How to Plan a Disney World Vacation – The Ultimate Guide

Jennifer MeyerDestination GuidesLeave a Comment

how to plan a Disney World vacation

So, you’re planning a Disney World vacation! Yay!

Welcome to your Ultimate Disney World Vacation Planning Guide!

This guide will walk you through exactly how to plan a Disney World vacation!

This is the only guide you’ll need in planning and preparing for your dream Disney World vacation!

Don’t forget to share this guide with your friends! They will love you forever!

Let’s get started!

How to Use this Guide

This guide is broken up into four sections (listed below).

You are currently in Chapter #1.

I recommend reading the sections in order, but you can bounce around as much as you like!

Guide Contents:

Chapter #1: How to Plan a Disney World Vacation

Chapter #2: How to Book Your Ideal Disney World Hotel

Chapter #3: 10 Things You Ought to Know About Disney World

Chapter #4: Perfect Disney World Packing List


Picking the best time to visit Disney World

how to plan a Disney World vacation


Best Time to Avoid Crowds

It used to be easy to avoid massive crowds at Disney, well, sort of. Disney has always been popular. However, it used to be most popular during the summer, around Christmas and the New Year, and over other holiday weekends.

While this is still true to an extent, it certainly doesn’t feel like it when you visit the parks in the middle of the week in early February.

Still, as a general rule, you will want to avoid times of year when everyone gets time off. Also, if possible, you should avoid going on the weekends.

You’ll want to take off from work for a few days and pull your kids out of school in the middle of the week.

If you’re looking to take an entire week vacation to visit Disney, you will have a lot of flexibility in which days you choose to visit the parks.

However, if you’re only interested in visiting for a few days, you will have to go ahead and decide which days you’ll visit the parks now.

Visit in Mid to Late January and Early February to Avoid the Heat

If you don’t live in a hot and humid climate, you will likely be surprised at how uncomfortable Florida can be.

Yes, it’s why us Floridians are always by the pool or at the beach!

When you plan to avoid the heat, you’ll often find that you avoid the crowds, which sounds silly. You’d think that more people would like to avoid the heat!

Summer vacation is a hugely popular time for families to visit Disney, which also happens to be the hottest time of year.

In order to avoid the heat and crowds, I would definitely recommend that you visit Disney in the winter. Still, in order to also avoid the crowds, do not visit over Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the New Year.

Instead, making the trip in mid to late January and early February can be a great time!

Typically, there are less people, and the temperature is often in the 60s-70s (Fahrenheit), although sometimes it manages to creep into the 80s, and you don’t usually need to worry about afternoon showers like you do in the Summer!

If you’re planning on visiting in January and February, make sure you check the weather regularly leading up to your vacation.

This way you know whether you need to pack shorts or light, long pants.

How to Decide Which Parks to Visit

If you have a limited time at Disney World, it can be difficult deciding which parks to visit. And if you want to visit all 4, it can be particularly hard to choose how much time to spend at each.

To help you out, here is an overview of each of the parks!

Animal Kingdom

Normal Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 9 am to 8 pm and Friday – Monday 9 am to 9 pm (Hours often change based on holidays and events).

Animal Kingdom is Disney’s biggest park (measured by landmass).

This means that there’s tons of awesome things to see and do!

Animals from all over the world are in exhibits at Animal Kingdom. The park offers educational information about the animals and wildlife conservation, which means everyone can learn something!

Park Highlights

How to Plan a Disney World Vacation


The Kilimanjaro Safari Ride is a personal favorite!

You board a vehicle that takes you through a large animal enclosure. The vehicle gently moves you through different parts, where you get to experience that animals as though you were actually on a safari!

They also just added Pandora (from Avatar), which I’ve heard is beautiful! So, you should definitely check that out. I believe it is supposed to be even more beautiful at night!

Also, if you love roller coasters, you have to go on Expedition Everest!

On this ride, you will be dropped, twisted, turned, and pulled backwards! This roller coaster is seriously awesome!

If you’re looking for a less intense coaster, you should ride the Primeval Whirl! And even if you’re not looking for a less intense coaster, you should ride it anyway!

It’s kind of a kiddie coaster, but it is so much FUN! Seriously, it whips you around. You will be laughing and having a great time! Plus, if you have children, they will love it!

