Links to Amazon are affiliate links.
Y’all know I LOVE me some Disney! I’m always reading up on the latest news and tips and had a blog friend and fellow Disney lover reach out to me with the offer to share up her knowledge as a Disney Travel Agent! So excited to learn some new tricks and tips from someone who lives and breaths Disney 😉 Thanks to Allison from Key to the World Travel for contributing to the blog (be sure to read the whole post for a special offer just for blog readers whoop whoop #dealz)!
A lot of people want to take their family
on a trip to “The Most Magical Place on Earth” (a.k.a. Disney World) but feel
overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
And really, who can blame them when there are so many moving pieces, details, and acronyms? There’s where to stay, which parks to visit,
dining plans, FastPass+, BBB, PPO ADRs, CRT, DS… the list goes on!
Well, have no fear because your travel
agent is here! My name is Allison
DeYoung, and I am a travel planner specializing in Disney destinations. I work for a company called Key
to the World Travel, and our agency is an Authorized Disney
Vacation Planner (otherwise known as an “Earmarked” agency.) I spend a lot of time planning Disney World
trips for my clients, handling all the details like helping them decide where
to stay, snagging hard-to-get character breakfast reservations, and creating
touring plans to maximize their fun.
(That’s me with
my kiddo at Disney World last year!)
Today, I’m here to share with you my Top
Five Tips for planning the ultimate Disney dream vacation. Hopefully, after reading this blog post,
you’ll feel excited and confident
enough to begin planning your own trip!
Tip #1: Know When to Go!
In my opinion, any time is a great time
to be at Disney World. That said, if you
have a variety of trip dates to choose from, there are some ways to narrow it
down. First, check out crowd calendars
to get an idea of which seasons are busiest.
I like the calendar from WDW Prep School because it follows the school year calendar, which many of us are
Also, check out the weather for various
times of year. This is super easy to do
by looking at monthly calendars on AccuWeather. Central Florida is warm year-round, but gets
extra hot and rainy in the summer. If
you don’t care for heat, try to visit during the winter months.
There are some special events at Disney
that might make a difference in your planning.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list:
WDW Marathon Weekend (early January) and
Princess Half Marathon Weekend (late February) are great for runners who want
to do one of these events!
Epcot has a beautiful Flower and Garden
Festival in the spring
Epcot Food and Wine Festival runs late
August through mid-November and is fun for foodies
In the fall, you can go to Mickey’s
Not-So-Scary Halloween Party…
…and during the Christmas season, you
might want to check out Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
While it’s true that these events can
sometimes cause higher crowds, they might also be really fun events for your
family to participate in!
Processional is one example of a special holiday event at Disney World).
Finally, consider your family’s special
needs. Is it okay for your kids to miss
school? Can you visit during a holiday,
or would you miss family traditions too much?
Would you wilt in the summer heat, or, conversely, be disappointed if a
winter visit made it too chilly to swim?
Is there a time of year when it is easier for you or your partner to
take vacation days? Thinking about your
family’s schedule and needs when planning can make for a more successful trip!
Tip #2: Stay In a Disney Resort
Hotel… or Don’t!
Did you know that there are 20 different
Walt Disney World resorts? These include
different price ranges (value, moderate, and deluxe), kid-friendly hotels,
upscale resorts, and even a campground with cabins for rent! There are some benefits to staying on
property, including being able to make your FastPass+ reservations early, add
the Disney Dining Plan to your package, and use Disney’s free
transportation. When you stay on site,
you also get Disney Magic Bands, which are convenient bracelets that serve as
access to your room, transportation, park tickets, dining plan credits, and
more. For many families, staying onsite
is fun, convenient, cost-effective, and easy!
resort at Disney World is Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside.)
However, it’s not for everyone! The good news is, if you have a large family
or are traveling in a multi-generational group, it’s also fun and convenient to
rent a vacation home near Disney World.
This can be cost-effective, too, especially for a longer trip (many
vacation homes rent Saturday-Saturday only, making them impractical for short
trips). Renting a vacation home is great
if your family likes to spread out or if you prefer to do some cooking on your
trip and have the convenience of throwing in a load of laundry during your afternoon
break. This can also be convenient if
your family is driving to Orlando or plans to rent a car, since you’ll have
your own transportation.
When planning your trip, sit down and ask
yourself a few key questions in order to make the on-site versus off-site
What is the size of our travel
group? Most Disney resorts accommodate
four- or five-people per room; if you have more, you may want to look at a
Will we have a car available? If not, you will want to take advantage of
on-site transportation. If yes, make
sure you factor parking costs ($20 per day at Disney parks) into your budget.
Do we want to mostly eat in restaurant or
cook some of our own meals?
Working with a travel agent who
specializes in Disney Destinations can also help you make an informed choice!
Tip #3: Avoid the Lines with
FastPass+ is an attraction reservation
system that is absolutely FREE to everyone
who visits Disney World! Here’s how it
Guests create a My Disney Experience
account & down the smartphone app
Using the app, you’ll pick three attractions for each day of your
trip and a time for that experience.
Most are one-hour windows.
