You have your Disney squad. You’ve set a date and booked your plane tickets. Your park tickets are on the way. So what’s next on your mous-ive to-do list?
This is the second part of my planning guide for your Orlando holiday! I decided to post this in two parts as 1) it was turning into a rather long, overwhelming list and 2) there seemed a natural progression from the last post towards organising the details for once you reach your magical destination.
- How do you plan on getting around in Orlando?
When in Orlando itself, you need to consider how you will get from your hotel to the parks each day. If you are staying on-site in a Walt Disney World Resort, the free WDW Bus Transportation system will be right on your doorstep, with regular shuttles throughout the day to take you all over Disney property. These buses are also free to use for non-resort guests to help you get from A to B. On the other hand, if you are staying off-site, you should check whether your hotel offers its own paid or free shuttle transportation to parks. These tend to be available on a first come/ reservation basis at specified times, which you may find useful or restricting to your itinerary. Hiring a car may also prove an option for you if you are confident driving along the busy highways (on the opposite side of the road if you’re from the UK), although parking at Disney can be expensive, around $20 a day (this is free if you stay in a WDW resort). Another option is using taxi services, as taxis tend to linger around hotels so are easy to find, however these can charge you expensive rates. I highly recommend using Uber around Orlando, which saved us hundreds of dollars on our last trip! Controlled from and paid through your smartphone, no money changes hands and you can see an estimated rate before you travel.
I will post a more in depth post about transportation at a later date (but feel free to contact me if you have any burning questions!)
- Where are you going to stay?
For the most part, your hotel/resort room will be a base to sleep and rest as you will be spending most of your time soaking up the sun and Disney magic in the parks. However, there are different options which will offer you various facilities depending on your needs and preferences.
✨ Walt Disney World Resorts
Disney itself offer 28 themed on-site resorts around the Walt Disney World property, bringing you closer to the magic every step of your trip. These are classified into three tiers: Value, Moderate and Deluxe resorts, with the addition of Disney Vacation Club Villas and the Fort Wilderness Campground. The room layouts tend to be one bedroom with two double beds, or with extra sofa beds in the living quarters, which may not be suitable for larger/older parties on a tighter budget (although Art of Animation and All Star Music do offer larger family suites in the Value tier). Booking a WDW Resort room will also give you extras including Disney’s Magical Express transfers to take you to and from the airport, complementary Magic Bands which act as your room key, park ticket and credit card during your stay, access to the Extra Magic Hours and a Little Big Book of Discounts for deals throughout Disney Springs.
✨ Other on-site non-Disney resorts
There are also around 12 other hotels, apartment hotels and villas available on Disney property which are not owned by Disney, therefore do not have the same theming and extras, yet are very close to the parks and have spectacular views of the fireworks. Of varying levels of value and luxury without the Disney price, some of these still offer the Extra Magic Hours and transportation to the parks, although most are walking distance from Disney Springs, Epcot or Magic Kingdom.
✨ Off-site hotels and apartment hotels
All around Orlando there are hundreds of hotels in close proximity to the parks, with the most popular tourist area being along International Drive (also known as I-Drive), with Walt Disney World being south of here and Sea World and Universal Studios north. There are plenty of options for affordable dining along the 11 mile strip, as well as supermarkets such as Walgreens, shopping opportunities and other attractions. Personally I have stayed in the Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando, which offered great dining for when you fancy a change from Disney quick-service, and the Enclave Hotel and Suites which gave our party of 4 a lot more space than the standard one bedroom room. You may also want to consider staying off-site if you are planning to divide your time between Disney and other experiences in Florida.
Villas are also an option to stay in, giving you more independence, leisure and privacy. This may be more suitable if you plan on having more rest days relaxing by a pool, have a bigger party who need more space, or if you want to explore the rest of Florida. Hiring a car would be a good option if you chose to stay in a villa, as they tend to be further away from the parks, and you will need transport to supermarkets if you plan on self catering.
- Where are you planning to eat?
Deciding on how you’re going to dine on holiday will also have an affect on where you plan to stay and your itinerary. If you’re staying on-site at WDW, you may benefit more from the Disney Dining Plans, which give you credits for a specified number of Quick Service and Table Service meals plus snack credits per person per night of your stay. Using this service can also help you budget your holiday through paying for meals in advance and can save you around 40% more than paying for meals individually. Plus if you book through Disney between now and the 20th October 2016, you can get a free Dining package with selected resorts.
Once you have planned a rough itinerary for your day-to-day park schedule, it is a good idea to make any dining reservations at Table Service establishments ahead of time, especially if you would like to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be Our Guest, which can be booked up months in advance. You can make reservations through the My Disney Experience App or by calling 0800 16 90 748. Also, I highly recommend doing at least one Character Dining experience. These have the most magical atmosphere and are so memorable, as well as being a great place to get photos and character signatures without the queues.
As previously mentioned, there is also a wide selection of places to eat on International Drive ranging from table service restaurants to cheaper buffet-style dining and recognisable chain restaurants and bars.
✨ TOP TIP: Invest in a Landry’s Select Club card, especially if you are going in a busy season! This was amazing at by-passing long queues at places such as the Rainforest Café at Animal Kingdom (and Bubba Gump at Universal’s City Walk) giving us priority seating and rewards such as a $25 Welcome reward, $25 Birthday discount and another $25 reward after earning 250 points (1 point for every dollar spent) The card can be used across 38 different locations, with Rainforest Café, T-Rex, Yak and Yeti being on Disney property.✨
- Other things to consider before you go!
- My Disney Experience App: this app will be such a handy tool for checking out wait times while you’re in the parks, for making dining reservations on the go and organising your Fastpasses. It’s a good idea to set up your account before you go, connecting it to your park tickets and beginning to make your Fastpasses in advance. You will only need one account for your whole party.
- Travel money cards: this is a secure way of carrying your money around on holiday and acts similar to a debit card. Before you leave, you can transfer your set amount onto the card, which will then be changed into your chosen currency when you use it during your stay. To find out more click here
- SHOES!: walking around the Disney parks, you are going to spend a lot of time on your feet and cover a fair few miles, therefore choosing good footwear is key to keep you going all day. There is nothing worse than getting blisters on the first day and having to agonisingly limp around for the rest of your holiday. Make sure to break in your shoes first too!
- Luggage space: some people like to go to Florida and find amazing deals in the clothing outlet stores. Others like to spend their savings on nostalgic Disney merchandise and gifts for family and friends back home. Either way, your case on the way back is going to be a lot heavier than it was on the way there. Bear this in mind when packing at home to save yourself stress of re-packing in the airport or paying the extra luggage fees. Or plan ahead if you want to bring an extra case home.
✨ P.S. Thank you for all the positive support I’ve received so far! It’s given me lots of motivation to make this blog as helpful it can be and I am looking forward to sharing more with you! ✨