The Ultimate Guide to Book a Disney World Trip

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The most requested blog post is finally here! I always get lots of questions from friends whenever they are planning a trip to Disney World, so I wanted to write this post to answer all the questions and have ALL that good info in one place. I hope this helps you out.

There are so many questions when booking a Disney trip: where to stay? how much are tickets? how long to go for? how do fast passes work?

Coming for a week-long vacation is much different than being a ‘Disney local’. So I did lots of research to be able to give you enough information to decide and answer most questions you might have.

If you still have questions please message me and I will update this post to benefit everyone.

On the same note, there are so many ways of booking these trips that it’s impossible to list them all. I wanted to show you these options so you have an idea of what they include and how much it is. If you find a package that includes hotels and tickets, you can compare that price against these options to see if it’s a good deal.

Ok, let’s get started *takes deep breath*:

Best time to come to Orlando

I mentioned on my Disney Tips from Orlando Locals blog post that the weather plays a big part in when to go to the parks. I recommend checking the monthly temperature and rain averages (check here), and also the holiday calendar (see here). During months of June and July, it rains most afternoons because of the tropical storms. Try to avoid big holidays like Christmas, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving weekend, etc. to skip the huge crowds. But also if you really want to come during Christmas, just do it, it’s fine! There are also different prices based on the date, so the more flexible you are, the best deals and fewer crowds you’ll get.

My favorite months to go are between October and March because the weather is usually cooler and there’s less rain.

Where to stay on a Disney trip

This is a huge part of your trip but it’s also the most customizable one. There are a TON of hotels and houses around the Disney area. I just did a quick search and got thousands of results. Here I will list the ones I know about and some resources to help you find the perfect one:

Staying at a Disney Resort – $$ to $$$

Obviously staying at a Disney owned resort is one of the best options because they are built to offer incredible services to make your trip magical. If you stay there you will get the ‘Disney treatment’ and you won’t have to worry about much while you are there.

What I mean by magical is these hotels are so close to the theme parks that it will be super easy getting from and to the parks, the staff will be extremely friendly and you can count on the high quality of the services offered. They can help you arrange everything, including airport transportation and dining options.

There are many options for Disney hotels as well, ranging from about $200 to $600 per night. There are sales sometimes, so keep an eye on their website. Which one you pick will depend on your budget and what you are looking for as an experience.

There are many benefits to staying at a Disney resort like:

  • Early access to FastPass reservation
  • Free parking and shuttles!! (save $30 per car per day!)
  • Some have access to the monorail and boats taking you directly to the parks
  • Free magic bands ($15 value per person)
  • Airport transportation (save up to $50 per airport trip)

Grand Floridian review:

One of my friends Cony stayed at the Grand Floridian last year with her family. This is what she had to say about it:

When I stayed at Disney’s Great Floridian, it was the second time I stayed at a Disney hotel, but the previous time was completely different: I didn’t experience the magic the same way. At the Grand Floridian, you feel like are a princess’ castle, it is elegant, there is a live music band, the decoration is beautiful and even the staff’s clothes make you feel like you are in a movie. If you get lucky, you might catch Cinderella’s carriage strolling around the resort.

grand floridian review | disney world orlando
Grand Floridian

We took advantage of the pool because it was very hot. You can also rent a boat to explore the Seven Seas lake that is right by the hotel. There is everything you might need there, including restaurants (where I got to meet some characters during breakfast!) and souvenir shops.

It is true that this hotel is pricey, but for my family, it was worth it because everyone got to enjoy it. If you have the opportunity to go, I recommend it 100%

Staying at a hotel outside of Disney resorts ($ to $$$)

Staying on non-Disney resorts has its pros and cons. You won’t be right next to the theme parks, but most usually offer shuttles that take you there for free. There are very budget friendly hotels (US$70 per night) to very luxury options (US$1000 per night). There are hundreds of options so use tools like Booking.com or Google to look through the options for your dates and budget.

