LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Affordable family vacations at Walt Disney World Resort can combine convenience, flexibility, savings and extra value. Planning is the key . . . and here are some ideas and things to consider while planning to chase the guesswork and let the fun begin!
Before You Go
Covering nearly 40 square miles, Walt Disney World Resort can be vexing to the guest for whom it is “uncharted territory.” With their time at the Vacation Kingdom limited, guests who have done research and made preliminary determinations concerning what they want to experience discover they can be more “efficient” at having fun. A couple of sources for information and advice about Walt Disney World vacations are:
- Birnbaum’s Walt Disney World 2017, available at bookstores coast-to-coast.
- DisneyParksMomsPanel.com, a panel of Disney-savvy parents who answer questions and offer advice on a wide spectrum of topics.
The latest information about Walt Disney World Resort is available at the official Walt Disney World website, www.disneyworld.com. Several notable “clicks” on the home page are:
- Special Offers to learn about currently offered Disney discount.
- Free Disney Parks Vacation Planning Guide DVD to receive a planning tool the family can watch together that takes the viewer on a tour of the theme parks, water parks and resorts, shows affordable ways to stay and play, and provides information about shows and attractions.
- MyDisneyExperience.com — where you can design the Walt Disney World Resort vacation you want, personalizing everything from at-home planning to in-park experiences. With the web site and free My Disney Experience mobile app, you can create your own personal guide to the magic. The web site and mobile app contain interactive maps and itinerary tools, give you the ability to reserve FastPass+ selections in advance.
A special area of the official Walt Disney World website, Disneyworld.com, is devoted to information for guests Traveling With Little Ones at Walt Disney World Resort. Among the valuable topics covered: Vacation packing, travel tips, minimum height requirements on attractions, kids programs, dining and more.
Travel agents are experts who are familiar with vacation destinations and how to get there. They will explain the choices, make the calls and book arrangements. They save you time, and their services generally are provided at a modest cost — sometimes no cost — to you. Options to consider:
- Disney vacation planners can answer questions, offer suggestions and book reservations at 407/W-DISNEY (407/934-7639).
- AAA members are offered special lodging programs at selected hotels and preferred parking at the theme parks when they purchase a select AAA vacation package or pre-purchase select theme park tickets at participating clubs.
- Vacation packages available through travel agents, disneyworld.com and 407/W-DISNEY combine popular components of a vacation at Walt Disney World Resort. In addition to convenience, packages also may save money and often include special value-added features. Walt Disney World Resort sometimes offers special time-limited packages that provide even greater savings.
About Disney Resort Hotels
Walt Disney World Resort offers a broad range of accommodations – more than 25 resort hotels that vary in price – allowing guests to pay for only the amenities that are important to them. Disney Value resort guests are treated to larger-than-life theming, swimming pools and playgrounds, arcade rooms, and standard amenities – and with more than 10,000 rooms at five resorts, about one-third of Disney’s hotel accommodations fall into the Value category. Families who prefer the great outdoors can rent a campsite at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground (with nearly 800 available) and either pitch a tent or bring along an RV. (Of course, Moderate resorts, Deluxe resorts and Deluxe Villa resorts are available for guests who prefer additional amenities during their stay.) More information: 407/W-DISNEY, www.disneyworld.com or call your preferred travel agent.
Guestroom rates vary based on when a guest visits. Value Season, which takes place over select weeks throughout the year, offers lower room rates than peak or holiday seasons. Often, Value Seasons coincide with smaller theme park crowds, meaning less time in line and more time having fun! Weeknight stays (Sunday night through Thursday night) sometimes have lower rates than Friday nights and Saturday nights.
Within each hotel, guestroom rates vary based on the view from the balcony or terrace. For example, at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, guests can choose from a garden, lagoon or Magic Kingdom view. Lagoon-view and Magic Kingdom-view rooms run more than those with a garden view, but the good news is that all accommodations come with the same amenities and famous Disney service. At Value resorts, guests can choose between standard and preferred rooms (more than two-thirds of the rooms are standard), with preferred rooms being closer to the resort’s main building.
Many families with young children select accommodations in one of the “monorail resorts” — Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort or Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Reason: location near Magic Kingdom and convenient monorail transportation between the resorts and Magic Kingdom or Epcot.
Many adult couples visiting without children enjoy the proximity to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios of Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s BoardWalk – as well as the nightlife of Disney’s BoardWalk. Walkways and water taxis connect the three resorts with Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Walt Disney World Owned-and-Operated Hotel Benefits
With Disney’s Magical Express, guests of Disney owned-and-operated hotels can check their bags at their hometown airport, bypass baggage claim at Orlando International Airport (OIA) and board comfortable motor coaches for complimentary transportation to the Vacation Kingdom, where their bags “magically” appear in their guestroom. When it’s time to say good-bye, guests board motor coaches for complimentary transportation back to OIA. An extra convenience: Guests traveling on participating airlines can check their baggage for the return flight at their Disney resort, saving time and luggage-toting at the airport.
