Walt Disney World Planning Basics: Where to Start!

Trying to plan a Disney vacation can be daunting even for those who have been many times. Here is a quickstart guide to help you learn the basics of visiting Disney World.

People usually return from Walt Disney World either loving it or hating it--there is rarely any in-between. And the actual planning of the vacation is often a determining factor in how much you enjoy your time in Walt Disney World. Just like any vacation, Disney World requires some research and planning in order to make the most of it. To help you out, we've isolated the top six planning categories and the best links on the web to make your planning a piece of cake.

  1. When

    Deciding when to go can be the most important aspect of your trip. What you can expect from WDW varies widely based on the time of the year. See our When to Go link to help you decide when to visit.

  2. Activities

    The next thing you get to decide is what you want to do. Don't expect to do everything. After all, WDW has 40+ square miles filled with attractions--the 4 main theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) are just the beginning.

    Water parks, golf, kayaking, hayrides, 5-star dining, dancing, racecar driving, comedy clubs, world-class massage services, horseback riding, paragliding, and a dueling piano bar are only a few of WDW's offerings outside of the parks. When planning for the theme parks, visit our Broad Planning Sites page for the best theme park planning websites. For your activities outside of the parks, visit our Other Activities page for links to great information about everything else WDW has to offer.

    Note that determining what you want to do at WDW will be helpful in deciding where you want to stay.

  3. Accommodations

    Once you've decided when to go and what you'll be doing, it's time to make your decision on where to stay. You have many choices, and this will very likely be the most expensive component of your visit; so putting in a little extra research makes sense.

    We suggest you begin by checking out the Accommodations page on this site, where you'll find links to sites with photo slideshows, FAQs, and up-to-date discounts for the hotels in your personal top tier. We've organized the page to give you the best information whether you choose to stay within the boundaries of WDW (on-site) or elsewhere (off-site) and to help you determine if you need to book a Disney Vacation Package.

    Be sure to check out the WDW Hotel Wizard link to recieve a few great suggestions for hotels within WDW that may fit your criteria.

  4. Transportation

    Transportation is a big factor when you're planning a WDW vacation--there's lots of "getting from here to there." The most important pieces to figure out are:

    1. How to get to Orlando (car or airplane?)

    2. How to get to your Hotel (rental car, towncar/limo, bus, or Disney's Magical Express?)

    3. How to get to/from/around WDW (rental car or disney transportation?)

    We've pulled some great links to help you out. Start with our General Transportation Page to familiarize yourself with your options for transportation, then look over these Transportation Planning Tools to calculate how much gas will cost, use the best airfare search engine, and figure out how to get from here to there in WDW itself.

  5. Tickets

    If you didn't get your accommodations and tickets as a package, you will need to figure out what tickets are necessary to enjoy all the activities you have planned. This may sound confusing to begin with, but this Ticket Options Link has done all the research and work for you.

  6. Dining

    There are lots of dining options inside and outside of WDW property. If you want to try Disney restaurants, it makes sense to make reservations--even if you're traveling during a slow season.

    Making reservations (which Disney currently calls "Advanced Dining Reservations," or ADRs, and which were previously known as "Priority Seating Arrangements," or PSs) is quick and easy.

    Visit our Dining Page for a quick tutorial on how the system works as well as links to updated menus and photos from WDW restaurants. And see our Dining Planning Tools page for a calculator link that shows you, based on your departure date, how far in advance you're allowed to book your reservations for dining and entertainment.

    Once you're familiar with the Disney World dining reservation procedure, be sure to read here about Disney's Dining Plans. These are plans you can add onto a vacation package, essentially pre-paying for your meals.

    We hope this primer has been useful to you; we know these links are the best planning resources on the web and guarantee that you'll find all the most up-to-date information available here.

    Please note: planning a WDW trip on your own is fun and exciting--and only gets better! But there are plenty of travel agents who specialize specifically in WDW vacations as well. Which way you go depends on how involved you want to be. No matter what, congratulations on your upcoming trip! Have fun!

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