How to Plan your Walt Disney World Vacation – Part 2 Hotels, Park Tickets and Dining Plans

Before you make the call:

Where do you want to stay?

Many people choose to stay off property when going to Disney World. This is a great option if you are going to other Orlando area attractions such as Cocoa Beach, Lego Land, or Universal Studios. For this post we are going to talk about staying on Disney property.  While staying on property you won’t need at rental car as Disney has transportation from all of its hotels and campgrounds to all 4 amusement parks, 2 water parks and Downtown Disney. Staying at a Disney hotel will also give you access to extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic hours are when you can enter the parks early or stay later in the parks because you are staying at a Disney Hotel.

There are four tiers of accommodations at Disney World:

  1. Deluxe Villas and Hotels from $284 a night
  2. Moderate Hotels from $162 a night
  3. Value from $85 a night
  4. Campgrounds from $49 a night

Consider choosing a hotel that is closest to the parks your group wants to visit. Your transportation from hotel to park can be up to 30 min each way. For instance, the Wilderness Lodge is about a 5-minute ride to the Magic Kingdom, which was important to us, but it can take 30 minutes to get to the Animal Kingdom.

We have stayed at the Wilderness Lodge (our favorite), the Coronado Springs, and the Caribbean Beach Resort.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Lobby decorated for Christmas, photo courtesy of Tom Bricker and Disney Tourist Blog

How long will you stay?

There are 4 amusement parks and 2 water parks. This decision will be what really makes the mark on your wallet. We like at least 2 days in EPCOT, 2 days in the Magic Kingdom, 1 day at Animal Kingdom and 1 day at Hollywood Studios. Just like that we are at 6 days. If you are going to spend 5 or more days in the parks I highly recommend a rest day in the middle. We do this at Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. There are entry fees for these parks as well, so if you are trying to save a little money have a pool day at your hotel or rent a car and go to Cocoa Beach which is just under an hour from here. Either way, make sure you plan a rest day or by the end of your trip you will be spending more time on a bench than on your favorite ride.

Should you get park hopper ticket or not?

This is about a $50 per person decision. We chose to do it because we can break up an EPCOT or Animal Kingdom day if the little kids are getting bored. We can get dinner in EPCOT; sneak over to the Magic Kingdom on the monorail and get in a few more laps on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or my favorite Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. On our last trip we had a day start and end in Hollywood Studios and we took the boat to EPCOT and back for lunch and snacks during the Food and Wine Festival. I think the park hopper is more of a luxury than a must do but still a decision to be made.

Should you get the dining plan?

As with all the questions in this post, this will add more money per day but can get you dining experiences at Disney that you might not normally choose to do if you were just paying for each meal as you go.

Disney has 3 Dining Plan options:

Platinum provides 3 meals a day plus 2 snacks.  We chose the Magic Your Way Premium because we can still get character meal experiences without spending all our time in a sit down restaurant.  Premium allows for 1 quick service meal, 1 sit down meal and 1 snack a day.  The Quick Service plan allows for 2 meals a day both quick service and a snack every day you are staying at Disney.

Whether you get a meal plan or not you are paying for food but there are benefits to the dining plan. You can budget and prepay for your meals. Here is why I like the Dining plan, it allows me to budget better for the trip and it opens up restaurants that I probably wouldn’t have eaten at had I not had the plan. Our favorite highlights: (see our post on Reservations for our restaurant recommendations)

Step 3 Booking your Trip

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