Is this your first time at Disney World? If you are, you’ve probably noticed just how overwhelming it can be. With there being so many bucket list items, rides, attractions, food, and places to stay, it can be challenging to visit and do every single thing while staying within your budget.
To make your trip planning even easier, I have collected some planning tips, and I included some super awesome bonus tips at the end to help ensure that your stay is fabulous!
Plan far in advance
If you are really set in stone with what you want to do during your Disney World vacation, then make sure you plan as far in advance as possible. 6 to 11 months in advance is usually a great window for ensuring that you’ll actually get reservations at the places that you want to stay at.
With places usually booking up shortly after reservations become available, getting your seat while there is an opening is hard to do if you wait too close to your departure to do it. While you may not always have a longer time window, you can still find reservations a few months out if you remain more flexible with your itinerary
Decide When You Want to Go
Planning your trip for the right time of year can not only help you to avoid a lot of crowds and long lines but also help you to save a lot of money.
Your first trip to Disney will be fun no matter what time of year you plan to go, but knowing the weather and predicted crowd sizes before you can help you to anticipate the trip and know what to expect in advance.
With a lot of families choosing to do Disney World around their children’s school schedules, you can expect that the parks will be more crowded during school breaks.
You can also expect to see smaller crowds when the weather gets bad because not everyone wants to enjoy Disney when it’s hurricane season.
According to past vacations, the most popular time for people to visit Disney World is:
- Summer break
- A week before Christmas and New Years
- Winter breaks
- Spring breaks
These not only have the biggest crowd sizes, but you will also notice that the cost of resorts skyrockets.
The best time of year (weatherwise) to visit Disney World is fall and early winter. The temperature is much easier to handle, and there are fun and festive holiday attractions.
Where Will You Stay?
With 22 Disney-owned resorts on the Disney World property and hundreds more being within a short drive, not to mention the Airbnb’s and hotels in the area, you will have a hard time deciding exactly where you want to stay. You may even notice that the biggest issue is deciding which place is A) Available and B) within your budget.
While staying off-site can save you a lot of money, first-time trips to Disney World usually means that you’ll want to stay on the Disney property. Surprisingly, there are several different budget-friendly resort options located on WDW property.
If you’d like to stay at a nice Disney Resort without the extreme costs, you can rent points for your resort by going to a DVC store online and buying points from a DVC member. This can save you 50-70% or more off the nightly prices and still give you the added benefits of being a Resort guest without being a DVC member.
Off-site resorts do have another added benefit besides the price being much lower. They often come with a lot more space, which is great for larger families. Unfortunately, they usually do not have a continual shuttle service, so renting a vehicle may be necessary. Consider weighing the pros and cons, and seeing which option is the best for your wallet.
Don’t Forget Your Bucket List
You’re going on your first trip to Disney World! You had to have been thinking about this for a very long time, and been adding things into your “bucket list” of things that you want to do, so what are they?
With Disney World being over 27 square miles of Resorts, Parks, Attractions, and Dining areas, there is no way that you will see everything in one single visit. To compile a list of everything that you want to do most, and work from there to plan out your trip.
Even if you don’t get to do everything on your list due to budget or time constraints, you’ll still have fun because you’re doing something that you know you’ve wanted to do for a very long time.
If you’re going as a group, you can let your guests each choose some things that they want to do, and help to plan around those as well.
Break your trip into daily schedules
While planning your trip in advance is ideal, you should not only plan the trip as a whole but also break it up into days. This helps you to follow through with the original itinerary, and if needed, you can become flexible in the event of weather or plans change.
Having a daily plan set to minimize the crowds can help you to maximize the fun on your vacation. For instance, if you start the park in the back in the early morning and work your way out the gates by mid-afternoon, you can be out of there before the crowds get too bad and still have had a lovely morning of fun and rides. You can view Disney World Crowd Calendars online to help you plan your trip in advance.
Use your daily plans as a way to set up your dining experiences. To avoid long walks between parks, plan your meals at restaurants nearby the parks that you’ll already be in around those meals times.
Make sure that your daily plan takes into consideration your family’s natural travel style. Not everyone will be willing to walk all day long or stay out all night constantly. Plan the days so that there is enough time for food, fun, and rest. If you have young children, it could be a good idea to plan a midday nap.
Set Up Your My Disney Experience Account and Buy Your Tickets
You can buy your tickets straight from Disney if you want to quick and efficient because they automatically link to you My Experience Account and to your Magic Bands. However, if you want to save money, you can buy your tickets from a reputable ticket broker such as UnderCoverTourist.
