Planning a Disney World Vacation: Part 4

(Looking for parts ONE, TWO and THREE?)

When to book and how long should we go??

(I decided not to break this section down, as everyone needs to decide these two things and there isn’t too much to think about)

When should you book your trip?  Well, if you have the money set aside… what are you waiting for??  🙂  Just kidding!  But, you should know that there are benefits to booking a Disney trip far in advance.

If this is your dream trip and you want to do the best character meals or the most popular restaurants while you are there, then you need to book your trip more than 180 days in advance.  Disney opens up dining reservations 180 days prior to the first date of your trip.  If you’re looking for hard to get reservations, you’ll need to be online when they open up.  (Click here for more info on how to do that). Otherwise, if you are inside that 180 day window, but you still want to do some sit-down dining, you will be fine.  Just be flexible with restaurant options and times and you can find plenty of awesome choices a few months out.

If you are planning on staying onsite, you should book AT LEAST 60 days ahead of your trip.  This way you are booked and ready to go when Fastpasses for your trip are available.  (More on those later!)  If you’re staying offsite, your FastPass window opens up 30 days ahead of your trip.  

If you’re winging it, just make sure you’re not showing up during one of the busiest times of the year! 🙂


When we first decided to go to disney World in 2013, I looked into the other Orlando attractions as well (There are SO MANY!!!!), but as I’ve mentioned before… it became clear to me early on in the planning, if we really wanted to experience Disney, we should spend the whole week there.  This time is no different.  In fact, we’re adding an extra day!  Ultimately, this question has to do with many factors: Budget, vacation time, age of kids (and adults) that are going, what time of year, what do you want to accomplish… the list goes on.  I would say, if you are taking a trip solely to go to Disney, you should do a 4 full day minimum.  That way you don’t have to skip any of the 4 main parks.  You can find all kinds of info on how to squeeze everything into a shorter amount of time, but I don’t like to be too rushed and feel like I missed out on a lot of things after my vacation is over.  I’d say 6-8 days is ideal, and after that, the more days the merrier, right?  There is no way you will run out of things to do, so stay as long as you can!

BUDGET: I do have to say, if value is a priority, the more days you stay, the cheaper the ticket price is to go to the parks.  For example, a 1-day pass to Magic Kingdom is $105!  But, the more days you add, the cheaper it gets.  By the time you get to 10 days, it averages out to $40/day.  

Here are a few comparisons for you as far as cost and length of trip:

For a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids under 10) staying at a moderate resort in February 2017-

4 nights (Fri-Tues) in Standard View Room with 5 day base tickets to WDW = $2302

5 nights (Fri-Wed) in Standard View Room with 6 day base tickets to WDW = $2607

6 nights (Fri-Thurs) in Standard View Room with 7 day base tickets to WDW = $2889

7 nights (Fri- Fri) in Standard View Room with 8 day base tickets to WDW = $3208

Depending on the day, it’s about $200-$300 per night to add a day/night on to your trip.  This includes a weekend and is at a mid-level priced resort.  You can get cheaper prices by going Sun- Friday, for example, or choosing a Value resort.

If you’re thinking of staying off site, purchasing tickets alone for a family of 4 (2 Adults, 2 kids under 10) would be $1320 for 5 day tickets (1 park per day) up to $1480 for 8 day tickets (1 park for day).  Remember to calculate hotel, transportation and parking in your cost comparison if you’re looking into off-site options.

Other things to think about:

  • How old are your kids?  If you are traveling to Disney with a 1 and a 3 year old, you probably aren’t going to go and trek through a park everyday for 10 days!  If you have older kids, they sometimes enjoy afternoons at the pool as much as days at the park, so make you build in days for that!  If your kids are teens, then most of the rides they’ll want to ride will have the longest lines… be prepared!
  • How often do you go on vacation?  When we do family trips to Wisconsin Dells with my Brother-in-law, he always wanted to stay at least 6 nights because it took him a few days to get into “vacation mode” so he wanted to go long enough to enjoy it.  If you take lots of short trips, then maybe you’ll try out Disney for a few short days and then go again in the next year or so.
  • What do you want to do there?  If one kid is princess obsessed while the other is an adrenaline junkie, you’ll want to do some meet and greets with characters and thrill rides.  Those all take time.  Are you a foodie and you want to try all the new restaurants in Disney Springs?  Do you kids LOVE waterparks so you HAVE to take a day to go to a Disney water park?  Make sure you have a general idea of what you want to do before making a general plan.

The general rule of thumb is at least 1 day per park, but you could easily spend 2 days in both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, 1 day in Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom as well as time at waterparks, Disney Springs, and even a day playing and checking out your resort!

This trip we are planning for 2 days in MK, 3 partial days in EPCOT, 1 day in AK and HS and time to chill at hotels or do some extra time on our favorite rides in each park.  We do lots of planning, but keep it flexible to fit our current moods, how we’re handling the heat of Florida in August, etc.

No matter how long you plan to stay, make sure you go with realistic expectations and have an overall daily plan.

Up Next: Staying onsite vs. offsite!



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