Booking.com: $25 OFF your first booking

While looking, keep an eye on:

  • the reviews and photos
  • shuttle services: parking at Disney is pricey ($30 per day) so a shuttle is very helpful
  • free breakfast: save more $$$ by having free breakfast at your hotel
  • distance to malls/other attractions that you might be interested
  • resort and parking fees: these can be hidden and spike your hotel cost so make sure you take them into account before booking
  • other amenities: like a kitchen in room, pool area, gym, other hotel specials, etc.

Recommendations:

I say go with the usual name brands like Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, Hilton, Wyndham, etc. All of these offer quality and clean rooms and have good pricing. Feel free to search for other options with your dates and preferences in mind. Here are some examples I found:

Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek this hotel is outside Disney but still offers Disney perks like shuttles, early FastPass reservation, and dining options. ($150 – $250 per night)

Courtyard by Marriott Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village – This one is another good option because it’s near the parks, also offers shuttle services and it’s very affordable. ($70 – $150 per night)

A friend stayed at the Comfort Inn in Buena Vista Lake. He said it served the purpose of having a place to rest a night and they had various shuttles that took you to the the Disney parks everyday. The furniture was a little outdated, but it was comfortable enough. He said he liked there were restaurants and stores near by, some he could even walk to.

Staying at an Airbnb or house rental – $-$$

This option is great if you have a big family or group. I have some friends that had about 10 people coming and they rented out a whole house. This can save lots of money because you won’t need to book multiple hotel rooms. Look at websites like Booking.com and Airbnb.com for these rentals.

Airbnb: Get $40 OFF your first booking

Doing a quick search (look up Orlando Disney Area), I found an Airbnb with 7 beds for a little over $100 per night. The downside of these is that you most likely will need a car rental to move around, or you can use car sharing services like Uber or Lyft. The nice thing about renting a house is that you will have more space (living room, multiple bedrooms) and you will have a kitchen for when you want to eat in. You can save lots of cash if you have a big family!

Disney Theme Parks – explained

Now the second most important thing on your to-do list is to buy theme park tickets. Let me guide you through the parks available at Disney World (Orlando):

  • Magic Kingdom: This is where the big princess castle is. You will also find classic rides like Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, etc. See the full list of rides here.
  • Hollywood Studios: This is a pretty fun one. There’s lots of good stuff for those who like movies and art. Toy Story, Star Wars, the Aerosmith rock & roll roller coaster are my favorite there (see all here).
  • Epcot: In there you will be able to walk around the globe visiting multiple countries! Epcot has a ton of good food, fun rides (Soarin! is my favorite) and cute photo spots.
  • Animal Kingdom: A recent favorite of mine, this park is fun for the whole family and because there are so many trees, I feel it isn’t as hot as the rest. The Avatar ride (flight of passage) is incredible – a must go.

Disney water parks

There are also water parks. I’ve personally never been to any of them, but I think it would be a good option if you have a park hopper pass and need to cool off. Or you could reserve 1 or 2 days in between your main theme park days to relax and enjoy. The water parks are:

Disney Springs

Disney has an entertainment and shopping area called Disney Springs. This place is free to enter and also has FREE parking. It’s a great spot if you’re looking for a place to have dinner, walk around and shop. I like taking friends there because it still has the Disney vibe, but it doesn’t cost a dime! There’s the House of Blues there, so whenever I have a concert I make sure to spend a few hours shopping before the show stars 😉

My favorite stores there are Zara, Sephora, UNIQLO, Free People. For food, I like Erin’s McKenna’s Bakery (fully vegan and gluten-free baked goodies) and Blaze Pizza.

I also tried the helium balloon (called Aerophile) and it was short but fun! I did an IGTV of it, watch it here. There are other rides and entertainment options there, check them out here.

Disney Tickets

Disney offers different types of tickets:

  • 1-park ticket (a.k.a. the base ticket): as the name says you will be able to only go to one park per day
  • park-hopper: it’s an add on to the base ticket. With this one, you can ‘hop’ around the parks during the day ($60 extra)
  • water-park ticket- see them here

Where to buy Disney tickets?

There are many websites to buy Disney tickets, some even claim amazing discounts, but which is the most trustworthy?

I personally always buy the tickets directly from Disney. Sometimes they offer 3-day or 4-day tickets for Florida Residents which are usually a great deal. You will need to show a Florida ID for these though. Also, some companies have partnerships with ticket companies, so always check through your company’s benefits website to see if they offer any discounts.

