When people ask me what’s the most important thing to know about Disney World, the answer comes easily, “You’ve got to plan!” Orlando’s Walt Disney World is more than an amusement park – it really is a vacation experience. There are four major theme parks, two water parks, and a dining and shopping district. Guests can choose to enjoy unique and wide-ranging special events, recreational activities, dining experiences, top-notch shows, parades, and character meets. Have I convinced you yet that you need to research and plan to take advantage of everything Disney World has to offer? Here are 13 tips on how to plan a Disney World vacation to make your experience magical, memorable, and enjoyable for everyone in your family.
Create Your Own Pixie Dust
Anticipation is an exciting part of a Disney vacation! Get out your craft supplies and create a customized welcome letter from Mickey Mouse and invitations to special events your family will be attending. With stealth and a little luck, you can slip these onto your kids’ pillows for a magical surprise. You could also make a Disney-inspired tear-away calendar for a fun way to count down to D-for-Disney-Day.
Pick Your Tickets
The longer you stay, the less you pay – per day that is. The daily rate for theme park admission tickets decreases the more days you purchase. You can choose a base ticket only or add on a Park Hopper option. With the base ticket, you can visit a single park per day. With the Park Hopper option, you can visit any combination of the four theme parks each day.
Get Ready to WALK
The Disney World website lets you download customized park maps before you leave home. Prepare for the miles of walking you’ll be doing at the parks and bond with your family at the same time by “training” for Disney World with daily walks.
Create a Must-Do List
Avoid cries of “Why do we always do what he wants?” by creating a list of each family member’s must-dos. You don’t have to see and do everything; if you do, you’ll probably be so exhausted you won’t enjoy the trip.
Consider spending more than one day at a favorite park and leaving other parks for a future visit. Since dining at theme park restaurants requires park admission, knowing which park you’ll be visiting each day will help you make dining reservations.
Make Advanced Dining Reservations
At Disney World, you can eat breakfast with princesses, watch sci-fi flicks in a ‘50s drive-in during lunch, and enjoy an evening at a Polynesian luau. Selecting the Disney dining options that are best for your family will make your trip one to remember. To ensure a table at your preferred restaurants, making Advance Dining Reservations is a must! Book online or call 407-WDW-DINE up to 180 days in advance. Popular meals fill up quickly!
Consider the Disney Dining Plans
Look into the Disney Dining Plans which allow guests to purchase credits for meals at a discounted rate. Whether quick or table service meals are your pleasure, Disney has a dining plan available. Crunch the numbers – a dining plan is not for every family.
Consider having groceries, especially beverages, delivered to your Disney hotel room from a local grocery store. You can even ship items to the hotel, which can store items until you arrive from companies such as JetSetBabies and Babies Travel Lite. Refrigerators are available by request in all Walt Disney World lodging.
Use Magic Hours
Disney offers guests staying on-site a perk called Extra Magic Hours. Each day, one of the theme parks either opens an hour early or has extended evening hours. Disney posts a calendar of these hours about six months in advance.
Avoid Ride Overload
Mix things up by taking in an indoor show, visiting a playground, or having a light snack after enjoying a couple of rides to prevent attraction overload.
Use a FASTPASS
Using Disney’s FASTPASS system is an absolute must. Pick up a FASTPASS and return to the attraction during the designated timeframe to bypass the regular line. Before your trip, research which attractions offer FASTPASS to make the most of your time at the parks.
Make Time for Play Time
Mini golf. Outdoor movies. Sing-a-longs. Princess or pirate makeovers. Boating. Afternoon teas. All of these recreational activities and more are available at Walt Disney World. Though some of these distinctively Disney activities are costly, many are free or low-cost. Don’t overlook the exceptional afternoon parades or the awesome nightly fireworks shows.
Prepare for Special Needs
Disney goes out of its way to make every guest comfortable. If you have little ones, read up on stroller rentals, childcare options, and Disney’s Baby Care Centers. Disney’s policies make sure guests with food allergies or dietary restrictions can dine safely and enjoyably. From Electronic Convenience Vehicle (ECV) rentals and assisted listening or video captioning devices, to attractions that accommodate guests with differing mobility and more, Disney World is accessible to guests with special needs.
Get Your Questions Answered
For answers to specific questions, check out Walt Disney World Moms Panel. Between them, these moms and dads have experienced all aspects of Disney World and enjoy nothing more than passing their extensive knowledge on to others.
Win a Copy of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers
Enter to win one of two copies of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. Retail value is $15.99. One book will be awarded to an attendee of the 2010 Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. A second book will be awarded to any Travel Mamas reader. The winner will be contacted via email. Lisa M. Battista will provide the prizes to the winners. The contest ends on Friday, January 29, 2010. The winner will be randomly selected using RANDOM.org and will be announced on TravelMamas.com the following Monday. THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.
You can enter twice, using each method of entry below one time:
1) Make any post-related comment below. All generic comments like, “Thanks for the contest” or “I want to win” will not count as entries. Everyone is welcome to enter! If you are a Disney Social Media Mom, be sure to mention that in your comment!
2) Tweet this contest! Copy and paste the following phrase into Twitter. Be sure to post another comment with a link to your tweet!
Win “Beyond the Attractions” – a Disney World guidebook by @DisneyExplorer http://bit.ly/7DdZA0 on @TravelMamas #DisneySMMoms
Travel Mamas Guest Blogger Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. As a mom of three and frequent Walt Disney World Resort visitor, Lisa is continually searching for new ways to enhance the magic of Walt Disney World trips with children. You can buy her book at Amazon.com or BeyondTheAttractions.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter at @DisneyExplorer for updates about the Walt Disney World Resort.
A Note from The Travel Mama: I will be attending the Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World in February 2010 along with other blogging moms and dads. The cost to attend this three-day event is $350, which includes conference attendance, lodging for four, some meals, and Park Hopper tickets.
Additionally, I received a copy of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers from Lisa M. Battista. I found it so useful in planning my upcoming trip that I asked her to write this guest blog post. I will be bringing my highlighted, dog-eared copy with me to Orlando!