You want to book a family trip to Disney World but this is your first trip to Orlando and you don’t exactly know where to start. You may not even know that there are 4 theme parks and 2 water parks at Disney World plus over 25 Disney resorts to choose from. Should I book a Disney World resort or stay off property? Is it cheaper to stay at a Disney resort when visiting Disney World? Is parking free at the Disney Hotel if we drive there or should we just fly? And if I fly, should I rent a car? What’s included in our Disney hotel stay? Let me help you get answers with our 10 Tips for Planning a Disney World Vacation.
10 Tips for Planning a Disney World Vacation:
1. Pick a Disney World Resort that Fits your Budget and Lifestyle
Disney World Hotels can fit anyone’s budget and lifestyle and includes a lot of free things so I would suggest booking a Disney Resort versus off-property if you’re planning a Disney World Vacation.
You can book a hotel for less than $100/night (if you book early) at their value resort, then there’s moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villa. If you want to camp, that’s available too.
We stayed at a value resort during the Disney World part of our 3 week trip to Orlando – Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort. Our rate was already over $100 when I booked them but it was still inexpensive. The room was tiny but it had everything we needed and since we were hardly there in our hotel room, the size didn’t matter much.
There were 2 nice pools, a food court style restaurant, store selling Disney merchandise, arcade, laundry room, free WiFi, and free bus transportation to the theme parks. There was also a free shuttle to and from the airport but we didn’t use it coz’ we drove the Toyota Avalon and took advantage of the free parking at the hotel.
The place was very quiet, we didn’t hear neighbors and our room was facing a lot of tall trees off the balcony. I wish there was a spa on-site but this is value resort so if you want to have all the bells and whistles in your resort, just pick one to fit your lifestyle and budget below.
Here are Disney World Resorts to choose from:
Disney World Value Resorts:
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Disney World Moderate Resorts:
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
Disney World Deluxe Resorts:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Star Wars Themed Hotel (Coming Soon)
Disney World Deluxe Villas:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney Riviera Resort (Coming Soon)
What are the Disney Resort hotel check-in and check-out times?
2. Try to Book your Disney World Resort at least 60 Days before your Planned Visit
By booking ahead of time – you’ll likely still get the Disney World resort you prefer plus at a lower rate and with this, you also get to take advantage of picking your 3 Fastpass+ experiences per theme park before everyone else because resort guests can get them up to 60 days before check-in.
Since I booked within the 60 days versus over 60 days, a lot of the rides that I wanted had no available early Fastpass anymore. Finishing all your 3 Fastpass early means you can avail of another Fastpass during your visit after you’ve used them all up. That was not the case for us coz’ we were late in booking our resort.
Booking your Disney World resort early also helps in securing your restaurant reservation at your preferred Disney World restaurant. Think character dining! Reserve early from any of the select restaurants at the 4 theme parks, Disney Resort hotels and Disney Springs restaurants. In addition, select dinner shows and special dining events also take reservations. However, lounges and quick-service restaurants do not. Character dining was already full when I tried to book even a month ahead of our visit.
3. Learn about the 4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks, and Disney Springs and their Proximity to your Resort
There are 4 Disney World theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Then there are 2 water parks – Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. Then there’s also Disney Springs that offers shopping, dining and entertainment. Plan your Disney World Vacation well if you wish to visit them all and if you want to see and experience everything at each resort.
4. Gauge how your family eat before getting the Disney Dining Plan
Initially, I booked the Disney Dining Plan for my family when I book our Disney Vacation Package which included the resort and theme park tickets. I ended up canceling it before paying for the whole thing when upon research, I realize, we are not really big eaters so it won’t be practical for us to have the Disney Dining Plan.
What is the Disney Dining Plan?
Everyone in the party ages 3 and over will receive the following each night of their package stay:
- 1 Quick-Service Meal – 1 entree + non-alcoholic drink (breakfast, lunch or dinner)
- 1 Table-Service Meal – 1 entree + non-alcoholic drink (breakfast) or 1 entree + 1 dessert + 1 non-alcoholic drink (lunch or dinner) or 1 full buffet
- 2 Snacks
Three reasons the Disney Dining Plan doesn’t work for us:
- Table-service meal means you need to make a reservation. We wanted our schedule at the theme park to be flexible. Having to run to a dinner reservation at a set time means we’d have to cut short whatever we are doing.
- We want to just eat when we get hungry or where we get hungry. With the Disney Dining Plan, to get the best bang for your buck, you’d wanna pick the meal that is a little more expensive or you’re simply paying more for the meal you got.
