Image credit: Disney Parks
1. When to go
I find almost any time is a great time to visit Walt Disney World because a day at the parks is better than a day at home. There are some typically less crowded times of the year that I recommend for first time visitors. January and late August for instance are usually less busy since they follow the peak holiday and summer seasons, and as an added bonus hotel deals can be found.
For teachers or parents of school-aged children your vacation schedule may likely include summer and winter breaks. Park hours are often extended at these times due to higher crowd levels and with some planning you can get more fun out of these longer days.
The holiday season is also a very popular time to visit, and this is reflected in the peak accommodations pricing. Be sure to plan ahead to make the most of this magical time, and take in many of the special events offered.
2. Where to stay
In deciding where to stay the two major factors will likely be your family size and budget. My family loves staying on Disney property, the convenient transportation, Extra Magic Hours and total immersion in the magic make our Disney experience memorable. The average room capacity is 4 with accommodations ranging from value to deluxe at the Disney resorts, also one child under 3 in a crib is allowed in addition to the room occupancy limit.
For a party of five, look into one of the following options:
- Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside – Alligator Bayou rooms have a small pull down Murphy bed.
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort have newly renovated rooms adding a small pull down Murphy bed.
- Most deluxe resorts (except Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge) have a pull out couch for a 5th person.
For a party of six:
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Cabins sleep 6 and have a full kitchen.
- Disney’s All-Stars Music and Disney’s Art of Animation each have Family suites that sleep 6 with a separate bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a kitchenette.
For the comforts of home, check out the 1, 2 and 3 bedroom villas in the DVC –Disney Vacation Club properties. Villas come equipped with full kitchens, living rooms and washer dryer.
There are countless offsite accomodations in the Orlando area ranging from basic rooms to rental homes with various amenities and price points to suit every budget and family size. You may need to consider a rental car if you’re not driving to Florida since the transportation to the parks is often limited when offered.
3. How long to stay
With 4 theme parks, 2 water parks and many shopping and entertainment options deciding how long to stay is not always easy. With so much to see and do, it helps to focus on the main areas you want to see. I would hesitate trying to visit all 4 parks in one day. They are quite spread out and much of the day would be spent travelling between parks. Ideally, plan on spending a day at each park to take in most of the attractions and shows. Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom can be shortened to a half-day each if you have less time. My family finds one week is perfect for visiting our favorite parks more than once, shopping and enjoying some downtime at the resorts. After all, it is a vacation.
4. What to do
You’ll find each park offers a wide variety of rides and shows to please everyone in your family. When planning your day, have each person choose their top ‘must do’ attractions and use FastPass+ for those selections when possible. If you’re looking for something special, there are several guided tours that offer a glimpse into the backstage magic. Food lovers will find a wide variety of dining options including character meals and dinner shows.
Beyond the theme parks, golfers can spend some time on the greens with 5 courses and 2 mini golf courses to choose from. Water lovers can make a splash at Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon, rent boats at the marinas or just take it easy fishing at the lakes. Shopping for the perfect souvenir is simple with the many stores in each park and the huge selection of merchandise available at Downtown Disney.
Have more questions about your Walt Disney World vacation? Post your question in the comment below, I’ll be glad to help. Also, check out the Disney Parks Moms Panel for great planning advice.