If you are in a desperate search for the answer of how to start preparing, skip down to the next header. ;)
You are going to Walt Disney World! Fantastic! You’ve made the decision to plan a Walt Disney World vacation, but there is SO much to plan. Where do you start? Lots of people are either overwhelmed by the idea of planning a Walt Disney World vacation or totally oblivious to the fact that it requires so much planning. Both of those states are completely understandable. There is a lot of work that goes into creating a well-planned Walt Disney World vacation. In this post, I will give you some basic guidance to get you started. Planning a vacation to WDW can be very fun if you give yourself enough time, and there are plenty of resources to help you.
When I was a child, my family took me to Walt Disney World several times. My favorite childhood memories are of WDW. It made my whole family happy. My mom’s favorite ride was Living with the Land (she’s a plant person). I was an odd kid as I adored Epcot (my favorite ride was Horizons) so my family should have known back then that’d be a lifelong learner and study science.
While I was studying science, I was a poor college student and I wasn’t able to return to WDW for well over a decade. In January of 2015, I returned to Walt Disney World as an adult for my honeymoon. My husband and I then returned in 2017, 2018, 2019 (with friends!) and we are now planning our trip for 2020 (with more friends!)
As someone who loves planning and anticipation, researching and preparing for my next Walt Disney World vacation is my favorite hobby. I’d love to help you plan your own magical vacation!
How do I start planning a trip to Walt Disney World?
Start planning at least 9 months in advance: There is a lot to research and consider when planning a Walt Disney World vacation. My recommendation is to start the process nine months or more ahead of time so you aren't rushed and have plenty of time to enjoy the process. While magical and satisfying trips that were thrown together at the last minute are totally possible, for your first trip give yourself time.
Purchase a guidebook: There are lots of guidebooks available to help you plan your vacation. My personal favorite is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.
Start researching: You will have a more enjoyable experience if you take the time to read a guidebook, look up Walt Disney World tips on social media or watch some videos.
Determine your objectives: You should take some time to figure out your objectives for this trip. What do you want to do while you are there? Why are you going? Who are you bringing? Having an idea of what you want to achieve will help you decide when to go, how long to stay, where to stay, where to eat, what kind of schedule to expect and much more. My WDW2020 series has a post about this: https://www.crazycatnerd.com/blog/wdw2020-planning-for-disney-what-are-our-objectives
Next, you'll need to consider when to go.
When should I go to Walt Disney World? What is the best month or season?
Crowd calendars: You can look at a crowd calendar to determine what times of the year are best. In general, January, February, late August, September and early December are good times to go. But you’ll need to do more research to choose your exact days.
Avoid school vacations: If possible, try to avoid school vacation times such as most of March (spring breaks).
Consider temperature: If you are like me, you’ll enjoy Walt Disney World more when the temperatures are cool in January and February. However, if you want to swim in the resort pool or go to a water park, you should try for a warmer time of year.
Holidays & events: Walt Disney World has events and holiday celebrations all year long. You may want to go during one of these times if you enjoy decorations or think you might like a special event such as the Food & Wine festival in Epcot. However, these events can cause increased crowds, so if you have a difficult time with crowds (like me) avoid those times.
If you want more help figuring out the best time to go to Walt Disney World, check out my article: https://www.crazycatnerd.com/blog/wdw2020-when-to-go-to-walt-disney-world
How long should I stay? Is two days enough? Is four days enough?
This answer is different for everyone and my preference may not apply to you. That said, from my personal experience, I recommend eight days. You will definitely want at least four days, but more would be better.
My husband likes to say that the line from the Lion King’s Circle of life- “there is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done”- is about Walt Disney World. There is A LOT to do in Disney World. If this is your first trip you should go into it with the mindset that you are just sampling all that Disney has to offer. You won’t check everything off and that is okay. One of your objectives should be to relax and have fun, so please don’t try to do all the things!
There are four major parks in WDW. Each of those parks deserves at least one full day. But you could easily spend two in some of them, and probably three in which ever is your favorite.
There are also two water parks, Disney Springs, and resorts to explore.
The longer you stay, the more cost-effective Disney makes the ticket prices.
If you plan to do things outside of Disney, add more time accordingly.
Staying on Walt Disney Property, at one of their resorts, will save you a lot of time. Their resorts are more expensive but you can do more in less time.
How much does it cost to go to Walt Disney World? How can I make it more cost effective?
Disney World is by no means a cheap vacation. However, it may not be as expensive as you think as there are plenty of ways to save money. My vacations typically run $3,000 to $4,000 (two-person trip). While I do keep my spending in check, I don’t optimize my finances. I prefer to stay on Walt Disney World property and I eat my food at the parks- if you didn’t do those things, you could save a lot more. I also tend to stay at ~8 days.
Your major expenses will be:
Tickets to the parks
Souvenirs (personal preference, some folks can go without these)
Some quick tips to consider:
Bring your own food to the parks: You can totally pack your own food and bring it into the parks. As long as you follow the rules, such as no glass containers, any food that does not need heating can be brought in. Pack some sandwiches and chips, and get a free cup of water from a counter service restaurant and you have a very economic lunch! Rules for what you can bring in can be found here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/park-rules/
Plan to go during a less popular time: if you go during the more “off-season” dates, you’ll get a better rate for rooming and possibly for travel. You also might be able to find more discounts or package deals.
Create a budget: Create a budget spreadsheet. You can find out the cost of rooms and ticket prices. You can add your travel expenses. You can even find the prices for food items- at both restaurants and snack carts!
Do your research: your strategies will be specific to you, your needs and your party but there are lots of tips and recommendations out there!
Watch this video: Before I had finished editing this post, I came across this informative video by Disney Food Blog that talks about how much it costs to go to Disney as a family of four: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oPLUk5uxZQ
If you are planning to go to Walt Disney World, found this post informative, and would like to use my suggestion for a guide book. This is a link to purchase it through Amazon. It is of no additional cost to you, but I make a few pennies to help keep this site going. Thanks in advance!
I sincerely hope this post helped you find your bearings on how and where to start planning your trip to Walt Disney World. I’m going to continue writing more posts that go into greater detail about each aspect of my trip planning process on this blog so please check back. You are also more than welcome to make requests for various posts in the comments as well.
Taking vacations, having fun, relaxing, being playful and silly- these are all things that are critical to self care and something that a trip to Walt Disney World provides for me. It is certainly not for everyone, but if it works for me I’m sure it will be useful to someone else too!