When planning your First Disney Trip, there is a lot to consider. From which parks to visit, to which resort to stay at to how much a Disney vacation costs. There is a lot to learn. More confusing yet, is how all the puzzle pieces fit together to actually create your perfect Disney Vacation. If you’re ready to learn how to Plan Your First Disney World Vacation don’t get overwhelmed. We’ll give you all the Walt Disney World basics, and step-by-step instructions for planning your Disney Vacation.
Booking a Disney Vacation package is by far the easiest way to pull together a vacation to Walt Disney World. A Disney Vacation Package includes tickets, and resort booking, and allows you add-ons like transportation to and from the airport, as well as the Disney Dining Plan when offered. But before we get started in the How-To, let’s get some basic Disney information out of the way. This will help you have a good lay of the land before you dive in so that you can choose what’s best for you and those you’re traveling with.
- 1 Walt Disney World Planning Basics
- 2 Walt Disney World Parks
- 3 Walt Disney World Tickets
- 4 Disney Special Event Tickets
- 5 Walt Disney World Resorts
- 6 Walt Disney World Restaurants
- 7 Walt Disney World Rides
- 8 Walt Disney World Transportation
- 9 Walt Disney World Budget
- 10 Disney Payments and Cancellations Fees
- 11 First Disney Vacation Helpful Tips
Walt Disney World Planning Basics
Through the planning process, you will need to do the following. You can grab our First Disney Vacation Printable Worksheet to help nail down these decisions to get you started. You can also check our Helpful tips section at the end of this post for our best recommendations on each of these steps.
Setting Up Your Disney Vacation
- Create Your Profile: Create your My Disney Experience Profile. Create a Disney Account here. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/login If you already have a Disney account, then simply sign in to manage your account. Note: Everyone in your travel party ( kid’s included) will need a My Disney Experience Account.
- Choose When to Visit: Pick when to visit Walt Disney World. Some months are cheaper and have lower crowds than others. Read more about the Cheapest and Most Expensive Times to Visit Walt Disney World.
- Choose How Long to Stay: Decide how many days to visit Walt Disney World. Read our post on How Long you Should Visit Walt Disney World.
- Choose How Many Tickets You Need: Select which days you need Disney Park Tickets. Check out all the things you can do Without a Park Ticket at Walt Disney World.
Figuring Out Costs
- Pick Your Resort: Choose which Disney Resort at which you want to stay at. Read our Disney Resort Reviews.
- Plan Transportation: Plan travel to and from Walt Disney World. Check out all the Transportation Options from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World.
- Figure out your Disney Budget: Figure out how much your Disney Vacation will cost. Read about Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation on a Budget and Disney Dining on a Budget to get you started.
Getting the Details Figured Out
- Reserve Your Park Passes: Choose which park to visit on which days. Check out Which Disney Park to Visit on Which Day for Lower Crowds. Add your required Park Pass Reservations. View Park Pass Reservation Availability for your dates of travel. ONLY thru January 8, 2024.
- Choose Extra Experiences and Events: Select extra Disney experiences and Special Event Tickets for your vacation. Grab tickets to Special Events at Walt Disney World.
- Plan your Restaurant Reservations: Consider Disney Dining Reservations to book. Read about Restaurants at Walt Disney World.
- Plan Your Rides: Plan which days and for which rides you need Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane. Learn more about Lightning Lane and Disney Genie+ Build your Daily Disney Itinerary. Check out what you can do at each park each day in each section below.
Walt Disney World Parks
Walt Disney World is not one place that you visit. Instead, when planning your first Walt Disney World Vacation it’s helpful to look at it as a small town. In fact, Walt Disney World has its own zip code, is close to 43 square miles, and is twice the size of Manhattan, NY. That said, realizing this ahead of time, will HELP you with planning.
Four Theme Parks
Walt Disney World is made up of 4 theme parks, each with its own park icon and theme. Each requires a park ticket to enter and has different park hours, events, rides, and restaurants. When we talk about planning one park per day, this really is the best strategy. Especially since each of the four theme parks have enough to do to fill one full day. This is important to know if you’re planning a short Disney Vacation. Here is a brief look at what there is to do in each Disney World Theme Park
Magic Kingdom Park
Magic Kingdom Park is home to Cinderella’s Castle. It is the most popular Walt Disney World park, and also the smallest. You can peruse the Magic Kingdom Checklist to help you choose what to do on your Magic Kingdom Day.
