Walt Disney World Planning

Updated August 6, 2019

I get A LOT of questions about how to plan for Walt Disney World. My area of focus is Disneyland and will always be Disneyland. However, I’m visiting Walt Disney World three times in 209, and another four in 2020, so I’ll be sharing how I plan and more as these trips unfold.

My intention with sharing what I know is so that you can see what Disney World planning looks like compared to Disneyland. Furthermore, knowing how WDW works helps me guide WDW vets when planning Disneyland.

With only 3-4 visits a year, I won’t be able to cover WDW like I do Disneyland since I visit our park once a week. But, with each trip, I’ll be sharing my detailed trip reports in the same fashion as I do Disneyland.

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Discounted Tickets & Packages

I’m a big fan of Get Away Today and use them for all my travel accommodations, within Disney Parks and more. They offer the best service I’ve found in the travel industry along with great pricing and insider knowledge. Their 29 year partnership with Disney really shines through.

For discounted Disney World tickets, visit this link.

To book or discuss packages for Walt Disney World, start with one of the following:

  • Call 855.GET.AWAY toll free
  • Email Brooklyn at BColes@GetAwayToday.com

*I’ve booked three trips to WDW in the year 2019 alone with Brooklyn. She’s the best!

For WDW packages with Get Away Today, note the following:

  • This layaway plan allows you to put down only $200 to reserve your vacation.
  • Pay the trip off at your leisure, as long as you complete the balance within 45 days of traveling.
  • Take advantage of Free Dining, Sun & Fun, and other promotions offered via Disney when you book with Get Away Today.

Just like Disneyland, using Get Away Today to book your WDW trip doesn’t cost any more than what you would pay directly with Disney. However, Get Away Today will help you personally with more planning than I’m able to do here in this post. They will guide you with information on making dining reservations, FastPass+, and so much more.

2019 Visits

January 2019 – BoardWalk Inn

April 2019 – Coronado Springs

July 2019 – Pop Century

October 2019 – Caribbean Beach

2020 Visits

January 2020 – Old Key West

March 2020 – off-site

June/July 2020 – off-site

November 2020 – Port Orleans French Quarter

My First Visit

I was CLUELESS during my first visit. It’s really intimidating to visit Disney World after Disneyland. The two resorts are so different and the sheer size of WDW is monstrous compared to Disneyland.

This post shares all about that trip. It was crazy, magical fun. But, I have learned a lot since then. 

Disneyland vs Walt Disney World

There’s so much to know.

For a general overview, start with this:

Disneyland consists of 500 acres. Within those acres, we have 2 theme parks and 3 Disney Resort Hotels. Because Disneyland is immersed in the city of Anaheim, good neighbor hotels play an important role. Many guests stay off-site at Disneyland, unlike Disney World. The two parks here face each other and just about everything at the Disneyland Resort is in walking distance. Disneyland has Downtown Disney with shops and restaurants nearby.

This link takes you to Disneyland’s official website.

Disney World consists of almost 30,000 acres. Within what is essentially the size of San Francisco, Disney World has 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, and dozens of Disney Resort Hotels. It’s a city all its own. The majority of guests stay on-site at WDW, unlike Disneyland. WDW has several pricing tiers within their hotels that allow almost everyone to experience staying on-site. Disney World has Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk, with shops and restaurants in both.

This link takes you to Disney World’s official website.

When to Visit Disney World & How Many Days to Include

When to Go

Just like Disneyland, Disney World is truly crowded year round now. I’ve visited once in June and will be doing so again this summer 2018. I have told a few people this and they were all, “WHAT???? It’s so crowded then.” My response is always, “Right. Like all the other months in the calendar.”

Disney Parks – on both coasts – are more popular than ever. And, they require a lot of income to keep them running as they do and in their pristine condition. So, if Disney predicts a lull in attendance, it will find a reason for guests to visit, be it via discounts, Free Dining, or added entertainment. Be prepared for the crowds and then pleasantly surprised if you encounter a slow day.

With that in mind, here is a rundown of what you can expect throughout the year. I’ve shared notes on each month with the high/low average temperatures listed first.