- We only needed 3 entrees since our kids share their meals. The Disney Dining Plan means we’ll be ordering a lot but not really finishing it.
I’m not saying the Disney Dining Plan is bad. It just depends greatly on what you want to prioritize at Disney World. Trying the different table service restaurants or getting to all the rides? I think it’s also for those who have been to Disney World before and already have an idea of where everything is.
5. Learn which Disney World Theme Park gets the Magic Hour that day
6. Take Advantage of your Complimentary Disney Magic Bands
Each Resort hotel guest will receive a personalized MagicBand—available in a rainbow of colors! I pick yellow! It arrived in the mail before our trip with our names on the back. It makes a Disney trip so easy because with the Magic Bands, you can:
- Unlock the door of your Disney Resort hotel room. You can do your online check-in before arriving at your resort and you can skip the front desk and head straight to your room using your magic bands.
- Enter theme and water parks (with valid admission) by scanning your Magic Bands.
- Check in at FastPass+ entrances with your Magic Bands.
- Connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account. They will just scan your Magic Band after taking photos with characters.
- Charge food and merchandise purchases to your Disney Resort hotel room (only available during your hotel stay). I don’t have to take out my credit card anymore. Just scan the Magic Band on my wrist and I can already enjoy my Dole Whip.
7. Disney World Resort offers Free Transportation
Free bus transportation of Free shuttle is available from the airport to your Disney resort and back. Plus, free bus, boat, or monorail transportation from your resort to the theme parks, depending on what’s available at your resort – at the very least, there is a bus transportation. They are located close to the check-in area and has a line for every theme park. There’s also a screen near the bus waiting area so you know what time your bus will be arriving so you can still use the restroom or check out merchandise from the hotel before your bus arrives.
We rode the free shuttle to and from the resort to the theme park then because of how massive our resort is, we’d park our car near the shuttle waiting area and ride it after a full day of walking at Disney World to park near our hotel room.
8. Save a Day to Play at your Resort and learn about its Amenities
There are a lot of fun things you can do at your Disney resort. We actually had two fun pools. If you book only 4 days and have alotted those for the 4 theme parks, you will not have enough time to enjoy your resort’s facility. If time permits and budget permits as well, make it a really fun vacation by taking a day off to just enjoy your Disney resort.
Also, laundry is available in case you don’t wanna pack to much and have some hours to spare to do the laundry. This was very useful for us as we stayed for over 2 weeks in Orlando.
A sample of Disney Resort recreation and amenities depending on your resort and where it is situated (ex. beside a lake, at a camp):
- Movies under the Stars
- Boat rentals
- Evening activities for the kids
- Campfire activities
- Electrical Water Pageant
- Bike Rentals
9. Get your Disney World Packing List Ready
Here are some that we typically forget when we are headed for a Disney vacation:
- Autograph Books and Pens
- Light Jacket and Puffer Jackets for Winter
- Comfortable Shoes
- Slippers for the Hotel
I forgot my hat and our sunscreen. I only remembered when we were already inside EPCOT so we just bought it there.
10. Bring a Car to experience Orlando and to get a break from Disney World
You can enjoy complimentary standard parking at all theme parks and resort hotels! Other non-Disney resorts and hotels actually charge for parking. Having a car while visiting Orlando helps a lot even if you say you’re merely going to the Disney theme parks and they have free bus transportation. For us, it meant coming down from the free shuttle, getting the Toyota Avalon at the nearby resort parking and driving ourselves closer to our room. That also meant we can go out to explore Orlando and it enabled us to grab anything we needed, from non-theme park food to medicines. It was very refreshing to take a break from the theme parks especially the food. If you’ don’t mind a road trip to Orlando, drive your car to your Disney World Resort versus riding the plane.
Thanks Toyota for lending us the Toyota Avalon.
We drove the 2018 Toyota Avalon while we were on our Disney World Vacation. On top of the fact that Toyota is very reliable, I like the fact that the Toyota Avalon is very spacious. Also, there’s a wireless charger available for our phones and the sun visor can be extended. The trunk is also spacious enough for all 4 of our luggage, 2 strollers and a 24pack water, LOL. Learn more about the advanced features of the Toyota Avalon.
CHECK MORE TRAVEL IDEAS AND MORE ORLANDO TRAVEL TIPS BELOW:
- Legoland Florida VS. Legoland California
- 10 Tips for Visiting Kennedy Space Center
- Where to Stay in Downtown Orlando