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Walt Disney World planning guide: how to prepare for your holiday to Disney World

Whether you’re a Disney veteran or a first time visitor, a trip to Walt Disney World Resort requires a lot of preparation and planning. Here’s our top tips from Mumsnetters on how to prepare for your Disney holiday.

By Charlotte Plummer | Last updated Sep 30, 2022

Walt Disney World planning guide

In association with

Organising a trip to Walt Disney World Resort can be daunting, even for seasoned visitors, so our aim with this guide is to help make your planning as easy and as exciting as possible. 

There’s a lot to keep track of, so we’re covering it all for you to help make sure your trip to Walt Disney World Resort is all you’ve ever dreamed of.

In this planning guide you’ll find tips and advice on everything from when to visit, booking your hotel, dining credit, Theme Park and Water Park passes and more. There’s something for all ages to enjoy at Walt Disney World, and with forward planning and ample research, you’ll be sure to create your own personal Walt Disney World bucket list that will please every member of your family. 

Keep reading to find top tips from Mumsnetters in an easy-to-follow guide to help you formulate a well-oiled plan for your upcoming holiday to Walt Disney World Resort

Booking your trip and when to visit

Booking well in advance can help you save money on your trip - in fact, for 2023, Disney has launched their The Magic is Yours campaign, which if you book now, you’ll not only lock in today’s price, but also get plenty of time to pay for it! 

Simply put down a deposit from £50 per person, then pay the rest in flexible instalments - you decide how much and when. All with no fees or interest. 

Best time to visit

This is probably one of the most common questions Mumsnetters ask, and it’s not an easy one to answer. 

When planning your trip, you should consider the weather, busy periods, and ticket prices. Exactly when you choose to visit Walt Disney World affects all of these factors. You’ll also need to consider park hours and your family’s availability. 

Bear in mind that these days, you need to book park reservations (in addition to having your park tickets) through January 2024 - more on this later.

As always, school holidays are generally busier, but there’s never really a quiet time to visit. Walt Disney World Resort has no real ‘off-season’ like other parks, as something is always happening on the calendar, so be prepared for crowds of some level. 

“Get the Disney calendar and plan park days around what park has extra magic hours, particularly when you’ve got jet lag in the first few days.”

scaffoldingtheworld

Other things to consider when deciding when to visit Walt Disney World Resort include:

  • How long you’d like to spend in the parks each day
  • If you’d like to cram as much as possible in one day, or spread activities out
  • Bear in mind the ages of your guests and their physical fitness
  • Weather forecasts (and how this can affect your party)

When is off-season at Walt Disney World?

There’s never really an off-season at Walt Disney World Resort, as there’s always something happening on the calendar. But prices do vary depending on when you’re booked to visit. 

In a normal year, the least expensive time to visit would be between January and February. March is also a good month to consider, but April may bring increases in costs due to Spring Break in the United States, Mardi Gras and the Easter holidays. 

May through to early August is considered to be the priciest time to visit due to summer holidays, but come mid-August, can decrease again until mid-September. October through to early December, prices are variable and depend on whether there’s a holiday week or not. Thanksgiving sees spikes - some fairly large. Then costs escalate in the run-up to Christmas throughout December. 

Regardless, no matter when you visit Walt Disney World Resort, and no matter the cost, you’re sure to have a magical stay making incredible memories together with your loved ones. 

What Mumsnet users say

“Forgot to say October is the best time to go in my opinion. Not too humid, no American school holidays and Mickeys Halloween Party!” Lightsabre

“Disney at October half term will be busy, so try to avoid that week. The weather is usually OK. I think I have spent about 15 weeks in Orlando in late October over the years and have probably had half a dozen rain days, but only for a couple of hours each time.” WiseUpJanetWeiss

Thunder Mountain at Walt Disney World Resort

Staying at Walt Disney World Resort

Alternatively, if you’re wanting to fully immerse yourself in the Walt Disney World experience, we can’t recommend staying on site enough. 

The perks that come with staying at official Walt Disney World Resort properties are unparalleled. Free transportation to and from the parks, dining credits, merchandise discounts, early access to the Theme Parks… These are all included when you stay on site. 