January – 72/52 – the first week is busy as Holidays at WDW wraps up; after Holidays, kids are in school, so crowds are a bit more tame; shorter park hours

February – 74/53 – similar to January; President’s Day weekend is busy; kids are in school, so crowds are a bit more tame; shorter park hours

March – 78/57 – crowds are more present for spring break travelers from around the country; check the calendar for Mardi Gras week, too, as it brings in crowds; mild-ish temperatures; longer park hours

April – 83/63 – crowds are more present for spring break travelers from around the country; mild-ish temperatures; longer park hours

May – 88/69 – crowds dip at bit between spring break and summer break; Memorial Day weekend is busy; temperatures are rising; long park hours

June – 90/73 – crowds are high; temperatures are high; park hours are longest during June, July and August

July – 92/75 – crowds are high; temperatures are high; park hours are longest during June, July and August

August – 91/75 – crowds are high; temperatures are high; park hours are longest during June, July and August; Halloween Parties start this month

September – 89/74 – slightly lower crowds; Labor Day weekend is busy; kids are back in school; temperatures are still high; park hours are shorter than summer; Halloween Parties continue this month

October – 84/68 – crowds are back for Halloween; temperatures are still high; park hours are extended again; Halloween Parties continue this month

November – 78/59 – crowds are high; kids are out of school for Veterans Day weekend, fall break and Thanksgiving; park hours are long; Christmas Parties start this month

December – 73/54 – crowds are high; kids are out of school for winter break; park hours are long; Christmas Parties continue this month

How Many Days to Include in Your Trip

A 7 day trip is ideal for Disney World. This would include a travel day to start with, 5 days at Disney World, and then a final travel day. Within the 5 days not traveling, visit 2 parks, take a break day at the hotel, and then visit 2 more parks.

If this is your first trip, I recommend visiting each park. I certainly have my favorites, but I think guests should see all the parks to determine their own.

Have more time? Awesome. Try to schedule one or two park days….then a break day…..and then resume park days. Three days in the heat and busyness of Disney World can feel really overwhelming for a lot of guests.

Park Hopper tickets are ideal and go on sale more often than one-park-per-day tickets. Visit this link for discounted WDW tickets.

Where to Stay at Walt Disney World

This post shares all about resorts at Walt Disney World.

Check it out for:

  • Perks of staying On-Site
  • Where I have stayed
  • Future hotel stays
  • My favorite properties and why

MagicBands

Walt Disney World uses MagicBands and I love them! Unlock your hotel room door, scan for entrance to the park, redeem FastPasses, make purchases and more with your MagicBand.

Guests who stay at a WDW Resort Hotel receive these bands with their vacation package. Guests staying off site may pay for their bands and attach theme park tickets to them to be used for park entry and FastPasses, but that’s about it.

Click here to see how your MagicBand arrives at your home.

For more on MagicBands, visit this link.

Dining at Walt Disney World

Head on over to this dedicated post detailing dining at Walt Disney World.

Find info on reservations, dining plans, mobile ordering, character meals, and dining packages.

I also link up to MANY dining reviews from my visits. Go see!

FastPass+ 

Instead of Classic FASTPASS or MaxPass at Disneyland, Disney World has FastPass+. This system allows guests to book FastPasses well before arriving at the parks. Guests staying at a WDW Resort Hotel may book their passes 60 days out. Guests staying at off-site hotels may book their passes 30 days out.

A few notes:

  • FastPasses are included in your price of admission.
  • When your booking date arrives, you will select 3 FastPasses per day.
  • FastPasses are available for attractions, shows and character meets.
  • When you select your 3 FastPasses for the day, they must all be at the same park.
  • You will select them online or on the My Disney Experience app.
  • Guests staying at a WDW Resort Hotel may select FastPasses 60 days out.
  • Guests staying off-site may select them 30 days out.
  • You may start your selections at 7:00am EST on your eligible day.
  • Changes can be made after you choose your FastPasses, however, you likely won’t find what you did on your first eligible day.
  • Once you redeem your 3 FastPasses (or the return times expire for those attractions), you may select one FastPass at a time for the remainder of your day. Those subsequent FastPasses do not have to made at the park you visited with the 3 FastPasses.
  • When choosing your 3 per day, you may select them from ‘tiers’, depending on which park you’re visiting. This limits guests from selecting the most popular attractions for all 3 options. I’ve shared the tiers per park, below.
  • I’ve shared my suggested first choice picks for each park, too. These picks are based on the popularity of the attractions. I’ve also chosen them for guests who are familiar with Disneyland, but not WDW. For example, Hollywood Studios has Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and Disneyland does not. So, I would choose that over Toy Story Midway Mania, which we have at the Disneyland Resort.
  • My picks are also suited for a range of ages. Visit this link to review height restrictions. Use the filters to narrow down your options per park to suit your crew’s interests, height, etc.
  • While most WDW guests use the My Disney Experience app, there are kiosks located throughout all parks for you to make your selections.

