The decision has been made: you are going to take the leap of faith and book a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Walt Disney World. But there is one problem. Where do you start?
There are many different things you need to first consider before booking your holiday, in order to tailor it to your specific needs and ensure it is the most fun-filled and action-packed it can be! Personally, I find planning essential for Orlando holidays in particular (especially if you are travelling from the UK), as at times the experience can be stressful, so it really helps to be fully prepared before you go. Plus, it makes the 500+ day wait all the more exciting, as you discover and organise all the amazing things you are going to do on your trip.
- Who is going on the holiday?
First things first, who will be going on this adventure? Are you a family taking young children? Older children? Grand parents? Taking the trip with your best friend? Or is it just you and your partner? Walt Disney World is suitable to everyone of all ages, but it is important to establish the requirements of everyone who is going to accommodate their needs in the planning process. For instance, this will affect where you are going to stay, the intensity of the holiday (whether you will have jam-packed full days in the park or need to go back to your resort for a break), possible dietary requirements, which attractions will be suitable for who etc. Everyone’s WDW holiday is different, yet just as special.
- When are you going?
Depending on when you go in the year, you are going to encounter different crowd levels as well as varying temperatures and weather. When you choose to go may also depend on school or work holidays, however this also corresponds with peak park times where wait times are extraordinary and rates become more expensive. Reservations are booked up months in advance and the frustration of the large crowds and long queues mixed with the hot weather may add unnecessary stress to your holiday. Visiting the parks out of season however will allow you to be more flexible and have so much more time to fit even more magical memories into your stay. The best times to visit WDW include:
– The second week of January to mid February
– The first three weeks of May
– Late August and throughout September
– Mid November to mid December
– During special events
Do not panic if your only option is to visit the parks in the height of the season! I visited WDW this year on the 24th March – 8th April which coincided with Easter weekend, one of the busiest times of the year. The parks were noticeably more crowded over this period, which was obvious when leaving the parks at night or finding a spot to watch the parades, however this did not have a negative impact on our holiday at all. We chose this time of year due to the great weather, which wasn’t unbearably hot meaning we could stay in the parks all day, and rain showers were rare but welcomingly refreshing in the humidity. It also meant we could experience the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival which runs from the start of March to the end of May.
Bear in mind that visiting the parks in the summer season will mean top temperatures and humidity, as well as frequent afternoon storms, so it is best to plan your days to begin early morning, have a rest in the afternoon in the hottest part of the day, then return to the parks in the evening. Whereas the heat of the day in the UK may be around lunchtime, Florida can continue experience high temperatures around 4-5pm.
- For how long are you planning to stay?
With Walt Disney World covering over 43 square miles of land, with 4 huge attraction parks, 2 waterparks, its own shopping district Disney Springs, 27 themed resorts, golf courses, the ESPN sports complex plus loads more, there is no way you will be able to do EVERYTHING even after 10 visits! But it is important to consider how long you think is suitable for your budget and for the most important things on your to-do list.
Disney offers 7, 14 and 21 day tickets (you can pay for individual days) suggesting that one week is the minimum amount of days needed to explore all the parks sufficiently. Creating an itinerary is ESSENTIAL for organising your time efficiently. For instance I would advise at least one day for each of the four parks, although I would allow two for Epcot to cover both Future World and World Showcase, which leaves you a few days extra in between to rest up or visit one of the waterparks, go shopping at Disney Springs or to revisit your favourite park.
However, Orlando isn’t just Walt Disney World, and there are so many other places you may want to go to during your stay in Orlando. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are at the opposite end of the tourist district International Drive, as well as places like Sea World, other water parks and attractions like the Orlando Eye. Further afield places such as Busch Gardens and the Kennedy Space Centre offer amazing experiences for the family, and there are many opportunities for retail therapy in and around Orlando. If you plan to explore the rest of what Florida has to offer during your holiday, then it is important to factor in more days.
It is also useful to look into buying combo tickets if you are planning on going to places other than just Walt Disney World. Attraction Tickets Direct are a very reliable and reasonable company which I highly recommend for buying combination tickets for the parks, offering a variety of packages to suit your interests. Buying your tickets this way may also give you extra perks such as free tickets to FunSpot Orlando and the Orlando Eye. There are some unreliable sites which sell park tickets, however I have used this company myself and have found it very trustworthy, receiving my tickets plenty of time before my holiday. Find more information here: http://www.attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk/
- How are you going to get there?
Travelling to Orlando from the UK is a long journey, around 9 hours by plane, plus transfers at either end, so it is important that you choose a suitable airline which gives you comfort yet is economical. Plane ticket prices fluctuate day to day, so regularly checking fares in advance can help you get the best deals and save money. Furthermore, you may find that buying a package which includes your hotel, flight and transfers gives you the best deal, depending on your circumstances. It is very beneficial to shop around and spend time comparing various ways of booking the different components of your holiday. For instance, Disney have their own airport transfer system including transporting your luggage, or some flight packages include car rental.
✨ Don’t forget you’ll need to have an up to date passport, as well as apply for an ESTA for each person in your party in order to able to enter the United States ✨
This is just the beginning of the long list of planning essentials! Look out for Part Two of this post, where I summarise the next stage of things to plan for when you reach Orlando 🙂
✨Check out the Disney Holidays website > FREE Holiday Planning Tools to order your Little Book of Magic – this little book is so useful for helping you book your WDW holiday, giving brief resort information and simple park maps to help you familiarise yourself before you go ✨