I want to start a collection of overviews of all the Disney Parks I have visited, in order to help people when booking their trips. I thought why not start with the one I know best WDW.
Post update June 2019 to include new 2020 overnight parking fees.
I used to book my trips to Walt Disney World through Virgin holidays, they did all the leg work, found the hotel/ villa, flights etc, you even get a little discount too. Never again will l do this. After booking a few times like that, I have found it so much easier, less time consuming and able to save more money booking the hotel stay through Disney themselves and then booking through my airline separately.
Last year I signed up to be a Virgin Club member, Sam and I booked flights with our points last year and only paid tax on the flight. Even now after our flights this year, we have enough points to book another return trip to any destination. Why did I not do this sooner? You can fly one way with Virgin Atlantic with as little as 12,500 miles. Other airlines will provide similar rewards and perks, however we prefer the service and comfort of a VA plane. We are members of the Cathay Pacific rewards club we signed up before we booked our flights from Shanghai to Hong Kong this year and got a discount on the airfare just for joining. I cannot stress enough that if you plan to fly regularly or you do fly regularly, sign up to the airline reward system.
Where to stay
On property, on property, on property. OK I think you get the idea but please, stay on property. The extra you might pay in stay at a WDW resort compared to an off property resort is worth it. I promise. Disney offers 3 different categories of hotels, value, moderate and deluxe. They are what they say on the tin. Value range from £90 a night during low season and up to £1000 a night at a deluxe resort during peak season. The deluxe resorts are situated close to a park and the values are a little further away. It depends on your level of comfort, how much you can afford and how much time you are planning to spend in your room. Last year we booked a very last minute trip, we stayed in a value resort for 4 nights for less that £400, it was just what we needed because all we did was sleep and get ready there.
When you book your stay at WDW through the WDW website, free transportation from MCO (Orlando International Airport) is included. It takes you right up to the entrance to the check in desk. 48 hours before your departure, mousekeeping (Disneys on site house keeping) pop a letter in your room about what time your DME (Disneys Magical Express) will be picking you up. The DME will pick you up 3 hours before your domestic flight and 4 hours before your international flight. Please be prompt, you are booked on to a specific bus, the next one that arrives might not have space for you.
Disney hotels offer some amazing perks to stay on site, some off property resorts run free shuttles to some of the theme parks in Orlando, but please check before you book your stay, the last thing you want is to find out there is no transport and you have to pay taxi fare each day. Disney’s internal transportation is free to everyone staying on and off property. The bus service from resort to park, park to park, Disney Springs to park, the monorail, ferry and trains are free to everyone staying on and off property.
Anyone staying on or off property is allowed to visit any resort whether it is for a little sneak peak or even a dining reservation. However you are only allowed to use the pool of the resort you are staying at. So you can’t be booked in to Allstar Music and use the Grand Floridian pool, so do not even ask.
There are 4 Disney parks, 2 water parks and one shopping complex in WDW. I have decided to dedicated separate overviews on each one rather than in this post.
- Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney)
- Typhoon Lagoon
- Blizzard Beach
So what are the perks, these are worth the extra money you might pay for the resort, believe me, I would rather the cost of a stay at Disney cost me more to include these perks than to stay off property on not revieve them.
As I previously said, the DME pick up is located on the lower floor of MCO. Check in at the counter is easy and away you go, no lines to get a hire car ( I would like to stress at this point that Disney introduced parking at their resorts to guests that are staying there. $13 at a value per night, $19 at a moderate and $24 at a deluxe or villa. DVC members are excluded) it is so much cheaper to get the DME and use Disneys internal system to where ever you need to go.
As of June 2019 any bookings made for visits during 2020 and onwards will have the new overnight parking fees. Value resorts $15 per night, moderate resorts $20 per night and deluxe resorts $25 per night.
Being able to book Fast Passes 60 days in advance, this is probably the best perk on the list and it is free to WDW resort guests. Guest staying off property will get 30 days in advance to book. It is so easy to book the fast passes you want when staying at a Disney resort. For each day of you’re stay you can book 3 fast passes, after they have been used you can book 1 more, use it, book another and so on until all the fast passes for the day have gone. I suggest booking all your fast passes at your 30/60 day window before 2pm and then when the day arrives, use the three you have booked, then keep booking them one by one. The fast passes in Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot run on a tier system, you can only have one top tier attraction booked and the rest have to come from tier 2/3 (I will explain the tiering system in another post). Magic Kingdom has no tiering system.
Free magic bands! Anyone staying at a WDW resort gets a free magic band. If you live in the US your bands will be shipped you your house and if you live internationally they will be ready for you when you check in to your resort. The bands act as a room key, park ticket, fast pass ticket and you can even charge items to your room just by using the band. You can customise your basic band on MDE (My Disney Experience app) up to 5 days before your arrival, they come in basic block colours and are a $12.99 value. In the parks they have more designs but they can range up to $50 and for something you can get for free I suggest you save the money.
Booking Disney dining 180 days + 10 days in advance, another great perk. Anyone can book ADR (Disney Advanced Dining Reservations) 180 days in advance, however staying on property you can book at 180 days and up to 10 further days, so if you want that BOG (Be Our Guest) or CRT (Cinderella’s Royal Table) reservation this is the best way to do it. Not many of these make it to the standard 180 mark. If you are staying off property and don’t manage to snag the reservation you want, do not worry. Keep checking 24 hours ahead, because Disney will charge a fee for any missed reservations so many people will cancel if their plans change.
Disney offer a DDP (Disney Dining Plan), they have three options
- Quick service dining plan, includes 1 resort refillable mug, 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks each night of your stay
- Regular dining plan, includes 1 resort refillable mug, 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 2 snacks each night of your stay
- Deluxe dining plan includes 1 resort refillable mug, 3 quick service or table service meal, 2 snacks each night of your stay
On occasions Disney offers the quick service dining plan or regular dining plan free with certain resort stays. while these are great money saving options when free, I would never pay out of pocket for one.
When to stay at WDW
September is my favourite time to visit WDW, autumn or fall is my favourite season. Pumpkin spiced flavours and the leaves on trees turning orange and red. Disney is no exception. In September, all the Halloween decorations are up, pumpkin spice is everywhere, Epcot Food and Wine Festival is in full swing and Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party has begun. May is also another favourite time of mine, Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is on and all the spring flowers are out, the sights are beautiful.
When is the best time to visit WDW
- January after marathon weekend
- Late February through to mid March
- The second half of August (Quieter than the first but quite hot)
- All of September
- Weekdays in October
- Week days in November, not including Thanks Giving week
- The first two weeks of December
When is the worst time to visit WDW
- The first week in January of marathon weekend
- March and April for spring break, just don’t do it!
- Weekends in May
- June (do not do it)
- July (DO NOT DO IT)
- The first half of August
- Thanks Giving week
- Christmas and New Year week
I would personally opt for the cooler months, the summer is hot and humid. September, October are perfect. The weather in the day is warm and evenings are cool.
Was this overview helpful? Let me know in the comments.
Separate park overviews to follow.