So you’ve finally made the big decision and decided to book a Disney holiday. Hooray! Booking your Disney holiday is where the magic truly starts. Disney is the place where dreams come true. Taking my children to Disney World certainly was a dream come true for me.
My Disney Trips
We have been lucky enough to take our family to Disney World twice, once in spring of 2015 and again in Autumn of 2019. We’re hoping to book another trip for 2021 so I have recently been obsessively trawling all the holiday sites for the best deals.
I was also lucky enough to go on a Disney World holiday with my mum to Florida when I was about 10 years old. At age 22 my husband Rich and I (my boyfriend back then) went to Disneyland in L.A. Which is where I’m currently trying to convince him is the best idea for our next Disney trip but that’s another blog post.
How Much Does it Cost?
Booking your Disney holiday to Disney World Orlando with flights from the U.K. is going to set you back about 6 grand minimum (writing this Feb 2019). So congratulations! You’ve either come into some money or you’ve been saving like a genius. It’s going to be worth it I promise.
There is so much to say about booking your Disney holiday. This post is an introduction into the main elements to get you started. Now you’ve got the money, you’ve made the decision and you want to know how to book a Disney holiday.
Step 1 – Where to Stay
Choose your hotel.
Staying on Disney property (as they describe it) offers lots of perks to your holiday that we just couldn’t say no to.
- Book your ride fast passes 60 days in advance (instead of 30 for other park goers)
- Disney dining plan
- Transport to/from Disney parks
- Magical Express (airport transfer)
- Book dining reservations 180 days in advance for the whole duration of your stay.
There are other options though. If you are a large group booking a villa could be good. There are also plenty of non-Disney hotels along International Drive that are near to the parks. Universal has also built some resorts that are obviously closer to the Universal parks. The Disney and Universal areas are only about 20 minutes apart in Florida so they’re definitely another option especially if visiting Universal is high on your agenda.
For our last two trips we chose to stay on Disney property.
Go to the Walt Disney World website and have a good look through all the hotels. The Disney hotels are categorised into:
All have family rooms (two queen beds and sometimes an extra pull out). They all have great pools, and a main dining area to eat at. Also all are within I’d say about 15 – 20 mins transfer to the parks. It depends which park you are going to and time of day etc. All offer free transport to and from the parks.
Some value resorts are:
- Art of Animation
- Pop Century
- All Stars Sports
Some Moderate resorts are:
- Caribbean Beach (our favourite)
- Port Orleans
- Coronado Springs
Some deluxe resorts are:
- Grand Floridian
- The Contemporary
The Walt Disney World website breaks all this down for you and you can see lots of info about each resort including the differences between value, moderate and deluxe.
Don’t Freak Out!
O.K. so you’ve chosen your perfect resort and weighed up all the prices but you may find you need to revise your decision when you realise the extra costs coming up. There are certain things that you need to add onto your Disney holiday. These are the things that make a Disney holiday so much more expensive than a regular family holiday, however, after your first trip you will see why the cost is higher and you do actually see exactly what you are paying for. That’s why Disney has so many guests returning year on year. It’s worth every penny.
Step 2 – Park Tickets
Add park tickets to your booking. There are 6 WDW parks and at the moment you can buy a 14 day ultimate ticket for the price of 7 which includes memory maker.
Memory maker is a photo package which is worth it’s weight in gold. Photographers around the parks take your photo at key spots and they are uploaded to your wdw app.
Park tickets for our family of four are coming out currently at around £1,500. The ultimate ticket offer includes park hopper tickets. This just means you can visit more than one park per day. So if want to spend the day in Animal Kingdom but go to see the fireworks in Epcot the same evening – no problem!
Step 3 – Dining
Add a dining package.
Whenever anyone asks me how to book a Disney holiday I tell them to get a dining package. Although it is not essential, you are free to book a Disney holiday without paying for one and many people choose to buy their food and drinks as they go around the parks.
Food at Disney is expensive. We went in 2015 without a dining package as a family of 3 (our daughter was only 5) and we spent around £1000. on food and drinks in a week. Needless to say, when we returned last year in 2019 a dining package was top of our priorities.
Disney sometimes do deals where you can get a dining plan free when you buy park tickets. This deal usual comes out around April and applies for booking for the following year.
The Disney dining packages can only be booked before you travel. It gives you an allowance of meals and snacks per day, per person and a re-fillable mug which can be filled at any Disney resort with coffee/Tea/soft drinks.
There are 3 tiers depending on what you need. Quick service, Disney dining (which used to be called moderate I think) and deluxe. We went with the moderate and found it was more than enough for what we needed. Everything we wanted to order was included on it.
The dining plan is loaded onto your magic band. Let your server know you have a dining plan and tap your band to pay at the end of your meal. Tipping is not included and it’s a high percentage (20%). The more expensive the meal, obviously the bigger the tip and it goes up again for tables of 6 or more.
We spent lots of money on tips (literally up to $40 per meal). Our first sit down meal was a bit of a shock as we were feeling fly having our meals pre-loaded felt like it was free. After a 45 minute self-serve buffet in the busiest and loudest cafe style restaurant you’ve ever seen we were obliged to tip our server $20 who essentially had brought us two drinks. Not as much as a shock though as family we were on holiday with got when they were chased down after a meal by their server to be told off for not paying enough of a tip.
But we found the service great, the servers plainly don’t have easy jobs to do and we were in the Disney spirit. Worth budgeting for tips though, I would say it was our biggest expense overall.
Disney dining plans is a whole warren of detail which I can go into in another Disney planning post but for now you can see the breakdown on the WDW website and AJ over at The DFB Guide has reams and reams of info about food at Disney. She really is the expert on it.
Step 4 – Flights
So you’ve got your hotel sorted, park tickets and dining. Soon it will be time to start planning your non-negotiables on rides and attractions. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, you’ve got to make your way to the sunshine state first.
Two Orlando Airports
Flights go from all over the U.K. direct to Orlando. The flights take about 9.5 hours there and 8 hours back (something about how the world turns don’t ask me I’m not here to science). You can fly into Orlando international or Orlando Sanford. Intl is about a 30 minute transfer and Magical Express bus transfers only go from here. Transfer time from Sanford is about 50 minutes.
There are pros and cons with both airports. We’ve travelled both times with TUI who fly into Sanford so I’ve never been to Intl. Sanford is a smaller kookier airport which is in massive need of a refurb and not much going on in the way of shops etc. However, friends have told me that the customs queues at Intl are terrible. Like 3 hours wait time terrible. Not much fun after a 9.5 hour flight with little ones.
Some of the airlines worth looking at for flights from the U.K. are:
- Tui (Dreamliner is lush and has the widest legroom as standard available in economy)
There are others available too but these are the ones that kept coming up on skyscanner for me. Tui are now flying direct from Bristol to Sanford.
How to Book A Disney Holiday
There you have it, a walk through of how to book a Disney holiday. There are so many strands to a Walt Disney World holiday from character meet and greets to the latest ride technology available, that’s not to mention the princesses and fireworks. I really could talk for a long time about booking a Disney holiday. The planning is all part of the fun!
This is how I cost up our trips and I hope this post has helped to lay out how to book a Disney holiday a little clearer for you. It can seem a bit overwhelming at first but I guarantee once you get swept up in it you will yourself be a Disney expert in no time.
Don’t worry about missing out on anything once you’re there as there is so much to see and do you’ll never do all of it in one trip. There’s no right way to holiday at Disney, you will have a fantastic time whatever you choose to do.
Now go book something!
I wrote another post recently all about my top Disney planning tips.