FastPass attractions at each park:

Magic Kingdom

*No tiers at this park. Choose 3 from the list.

  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Jungle Cruise
  • it’s a small world
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Splash Mountain
  • Barnstormer
  • Big Thunder Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo
  • Mad Tea Party (teacups)
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
  • Space Mountain
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Character meet – Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater
  • Character meet – Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater
  • Character meet – Ariel at her Grotto
  • Character meet – Cinderella and Elena at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Character meet – Rapunzel and Tiana at Princess Fairytale Hall

My FastPass+ first choice suggestions for Magic Kingdom

  • Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Peter Pan’s Flight

Epcot

Tier 1 (choose one)

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Test Track

Tier 2 (choose two)

  • Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Mission: SPACE – Orange (super intense) or Green (lower key)
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • Living with the Land

My FastPass+ first choice suggestions for Epcot

  • Test Track (or Frozen Ever After)
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Living with the Land

Animal Kingdom

Tier 1 (choose one)

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Na’vi River Journey

Tier 2 (choose two)

  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • Festival of the Lion King
  • DINOSAUR
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Rivers of Light
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Primeval Whirl
  • Character meet – Disney Pals at Adventurers Outpost
  • UP! A Great Bird Adventure

My FastPass+ first choice suggestions for Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris

Hollywood Studios

Tier 1 (choose one)

  • Toy Story Midway Mania
  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Slinky Dog Dash

Tier 2 (choose two)

  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Disney Junior Dance Party!
  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
  • Fantasmic!
  • Muppet Vision 3D
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

My FastPass+ first choice suggestions for Hollywood Studios

  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
  • Tower of Terror

Single Rider Lines

Unlike the Disneyland Resort with nine Single Rider lines, Walt Disney World only has three. Find those here:

  • Epcot – Test Trac
  • Animal Kingdom – Expedition Everest
  • Hollywood Studios – Rock’n’ Roller Coaster

Here’s an easy way to remember them – They all have double letters in their titles. TT, EE, and RR.

Seasons at Walt Disney World

Halloween and Christmas are busy times at WDW, just like Disneyland. What’s different? WDW hosts both a Halloween Party and a Christmas Party, where as Disneyland only hosts a Halloween Party.

Both parties require each guest to pay an additional ticket price to attend the party. The events include entertainment and perks that you won’t find during non-party days such as parades, themed fireworks, lower attraction wait times, trick-or-treating or hot cocoa/cookies, etc. While the Halloween Parties at Disneyland throw guests into a panic to plan around, the parties on the calendar at WDW seem less critical since there are 3 other parks to visit on nights that Magic Kingdom closes early for the parties.

More on each season:

Halloween – Dates and tickets for the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party are typically announced in March of each year. Book them asap, as they do sell out. WDW Halloween parties run from August – October and have a significant impact on the calendar. (There are 34 party nights in 2018.)

Christmas – Dates and tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are typically announced in March of each year. Book them asap, as they do sell out. WDW Christmas parties run during November and December. (There are 22 party nights in 2018.)

Seasonal Notes

  • I attended the second Christmas party of the year during my November 2018 visit. I’ve attended one before that, too. They’re fun! After hours parties are a great way to see seasonal entertainment and enjoy lower attraction lines.
  • Disneyland vets might feel short changed when attending a Christmas party at WDW. At Disneyland, we are lucky enough to enjoy almost everything WDW has at their parties during a regular park day at no additional cost. This includes the Christmas Fantasy Parade, seasonal fireworks, seasonal World of Color, etc. 

Transportation at Walt Disney World

While Disneyland Resort is small enough for guests to walk to nearly every destination, Walt Disney World requires different forms of transportation.

