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How to Plan a Disney Vacation and Not Lose Your Mind
When planning a Disney vacation there is so much to think about. From how long you are staying to the actual cost of the whole trip. What’s even more confusing is how all of the pieces will fit together to create the perfect Disney experience.
The easiest and most popular option is to book a Disney Vacation Package. A package includes park tickets, hotel stays and allows you to do add-ons like transportation to/from the airport.
But if you'd like to al la carte your trip keep reading for information on all parts of your upcoming trip.
How Long Should Your Disney Vacation Be?
Deciding on how long your trip should be is one of the most important parts of planning your Disney vacation. The most popular stay is a 4-5 day but you could go as long as 7-10 days.
The 4-5 or 5-6 day trips are more for groups that have no problem doing one park per day. There are 4 main Disney Parks (more on that below), if you feel that your group is up to the task then a 5 day trip is perfect.
If you’re traveling with a group that includes children or you know your group cannot handle full park days, then a 7 day stay is probably more your speed. Staying for 7 days allows your group the ability to split park days and not cram so much into a day.
There are four main Disney Parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios. There is so much to do in each park, that you really should do one park per day. But you can definitely pick and choose if you are crunched for time. Each park has ‘worlds’ within their parks which make for a really fun day.
Magic Kingdom Park
Magic Kingdom is home to one of the most iconic places, Cinderella Castle. It is also by far the most popular park.
With ever popular rides like “it’s a small world”, Pirates of the Caribbean, Mad Hatter Tea Party, Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, this park has something for every age range.
Walking down Main Street, U.S.A is like stepping into a time machine. Finding food in Magic Kingdom is easy with fan favorite restaurants like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table (super popular). Restaurants are great places to do character meet and greets
Ever see the photos of the big golf ball looking thing? Yep, that’s EPCOT, it is home to four different areas, World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery, and the most popular World Showcase.
The well known rides here at EPOCT park are the new installments like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and The Guardian of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind. The mainstays here though are Soarin’, Frozen Ever After & Test Track that are always a good time.
EPCOT park is usually where a lot of the different festivals that Disney hosts are held. The Food and Wine, and the International Flower & Garden, and the International Arts festivals are some of the favorites. During these festivals you’ll have access to outdoor kitchens that make grabbing quick bites super easy.
With two new worlds to explore here, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land, this park is perfect for all age groups. Here you'll also find mainstay rides like Tower of Terror and Rockin' Roller Coaster set to music by Aerosmith.
At Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, you can immerse yourself in all the things, from building your own light saber or droid to exciting simulators to Star Wars destinations.
In Toy Story Land, you'll jump right into Woody and Buzz's world. Take a ride on the Slinky-Dog Dash as he rolls and twists through Andy's backyard. Or take a out of this world on the Alien Swirling Saucers and take a ride through an arcade like blasting game featuring all of your favorite toys!
Animal Kingdom Park
Situated on 500 acres of land, this is by far the largest park and probably the one park you will need an entire day to explore. Featuring the Tree of Life, wildlife and landscapes throughout the park.
Animal Kingdom is also home to Pandora, World of Avatar. Pandora is home to Disney’s most popular ride, Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey. You can also take a safari ride through the African savanna or take a trip on the Kali River Rapids.
How much to do each day?
This is always a hot topic because there are people who can do ‘rope drop’ to park closing and then there are people who can’t. And they usually go together. Rope drop consists of being out of your hotel at an ungodly hour and be there for right when the park opens officially for the day. Then you stay the entire day until the park closes (sometimes 10PM).
That is one long day and if you’re traveling with kids, it's too long. While there are some rides and attractions you can go to if you need a few minutes to rest or cool down, like the the Carousel of Progress. Being able to leave the park even for just a few hours makes for a nice break in your day.
For the guests who cannot handle a full park day, the park hopper ticket is the best option. This gives you the ability to leave the park & then come back or enjoy another park in the afternoon. Spending half the day at the park is the most logical option, you can have lunch, relax by the pool or take a nap & then head back in the evening.
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Hotels for Your Disney Vacation
Now that you understand a bit of the parks and have an idea as to what you want to do, it’s time to decide where to stay. Disney Resorts have 3 tiers of resorts; Value, Moderate & Deluxe. The price range for these resorts ranges from $80-$4000/night depending on amenities offered, transportation and the time of year your visiting.
The resort you choose to stay in really depends on what you are looking for in a resort. If you don't mind waiting on the Disney buses then a value or moderate resort is perfect. Each type of resort offers different amenities and are all awesome in their own ways.
Disney Value Resorts
Disney Value resorts offer the basic amenities typically found in all hotels, like on-site dining, laundry services, pools, and of course a Disney Theme. They are also some of the cheapest resorts on property. These resorts include the ever popular All Star Resorts (Music, Movies & Sports), which usually are home to large groups, like school trips or sports teams. They include bus service to and from the parks.
Whereas Value Plus resorts include Pop Century & the Art of Animation. These resorts have all the same amenities that the All Stars including bus service. But, they also include access to the Disney Skyliner, which makes getting to either EPCOT or Hollywood Studios super easy. The Art of Animation resort is also known for its family suites which work great for families who need the extra space.
Disney Moderate Resorts
Moderate resorts offer every the value ones do but they are more subtly themed than the value resorts. The different ones also offer different types of transportation such as the Monorail system or boats to and from certain parks.
Some resorts are also close to each other where you can try out the different restaurants and shops as well.
Disney Deluxe resorts are the highest priced resorts on Disney property. They come with all the same offerings that the value and moderate resorts do but they also include gyms, fine dining & additional types of transportation. If you’re staying at any of these resorts, you’ll have access to not only the Monorail system but also boat transportation to and from Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.
Deluxe resorts are great if you're travelling as a couple or don't have a large group (super expensive). They really immerse you in the experience
Some Helpful Hints
- Check out Polka Dots and Pixie Dust’s post on the best time of year to travel to Disney. She goes into depth on the most budget friendly and most expensive times of year to plan your vacation.
- If you’re traveling with kids, buying things like bubble wands, glow sticks, etc. before your trip will save you tons of money!
- Make sure to sign up for flight alerts to ensure you get the best possible price.
- Don’t forget to download my FREE Checklist to help with Planning Your Disney Vacation!
Planning a trip can be stressful but, planning a Disney vacation takes the cake for sure. Remember that it’s all about the memories that you’ll be making while on the trip.
Drop a comment below if you have any questions! Thanks for stopping by!
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