If you've decided to go to Walt Disney World for vacation, and if this is your first time to Disney (or haven't been in a while!), you'll probably have lots of questions. Here are answers to the most common questions:

What time of year is best to go?
What is the weather like?
What's the best way to deal with the crowds?
Should we stay inside or outside the park?
Which resort should we stay at?
How do I make reservations?
Where can I buy our park tickets?
Should we rent a car?
How do we get back and forth to the airport?
Is it true Disney will pick up my luggage for me at the airport?
How far in advance do I have to make dining reservations?
Are there Disney vacation packages available? Do they include dining?
We've heard the Florida sun can be brutal. How do we cope with the heat?
What about laundry facilities? Are there places to buy personal items?
What else is there to do besides Walt Disney World?
How old should our kids be before we take them with us?
If we have a child who's too small to ride an attraction, do we have to wait in line twice if my spouse and I both want to ride?
Is it worth going without kids?


What time of year is best to go?

There are several factors to consider when deciding when to go to Walt Disney World: crowd levels, weather, and pricing.

Crowd levels are highest during the early summer (June to mid-August) and over holidays. Think of your child's school year—families usually time their vacations during school breaks, hence the increase in crowd levels. Holidays, despite what you may think, are actually the worst time to go in terms of crowds. The week between Christmas and New Year's Day, for example, is the busiest time of the year (often times the parks are so crowded that the parking lots will actually close by late morning).

The best times of year to go to avoid the crowds are:
After Labor Day through the week before Thanksgiving
The week after Thanksgiving to the week before Christmas
Late winter/early Spring (but avoid the week before Easter)
The last week of August (many schools start back up at this time and you'll find that the crowds will start to thin, the advantage of this time of year is that the parks are open the latest, during the other off-periods you'll find that the parks close much earlier).

Pricing tends to follow the same time frames; during peak attendance periods (summer and holidays), resort prices will be at their highest. During the off-season the prices will be lower.

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What is the weather like?

Weather is the other important consideration when determining when to go. Summers in Florida can be quite brutal (though there are ways to cope with the heat), and frequent thunderstorms and showers are quite common (most of the time however, they only last a few minutes!). The spring and fall are more comfortable, with temperatures usually in the 80s (but hot days are still quite possible).

Winter is a mixed bag. You have as good of a chance of having a pleasant day in the 80s as you do of having a cool one in the 50s (definitely pack a sweater!). It can get quite cold at night, with temperatures in the 40s and lower not unheard of. However, winter has the advantage of typically being much drier than the other times of the year.

Of course, when you're talking about Florida, talk of hurricanes can't be too far behind, particularly in light of the unusually high hurricane activity in Florida the last couple of years. Hurricane season runs from June to November, with July through September being the peak times for storms. If you do go during that time of year, just remember that odds are that you will be fine (Walt Disney World has only closed twice due to hurricanes in its entire history). Nevertheless, it's a good idea to keep an eye on things as your vacation approaches. If a hurricane does appear to be brewing, you might want to consider rescheduling your trip (but don't panic too early, you'll only be able to tell a week or so ahead of time whether there's a chance of a hurricane).

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What's the best way to deal with the crowds?

The best way of course is to visit Walt Disney World when the parks aren't as crowded. If you must go during a period of peak attendance however, don't panic. There are strategies you can use to lessen the impact of the crowds:
Stay at one of the Walt Disney World Resorts. Not only will this guarantee you admission to the parks (the parks may close to outside guests if they are extremely busy), but you will also be able to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours—a wonderful way to enjoy all of your favorite attractions with little or no wait. Doing so will also free up your days so you can enjoy the parks at your leisure, take a dip in your resort pool or just relax.
Get to the parks early. The earlier you arrive the better chance you have of enjoying your favorite attractions before the crowds build.
Take a break in the afternoon. Crowds are heaviest at this time of day, so instead of dealing with long waits, the hot sun and tired legs, take a break and visit one of the Disney resorts for a nice lunch. You can also take a relaxing swim at the resort pool, enjoy many of the recreational activities at the resorts—or even take a nap! When you come back later in the evening you'll be refreshed, it will be a bit cooler, and the crowds will often thin out a bit.
Visit attractions during parades or fireworks. Most people will be watching the show and you'll usually find the lines have died down significantly.
Take advantage of FastPass! It's free to everyone and will let you experience your favorite attractions with little or no wait. Visit our FastPass page for more information.
Keep an eye on the tip boards. Each park has a tip board that displays the current wait time for all of the attractions (it's updated constantly and is extremely accurate). If you see that your favorite attraction is exceptionally busy, you can chose to visit another attraction or get a FastPass instead of wasting time.

