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10 Things to Know When Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation

Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World can feel like a part time job.  What are the main things to know when planning a vacation to the most magical place on Earth?  Here are 10 things you must know when planning a vacation to Disney.

1. Set a Budget

A Walt Disney World vacation isn’t cheap.  When you arrive at Disney, there will be tons of opportunities to spend more money.  Every ride exits into a toy filled gift shop.  Food carts with delicious ice cream treats and amazing smelling popcorn line the streets.  You can enhance, upgrade, and add magic at every step of the trip.  Although it is fun to do so sometimes, make sure you have a budget in mind prior to heading to Disney.  Know how much you want to spend on souvenirs, food and treats.  A great way to help with this is to buy gift cards ahead of time and stick to those gift card amounts.

2. Make dining reservations early

If you are planning on dining at any of Disney’s sit-down restaurants, you will want to make reservations ahead of time.  Disney allows guests to start making dining reservations 180 days (yes six whole months) prior to arrival.  I know many people think, “I don’t know what is for dinner tonight, how do I know what I will want in six months?”. Unfortunately, if you are wanting to dine at some of the more popular restaurants such as Be Our Guest, ‘Ohana or Cinderella’s Royal Table, it is important to get these reservations made as close to the 180-day mark as possible.  The good thing is you can adjust and cancel up until 24 hours prior if things don’t work out.  Jump on those reservations as early as possible to guarantee the most availability.

3. Grab those Fastpasses

Another perk to a Disney vacation is that all guests are given three fastpass+ reservations per day.  These are free to all guests and can be used at all four Disney theme parks.  Fastpass+ are reservations guests can make 60 days ahead of check-in if staying on Disney property or 30 days if staying off property.  Reservations can be made for rides, attractions and meet and greets.  As these are free, why not take advantage of them.  This allows you to bypass those long times for some of the most popular attractions such as Flight of Passage, Slinky Dog Dash or Frozen Ever After. The key here is to make sure you are on the My Disney Experience as soon as possible to snag those most popular attractions.  Even if you don’t want to ride the highly popular rides, having fastpasses booked for a trip is a nice way to ensure a ride on your favorite ride or a visit with your favorite character with shorter wait times.

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4. Use the My Disney Experience App

Disney uses the My Disney Experience app to communicate and help guests have a magical vacation.  You will want to make sure you download the app, sign in and start practicing with it prior to your vacation.  This app will be how you can see bus arrival times, wait times at the parks, book dining, mobile order and view photos.  It is such a great tool for making a vacation run smoother while at Disney that you will definitely want to use it while on vacation.

5. Weather Happens

Although many of us believe that Disney is in a magical bubble, weather still happens.  Make sure that you prepare for the weather when traveling to the parks.  In the summer, there can be downpours that leave the walkways flooded.  You will want to make sure you have rain gear and extra shoes for these times.  In winter months, it can get cold.  Temperatures can drop to low 20s in the evenings.  Make sure you pack accordingly.  You don’t want the weather to ruin your vacation, so be proactive in preparing for it.

6. Be Flexible

Many people spend months, if not years, planning for their Walt Disney World vacation.  They know where the bathrooms are, what snacks they are having and when they will use those bathrooms.  I can admit that I am that person.  I have learned however that when you get to Disney, those plans go out the window.  The kids have a bathroom emergency, a ride breaks down for the day, the kids decide that the castle show is the best thing in the world and want to watch it three times in a row.  Whatever it is, something will throw your plans out the window.  Be okay with it.  Enjoy the magic that is right in front of you instead of rushing to the next thing on the spreadsheet.

7. Know Transportation Options

Walt Disney World and its four theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs and over 30 resorts is huge.  With that in mind, traveling to and from parks and resorts takes some time.  Make sure you schedule in travel time when planning dining, fastpasses and other events.  Look into your transportation options.  Know what is available for you from your resort and from the parks.  For example, you can’t take a bus from Disney Springs to a theme park.  Instead you have to head to a resort then walk or catch another type of transportation.  Understand if you are driving to Magic Kingdom, you then have to take a tram to the monorail or ferry which will then take you to the entrance to the park.  All of this takes time. You don’t want to feel like you are running and rushing everywhere.  Instead, schedule time for transportation and be aware of what your transportation options are from place to place.

8. Utilize the Perks

Disney does have many perks that guests can take advantage of while on vacation.  The newest option for guests is mobile ordering.  This is available through the My Disney Experience App and allows guests to order at quick service restaurants throughout the theme parks.  This a great option for avoiding the lines that build at meal time.  Another perk is free water.  Disney offers free water at all quick service locations throughout the theme parks.  You can ask for cups of water and use those to refill your water bottles.  This is a wonderful way to save money on water but stay hydrated.  Baby centers are located in each of the four theme parks.  These are areas that have extra baby supplies and even some medical items.  Baby centers can be used by nursing moms, parents that have toddlers that need a break or adults that might need some medical items.  Also, in each theme park are first aid stations.  These are areas that can provide basic medical treatment.  Tylenol, Advil, and other over the counter medicine can often be found here.  Make sure to be aware of these areas and use them when needed.

9. Don’t Change Your Routine

When heading to Walt Disney World, don’t change your family’s routine.  Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible to avoid meltdowns and illnesses.  Think about naps, bedtimes and meal times that you typically have and try to implement those while in Disney.  Doing this will help everyone stay happier.  If your family doesn’t typically stay up until midnight, don’t try to do so every night of the trip.  In the same sense, if you family isn’t typically up at 6 every morning, don’t expect them to do so in Disney when they are extremely tired.  As much as you can stick to your norm, the better everyone will be in the long run.

Photo Credit: Disney

10. You Can’t See It All

Finally, when planning a trip to Disney know that you can’t and won’t see it all.  Even though we all want to try, this just isn’t possible on a normal Disney vacation.  Know this ahead of time and give yourself some grace when planning.  Determine that the must dos are for the group and make sure to get those in, but everything else will be a bonus.  Just know that you won’t see it all and will probably have to head down for a second and third vacation.

When planning your Walt Disney World vacation, make sure to take into consideration these ten tips.  These will help you be better prepared for your magical vacation.

About Jennifer Retzlaff

My name is Jennifer Retzlaff and I became a lifelong Disney fan during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 6th grade. From that moment, Disney became a big part of my life. I live in Iowa with my husband and two kids who are growing up too quickly for my liking. I started introducing my love for Disney early to my family with a Disney honeymoon and then trips when our youngest of 18 months. Since then, our family has been to Walt Disney World over five times and we continue to plan and dream for the next trip. I love the magic that Disney brings to people through the theme parks, cruises, adventures and movies they create. As a teacher, I try to bring that magic into my classroom to help kids believe that “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” I recently reached a dream of mine as I joined Magic Vacation Planner as a personal travel advisor. With this team, I can now help others plan magical vacations. As a passionate writer, I also have my own blog at magicalvacationsbyjen which is also where you can follow me on instagram for trip reviews along with tips and tricks for your next magical vacation.