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Before You Book

Before you book your Disney vacation you need to answer several questions.

How much do you want to spend?

How long do I want to be at Walt Disney World?

What else in Orlando do I want to see?

Where should I stay?

How do I get there?

Do I stay on a plan or go al la carte? (Special Disney Plans Page)

What type of ticket should I buy?


The Geeks Responses:

1) How much do you want to spend?Setting a budget is one of the most important aspects of your vacation. There are Walt Disney World resorts in several categories - Value, Moderate and Deluxe, and options on property that include the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin and the 5 Diamond Four Seasons Resort Orlando. Staying offsite is also an alternative. Dining can be a quick service hot dog or a steak and lobster dinner at one of the signature restaurant locations. Choosing a more or less expensive time of year will also factor into your budget and may allow you to stay a few extra days in off season. Having a set budget allows for the other components - lodging, tickets, dining, special events - to fall into place.

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2) How long do I want to be at Walt Disney World?

With four major theme parks; two water parks; the burgeoning Disney Springs shopping and dining district (formerly Downtown Disney) and a wide range of activities that include three 18-hole golf courses, fishing, mini golf, horseback riding, boating, tours, and more, there is always something to do. We usually visit for 6-10 days, which allows us for a relaxing tour of the property. I recommend listing everything you'd like to do during your visit and seeing how many days you come up with. For myself, I find one day in the Magic Kingdom, two days at Epcot, one day at Disney's Animal Kingdom and one day at Disney's Hollywood Studios  are a good rule of thumb. For families with young kids, your schedule may include two days in the Magic Kingdom - everyone has a different agenda. You may want an extra day or two to "catch up" on anything you miss during these park days. Disney Springs can also take a few hours or a full day, depending on what your goals are. Also, set a little time for relaxing - you are on vacation!

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3) What else in Orlando should I see? Well this is really a tough question. Disney World by itself can suck up more vacation time, energy, and money than the average family has. We used to spend a couple days and explore other attractions in Orlando, but with the expansion of Disney World over the past decade there is more than enough to keep you on property for your entire trip. If this is a once in a lifetime trip to Orlando, and you have enough time you should go visit Kennedy Space Center, Sea World, and maybe Universal Studios Florida. For me coming from California I have experienced much of this already. I have been to Sea World in San Diego (and in Ohio for that matter), so I have never been to the Orlando version. I have been to Universal Studios here in California, and I am not a huge fan, so I did not see any reason to go to Orlando's version. I am not a thrill ride or Harry Potter person so Universal's Islands of Adventure does not excite me. Kennedy Space Center is a truly unique experience but after seeing it once every now and then it does not change that much. I seem to go about every 10 years and that is more than enough. If you have not been there in the past 10-15 years the Space Center has really expanded for the better.

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4) Where should I stay?
When choosing a resort for your vacation, you have the option between staying "onsite", which in disneyspeak generally translates to staying Walt Disney World owned resort, or "offsite", meaning away from Walt Disney World property. There are also a handful of hotels on Walt Disney World property which are not owned by Disney that fall into a gray area and depending on the resort can fit into onsite or offsite. 

Being the disneygeek that I am, my recommendation is to stay on property in a Disney owned/operated resort. It will, in general, be more expensive than staying offsite for a similar set of amenities, but Disney offers several benefits that you will need to weigh if the price difference is worth it for your situation and budget.  Some of these benefits include:

  • Proximity to the Disney Parks
  • Disney Transportation options
  • Extra Magic Hours
  • Disney’s Magical Express Airport Service between Orlando International Airport and your Resort
  • Disney “Magic” around you including the theme of your hotel, room, etc..

When on vacation, I do not want to have to worry about transportation nor drive, I do more than enough of that at home and I would prefer to sit back and relax, even if sometimes that is not the most efficient way to get around. Staying onsite is much simpler, you walk out of your room and in some cases right to a park, in most you take a Disney bus, boat, or monorail to your destination.   Disney transportation works, but at times it is not the most efficient and this can get on some guest’s nerves.   Offsite hotels generally have scheduled transportation, which may be every hour or two instead of every 15-20 minutes or less and most have longer transit times to reach the Disney parks.

