Walt Disney World Resort is located on the East Coast of the USA, in Orlando, Florida. At almost 50 times the size of Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort is what Walt Disney dreamed the Disneyland Resort would be, but ran out of space to make a reality.
This is our number one favourite Disney destination, as it really is a holiday destination, with plenty to keep you occupied for at least a week.
With four of the World's best Theme Parks, two Water Parks, over 20 themed Hotels, two entertainment districts and more, planning a trip to Walt Disney World Resort can be daunting. We've complied some of our favourite tips to get you started but be sure to check out our recommended planning resources, ticket provider and service providers in addition to our blog for further assistance and more information.
- If you can fit it in, we like to allocate two park days to Magic Kingdom, two to Epcot (usually shorter days) and one and a half to both Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios. Allowing some time for rest, the water parks and other area attractions, our ideal stay is 10 nights but we know a lot of people happily get by with one week.
- Try not to follow late nights with early mornings - it's easy to exhaust yourselves trying to do everything.
- Familiarise yourselves with the expected crowd level for when you're visiting and have realistic expectations for your time in the parks. We have everyone select one or two absolute must dos in each park and prioritise those so everyone walks away feeling happy.
- School holidays and public holidays are going to see higher crowds in the parks. With each school district in the US having different holidays it is difficult to avoid these times entirely and work around our school holidays. Late January (cool), February (cool), early May (hot), September (hot and humid) and early December (cool) are our favourite times to visit Walt Disney World - expect that there will be plenty of people in the parks all year round and you won't be disappointed by the crowds when you arrive.
- Special events are offered throughout the year and some people like to schedule their trips around these:
- Halloween - usually celebrated in the Magic Kingdom from some time in September through until the end of October
- Christmas - celebrated in each of the parks (to some degree) from early November through until the end of December
- Flower & Garden Festival - held in Epcot from March through to May - this is our favourite time to visit Epcot
- Food & Wine Festival - also held in Epcot, this festival runs from September through mid November
- Arriving at the parks before they open will allow you to make the most of what is usually the quietest part of the day.
- Alternatively, if you're visiting at a time when the parks are open late (Magic Kingdom can stay open until midnight or 1am), the parks tend to clear out in the last few hours of the day as most kids can't make it until those times.
- Be sure to build rest time into your days. We usually recommend heading back to your hotel for a nap or swim but if you're totally against that a table service leisurely lunch could be another option. The parks require a lot of walking, usually in high temperatures and often coupled with high humidity - going from park open to close, mulitple days in a row will leave you exhausted. Schedule an early night here or there if you don't want to split your days around a break to give you some time to recouperate.
- Shoes are so important! Make sure you wear shoes that are supportive enough to last through well over 10 000 steps a day. Walt Disney World is not the place to try out new shoes.
- Be sure to book your FastPass+ reservations as soon as your booking window opens. Onsite guests can book their entire stay 60 days from their check in, while offsite guests have to book one day at a time 30 days in advance. Some attractions will fill their allocation the day they become available to onsite guests for booking.
- If you have little people in your group that are too short to experience some of the attractions be sure to ask the Cast Members about using Rider Switch. This will allow the adults in the group to take turns riding the attraction with the kids that are tall enough while the other stays with the smaller child/ren.
- Stay onsite - you get better access to dining reservations (see that section for more info), you get to make your FastPass+ reservation earlier than offsite guests and you get to experience the magic of Disney. Yes, it's a little more expensive but we think it's well worth it. If you're looking at exploring the greater Orlando area, we'd suggest splitting your stay with some time at a Universal Orlando Resort to take advantage of their onsite guest perks and location.
- Walt Disney World has a huge number of hotels to choose from and finding the right fit for your group can be overwhelming. The resorts are sorted into four main categories based on their cost and amenities - you can choose from value, moderate, deluxe and deluxe villas.
- Which ones are our favourites?
- Value - Art of Animation Resort or Pop Century Resort. The family suites at Art of Animation is great if you have a large family or want a separate sleeping area for the kids. It's pretty bright and bold, so if you're after something a little calmer we'd head to Pop Century.
- Moderate - Port Orleans French Quater or Riverside. The later is our pick for familes of five where the youngest is under 10 (and small enough to sleep comfortably on the murphy bed.
- Deluxe - Polynesian Village Resort is our absolute favourite Walt Disney World Resort with what we consider to be the best combination of location, convenience and theming. For those with older kids or enjoying an adult-only visit the BoardWalk Resort or Beach/Yacht Club may also be worth considering. These resorts will all fit up to 5 people. If you have four or less travellers in your party the Wilderness Lodge is a slightly cheaper deluxe option and has bunk beds available as a separate booking category as well.
- Deluxe Villa - If looking for a studio we'd opt for any of the villa resorts connected to the deluxe resorts above. The Polynesian Villas don't have 1-bedroom villas available, so Bay Lake Tower is an alternative monorail resort, however, the theming there isn't particularly unique.
- If you make your reservation over the phone you can make specific room requests direct with the Disney agent. If you opt for an online reservation, you will be able to make room requests when completing online check in. These requests aren't guaranteed but it's always best to let the room assigner know if you'd prefer a ground floor room or somewhere close to transportation.
- With the exception of Art of Animation Resort, the value resorts usually have a preferred room category. If you aren't planning on renting a car and don't like the thought of a long trek from the bus stop to your room, this upgrade is worthwhile.
- We like to spend time in our room relaxing at various times throughout our visits, so we usually opt to book the category above a standard view if our budget allows, as the standard views at most resorts will usually look over the car park or service area. In saying that, we book a standard view at Polynesian Village because most of these look out over the gardens.
- All the Disney resorts are well serviced by Disney transportation, whether that be buses at the values and moderates or a combination of buses, boats and/or monorail at the deluxe resorts. Our personal preference is to have a rental car when staying in a value or moderate resort to allow us the flexibility to visit different resorts for evening meals with ease. We don't usually go this route when staying in a deluxe resort because there are usually a variety of dining options close by. If you are planning on spending the majority of your time in the theme parks then the Disney transportation will more than likely be totally sufficient. If your budget doesn't extend to a rental car, you can certainly get by at the values and moderates without one, it just might take a little more time to get from place to place.
- Uber is becoming popular within Walt Disney World for transportation between resorts and theme parks, so that is an alternative to a rental car as well. The Uber Family category has the option of a car or booster seat if you have a child requiring one.