disneyshoppingI love Disney World. I make no secret of it and I have been known to cry when the train pulls up in front of the Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning. I love Disney, and it’s magical to me. You can’t convince me or my family otherwise. Believe it or not, my family seems to calm down amidst the constant magic of Disney World. It is the measure for all successful vacations: nothing is as fun, tiring, imaginative, or inspiring as Disney World.

My family tries to go every 18 months or so. We can usually go a full 12 months before we start going into Disney World withdrawal. You think I exaggerate, but I assure you, I do not. Even my husband will sometimes look me straight in the eye and say, “How long until we go back to Disney World?” There is no higher endorsement for a vacation than that, I assure you.
Here are my best tips for you if you’re planning a Disney World vacation.

  1. Stay on property. It can be pricey, but it’s very worth it. There are three levels of hotels: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. We have stayed at
    • Port Orleans Riverside (moderate; New Orleans theme)
    • The Yacht Club (deluxe; nautical theme and best pool on property–it has a sand bottom!)
    • The Wilderness Lodge (deluxe; Grand Canyon and family resort of the 1950s theme–very Craftsman)
    • Coronado Springs (moderate; this is the so-called Convention Hotel. Most guests are adults attending various conventions being held at Disney’s many meeting centers. Very cool pool–Mayan)
    • The Polynesian (deluxe; Hawaiian theme; on the monorail so it’s very easy to get to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT)
    • The Boardwalk (deluxe; themed like the old Boardwalks of the late 1800s/early 1900s; walking distance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT)

    We loved all of them. Really, there is no bad place to stay on property. I have not stayed off-property, but my brother and some friends have. It may be less expensive to stay at a Downtown Disney (DTD) hotel or off-property, but I think you miss out on the proximity to the parks and the whimsical theming–it’s all a part of the magic.

    My favorite of the three resorts where we’ve stayed  is the Port Orleans Riverside (a moderate). It wasn’t too far from anything, and it had a boat launch to Downtown Disney that was very convenient. It’s a great resort that isn’t too spread out. Also, if you have five in your family, it’s currently the only resort on the DW property that allows five in a room (on the Bayou side). Otherwise you will have to book two rooms. FYI: Make sure when booking two rooms that you confirm they are adjoining (connecting) and not adjacent (close to), especially with kids involved.

  2. Use the Dining Plan. I definitely recommend the Dining Plan. You can use your Dining Plan for one counter service meal, one full service meal (also called Table Service), and one snack for each night you are staying at a DW resort. The full service meals can be used to eat at a character meal. You are not limited to using one of each type of meal for each day. In other words you can use all your counter services in one day, or two counter services and a table service one day. Everything is lumped together on your card and just taken off as you use it which is very convenient.  For the price (about $38/day/adult and $10/day/child), you’re getting more food than you can imagine. It definitely costs more if you go out-of-pocket. Keep in mind that it can cost more than $35 for one adult table service meal. So essentially you’re getting free food and snacks. Trust me, it will pay for itself.
  3. Make ADRs. ADR stands for Advanced Dining Reservations. You can make your ADRs 90 days from your arrival date and I highly suggest you do. Without ADRs you’ll end up waiting for a table that may never become available. First priority is given to those who have an ADR. I have even made an ADR, gotten the time wrong, showed up at the restaurant and explained myself, and was put ahead of others without an ADR.  It pays to make the ADR.  It’s an especially good idea to make your ADRs as soon as you can if you would like to eat at Cinderella’s Castle or are planning on attending a hard-ticketed event. For example, many people love to eat at The Liberty Tree Tavern just before Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Therefore it fills up fast. To ensure you have a table, you need to make your ADRs 90 days from your arrival date.
  4. Buy the Park Hopper. It isn’t that much more than a regular park pass, and the more days you are there, the cheaper it is to add a day or utilize the Park Hopper option.The Park Hopper option allows you to visit more than one park on any given day and gives you great flexibility. If you’re done with Animal Kingdom by lunch (and you very well may be) you have the option of visiting another park later in the day. Or if you’ve just had dinner and were at EPCOT all day but are close to Magic Kingdom, you can pop over to see the fireworks that night. We’ve done this several times.
  5. Plan your route. Know which park you’re going to on which day. This helps with your ADRs and also with how your day will go. I strongly suggest that you at least go to the All Ears site and look at the maps and decide what you all are interested in doing. Make a loop (start at one end and work your way around) instead of criss-crossing. Seriously, get the map and map it out.  Look at the shows and parades and decide what you want to see and when you need to be there. Understand that there is too much to do and you cannot get it all done in one trip. Don’t try! We’ve been five times and we have yet to do it all. I think you could go every year and still have something new each time.