There are 25 hotels to choose from that form the Disney Resorts Collection. These resorts are staffed by Disney Cast Members and all offer legendary service, quality and attention to detail for which Walt Disney World is so famous. 

Set in the heart of the magic, it’s a treat to be able to pop back to the hotel for a midday dip in the pool, and still make it back in time for evening entertainment.

Best Walt Disney World Resort hotels: Editor's Picks

Walt Disney World hotel perks for guests

Now for the perks! It’s important to understand which perks Disney hotels have and which ones are most worthwhile. 

Here’s the full list of Walt Disney World perks for hotel guests:

  • Transport to/from the Parks
  • Early Theme Park entry 
  • An expanded dining reservation period
  • Early access to event tickets
  • Online check-in
  • Magic Band discounts
  • Early access to Lightning Lane time slots to purchase
  • Complimentary towels at Disney’s two Water Parks
  • Charge merchandise to your room so you don’t have to carry it around all day
  • Extended evening hours (only for guests at Disney Deluxe Hotels and DVC resorts)

What Mumsnet users say

“The Disney resorts are great. High standard of accommodation, good food, frequent free bus into the parks, early entry to parks … loved them! I liked the simplicity of it - no needing to drive on the wrong side of the road; easy eating options; Mickey wristband for room entry and park entry; quick and easy to get to parks; safe environment.” EVHead

“As a family of five it worked out cheaper to stay at a Disney resort, with free dining, free transport etc, but I think a lot of the perks have gone or are diluted.” ShaunaTheSheep

“If you are staying at a Disney hotel travel is really easy between parks. And the water parks are good for chilled out days.” Sully84 

Non-Disney hotels nearby

Some non-Disney hotels do have access to perks, too, but these can be subject to change. Known as Official Disney Partner Hotels, these are hotel resorts that make it easy to visit Walt Disney World Resort and explore Disney Springs but may cost a little less than staying in a Disney property. 

These hotels include hotels like the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista, and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel and Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, as well as the Four Seasons Resort Orlando and Holiday Inn Orlando amongst many others, which can be found here

What Mumsnet users say

“I loved Christmas at the parks this year - we stayed at the Dolphin used the extra hour in the morning to get most done and just enjoyed being there.” Quartz2208

Consider staying in a villa

Booking a villa for the duration of your stay is often a great way to save money. You’ll have access to a full kitchen so you can cater for yourselves for the whole holiday if you wish. Do consider that with a villa though, you will also need to budget for car rental, fuel and parking, which can add up. You can find some great villas in beautiful locations not far from Walt Disney World Resort property.

Flying to Orlando from the UK

Once you’ve decided where you’d like to stay, it’s time to look at how to get there. If you have booked a flight inclusive holiday, your holiday package (most likely) includes return flights from the UK to Orlando International Airport, although other airports are also available.

“Look at AerLingus flights via Dublin. Although it means a slightly longer trip, it means you can clear USA immigration in Dublin airport. You arrive in Florida in the domestic terminal and can walk straight out.”

ShaunaTheSheep

For your 2023 trip, you can spread the cost of your package holiday with Walt Disney World’s available instalment payment plan. Simply put down a deposit from £50 per person, and pay the rest in flexible instalments - you decide how much and when. All with no fees or interest.

Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

Getting around Orlando and Walt Disney World Resort

As we’ve mentioned, one of the biggest perks of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel is the included transfers to and from the Parks. 

If however, hiring a car is better suited for your family’s needs, you should factor in this additional cost in your budget. Not only will you have the cost of hiring the car for the duration of your trip, but you’ll also face parking fees when visiting the Parks. 

“We didn't bother with a hire car, just used Uber or Lyft. Don't underestimate distances, the Disney property is huge, let alone Orlando and surrounding areas.”

ShaunaTheSheep

Walt Disney World parking fees

If you’re a guest at a Disney hotel but have a car, you’ll pay for overnight parking at the resort. Prices are $15/night for value resorts, $20/night for moderate resorts, and $25/night for deluxe resorts. There are a couple of exceptions, though, so do check ahead. 

The good news is - if you have a car and you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, parking at the Theme Parks and Water Parks is free for you. Other guests will have to pay at least $25 for standing parking at all Theme Parks.

