DISNEY WORLD VACATION PLANNING: TIPS + TRICKS FROM A DISNEY PRO

We’ve honeymooned in Disney, gone to Walt Disney World three times and gone to Disneyland three times in the last three years, so I am claiming it here: I have become a Disney vacation planning pro! And I’m ready to share a lot of tips, tricks, what I’ve learned, my favorite things, stuff I would not do, and drop some serious Disney Vacation planning knowledge on you. I hope this help you plan your Disney vacation! So if you’re trying to figure out how to plan a Disney family vacation, keep reading! And as always, if you might need this info in the future or know of a friend who’s planning a Disney trip, I appreciate if you share my blog with them- thanks in advance!

Where do we start?

When it comes to planning your Disney vacation, figure out the time of year, length of your stay, and your ideal budget. Plan your vacation at least 6 months if not one year ahead of time. There are some amazing Disney websites with crowd calendars that can show you the ideal days to go to the parks, usually January and February have low attendance, as does September. But you might miss out on the Christmas or Halloween holiday decor. With older kids, you might have to plan around a school calendar. Every time of year has positives, but I personally like to go when there are less crowds and shorter lines!

Watch our Disney World vlog from our trip this February 2019, which we purposefully planned so that we could have less crowds! This vlog shows Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom, and some of our favorite restaurants too!

If you stay on Disney property, there are always special offers to get discounts. You’ll also be able to book dining reservations 180 days in advance of the first day of your stay for up to 10 days (so guests staying on property can technically book 190 days in advance). You can book advanced dining reservations online at 5:45 AM, or call starting at 7:00 AM ET. You can make FastPass reservations 60 days in advance, which you want to do! Take advantage of getting into the coolest restaurants and the best rides.

Once you know the dates you’d like to go to Disney, you can check out availability and the hotel price range that fits your budget. Then, you can either use the website or call to complete your reservation. I have always booked Disney vacations myself using the Disney website, and calling the reservation help line for any dining reservations or FastPass reservations I needed extra assistance with.


How long should we go to Disney?

Truly, this is up to you and what you’re interested in doing. If you’re going to Walt Disney World and want to go to every theme park at least once, you’d have to go for four days. However, if you stay on Disney property, you can get 6 to 7 days of tickets for about the same price as 4 days. Plus, you don’t have to rush as much each day to fit everything in you want to see. We did 6 days of parks on our last trip, and I thought that was perfect for getting through every park and riding every ride we wanted to go on. Disney World parks are very spread out, and transportation to and from the parks are free when you stay on property. There are buses, monorails, and boats, and soon to be a gondola. However, budget at least 30 minutes to an hour for any transportation to the parks, unless you pay for the Lyft Minnie Van service that can get you around Disney World a lot faster.

If you only want to do the traditional castle Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World, you can definitely make a day trip or two-day trip and get to every ride you’re interested in if you’re there from rope drop until the park closes.

What hotel do I stay at in Disney?

At Walt Disney World, there are three categories of hotels based on prices: value ($110+/night), moderate ($205+/night), and deluxe ($345+/night). We’ve never stayed at a value resort yet, but our friends who have said they’re nice and clean, and their only negative comment was that there seemed to be less buses or longer wait times for getting to and from the parks, so just budget extra travel time! When we stayed at moderate resorts when I was growing up, we loved the Port Orleans Riverside, and we loved the Southern Charm decor and atmosphere, and the waterhole themed pool. We made our hotel decisions based on transportation, because at Disney World, since it can take a lot of time to get to and from the parks, we preferred using the monorail for transportation so that the kids could stay in their stroller. You have to fold up your stroller to ride buses, and most boats require you to fold your stroller as well. However, the monorail made it easy to roll the kids on if they had fallen asleep at the parks, and get them back to the hotel still sound asleep. We stayed the Grand Floridian when Landon was 16 months old for his first trip. When we went for a week last spring, we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge for the first two nights when we went to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios (there is only bus transportation to those parks, unless you stay at Beach Club, Yacht Club, or Boardwalk, and there is a walking path and a boat to Hollywood Studios). But then we moved to the Polynesian Resort for the rest of the week so we could take the monorail to Magic Kingdom and Epcot from the resort. This most recent trip, we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge, and there is a boat that takes you to Magic Kingdom (about half of them you could push the stroller on, but there wasn’t a set schedule to know when that boat was coming, we sometimes just got lucky!). There is also a boat from the Wilderness Lodge to the Contemporary Resort, where you could either catch the monorail, or take the walking path over to the Magic Kingdom (which is a lot faster). I truly don’t think you can go wrong staying on Disney property. But you will pay for a more decorated hotel room and more convenient methods of transportation with the Deluxe resorts. And with any Disney hotel, you can use the Magical Express to get from the airport to your hotel, and luggage transfer is all taken care of from the airport.

