Disney World Castle

Planning A Disney World Trip

Are you thinking about planning a Disney World trip?  Don’t know where to start?  Probably not and that is totally okay.  In this post we will break down the steps of how to plan a Disney World vacation and get you on your way.

Planning a Disney World trip is a lot of work!  It isn’t a trip you want to wait till the last minute and wing.  Some people plan their trips a year in advance.  This might sound crazy if you are new to Disney but if you want to stay at a specific place or want a hard to get reservation, it is sometimes necessary to plan that far ahead.

Now, if this is your first time at Disney, don’t worry about it.  We will get you on the right track to have an amazing experience.  

Obviously, we all have different preferences and budgets.  This post will hopefully give you an overview and lead you in the right direction. 

One thing is for certain Disney is expensive and you want this trip to be magical! 

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Choosing a Date for Disney World

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Choosing the dates that work for you is your first step.   It is actually one of the most important parts of the planning process.  If you are flexible you can pick a date range and look for good deals on airline tickets or be open if Disney runs a promotion. 

Once you pick your date you can start looking for good deals on flights. 

Booking Your Flight to Orlando

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One of the most important parts of planning a Disney World trip is booking flights. Most people unless you live near Disney World will need to fly into Orlando, Florida.  

Orlando has an international airport with many direct flights.  It is a large airport. The airport itself gets you excited about your Disney Trip.  There are Disney images and stores located in the main part of the airport.

Getting To Disney World

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There used to be a wonderful thing called the Disney Magical Express.  It was a free bus service to Disney World that took you right to your Disney Resort Hotel. Sadly, it is going away (But maybe one day they will bring it back.).  So I wouldn’t count on Disney giving you a ride to the park.  

You basically have three choices.  You can rent a car, take a third party shuttle, or take an Uber. 

Car Rental

Orlando has many car rental companies. Beware!  Many of these smaller lesser known companies require more than what you typically need to rent a car. The prices are typically extremely low to lure you in and then when you show up they add on hidden fees and require documentation to rent the car.   I have heard horror stories! They also close very early. 

I recommend booking your car rental through a well known company even if it is a little more pricey.  Plus, the well known companies are conveniently located right near baggage claim.  

Bus Shuttle

Planning a Disney world Trip

There are many third party shuttle companies that will transport you to the park.  It really depends on your travel party size to determine if this makes sense for you because it is usually a cost per person. 


If you plan on going to Disney World, staying on site, and not leaving the resort an Uber is a great idea.  It is a little more private than a shuttle bus.  I like Uber because you can book everything from your app.

Getting in Late

Staying at the Hyatt Regency located in the Orlando airport

One thing we have experienced at the Orlando Airport is everything closes early, sometimes before midnight. This Includes some car rental companies. 

Luckily, one thing I love about the Orlando Airport is that there is a Hyatt inside the airport.  We have stayed there on many occasions.  It is very nice and convenient. Especially if your plane gets in late. 

Getting to Disney World and Logistics

It takes about 20 minutes (with tolls) or 35 minutes (without) to Disney World Resort. 
Now, I need to explain something to you if this is your first time at Disney World.  Disney World is massive.  You can drive 15 minutes and still be on the Disney World property.  This is an important fact as we take the next step in booking accommodations. 

Booking a Disney World Trip - Where to Start

Disney World Resort Hotels

Now that you have a date, you booked your flight, and car rental, it is time to start planning a Disney World trip! 

Disney Vacation Package Options

Disney offers a vacation package which includes hotel, park admission, and a dining plan option.  You can also add photography to your package. 

Are Vacation Packages worth it?

Disney World Packages


In the past I would have said totally,  if you can find a good promotion. The sheer convenience of having a hotel on-site and being able to access the parks with transportation at your fingertips was well worth the extra money to stay on-site. 

The dining plan option is wonderful if you want to have character dining experiences and allows you to have pre-paid all your food cost ahead of time.  

However, because of Covid things are different.  The extra perks such as early/late admission hours, checking your luggage for your flight home at the hotel, picking out fast passes (which are gone now), and the magical express are gone or limited.

Some will come back but in the meantime the perks are gone and the prices are still really high. Hopefully, things will get back to normal because I absolutely love staying on-site.  

Like I said Disney World property is huge and staying at one of the 25 resorts takes the work out of your vacation.  You do not have to worry about driving, you can easily access your hotel room during the day, if you need a nap, and all the accommodations are nice and well kept. 

Can you stay at Disney World Resort without a Vacation Package?

Yes, if you want to stay on-site but do not want to include your tickets or get a meal plan you can book any of the Disney Resorts without a vacation package. 

What Type of Hotels Do Disney Offer?

