Planning: First Steps

In this post I was going to write about your options in deciding where to stay when you visit Walt Disney World, but the first order of business is always deciding when to go, how to get there, and how long to stay!

When to go:

Generally speaking, when kids are involved, there are two philosophies out there:

1. Take the kids out of school and travel in off season to avoid crowds, hot weather, lines, and get better rates.

2. School is too important to miss. Suck it up and go in the summer.

I don't want to offend any teachers out there, because school IS important! However, this is my advice: when Disney is concerned, take some days off of school and go during off-season. Here is my rationale: Sure, there's more legwork in the sense that schoolwork has to be made up (depending on the ages), and you might be criticized for taking your kids out of school for a pleasure vacation. But the time and money you save, as well as the quality of the vacation, just can't be beat.

Season dates change annually. Here are the dates for 2009:

Value Season
January 1 - January 15
January 19 - February 12
August 9 - October 1
November 29 - December 17
Martin Luther King Weekend Jan. 16-18
Presidents Day Weekend Feb. 13-15
Regular Season
March 30 - May 21
October 2 - November 24
Thanksgiving Nov. 25-28
Summer Season
May 22 - July 2
Independence Day Weekend July 3-5 (July 4)
Peak Season

February 16 - April 3
Easter Week April 4-18
Holiday Season

December 18 - 31

Most people agree that fall is the best time to visit WDW. My husband and I visited last fall in late October (right before the time change), and it was absolutely perfect. The weather was fantastic, the crowds were low, and it was just an incredible visit. {I'll post pictures from that trip soon!} We used a touring plan {future post}, but hardly needed it. Wait times were low and when we did wait, the max was 20-30 minutes {that was for Toy Story Midway Mania in DHS--the ride was brand new and POPULAR!}.

However, there are plusses to going anytime. I have personally visited Disney in every season, and although summer is my least favorite, you still make memories. It's Disney!

Understandably, not everyone can take off work and/or school and go during the off season. So in future posts I'll talk about planning, touring the parks, and making the most of when you DO visit.

How to get there?

You have two options: fly or drive.

For some, driving isn't an option; it's just too far. You will have your share of challenges, but if you stay in a Disney Resort {more about that in another post} you will have the amenity of the Magical Express, a shuttle system from the airport. The plus-side is that you don't have to allow as much time for travel (in theory). However, with the way airlines and air travel has been latley, sometimes it takes just as long if not longer than driving.

If you drive, you have the freedom to make stops, pack what you want, and you have a way to get around the parks without having to rely on Disney transportation. My family has always done this. Driving just suits us better, is more cost-efficient, and gives us more freedom.

Just weigh your options and think about what's best for your family!

How long to stay?
{Including Ticket Info}

I have been on Disney trips that have ranged from 2 days to 6. With children, you have to find that happy compromise between being able to take your time in the parks and not rush, and staying too long and having vacation meltdown.

My family has always done it this way:

We prefer the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios parks. Animal Kingdom just isn't our thing, but that's just our opinion. Our schedule is based on that, and yours will be difference based on your preferences.

We allow 1-2 days for driving, one day for each park (3 days), and then one extra day for recapping our favorite things. We always have the Park Hopper option on our tickets {future post} so we can skip around to the different parks and places we want to see. Then there's travel time to get home. So generally, our vacation lasts about 6 days, with usually 2 days going to travel and 4 days in the parks.

If you are going to Disney for the first time, plan to devote one day to each park. Give every park a chance, but be prepared for you or your kids to have preferences to one park or another. That's why the Park Hopping option on your ticket is great. I'll explain this more later in a more detailed post, but basically it's an option that you add on to your base Magic Your Way ticket so that you can go to more than one park in the course of a day. It's great, because you're not as limited.

So, if you're a first-timer, you'll need at least 4 days for parks. If you really want the best experience, I would plan 5-6 days in the parks. Sometimes, if you buy your tickets from the right place, you'll get an extra day or two free.

Here's my best ticket source: Undercover Tourist. This isn't a sketchy black market of tickets. Disney acknowledges this site and it's also recommended by Mousesavers (another great resource).

If you need questions answered about tickets, email me or leave a comment and I'll address it in a post. However, it's pretty self-explanatory.

Whether you're traveling with children or just as adults, you'll want to take your time and not kill yourself trying to race to the next ride, attraction, or parade. It will kill the magic---trust me. In a nutshell, you want to enjoy the details while following a plan.

Ask me any questions you have!

1 comment:

Sarah Denley said...

My parents took us out of school to go to Disney World (I've only been once). I don't think the teachers at S.A. really cared; we were smart and they knew we'd do the extra work we missed. BUT, I know some teachers in the public schools around here really frown on it. I've heard some serious ugliness and it kind of "kills the magic" as you would say! Anyway, from a teacher's perspective I'd only be upset if the child was already struggling in school and that's just common sense....Disney was definitely a learning experience for us!