I love Disney. I really love Disney vacations. As a self- proclaimed Disney subject matter expert I’ve taken a personal mission to educate anybody who would listen of the joy that is vacationing with Disney. I’m always surprised by the amount of, ahem, “grown-ups”, who have visited a Disney Resort but had no idea how to make the best of it. The truth is there is a right and a wrong way to do Disney. Then there is the BEST way to do it. To those willing to learn, I offer my knowledge; and now without further ado I give to you the following Top 10 Secrets to Having Your Best Walt Disney World Resort Vacation…Ever.
10. RESERVE DIRECTLY THROUGH THE WALT DISNEY WORLD TRAVEL COMPANY OR AN AUTHORIZED DISNEY VACATION PLANNER
To me this is a no brainer. If you want to book a trip to Walt Disney World, you use the inside track. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with utilizing a travel agent if you are going to say; Jamaica, Europe, some other non-Disney destination. But if you want to optimize your experience you need to go with the folks who are in the know. Booking directly with the Walt Disney World Travel Company or Authorized Disney Vacation Planner not only gives you direct access to special promotions, but it allows you to seamlessly link your reservation to My Disney Experience where you can make dining reservations and access Fast Pass+ selections. If you didn’t know, the deposit on a vacation package is only $200. You can pay at your own pace as long as your balance is paid in full 45 days before your arrival. Click here for a free, no obligation quote.
9. USE DISNEY’S MAGICAL EXPRESS AND DISNEY TRANSPORATION SERVICE
One of the best perks of being a guest of The Walt Disney World Resort is Disney’s Magical Express and complementary transportation service. Have you ever thought about how much time you waste on your first day of vacation just standing at baggage claim and getting a rental car? Seriously, you could have been at your destination for 2 hours before leaving the airport! Why not just drop your bags at your departure point and the have them magically appear in your room? Why not skip the rental and ride in a comfort motor coach and watch Disney shorts on the way to your resort? There is something pretty amazing about hearing your driver say “get ready, get ready..” and when you make that turn “Welcome to Walt Disney World!” It never fails, the whole bus will erupt in applause and cheers. While you are there, you never have to fight the lines for parking or worry about how you will get to and from your destination. Disney offers variable options to get around including bus, monorail and water taxis. Pick one, it’s all included!
8. BOOK A ROOM AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS OR DISNEY’S SARATOGA SPRINGS RESORT
Disney World has over 20 hotels to choose from; but for the best vacation experience book a room at either Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, Disney Saratoga Springs or The Tree House Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs. These resorts are nestled on the shores of Disney’s waterways and are the only resorts to offer water-taxis rides to Disney Springs; formally known as Downtown Disney. There is something just outright magical about riding on the river in the happiest place on earth. The ride usually takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes and offer amazing views of Disney Springs and other parts of the resort unseen by guest staying elsewhere. Your captain may even serenade you with a song!
7. ADD THE DELUXE DINING PLAN TO YOUR VACATION PACKAGE
I’ll be honest, this one might be a bit of a splurge, but I promise it is SO worth it. No matter what level of resort you choose to stay in I always recommend adding the Deluxe Dining plan; because.. food! If there is one thing that is for certain it’s that a vacation at Disney will indeed work up an appetite. The Deluxe Dining Plan offers 3 meals and 2 snacks per person per day to be used anyway you like on Quick Service or Table Service without limitations. Let me help you understand the Disney definition of a meal. For this example, we’ll use a table service credit. A “meal” includes 1 appetizer, 1 entrée, 1 desert and a non-alcoholic drink. Remember I said that it was per person, right? So that means each person in your party gets their own appetizer, their own entrée and their own desert plus a drink.. three times a day. Oh, and two snacks should you still be hungry. Trust me, with this plan it is IMPOSSIBLE to be hungry. You can even book Signature dining experiences and still not use all your credits! The best part: Left over credits can be traded in for snacks so you can take goodies to drown your sorrows on the ride back home.