Another reason I prefer staying onsite is that it keeps me "within the Magic". It is much more relaxing to not have to think so much about the real world for a week, I do not see the real world from the time I enter property until I take Magical Express home.  Which is a great escape for me.

Disney has a wide range of resort options ranging from camping to deluxe resorts and everything in between.  For more on the Disney Resorts visit our resort section. Over the years I have stayed at most of the Disney Resorts, in our trip reports sections I have thoughts, observations and pictures from many of these stays. I am more than happy to answer any questions or provide my two cecnts, just drop me an email or Tweet.

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5) To stay on a plan or go al la carte or some other option?

Check out our Disney Vacation Plans page for an analysis and thoughts on this.

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6) How do I get there?

A large number of guests arriving at WDW travel by airplane at Orlando's International Airport(MCO). WDW is about 30 minutes from the airport. You have several options to make the journey and what you choose depends on where you are staying, what you plan to do and your patience.

As with any city you have regular array of options, rental cars, town cars, other services, cabs, etc...

If you are staying at a Disney Resort since 2005 Disney has been offering a service called Disney's Magical Express. This service includes motorcoach transfers, luggage delivery and resort airline check in. This is included in your room rate, there is no additional charge.

The WDW transportation options are easy to navigate and will get you around WDW. Check out our WDW transportation section for more information on getting around.

If your driving your own car or a rental car getting to WDW is rather easy. Most Orlando area roads have signs pointing the way. You will have to stop and pay several tolls along the way if you stay on the main toll ways. Consult disneyworld.com or a GPS for more detailed directions.

Another route to take is public transportation. The Orlando area bus system services Walt Disney World. Click here for Tony, a guest contributor's, thoughts and tips on public transportation.

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7) What type of ticket should I buy and from where?

A: Walt Disney World sells primarily two types of tickets. The first are Magic Your Way Tickets and these range from 1 to 10 days. The second are annual/seasonal passes. If you planning a single trip to Orlando in a given year Magic Your Way Tickets are the way to go. If you are looking at multiple trips to Orlando and or Disneyland in California then you may want to price out the annual pass options. Or another reason to consider an Annual Pass is the discounts on hotel, some dining, and merchandise. You will need to "crunch some numbers" and see if it makes sense for your type of touring.

Assuming you are looking at a Magic Your Way (MYW) ticket you next have to decide what options and length of ticket you need. Disney's Magic Your Way (MYW) tickets start with a base ticket (which offers one park per day) and then can add days, park hopping and/or Water Park Fun & More for an additional charges. These tickets also offer more value with longer stays with tickets beyond day 4 costing less than $20 a day. The tickets expire within 14 days of first use, there is no longer a no expiration option.

The most common add on is park hopping. This gives you the flexibility to visit more than one WDW theme park on a given day. If you are visiting during a time of year where the parks have varying hours or you have a short attention span like me or want the option to be able to move around then this is an option you want to consider. For a first time visitor where you plan to spend all your time in a single park each day opting out of this option can free up some room in your budget.

The other option for your MYW ticket is the Water Park Fun & More option, which includes Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, ESPN Wild World of Sports Complex basic admission (not event /sports tickets), daytime (before 4pm) mini-golf and the Oak Trail family walking course. For a first time visiting the parks, it would be hard finding time - especially on a shorter trip - to utilize many of these options. During winter months, one of the water parks may be also closed for refurbishment. Before purchasing this add on I recommend blocking out your days and seeing which parks and how much time you have for these options and if the price point makes sense.

Be sure to purchase your Magic Your Way Tickets from Walt Disney World or an Authorized Walt Disney World Ticket Seller. There are many non-authorized ticket sellers selling various tickets, including used tickets, we do NOT recommend purchasing from them. There are guests who visit Walt Disney World every day with unauthorized tickets who are unable to enter the park and that is one way to ruin your vacation before it even starts.

For the most up to date options and pricing be sure to visit the Official Walt Disney World Resort Site.

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