Magic Kingdom has several popular rides that are most likely on your Disney Must-Do list. Peter Pan’s Flight, “it’s a Small World”, Mad Tea Party Teacups, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain are all in Magic Kingdom. This park is also home to TRON, which is opening in 2023.
Magic Kingdom’s more popular restaurants are Crystal Palace, which offers character dining with Winnie the Pooh and Friends, and Be Our Guest, which is housed inside the Beauty and the Beast Castle. Perhaps the most popular restaurant in Magic Kingdom is Cinderella’s Royal Table, with Disney Princess meet and greets, and is known best as the restaurant inside Cinderella’s Castle. Browse the Best Magic Kingdom Restaurants.
EPCOT Park is home to Spaceship Earth, otherwise known as the giant golf ball at the front of the park. It consists of 4 neighborhoods highlighting humanity’s shared journey. World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Showcase. These areas include attractions around a theme. Be sure to review the EPCOT Checklist to help you choose what to do on your EPCOT Day.
Popular rides at EPCOT Park include Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, Test Track, and Spaceship Earth. This park also includes the Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind rollercoaster.
EPCOT Park restaurants to consider include Space 220, Chefs de France, Teppan Edo Hibachi, La Cantina de San Angel, and many options for fine dining. EPCOT is also known for its annual festivals, which happen throughout the year. If you’re visiting during an EPCOT festival know that you can also grab food at the outdoor kitchens that are available during Festivals at EPCOT. Browse the Best EPCOT Restaurants.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom Park is home to the Tree of Life and more than 500 acres of landscape, housing a variety of wildlife across the park. As Disney’s wildlife park, Animal Kingdom includes trails, rides, restaurants, and experiences themed to Africa and Asia. Animal Kingdom is also home to Pandora, World of Avatar. If this is your first Disney World Vacation, know that as Disney World’s largest park, Animal Kingdom covers a lot of ground.
With one of the most popular rides in Walt Disney World, Avatar: Flight of Passage, Animal Kingdom is no stranger to rope drop crowds. Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Kilimajaro Safari, and Navi River Journey are all top rides to have on your Checklist for your Animal Kingdom Day.
Animal Kingdom Restaurants to try to include Tusker House where you’ll see Mickey and Friends in their safari gear, Yak and Yeti, Satu’li Canteen, and Nomad Lounge.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios icon in the park is the Hollywood Tower Hotel which houses the Tower of Terror ride. As home to both Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, there is plenty to do in this classic Disney Park. Other areas of the park include an area decorated to the 1950s, and a Classic Hollywood area, called Sunset Boulevard.
Popular rides in Hollywood Studios include Rise of the Resistance, Slinky Dog Dash, Star Tours, and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Other favorite attractions in this park are Midway Mania, Muppet Vision 3D, and Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Since both Rise of the Resistance and Slinky Dog Dash typically see long waits, you’ll want to figure out which rides are Must-Do’s on your Hollywood Studios Checklist.
Restaurants at Hollywood Studios are themed to the areas in which they are found. The Hollywood Brown Derby is the park’s signature dining experience and denotes a sense of old Hollywood. Hollywood and Vine is the park’s character dining restaurant and offers seasonal dining experiences. If interested in immersion dining, the 1950s Prime Time Cafe is also popular. ABC Commissary and the Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant are ones to consider if you’re looking for consistent dining options.
Walt Disney World has two water parks; Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. If adding this to your Disney Vacation you will need to grab a water park ticket. These parks are themed to storylines that lend to their respective rides, restaurants, beaches, etc. While you may not need to add a Disney Water Park on your First Walt Disney World Vacation, if you’re a water park family, know that they are open year-round, except when they are in the process of refurbishment.
Walt Disney World has an on-property shopping center. Thankfully, Disney Springs is Free, and we often recommend it as one of the best ways to enjoy Walt Disney World without a park ticket. With both Disney-themed shopping and major retailers like Anthropologie, Uniqlo, Sephora, The Lego Store, and more, it’s easy to spend a full day at Disney Springs. Read more about Disney Springs.