Full List of Rides and Attractions in Animal Kingdom

Thrill Rides

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • Dinosaur
  • Primeval Whirl
  • Kali River Rapids

Slow Rides

  • Kilimanjaro Safari
  • Na’vi River Journey (Avatar)
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • Wildlife Express Train

Stage Shows

  • It’s Tough to Be a Bug (4-D)

Learning Centers and Exploration Trails (which often have animal exhibits)

  • Affection Sections (petting zoo)
  • The Boneyard (play place)
  • Conservation Station
  • Dino-Sue (Dinosaur bones)
  • Discovery Island Trails
  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
  • Habitat Habit
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • The Oasis Exhibits
  • Tree of Life
  • Wilderness Explorers

Animal Exhibits

  • African Birds
  • African Elephants
  • Butterflies
  • Flamingos
  • Gibbons
  • Giraffes
  • Gorillas
  • Hippopotamuses
  • Invertebrates
  • Lions
  • Migratory Birds
  • Okapis
  • Rhinos
  • Tamarins
  • Tigers
  • Vultures
  • Zebras

If you want more information on the attractions at animal kingdom, you can read it here!


Normal Hours: Monday – Sunday 9 am to 9 pm (Hours often change based on holidays and events)

Epcot offers you a unique opportunity to try food and drinks from around the world! You can visit 11 different countries!

Epcot tends to be a park geared more towards adults, although Disney does a fantastic job of creating fun activities for kids to participate in as they travel around the world!

While there are fun rides and attractions for the whole family, as a kid, I was always done with Epcot after about half a day. Although, Disney has added Phineus and Ferb Agent P’s World Showcase, which gives the kiddos something to do while you’re traveling (walking) around the world.

Epcot Highlights

How to Plan a Disney World Vacation

Epcot’s Spaceship Earth

The food, obviously. Everything at Epcot is delicious.

I would definitely recommend trying at least one thing you’ve never heard of before!

As far as rides go, Test Track is a fun ride for the whole family! You get to design a car, and then take it for a wild test drive!

Also, you should check out Mission: SPACE. You get to get in a rocket ship and fly to space, which is pretty cool! There is an intense version and a mild version. I would recommend the mild version for children and anyone that gets motion sick. If you’re claustrophobic, you should avoid the ride altogether.

However, if you think you can stomach it, you should definitely go on the intense version! It’s unlike anything you’ve likely ever experienced before!

There is a new Frozen ride, which is fun for the kids. However, I must admit that I am a little peeved that they replaced the Viking ride with it, but whatever, I’m not bitter or anything

Spaceship Earth is always fun. It’s a slow-moving ride, but an enjoyable way to get out of the heat. It needs a bit of an update, at least it needed it last time I was there. Maybe they have updated it since.

Full List of Rides and Attractions

Thrill Rides

  • Relaunched! Mission: SPACE
  • Test Track

Slow Rides

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Living with the Land
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • Soarin’
  • Spaceship Earth

Animal Exhibits

  • Reef Fish
  • Sea Turtles
  • Sharks and Stingrays

Other Fun Activities

  • Advanced Training Lab
  • American Heritage Gallery
  • Bijutsu-kan Gallery
  • Bruce’s Shark World
  • Phineus and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase
  • Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Gallery of Arts and History
  • House of the Whispering Willows
  • ImageWorks – The “What If” Labs
  • Innoventions
  • Kidcot Fun Stops
  • Mexico Folk Art Gallery
  • O Canada
  • Project Tomorrow: Inventing Wonders of the Future
  • Reflections of China
  • SeaBase
  • Stave Church Gallery
  • Turtle Talk with Crush
  • The American Adventure (show)

If you want anymore information on Epcot’s rides and attractions, you can find it here!

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios has a lot of great rides and attractions, especially if you love movies!

This park is a little more kid friendly than Epcot, meaning there are more rides! However, there are still some awesome activities and experiences available.

Also, this park has a lot of characters available for meet and greets, which is awesome if you have young children!

Hollywood Studios HighlightsHow to Plan a Disney World Vacation

The best roller coaster at any of the four Disney World parks might be the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster! It is crazy fast and spins you all around (even upside down)!

