Top Tips for planning your Walt Disney World holiday

I had no idea where to start with writing about the most magical place on earth – Walt Disney World.

Should I do a post about planning? Best rides for kids? Perks of staying on Disney property? Best shows to see? Best snacks? Disney dining plan? I had no idea where to begin. So here’s an overview of our holiday just for starters. We went to Walt Disney World Florida for 11 nights in October 2019. We are a family of four and our children are aged 9 and 3.

Magic Kingdom Disney
Main Street U.S.A.

Flights to Orlando

We booked with Tui and flew premium with them from Gatwick. We stayed overnight at Marriott Courtyard which is Marriott’s like budget sibling and I wouldn’t recommend it. While the main communal areas are very lovely the rooms are really dated, the beds well used (and ours was dusty which sounds really snotty but it is a bit off putting).

Tui fly to Sanford Orlando and not to Orlando International like other airlines (Virgin, Norwegian are some you can use for International). Tui now fly from Bristol to Sanford Orlando so if we went again we would definitely go from Bristol.

Sanford Orlando is about a 50 minute transfer to the Disney area whereas International is only about 30 minutes. Sanford is a much smaller airport so there’s less queuing. However, Sanford was looking really outdated on this trip and I think they are in the process of upgrading some of the areas.

The kids were awesome on the plane. We spent a bit extra to go premium and it was so worth it. I thought it would be like economy extra with a bit more legroom but it was much better. The seats were really spacious and comfortable, the food was lush and we got a little night pack each with a mini toiletries kit. Very posh service with prosecco and orange juice served before take off and alcohol included (though I’m T-total now after my last trip to Dublin but that’s another story). It was lovely and nice to not feel so cramped for the 9.5hrs. Another added perk of Premium is you can use the No1 lounge in Gatwick which has free papers and buffet breakfast included.

Choosing a Disney Resort

We stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort which is a moderate resort. They have value resorts (pop century, art of animation etc.) moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans etc.) and deluxe resorts (Grand Floridian, Animal Kingdom Lodge etc.). Disney are really good at taking care of their guests so you won’t be disappointed if you choose to spend the extra to go deluxe. We visited the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian and they are jaw dropping resorts. Equally, as the Disney customer experience is at the centre of everything Disney do the moderate resorts are lush too.

Caribbean Beach Resort Photo Credit: Disney Photopass
Caribbean Beach main pool photo credit: Disney Photopass

Staying at a Disney hotel means you get perks such as free Disney transport between resorts and parks, and you can book your dining reservations and fast passes for the rides a bit further in advance.

Disney Skyliner flying over Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Skyliner

We’ve stayed at the Caribbean Beach before so we knew we would love it. It was lush to see it again but this time with an upgraded lobby and brand new restaurant Sebastian’s which we enjoyed so much we ate at twice.

Disney Parks

Our first day was straight to Animal Kingdom which was our favourite park on our last visit but also to meet up with Rich’s cousin and her family who had gone out a few days before us from Manchester.

Photo Pass spot at Animal Kingdom
Cousins

All of us love Animal Kingdom. It’s African themed and it’s very leafy which means shade (which is something you’re in constant pursuit of in the Florida heat) and gorgeous to walk through. My little boy is 3 and animal obsessed so it was his favourite place and he kept asking throughout the rest of our holiday if we could go back to ‘the zoo’. Pandora world of Avatar is also at Animal Kingdom. The floating mountains are eye-popping and the theming there is something else.

Pools

Florida is 5 hours behind the U.K. (it was when we travelled but Florida does change the clocks in October too so check your dates) for the first few days we found we were all awake super early. We’d visit the parks in the morning and be back to the hotel (and A/C) by about 3pm. So we mixed busy park days with hanging out at the hotel pool. Caribbean beach is a big resort divided up into villages. Each village has it’s own pool along with the big main pool which has slides and a toddler splash pool. Everyone is allowed to use any pool but we find the village pools are usually really quiet and easy to get to from your room.

Our holiday was 11 nights so we got to go to most parks twice. So you can kind of split the big rides between 2 days rather than trying to get everything done at once.

