancient Norwegian vessel and be whisked away to the kingdom of Arendelle during a Frozen Ever After adventure.
  • Journey around World Showcase , where you can explore the culture, arts, food and beverages of 11 different countries.

Disney+ Subscribers: Savor a Delicious Deal

Stay in the magic with disney resorts collection, discover the many benefits of staying at our unique disney resort hotels ., enjoy more time in the parks, disney resort hotel guests get extra time to play every day..

Early Theme Park Entry Guests of Disney Resort hotels can get a 30-minute jump on their Disney day with early theme park entry —available at all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks. This popular benefit will continue through 2024!

Early theme park entry gives you a head start in the parks, so you’ll have access to select attractions, shops and dining before regular hours. And you can enjoy this benefit on each day of your stay—in any park, subject to capacity.

For early theme park entry, you'll need valid admission and a Disney MagicBand, Disney MagicMobile pass or Key to the World Card. Theme park reservations * may be required based on admission type.

Extended Evening Theme Park Hours Guests staying at Disney Deluxe Resort Hotels or Disney Deluxe Villas can enjoy extended evening hours —experiencing select attractions, shops and dining after regular park hours—in select theme parks on select nights. This popular benefit will continue through 2024!

Together with early theme park entry—available to all Disney Resort hotel Guests—you’ll get to arrive earlier and stay later so you can maximize your time in the parks!

Review our calendar for extended evening hours and dates .

If using a ticket with the Park Hopper option that requires a theme park reservation, please remember that you must enter the park where you made your reservation before you can visit other theme parks.

Note: Theme park reservations are no longer required for date-based tickets. For other admission types, theme park reservations may be required. Learn more about theme park reservation requirements .

Savor a World of Flavor

Discover delicious dining options when you stay at a disney resort hotel..

With tasty meals and snacks moments away, it’s easy to make the most of the magic during your stay.

Explore dining experiences available for booking during your vacation.

View a full list of the dining options at Walt Disney World Resort.

Add a Dining Plan

Now you can add a dining plan to Disney Resort Hotel Packages.

Dining plans can add the convenience and flexibility of prepaid meals and snacks to your vacation—and give you peace of mind.

Highlights include:

  • Savings: Save up to 20% on dining for kids ages 3 to 9 when you purchase a dining plan for your family as part of a Disney Resort Hotel Package! Savings compared to the nondiscounted price of menu items available to kids ages 3 to 9 at participating locations when purchased without a dining plan. Actual savings vary based on menu items ordered.
  • Convenience & Peace of Mind: With 2 dining plans to choose from, you can spend more time with your family enjoying the Disney magic (and less time on meal budgeting). And this gives you the opportunity to say that magic word to your kids... "Yes."
  • Flexibility: There are more than 200 locations to dine at throughout our Disney Resort hotels, theme parks and select locations at Disney Springs. So there’s something to delight nearly every taste!

Learn more about dining plans .

Immerse Yourself in the Magic

Disney resort hotels offer the same legendary detail, service and storytelling that guests love in our parks..

From unique accommodations to distinctive dining options, themed rooms and more, the Disney Resorts Collection offers Guests a variety of options that exemplify the Disney difference.

Proximity Staying at a Disney Resort hotel keeps you in the magic—close to the theme parks, water parks and shopping at the Disney Springs area.

Activities and Amenities Disney Resort hotels feature amenities that immerse Guests in the worlds of classic Disney tales—including themed pools with slides, poolside activities, Character Dining experiences, unique recreation, delightful surprises and so much more.

Endless Possibilities With all of the great options in the Disney Resorts Collection, you’re sure to find one—or more than one—that fits you. From theme to budget, you have a world of amazing options to consider. You’re not just choosing a place to sleep at night—you’re choosing your home for the duration of your Walt Disney World vacation.

Want to wake up, look out your window, and say good morning to a giraffe? You can when you stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge . Ever stayed on the shores of the South Pacific? Drift away to Disney's Polynesian Village Resort . Or come home to larger-than-life recreations of scenes from favorite Disney and Pixar classics at Disney's Art of Animation Resort !

These are just a few of the Disney Resort hotels that await you at Walt Disney World Resort !

Make the Most of Your Visit

Get around with ease, it’s fun and easy to get around walt disney world resort when you stay at a disney resort hotel..

Resort Transportation

Our complimentary bus , boat and monorail services are available to take you to popular destinations throughout Walt Disney World Resort—some Disney Resort hotels even offer convenient walking paths to nearby parks.

Plus, the most recent addition to our fantastic world on the go, Disney Skyliner lets Guests glide across the sky while traveling between:

  • EPCOT (International Gateway)
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort

Guests staying at Disney Resort hotels enjoy complimentary standard parking at Disney theme parks, Disney water parks and the Disney Springs area.

Add More Magic

Enjoy special offerings and benefits that take your vacation to the next level..

As a Disney Resort hotel Guest, you can purchase a MagicBand+ at a special pre-arrival price.

