Disney World Resort Map

Disney World Resort Map

It’s the happiest place on earth, but if you aren’t prepared, the grins and laughter can quickly turn to tears and temper tantrums. From handling Florida’s summer heat to beating the lines and conquering the chaos, some of the most experienced Disney-goers have easy, economical vacation hacks to make sure everyone enjoys their time at Walt Disney World.

Disney regulars recommend you start planning your trip nine months to a year in advance to take advantage of all Disney has to offer.

  • Decide on your dates

There are some excellent online tools, like a crowd calendar, to help you find the best time to go to Walt Disney World. If your goal is just to visit the park and soak up the atmosphere, you won’t need to worry about dates. To make the most of your time there and catch as many rides as possible, using some of these tools can help you use the season’s high and low traffic times to your advantage.

  • Set your budget but stay flexible

As with any trip, it’s a good idea to start thinking about how much you want to spend per person, per day, to start setting money aside. Decide how long you’ll be going for, and get a rough budget.
Keep in mind, though, that working with the right people can save you money, and your trip may ultimately cost less than you would expect when you take advantage of special offers or price breaks.

  • Find a certified Disney travel agent

There are plenty of great companies Disney works with to get you free help planning your trip. Since Disney pays their commission, these agents provide their services at no cost to you.
They not only help with your park tickets and room reservations but can point you toward once-in-a-lifetime experiences you won’t want to miss. Disney resorts come in several different price points, from value to deluxe. They are all clean and provide a great experience, and a travel agent can show you the best way to maximize the money you are willing to spend for the trip. They also stay on top of specials and sales, and will help you catch them so you may be able to find lower rates.
Disney authorized agents can help you decide which park visiting passes are the best for your trip. You can visit one park a day, or you can purchase a park hopper pass, which lets you enter and exit multiple parks in the same day.

  • Start early

Reservations for some attractions and events can open 180 days early, and sales and promotions are usually offered months in advance. As soon as you know when you want to schedule your trip, call your Disney travel agent so they can get to work.
The Advance Dining Reservations open six months before your trip and tend to sell out quickly, especially during peak vacation times. Take advantage of this system to get in to enjoy your family’s favorite character- and show-based meals.

  • Map Your Route

Will you be driving or flying? If you’re driving to Florida, also consider the time and energy it will take to get there. Draw out a plan, and look for hotels and fun stops along the way. From rest-stop stretches to fun license-plate seeking games, plan activities that will help children will enjoy being in the car. Booking a hotel stay for long car drives on the way down might take a little extra time to get there, but spending the night in a bed rather than in the car can save you and your sanity from temper tantrums and anger caused by lack of sleep.

  • Start following blogs now

There are so many helpful blogs that can give you hints and recommendations to make your Disney experience unforgettable. Some Web sites will help you develop a daily agenda, or can take the itinerary you set up with the trip planning service and give it a few insider tweaks to enhance your time at the park. Others can give you step-by-step walking directions and plans to get you from one park to the next in the shortest amount of time.
If you’re not a blog reader, there are plenty of annual Disney vacation guides that share about park updates and upgrades and answer all of your questions about visiting Walt Disney World.
Disney also offers free vacation planning DVDs, customizable maps, bumper stickers and more to get you and your family excited about your upcoming trip.

Before you go, get as much as you can ready at home. Check out the weather forecast, prepare for extreme rain and extreme heat, as they can both happen on the same day, and set yourself up for success.

  • Stock up

Stop at the store and pick-up road trip essentials like bottled water, fruit, snacks, and sandwich ingredients. You’ll save quite a bit of money, even if you plan on purchasing all of your meals at the park.
Each room does come equipped with a refrigerator and microwave, and some have small kitchenettes. By seeking out a grocery store while you are down there, you can buy the food your family will want to eat and spend less. Consider picking up cereal and milk for breakfast and granola bars and fruit to sustain you throughout the day.
Also, think about purchasing disposable ponchos – rain is regular in Florida.

  • Save even more

Target and other grocery store chains sell Disney gift card, and, when combined with the store credit card or rewards program, can help keep even more money in your pocket. When you use your Target Red Card, you can save 5 percent on the purchase of Disney gift cards; other stores offer discounts at their gas stations or on later purchases when you spend a certain amount in gift cards.