Personal Disney Highlights

Some highlights for me were Soarin’ which I’d never been on before. I loved that, that’s at Epcot. I really enjoyed the food at breakfast at O’Hana but my favourite character meal was Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary which was just far and away the best one we did. Ooh there’s so much I loved! The Frozen Ever After ride at Epcot was amazing and we also all loved the Na’vii river journey ride at Animal Kingdom but I had seen that on so many vlogs before I went I felt like I’d been on it already!

Entrance to Chef Mickey's at Disney Contemporary Resort
Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort
Goofy at Chef Mickey's
Chef Mickey’s
Disney magic
Disney Pirates of the Caribbean ride
Frozen Ever After Ride
Disney Epcot ball lit up at night

Rides for little ones

My 9yr/o daughter really enjoyed going on some of the faster rides this time and she loved 7 Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom. My little 3yr/o son also loved the rollercoaster he went on called the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom and he’s still talking about it. I didn’t rate The Haunted Mansion (sorry to all the die hard fans of that ride) which was a shame as it was one I was looking forward to. It did break while we were waiting though and we were crammed into this hallway which wasn’t much fun. I just thought it needed a bit of an upgrade into 2019.

The Haunted Mansion ride
Not scared honest
Disney 7 dwarfs mine train ride
space ranger spin ride

Disney Magic is Real

There is so much to say about a Disney holiday. It’s like no other holiday I’ve ever been on. It’s jam-packed busy but jam-packed with magic. You bound from one experience to the next like an excited puppy with the help of the lovely cast members in anticipation of what’s next. What amazing thing can top the look on my child’s face on that last ride? And there’s always something that does. Then just when you’re beginning to believe that Disney magic is actually real suddenly BLAM you’re on the plane home and it’s all over. No sooner have you touched down than you’re on airport wifi looking up deals for your next visit. Then your 3 year old looks up at you with hazy eyes and says “Are we back in the real world now?”

Main Disney Takeaways:

  1. Don’t fret about the ages of your children there’s really so much to see and do for all ages.
  2. The Disneylife app is essential, showing maps, wait times, plans, reservations and your photo passes.
  3. The Skyliner is awesome! Make sure you try it.
  4. Cast members make Disney. They all know their stuff and have degrees in how to speak to children.
  5. Don’t worry about queues. We didn’t queue for longer than 15mins for anything. Use your fast passes and away to go!
  6. If you can get a Disney dining plan definitely do it. The food is very pricey and it’s great to have it all pre-paid. It just takes away the stress of trying to get the best value for your money at each place.

Memories Made

All of these photos were taken by the very talented photo pass photographers working across the parks and experiences. If you are not sure about buying memory maker I would say to do it 100% . It’s so easy, just tap your magic band and lovely family pics (with you all in) go straight to your app. Keep an eye out because you might catch a deal where you can get memory maker for free with your park tickets like we did.

I will be doing other posts all about Disney soon. I know I read blog posts and watched vlogs like it was my job before we went. Partly for planning but mostly just for the excitement of the build up.

More Disney…

If you would like to see more of our trip you can watch our vlogs here.

If there is anything specific about going to Walt Disney World you would like to know about tell me in the comments below and I’ll include it in a post.

Catch me on Twitter or comment on one of my Disney pics on Instagram to let me know when you are going to Disney.

Watch our vlogs of our Disney trip here: YouTube

Here is a previous post I’ve written about Disney planning: 3 Essential Disney Planning Tips.

AJ over at Disney Food Blog is such a great resource for all things Disney.

Enjoy your Disney planning! It’s half the fun!

Disney World – 3 Essential Planning Tips

We went to Disney World Resort Florida in 2015. We were a family of 3 back then and I will always fondly remember the holiday for lots of magical reasons. The big one being that I know it was when I firmly decided I wanted to have another child. I was sat on the back of a Disney shuttle bus on the way back to the hotel from Epcot one evening, specifically. So even though he’s not physically in the photos, if you look closely, you might see my Beb in the twinkle of my eye. We are planning another visit back to Disney World in 2019 when Beb is a little older so naturally I’ve already started planning. 😉

Magic Kingdom castle

We had an amazing time and although I feel like we are the only family in the world who managed to have a bit of a row at the foot of the Magic Kingdom Castle on our first visit (we were hot and jet lagged what can I say) we soon got immersed into all things Disney and had a really wonderful, magical holiday. Once we’d slept a bit.

