Walt Disney World Resort

Theme Parks

Disney World has four theme parks and two water parks on property to keep you busy.

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With almost 30 Disney hotels on property to choose from there really is a hotel to meet everyone's needs and budgets.

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Quick service restaurants, table service restaurants, dining plans, snacks and more. Dining at Disney World is like nothing else.

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The fun at Walt Disney World isn't contained to the theme parks!

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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. 

Theme Park Tips

  • 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.

Accommodation Tips

  • 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. Disney World also has their own alternative service, Minnie Vans, available to be booked through the Lyft app. These are $25 USD + tip for any trip within Walt Disney World Resort and can cater for up to two children in car seats, six people in total.

Dining Tips

  • Reservations for Walt Disney World restaurants open 180 days in advance (yes that's correct, 6 months in advance) and believe it or not, some of the most popular restaurants book out immediately.
  • If you're staying onsite you will be able to book the entire length of your trip, or 10 days worth of reservations (whichever is shorter) at 180 days from your check in date. This can be very valuable when it comes to securing hard to get reservations such as Be Our Guest for dinner or Cinderella's Royal Table.
  • If you are staying onsite we recommend scheduling the harder to get reservations closer to the end of your visit to maximise your chances of securing a reservation at a reasonable dining time.
  • Which restaurants fall into the hard to get category?
    • Be Our Guest dinner and Cinderella's Royal Table are probably top of that list
    • Most character meals, especially those in the parks, can be difficult to secure
    • Any reservation prior to the park opening, especially those between 8am and 8:20am
    • 'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
    • Le Cellier in Epcot
    • Special event meals such as the Candlelight Processional meals at some of the restaurants
  • The dining plan is popular with those that like to pre-pay for their meals and not have to worry about much when they are there. If you have children under 10 in your group then it's usually pretty easy to get back what you spend on the plan in food, especially if you schedule a lot of set price meals e.g. buffets, family-style meals (all you can eat set menu served at your table). If you have chidren over 10 that don't eat like adults then the dining plan may not be a great choice for you. It's likely with the right selection of restaurants that you can spend less paying as you go.
  • Children under 3 eat free from an adult's plate. This means at set price, all you can eat meals, your child under 3 pretty much eats free! If you want your child to have their own plate/meal at an a la carte restaurant be prepared to pay out of pocket for this, although sometimes you'll be pixie dusted with a freebie. In this situation it would be hard not to come out ahead with the dining plan if you stuck with mostly set price menus.
  • Alcohol is available for purchase throughout Animal Kingdom Park, Disney's Hollyood Studios and Epcot. In Magic Kingdom it can only be purchased in the table service restaurants with your meals. Just to help you plan appropriately.
  • If you're planning on seeing Fantasmic! we often recommend the Fantasmic! meal packages, I mean you have to eat any way right?
  • What are our favourite restaurants that require a booking? See the list below which is complied of both restaurants we love the food at and restaurants we love the experience at. Keep in mind, our family includes young kids, so not all of these may make your list of must dos.
    • Magic Kingdom - Cinderella's Royal Table for setting (we like breakfast), Be Our Guest for their quick service lunch
    • Epcot - Garden Grill for pre-park breakfast, Akershus for a slightly less expensive princess offering, Teppan Edo in Japan
    • Hollywood Studios - Hollywood & Vine for the Disney Jr characters (our kids are young) and the early access to Jedi Training sign ups (N.B. this is not a good option if you want to hightail it to Toy Story Land because loads of people will be ahead of you), Mama Melrose's for the Fantasmic! package, 50s Prime Time for a casual meal (the fried chicken is great), 
    • Animal Kingdom - We don't really prioritise table service here but we'd probably go to Yak & Yeti if we wanted a reservation somewhere
    • Disney Springs - The Boathouse, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin', T-Rex (for the kids - ring the restaurant directly for reservations) 
    • Resorts - 'Ohana at the Polynesian Village, Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge, Trattoria al Forno breakfast with Rapunzel, Ariel and their respective Princes at the BoardWalk
    • Signature Dining - Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club
    • Special Experiences - Afternoon Tea at Grand Floridian for a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle, Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness Campground
  • What about our favourite quick service options? I'm glad you asked...
    • Magic Kingdom - Pecos Bill's, Columbia Harbour House and Casey's Corner (hot dogs)
    • Epcot - Sunshine Seasons, Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway, Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in France, Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the UK
    • Hollywood Studios - We don't love any of the quick service options here, so we're holding out hope for Woody's Lunch Box
    • Animal Kingdom - Flame Tree Barbeque, Satu'li Canteen
    • Disney Springs - Earl of Sandwich, Wolfgang Puck Express, Ghirardelli (ice cream and chocolate lovers dream)

