Planning a Walt Disney Vacation is hard for even the most seasoned Disnerd and can prove to be quite overwhelming for the first timer. Whats the best time to go? Where will i stay? What Will I eat? These are all questions someone who has never planned a Disney World Vacation needs help with. Here is our Complete Guid To Planning Your First Walt Disney World Vacation!
When To Go
When it comes to planning a Walt Disney World Vacation, the timing of when you choose to go could be the single most important part of your entire trip. Get it wrong and not only could you be paying a lot more money, the crowd levels could be so high that getting to everything that you and your family would like to accomplish would be likely be impossible. But not to worry, with a few simple rules and guidelines you can avoid these massive crowds and have a Vacation that you and your family will never forget.
I get questions all the time about the best times to travel to Walt Disney World to avoid the weather so I promised I would include it in this article. While we have heard stories of people visiting Walt Disney World during a magical week where it was sunny and 75 for the entirety of their stay, we have never experienced such an experience thus far. More than likely, It is going to rain during your Walt Disney World vacation, it's unavoidable. With that being said, the rain doesn't have to be a bad thing, in fact it's quite the opposite. You can read all about the advantages of a rain day at Walt Disney World here: How To Make The Most Of A Rainy Day At Walt Disney World
Time Of Year
As I mentioned above, the time of year you plan your Walt Disney World Vacation for can make or break your experience. On an "Average Crowd" day you can expect a 60 to 90 minute wait on the more popular attractions while on a "Heavy Crowd" day you'd be lucky to see the wait times on any attraction dip below 120 minutes, it makes that much of a difference. Our general guideline when planning our Walt Disney World Vacations is to stay away from the holidays and the height of the summer, these are generally the busiest times of the year and unless you put no value on personal space, we suggest you stay away from these times at all costs. Our personal favorite time to visit Disney World is in late August to early September. Most kids are back in school which will cut down on the crowds dramatically and there is not a holiday in sight. Along with the above guidelines another "must" when it comes to picking the perfect time of year is checking a Crowd Calendar, they will give you the most up to date crowd predictions for every day and it is an invaluable tool for trying to avoid the crowds. Our only disclaimer on visiting Disney World in the least busy times of the year is that they like to schedule maintenance and construction projects during these times which can be a bit of a bummer. For example right now they are tearing down multiple attractions at Hollywood Studios to make room for the new Star Wars Land. Make sure to check the Rehab and Closures Schedule for the most up to date Disney World construction.
Where To Stay
The big question that everyone always asks is should we stay On-Site(Disney Resort Hotels) or Off-Site(Hilton,Marriot,etc...) Off-Site hotels are generally going to be cheaper but Disney Resort Hotels have so much more to offer than there off site cousins. Besides the fact that staying on site is much more fun in every way for both Adults and Children and it really shows you how magical Walt Disney World is, they also have an extensive list of included amenities including:
Staying Off-site will most likely be cheaper, but, if you weigh the pro's and cons of both, Staying at a Disney Resort is hands down the winner, and if you do some research staying at a resort hotel isn't vastly more expensive than staying offsite. The Moderate and Value Resort hotels are very reasonably priced and we highly recommended checking the Walt Disney World Website Special Offers and Discounts page to save as much money as possible on your Disney World Vacation.
When To Book
Another question we get asked quite frequently is how early should you book your vacation? We always answer with the exact same response, the sooner you book your Disney Vacation the better. Me and my family book our next Walt Disney World Vacation a year in advance while we are still on our Disney Vacation! Booking your vacation early has a host of benefits, not only does it ensure you get a room at the resort of your choice, it also affords you the chance to save tons of money. While there may not be any special deals at the time you book your Disney Vacation, every time they have a new special offer you are allowed to apply it to your previous booking as long as it applies to you. This is only possible if you have already booked your vacation and has saved me and my family thousands over our 20 years of visiting Walt Disney World. Another benefit of booking your vacation as soon as possible is the ability to make Advance Dining Reservations(ADR's) and early Fastpass+ Reservations
Advance Dining Reservations
At most resorts and theme parks, you most likely wont need to make reservations in order to eat, and if you do you, can get away with making them a few days before your arrival. At Walt Disney World, this is not the case. If you plan on eating in a restaurant with tables and real plates than you are going to need to make your dining reservations early, 6 months early. While making dining reservations 6 months in advance may seem a little excessive to some, we can promise you from personal experience that it's not. Everyone staying in resort hotels more than likely knows about this and will be making there reservations 6 months in advance making the whole process extremely competitive., especially when it comes to the Character Dining Experiences. These are by far the most popular dining reservations and they will fill up almost instantly. We wrote a great article about Character Dining which includes The Characters you can expect to see at each meal, average price and there location throughout the park, we highly recommend you check it out if you plan on booking a Character Dining meal. We also recommend doing a little research on the restaurants you and your family would like to dine at, that way when the time comes you know exactly where to make your reservations which will give you a much better chance of actually getting them. You can find the menu as well as the average price, rating and photos of every restaurant in Walt Disney World Here.
And once that day comes, You can make your Reservations Here
Don't be discouraged when you go to make your reservations and some things are booked. People often make reservations just to have one and often end up dropping them when they find somewhere else they would rather eat. Be sure to check back on the website daily, you'd be surprised at how many reservations open up in the 6 months leading up to your vacation.
Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining plan is basically Disney's version of an all inclusive vacation package, depending on the Dining plan you choose, you are alloted certain amount of snacks (Pretty much what it sounds like), Counter Services (Quick Meals, usually don't require reservations) and Table Services (Sit Down meals, usually used for dinner reservations). Disney Dining plans are a little expensive but they can be worth it for families that have a taste for the finer things in life. I recommend visiting the Disney Dining Page to take a look at the different Dining packages available to decide whether or not they are right for your family.
The greatest thing about Fastpass+ is that it allows you to book your Fastpass's in advance, up to 60 days if you are staying On-Site and up to 30 days if you are staying Off-site (Yet another benefit of staying On-site.) A Fastpass+ is basically your pass to the front of the line. They only give out a select amount per hour so the Faspass+ line is guaranteed to be shorter than the standard queue (Quick Tip, try to go towards the end of your alloted Fastpass+ time, most guests tend to show up right when there Fastpass+ starts, arriving towards the end of your allotted time will leave you with almost no line at all) Fastpass+ is also free, it is electronically linked to your admission ticket (Or your Magic Band) and Fastpass+ selections can be made right from the WDW app on your smartphone!
While we like to think that our Guide is the be all end all to planning your first Walt Disney World Vacation, while very good, it cannot answer every question someone may have. So, to help answer these questions of yours we have included a list of additional resources that may be able to help you with any of your further Walt Disney World Vacation planning questions.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on on your next vacation or to make the most of your time, read our Tips for Saving Money and Time at Walt Disney World post. Our Fundamental Walt Disney World Packing List post takes a unique look at clever items to pack and has a printable PDF. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Resource Guides will help.
For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
For Walt Disney World news, tips, discount info, and free eBook downloads sign up for our free monthly newsletter
If you enjoyed this post, we’d really appreciate it if you’d share it via social media to spread the word! We put a lot of work into making this site a helpful planning resource, and hope it’s useful to you.