As you plan your Disney trip, consider how massive the resort truly is. The Disney World resort covers an area of around 47 square miles, which is larger than the city of Miami. It includes four major theme parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There are also two water parks, four golf courses, lakes for recreation, an entertainment district, a shopping district, dozens of hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and so much more. Traveling to Disney World is truly an adventure unlike any other, and planning a trip there can feel overwhelming, especially if you have never been there before.
Before diving into how to plan a Disney vacation, we highly recommend using visitor guides to familiarize yourself with the resort and its many amenities. There are print and digital guides available from Disney World and third parties. The official Disney World guides are excellent for general information about the parks, including helpful descriptions of the attractions, restaurants, and shows. The third-party guides, written by Disney World enthusiasts, will have recommendations, tips, and other information not available from the official guides.
Since so many guides are available, it’s essential to focus on your goals to plan a trip to Disney World effectively. There are comprehensive guides covering all theme parks, and others concentrate on just one. Some guides focus just on rides, and others just on shows. Perhaps you are a roller coaster buff – there’s a guide for you too! Reading reader reviews on the guides can also be useful to ensure they are up-to-date, accurate, and helpful.
As you review the guides, further refine the focus of your trip. You’ll need to concentrate on the parts that make the most sense for your party. And remember, a trip to Disney World is no longer just for families with children. There is something there for everyone!
Maps will be essential for planning your trip to Disney World. They will also be beneficial for navigating once you are there. You can find maps online, in guidebooks, at many Orlando area hotels, and at the entrance to each park. The maps provide a helpful overview of the park or resort, as well as the rides, restaurants, theaters, and other attractions. Transportation-specific maps will help you get around using the bus, monorail, and boat systems.
To make efficient use of your time, use the maps when planning your visit and when you are in Disney World. Perhaps hang one up on your refrigerator before the trip so everyone can get acquainted with the layout. This will also build anticipation and excitement for the trip!
Creating Your Plan
Now that you have used the visitor’s guides and maps to familiarize yourself with the resort, it’s time to plan your Disney vacation! This will include setting a budget, deciding how many days you’d like to go for, picking the dates of your trip, and nailing down exactly which theme parks and other attractions you would like to visit. The more details you know in advance, the better. For example, many restaurants and shows are fully booked up well in advance, so planning and reserving ahead of time is the best way to go.
The best way to book a Disney vacation is by using a service that specializes in Disney travel and packages, through the Disney World website, or by using one of the popular travel websites such as Expedia.
Family Travel Tips and Ideas
Planning a family vacation to a place like Disney World can seem complicated and overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. With over 20 million annual visitors, the planning process has become streamlined and straightforward. Here are some Disney World travel tips garnered from some of their experiences.
Consider ages, interests, and limitations:
Very young children may need to nap in the middle of the day, a teen may want to go on all the rollercoasters, and an older grandparent or disabled family member may need extra accommodation. Some may want to dabble here and there, while others might want to be first in line when the park opens and last to leave when it closes. It may or may not be possible or practical for everyone to stay on the same schedule and do the same things. Be creative, flexible, and attuned.
Check ride requirements and closures in advance:
Visit the Disney World Website before leaving home to get up-to-date information on the rides and attractions you want to visit. For example, rides periodically close for maintenance and upgrades, and some have limitations on height.
Consider FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hour:
With FastPlass+, you can reserve access to even the most popular Disney World attractions. Extra Magic Hours give you access to the parks before or after regular hours.
Disney World at Night:
The parks can be especially striking at night. Furthermore, many attractions have special shows or experiences.
Bring water and snacks:
This will save you money on the high markups you will encounter in the park, and you’ll also avoid lines and be ready if one family member gets hungry at an inopportune time. And for the water, it gets hot in Orlando, so everyone should stay well-hydrated.
Plan a rest day:
Visiting Disney World is not only fun, but it’s also exhausting. Long days, the hot sun, going full bore all day, and other aspects of a Disney World adventure can wear out the hardiest and fittest humans. With a day off, you can sleep in, explore the larger resort, hang out at the pool, enjoy a new restaurant, or even catch a Disney movie or two on TV!
Family Vacation on a Budget Ideas
A trip to Disney World is expensive, but it doesn’t have to break the budget. These tips will save you some cash without diminishing your Disney experience.
- Go during value season. The cheapest seasons are January, February, August, and September. The next most reasonable time to go is in November and December. Be sure to avoid holidays during all of these months.
- Stay on-site. Among the perks of staying at one of the on-site hotels are free parking, complimentary transportation to and from the airport, and free transportation to all the parks. There are often other discounts and perks as well; inquire with your hotel or travel agent.
- Purchase Disney Gift Cards. You can buy Disney Gift Cards for 5% off if you have a Target Redcard. You can use the Disney gift cards to pay for everything Disney, including food, lodging, souvenirs, etc.
Travel Guide for Disney World
Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida. The closest airport and the one most Disney visitors will use, is Orlando International Airport (MCO). Due to its proximity to Disney World and other Orlando theme parks, it is one of the most child-friendly airports anywhere. A second airport, Sanford International Airport, also serves the Orlando area.
Transportation from MCO to Disney World is extensive and robust. If you’d like to use private transportation from MCO to Disney World, you can use the Jayride website to compare and contrast options and costs.
If you want to take a shuttle from MCO to Disney World, you are in luck, and there are plenty of options. Here, you can also use Jayride to explore the many options. Also, check if your hotel has a complimentary shuttle from the airport. Note that Disney’s Magical Express, a free shuttle service that once linked MCO and the Disney Resort, is no longer running as they halted operations in 2021.
Check out Jayride’s Ultimate Guide To Orlando Airport Car Services for more details on transportation from MCO to Disney and other Disney World travel tips.
Transportation from Sanford Airport to Disney is also available, but with fewer options. Once again, Jayride is your go-to for checking out your choices.