Visiting the Disney Boardwalk is another one of our favorite Free Things to Do at Walt Disney World. And since it’s FREE you don’t need a park ticket, and can easily visit at any time throughout your vacation. The Disney Boardwalk Area has a few Disney Resorts, restaurants, entertainment, beaches, and a walking path from EPCOT to Hollywood Studios. This is also the area where you will find the Walt Disney World Swan, Swan Reserve, and Dolphin Hotels.
Walt Disney World Tickets
If you are booking a Disney Vacation Package you won’t have to worry about purchasing tickets separately. The convenience of this alone is usually enough for us to purchase the package. That said, as a Disney World Annual Passholder you also wouldn’t have to worry about tickets for the four theme parks. However, if you’re planning on several trips to Walt Disney World in any given year a Disney Annual Pass may be most budget-friendly.
Disney World Theme Park Admission
A theme park ticket is required for each of Disney’s four theme parks. Luckily Disney tickets are not park-specific, as one Disney Theme Park Ticket can be used at any of the four theme parks; Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom. Typically about $110 dollars for a 1-day ticket, if you purchase more days, the price goes down per down. This is per person, per day, for one park. Check current Disney Theme Park Ticket Prices.
Disney Park Hopper
You Don’t Need a Disney Park Hopper Ticket on your First Disney Vacation, simply because there is so much to do in each park, and as a Disney newbie, so much that you will want to take in.
Park Hopper Ticket
What is a Disney Park Hopper ticket you ask? This ticket is an extra amount above your theme park ticket price and gets you into a second park on the same day. The way this currently works at Disney World is that those guests with a Park Hopper Ticket are allowed to enter another park after 2 pm, without a park pass reservation. This is helpful for shorter Disney Vacations where you hope to smash two parks into one day. Otherwise, we recommend against adding a park hopper ticket on your First Disney Vacation.
Park Hopper Plus Ticket
If you’re hoping to visit the Theme Parks, Park Hop, and go to the Water Parks, then the Park Hopper Plus ticket, includes all of these. And in regards to doing Disney on a Budget, this combined ticket is cheaper than purchasing theme park tickets, water park tickets, and park hopper tickets separately.
Disney Water Park Tickets
Just like any Disney theme park, Disney Water Parks require a ticket, and they are a different type of ticket than the theme park ticket. If choosing a Disney Vacation Package and purchase it on the Walt Disney World website, then one of your last screens will allow you to choose a water park ticket, and park hopper ticket add-ons to your package. Check out current Disney Water Park Ticket Prices.
Disney Special Event Tickets
Perhaps you’re visiting Walt Disney World for the first time to take advantage of a special event. Perhaps you’re celebrating and want to experience something special. While you don’t need to add a special event ticket to Your First Walt Disney World Vacation, here are some of the events that are typically available, depending on what time of year you visit.
Disney’s After Hours
If you’re traveling without little ones and want to stay out late, then you may want to consider adding tickets for a Disney After Hours event. While the After Hours events at Magic Kingdom are one of the best things to do for Disney Adults, the high price of tickets and late hours to almost 1 am, make this a challenging event for families. Read our Disney After Hours review to see if it may work for you.
Parties at Magic Kingdom Park
A favorite of families and holiday junkies, the Disney holiday parties at Magic Kingdom are considered a Disney Must-Do by many. What you’re paying for in this extra ticketed experience are unique experiences you can’t get anywhere else in the parks. Both Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party include exclusive snacks, merchandise, ride overlays, fireworks, parades, meet and greets, and shows. These are generally cheaper than the Disney After Hours events and if you’re traveling in the fall or winter, grabbing a party ticket is a great way to make your vacation extra special.
Disney Dessert Parties
Another event that requires an extra ticket, dessert parties are offered at select parks for certain events. Disney Dessert Parties offers guests sweet and savory snacks and an exclusive location from which to view the nighttime spectaculars. EPCOT and Magic Kingdom typically offer dessert parties. Check out all the Disney Dessert Parties currently available.
