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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation? Let's Get Started!

More Walt Disney World trips are planned in January than in any other month.  Sounds good, but I am only speculating and with good reason, as January is Disney month at AAA.  I have also been told more times in the last week about future Disney trips than I have in a while.  Disboards and PassPorter Community forums get hit with more questions about planning a Disney trip this time of year than any other.  With all of this in mind, let’s get started planning a magical Walt Disney World vacation!

What are the dates of my trip? 
Some people have flexibility in the travel dates, other have firm dates of travel.  It is important to solidify the dates of a trip, even keeping flexibility in mind.  Walt Disney World often offers discounts for specific travel dates and some travelers adjust their itineraries to take advantage of these offers.  The Walt Disney World web-site has a listing of the offers.  A Disney reservationist or your travel agent can also help you.

How are we getting there?
Car, bus, train, plane—and for those cruising out of New York this summer, ship.  Those are pretty much your choices, as biking or walking would be a bit prohibitive.  Budgets and time often determine the answer to this question.  Some combine modes of transportation as they may be planning to visit other destinations, such as the beach, while in Florida.

Remember that Walt Disney World offers free Magical Express service from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World resorts.  This service includes luggage handling to your resort, if your flight lands in Orlando before 10:00 pm.  If your flight lands after 10:00 pm, guests will pick up their luggage and baggage claim and take it with them on Disney’s Magical Express to their resort.

Disney also offers free transportation via bus, boat, or monorail throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, so unless other destinations beyond Walt Disney World are planned, guests do not need a car.

Where are we staying?
The answer to this question has a sub-question:  Are we staying on property or off?
Off property?  There are many hotels, vacation homes, time shares, and condo rentals available for guests wishing to stay in the Orlando area.  Some off-site hotels offer shuttles to various theme parks and attractions.  There may be a fee for shuttles and they typically run at scheduled intervals.  If using a car, remember to add in parking fees at the parks into your budget.

On property?  If you want to be immersed in Disney magic, have access to free Disney transportation, and enjoy Extra Magic Hours in the park just for resort guests, then staying on-site at a choice of 22 different resorts may be for you.  There are a variety of options available from deluxe 3 bedroom villas to cabins at Fort Wilderness that sleep 6 people to resort rooms at moderate and value resorts.  When guests stay on-site, the next question is value, moderate, or deluxe resort?  Budget, location, and the number of travelers often determine the answer to this question.  For example, a family of 4 wanting to stay at a resort on the monorail line, could choose from the Grand Floridian Resort, the Contemporary Resort, and the Polynesian Resort, which are all Deluxe level resorts.  Their location is reflected in their cost.

What about dining?
Guests staying in villas, vacation homes, cabins, or condos may elect to do some cooking or prepare simple meals during their Disney vacation.  Others may choose to rely on the immense array of dining options available at the Walt Disney World Resort that includes counter service—or quick service locations, over 100 table service restaurant options, signature dining experiences, dinner shows, and character meals.

For many, a stay at Walt Disney World Resort just wouldn’t be complete without at least one character meal and there are many to choose from!  You can read about our experiences at Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus Princess Storybook Dining, ‘Ohana’s, 1900 Park Fair, Hollywood & Vine, Tusker House, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Crystal Palace—just click on the links to read more.

Guests staying at the Walt Disney World Resort have the option to add a Dining Plan to their room and ticket package—Quick Service, Basic, and Deluxe plans are available. (Click here to read more about Dining Plans.)

What about park tickets?
Okay.  You know when you are traveling, how you are traveling, and where you are staying.  This will help you decide how many days of park tickets you want or need.  The basic park ticket is the “one park per day” ticket.  If you use it to go to Magic Kingdom, then that is your park for the day.  You will be able to enter and exit the Magic Kingdom throughout the day, but will not be able to go to another park that day without adding the “Park Hopper” option to your tickets.  If you are planning a lengthy stay, but know you won’t be at the parks everyday, then purchase fewer days on your park ticket.  Another option is to add the “Water Parks and More” option to park tickets that allow entry into the Water Parks and Disney Quest at Downtown Disney.

It’s helpful to have your dining plans made when deciding about park tickets, as you will know which days you want to be in which parks for dining purposes.

Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can sometimes be overwhelming due to the options that are available and number of choices and decisions that are made, but answering the above questions first, will get you started.  A travel agent, an experienced friend or colleague, or the internet can help tremendously.  Hence the reason for this post!

Sometimes future Disney travelers get caught up in planning the “perfect” Disney vacation.   Just know that you are going to Walt Disney World and there is more than one way to have a magical vacation experience.

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