Guests who combine their hotel accommodations and attractions tickets into a Magic Your Way Package are eligible to add the Disney Dining Plan for the convenience of a more-inclusive “cruise-style” vacation package. In 2017, there are three plan choices to satisfy different budgets and appetites. All include at least two meals and a snack for each night of a Disney resort stay. Savings and restaurant choices vary.
Guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotels receive complimentary MagicBands, innovative and colorful wristbands that serve as an all-in-one device that effortlessly connects guests to all the vacation choices they made online with My Disney Experience. MagicBands are mailed to families ahead of their travel date or are waiting for them at their Disney Resort hotel.
With online check-in, guests can take care of the paperwork that normally accompanies check-in … in the comfort of their home up to 10 days before their visit. Upon arrival at their hotel, guests then stop by a special desk, show ID, sign, pick up their MagicBands or room keys and information packet, and begin enjoying their vacation. Guests who have received their MagicBand at home and who fully complete online check-in may receive a text or email message with their room number when their room is ready allowing them to choose to go directly to their room or stop by the front desk for information and assistance.
Merchandise purchased at select shops throughout Walt Disney World Resort can be delivered to the guest’s Disney hotel at no charge, allowing the guest to play without lugging packages around.
The Walt Disney World Transportation System of buses, monorails and boat launches connect virtually all areas of the Vacation Kingdom. With the convenience of complimentary “door-to-door” service for Walt Disney World Resort guests throughout the resort, many guests enjoy their Walt Disney World vacation without a car.
Disney hotel guests are exempt from parking fees at the theme parks. By presenting a resort ID, guests enter parking lots for free no matter how many parks they visit during their stay.
New in 2017 is the Minnie Van service, where guests can order their own private Disney vehicle right from their smartphone and a Disney Cast Member will drive them wherever they want to go around Walt Disney World Resort Resort for an additional fee.
Disney resorts have wheelchairs available for rent for the convenience of guests with disabilities, but availability is limited and Disney vacation experts encourage guests wishing to guarantee the use of a wheelchair throughout their stay to contact area rental companies to make arrangements.
With Extra Magic Hours, Walt Disney World resort guests are offered exclusive time in a Walt Disney World theme park one hour prior to scheduled park opening or for up to two hours after park closing. The park varies from day to day. In addition, Disney water parks sometimes open one hour early for guests of select Disney resort hotels. To take advantage of the additional time in the parks, resort guests must have a valid park ticket for the park(s) offering Extra Magic Hours.
Golfing guests at Walt Disney World owned-and-operated hotels have complimentary door-to-door transportation provided between their hotel and Walt Disney World golf facilities. Guests should inquire at the lobby concierge desk.
With their location convenient to the Walt Disney World theme parks, the Walt Disney World Resort hotels are a haven for guests who seek a midday swimming break – or a siesta!
Guests 17-and-under stay at no additional charge in parents’ rooms (up to the designated capacity of the room) at Walt Disney World resort hotels.
Quenching a vacation-long thirst is easy at Disney’s resorts. Guests can purchase a mug themed to their resort that will become a keepsake when the holiday ends. During their length of stay, they can continually refill the mug at designated locations at their resort.
Theme Park Considerations and Benefits
The Magic Your Way ticket system lets guests decide what ticket features best fit their Disney vacation plans … and that’s what they buy. Guests decide the number of days and whether optional features – park hopping, visits to Disney attractions outside the theme parks, and “non-expiration” of tickets – are important. Some price and value considerations:
- Per-day ticket costs decrease for longer stays. A seven-day ticket without optional features brings down the per-day cost to less than half the price, per day, compared to seven individual one-day Base Tickets.
- The Water Park Fun & More option can produce significant savings for recreation and entertainment outside the theme parks. The number of admissions it provides to the guest’s choice of Disney water parks, Disney’s Oak Trail golf course and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex varies depending upon the number of days of the Base Ticket (the option on a one- or two-day Base Ticket provides two visits to the guest’s choice from among the listed attractions; with a 10-day Base Ticket, it provides 10 visits).
- The Park Hopper option can enhance the value of the vacation by allowing guests to take advantage of special fun offered at different times of day at different Disney theme parks. (Also: Extra Magic Hours – exclusive theme park time for guests staying at Disney hotels – rotate among the parks; Park Hopper lets Disney hotel guests experience one park and shift that same day to another offering the additional park hours.)
Kids under age 3 are provided free admission to all Walt Disney World theme parks. Rather than lugging a stroller (including on and off of parking-lot trams), parents with young children can rent a stroller for the day’s use in any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. Tips for renters: (1) opt for a length-of-stay rental, which saves some money; (2) keep your receipt; if you’re park-hopping during the day, drop off the stroller when you’re leaving a park and use your receipt to obtain a stroller when you enter another park.
Baby Care Centers are located in all four Disney theme parks and feature private rooms with rocking chairs for nursing mothers, diaper-changing rooms, and feeding rooms with highchairs, bibs and plastic spoons. There are even diapers, formula and teethers for sale.
A “rider swap” program lets both parents enjoy a ride – one parent waits with the child while one parent rides a ride. Afterwards, the other parent can board the ride with minimal wait time.