Walt Disney World Tours
Walt Disney World offers a variety of tours and special activities that can upgrade your Disney Vacation. However, keep in mind that these are extra and require their own ticket and registration. While these are not needed on your First Vacation to Walt Disney World, if you’re celebrating something special or plan on this being your only vacation to Walt Disney World, it may be worth the cost. Check out all the Walt Disney World Tours you can add to your trip.
runDisney Marathon events
If you’re a runner, then chances are you’ve heard of the runDisney marathons that happen throughout the year. Intermittently offered you can check out the runDisney Marathon schedule to see if this is an event that coincides with your vacation dates. Know that runDisney events tend to fill up fast as soon as registration opens. So unless a marathon is a reason for your first trip to Walt Disney World, participating in this event is a planning undertaking in and of itself. Check out the runDisney Events calendar.
Walt Disney World Discounts
Ah, now for the most important thing you will want to consider regarding your Disney Vacation Budget. Can you get any discounts for a Disney World Vacation? There are several tried and true ways to save money on a Disney Vacation. However, the page you want to check before you start planning is the Walt Disney World Special Offers page. Updated constantly, you may find a discount here that coincides with your vacation dates, or includes a discount resort, or dining offer.
Walt Disney World Resorts
Now that you have a handle on the fact that Walt Disney World has four theme parks, and two water parks, all of which will require tickets, let’s move on to where you are going to stay. Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort is always a good idea. While there are other nearby hotels, nothing is quite as magical as staying on Disney property. When considering a Disney Resort, know that Disney has three resort tiers; Value, Moderate and Deluxe. And prices can range from $80-$4000 dollars/a night depending on several factors, including resort tier, amenities offered, transportation options, and what time of year you visit.
What are you looking for in a Disney Resort? Do you need something basic and don’t mind waiting for the Disney buses? Or would you prefer a resort on the Disney Skyliner or Monorail Line, so you can get to the parks easily? Perhaps you prefer a resort away from the crowds? Or a resort that isn’t overly Disney-themed? Here are some options to consider.
- Disney Value Resorts: Bus transportation. Pop Century and Art of Animation also have Skyliner transportation.
- Disney Moderate Resorts: Bus Transportation. Caribbean Beach Resort also has Skyliner transportation.
- Disney Deluxe Resorts. Bus transportation. Some offer monorail, ferry, and Skyliner transportation.
- Disney Boardwalk Resorts: Within walking distance of EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
- Disney Monorail Resorts: Within walking distance of Magic Kingdom.
- Disney Ferry Boat Resorts: Ferry boat resorts are located near EPCOT and Magic Kingdom
- Disney Skyliner Resorts: Includes Skyliner access to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
Disney’s Value Resorts typically offer all your basic amenities including on-site dining, laundry, pools, a gift shop, and a Disney theme. The main Value Resorts at Walt Disney World are known as Disney All-Star Resorts. These resorts are the cheapest on the property, with the exception of tent camping sites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds. They only offer bus transportation, and sometimes see larger groups, like high schools, and international travelers, making these somewhat crowded resorts. However, they offer everything you need to have a great Disney vacation on a budget.
Value Plus Resorts are technically also in the Value Resort category and include one of our favorite Disney Resorts on the property, Pop Century Resort. The resorts included in this category are still very budget-friendly and include both Disney’s Art of Animation and Pop Century Resort. These resorts share access to the Disney Skyliner, in addition to Disney bus transportation, making getting to and from EPCOT and Hollywood Studios easy and fast. Art of Animation Resort is known for its family suites and is a good option for families who need the space.
Disney Moderate Resorts level includes a variety of Disney Resorts that are themed both to Disney in subtle ways. Coronado Springs for example is based on Walt Disney’s love of Central and South America, while Port Orleans Resorts have hints of Princess and the Frog elements throughout. Also offering bus transportation, these resorts are great options if you want to get away from it all. If choosing a resort at this level, we’d recommend Disney’s Caribbean Resort, as it has access to the Disney Skyliner, as well as buses, and is located just next to Disney’s Riviera Resort. This proximity means that you can simply walk to the other resort to try out their restaurants, gift shop, and beach.