The following can be found at WDW:

Magical Express bus – If you’re staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, you can take advantage of the Magical Express bus from/to the airport. All resort hotels, minus the Swan and Dolphin, use this service. Another benefit of using the Magical Express is their luggage service. A few weeks before your departure you’ll receive Disney luggage tags in the mail. If you choose to use this service, put a tag on your checked luggage and Disney will take it directly to your hotel room, generally within a few hours. No stop at baggage claim! Just be sure to keep any important things with you in a carry-on bag. You can also take the Magical Express back to the airport at the end of your trip.

Monorails – There are three monorail loops. Anyone visiting WDW can use the monorail system. The Magic Kingdom resort loop stops at Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). There is an express monorail that only goes between Magic Kingdom and the TTC and another express monorail that goes between the TTC and Epcot. The Epcot monorail gives you some lovely views of that park.

Buses – For anyone staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, you may choose to use the extensive bus system on property. Buses go to/from all Disney Resort Hotels to all parks and water parks, plus Disney Springs. You can also take buses between the parks or from the parks to/from Disney Springs. Buses do not run between resorts. Generally, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 20 minutes for a bus. Bus service from resort hotels begins 45 minutes prior to that park opening and runs until 2 hours after that park’s closing time. Bus service from Disney Springs runs until 2:00 am.

Boats – There are several boat options at WDW. It’s a fun change! You can take a ferry boat from the TTC to Magic Kingdom and back, which is a nice ride if you don’t want to use the monorail. Water taxis to Magic Kingdom are available from the following resorts: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. There is a separate water taxi system that runs from the Boardwalk area resorts to/from both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Those boats stop at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and the Swan and Dolphin Hotels. Disney Springs is accessible by boat from Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside hotels, Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.

Minnie Vans – The Minnie Van service is run through the Lyft app and is available to anyone, anywhere on WDW property. They also now provide service to and from the Orlando Airport. It can be more pricey, but is a fun option and often much quicker than waiting for a bus if you’re on a time crunch. Each Minnie Van can seat up to 6 people and has 2 car seats available. This service runs from 6:30 am to 12:30 am daily. Visit this link for my review from WDW.

Uber/Lyft – Regular Uber and Lyft services are also available on WDW property. Usually a bit cheaper than Minnie Van, and can be a convenient option if you need to get somewhere quicker than waiting for a bus or boat.

Some tips on Transportation:

  • Remember that Walt Disney World is HUGE. Plan on an hour to get anywhere, just to be safe.
  • If you’re low on time, Minnie Van/Lyft or Uber is a great option. I often use them if I’m going from one resort to another, usually for a dining reservation. It’s much easier than taking a bus to a park and transferring to another mode of transportation.
  • Sometimes Uber or Lyft also makes sense when going from park to park. For instance, I’ve used it to go from Magic Kingdom to Epcot because I wanted to be at the back of Epcot, rather than enter through the front. I took Uber from the Contemporary Resort to the Beach Club Resort and walked to Epcot through the International Gateway. It comes in right near the France Pavilion.
  • If using Uber or Lyft at Magic Kingdom, they must drop off and pick up at the TTC. However, the Minnie Vans can go right up to to the bus area at the front of the park because they are run by Disney. All other parks have a passenger drop off near the entrance to the park. Note: as of January 2019, there is some construction going on in the parking lot of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so the passenger pick up and drop off area may change.
  • Note that no luggage or alcohol of any kind are allowed on Disney buses or boats.

Magical Express

Since we don’t have a comparable option at Disneyland, the Magical Express is seriously one of my favorite parts of the trip.

This link shares lots about it.

How to Take Your Baby to Walt Disney World

Visit this link to find all of the accommodations at WDW to meet your baby’s needs. Each of the four theme parks has a fantastic Baby Care Center that will help so much with your trip.

I strongly encourage you to consider the temperatures at WDW when you visit with your infant or toddler. The heat and humidity is significant, depending on when you visit, and can certainly affect your child. 3/4 of my WDW trips included temperatures in the 100s. Those 3 visits were in June (obviously), September, and November. It really can be super hot there any time of the year.

I recommend Traveling Baby for stroller rentals at WDW, just as I do for guests visiting Disneyland. They deliver to your hotel and have a huge selection of not only strollers, but also pack-n-plays, feeding essentials, humidifiers, etc, etc. Disney World visits are typically longer than Disneyland, so those baby/child essentials will be greatly needed in your hotel room. Use code DLR10 for 10% off your purchase. Find Traveling Baby at this link.

