nelson_castlePlanning a vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort is no small task. I warn you not to decide on a whim that you want to go to Disney World for the first (or even third) time and just head out the door thinking, “Plan, schman. I don’t need so stinking plan! Let life take me where it will!” If you’re going to Branson or Six Flags you can get by with that. If you’re going to Disney World, you are going to have a miserable vacation.

I say these things not to scare you, but to make a point. Walt Disney World Resort is huge. When they say Resort, don’t think of *a* hotel that offers spas, food, and fun; think of an entire country (we’re including EPCOT after all), where each city or suburb works together to make your vacation an experience. You are not visiting a hotel or theme park. You, my friend, are heading out on an adventure. Do you want to be Indiana Jones or Elmer Fudd?

To avoid being overwhelmed I suggest considering a few things and making some decisions before you delve into your planning: When do you want to go to Disney World (crowds or no crowds?); Do you want to experience a Disney party or festival; and will you stay on Disney property or off?

When do you want to go to Disney World?

The peak times for Disney World are holidays and pretty much any time school is out. Christmas Day is the busiest day of the year. If people are out of school, they’re going to be at Disney. Think about it: most people want to go when the kids won’t miss school. That means summer, spring break, and winter break. I’ve found that not only are these the most crowded times, but also the worst for weather. It’s incredibly hot and humid during the summer and cold enough for your heavy coat sometimes in December through February.

For my family, we travel to Disney World at off-peak times, usually May or October. I’ve always worked closely with my kids’ teachers so I could take the kids out of school for our vacation. They complete of their homework early, turn in projects early, and I give the school plenty of notice (several months, usually) about the dates we’ll be gone. My kids are good students so it’s never been an issue to take them out. Check with your child’s teacher(s) and work with them if you’re considering missing school for vacation.

Do you want to experience a Disney World party or festival?

There are many celebrations and attractions hosted at Walt Disney World throughout the year (e.g., Special Olympics, marathons, spring training, etc.). I suggest picking the month when you want to go, then checking to see what’s going on at Disney by checking their official calendar.

Some of the most popular events include

  • May: Flower & Garden Festival, Star Wars Weekends
  • October: Food & Wine Festival, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
  • December: Christmas Decorations (parks and resorts), Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the living Christmas tree, gospel singers and more
  • Do you want to stay on Disney property or off?

    If you don’t stay on Disney property, you’ll need a car for transportation. You’ll park at the Transportation & Ticketing Center (TTC) and take a bus or monorail to your park. It may be cheaper, but you’ll miss out on Disney Theming and proximity to the parks. You’ll also miss out on the Disney Dining Plan and Extra Magic Hours (both of which I’ll cover in later posts; suffice it to say, these are excellent values). If you want my advice, I strongly suggest staying on Disney property in a Disney hotel.

    If you’d like to stay on-property, you need to decide which level you’d like to experience: Value, Moderate, or Deluxe. These are just what they sound like: Value properties are less expensive, but further from the parks; Moderate properties are moderately priced and mid-distance from the parks; and Deluxe properties are higher priced and very close (in some cases within walking distance!) to the parks. I will discuss each of these values in later articles.

    Now what?

    So what have you achieved today? You’ve considered whether you want to visit Disney World with the great masses or at a slower time; you’ve considered whether it’s important to you to attend a specific Disney World party or festival; and you’ve thought about which hotel you’d like to stay at. Even if you haven’t made any final decisions, you have a place to start with your research. And research you must, my friend. This is no small task you undertake. On the other hand, this is no small memory you’re making either. It’s worth the time and effort.

    I’ll see you back here next week to talk about why you’ll want to stay on Walt Disney World Resort property!


    When Melanie isn’t geeking about Walt Disney World, she’s geeking out about technology over at Blogging Basics 101 where she writes tips & instructions for bloggers.