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Walt Disney World Travel Tips

There are books, planning DVD’s, sites and more sites devoted to telling you all you want to know and more about Disney World in Buena Vista, Florida  This is not one of those sites.

There are three essential travel tips for planning your trip to Walt Disney World.

•  When to go to Walt Disney World

•  How to make the most of your days

•  Where to stay at Walt Disney World

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When To Go

If you have school age children, the easiest time to go to Walt Disney World is not the best time to go.  Spring breaks and summers remain the most crowded time of the year.

If your plans are flexible, go when the crowds are smaller but when are crowds smaller.  The answer is easier to find than you’d think.  Disney, like everyone else, prices accommodations based on supply and demand.  If they are running a special or have lower than average rates on hotels, it’s not because they want even more people at the park it’s all about supply and demand – lower prices mean smaller crowds.  Find out more about specials offers by registering for email notices at http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/special-offers-deals-discounts/.

If you aren’t as flexible, you will need to continue reading in order to pick the best time of year to ensure you actually see the rides and attractions you desire.  If you’re indifferent to cooler temperatures then January and February are much less crowded times to visit and often offer great rates on hotel stays and even free dining.

CTA TIP: Our favorite time to visit Walt Disney World is the value season after Labor Day into the first weeks of November when temperatures are mild and there are relatively fewer rainy days.

Walt Disney World hosts several Special Events throughout the year.  While some of these events are truly special, the value to vacationers is more often the Extra Magic Hours and shorter ride lines.  Special events like the Night of Joy Christian concerts and Magic Kingdom Halloween and Christmas parades draw park visitors away from attractions.  That’s good for you.  During these events, you’ll often be able to walk onto the rides.  While these events often require the purchase of a separate ticket, a well-planned vacation that includes Disney special events can give you more park value for the money.

You may find that you can squeeze two full park visits, such as the Animal Kingdom or Sea World, into one day by going to a special event.  For more information visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/special-events/.

The holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is quite busy but can be worth enduring the crowds to enjoy the Christmas decorations and special events that include Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom and Holiday Around The World & Candlelight Processional (reading of the Christmas story and orchestra/choir production of Christmas carols) at Epcot.

Orlando attracts of lot of organizations who host their annual conferences in the city so that attendees can also enjoy the theme parks.  When planning your Disney vacation, don’t be worried about the extra crowds, the parks can accommodate the volume.  You should however be aware of times of year to avoid, such as G@y Days which is historically held the first weekend of June.  Since Walt Disney World doesn’t sanction such organizations, they aren’t likely publish the dates making it important for you to Google your desired vacation dates to see who else might be planning on being there.

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Making the Most of Your Days

Yes, there are Fast Passes and parent Rider Swap programs to improve your park experience, but if you want to see the attractions you came to see, get out of bed and hit the parks when they open. Yes, you’ll need a vacation from your vacation to get some rest.  But, the lowest crowds of the day are at the start and end of the day.

Whether you’ve been to Walt Disney World before or not, have a “must see” short-list and hit those attractions first.  Plan your most direct route to avoid zig-zagging around and plan your fast pass times that work with your route.

Your short list of “must do” rides will vary depending on the age of your group and interest in thrill rides.

Below is a list of some of the more popular rides that you’ll want to consider hitting before 10 a.m.  For example, Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is known to have hour long waits shortly after opening; for this ride, we recommend arriving early and getting back in line when you are done if the wait is under an hour.

  • Magic Kingdom thrill rides:  Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain.
  • Magic Kingdom family fun:  Buzz Lightyear’s Ranger Spin, Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, and Jungle Cruise
  • Epcot thrill rides:  Soarin’, Test Track, Mission Space
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios thrill rides:  Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Hollywood Tower of Terror
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios family fun:  Toy Story Mania (perhaps the most popular ride at Walt Disney World)
  • Animal Kingdom thrill rides:  Expedition Everest and
  • Animal Kingdom family fun:  Kilimanjaro Safari

CTA TIP: Prior to your trip, download the Mobile Magic app featuring park navigation, ride wait times, and dining information.   By monitoring wait times, you can better plan rides to visit or avoid.