When it’s time to use your FastPass,
approach the ride, enter the FastPass line, and scan your Magic Band. Then jump on and enjoy!
After using your three FastPass+
reservations, use your app or an in-park kiosk to schedule more!
(The teacups are
a favorite ride around our house.)
I am not kidding when I say that my
family does not wait in lines at Disney World.
We arrive at the parks early and enjoy some attractions before the
crowds build. Then, we use all our
FastPass+ reservations – I always pick rides that I know build the longest
lines! After that, I just start
scheduling more FP+ as we go. A typical
conversation for my family in the parks goes like this:
Me: What else do you guys want to ride?
Husband: Haunted Mansion!
Me, looking at
the app: Okay, there’s only a 15 minute
wait at the Haunted Mansion, so we’ll go there next. And we can get a FastPass for Dumbo at 4:00,
so we will go there after.
It can seem overwhelming, but once you
know the system, FastPass+ makes park touring much easier and can help you
avoid the dreaded theme park lines!
(That’s the face
of someone who rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad three times without standing
Tip #4: Add Some Extra Magic to
Of course, a trip to Disney World is a
magical experience in and of itself, but who can resist the urge to plan some
special moments and watch their children’s eyes light up with wonder? There are lots of opportunities to spread
pixie dust during your vacation!
Here are three of my favorite ways to add
Character Meals: Enjoy a breakfast,
lunch, or dinner where favorite characters like Mickey and Minnie or the Disney
princesses visit your table for photos and autographs.
(This is actually at Disneyland because my family
defected to the West this year, but I can tell you where to eat with Chip and
Dale at Disney World, too!)
Special Makeovers: Schedule a princess makeover at the Bibbidi
Bobbidi Boutique for your little girl, or pirate or mermaid makeovers at the
Pirates League inside Magic Kingdom.
(Tip: the Ivy Trellis Salon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort also
offers princess makeovers as well as special occasion hair and makeup for more,
ahem, mature princesses.)
(Look at that
Dessert Parties: These are special events that allow your
family to enjoy a buffet of delicious desserts plus reserved seating for a
nighttime show such as the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom or the Star Wars
Galactic Spectacular at Hollywood Studios.
Of course, there are also FREE ways of
adding extra magic, several of which Emily has highlighted in her trip reports! Search for Hidden Mickeys across the parks
and resorts, sign up your young padawans to participate in the Jedi Training
Academy, or pick up buttons to advertise that you are celebrating a birthday or
other special occasion.
Disney magic happens spontaneously with Grandpa. Have that camera ready!)
I also love this 15 Unique Things to Do at Disney World from WDW Prep School for more ideas on how to make your trip extra
special. It includes everything from
where to ride a horse to how you can mail a coconut from Disney World!
Tip #5: Use a Travel Agent!
Travel agents may not seem necessary in
the modern world of online travel planning, but we can add huge value with our
specialized knowledge and inside information!
It is literally our job to know everything about Disney, and we do! Travel planners who work for Authorized
Disney Vacation Planners (such as Key to the World Travel) are graduates of the
College of Disney Knowledge, an intense training program designed to keep
agents current on Disney destinations around the world.
Here are the top five reasons to use an
agent from an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (also known as an “Earmarked
Your agent works to save you money by
calling to apply promotions and deals to your package. If Disney releases a discount like free
dining or a 25% off rooms offer, your travel agent will automatically apply
this discount to your package! (When
summer discounts were released a couple weeks ago, I saved a family $900 by
calling to update their package!)
Your agent gets up early to book your
dining reservations 180 days before arrival and FastPass+ 60 days before
arrival. Most people do not have time in
the early morning to sit on the computer and schedule these reservations, but
your travel agent does!
Your agent can book ANY other experiences
during your trip, too! Need to rent a
stroller? Want to schedule a Bibbidi
Bobbidi Boutique makeover for your princess?
How about a golf tee time or a side trip to Universal Orlando? Your travel agent takes care of all this and
Your travel agent will prepare a
customized itinerary and touring plans so that information like park hours,
FastPass+ times, dining reservations, and more are at your fingertips and
optimized for the best experience for your family.
This one is the best: our services are
100% FREE! We are paid by Disney, NOT by
the client! Booking your package with a
travel planner will cost you no more than the prices you see on the Disney website
– and sometimes less because we know where to find discounts and promotions!
Whether you’re overwhelmed by the details
of planning a Walt Disney World vacation or just want to take advantage of the
personalized service offered by a travel agent, Authorized Disney Travel
Planners add value to your vacation!
(Sometimes I sneak
away from my family and take selfies with the castle. Don’t judge me.)
If Emily’s magical family vacations at
Disney World (or even her recent solo trip!) have inspired you to consider a
Disney vacation of your own, I hope these tips will help you get started on the
I’m also offering a special deal for blog readers: mention that you heard about my
planning services through Journey of Parenthood and you’ll receive up to a $50
Disney gift card when you book a Disney vacation with me! You can contact me for a quote via email (email@example.com) or by completing my Getting to Know You Google Form. I’ll get right back to you
with some vacation quotes and then we can begin planning your own magical