Disney Deluxe Resorts are the highest-priced resorts on Disney property. In addition to all the basic amenities you get from the other resorts, Disney Deluxe Resorts often include gyms, fine dining, and alternative modes of transportation. The Disney Boardwalk Resorts for example include six resorts that are within walking distance of both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. And Disney Monorail Resorts offer monorail transportation to and from Magic Kingdom. Some resorts offer boat transportation to and from Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.
Disney Resort Perks
There are several reasons that we recommend staying at a Disney World Resort, and most of those reasons include convenience, as everything shows up in your My Disney Experience App. Here is what you get as a Disney Resort Guest.
- Early Theme Park Entry. Guests staying at a Disney Resort are able to enter the parks 30 minutes earlier than other guests. Allowing you time to get to your favorite rides before the crowds roll in.
- FREE Parking at the Resort and in the Parks. If you’re staying off-property, you most likely will have parking fees at your hotel, as well as the parks. Check out all the details about Disney Parking Fees.
- Complimentary Disney Transportation. A variety of transportation options can get you to and from the parks, Disney Springs, and other resorts.
- A Discounted MagicBand is offered Pre-Arrival so you can show up ready, with tickets, resort, and everything already loaded. Learn about MagicBands.
- Special Offers and Discounts. As a Disney Resort guest, you can get access to Magical Extras which sometimes include restaurant discounts and free miniature golf.
- Early Individual Lightning Lane Pass Access. Disney’s ride reservation system, Disney Genie+, and Lightning Lane open at 7 am to Disney Resort Guests, as opposed to 9 am. Giving you time to reserve the most popular rides, before all the spots are taken.
- Many Disney Resorts are within Walking Distance of the Parks. This is a huge perk if you’re hoping to stay close to the action without being dependent on shared transportation.
Staying Off-Property at Disney World
While staying off-property is always an option, we never recommend it for your First Disney World vacation. Mainly because it just doesn’t feel as magical! When staying on property at Walt Disney World you are able to simply ignore the real world for a while, as we wouldn’t wish Orlando traffic or parking at the Disney parks on anyone. However, if you’re also vacationing at other Orlando theme parks, like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then it may make more sense to find somewhere in the middle.
Walt Disney World Restaurants
When figuring out what to eat at Walt Disney World and how to pay for it, it’s helpful to know the Disney lingo and how much money to set aside for your Disney Dining Budget. When it’s offered to make this step extra simple you can grab the Disney Dining Plan, which can be added when you book a Disney Vacation Package. A Disney Dining Plan includes meal allotments per person that are good at most all Disney restaurants. And since you pay for it when you book your package there’s no worrying about how much things cost when you’re dining out. You can find restaurants at all Disney Parks, and Resorts, as well as on the Boardwalk and in Disney Springs. Are you looking for a Restaurant at a certain Disney World Park? If so, check out the Disney Restaurants at each park, on our park pages, below.
- Animal Kingdom Restaurants
- EPCOT Park Restaurants
- Hollywood Studios Restaurants
- Magic Kingdom Restaurants
- Disney BoardWalk Restaurants
- Disney Resort Restaurants
- Disney Springs Restaurants
Quick Service Restaruants
Quick-Service Restaurants are restaurants that offer a walk-up counter and don’t require reservations. You can find them everywhere, and they offer a great option for budget-friendly meals. But, not all quick-service restaurants are worth it. Check out our Best Quick Service Dining Restaurants list to make sure you pick the best places to grab a bit during your trip. Plan to budget about $15-20 per meal, per person.
Table Service Restaruants
Table-Service Restaurants are restaurants that are sit-down, with meals that typically last 1 hour. and generally require reservations. This restaurant category also includes Character Dining and Signature Dining, which are more expensive. Plan to budget on average about $40-60 per meal, per person.
- Character Dining Restaurants can be found all across Disney World. This type of dining is typically a buffet dining experience and features characters on a theme. As part of the meal, the characters visit your table for photos and light interaction. For example, Topolino Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort features Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy dressed in European style as a poet, painter, dancer, and artist. Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom is a buffet that includes Winnie the Pooh and Friends. There are many restaurants featuring characters if this is something you’re looking for.