Watch part 1 of our Walt Disney World vacation from this February 2019 to see the tour of our room at Wilderness Lodge and some other Disney tips and tricks!

What’s the best age for Disney?

We’ve taken our babies as young as 6 months, and we’ve never had a bad time. As long as you have a stroller and a baby carrier, there are a ton of rides little ones can go on, and Adam and I always agreed that the kids development went into hyperdrive when we got home after all the educational stimuli at Disney. It truly is magical no matter what age. One piece of advice if you do want to wait until your kids are toddlers- you pay for tickets once your child is three years old. We took Landon the week before his third birthday, and that was a great way to save some money. We even celebrated his birthday in the park on our last day, and he really enjoyed the trip and still talks about it!

This Walt Disney World vlog is from Landon’s birthday week before he turned 3, last April 2018. We have such special memories from this day at Disney World!

Where do I eat at Disney?

We’ve never gotten the meal plan. We usually pack breakfast foods and snacks, or this last trip, we ordered breakfast foods and snacks on Amazon prime and Instacart, and they were waiting for us at our hotel. That saves a lot of money on food. We usually make a reservation for dinner each day because it’s nice to sit down and eat after a long day in the parks, and usually there is a character breakfast we want to take the kids to one morning. Then we’ll usually pack snacks and Disney has some amazing ones in the parks, that will keep us going until dinner time. I’ll share my favorite restaurants in each park, but here are my favorite places not in the parks.

BREAKFASTS: We love Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort. It has all the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse characters, who have always been Landon and Presley’s favorites. It is a breakfast buffet, and the characters come around to you at your table, which makes it so easy to meet and greet them! And you can’t go wrong with Mickey waffles in the morning.

DINNERS: California Grill at the Contemporary Resort is my favorite place for a date night at Disney World. You can see the fireworks from your table, and they play the music in the restaurant as you watch.

Ohana is a family style restaurant at the Polynesian Resort at Disneyworld. There are tropical drinks and unlimited amounts of meat skewers cooked over and open flame, veggies, salad, ramen, and rolls. We’re always so full by the time we leave!

FAVORITE RESTAURANT AT MAGIC KINGDOM: Cinderella’s Royal Table. You get to eat inside of the castle, and princess characters come to the table to meet you. It was so fun taking Presley there her first trip to Disney World because she wasn’t a fan of all the stuffed characters, but she loved meeting the princesses, so could be a nice option if you have a cautious little one too! This restaurant is one of the few places that has my favorite champagne at Disney, the Rosa Regale red champagne. It’s amazing- seriously, have a glass and you won’t be disappointed! Cheers!

FAVORITE RESTAURANT AT EPCOT: San Angel Inn. You eat inside of the Mexican pyramid, and it looks like you’re eating outside under the stars in Mexico. There are chips, fresh guacamole, and margaritas. Between the yummy food and the atmosphere, it’s one of my must do’s at Disney.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT AT ANIMAL KINGDOM: Pizzafari. It’s fast and easy (you can even use the Disney app to pre-order you food and have it waiting at the counter for you), and the pizza is good. The price is also on the low end of Disney dining. Can’t beat fast, easy, and cheap. If you want some very cool looking cocktails, head over to Pandora where you can get vibrant colored margaritas and mocktails with bubbles!

FAVORITE RESTAURANT AT HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: SciFi Drive In Theater. You sit inside a car, facing a drive in movie screen under the stars, and there’s fun light up cocktails and mocktails for the kids, and yummy American diner food. Disney does it best when it comes to creating atmospheres and menus that are cool for everyone.


What are the best rides at Disney?

I’ll break down my absolute favorites by park below, even though this is hard, but if you only had one day, these are the must- do rides and attractions. I’m also breaking this down by big kids and little kids. You definitely have to be strategic on getting your three FastPasses for these rides, and then heading to the other rides first thing after rope drop so that you can make it to all the rides and more. Our last trip was the first time our three year old was tall enough to go on almost every single ride. But that’s what is awesome about Disney is that there is truly something for everyone, no matter how big or how small. 🙂

Best rides at Magic Kingdom?

For the big kids:

  • Splash Mountain (40 inches)
  • Seven Dwarves Mine Train (38 inches)
  • Space Mountain (44 inches)

For the little kids (no height requirement)

  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Tea Cups
  • Peter Pan

Best rides at Epcot?

For the big kids:

  • Test Track (40 inches)
  • Soarin’ (44 inches)
  • Mission Space (Green mission: 40 inches, Orange mission: 44 inches)

For the little kids (no height requirement)

  • Frozen – just please, don’t shove anyone in line. See our latest Disney vlog if you need context. lol
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Finding Nemo

Best rides at Hollywood Studios?

