A vacation to Walt Disney World has a lot of options, as well as places to spend money.
But you probably don’t have an unlimited budget, and you’re here for only a limited amount of time. So how do you make the most of both? In this guide are some of the best ways to save one or the other (or both!), as well as some of the general services available that might be of interest to you.
General Trip-Planning Strategies
Let’s start with strategies that work for any kind of traveling party, whether or not kids are involved.
Plan Your First Day’s Activity at Disney
Odds are, the day you arrive in the Orlando area you will not be getting there first thing in the morning, and you’ll need time to settle in to the hotel. If you hit a park, you will “spend” one day of your tickets, so it’s better to save that for when you can go for the whole day.
Plan something different that will start the vacation off with a bang! Some ideas include these:
- Hit your hotel pool for a relaxing dip.
- Try kick-starting your Disney experience with a character meal or dinner show.
- Take your first monorail ride.
- Visit Downtown Disney or the Boardwalk for some nightlife.
Plan Your Parks and Meals
It’s best to plan what parks you intend to visit on each day of your trip. Consider what parks are open for Extra Magic Hours on those days, as well as how long you plan on staying at each. Each of the parks seems to be more crowded during certain days of the week. The “busy days” are traditionally as follows:
- Magic Kingdom: Monday, Thursday, and Saturday
- Epcot: Friday
- Hollywood Studios: Sunday and Wednesday
- Animal Kingdom: Tuesday
Once you have the general agenda of what park you will visit on which days, you should plan some of your meals. Make sure to reserve your character meals, dinner shows, and romantic soirées planned ahead of time.
Other General Strategies
- Request a refrigerator for your room. Make sure you request well in advance. For some resorts, it is standard; for others it can be added for free, and for others there is a charge. The supply of refrigerators runs out quickly during busier times.
- If you can stop at a grocery store, do so. Stock up on drinks, snacks, and breakfast foods for back in the room.
- Can’t stop at a grocery store? Mail a box of supplies ahead to your room.
- If you have to take a backpack into the park anyway, pack snacks and beverages. Packing a lunch is not out of the question, either. You can always stow it away in a locker once you get to the park.
Strategies for Families
If you’re bringing kids to Walt Disney World, you’re in the majority. That does not mean, however, that you always have to be in the longest lines and at the busiest restaurants.
The following sections describe some strategies that can help you avoid crowds and maximize the fun.
Before You Leave
- Let your kids help with the planning. Allow them to select the hotel from a few that you have picked within your price range. Let them choose a few of the restaurants, and which attractions to hit or miss.
- Print out a sheet of ID labels with your name, home address, cell phone number, etc. Label items you are taking with you, and keep a few extra so that item you buy on your trip can be tagged as well.
- Try some craft projects. Have them make “lost child” name tags or lanyards that they can wear in the parks.
- Prepare your kids for all the walking that they will do in the parks by starting a family walk every evening for the two or three months leading up to your trip.
- Let your kids plan a day at the parks. A neat new feature from Disney’s website lets you create a customized theme park map. Highlight “Plan” and click on “Maps.” You can print them out at home as well as have them printed for you. The maps take a few weeks to arrive, but they can be a perfect excitement builder.
- Buy an autograph book and a fat pen if you have kids who will want to meet their favorite stars. Make sure it’s big enough and opens easily; characters with large padded gloves and children with little hands will find them easier to work with.
- Know your child’s height before you go and determine what rides you can’t let them experience.
Once You’re There
- Make sure you get your resort’s recreational activities calendar. This can alert you to free movie nights, ceremonial activities, and other entertainment that you might have otherwise overlooked!
- Make sure that most days include a pool visit or nap in the afternoon.
- Each theme park has a complimentary Baby Care Center where you can retreat to an air-conditioned calm zone.
- Use the Rider Switch feature at any height-restricted attraction. In this, you get a pass from the attraction attendant by the standby entrance. The first parent goes on the ride, via the standby line. When they are done, the second parent uses the Rider Switch pass, getting in the FASTPASS line, regardless of time of day. This way both adults get a chance to try some of the thrill rides and roller coasters.
- Identify an easy-to-find landmark. This can be a place where you can meet if separated, or to rejoin the group at a predetermined time.
- Consider the children’s activity centers or baby-sitting services as a way to get some away-from-the-kids time, without ruining the fun for them.
- Ride in the front of the monorail. It can be a highlight of any kid’s day.
- In-room baby-sitting is available, known as Kid’s Night Out. They can actually take the kids out to attractions, if you want them to. Typically, rates run around $14 per hour for one child, and additional kids are just a couple dollars more per hour. This is not a Disney-run program, but a local Orlando service that is very popular with regular guests.
Vacation Strategies for Adults
Disney World in Florida is now considered the number one honeymoon destination in the United States. Following are some pointers to remember when preparing for your visit.
- Consider arriving at the parks a little later in the morning, making sure that you are hitting your peak in the afternoon. Lines will shorten as the tikes head to their hotels for pool breaks and naps. Be aware that in busier seasons, the FASTPASS vouchers for popular rides may have all run out, so the strategy may not apply.
- Some rides have single rider/standby lines that are much shorter than the regular ones. Sure, you’re not sitting next to your friend on the ride, but that’s for only a few minutes, and you can shave hours off your total line-waiting time.
- Close down the park! Stay late and enjoy smaller crowds, shorter lines, and fewer kids.
- Try the Richard Petty Driving Experience, a spa treatment, or a round of golf for a mostly child-free time.
There are a lot of time and money saving strategies for Disney World; these are just the tip of the iceberg.
As long as you plan ahead and are ready for a few surprises, you’ll have a wonderful time!