- Signature Dining Restaurants can be such a treat and is great for Adults visiting Walt Disney World. They are, however incredibly pricey and can cost hundreds of dollars for one meal. If you’re looking for something special, however, then you could consider Victoria and Albert’s over at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort or California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, among others.
Snacks can be found across all Disney Parks. From Mickey Bars to slushy kid-friendly drinks, chances are you will have to grab snacks throughout your trip. Plan typically $5-10 dollars per snack, per person. Check out the Best Snacks at Walt Disney World to see what you may want to add to your Disney Must-Do List.
Booking Disney Restaurants
Disney Restaurants can be booked 60 days before the first day of your vacation. If you are a Disney Resort Guest you can book restaurants for all the days of your vacation. If you are not a Disney Resort guest, then you can book 60 days before the first day of your vacation, and then will have to repeat this process for each day of your vacation at the 60-day mark. You can reserve a Disney Restaurant with your credit card, to hold your place. Your card won’t be charged. Cancellations must happen within 2 hours of your reservation, and there is a $10 per person cancellation fee.
Walt Disney World Rides
Riding any Walt Disney World is FREE when you are willing to just wait in line. All Disney Rides have standby lines, with the exception of rides that may be newly opened. That said, if you would like to pay to skip waiting in lines, then Disney has a couple of options at a cost.
- Disney Genie+ is Disney’s PAID service that allows you to customize your Disney day, and choose 2 rides for which you would like to use Lightning Lane Passes. Note that Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane ride selections do not include all rides. This costs $15 per person, per day.
- Individual Lightning Lane is a Disney PAID service for the most popular rides in the parks. With a price range depending on the time of year, crowds, and availability. Cost ranges from $9-$18 per person, per ride. Read all about Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane rides.
Disney Ride Height Limits
If you’re bringing small children to Walt Disney World you will want to know which rides are open to them. While some coasters may be off-limits, many rides are great for all ages. Check out the Disney Ride Height Limits list to see all the rides and the heights required. To see which Disney Rides are great for a First Trip to Walt Disney World, check out our Best Rides in each Disney Park post to get a quick look at what you should prioritize.
Walt Disney World Transportation
Walt Disney World has a variety of complimentary transportation options that can transport you all over Walt Disney World property. While there are benefits to bringing a car to Walt Disney World, Disney Theme Park Fees may make having a car expensive and unnecessary. That said check out our Guide to Disney Transportation for the details, this is what you can expect.
- Disney Buses are available for every Disney Resort, Theme Park, and Disney Springs. They are clearly marked with their destination and arrive and depart regularly throughout the day, about every 20 minutes.
- Disney Monorails are available to transport you to Disney Monorail Resorts, and to and from the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center) to EPCOT Park.
- The Disney Skyliner gondola system transports guests to and from the Disney Skyliner Resorts, EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance, and Hollywood Studios entrance.
- Disney Boat Transportation is available to and from select resorts on Walt Disney World property. Boat access to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Disney Springs is all offered.
Transportation | Walt Disney World – Orlando International Airport
How do I get from Orlando Airport to Walt Disney World? Plan travel to and from Walt Disney World by deciding if you are renting a car, or flying in and using a hired service. Since Walt Disney World does not offer complimentary service to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) we recommend using the Mears Connect Driven By Sunshine Disney shuttle service. This new service is a bus service at the airport and will bring you straight to your Disney World Resort for a fee. Read our post on How to Get to Walt Disney World from the Airport for prices and details.
Walt Disney World Budget
Perhaps the most important thing to figure out on your First Disney World Vacation is How Much a Disney Vacation costs? And more specifically how much YOUR Walt Disney World vacation will cost? You can check out our post on how to build a Disney Vacation Budget for details. Here are the main elements to consider.
Costs to Consider
- Travel Costs. Flying or Driving to Walt Disney World, plus transportation to and from the Orlando Airport need to be considered. Cheaper airlines like Spirit and Southwest will get you the best rates.
- Lodging Cost. Check out average Disney Resort Prices for each tier if you’re considering staying on the property.
- Tickets/ Package Cost. Purchase Tickets before you go on the Walt Disney World website, or book a Vacation Package to get these included.