Recreation Tips

  • Disney World is so much more than just the theme parks and you could probably spend a good few days there without hitting the parks and still have a fabulous time.
  • Florida is hot, so the number one recreational activity is swimming and water sports. All of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels have swimming pools for onsite guest enjoyment. Some are much better than others, and as with most things, the more you pay the more you get. By far and away the best pool complex on property is Stromalong Bay, which is shared between the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. We also enjoy the Polynesian Village's Volcano Pool because it has a view of the castle in addition to an awesome water playground for the little kids. Water playgrounds are becoming more common at Disney World and can also be found at the Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans - French Quarter Resorts. Disney's Saratoga Springs and Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village also have a water playground but being DVC properties they're not likely to be the top of most people's lists.
  • Of course, beyond the pools Disney World has two water parks on property that are sure to please water slide enthusiasts, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Admission to these two parks isn't included with standard park admission. If you have tickets with the park hopper add-on then it's a minimal cost to add the Plus Option, which includes water park entry (as well as other recreation options) for the number of visits equal to your ticket length. If you're not planning on purchashing the park hopper option and only looking at a single water park visit, then purchasing a ticket for that one visit will likely be cheaper than upgrading your ticket.
  • Each of the water parks usually closes for a few months annually for maintenance. If you're travelling from October to March be sure to check the park you want is going to be open before commiting to tickets for the water parks.
  • If you're hit with a wet day (or days) and don't want to brave the wet for near empty parks there is a movie theatre complex in Disney Springs that makes for a nice break from bad weather.
  • There's also plenty of shopping to be had in Disney Springs as well! Disney Springs will be busy in the evenings, so if you want to do some shopping with fewer people around head there for opening.
  • Disney World has some fabulous golf courses on property for golf enthusiasts. They're definitely on the more expensive side but they have clubs and everything you could need available for rent/sale. Plus, they'll pay for a cab to and from the golf course from your hotel. Head to the Walt Disney World Golf website for more information or to book a tee time.
  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground has got loads of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. They have carriage rides, Chip & Dale's Campfire, archery, horse back riding and pony rides to name a few of the offerings available.
  • Most of the resorts have video game arcades (another favourite wet weather activity for our family) but a heads up - there are no prizes to be won, it's just playing for the fun of it. 
  • A number of the resorts have bike and boat rentals on offer. The Contemporary Resort is also home to Sammy Duvall's Water Sports where you can go parasailing, tubing and water skiing in the Seven Seas Lagoon. And yes, there are alligators in the water but they are more scared of the motor boat than they are interested in people.
  • Be sure to check the resort schedule during your stay, they'll usually have campfires, movies under the stars and some other family-friendly activites planned to make your down time at the resort a little more fun.
  • Tennis courts, basketball courts, gyms, fishing excursions, the list goes on. There is more to do on property than you could ever fit into a single trip. That's why we love it here. Entertaining your kids is so easy!
  • I almost forgot to mention the spas and pampering options. You'll find full service spas at the Grand Floridian and Saratoga Springs Resorts and you don't need to be a guest of those hotels to visit them. The Grand Floridian is also the place to head for hair cuts and styles at the Ivy Trellis. They also offer an alternative to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in their Character Couture Packages. No costumes but the hair and make up options are dare I say much nicer than those on offer at the Boutique, especially for your older princesses.
  • Speaking of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, if you want a make over appointment for your own princess then you do have to ring Disney World dining (or recreation) to book that, it can't be done over the phone. These reservations open 180 days in advance with the dining reservations and do book out, so please don't leave booking until the last minute. You have the choice of the Magic Kingdom location in Cinderella's Castle or Disney Springs. If you're looking for a similar experience for a non-Princess lover (including boys and adults) then the Pirates League in the Magic Kingdom is it!