You can buy theme park tickets up in up to 10 days of duration. The more days that you buy in a row, the lower the price per days gets. This is very similar to “buying in bulk.”
Base tickets let you get into one single park each day; if you want to visit multiple parks, you’ll need to purchase a park hopper pass. If you want to enjoy Disney World Water Parks, you’ll need to buy a water park fun and more pass to give you admission to the fun water features.
You can add these to your tickets at any point before or during your stay, so you don’t need to buy the add-ons early, but you can buy the base tickets in advance and then upgrade later as needed, to help save money. This way, you don’t have any passes going to waste.
Book everything in advance
Disney World has Character meals, fine dining cuisines, immersive theming, and more. With these popular attractions often booking months in advance, you will want to choose your restaurant and meals up about 6 months in advance. Advanced Dining Reservations can be booked up to 180 days in advance, so snag them as quickly as possible, so you don’t risk missing out.
What if you can’t get the dining reservation fast enough?
Don’t be discouraged; there is still a small chance that you could get lucky! Disney offers the chance for cancellations, and those happen often. Calling and asking for reservation cancellations may be a good idea before your trip so that you can still get a shot at your dining option of choice.
Don’t forget the FastPasses
FastPasses are a great way to work your way through the park with little wait time. Each pass lets you have 3 quick advances through the lines, and when you’ve finished those, you can add more at a kiosk or on your Disney Experience App.
You can book your Fastpasses up to 60 days before your vacation, and they are good for 3 attractions within the same park. The good news is that the ones that you add after your original 3 for the day up do not have to be used at the same park.
Having a thorough plan for Disney long in advance can help you to get the best and most frugal way to experience your childhood dreams come true, but remembering these helpful tips can have you enjoying your vacation just a little bit more.
- Sign up for discounts before you go
- Check the crowd calendar
- Remember to bring your comfy shoes
- Take a lot of breaks
- Really look at the Disney Dining Plan
- Remember the Disney World Freebies
- Use the Rope Drop to your advantage
- Take advantage of the extra magic hours
Sign up for discounts before you go
Sign yourself up for a free Disney vacation planning packet, including the park video. This is a great way to get placed on some Disney lists and even score a discount pin code.
What’s pin code?
A pin code is an exclusive code that is attached to your home address and your name. It can bring a lot of great discounts, often ranging from free dining to a room or ticket discount.
Even better is that the pin code deal isn’t a one time only, because once you’ve got your account set up, you may have a surprise one added at some point that you could use on your next Disney World vacation.
Check the crowd calendar
Plan your days around the crowd calendar; this is the best use of your time as far as research goes. Do not forget it! Nobody likes like crowds and long lines.
Remember to bring your comfy shoes
It doesn’t matter how cute your new shoesare, having older shoes that have already been broken in can save you from a lot of awful foot blisters. Not only that, but choosing comfort over fashion will be much better on your feet, your back, and your overall exhaustion and pain levels.
Find the best walking shoes, that provide a lot of cushion for your feet and break them in for about 2 weeks before your trip. This will help them to conform better to your feet and keep you from screaming in pain every night during your vacation.
Take a lot of breaks
Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of WDW can sound like a bad thing. Who could ever want to take a break from the happiest place on earth? Honestly, taking a break is probably in your best interest, even if it is your first time at Disney World.
Aim for a break from the parks between 1-4pm when the sun is at its hottest, and the crowds are at the largest. This will help you to enjoy your stay and return in the cooler temps feeling refreshed.
Really look at the Disney Dining Plan
Keep an eye out for free dining offers, but don’t feel like you need to add a sit-down meal 3 times a day for the duration of your stay. Instead, choose maybe one or two sit down meals that you really want to go to and either make your own meals the rest of the time or try a food stand with shorter waits.
Remember the Disney World Freebies!
- Free Cups of ice water
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Game
- Common medical supplies
- Stickers and buttons
- Balloons at resort desks
Use the rope drop to your advantage
When the morning rope drop happens, there are a few lines as people enter the park. Aim for fast passes to be a few hours after (about 2 or 3) when the crowd size has grown, and you can actually feel like you’re getting your money’s worth out of them.
Take advantage of the extra magic hours
If you have the chance to take the extra magic hours- do it! This is a great way to enjoy the park before it gets too crowded!
So remember while you’re planning your first trip to Disney World to take advantage of these tips and tricks so that you can have the best vacation ever!