Part of the success of that is down to the planning. So read on if you want some tips. Disney of course provides the magic once you get there.

Planning the finer details of our trip fell to me/I grasped it with both hands like an over-zealous bridesmaid at a wedding jumping for the bouquet. Whatever . Tomato/tomato. (How many of you just read both those tomato’s in a British accent like me.) So as you may imagine I got straight to it researching the don’t miss rides and the ones suitable for smaller children, the best places and times to meet characters, the best restaurants to eat at, all of that hoo-ha. I went all out. As I have a tendency to do. Lucky for me there are hundreds and hundreds of interesting and useful blogs and write-ups all about planning a holiday (or vacation) to Disneyworld. I enjoyed a good few weeks feasting on all that juicy info. I was pinning like nobody’s business. Check out my Disney Pinterest board if you want some good tips.

When we got there and we were all three of us baking in the heat on our first day and my 5 year old was knackered from all the travelling I quickly realised all my plans would have to be dropped from a great height if we were to enjoy ourselves at all. So that’s my foremost top tip.

minnie-mouse-ears

Expect A LOT of walking in Disney Parks

 

Plan to have a very loose plan or no plans at all.

This gobble-de-gook warrants some explaining.  You’re in Disney, there’s so many iconic things to see. You’ve been dreaming about this trip most of your life and you don’t want to miss a thing. That’s where your planning comes in.

  1. Before you go decide which things (the smaller the list the better) at EACH park are the essential things for you and your family to see that you do not want to miss.
  2. Book your fast passes in advance for these attractions.
  3. Pad the day around the times of these top fast passes.
  4. Be prepared to throw everything out the window and go back to the hotel to chill in the pool.
  5. Point 4 is the most useful piece of advice about enjoying your holiday to Disneyworld! It’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness and excitement only to find everyone is exhausted!

 

Fast Passes

Fast passes are incredible; personally I wouldn’t want to do Disney without them. If you stay at a Disney resort hotel you can book them up to 60 days prior to your check in date. We stayed at the Royal Caribbean it is lovely check it out! As simple as they sound they are a queue jump system where you can take the express lane onto rides and for meets if you book a time slot in advance. So fast passes –

  1. Book them before you go. Yes you can actually book your time slot for fast passes onto rides before you even get off the Airplane. This is great for really popular things like meeting Anna & Elsa. You may even find all the fast pass time slots are taken on certain things weeks before your holiday.
  2. Spread them out across different things rather than use them just for all the big rides. I booked ours for rides, meets, and even a great viewpoint for the parade.

Royal-Carribean-disney-resort

The Royal Caribbean Resort Walt Disney World Florida

ariel-float-disney

Memory Maker

I paid quite a bit extra for this picture package when we went in spring 2015. It’s currently being thrown in for free as a bonus when you book with certain travel operators (sshh it’s Thomson/TUI group I think).  It’s so much more than a picture package. There are photographers wandering around the parks all day taking photos of guests. With memory maker, they beep touch your magic band and all the photos taken of you that day are uploaded to your Disney account. It’s awesome!

  1. Look out for the marked view points to have your photo with all the iconic landmarks in the background.
  2. Get all your professional photos from the character meets uploaded straight to your phone.
  3. All your great family holiday photos in one place. Be sure to download them within the given timeframe when you get home. (I think it was 30 days but check the Disney website).
  4. Enjoy the moments without worrying if you caught a good picture.
  5. Mum in the picture and family photos with everyone in that aren’t selfies.

So those are 3 of my tippety top tips off the top of my head for planning your Disneyworld holiday of dreams. Let me know if you found them useful and if you learned something that you didn’t know before!

We are planning another trip to Disneyworld Florida in 2019 and so there will be lots more posts coming up here all about planning a Disney holiday. Just imagine all the pins I can find in 2 years!

I will be sharing the most helpful YouTube channels and blog reviews I have found that are go-to places for vids and tips about Disney. So feel free to bookmark this page for future reference, pin the image below, and if you liked my 1st ever Disney post please share it with others via the social buttons below. Thanks!

 

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