Vacation planning is always a challenge, but Disney World can be exceptionally complicated. So where to start? Here are ten tips for planning your first Disney World vacation!
1. Know How This Trip Fits Into The Bigger Picture
Going to Disney World for the first time? Be prepared for friends, family, and Disney experts to freak you out. We're all going to tell you how much there is to do and how much planning you need to do. Balance this by knowing whether you're planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip or not.
If this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, then feel free to go overboard planning. Try not to let it infect your trip, but definitely plan to learn all your can before you depart. If you'll be back, especially within the next five years, don't stress out too much (but do still make sure you learn the basics).
2. Stay On Property, at a Disney Resort
On-property Disney resorts are fantastic. At the value end, they can have prices that beat some of the alternatives you may be considering. We've had great times at value and deluxe resorts alike.
We're especially big fans of Pop Century if you're looking for a value resort. If you're considering a Disney deluxe resort, we're fans of Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge, but we think Beach Club and Polynesian are excellent picks as well.
3. Know How To Use Crowd Calendars
When planning your trip, you'll want to know the best Disney crowd calendars and how to use them. Particularly, don't worship these calendars. As our post explains, you want to use them to identify big picture things that might impact crowd levels. For the most part, there is no low season at Walt Disney World, and you can't reliably predict crowds on a day-to-day basis.
4. Book Your Advance Dining Reservations
Like the resorts, Disney restaurants are an important part of the Walt Disney World experience. You've got a wide range of restaurants to choose from:
- You can dine in Cinderella Castle with princesses
- You can enjoy the fireworks from California Grill at the top of the Contemporary
- You can enjoy the single best dish Disney has the offer: bread service at Sanaa
Advance Dining Reservations, or ADRs, can be booked 180 days in advance. You'll want to pick your restaurants as early as possible and then look into booking them. And keep your eyes on slots you can't get immediately, as they may open up.
5. Download and Explore the My Disney Experience App
Disney's free "My Disney Experience" app is full of capabilities and information. From checking wait times to reserving Fastpass selections to making dinner reservations, the app is an incredible tool and source of information. Download it now and play around with it for a few minutes.
6. Pay Attention to Discounts and Deals
Check out these posts of ours to save the most on your trip:
- Where to get discount Disney World tickets
- Getting the best deal on your Disney hotel
- Booking your flights like a "travel hacker"
- Walt Disney World Budget Planning Guide
And, sign up for our newsletter to grab our 50+ ways to save at Walt Disney World and resource guide:
7. Master Fastpass+
To get the most of your time at Walt Disney World, you'll want to master the Fastpass+ system. Disney's advance ride-booking system isn't perfect (you'll sometimes wind up waiting up to 15 minutes, rides will break down, and so on), but it is still a great system for keeping you out of lines all day.
8. Know Where To Get Your Information Online
You're here, and we think that's great! But we're only one good source of information on Walt Disney World. There are lots of places to go, but we've got two sites we especially love.
First, Disney Tourist Blog is a great site dedicated to all things Disney travel. We always start our search for information at Disney Tourist Blog, and we highly recommend their Disney World planning guide.
Second, WDW Prep School is an extensive, exceptionally deep resource for Disney World planning. If you need a site to guide you from trip planning, beginning to end, start there.
9. Consider Purchasing a Guide Book
More into the printed word than internet? Consider purchasing Birnbaum's 2018 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides). Birnbaum has long been one of the most popular guides for Disney World planning. While we prefer online resources because so much can change so quickly, we get that some people prefer books.
10. Learn Your Transportation Options
How do you get around Disney World? You probably think bus or monorail, and you'd be right, but still missing three options: walking, taking a boat, and Uber / Minnie Vans.
Take the time to research which means of transportation go where, as it will help you in scheduling your days and in choosing a resort. For example, know that the deluxe resorts (almost) all have a means of transportation to a park other than the bus.
The sole exception to this is Animal Kingdom Lodge, which requires a bus to access any park. Wilderness Lodge has boat access to Magic Kingdom, but we don't consider that particularly convenient.
All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
Don't forget to master your Disney World Fastpass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.