Did you know that over 157 million people visit a Disney theme park every year?
Of course, the pandemic has skewed those numbers since 2020, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. With vaccinations rolling out and life slowly returning to normal, now is the perfect time to start planning a Disney World vacation.
What do you need to know about your upcoming Disney trip? Where can you meet Disney characters? What are the best park attractions, and where should you stay during your vacation?
We’ll dive into those answers and much more, so keep reading below!
1. Where to Stay at Disney
Central Florida has over 450 hotels with 121,000 guest rooms — not to mention Airbnb and other private vacation rentals. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with options, especially if you’re traveling during the peak summer or holiday season.
You might be tempted to steer clear of Disney resorts, thinking they’re too pricey compared with budget hotels outside. Consider this though: All Disney hotels offer complimentary shuttles to every Disney Park. This saves you a whopping $25 in parking fees per day, not to mention the costs of a rental car.
Budget-conscious travelers might consider the Pop Century and All-Star Resorts, or even camping at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. If you want to splurge, book your stay at the Polynesian Resort, the Yacht Club, or the Grand Floridian.
Signing up for Disney Vacation Club can also open the door to big savings at the best park resorts. If you’re interested in Disney Vacation Club properties, your best bet is to rent DVC with DVC Shop.
2. Research the Parks & Park Attractions
There are 49 unique rides spread across the four Disney World theme parks, plus the shows, shops, and other attractions. (This doesn’t even include all the cool new stuff in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge!)
Even with many days at your disposal, you probably won’t get to experience it all, so you need to do plenty of research in advance.
For example, are you traveling with small children who won’t meet certain height restrictions? Are you an adrenaline junkie who wants to experience the most intense rides? Or is anyone in your party prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia?
Certain rides will land on your “must-do” list, while others you can safely cross off. Families with young children will want to plan plenty of time in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, while older kids might have more fun at Hollywood Studios.
If your party is adults-only, you may want to spend more time exploring the cultural and scientific attractions at Epcot. Meanwhile, animal lovers will want to maximize their time at Animal Kingdom.
3. Create a (Loose) Daily Itinerary
With all of your research, you’ll want to make a somewhat detailed game plan for each day at the parks. You don’t cram so much in that there’s no room for spontaneity, but you don’t want to “wing it” either.
Start by creating a list of your “must-see” shows and rides at each park. If possible, plan to do them earlier in the day before the lines get too long. Download the Disney app so you can track current wait times and plan the best walking routes around each park.
It’s also a good idea to check park opening and closing times, as well as any special events that could affect your visit. For example, the Magic Kingdom closes early for events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Certain rides might also close to maintenance work, so check in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you have no choice but to visit Disney World during peak times, consider adding the FastPass+ option to your tickets. Just remember you have to schedule your ride times in advance!
4. Buy Tickets & Make Reservations ASAP
Speaking of scheduling things in advance, let’s talk about buying your park tickets. One-day tickets are exorbitant, so you can actually save money by planning a longer multi-day Disney trip.
The further in advance you buy your park tickets, the more you can potentially save. You’ll also save by traveling during non-peak periods such as:
- Mid-January through early March
- Late August through late September
- Early-to-mid December (between Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Popular attractions like character breakfasts fill up fast, so make your reservations as soon as you know your travel dates. The same goes for dining at popular restaurants like the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Hollywood Studios, the Ohana buffet at the Polynesian Resort, or the posh Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian.
5. Plan & Prepare for Florida Weather
If you’re planning a Disney World vacation from a cold climate, get ready for a shock when you land in Orlando. The weather is hot, humid, and muggy almost year-round, with temperatures soaring into the 90s even during the winter months.
Be sure to pack lightweight, breathable clothing like shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, and baseball caps or sun visors. Sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen are a must, even in the winter. You might need a light jacket if you’re visiting in December or January, but you’re unlikely to need anything heavier than that.
Pack only your most comfortable footwear, and make sure your shoes are broken in. The average visitor walks 10-12 miles every day, and nothing ruins your trip like a big blister on your foot. Choose well-worn sneakers or sandals and get ready to pound the pavement.
Other packing essentials include refillable water bottles, portable phone chargers, and a small backpack or fanny pack to carry your belongings.
Bonus tip: Be sure to factor in time to rest during your Disney trip, especially if you’re visiting during the hot summer months! Your experience will be more magical if you’re well-rested and hydrated.
Start Planning a Disney World Vacation Today
Whether you have kids or you’re just a kid at heart, there’s nothing like a Disney World vacation to put a smile on your face.
Planning a Disney World vacation, however, takes some effort and forethought. Use the tips above to ensure you have a safe, affordable, and memorable Disney trip!
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