How to Take Your Prince and Princess to Disney World

First, find the dress. Disney World guests GO ALL OUT with their dresses. If you want to make a statement, I recommend renting a dress from Fairy Godmother Couture. These costumes are worth hundreds of dollars and are nothing short of amazing. I share all about how this system works at this link. (My daughter, Lainey, wore one of her dresses, so we tried out the process start to finish.) It’s so easy to do, as the cleaning is handled by Fairy Godmother. Reserve your dress (or costume – she has more than just dresses) at this link and use code DLR15 at checkout to save 15% off your rental.

If your child is more casual, grab a super comfy dress from Bitts and Pieces. We love these, too, as they’re made from soft t-shirts and don’t itch or cause kids to fuss. (I can’t guarantee your little one won’t fuss at WDW simply because she’s wearing one of these dresses. But, it’s a good start.) Unlike many princess dresses from Target and such, these dresses can be worn on their own, instead of over clothes, as I recommend with the others. This helps on hot days for sure. She carries adult dresses and embroidered shirts, too. Find Bitts and Pieces at this link.

Essential Princess Experiences

The following list includes popular options for princes and princesses at Disney World.

Cinderella’s Royal Table – Dine inside Cinderella Castle for this royal feast, which many consider to be the best of all princess experiences. Make a reservation for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Akershush Royal Banquet Hall – Located in Norway in the World Showcase section of Epcot, this princess character meal is a huge hit. Make a reservation for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Enchanted Tales with Belle – Find this storytelling (and much more) experience in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. Consider this as one of your FastPass+ selections when choosing for this park.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – Similar to Disneyland’s BBB, this version is more elaborate and has a much larger boutique for makeovers. There are two locations – inside Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom and at the Once Upon a Toy store in Disney Springs. I recommend the castle option. Lainey, my daughter, has done makeovers at both Disneyland and WDW and was in awe of WDW’s version. That could have certainly been due to the newness of it after several experiences at Disneyland, but I think the sheer layout of the boutique and the fact that it was in the castle (so exotic for Disneyland vets) was thrilling for her. This experience is open to guests 3-12 years old. Make reservations for it 180 days out by calling (407) WDW-STYLE or (407) 939-7895.

Magic Kingdom

The main idea:

This is the “Disneyland” of Disney World. It includes a similar layout to Disneyland, mostly parallel lands (with one exclusion and one change), and the overall feel of Disney magic.

Lands:

  • Main Street, U.S.A
  • Frontierland
  • Adventureland
  • Fantasyland (and “New” Fantasyland)
  • Tomorrowland
  • Liberty Square

Links to recent visits with tips for your trip:

January 2018

January 2018

June 2018

February 2019

February 2019

April 2019 – Comparison to Disneyland

April 2019 – Easter Bunnies

April 2019 – Little John!

July 2019 – Walkthrough

My thoughts on this park: After a few visits, this became my second favorite park. I enjoy it very much and love to compare what it has to offer to Disneyland. For most, this feels like the park to start and/or finish a trip at. I like that idea, too, although, I have grown to enjoy Epcot more.

Epcot

The main idea: Epcot combines new and old in one park. Walk into Future World to start your visit and then make your way back to World Showcase. This park is the most culturally diverse and hosts a festival of some sort during nearly every month of the year.

Sections:

  • Future World covers the front of Epcot and includes 8 pavilions. Innovative uses for technology and science, this part of the park appeals to many. Not me! That’s for smart people. (Just kidding. I enjoy it and have a favorite attraction here, which is Living with the Land).
  • World Showcase covers the back of Epcot and includes 11 countries. Each country offers dining, entertainment, and shopping. Some have attractions. Cast members within each country are from that country, which brings a wonderful, authentic feel to this area.

Links to my most recent visits with tips for your trip:

January 2018

January 2018

January 2018

June 2018

February 2019

February 2019

February 2019

February 2019

April 2019 – Flower and Garden Festival

My thoughts on this park: This is my favorite. I absolutely love to explore the countries in World Showcase and could wander for days taking photos and noticing all the details. I don’t spend too much time at the front of the park, but instead focus on the countries.