For the big kids:

  • Slinky Dog (40 inches)
  • Tower of Terror (40 inches)
  • Rock and Rollercoaster (44 inches)

For the little kids (no height requirement)

  • Beauty and the Beast Show
  • Little Mermaid Show
  • Spaceship Spin

Best rides at Animal Kingdom?

For the big kids:

  • Flight of Passage (44 inches)
  • Dinosaur (40 inches)
  • Everest (44 inches)

For the little kids (no height requirement)

  • Kilamanjaro Safari
  • Lion King Show
  • Navi River Journey

What not to do at Disney?

DO NOT bring your own stroller. Rent one instead. It was so much easier! we rented a BOB from Kingdom Strollers. They dropped off our stroller to our hotel at 7 AM the first day of our vacation. It was $100 for the week. And it was the most lightweight, high quality stroller I’ve ever pushed. I’ll bring a small pop up one for in the airport, and moving forward, I will always rent a stroller.

DO NOT sleep in. You will waste so much time in lines at rides. Get there for rope drop. The amount of rides you can cover the first two hours after the park opens will be double what you can in the afternoon when the park is at full capacity. Be an early bird for Disney! It will be worth it!

DO NOT cut in lines or push people. There was an “incident” on our last trip, and it’s just not cool. Use FastPasses, and get to the park early, but be fair and kind. Let’s keep Disney the happiest place on earth, even if you have to wait in a line.

DO NOT waste time doing your hair. It’s hot, humid, and there can be very fast, sporadic rainstorms. Plan on wearing hats, mouse ears, and having your hair in a ponytail pretty much everyday.

DO NOT pack snacks in your checked bags. Use Amazon prime or Instacart and have your groceries and diapers delivered to your room for your stay.

DO NOT take pictures right in front of the castle. Move off to the side, and you will get great pictures without 100 other people standing behind you!

Well friends, that is a lot of Disney knowledge I just dropped on you. I hope it helps you, and if it does, I hope you bookmark this blog and share it with a friend who it could help too. I love Disney so much, and have made wonderful memories with my family there every single trip. It’s definitely a trip you should PLAN a lot for in order to have the best experience possible. So I hope this helps you in your planning. If you have any questions, or would like me to dive deeper into anything Disney, let me know! I love this stuff, and I love helping you!

Love,

Brianna K xoxo

13 comments so far.

13 responses to “DISNEY WORLD VACATION PLANNING: TIPS + TRICKS FROM A DISNEY PRO”

  1. Sarah says:

    Loved everything about this and it’s getting me so hyped for the Disney trip I haven’t even planned yet 😂👏🏼! These are fabulous tips and for sure going to help me and anyone else planning!

  2. Amanda says:

    This makes me so happpy!!! We have been to Disneyland well over 100 times but have never been to Walt Disney world. Definately looking to change that soon! 🙂

  3. Alexis says:

    Bri, this was AWESOME! I was wondering how’d you break everything down, but you did great! Definitely saving this for the future!
    Thank you! ❤️

  4. Laneya May says:

    Helpful as usual!!

  5. Kat says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I am working on planning my first trip (not my hubby’s), and it is a tad overwhelming.

  6. Jangmi says:

    Great tips girl!! Thank you s o much for putting in the hard work so we can have a magical time!!! Blessings to you!!

  7. ❤️❤️❤️

  8. Jessa says:

    Thank you for experiencing, brainstorming, and ultimately sharing all of this with us, Bri! I keep up with both of your vlog channels, as well as your blog (#rideordiefan) and will definitely be saving this post for a future Disney trip I’m taking with my mom and two boys (almost 3 yrs and 11 mo, at the time,)

    Thank you!

  9. crystal says:

    Great tips and Info for when I go thanks BRI ❤ many blessing to you and your family ❤

  10. Christine says:

    Eeeee I love this! I haven’t been to Disney world since I was twelve (I turn 30 this year 😝) but I’m going in September. I’m also going to Disneyland in May for my birthday. Loved your Disney vlog! ❤️❤️❤️

  11. Anna says:

    This was great!! I would love a toddler specific Disney post! (Naps, favorite non-ride activities, fireworks, food, anything!) My husband and I have been multiple times, but will be going with our daughter for the first time next year!! I know this post had some great toddler tips, too. Thanks!!

  12. Amanda says:

    Just wanted to say I love the value resorts. We stayed at The one with the cars theme last time I bet your Landon would love it!
    Next time we are staying at the music resort I’ve never seen it this one so I’m very curious to see if we’re going to like it or not. Thank you for all of your tips I would love to know where you bought the backpacks you used and what shoes you recommend. Thanks!😊😊😊

  13. Yaritza Zayas says:

    This is great! Thanks for the tips, I am planning our 1st trip to Disney with our boys!

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