Getting around Walt Disney World itself

If you decide to stay on Walt Disney World Resort property but don’t hire a car, there are several handy ways to get around the resort and to the Parks available to you. 

  • Disney’s bus network: almost anywhere you want to go at Walt Disney World Resort is conveniently accessible by buses, which run continuously
  • Monorail transportation: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and select Disney resorts are just minutes away by monorail, and there’s 3 separate lines that travel across the resort
  • Water transportation: enjoy a leisurely cruise on a water taxi or ferry boat to help you get around the resort
  • Disney Skyliner: cruise around Walt Disney World Resort in an aerial gondola

Do your research before you go

Walt Disney World Resort is literally what the name says - it’s a whole world, and the property is absolutely huge. 

The resort is made up of four Theme Parks and two Water Parks, plus a whole load of hotels and Disney dining and shopping areas to explore. The Parks include:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • EPCOT
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Blizzard Beach
  • Typhoon Lagoon

It’s quite literally impossible to do it all, and one of the most common Mumsnetter tips on our Talk boards is to do your research beforehand, and decide what attractions your family will enjoy the most. 

“My top tip would be don’t try to do it all.”

YellowClouds

Learn the basics of the Parks - look at the opening and closing times, the distance between each Theme Park, and perhaps any exclusive events that will be on during your visit.

Believe it or not, Halloween starts in August at Walt Disney World Resort, so their famous ‘Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party’ runs from then until the end of October. It’s an additional cost to attend but it does offer some great, exclusive fun and if Halloween is your thing, it’s certainly worth looking at. Similar events run over the festive period too. 

Things to do before you go

Walt Disney World is great at making the magic begin before you even arrive, and there’s a few tools you can use before you’re there to really help you. 

Download the My Disney Experience app

It’s worth downloading the My Disney Experience app, this will let you take a look at the Theme Parks and get a feel for the layout and check live wait times on the rides. You can also link your tickets, and make your park reservations. 

Different types of Walt Disney World tickets

Currently, there are two main options available for tickets to Walt Walt Disney World Resort; the Disney 14-Day Magic Ticket or the Disney 7-Day Magic Ticket. Naturally the latter is cheaper but to help stretch your money further, it’s only an extra £20 per person for the 14 day pass. 

Your tickets include access to the Theme Parks and Water Parks, park hopper - so you can visit multiple parks per day (after 2pm), Memory Maker (worth $199) and more. 

Booking your park reservations at Disney

Gone are the days where you can choose what Theme Park to go to day by day. One of the biggest changes at Walt Disney World Resort since its phased reopening after the Covid-19 pandemic is park reservation. 

You now need to book your parks in advance via the Disney Park Pass system, alongside having your tickets. To enter any Theme Park at Disney, you need both a valid admission ticket and your theme park reservation for the same park on the same date. 

It’s imperative that you book ahead of your visit - the last thing anyone wants or needs is to be stuck outside the gates with an admission ticket, unable to enter because you forgot to reserve your park passes. 

What Mumsnet users say

“Don’t forget you must make park reservations now. Don’t leave it til the last minute, as they get booked up.” nettytree

“Like others have said MAKE PARK RESERVATIONS.” Littlegoth

Cinderella at Walt Disney World in Florida

Dining reservations at Disney

Your account will also allow you to book dining reservations which, if staying on Walt Disney World Resort property, can be booked 60 days before your visit. 

There’s some incredible restaurants on property, which offer far more superior options than your usual theme park fodder. The Be Our Guest restaurant is a must-do splurge where you can even try The Grey Stuff… It’s delicious, after all. For an extra magical holiday, it’s definitely worth booking those special experiences that the whole family will certainly remember. 

What Mumsnet users say

“You need restaurant reservations which have to be sorted months in advance. We did get late availability e.g. booked a character dining experience in Animal Kingdom…” ZenNudist

Magic Bands at Disney

Magic bands can be purchased ahead of your visit, and come in a variety of colours and themes. They’re used to access the Theme Parks without having to carry physical passes, and are also the key to your hotel room at your Disney hotel. 

NEW! Book now and pay in instalments

Book your dream Disney holiday now and you’ll not only lock in today’s price, but also get plenty of time to pay for it. Simply put down a deposit from £50 per person, then pay the rest in flexible instalments - you decide how much and when. All with no fees and interest.