Animal Kingdom

The main idea: Animal Kingdom takes two favorites for many guests and combines them into one. Zoo + Theme Park = Animal Kingdom. See animals in gorgeous habitats, enjoy attractions, see shows, dine, shop and more.

Lands:

  • Pandora – The World of Avatar
  • Oasis
  • Discovery Island
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  • DinoLand U.S.A.

Links to my most recent visits with tips for your trip:

January 2018

January 2018 (Pandora at night)

February 2019

July 2019

My thoughts on this park: After a tough visit on our first trip to Disney World, Animal Kingdom is now my third favorite. Although it always feels hotter than the others, this park’s theming is so lovely. Like Epcot, I could wander here for days taking photos.

Hollywood Studios

The main idea: Does anyone know?

Another joke! I kid, I kid!

This park has seen a lot of transition over the years and feels like it’s still working on finding its identity. Similar to what California Adventure used to feel like, Hollywood Studios combines several different themes into one park.

Lands:

  • Hollywood Blvd
  • Echo Lake
  • Grand Avenue
  • Pixar Place
  • Animation Courtyard
  • Sunset Blvd
  • Toy Story Land
  • Star Wars Land (opening August 29, 2019)

Links to my most recent visits with tips for your trip:

January 2018 – Star Wars Galactic Spectacular fireworks

July 2019 – Rope Drop and a walk through

My thoughts on this park: My least favorite of the four, but there’s some tough competition here. I’m learning to like it more and really enjoyed my most recent visit.

Disney Springs

Disney Springs is a shopping and dining district at Disney World. This area includes lots to do on your first or last day or any break days you might have.

Dine at Ragland Road, visit The Edison (sans kids) for a cocktail and show, enjoy sushi at Morimoto Asia, etc, etc. There are 56 dining options to choose from.

Shop at Goofy’s Candy Company, The Marketplace Co-Op (my favorite), Once Upon a Toy and more. There are 108 shops here.

You can do a lot at Disney Springs, too. Bowl at Splitsville, see a movie at the AMC Theater, and take in live entertainment throughout the district. Have you ever seen photos of what looks like a hot air balloon at Disney World? It’s here and it’s called Aerophile. There is also a Star Wars experience called Secrets of the Empire by ILMXLAB and the Void. Find those activities and more at Disney Springs.

So, here’s where we might disagree. I don’t love Disney Springs. It’s wonderful for those guests who don’t have these shops at home. It’s also great for guests who have several off days to explore. And, it’s beautifully put together. But, the shops and dining experiences are becoming more and more mainstream than in the past. There are some treasures here. Don’t misunderstand me. But, I would check out what your options are before committing. If you have limited off days, spend more time at your resort.

Disney’s BoardWalk

Or, consider checking out Disney’s BoardWalk. I love this little area that holds similar options to Disney Springs, but on a MUCH smaller scale. I’m hoping to stay at the BoardWalk Inn, located here, on a future visit.

Visit this link to see photos from one of my recent visits for all you can find at Disney’s Boardwalk.

Disneyland vs Disney World

Let’s cover some basics when comparing the two parks.

  • Disney World – book dining 180 days out; Disneyland – book dining 60 days out
  • Disney World – uses FastPass+; Disneyland – uses Classic FASTPASS or MaxPass
  • Disney World has magic bands; Disneyland does not have magic bands
  • Disney World hosts a Halloween Party and a Christmas Party; Disneyland only has a Halloween Party
  • Disney World has the option to use a dining plan; Disneyland does not have a dining plan option
  • Disney World typically has much higher temperatures and lots of humidity; Disneyland has more moderate temperatures and less humidity
  • Disney World sees rain (usually at least an afternoon shower) often daily; Disneyland rarely has rain
  • Disney World characters are mostly set up in designated areas and stick to a predictable schedule and routine; Disneyland characters often roam the parks – with or without cast members attending them and have schedules that change daily
  • Disney World publishes park hours at least 6 months out; Disneyland publishes them the day before you arrive (Kidding! Disneyland aims for 60 days out, but we typically see hours on the calendar around 6 weeks out.)
  • Disney World grad nites come and go; Disneyland hosts grad nites yearly and they’re a big hit
  • Disney World guests are generally a bit more casually dressed in comparison to Disneyland; Disneyland guests are more into Dapper Day and often dress up for random park visits
  • Disney World has a smaller amount of Annual Passholders; Disneyland has a significant amount of Annual Passholders, who are a big part of the Disneyland culture
  • Disney World offers Magical Express, which is super popular and highly recommended; Disneyland offers the Disneyland Express, which I don’t recommend (use Lansky instead)