All Star Wars fans must ride Star Tours at least once! I believe there are four different stories that the ride cycles through. So, feel free to ride it again and again! You might have a new adventure!

Toy Story Mania is a fun, family-friendly ride. This is a slow-moving ride, which is great for younger children! Plus, you and your kids will love everyone’s favorite Toy Story characters come to life as you shoot targets with balls! What could be more fun?

For all the dare-devils (and other brave individuals), if you like to live on the wild-side, you should ride the Tower of Terror.

I don’t like to live on the wild-side and have actually avoided riding it. It’s the only ride at Disney I have chosen not to ride. I don’t like being dropped multiple stories… But that’s a personal preference.

Full List of Rides and Attractions

How to Plan a Disney World Vacation

Tower of Terror

Thrill Rides

  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Other Rides

  • Toy Story Mania!
  • Star Tours – The Adventure Continues (simulation)

Shows and Other Attractions

  • Muppet*Vision 3D
  • Star Wars Launch Bay Theater
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Star Wars: Path of the Jedi

New Rides (coming 2018)

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Slinky Dog Dash

If you want more information on any of the attractions, you can read more about them here!

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is probably the most popular park at Disney World.

There, you can ride tons of rides and meet a lot of awesome characters!

This park brings to life a lot of your favorite Disney movies.

The entire family will adore this park! And, if I had to recommend a park to spend an entire day (at the very least) exploring, it would be this one.

Magic Kingdom Highlights

How to Plan a Disney World Vacation

Fireworks Over Cinderella’s Castle

You have to get a family photo in front of Cinderella’s iconic castle! This is a photo you will cherish forever!

If you can, you should also dine in Cinderella’s castle at Cinderella’s Royal Table. This is an expensive restaurant (fine dining expensive), but the experience is fantastic! Plus, it’s a character dining experience, so some Princes and Princesses will be interacting with you and your family!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, and Seven Drawfs Mine Train are must ride roller coasters within the park! These are definitely not as intense as Expedition Everest or Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster.

Pirates of the Caribbean is another ride that you must ride!

Did you know that the ride came before the movie? This means you won’t see any of your favorite characters on the ride; however, it’s still a fun, gentle ride with only a small drop!

If you have the chance, you should dine at Be Our Guest, which is the restaurant located inside of Belle’s castle! This one isn’t nearly as expensive as Cinderella’s Royal Table, but it’s not full service.

You do have to wait in line to order, and the line can be pretty long, so be prepared.

But, there are multiple rooms from Belle’s castle that you can dine in!

Full List of Rides and Attractions

Thrill Rides

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Seven Drawfs Mine Train
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain

Slow Rides

  • Astro Orbitor
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Haunted Mansion
  • It’s a Small World
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Mad Tea Party
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Main Street Vehicles
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (this is perfect for when you need to sit and get out of the heat because there is never much of a line!)
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
  • Walt Disney World Railroad – Fantasyland
  • Walt Disney World Railroad – Frontierland
  • Walt Disney World Railroad – Main Street USA
  • Liberty Square Riverboat

Shows and Other Attractions

  • Casey Jr. Splash ‘n’ Soak Station
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade
  • The Hall of Presidents
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • A Pirate’s Adventure – Treasures of the Seven Seas
  • Swiss Family Tree House
  • Tom Sawyer Island
  • Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room

If you want more information on any of these rides, you can find it here!

After reading all about those Disney parks, which one are you most excited to visit?

Guide Contents:

You’ve finished this chapter!

Go ahead and move on to chapter #2 to learn about which hotel you should book for your Disney World vacation!

Chapter #1: How to Plan a Disney World Vacation

Chapter #2: How to Book Your Ideal Disney World Hotel

Chapter #3: 10 Things You Ought to Know About Disney World

Chapter #4: Perfect Disney World Packing List

Friends Don’t Keep Friends in the Dark!

Don’t exclude your friends!

Share this guide on Pinterest, using the image below!

I hope you have a much better idea of when you should visit Disney!

I also hope that you know exactly which parks you and your family will enjoy the most!

Keep reading this guide for more awesome information! Or, if you’re short on time, bookmark it and come back to finish it later!

See you in the next chapter!


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