- Dining and Meal Costs. The average is $80-$100 per person/ per day. Read how to plan a Disney Dining Budget.
- Disney Genie+ and Lighting Lane Passes. $15 dollars a day for Disney Genie+ which includes 2 Lightning Lane passes for select rides, per person, per day. And between $9-18 dollars for individual Lightning Lane Passes per person, per ride.
- Misc. & Souvenirs. Plan to set aside a few hundred dollars for emergencies and souvenirs.
Ways to Save Money on a Walt Disney World Vacation
While there are many, many things that will affect the cost of your Disney Vacation believe it or not most of those things are in your control. If you’re hoping to get the most bang for your buck there are a couple of things you can do to ensure you’re saving money.
- Set your travel dates during the Cheapest Times of Year to Visit Walt Disney World
- Select a Disney Value Resort instead of a more expensive resort
- Limit most meals to quick-service dining options
- Pack quick breakfast foods like granola bars and yogurt so you can skip paying for this meal at the parks
- Stay for more days to get the best price on Disney Park tickets. After 3 days the price per day drops. At 5 days or more, you get the best rate on tickets
- Check out all the ways you can Save Money on a Trip to Walt Disney World.
Disney Payments and Cancellations Fees
A Disney resort reservation can be made with a $200 deposit held on a credit card. The remainder of your payment is due at the Resort when you arrive. If you have booked a Disney Vacation Package, a $200 dollar deposit held on a credit card is required to make the reservation. Payment in full must be made 30 days prior to arrival.
Disney Cancellation Fees
And if you are worried you may have to cancel, here are the Disney Cancellation Fees to consider.
- 30 Days or More BEFORE your arrival date. The full amount is refunded.
- 2 days- 29 days BEFORE your arrival date. Amounts paid for your vacation, minus a $200 cancellation fee will be refunded.
- 1 day or less BEFORE your arrival date and for no-shows. The full price of your Disney Vacation package is non-refundable.
Note that if you purchased Disney tickets they have variable usage rules and expiration dates. Check out the rules on how long you have to use Disney tickets. If cancelation is something you’re worried about, then be sure to check out Disney’s Cancellation Policy for all the details and exceptions.
First Disney Vacation Helpful Tips
When is the Best Time to Visit Walt Disney World?
Pick when to visit Walt Disney World. So many things affect what may be considered the “best time” to visit Walt Disney World. From weather, to cost, to events offered and crowds, we’ve rounded up our best suggestions in the Best days to Visit Walt Disney World post. However, we most like September for lower crowds and Halloween Decorations, November for holiday decorations, and January for mild weather and the Festival of the Arts. In general, we AVOID holidays, spring break, and late spring and summer due to crowds and cost.
How Many Days Should You Plan for Walt Disney World?
Decide how many days to visit Walt Disney World. For us, a 9-12 day vacation to Walt Disney World is best. But we understand that many people just don’t have this kind of time. If this is your first Disney Walt Disney World Vacation aiming for 7-9 days is also adequate. We share our reasoning in our How Many Days Should You Go to Disney World post. For the most part, when you consider you should have 5 full days ( 1 for each of the four parks and 1 for Disney Springs) plus an arrival and departure day that are primarily empty of obligations, you see that trying to fit it in under than 7 days feels rushed. Keep in mind that with this model, you won’t necessarily have the time to do Magic Kingdom on a second day, which we also suggest. Nor the time to visit the Water Parks, Boardwalk or do the extras, like mini-golf, a resort day, and resort hopping.
Do I need a Disney Park Ticket for Every Day of your Vacation?
Select which days you need Disney Park Tickets, by choosing how many days you’ll be in the parks. For us, we usually grab 5 park tickets for a 7-day trip, with 1 day for EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, and 2 days for Magic Kingdom. Do you plan on visiting a theme park on your Disney World Arrival Day? Often hours of travel and an after-8 am arrival makes getting to the parks on your first day and being prepared to stay through evening entertainment near impossible. Similarly, do you plan on going to a theme park on your departure day, when all items need to be packed and ready to go by 11 am for check-out?
Should I Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort on My First Disney Vacation?
