Walt Disney World may be the happiest and most magical place on earth but a holiday to Orlando, Florida does take a lot of planning. There is so much to see, do, visit and eat in Florida and in my opinion, it’s key to be organised to get the most out of your trip. Thankfully, I absolutely love planning holidays and I’m in my element when it comes to Walt Disney World. Pass me all the notebooks and spreadsheets and let’s get sorted. I thought I would share some of my top things to consider whilst booking a trip to Orlando.
When to Visit
The first thing to think about it what time of the year are you going to visit Florida. The weather it the first thing to consider. Florida is known as the Sunshine State as it’s pretty sunny all year round. Be aware that it can be extremely humid in the Summer months and of course, they do have a Hurrican season too in late Autumn!
Walt Disney World is pretty busy all year round, this is why it’s imperative to be organised and book ahead. US Holidays such as July 4th and Labour Day can be extremely busy along with the Christmas and Halloween seasons. It might be worth checking out some of the online Crowd Calendars which predict how busy the parks are.
Another thing to consider is visiting when Walt Disney World has special events on such as the Flower & Garden Festival which takes places in the Spring and Food & Wine Festival which is in Autumn. There is also the special Halloween and Christmas events such as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which take place on selected evenings in Magic Kingdom which I really recommend checking out.
Where to Stay
Three is three main options when it comes to visiting Walt Disney World; On-site, Off-Site & Villas. Starting with On-site at Walt Disney World you’ll find some incredible resorts with incredible theming. From Luxury to Value properties, there is really something for everyone but it will still probably be the most expensive option. I have previously stayed at the Art of Animation Resort which is classed as a Value property with Disney themed areas. We had an amazing stay here and found it so convenient staying so close to the parks. The main perk of staying on-site is the on-site buses which will have you at most of the parks within 15 minutes.
There is also plenty of off-site hotels to choose from. During my last visit, I stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson at the Maingate which was pretty close to the parks. We did use Uber to get about but most hotels do have their own shuttle services. Our hotel was near to a huge Wal-Mart, Target and there were food places such as Cracker Barrel and IHOP which was great for cutting the cost of eating in the parks. Another location to stay would be International Drive which is the central hub for tourists in Orlando with loads of restaurants, entertainment and shopping. It’s slightly further away from Walt Disney World but has great links to Universal Studios, the Shopping Malls and SeaWorld. All can be reached within 20/30 minutes.
Finally, there is the option of staying in a villa whilst in Orlando. This is something I’ve not done myself but if you are planning on driving around and there’s a big group of you – this could be a great option. There are plenty of great villa choices in Orlando and especially in the Kissimmee area which you can reach the parks within 30 minutes. Be warned though, if you are renting a car during your holiday, parking fees at Walt Disney World (& even Universal Studios) can be quite expensive.
When it comes to buying tickets for Walt Disney World, my main piece of advice is to buy in advance. Buying tickets on the Disney gates will be the most expensive options to have a little shop around online. You can book Disney World tickets from American Attractions and they also have tickets for a whole host of attractions in the area including Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and the previously mentioned Walt Disney World Christmas and Halloween parties.
As I said before, Walt Disney World can be so busy. If you want to get the most of your holiday – plan ahead and book reservations for dining. Food within Disney can be pricey but there are some really great places to eat. You can grab something quickly with their counter service places or have a sit-down meal in their table service restaurants. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance online or via their reservations telephone line. Some places such as Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table can really sell out straight away. I might to a separate post on my favourite places to eat but Be Our Guest really is worth fighting for reservations.
Depending on whether you book to stay on-site and when you book your holiday, free Disney dining plans are sometimes included which includes credits to be spent within the parks. This is a great option if you really want to explore the different restaurants around the parks!
If you’ve planned well, you can actually use Fast Passes to jump the ques at selected attractions. Everyone is eligible to use the Fast Pass system but you’ve got to be ready to go to book them well in advance for the top attractions such as Avatar, Star Wars, Frozen Ever After and The Seven Dwarves Mine Train. For guests staying on-site at Walt Disney World, you can make your fast pass selections 60 days before your visit or 30 days if you are off-site.
Other things to know…
If you are staying on-site you will receive a Magic Band which is basically your park ticket, room key and also holds your fast passes and dining reservations. You can even purchase things with the band! If you’re staying off-site, you can purchase a magic band should you wish to have one and connect it to your entry ticket.
Download the Walt Disney World App. The App is full of so much information. You can view all the showtimes, what’s going on in each park and they also have live wait times for all the rides. The app will also connect to your Disney ticket so you can manage Fastpasses and Dining Reservations on there.
Lastly, although there is a lot of planning involved – don’t forget to just sit back and enjoy the holiday. Although I do say planning ahead is key to making the most of your holiday, it’s important to know you won’t be able to do everything! There really is that much to see and do! Squeezing it into a couple of weeks would be impossible and you don’t need to be rushing around like headless chickens. It really is the most magical place on earth so just relax and get encapsulated in the magic!
Are you planning a Walt Disney World holiday? Have you been to Orlando before?
*This post is in collaboration with American Attractions.