The Basics of a Walt Disney World Vacation

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Wishes! Over Cinderella’s Castle

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be pretty intimidating. I’ll never forget when my husband and I decided to take our first trip. I went to WDW website and clicked on the hotel tab… when over 25 Disney hotels appeared, I was very shocked! But no fear, after some research I was able to plan the most magical trip ever.

And you will, too! Start here, and you can go anywhere.

First things first…

When should you go?

2017 is going to be an excellent time to visit WDW, especially because of the opening of Avatar Land on May 27, 2017! First, you need to decide what time of year is best for you to go. Keep in mind the school calendar and try your best to go during the off-season, especially because the summers in Orlando are BRUTAL and could make or break a trip. We went the first week of December; the parks were quiet and the weather was in the mid-60s.

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Tangled toilets, Magic Kingdom

Staying on Disney Property

Disney vacations are expensive, but if you stay on site, (which I HIGHLY recommend) Disney includes all transportation on property for free, (monorail, boats, buses) and Disney’s Magical Express even picks you up and drops you off from the airport so you don’t even need a rental car! Disney also allows on-site guests to book Fastpass+ 60 days out and provides guests with Extra Magic hours either before or after park opening or closing. Just check their calendar for these days and times. Guests also receive their MagicBands in the mail, free.

If you do decide to go during the Christmas season, make note that Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a separate ticketed event only on select evenings, unlike all the ‘free’ or included in a park ticket Christmas events at Disneyland. However, there are many holiday decorations and activities at every park during the holiday season that are included in a park ticket. Epcot is especially special during the holiday offering many different traditions and food offerings from around the world.

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Epcot

Getting there

I always keep an eye out for the lowest airfare through airfarewatchdog.com

You are able to enter your dates, destination, and preferences of travel and they send you emails on low airfare and reduced prices. Just keep in mind the really low fare carriers usually charge crazy extra baggage fees, even for carry-ons. Here’s looking at you, Frontier!!! 🙂

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Luggage from American Tourister

Where to stay

There’s many things to keep in mind when choosing a hotel for your WDW trip. Disney has a three tier program that works as so: Deluxe, (think Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, etc.) Moderate, (i.e. Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans, etc.) and value (i.e. Pop Century, Art of Animation, etc.)

I recommend staying at a deluxe resort, or touring some of them in the monorail loop. The monorail stops at Magic Kingdom park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort & the Transportation and Ticket Center. (TTC)

The moderate resorts are an excellent option and beautiful places to stay.

The value resorts are basically motels dressed-up with Disney theming and are VERY far from the resorts. The only transportation available are the buses and they share EVERY BUS LINE. I’ve heard people waiting an hour for the buses. Make sure you read all the pros & cons of all the Disney Hotels before choosing one. We loved AKL, but we went during the off-season and would chose a different resort if we went again because its only close proximity to a park is Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It is far from the other parks and only uses bus transportation, even though it doesn’t share bus lines.

Compare the WDW Resorts here on one of my favorite Disney blogger, Tom Bricker’s site:

http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-world-hotel-reviews/

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Renting DVC

We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge in a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) studio villa with a savannah view of the animals. Retail price through Disney is crazy for this resort, but if you want to stay at a deluxe resort and you know 11 months in advance and can pay full price at that time, you can book through a company that resells Disney Vacation Club points. We booked through David’s Vacation Rentals, and they were fantastic from start to finish. They also have an A+ with the BBB. There’s a handy calculator on their site that you can immediately get a price on your stay if you know your dates. A big bonus for us was a savings of almost half off the retail price, an immediate booking number to link on My Disney Experience app, and all the DVC rooms have kitchenettes!

Without getting too confusing, DVC members pay into a timeshare like program through Disney to collect points for a room at a resort. When members won’t be using their points that year, they can sell them to this company to resell.

David’s Vacation Club Rentals: https://www.dvcrequest.com/

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Savannah view room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney Dining

Keep in mind WDW has restaurants that are VERY popular, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table INSIDE Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom and Be Our Guest Restaurant to only name two. These places book up very fast, and dining reservations NEED to be made 180 days in advance. I had to for Be Our Guest. Make sure you research all the restaurants in the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs (previously known as Downtown Disney) before booking.

Compare the restaurants on my favorite blog, here:

http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-world-restaurant-reviews/

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Be Our Guest Restaurant 

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The Ballroom inside Be Our Guest Restaurant

Some of my favorite restaurants:

Be Our Guest, Magic Kingdom

La Hacienda de san Angel, Epcot

Tokyo Dining, Epcot

Sci-Fi Dine-In, Hollywood Studios

Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

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Sci-Fi Dine-In at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

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A flight of margaritas from La Hacienda de san Angel 

Some of my favorite bars:

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Polynesian Resort

Dawa Bar, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

Victoria Falls Lounge, Animal Kingdom Resort

Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Disney Springs

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Bloody Mary at Dawa Bar, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Park tickets

Park tickets are expensive, but keep in mind that the longer you decide to stay, the cheaper per day it is. Another important option is to park hop or not. We saved money not park hopping and decided to stay a few extra days. Keep this in mind when booking dining, because if you don’t have a hopper you cannot go to the restaurants inside a different park that day. We purchased our Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World tickets through undercovertourist.com, an authorized dealer of Orlando park tickets. They are always cheaper than Disney’s site, and they are fantastic!

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Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom

Fastpass+

Download My Disney Experience app. When you have your reservation number, enter it right away so that you can customize your magic band colors and link it to your credit card for in-park or Disney Springs purchases. When you get your park tickets, enter those in your app, also, and it will all link together. If you are staying on Disney property, you can reserve Fastpass+ for rides and attractions 60 days out. You get 3 Fastpass+ a day, and you are able to change/cancel any on the app at anytime.

Here’s an excellent review of all the rides/ attractions and what you should use your Fastpass+ for: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/rides-parks-guides/

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Magic Kingdom

I hope this has convinced you to start planning a trip to Walt Disney World! All your research and hard work will pay off in magical moments shared with your loved ones.

Dani H

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