Here are a few differences that aren’t essential for planning, but will likely get you corrected if unknown when speaking to Disney-fluent people:

  • Disney World is two words; Disneyland is one
  • Disney World was completed after Walt Disney passed away; Disneyland is the only Disney park that Walt ever walked through
  • Disney World hosts the Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP); Disneyland hosts Oogie Boogie’s Bash at California Adventure

Tours

Walt Disney World offers several tours at an additional cost to your theme park ticket.

This link shares a list of options.

Go here to see photos from my experience at the Behind the Seeds Tour in February 2019. Recommend!

Go here for a review of the Caring for Giants Tour at Animal Kingdom in April 2019.

The Florida Keys

Most people flock to Clearwater or other nearby beaches to relax after a trip to WDW.

Not us! On our first family trip, we decided to visit the Florida Keys. At that time, it was to be our “one and only trip to Disney World”, so we chose to take advantage of being across the country. I’m a huge Hemingway fan, so off we went.

It’s about 7 hours south of Orlando and worth every mile it takes to drive to it. We loved it so much that we returned on our second family trip in 2018. After renting a car in Orlando, we set off for a stop first in Key Largo to snorkel and then finished on Key West Island.

Key West is all my tropical dreams come true. The island is only 3 miles x 4 miles, leaving everything only a bike ride away. I love its rich history and quirky residents. If San Diego were not so perfect, I would be tempted with settling in Key West.

The following posts share lots of info from our most recent trip:

  • Key Largo – Hampton Inn with huge iguanas and dinner by the water
  • Bike tour – Key West Island from my bike
  • Casa Marina – arrival
  • Casa Marina – A continued tour of our favorite Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Mallory Square, and the 4th of July
  • Hemingway! – A tour of the Hemingway House, the Key West Lighthouse, and my favorite brunch on the island – Blue Haven

Companies I Recommend for Your Trip

I’m proud to partner with many fantastic companies committed to making Disney trips more magical. Most of the companies I include on my list serve both Disneyland and Disney World.

Visit this link for info on everyone else that can help with your visit. Shop for the cutest t-shirts, princess dresses, park bags & clever see-through interior bags, Minnie ears with comfy headbands, Disney inspired candles, and super discounted gear for kids, including ponchos. Also! My recommendation for stroller rentals is included. Several of these companies have shared discount codes with Disneyland Daily readers, so look for those, too.

Notes

  • As mentioned above, this post will be updated often, so check back for lots of info from my upcoming visits.
  • If you’re totally overwhelmed with Disney World, know that you’re not alone. It pretty much terrified me for the first couple of visits. After four trips, I feel much better about planning.
  • Having a hard time choosing between Disneyland and Disney World? Visit this link to see what I suggest.
Take a look at how Get Away Today can help with your vacation

16 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Casey! We cannot wait to visit wdw again! It’s been 19 years! I’ve looked but I cannot find your hotel (offsite and on) recommendations. We are using Marriot rewards and there are many options!
    Thanks and keep up the great work!

  2. Hi Casey!
    I follow you on Facebook, I’m sure you have already mentioned this before but I cannot find it….. so I’m going to ask you here 🙂
    What schedule/plan would you suggest for WDW for little ones?
    Would your DisneyLand one work for Magic Kingdom, I guess the layout might be different so I don’t want to chance it.
    They are young, almost 4 years old (boy) and 2 years old (Girl).
    Would you think Animal Kingdom would be good for them, more interactive?
    Can’t wait to hear from you!
    Rebecca

    • Hi, Rebecca.

      My plans won’t work for WDW, unfortunately. Magic Kingdom has several variations and the FastPass+ system is totally different compared to Disneyland. Definitely read up on that prior to visiting. I have a section for it in this post.

      Animal Kingdom is lovely! There’s plenty for kids to do there, too.

      Scroll down to where I detail each park and click on the links that take you to my Facebook posts, which share even more. Hopefully that can help you decide on parks.

      You have such fun ahead! Please let me know what other questions come up.

  3. What did you think of staying off site versus on site? Did it make it more difficult or take longer to get to the parks? We are first timers going end of March/beginning of April 2019.