MagicBand+ includes all of the features you’ve come to love with MagicBand—and more! Your MagicBand+ can be used to:

  • Unlock your Disney Resort hotel room
  • Enter theme parks and water parks (with valid admission)
  • Check in at Lightning Lane entrances and virtual queues
  • Charge food and merchandise purchases**
  • Discover enchanting surprises and interactions across Walt Disney World Resort
  • Connect Disney PhotoPass images to your Disney account

Learn more about MagicBand+ .

Early Access to Purchase Individual Lightning Lane Entry

Get quicker entry to a couple of our most popular attractions! If you’re a Guest of a Disney Resort hotel, you’re eligible to make your first individual Lightning Lane purchase starting at 7:00 AM each day of your visit. You can select a one-hour arrival window, one at a time, for up to 2 different attractions per day. Guests of Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and Shades of Green may also enjoy this early-access benefit. All other Guests are eligible to make their first purchase when the park opens.

Learn more about our Lightning Lane entrances .

Note: Attractions with Lightning Lane entrances are limited in availability, subject to change or closure, may vary by date, and are not guaranteed. To enter a theme park, valid admission is required. A theme park reservation may also be required. Price, terms and entitlements are subject to restrictions, and change or cancellation without notice.

Make Reservations for Dining and More Get ready to dine or unwind! Here’s when you can make reservations for dining and Enchanting Extras Collection experiences :

  • Guests with a Valid Disney Resort Hotel Reservation: Make reservations for your entire length of stay (for up to a 10-night stay) up to 60 days in advance of your arrival! This can help you enjoy streamlined vacation planning , since you can make all your reservations on the same day—rather than checking availability day after day.
  • All Other Guests: Make reservations up to 60 days in advance.

To dine at an in-park, table-service restaurant, a confirmed dining reservation for the total number of Guests—regardless of age—is highly recommended. You will also need valid admission for the same park on that same date for each Guest ages 3 and up. A theme park reservation may be required based on admission type. Learn more.

Dining reservations do not guarantee access to a park, and Park Hopper availability may change daily.

** Credit card must be presented at Disney Resort hotel check-in for purchases with MagicBand. Purchases are charged to your Disney Resort hotel account.

Enjoy Magical Extras with Your Package

More fun for everyone, disney water parks, disney water parks are unlike anything else on earth—they’re drenched in disney magic.

Zip down some of the world's tallest and fastest waterslides, plunge into fun on a family raft ride, feel your cares drift away on a lazy river or unwind on a sandy beach. Plus, your little ones can splash around in kid-sized areas!

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park Chill out in a winter wonderland at a one-time ski resort that melted into warm water.

Here, you can:

  • Conquer the slopes of Mount Gushmore on Summit Plummet —one of the world’s tallest and fastest free-fall waterslides.
  • Zoom down other thrilling waterslides, like the Downhill Double Dipper and Slush Gusher .
  • Float along Cross Country Creek , a 3,000-foot-long lazy river.
  • Let your little ones explore Tike’s Peak , a water play area with a snow castle fountain and kid-sized waterslides.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – Currently Unavailable Delight in this tropical paradise that’s been transformed by a legendary storm into an oasis of pure excitement.

Important Information Valid water park admission required. Water parks subject to seasonal and weather closures. Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park is currently closed.

Disney Springs

Explore an amazing place featuring an eclectic mix of shops, eateries and entertainment..

Find happily whatever you’re after at Disney Springs:

  • Delectable dining options to please almost every palate
  • Shopping galore , from unique boutiques to whimsical Disney-themed stores
  • Fun for all ages , with bowling, a movie theater, a carousel and more
  • Live entertainment , including Drawn to Life presented by Cirque du Soleil® and Disney—a first-of-its-kind creative collaboration between 2 iconic memory-makers

Delectable Dining

Walt disney world resort has dining options to delight every taste, style and budget..

  • Character dining (with modifications) at Garden Grill Restaurant, Hollywood & Vine, Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera, Chef Mickey’s and more
  • Signature dining where you can celebrate a special occasion in style
  • Counter-service restaurants —ideal for grabbing a quick bite on-the-go
  • Mobile Order at select quick-service restaurants, which enables you to save time by ordering ahead via the My Disney Experience app
  • Spectacular rooftop dining at California Grill, Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera and Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood

When to Make Dining Reservations Get ready to dine! Make advance reservations at select Walt Disney World restaurants.

Enchanting Extras Collection

Add even more magic to your visit with a variety of unique experiences, available for a fee..

  • Hands-on Star Wars experiences at Droid Depot and Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers (with valid park admission)
  • In-Room Floral & Gifts , featuring beautiful gift and snack baskets, themed balloon bouquets and enchanting floral arrangements—all designed to celebrate your special moments
  • Capture Your Moment , a personalized photo session with Disney PhotoPass photographers in a Walt Disney World theme park
  • Fascinating tours that take you to special locations at Walt Disney World Resort—including Savor the Savanna and Behind the Seeds

Explore the Enchanting Extras Collection .

Design Your Disney Vacation

Explore places to stay.

Choose from uniquely themed Disney Resort hotels—with options to suit your style and budget.

Buy Park Tickets

Purchase park tickets—and get ready to experience the theme parks and water parks!

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