CTA TIP: RideMax is a sophisticated planning tool designed to help you spend less time in line based on years of data on park and ride visitor volumes.  Visit http://www.ridemax.com/index.php for more information.

 

Where To Stay At Walt Disney World

At most theme parks, there are significant advantages to staying onsite.  The advantages of staying at a Walt Disney World resort are only compelling if you plan to visit Walt Disney World parks exclusively.

If also visiting other Orlando attractions, we recommend staying offsite (see reviews for Universal Studios http://www.christiantraveladvisor.com/universal-studios-florida and Islands of Adventure http://www.christiantraveladvisor.com/universal-orlando-islands-of-adventure).

Below are key advantages to staying at a Walt Disney World resort property.  You’ll have to decide if these are worth the extra cost of accommodations and meals that come with staying onsite.

  • Extra Magic Hours:  On some days, certain parks are open early or late for Disney resort guests only.  Extra Magic Hours can be important if your vacation is just a couple days and you want to maximize your time at the parks, but you’ll need to check the scheduled Extra Magic Hours to see if they apply to the days and parks that matter to you.
  • Monorail Access:  While the monorail can be accessed by any guest, those staying at The Contemporary, The Polynesian, and The Grand Floridian access the monorail directly within their property with connections to The Magic Kingdom or Epcot.  The Monorail is great if you are a family with toddlers getting around the park with a stroller or for anyone using a wheelchair.  For our family, the stroller held diapers, water, snacks, medicine, jackets, and a dozen other things.  When you ride the Monorail, you can push your stroller right onto the train and park it without having to take the child out of the stroller.
  • Water taxi to The Magic Kingdom: Guests of The Polynesian, The Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness may enjoy the boat ride to and from The Magic Kingdom.  The water taxis run every 5-10 minutes and the children love to ride on the boat.  They also do not require strollers to be closed or stowed however it is a bit tricky to get the stroller or wheelchair onto the boat.
  • Ferryboats to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios:  Guests of the Boardwalk Inn and Villas Resort, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Swan and Dolphin hotels may enjoy the ferryboat ride to and from Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Ferryboats to Downtown Disney:  Guests of Port Orleans, both Riverside and French Quarter, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs may enjoy the ferryboat ride to and from Downtown Disney.
  • Parking:  If you’ve driven to or rented a car while at Walt Disney World, you’ll find parking to be relatively convenient.  Resort guests don’t have to pay for parking, unless valeting.  Guests can drive to any Disney park or resort enabling easy access to all resort restaurants and pools.  If you have your own vehicle, you may want to consider driving yourself when traveling to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Downtown Disney.

Something most Disney visitors do not know – Valet parking costs $10 per day (as of this writing) allowing drivers to utilize any of the valet lots during a single day.  Which means if you valet park at one location you can valet at ANY OTHER Disney location the rest of the day for FREE (you must show the valet ticket from your earlier purchase).

 

CTA TIP: Disney buses are not nearly as convenient as the Monorail.  Drivers require that strollers to be collapsed, closed, and in a locked position.  This is a hassle especially if you have a sleeping child or a stroller full of supplies.  If you are using a wheelchair the bus drivers will allow you to drive the chair onto the bus.   However, you must either wait for everyone else to get on first or wait until the bus tilts down low enough for the chair to be able roll onto the bus.  We had this experience and it often took quite a while for the bus to prepare.  It can be embarrassing when riders get impatient with the extra time it takes to load and unload.

 

If you choose to stay at a non Walt Disney World accommodation, nearby hotels options that may be worth a look include:

  • Downtown Disney hotels include the Hilton, DoubleTree, and Holiday Inn chains.  While conveniently located, they have been inconsistent in quality.
  • The Swan and Dolphin hotels are managed by Westin Hotels and Resorts and have over 2,000 rooms between them.  Each offers boat access to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well as eligibility for Extra Magic Hours (as of this writing).

 

Given the number of hotels and resorts in the area, we suggest you search the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor


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