  4. Patiently waiting for the transportation section to be filled out……

    Family trip in January and we are staying off site (HGVC Orlando at Tuscany) and renting a car. We’ll have 8 adults, 4 toddlers (under the age of 5).

    Enjoy everything you write!

  5. Love your DL posts, and loved your FB posts from WDW! This post hits home for me, as I grew up on the east coast going to WDW from infancy. My family even relocated to Florida when I was a pre-teen, which meant we visited even more frequently. But since I graduated college more than 20 years ago, the west coast—and now DLR—are home. Comparing WDW to DLR is like choosing between my children! I go to DLR quite often (at least once a season) and have an annual pass, but only make it to WDW every few years. My parents still live in Florida, so we try to squeeze in some magic whenever we can, even if it’s just the water parks or Disney Springs—there’s so much to do!

    We’re going for a quick and dirty two-day WDW trip in early June for the fist time since 2014 when FP+ was new, and I had to do the 4am PDT fastpass pull during the week. Brutal. Makes me appreciate MaxPass so much! As we have only two days, we’re focusing on Animal Kingdom and Epcot, those being the two more unique parks to WDW. Epcot has always been my favorite, and I remember so well our first visit when that park opened, as well as learning about Walt’s original vision for the “experimental prototype community of tomorrow.” I still mourn the loss of Horizons!

    I agree with everything you say about Hollywood Studios, and I tend to bristle when people coming to DLR remark that DCA is just like it, as DCA has really come into its own and is a vastly superior, much more cohesive park than HS (though I do love lots of things at HS; just not the park as a whole experience). But Animal Kingdom has grown on me. Upon my first visit after opening, I thought, “In your face, Busch Gardens? There’s Mickey in a safari hat!” But on our last visit we discovered that Expedition Everest is an amazing coaster ( ! ), Festival of the Lion King is not to be missed and we came to appreciate AK more for its wildlife awareness and environmental messages. This trip, we’re really looking forward to Pandora and the new nighttime entertainment. I’m glad to see it’s becoming more of a fuller day park.

    To make this long story longer, I always sum up for people who ask me that I feel DLR is just “easier.” You can’t go wrong with Walt’s original Magic Kingdom and two parks across the street from each other! I get a bit nostalgic for the spontaneity that WDW allowed before the FP+ system, and am grateful it still exists at DLR. But WDW does provide an incredible, all-encompassing and unique experience, and the planner in me gets so much satisfaction from the process of a WDW trip. Both resorts are magical and I won’t ever turn down a chance to visit either of them! And really, the basics are still the same no matter which resort you choose. Do your research, know what you want to do, arrive early and have fun! Oh, and eat all the food!

    Keep up the great work, Casey! Enjoy your upcoming WDW (and DLR) adventures!

  6. “Disney World publishes park hours at least 6 months out; Disneyland publishes them the day before you arrive” Bahaha. This is so true. When I first made Disneyland my home park after years of WDW, I felt like they would never post the calendar. Now that I’m planning a return trip to WDW after 6 years, all I can think is, “Why do they have to do everything so early? Who can plan this far in advance?” Thanks so much for all this info. So much has changed since I’ve been there, and it’s nice to have a starting point for planning.

  7. you did a fantastic job my friend! 🙂 I love that you recommend Test Trak as a fast pass as so many people don’t realize the crazy amount of time that ride is out of operation – mechanical, rain, you name it! So by having a fast pass you are insured a ride vs. running there first thing in the morning and finding it down. So frustrating!
    And if you mentioned this already and I missed it, I apologize, but I just wanted to point out with Fast Passes if you can’t find the ride you want – try booking it one person at a time. I have a lot of luck this way.

    Your return time will overlap at some point and that is the time to ride as a group.
    And I am surprised your group didn’t like the Via Napoli pizza! To us that is our FAVORITE!!!!I am eating there twice next week and I am also the lunatic responsible for someone not being able to get a Be Our Guest REseration b/c I eat ALL THREE MEALS there on Magic Kingdom Day! LOL !

    • Good tip! Thanks, Melissa. And thank you or the kind words.

      My kids think Little Caesar’s is fine dining. Via Napoli was totally lost on them. :/

      So glad we now know who to blame for the lack of Be Our Guest reservations.

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