Planning a Disney World vacation can be daunting the first time you experience it.
There are just so many things to consider: where you’ll stay, what you’ll do, what you’ll eat, how long you’ll visit, how much you’ll spend.
And, because a Disney World vacation can put quite a dent in the savings account, it is something you want to get right for your family.
Disney is truly a destination that our family enjoys visiting together. We’ve visited the Florida resort at least 10 times in the last 5 years and I could plan a Disney trip in a day if I had to!
I actually think planning a Disney World vacation is fun at this point -figuring out which hotel we will try, crafting the perfect schedule, planning activities, making dining reservations to try new eats.
If you’re planning a Disney World vacation, here are some things you need to know.
30 Things to Know Before You Go On a Walt Disney World Vacation
1. Disney can not be done right in a day.
Quit your playing, there’s just no way. Walt Disney World Orlando includes four theme parks and two water parks. Throw in Disney Springs, the entertainment district, resort activities, and several other fun events and attractions, and you can see why people spend many days, sometimes even weeks, exploring the parks and the resorts.
If you truly only have on day to visit the park, make your first stop the Magic Kingdom -it is the iconic park of Disney World and you won’t want to miss it.
2. There are a number of ticket options.
We always go Park Hopper because it means we can enjoy Space Mountain twenty-one times in the day and still have dinner in Epcot where most of the joyful food lives. We like the flexibility of that option and think it is worth the higher cost. However, if you’re on a strict budget and need to cut some corners, this is a corner that can be cut without much pain and suffering.
3. You don’t have to stay on property but you might want to.
There are so many benefits to staying on property –you can book your Fast Passes further in advance, you can take advantage of your Magic Band in more ways, you can use Disney transportation to get around, and Tinker Bell sprinkles pixie dust on you while you sleep the magic surrounds you even as you sleep.
If you need help choosing which Disney hotel to stay at for your Disney World vacation, this will help: The Best Disney World Resort Hotels
4. If you stay at a Disney hotel, airport transportation is free.
Magical Express will take you from the airport to your Disney resort and back, free of charge. The airport is a pretty legit distance from the resort so expect to pay a nice chunk of change if you take a taxi or a non-Disney shuttle. Note, when they book you home they will put you on a shuttle three hours before your actual departure time. Go with it, it really may take that long.
5. You won’t need a car to get around the Disney properties.
They have buses and boats and the monorail to get you from place to place and it’s all free of charge. Only thing, it’s not speedy. Buses come every 20 minutes or so and the park and resorts may take another 20 minutes to commute between. Add in local traffic and stopping to load and unload passengers and every trip takes really close to an hour.
6. If you do drive, parking at the resort is free.
7. There is a dining plan.
Sometimes, it is free. When we went on the dining plan, we purchased the option where you get two to meals (one quick and one sit down) per day along with two snacks per person. We came home with more brownies than our bowels could comfortably handle. This blog will tel you how to find out when the dining plan is free: 2016 Free Disney Dining Plan
8. You should make reservations at popular sit down restaurants to ensure you get a table.
You can do so up to 180 days before you trip. Unless you are us and you kinda don’t care where you eat because you really, really just are super happy to be in the parks again.
9. Lunch reservations are easier to get.
To have a better chance of getting into places you want to eat at, think about booking a lunch reservation as opposed to a dinner one. These are often easier to get.
10. Don’t panic if you don’t get the reservation you want.
You may change your reservation up to 24hours before your scheduled time and, because many people actually do that, you may wind up with a slot if you’re diligent and check back often. You can even make changes from the My Disney Experience app.
11. But if you forget, you can try to walk in.
Just know that you may have to wait a LONG time and you also may never get a table at those popular establishments.
12. You can bring in outside food.
Disney is cool with that and water bottles too. They want frugal families to have fun too.
13. You can rent a stroller.
They’re $15 per day. Some off site vendors rent them for cheaper.
14. They have a health center on site.
If your kid skins a knee or spikes a fever you can go there for help. Ask me how I know this.
15. The Magic Bands are your key to the world.
You can set them up to charge while you are in the parks and at the resorts, so when you (or a member of your party who you give charging privileges to) wants to buy something, they just swipe it at check out. They are also your FastPasses and can be used to open your resort door (if you stay on property).
16. You don’t have to stay at a resort to rock a Magic Band. You just have to buy them and they won’t include charging privileges (or open your hotel door, obviously).
17. People like to fancy up their magic bands.
You can buy adornments at shops around the park.
18. Fast Pass+ is everything.
If you are staying at a Disney property you can book your Fast Passes up to 3 months before your trip. Each person gets 3 in advance. You can book more after you use those. Read this post for all the info: how Fast Pass+ works.
19. You can go out without your kids.
And they probably won’t even miss you. Disney resorts even have babysitting.
20. It rains a lot!
Like daily if you’re there in the summer. Same $10 per person on the Disney ponchos by buying them in bulk in advance. You can get enough for a family of 5 at that same price if you buy them from Amazon here: Cheap Rain Ponchos.
21. Be careful about when you book.
Personally, we’ve had great success in fall (late September and October) and in the winter, after the holidays (February/March) because the park isn’t extremely crowded and the weather isn’t oppressive. The pricing is more budget friendly then too. We still even swam while we were there at those time. This post includes a good list of major Disney events you may want to avoid at all cost book your trip around if you don’t intend to participate.
22. The pools are heated.
And not none of that skimpy heat you can’t really enjoy. They keep those babies at 85 degrees so you can swim whenever you want as long as you’re cool with the mad, shivery dash back to the hotel.
23. And that’s because Disney pools are a thing.
Some of them are like mini water parks and well worth a visit. We always schedule a chill day right in the middle of our vacation. On that day we plan to hang around the pool and go to Downtown Disney for dinner then over to one of the parks for fireworks. If you have toddlers, this post shares the Disney toddler play areas you may want to take advantage of for a break from the rides.
24. Sign up for My Disney Experience.
It helps you manage all of the things.
25. Then, download the My Disney Experience app onto your portable device.
You can use it for quick access to in park info.
26. If you have little people that are too small to ride, take advantage of the Rider Switch Program.
This gives parents of small children the opportunity to ride all of the rides so one person doesn’t get stuck standing by baby Johnny’s stroller or holding hands with scary cat Stella. You all wait and then you take turns riding without having to wait in another 40 minute line.
27. You can order snacks and other food for delivery to your resort.
That way you save cash while you’re there. Garden Grocer is a good option.
28. There is a lot of walking.
Turn your FitBit on baby, it’s about to be really happy.
29. There are a ton of special Disney tours and experiences you can enjoy.
Many of them are educational (like the behind the scenes tours and the Wild Africa Trek) and allow you to learn more about the magic of Disney and their efforts to be conservationists and environmentalists. All of them have an additional cost associated with them and usually require advanced booking.
30. Disney has a ton of special events.
Stuff like the annual Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party the Magic Kingdom hosts every year. the It’s important to know about what these are and when they occur because, a) you might want to go to one, and b) you might want to avoid one (they increase crowding and wait times basically everywhere).
Looking for additional tips?!
I’ve rounded up some great posts from around the web to help you make your Disney World vacation truly magical!
For Star Wars Lovers: Jedi Mickey Star Wars Dine
For Foodies: 10 Best Ways to Spend Snack Credits at Disney
For Disneyland: First Time Disneyland Tips
For collectors: 20 Unique Disney World Souvenirs
For budget conscious: 10 Ways to Save Money at Disney
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.