Walt Disney World has a reputation as the most magical place on Earth, but it might not feel so magical if you visit the park without a plan. It’s easy to get overwhelmed on a Disney trip and miss out on some fun.
With a bit of careful planning, however, you can give yourself and your family the Disney vacation you’ve always wanted. There are a few handy secrets that can improve your visit, too.
Keep reading to learn five tips for how to plan a Disney vacation that will make your trip more fun and less expensive.
1. Plan Your Movements
The key to a great Disney vacation is to plot a careful course through the park. Don’t just aimlessly wander from attraction to attraction–work up an itinerary and stick to it.
A spontaneous divergence now and again is okay, of course, but try to broadly follow the course you’ve charted so that you can hit all the attractions you want in the day.
The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out which Disney park you want to visit. Take advantage of the Disney Vacation Club, if possible; look for DVC sellers who can get you benefits at the park of your choice.
Once you’ve got the park picked, buy a Disney trip guide. This will bring you up to date on how the park is organized, allowing you to plan out your trip in detail.
Don’t try to cram everything you want into one day. Instead, focus each day (or each trip) on one specific set of goals–those will form the backbone of your itinerary.
Anything you can fit in between your main goals on your way from one part of the park to another is a bonus.
2. Before Opening and After Closing
There are some things you can do both before the park opens and after it closes, that will improve your experience. For instance, you can grab breakfast before the park is open.
The Tusker House Restaurant opens an hour before the park itself. That means you can start your day off with a meal and go from there straight into the park as soon as it opens up.
Lining up for the park opening (or ‘rope drop,’ in Disney vacation parlance) is a good idea regardless. The first two hours of a park’s opening aren’t as busy as the rest of the park’s day, so lines will be shorter.
There’s an added secret after the park closes, too: Cinderella’s Kiss Goodnight. This two-minute light show goes off every half hour after the park closes.
3. Special Dinner Guests
One of the biggest appeals of Disney World–especially for kids–is the characters. Getting to dine with a favorite character can be a very special experience for a little one.
You’ll need to plan out a dining experience in advance since you’ll need to make reservations, and those fill up fast. Don’t wait to book your dining experience if there’s a character you just have to meet.
One character that’s a bit harder to snag than the others is Beast, who is only available in one place: Be Our Guest Restaurant. You can only meet Beast here at dinner time, so plan accordingly.
Disney cartoon characters aren’t the only people you can meet for a meal. If you’re looking for a slightly more grown-up dinner guest, reserve a dinner at the Hollywood Brown Derby.
There, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at how Disney World works by dining with one of the park’s Imagineers.
4. Set a Budget With Gift Cards
It’s no secret that a Disney trip is expensive. Between hotels, food, attractions, and merchandise, there’s a lot to spend money on at any Disney park. There are a few ways to save money, however.
One way is to buy a Disney Vacation Club membership, which is particularly useful if you’re planning on taking trips frequently.
Another way is to set your budget using gift cards.
Gift cards can be used virtually anywhere in the park, so you can use them like you would real money; the benefit is that, by buying a predetermined amount of gift cards, you’ll eventually run out of spending money.
This forces you to spend more carefully because you’ll know exactly how much cash you’ve got left.
It also stops you from overspending. Tell yourself that once the gift cards are spent, that’s it–no more big expenditures that will drain your checking account.
Gift cards are also a great way to let your kid have some fun. Give them a gift card and let them pick how they want to spend it.
5. Food Hacks for More Snacks
Food is one of the more expensive elements of a Disney vacation, especially if you’re booking character dining experiences at Disney World. Lines are a pain, too–even buying something quick off of a food cart can take a while.
You can speed up the process by using the My Disney Experience app on your phone. The app will let you order your food in advance, cutting down on wait times.
Using the gift card budget strategy can also help here, keeping you from overspending on food.
The Disney Dining Plan is also a great way to keep your food budget reasonable. There are several plans available, depending on where–and how much–you want to eat.
The Dining Plans are flexible, too. If you don’t feel like using one of your quick-service meals and would rather grab a snack instead, you can exchange a quick-service credit for three snack credits.
It’s a nice option for families who would rather grab a snack and wander the park than eat a full meal.
Plan the Perfect Disney Trip
A Disney trip should be fun for the whole family. Don’t let it turn into a stressful mess due to poor planning. Use the tips and secrets covered in this article to transform your vacation into an experience you’ll never forget.
Knowing how to plan a Disney trip is one thing, but what about a camping trip or a European getaway? Visit our travel blog for more tips and tricks to plan the perfect vacation.