Resorts at Disney World

Disney has Luxury hotels down to Value Hotels.  There is something for every budget.

  • Deluxe Villas
  • Deluxe
  • Moderate
  • Value

Planning a Disney World Trip - More Accommodation Options

Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney

Yes, Disney World Resorts are amazing. However, there are a few hotels located very close to Disney World.  Marriott actually has a location right on-site near Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  The Swan and Dolphin Hotel is significantly lower in price and offers pretty much the same benefits as the Disney resorts.  

We have also stayed at the TownePlace Suites and Springhill Suites near Animal Kingdom.  They were about a mile away which wasn’t a bad drive.  This hotel does not offer the same perks as the Swan and Dolphin. 

Don’t Make My Mistake! 

On our first trip to Disney World we made a mistake and booked a hotel in Kissimmee.  It was a good 20 minute drive to get to Disney World.  This is not convenient if you have little kids that need naps or need to rest during the day.  

Deciding Where to Stay

There are so many options for accommodation at Disney World and near Disney World. You can spend some time researching the best resorts and what interests you.  My only advice is the closer the better.  The option to rest is a game changer for hot and tired kids! 

Disney World Tickets

Walt Disney World Tickets

Disney World tickets are not cheap in fact they keep getting more and more expensive every year. 

But there is one good thing: the longer you stay, the cheaper and cheaper the tickets become per day.  So buying a 3 day ticket is still pricey but on day 5 you can go to Disney for $20 a day. 

If we are doing a vacation package we will just book everything with Disney directly or with a trusted Disney planner like Getawaytoday.  If we want to buy tickets separately we have found that Sam’s Club actually saved us a lot of money.  

If you want to book a luxury resort consider using David’s Vacation Rentals.  This is a company that works with Disney Vacation Club members.   They can use DVC points to book your hotel for a fraction of the price.  I saved $1000 for one night at the Aulani Resort in Hawaii.  

How Long Should I Stay at Disney World?

Disney World Guide

In my opinion, the longer the better. (coming from a Disney Lover)  But still Disney has 4 parks and 2 water parks.  If you wanted to go to every park one full day then 6 days would be your number.  

Depending on the time of year you go, you might not want to go to the water parks.  That would make your trip 4 days to hit all four theme parks.  

Picking Parks

Disney World Guide Castle

Your jaw just might drop right now with this next sentence.  In the past you have had to pick which park you were going to, and on which day, months in advance. 

There were crowd calendars to look at, and you needed to determine which park has early/late hours. There was a whole skill set to be able to plan your days at the park.  One of the main reasons was because you could pick out fast passes 1-3 months in advance. 

Now, Disney is no longer doing this free option.  Disney Gene is a paid option to pick out “fast lane passes”  Currently you do this on the day you go to the park.  As information becomes available I will let you know.  This is such a new process that it will take Disney time to roll out this program.  

In the Meantime….Reservations

As of right now Disney requires a reservation.  You can look on the Disney Website and see which parks are open on the days you want to go.  You will want to check availability before you buy your tickets.  Make sure all the parks you want to visit are available. 

This is really important when planning a Disney World trip. Once you check you can purchase your tickets.

**Parks have a “limited” capacity because of Covid.  

Time to Plan a Disney World Vacation

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Because I do not want to overwhelm you as you are planning your Disney World trip,  I have created a Disney Planning checklist that you can use to complete the steps we have talked about in this post.  It is simple but effective.  

There is a ton more research you are going to have to do, so you can plan the ultimate Disney experience.  But let’s start with outlining the important things and feeling good as we complete the major steps to planning a Disney World trip.  

Have More Questions

Join the Families Who Love Disney Facebook Group.  This is a great group that can help you answer your questions. 

Also, the latest and coolest Disney news, products, and vacation tips are posted here weekly!  

28 thoughts on “Planning A Disney World Trip”

  1. Very comprehensive list! Planning a DIsney World Trip can be so hard if you are doing it on your own! This will be a great resource for newbies!

  2. I have a niece-in-law who is obsessed with Disney, and I went once with them and my sister – their treat. They go every year! My favorite part was the around-the-world cocktail passport, LOL: not a kid-friendly endeavor!

  3. I’ve only been to Disneyland and I love it because it seems so manageable with only the two parks. I want to visit Disney World but it seems so huge! I get overwhelmed thinking about a trip. How long to stay, what to see, etc. Because there’s so much! Thanks for all the great tips! It’ll help us as we plan our trip!

  4. This is a very helpful guide to Disney World! It’s been years since my last visit. I’m overdue for a return trip to Disney World.

  5. Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog

    Disney World is an amazing place that should, if possible, be experienced at least once. There is so much to see and do! Thank you for sharing!

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