Special guide maps presented by Disney DVD focus on where you can find the characters, attractions, entertainment and interactive activities of special interest to young children. They are available at Guest Relations in all the theme parks.
Theme park guide maps (available in English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese) and times guides for shows, character greetings, parades and fireworks are available at Guest Relations locations in each park.
For the convenience of guests with disabilities, wheelchairs and Electric Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) are available for rent at Disney theme parks. A length-of-stay rental ticket is available which offers not only savings but also involves a one-time payment transaction after which the guest simply shows the receipt at the stroller rental location and is expedited through the queue with little or no wait time.
The Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities provides a detailed overview of services and facilities available for guests with disabilities and is available at Guest Relations locations within all four parks as well as Guest Services locations at Walt Disney World resort hotels. DisneyWorld.com includes information about Walt Disney World Services For Guests With Disabilities.
By using FastPass+, guests can avoid waiting in standby queues at designated popular attractions in all four Walt Disney World theme parks. Guests can reserve access to favorite FastPass+ attractions and entertainment experiences before leaving home — or in the parks — giving them more time to explore and enjoy Walt Disney World. This can be accomplished via My Disney Experience.com or at FastPass+ kiosks located in Walt Disney World Resort theme parks.
Guests can use the free My Disney Experience mobile app to check attraction wait times, look up showtimes, make dining reservations, and see park maps.
During festivals and special events, the theme parks feature extra entertainment and excitement – included with regular admission. Several long-running events are the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (spring), Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (fall), Star Wars Weekends (spring at Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and elaborate decorations and seasonal entertainment at all four parks for the holidays.
Professional photographers with Disney’s PhotoPass service take keepsake shots of family vacations – with everyone in the picture – that can be viewed online and from which guests can order prints, customized photo albums, T-shirts, mugs and more! The photographers are stationed at prime photo spots throughout the theme parks. The guest’s MagicBand or Disney’s PhotoPass ID card (issued free) is used by the photo team to keep track of images. Additional information is available online by visiting www.disneyphotopass.com.
Here and There
The AAA Car Care Center near Magic Kingdom is a full-service automotive repair facility and provides towing service to guests on Walt Disney World property.
Quenching a day-long thirst at “the beach” is the purpose of the refillable mug offered at Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks. The souvenir mug is refillable throughout the day of purchase.
For the convenience of guests with disabilities, wheelchairs and Electric Convenience Vehicles (ECVs) are available for rent at Disney water parks and at Downtown Disney.
Prime tee times for the award-winning Walt Disney World golf courses are early in the day throughout the year, with the heaviest activity fall through spring. To avoid getting shut out, book ahead (90 days in advance for guests of Walt Disney World resorts with a resort confirmation number, 60 days in advance for day visitors with a major credit card). Less-busy times mean savings on greens fees – twilight rates mid-afternoons throughout the year and specials offered beginning mid-mornings during the summer. Check with the master starter: 407/WDW-GOLF (939-4653).
Meals and Deals
Most table-service restaurants throughout Walt Disney World Resort offer children’s menus, with kid favorites such as chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, spaghetti and meatballs, PB&J sandwiches, plus healthful options such as fresh fruit, carrot sticks and bottled water instead of soda. Call 407/WDW-DINE for dining information.
Big appetites get their fill at a variety of “all-you-care-to-eat” meals throughout Walt Disney World property. More than two dozen Disney mealtime experiences offer the proverbial “seconds” . . . and even “thirds” and “fourths” – many accompanied by a visit from those ever-popular Disney characters. 407/WDW-DINE is a good place to start the search.
Dining reservations are recommended at the full-service restaurants at Walt Disney World Resort and may be made up to 180 days in advance. Many popular restaurants frequently fill up early. To make dining arrangements: call 407/WDW-DINE (939-3463).
Eating meals either an hour before or after the “standard meal time” can avoid crowds at popular restaurants.
Shopping and Shipping
Merchandise purchases while on the go don’t have to be a burden to Walt Disney World theme park guests. There are alternatives to carrying the packages throughout the parks or Disney Springs:
- Package pickup is available at no charge. Merchandise is moved to package pickup, conveniently located near the front entrance of each park, for guests’ pickup when they are leaving the park.
- Hotel delivery is available at no charge to guests of Walt Disney World resorts. Purchases made prior to 7 p.m. will be delivered to the guest’s hotel by noon the following day. Purchases made after 7 p.m. will be at the hotel on the second day after purchase.
- Shipping is available for an additional charge at the time of purchase.
Shop the theme parks by phone or buy online after your vacation. Common scenario: Guest visits Epcot and sees the perfect gift for Auntie Rose. Guest puts the idea on “hold,” goes home . . . and is kicking himself/herself for not making the purchase. No problem. Just call 407/363-6200. Describe what you saw, and where. With the help of computers, the Attractions Merchandise Guest Services Department can locate that gift, arrange the purchase and ship it, or visit the Shop Disney Parks mobile app that offers access to thousands of products. The Guest Services Department can help with merchandise from all Walt Disney World-run shops in the theme parks. It is open weekdays except holidays.