6. BOOK A DINNER RESERVATION AT CALIFORNIA GRILL
California Grill sits atop The Contemporary Resorts and offers the most coveted views of The Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon. It also offers one of the best menus on property. The menu changes seasonally so there’s always something new to love, but the most wonderful thing about California Grill happens as The Magic Kingdom is closing for the evening. When it’s time for the fireworks, the lights are dimmed in the restaurant and the soundtrack is played. The panoramic windows that line the dining room allow for the absolute best and unobstructed views of the show. If you aren’t lucky enough to be seated near the window, there is also a terrace connected to the restaurant where you can take your glass of wine and sip and watch. You won’t get a seat here by just walking up to the podium so be sure to make your reservations early. By the way, if you were wondering about the price range.. well, you’ve booked the Deluxe Dining Plan so.. EAT! It only takes 2 credit meals per person, just remember that gratuity isn’t included.
5. BUILD IN REST DAYS
Now there’s a bit of unexpected advice. Go to Walt Disney World and actually relax? YES precisely! You are on vacation after all, true the point is to have fun, but it’s also meant to allow you some down time. Let’s think realistically for a moment. If you will be visiting the resort for a week, do you honestly think you’ll spend 7 whole days in a theme park? Sure you could, but that’s highly unlikely if you want to see what other offerings the resort has. Plan at least 3 days to allow time to visit Disney Springs, go to the pool, view a Disney movie under the Stars at your resort or take a horseback ride at the campgrounds or carriage ride at Port Orleans or The Disney Boardwalk. You did know that Disney had a Boardwalk, right?? So don’t spend your entire vacation running from ride to ride, slow down and take time to breathe it all in.
4. VISIT DURING EPCOT’S INTERNATIONAL FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL
I’ll keep this one simple. It’s Disney + Food AND Wine. Not just any food and wine, but food and wine from all over the world. I can promise you that the chance that you’ll get to taste Sake from Japan, Grapefruit beer from Germany, Pastries from Norway and Empanadas from Brazil all in the same day is pretty much impossible. Unless you are at EPCOT during this event. But seriously did I need that entire explanation? Again I say it’s Disney + Food and Wine. Enough said.
3. MAKE A RESERVATION AT SENSES SPA
A Spa at Disney? YES a Spa at Disney. Actually there are two on property. Senses – A Disney Spa at Grand Floridian Resort and Senses – A Disney Spa at Saratoga Springs Resort. Each location offers a variety of relaxing treatments to help you revitalize and rejuvenate. Book a single treatment or up to a 3 hour package. If you are like me, you’ll book 3 hours and add on some al la carte enhancements. A Disney spa is the most relaxing place in the happiest place on earth. Can you imagine that?
2. SPEND A DAY AT TYPHOON LAGOON
You know there’s a beach in Central Florida. Ok, not really, technically, BUT Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon is, in my opinion, as good as it gets. Picture a day in the Caribbean, at the beach minus the sea life. Add on some thrilling aquatic attractions and you’ve got yourself Disney’s most popular water park. Arrive early in the morning and get your water tubing, sliding and water coasting out the way and spend the rest of the day lounging “beach side” with a pineapple drink. The zero entry surf pool is made to resemble one big white sand beach complete with perfect waves. What’s that? You said you LIKE the sea life? No worries, walk on over to Shark Reef and have yourself a swim with the resident stingrays, fish and yes, Sharks. Relax, they won’t bite you, “people are friends, not food.”
1.DON’T PARK HOP
I KNOW, I KNOW THAT SOUNDS SACRELIGIOUS!! The park hopper option is fine if you are in a rush and you don’t have the time built into your stay to enjoy each park individually; but for the BEST Walt Disney World Vacation, my numero uno advice is to NOT park hop. Trust me on this. Each of the four theme parks is so wonderful, so beautiful in its own right, to not take an entire day to enjoy and admire it is just.. wrong. If you are there for a week or more, then plan to visit 1 park a day during your park days. Arrive in the morning in time for Opening Ceremonies at Magic Kingdom and stay to see the Fireworks. Spend the first half of your EPCOT day in Future World then have dinner in World Showcase before closing out the day with Illuminations. Get to Animal Kingdom just as it opens and be in awe as the sun rises over the top of The Tree of Life and makes it way to sit atop Mt. Everest. Stay the day and take one of the last rides on Kilimanjaro Safaris just before close. Walk into the movies at Hollywood Studios, rock out with Aerosmith, get dropped a few times by Tower of Terror, take in a few shows, have some dinner and close out your night in the most Fantasmic way possible. There’s no particular order to see the theme parks, just make sure that when you go you allow yourself to be immersed in that day’s experience. It’s absolutely Magical.
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!