Book your 2023 Walt Disney World holiday now

Lightning lane, Genie and Genie+

Genie and Genie+ are both tools that provide on-the-go planning, and allow you to customise your itinerary to help you maximise your time in the parks. 

The Genie service is complimentary, and is great for helping you plan your day based entirely on your interests. You can use this tool to see wait times, mobile order your food ready for collection, make dining reservations and much, much more. 

There are also additional add ons available for a fee - which is the Genie+ service - that allow you to bypass the standby lines for attractions and instead enter the lightning lane - cutting your waiting times for rides. Starting at base prices of $15 per guest per day, it’s a fantastic tool that allows you to ensure you do as many of your must-dos as possible.

What Mumsnet users say

“Also download the Disney app and get your head around genie+ and individual lightening lanes if you want to bypass some of the queues, it can be very complicated when you first read about it.” purpleboy

Packing list for Disney World

Orlando is notorious for its extreme weather. Whether it’s serving humidity or a heavy downpour that makes the UK’s rain look nothing more than a shower - you’ll want to pack for both eventualities!

Light and airy clothes with comfortable, durable shoes are a must. You’ll walk on average up to 7 miles each day, and nope, that’s not a joke. Packing a spare pair of flip flops is a hack Mumsnetters use, too, to temporarily wear while raining… There’s nothing worse than soggy trainers! 

Ponchos can be purchased on site - but at a higher price - so we recommend you take these with you from home. 

Another item you’ll need once there that can be bought prior to travelling is a water bottle. Staying hydrated in Florida’s heat is no joke, so taking a water bottle that can be filled up (for free) around the Theme Parks is a must. 

A backpack will be helpful for your days in Disney, too, so accept that you’ll be two strapping for comfort.

Things to take for kids at Disney World

If you have young children under the age of seven or eight, seriously consider taking a pram.

Even if it’s not something they’d tend to use at home, they will get very tired and hot during the day and a pram can be a real lifesaver. You can hire them there, or take your own. There’s ample spaces outside all rides for strollers to be parked at Walt Disney World, but make sure yours is easily identifiable with a handy stroller sign. 

Other handy things to take

Other useful products to take with you that Mumsnetters swear by are: 

  • Portable charger(s)
  • Stroller fan(s)
  • Stroller rain cover
  • Mesh sling for your stroller for extra storage

What to pack for a day at Walt Disney World

It’s probably clear by now that a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t a holiday that allows you to travel light, but to help you prepare and get organised as best as possible, here’s our tried and tested packing guide for a day at the Theme Parks. 

We’re confident we’ve covered almost every eventuality, and when packed correctly, can save you time and stress each day. You’ll need:

  • Backpack
  • Water bottle(s)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hats
  • Portable fans/stroller fans
  • Snacks eg fruit pouches, cereal bars, crisps 
  • Spare change of clothes
  • Plasters (or small first aid kit)
  • Magic Bands
  • Autograph book and pen
  • Baby wipes
  • Nappy bag (if necessary) 
  • Flip flops 

Another top tip - pack your bag(s) the night before, so you’re ready to hop out of bed, get dressed and make your way to the Parks without the added stress of making sure you have everything you need. 

Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

Planning for Disney World: in a nutshell

In all honesty, a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t your typical ‘relaxing’ holiday. It can take a lot of planning and consideration, as well as coming with a higher price tag than some other holidays. But on any holiday, you want to make sure you tick the boxes for everyone in the family - and we guarantee Walt Disney World Resort can do just that for you. 

Despite it being a military operation when it comes to planning, it’s all part of the fun. The experience starts from the moment you book the trip, and the magic that awaits you is worth every moment of organising.

Whether you’re 5 or 55 years old, a thrill-seeker or a parade admirer, a classic Disney fan, Marvel fan or Star Wars lover, you’ll be sure to make memories that last a lifetime.

Book now and pay in instalments 

New! Book your dream Walt Disney World holiday now and you’ll not only lock in today’s price, but also get plenty of time to pay for it.

Simply put down a deposit from £50 per person, then pay the rest in flexible instalments - you decide how much and when. All with no fees or interest.

©Disney/Pixar © 2022 MARVEL.

© & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd.

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