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Should we stay inside or outside the park?

There are advantages and disadvantages to staying in the parks, deciding where to stay is pretty much determined by which factors are important for you:

  Walt Disney World Resorts Outside Resorts
Cost WDW Resorts are generally more expensive, with prices ranging from $79 per night at the Value Resorts to $350 and higher per night for the Deluxe Resorts. You'll often find room rates much more reasonable (sometimes significantly so) at outside resorts.
Convenience All Disney Resorts offer complimentary transportation to and from the parks (via bus, boat or monorail). Some of the Deluxe Resorts are actually within walking distance of the parks. If you have your own car, parking is free at all of the parks. Many outside resorts offer shuttle service to the parks, but you'll often find that it's inconvenient (shuttles only run a few times a day, there may be a fee, etc.). If you have you're own car you'll have to pay to park.
Benefits Disney Resort guests receive many special benefits including:
Extra Magic Hour mornings and evenings
Complimentary package delivery to your room
The ability to make charges to your room throughout the Disney parks
Guaranteed admission to the parks, even on the busiest days
Outside resort guests do not receive any of the benefits that Walt Disney World Resort guests enjoy.
Magic Staying at a Walt Disney World immerses you completely in the Disney experience. You'll feel like you're in your own self-contained utopian city. Your entire experience (sleeping, getting to the parks, dining, shopping and so on) takes place within this magnificent fantasy world, and you can truly leave the real world behind. Staying at an outside resort of course means that you won't enjoy that Disney magic 24 hours a day. Some people find, however, that taking a break from Disney is a welcome relief.
Hospitality Walt Disney World is renowned for its hospitality and attention to detail. When something does go wrong, you'll find that the resort staff will go to great lengths to assist you, after all, they're primary mission is to ensure that you have a magical vacation. Many of the outside resorts are as equally concerned with your happiness and comfort, and you'll often find that the customer service and attention to detail is outstanding. Keep in mind though, that the outside hotels will not be able to assist you with specific Disney-related problems.

Overall, our recommendation is to stay in the parks if you can. You'll enjoy a great number of benefits, conveniences and magical moments that will make your vacation truly memorable!

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What resort should we stay at?

The choice of which Walt Disney World Resort to stay at can be tricky. The first thing to consider is your budget. Value Resorts are around $79 per night, Moderate Resorts range from $139 to $189, while Deluxe Resorts start in the low $200s, with many rooms costing $300 or more per night. (The Moderate and Deluxe resorts also offer larger rooms, suites and concierge rooms at a higher cost. You'll also find that specials are frequently available, particularly for Annual Passholders, so it usually pays to call Disney and shop around a bit).

Once you decide what type of resort you want to stay at, the choice of which one is often up to which resort you prefer. Each has their own advantages (particularly concerning their proximity to the different parks) and their own theming. Be sure to visit the Guide to the Magic Resort pages to get an overview of each of the resorts.

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How do I make reservations?

There are two ways to go, depending on your preference. The first is to book your trip through a travel agent. The advantage there is that they'll do all of the work for you—everything from making your hotel reservations, booking your flight, arranging for rental cars, even getting your park tickets. Additionally, they can help you with all of the aspects of your trip that aren't directly related to Walt Disney World (including making reservations at off-site resorts and hotels and getting tickets for other Florida attractions).


Need help booking your vacation?

MouseFanTravel.com provides their complimentary signature services like itinerary planning and advanced dining reservations, and they never charge any agency fees. One of the best services that you will never get by booking direct is they proactively watch for price reductions and if your booking qualifies, they will apply the savings.
For more information or to request a no-obligation quote for your next vacation just visit their website at MouseFanTravel.com or call toll free 877-881.7771.