  • Ship basic needs to your hotel

If you’re flying, or have a limited amount of space in your vehicle, you might want to think about buying some of your basic needs online and having them shipped to your hotel. You’ll have everything you need without having to find a way to get it down there, carry it through the airport or check a bag – or buy it at an inflated price once you get there.

  • Put your FastPass+ on the fast track

You can start making FastPass+ reservations online 60 days before your trip. You can only book a certain number of rides and character visits each day. Maximize your FastPass+ by arriving at the parks early and taking advantage of shorter lines. Save your reservations the park’s busiest times, usually 1 to 7 p.m.

You’ve finally arrived! Once you get checked in, incorporating these tips can help you get even more out of your time at Walt Disney World.

  • Take advantage of the amenities

When you arrive at the airport, Disney will pick up and transport your checked bags to your resort. The Magical Express, an air-conditioned bus, will also get you to your resort, and you may not have a long wait period depending on the time you arrive in Florida. Once you are there, you can also get around on the monorail or water taxi boats.

  • Plan your day

If you’ve already booked your FastPass+ attractions, try and schedule your day around where you will need to be in the park. Ask park attendants where characters will be throughout the day or pick up a daily guide that will have the character showcase schedule, along with show times and more. Consider making your Magic Kingdom day mid-week, when there are fewer visitors.

  • Get to bed early

And set your alarm for an early park arrival. Most visitors are on vacation time – so they are sleeping in and enjoying leisurely breakfasts. Meanwhile, you’ll have a much shorter wait time for your favorite rides, a much easier time getting through a less-crowded park, and can head back to the resort in the afternoon to enjoy swimming and nap time when the park starts to get full.

  • Disney offers shuttles from their resorts to their parks

but if you need to get out and about, rent a car once you arrive at the resort rather than at the airport. You may find better rates from on-site agencies than airport-based car rental companies. Having a car while you are there gives you some extra flexibility and options for your trip

  • Re-consider dinner time

Schedule your meals at non-traditional times – earlier or later than the most popular dining times. Most people will book their meals at the typical mealtimes. Your reservation will ensure you won’t have to wait a long time to eat – and your timing will keep you from long lines when you get back to the park, and everyone else goes to eat.

Inside the Parks:

  • Share your celebration

Is it your birthday or anniversary? Mention your special occasion in your dining reservations, room reservations, and ask for celebratory buttons at customer service or guest relations. While there are no guarantees, Walt Disney World cast members will take note, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Visitors have received free desserts, preferential seating, even room upgrades, just by adding this information to the system and wearing their buttons.

  • Set up designated downtime destinations

You know each family member’s peak times of the day and tantrum triggers, and it’s a good idea to plan ahead. If your child can’t handle extreme heat, all of the air-conditioned stores on Main Street are connected, making it an excellent way to get out of the inclement weather. Do some research and pick out the top rides in each park that you want to visit. Plan those stops around the rides with typically short or long lines that you can use to give yourself a walking break.

  • Dining at Disney

While the Disney Dining Plan is always available as an add-on option, Disney announces specific dates when the dining plan is for free to guests with non-discounted resort stays and park tickets. Your Disney travel agent will know these time periods, but they are typically offered in the fall. In the summer, Disney offers a variation of the program, the Summer Meal Offer that gives guests staying at value resorts one quick service meal each night.

  • Thirsty?

Rather than purchasing bottles of water, you can ask for a free cup of ice water at any food establishment and restaurant. In Epcot, you can visit the Coca-Cola hosted shop that lets you try unlimited free samples of Coke’s international products.

  • Stay In

Many of the resorts have their own hidden attractions, from family-friendly water parks to live roaming animals. If you need to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the park, spend some time visiting the different resorts to see what they have to offer.

  • Find the Fireworks

Rather than joining the throngs of people in Magic Kingdom for the nightly fireworks, consider visiting a different park. The view from some of the other sites, like the Jungle Cruise ride or the Polynesian Resort, can be just as breathtaking. In Epcot, stop by the FastPass+ viewing area, the bridge between UK and France, and Mexico to get a breathtaking view of the nightly show.

The best advice for Walt Disney World is to plan as much as possible in advance. Talk to experienced Disney travelers who know the ins and outs of the park, the easiest ways to get the biggest bang for your buck and the hidden secrets that can make your trip an unforgettable experience. If you’ve gotten everything set up in advance, you can arrive ready to relax and enjoy the magic, wonder and excitement that comes with a Walt Disney World vacation.