While staying off-property at Walt Disney World is always an option, we say YES, you should stay at a Walt Disney World Resort for your first Disney vacation. Choose which Disney Resort at which you want to stay by comparing costs, themes, location, and transportation options.
How Much Does a Walt Disney World Vacation Cost?
While the amount you pay for a Disney Vacation has many variables, it’s important to Figure out how much your Disney Vacation will cost, while you’re planning. On average 2 adults, 1 child ( 10+, which is technically an adult) and one child (age 3-9)) is about $6,000 dollars for a 5-day trip. Travel to and from Walt Disney World can get pricey depending on where you live, so here are the things you can estimate to get a number to start your Disney Budget.
- Transportation to and from the airport to Walt Disney World – $30 per person round trip
- Lodging at Walt Disney World- $300/ night
- Tickets at Walt Disney World- $125/ per person per day
- Food at Walt Disney World- $100/ per person per day
Does everyone in My Family Need a My Disney Experience Profile?
Yes. With the exception of children under 3, every person in your travel party should have a My Disney Experience profile. You can create your My Disney Experience Profile on Disney’s website. Having the profile allows each person in your party the ability to see what reservations, lightning lane passes, and event tickets are attached to their name. As well as open the resort room door. Parents by default manage children’s accounts. Be sure to download the Walt Disney World My Disney Experience App.
Which Disney Park Should I visit on Which Days?
Choose which park to visit on which days by determining your arrival and departure dates first. Once those are decided you can see where crowds may be the lowest at each park by reviewing our Which Disney Parks to Visit on Which Days post. All parks have lower crowds on Tuesday and Thursday. And we recommend putting Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios on those days. Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World’s largest park and doesn’t feel as crowded as the others at any time. We recommend reserving weekends for resort days, the Boardwalk, Resort Hopping, and Disney Springs.
Do I Need Disney Park Pass Reservations and a Park Ticket?
Yes. In order to get into any park, you must have a Disney Park Pass Reservation. Add your required Park Pass Reservations, in the My Disney Experience App, based on which park you chose for each day of your vacation. You are able to select park passes for everyone in your travel party during the process. But will have to do each day separately. Read more about How to Make Disney Park Pass Reservations. ONLY Through January 8, 2024.
Does Walt Disney World Have Special Events and Experiences?
Yes. Whether you’re visiting during the holidays or celebrating something special you can select extra Disney experiences for your vacation by checking out the Special Events and Experiences page on Disney’s website. While there is so much to do on your First Vacation to Walt Disney World, you don’t need to add anything extra. But, things like Disney’s Halloween Party or a Disney After Hours event could enhance your vacation. Especially, if you don’t plan on regularly visiting.
Do I Need to Book Disney Restaurants before I go to Walt Disney World?
Yes. Consider Disney Dining Reservations to book before you go. You are able to make dining reservations 60 days before the first day of your vacation. And certain restaurants will be absolutely impossible to get if you don’t plan ahead. Restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, Topolino’s Terrace, Crystal Palace and Space 220 are difficult reservations to score. So, if you have somewhere special you’re hoping to dine on your first vacation to Walt Disney World check availability as soon as your reservation window opens.
How Should I Plan Meals During our Disney Vacation?
Review options for dining for each day of your trip by reviewing your preferred Disney Restaurant list. This will help you nail down which restaurants will naturally fall on certain days. Due to you being in the park on those days. If they’re quick service, no reservation is required. And if they’re not, plan to book a reservation. This is also a good time to consider snacks, and what you’re planning for breakfasts.
Do I Need to Buy Lighting Lane Passes for Rides at Walt Disney World?
No. You can simply use the standby line or other Disney Ride Strategies if you’re trying to save money. You could also plan which days and for which rides you need Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane. Perhaps Flight of Passage is on your Disney Must Do List, or Rise of the Resistance. While you may not need a Lightning Lane Pass or Disney Genie+ there will be days that it may make sense.
Planning your First Vacation to Walt Disney World
There you have it! Hopefully, this First-Timers Guide to Walt Disney World is helpful. Be sure to grab the FREE Printable Disney World Park Checklists and Planning Guide to help you plan this trip! Let us know if you have questions along the way! We know that the Disney World planning experience can get overwhelming. Especially when you’ve never been there before!
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.