If you'd prefer to do your own planning, you can call Disney directly (407-W-DISNEY) to get rates on the different resorts. The Disney web site can be helpful here, though the interface can be a bit confusing (currently it's difficult to get a precise quote for a particular resort at a given time period, you are often just given a list of suggestions). The reservation agents are often very helpful; feel free to ask them if they have any specials going. A good strategy is to book your room well ahead of time (6 months or so). You'll probably get quoted the standard rate, but call back occasionally to see if any specials have popped up (especially a month or two before your trip). You can always change (or cancel) your reservations up to 24 hours ahead of time to take advantage of these specials without any penalty.

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Where can I buy our park tickets?

If you're staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you can purchase your park tickets when you check-in (the exception is the annual pass, you'll need to purchase them at Guest Services counter at any of the theme park entrances). You can also purchase tickets in advance at most Disney Stores, they have a variety of choices to suit your needs, and you'll usually get a small discount. If you're working with a travel agent and don't have tickets, they will work with you to get you all the passes you need.

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Should we rent a car?

If you're staying outside of the park, then most likely yes (otherwise you'll be at the mercy of the hotel's shuttle service, which might not be convenient to your schedule).

If you're staying in the park, then the answer is probably not. Most of the time, Disney transportation is far more convenient and less stressful than driving yourself. There are a few situations, however, where a car can be useful:
Traveling from resort to resort. With the exception of the Magic Kingdom resorts, there is no Disney transportation directly between resorts. If, say, you want to visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge from the Caribbean Beach Resort, you'll need to take a bus to a park or Downtown Disney and transfer to an Animal Kingdom Lodge bus. This can be very time consuming, and it is much, much quicker to drive yourself.
Visiting other Florida attractions. If you plan on visiting Universal Orlando, Sea World or other destinations, your own car will be a necessity.

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How do we get back and forth to the airport?

If you're not renting a car, don't worry. You'll find plenty of shuttles and limos waiting to take you to your resort. Mears is probably the most popular, you can purchase round trip tickets when you arrive in Orlando and be taken straight to your resort (though you need to make some stops at other Disney resorts to let off your fellow passengers). Better yet, you can pre-book a private limo and have it waiting for you when you arrive. Not only is this very cool, but it will save you lots of time. Either way, you can prearrange to be picked up at your resort when it's time to go back to the airport.

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Is it true Disney will pick up my luggage for me at the airport?

Yes!

Disney also offers a special service called Magical Express, which offers free airport shuttle service, luggage delivery and airline check-in for most Disney resort guests (Magical Express is not offered for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin or Shades of Green resorts). Basically, you will be greeted upon arrival at the Orlando International Airport where you will be escorted to a special coach and taken to your resort. Don't worry about your luggage, it will be picked up for you and delivered right to your room!

When it's time to leave, you can also take advantage of Disney's Magical Express Departure Service. A motorcoach will pick you up at your resort and drop you off at one of the four drop-off locations in all four quadrants of the Orlando International Airport.

Additionally, if you are flying one of the participating airlines (American, Continental, Delta, including Song, JetBlue, Northwest, and United, including TED), you can avoid airport check-in lines by taking advantage of the Resort Airline Check-in Service, whereby you can check your luggage and receive your boarding pass before you leave your Disney resort. This service is separate from Magical Express. You do not have to participate in Magical Express to utilize the Resort Airline Check-in Service.

Disney's Magical Express must be booked at least 10 days prior to arrival (though it is recommended that you make your arrangements as far in advance as you can) by visiting disneyworld.com, or calling the Disney Reservation Center at 407-W-DISNEY (you can also make arrangements through your travel agent). Be sure to have your Arriving Flight Number and time into the Orlando International Airport, your Departing Flight Number and time out of the Orlando International Airport and the name of the airline(s) you'll be flying.

Is it worth doing? If you're trying to watch your money then free transporation to the resorts can make a big difference—particularly if you're traveling with a large group. It is mighty convenient to not have to go to the baggage claim to pick up your luggage, but be aware that you will be boarding your coach with lots of other families, and it may take you quite a long time to get to your resort. Also, you might be a bit wary of not picking up your own luggage. Unfortunately, there have been reports of problems with luggage being lost—trying to track it down if that happens can certainly put a damper on your vacation. If you have concerns in that area it may be worth getting your own transportation. It's quicker and you'll be in "control" of your own luggage.

