Walt Disney World - Planning your vacation.
Disneyworld. Even the name sounds magical to those of us that have been brought up on a diet of all things Disney. A Disneyworld vacation will be the trip of a lifetime for many families. To really get the benefit of the Disney Magic though, especially for those with children, it is important to plan your trip with the precision of a military operation.
Of course, trips to Disneyland can be done on a free form basis, but the truth is you will probably miss out on a lot of things and will be encounter a lot of queueing. Why do that to yourself when you are spending so much money?
This series of hubs is designed to help you plan your holiday. Whilst it isn't an exhaustive guide hopefully we can point you in the right direction and show you other sites than can help you with the finer details.
Disneyworld is vast and is divided into a number of areas. The main parks are:
- The Magic Kingdom
- Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Park
There are also two water parks:
- DIsney's Blizzard Beach
- Disney's Typhoon Lagoon
Beyond the actual parks themselves there are also a number of other Disney areas:
- Downtown Disney Area
- Disney's Boardwalk
- Disney's Wide World Of Sports Complex
- Disney's Golf Courses
A brief description of each of these parks is provided below.
The Magic Kingdom is what most prople think of when they think of Disney parks. Similar to the original Disneyland in California but larger and with more attractions, it tends to be the favourite with small children. Truly a magical place, with it's Cinderella Castle and extensive Disney theming even adults will marvel at the attention to detail.
Epcot has two world's, Future World and World Showcase. Supposedly the most educational of the Disney Parks, it is done in such a way that nobody gets bored whilst learning.
Disney's Hollywood Studios has Hollywood and the movies as it's theme. Whilst less magical than the magic Kingdom, there is something for everyone in this park, with rides based around various movies and adventures.
Disney's Animal Kingdom is themed around animals. However it has rides and attractions as well as 1700 animals from 250 different species and includes a drive through safari experience.
Disney's blizzard Beach is a snow themed water park- crazy but it works! whilst Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is set in the wake of a supposed tropical storm, complete with volcano!
Ticket options for Disney parks can be confusing but it is worth selecting the right ticket for you. Tickets can be bought as part of Disney Package but often it is cheaper to buy them individually. Everything starts with a base ticket ticket and you can choose from a 1- 10 day ticket. Average price per day drops dramatically as you add more days. A single day ticket costs $79 for an adult, a 5 day ticket is $228 and a 10 day ticket is only $15 more at $243. These prices exclude applicable taxes.
In addition to the base ticket it is possible to add other options. The first of these is the Park Hopper option. This allows you to visit more than one park in a single day and costs an additional $52 per ticket however long your ticket is for. This means that it is very expensive for a one day ticket but relatively cheap to add to a 10 day ticket.
The next option is the Water Park Fun plus more option. This allows you to visit the two water parks, Disney Quest the interactive indoor themed area, Disney's Wide World of Sports or a round of golf at the Disney Golf Course. This also costs an additional $52 per ticket
In addition there is a no expiration option. Whilst normal base tickets expire after 14 days the no expiration option allows you to save unused days for a future trip. The price of this feature is dependent upon the number of days your ticket is for.
It is important to note that in the eyes of Disney anyone aged 10+ counts as an adult.
Walt Disney World Resorts
Not only does Walt Disney World have parks, there are also a large number of themed resorts to stay in during your visit. Whilst these are covered more extensively in my resorts guides, the following is a list of Disney Hotels. It is worth noting that if you book Disney hotels on a room only basis the cancellation policies are far less restrictive than if you purchase a Disney package including tickets and possibly meals.
Disney tries to have a resort for every budget although there are often resorts outside the world that are almost as well themed and much better value. However Disney resorts do have their benefits. You are free to use the Disney transportation system, you get free parking at the parks and there is also the benefit of extra magic hours. These are hours outside the normal opening hours when Disney resort guests have exclusive use of the park and its most popular attractions.In busy times this can really make a huge difference to how enjoyable your holiday is.
As a quick summary Disney resorts fall into the following categories:
Value Resorts are basic hotel rooms with outside corridors. They do however still have theming and entitle you to the resort perks such as extra magic hours. Dining options may be limited and room sizes err towards the smaller end of the scale.
Moderate Resorts have larger rooms than the value resorts and better theming. They also have more restaurants and extra facilities.
Deluxe resorts and villas have the best theming and are of the highest standard. Some of them are also very close to the parks so great for families that need to take a break in the middle of the day. They are comparable with 4 or 5 star hotels outside the world. Read my guide to Disney's Polynesian Resort
There are also two non Disney hotels called the swan and Dolphin which enjoy many of the perks of the resort hotels, although not all
Dining at Disney
Disney have more than 100 restaurants throughout Walt disney Resort. Some are in the parks themselves and some are in the resorts. One very important factor to note is that if you which to partake of Disney sit down dining optionsyou need to book these in advance- often months in advance.
One of the perks of buying a Disney package is the ability to select one of Disney's dining plans. These are plans of varying levels and expense that offer a certain number of meals a day generally at a saving on buying individual meals. Some people love them, however, many people complain that it is very hard to use all the credits as you need to pre-book all of your sit down meals and very often on holiday people cannot predict where in the world they might be on any given day.
Disney offers Character dining at many of it's restaurants. Again this is something that needs to be booked in advance. As well as ensuring that you get a chance to meet the characters it can save a lot of time in the parks particularly for those with small children. Lines to have a meet and greet with a character can often be 1 hour plus- many people find that by taking their children to a character breakfast or other meal they can reach an agreement with their children that they do not line up to meet other characters throughout the day.
The most important thing to know about the dining options is the necessity to pre-book seating for sit down meals. This is particularly important at busy times of the year, and when the free dining plan offer is available. At certain times of the year Disney throws in the dining plan for free as part of it's holiday packages. At these times the restaurants become even more crowded.
Insider's tip: Dining reservations can be made via the WDW website and it is a LOT easier than trying to do it via telephone which is both time consuming and difficult.
When I last went to WDW I stayed in the Polynesian hotel and was unable to get a character breakfast booking for the entire duration of my stay. This was despite attempting to book it more than eight weeks in advance. Truly, if you want a character breakfast, book early.
Have a wonderful vacation!
Definitive bible to Walt Disney World
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