If you study in Florida, you might be able to get some discounted tickets through your school (I know UCF has these through SGA).

Disney offers discounts if you buy multi-day tickets. Price varies depending on how many days you buy. For example, 1 day costs $110, but 6 days costs $70 per day.

Current offer: As I check the Disney website right now (June 2019), I see they are offering ‘Summer One World‘ Ticket. This one is a little bit different because it lets you visit all four theme parks and both water parks for $444. You can use the ticket by going to 1 park each day or going to multiple parks per day, but you only get to visit each park once. So if you are going to Disney for 4 days, this still might be a good deal to be able to visit all 6 parks!

Disney Dining Options

Going to Disney can be pricey very quickly. On top of tickets, hotels, and flights you also need to account food. Here are the restaurant options:

  • Quick service: these will be ‘fast-food’ like restaurants where you make a line and pick up your food. There are different types in each theme park. $
  • Table service: like a sit-down restaurant, they will have ‘gourmet’ options and cost a bit more too. $$-$$$

Most of these restaurants are inside the Disney parks, but there are a bunch located at Disney resorts which surround the parks. You can take a car or the monorail and eat out at these places too. Find the full list here.

Dining Recommendations

If you’re vegetarian and vegan, I recommend you use the Vegan Disney World blog, I always look at their page to find yummy food.

I personally almost exclusively eat at quick-service spots because a) they are quick b) they usually have veggie options c) they don’t cost a fortune. I’ve tried some table services and they have been amazing, so I recommend having at least 1 or 2 meals there if you are coming to Disney.

You can also take your car outside of the parks and eat a mall or nearby restaurants. Use Google Maps to see the ones close by. You are able to bring your own snacks into the park, so it might be a good idea to have some pretzels and cereal bars to fuel through the day.

Disney Dining Plan:

Disney offers dining plans that you can just buy and forget about it. Depending on the level, it will include a certain amount of quick service and/or table services meals per day, plus snacks and a refillable drink mug. Check out all the options here.

Disney FAQ

What about other companies that offer super cheap tickets?

I honestly cannot tell you if these are legit or not, it’s tough to say. If they are so discounted, it’s hard to tell if they have good intentions. If it’s more than a 10% discount, I would not trust it. I say go with your gut, trust personal recommendations and read the contract terms.

What should I do when I’m not at Disney?

Central Florida has so many fun things to do. You can visit the Kennedy Space Center (maybe even catch a rocket launch!), go shopping at one of the nearby malls (Outlets, Florida Mall, Mall at Millenia), go to Disney Springs (it’s free!), drive to the beach (Cocoa Beach, Daytona, Clearwater, St Pete). Check out my blog for ideas in Central Florida. Make sure to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date:

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Are park hopper tickets worth it?

I prefer 1-park tickets because I don’t really have the need to switch between the parks. You usually need a day to walk around the entire park anyway, keeping in mind that some rides have 1 to 2-hour waits! The park hopper option is pricey and I personally wouldn’t use it.

I think they might be helpful if you don’t have enough time to spend 1 full day per park. If so, buy a park hopper to get to visit all 4 parks while you are in Orlando.

Are vacation packages cheaper?

Ok – this one is also tough to say. What I would do is compare the price of the package (hotel + tickets + food) versus a manual calculation using a) the info on this blog post b) hotel websites c) Disney ticket website. Compare both options and choose the cheaper one!

What are fast passes and how do they work?

A FastPass lets you skip the long line of many rides at Disney. You are able to choose 3 rides per day per person. Once you use them up, you can get more (one at a time). If you stay at a Disney resort, you will have 60 days in advance to book. Otherwise, you will have 30 days. Use the Disney app to keep track of them.

Any Disney tips ?

Check out my tips best tips here.

I hope you guys found this helpful. There’s a LOT of info here, but if you still have questions please message me (Instagram @amapoland), I’ll answer you and update this post to make it better!

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disney world ultimate guide to book a trip | orlando, florida | where to stay | where to eat | dining plans | airbnb, hotels and disney resorts

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