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How far in advance do I have to make dining reservations?

You can make reservations up to 6 months in advance for dining and other special events. This is highly recommended if you will be visiting during a busy time of year and if you are trying to get into one of the more popular restaurants (Cinderella's Castle, for example). Additionally, you can call 6 months ahead to make reservations for other things such as an Illuminations fireworks cruise.

AllEarsNet (a wonderful Disney web site run by Deb Wills), has a great calculator to assist you in determining when you should make advance reservations for a variety of restaurants and events.

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Are there Disney vacation packages available that include dining?

Yes! You can purchase a Dining Plan when you buy a Disney vacation package. With the basic dining plan, you can eat at more than 100 participating Walt Disney World Resort restaurants (both in the parks and at the resorts). For each night of your package stay, you will receive a number of credits that will allow each person in your party to enjoy one table-service meal, one counter service meal and one snack. These credits activate as soon as you check in to your resort and can be used at any time, in any combination, during your stay. Special meals use up more credits, for instance, two table service meal credits must be exchanged for one signature dining experience (i.e., a dinner at one of the finer restaurants, such as the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort).

The addition of the Dining Plan to a Magic Your Way Vacation Package costs (prices subject to change) $37.99 per adult (age 10 and up) per night of stay and $10.99 per child 3-9 per night of stay.

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We've heard the Florida sun can be brutal. How do we cope with the heat?

Use sunscreen!
Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and your eyes.
Drink PLENTY of liquids (a good strategy is to buy a bottle of water and then keep the bottle when you're done, refill it at a drinking fountain so you can keep a supply of cold water on hand).
Bring a washcloth from your room. If you get hot there's nothing quite as refreshing as giving your face a quick wipe with a cold, wet washcloth!
Take a break during the hottest part of the day by going to a resort for a nice lunch or taking a cool dip in your resort pool.
One thing Disney has lots of is great air-conditioning! If you get hot wander through a store to cool off. Some attractions are also great to escape to if the sun gets too heat. Sit down theater attractions (the Hall of Presidents and Impressions de France are good examples) are the best, the shows are long and the air is nice and cool!,

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What about laundry facilities? Are there places to buy personal items?

Every Disney resort has laundry facilities for guests and a shop where you can purchase any personal items you may have forgotten (toothbrushes, aspirin, etc.).

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What else is there to do besides Walt Disney World?

There is of course a lot more to see in Florida besides Walt Disney World. Other popular destinations include Universal Orlando, home to two theme parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Visit SeaWorld for an exciting day of aquatic shows and attractions that are quite well done. The Kennedy Space Center is a must stop for space enthusiasts, you can even see an actual Saturn V rocket—the same rocket that took the first men to the moon in 1969.

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How old should our kids be before we take them with us?

Kids of all ages are of course welcome at Walt Disney World, but you may find that children under 4 years of age are too young to appreciate many of the attractions. If you do travel with small children, be sure to keep an eye on them throughout the day. Don't forget to take a break for a well-earned nap or some down time. A full day at the parks is a lot for an adult, for young children it may be more than they can handle!

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If we have a child who's too small to ride an attraction, do we have to wait in line twice if my spouse and I both want to ride?

Nope! You can take advantage of Disney's Baby Swap. The way it works is this: you and your spouse (and your child) wait in line as usual. Let a Cast Member know that you want to do a Baby Swap. When you get to the front of the line one of you can ride the attraction while the other waits in a special area. When the ride is over your spouse can get right on (after "swapping" your child of course!) and experience the attraction immediately with no additional waiting.

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Is it worth going without kids?

Absolutely! Some people think of Walt Disney World as being just for kids, but there is plenty of magic to be experienced no matter how old you are. Walt Disney World is a popular honeymoon destination, and why not? There are plenty of beautiful resorts to visit with luxurious restaurants, relaxing spas and quiet, romantic hideaways. You can go horseback riding, enjoy a round of golf, take a boat for two out on the lakes, shop at a variety of shops and boutiques or enjoy a late evening on the Boardwalk or at Pleasure Island. Experiencing the attractions at the theme parks can be extra magical when you're with that special someone. And nothing is more romantic than holding hands and watching the fireworks bring a perfect end to an enchanting evening!

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