How to Plan a Weekend at Disney World

How to Plan a Weekend at Disney World

With only a little time for planning ahead and not much extra money, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Disney for some much-needed fun and a break from the freezing weather in Ohio. But whether you’ve got a reason or just need to get away here are our best tips to know if you’re taking a Long Weekend at Walt Disney World.

Planning a Short Walt Disney World Vacation

If you’re hoping to shove your Walt Disney World Vacation into a long weekend, or 2-3 days, then this post will give you some things to consider. From maximizing your time to which tickets make the most sense to opportunities to skip the ride lines with Lightning Lane and Disney+, planning is essential! Thankfully Disney World has introduced things like Meals To-Go, Mobile Ordering, Mobile checkout, and more to help you make the most of a short vacation to Walt Disney World. Let’s dive in. However, keep in mind we never recommend a short Disney vacation if this is your first Disney Vacation, because you’ll simply go crazy with the amount of things you want to do but couldn’t possibly fit in, in 2-3 days. 

How Much Does it Cost for a Weekend at Disney World?

Whether you’re spending 2 days at Disney World or 3 days at Disney world over the long weekend, be prepared to set some realistic expectations. Weekend days have the most expensive Park Tickets and the most expensive Resort Rooms. As such, how much it costs, depends on where you stay, and when you visit. On average  you can plan to spend about 1200-1500 on a weekend at Disney, depending on a lot of factors. Understand, that due to the higher costs of everything ( not including your transportation/ flight) that this is about the same cost for a a 5-day vacation, during the week, with a Disney Vacation Package. 


Disney World Tickets Cost on average about $150 per day, per day, ranging up to $170 per day during busy times, and down to $135 per day during less busy times. Check the Disney Ticket Prices Calendar for your trip dates to see what price per day you may be paying. 

Hotel Room

The range of hotel prices is wide! From about $100/ per night during the low seasons, to thousands of dollars at deluxe resorts during the busy season. Typically, staying at a Disney All Star Resort gets you the cheapest per night stay at between $100-250/ night. Browse our Disney Resort Categories and Pricing Tiers Guide for details on what you can expect to pay. 


Food at Disney World, depending on what you eat, and if you’re doing signature or character dining, is typically $100 per person/ per day. Read more about the Disney Dining Budget to get a handle on your food costs. 

Polynesian Resort and Villas at Disney World Resort

Choose the Best Disney Resort in the Right Location

Choosing the BEST Disney Resort for a Long Weekend at Walt Disney World is all about figuring out your priorities FIRST! Because it really does matter where you stay!

If you are just visiting for a weekend you already know that you need to find ways to save time on your Disney Vacation. But no matter where you stay, you won’t want to waste time waiting for or riding on buses. Consider the location of your resort to the activities you’re hoping to tackle during this weekend. 

Which Disney Resort is Closest to Each Park?

Walt Disney World Resorts within walking distance of the parks are your best bet. However, there are several transportation options that make certain parks easier to get to. The Disney Skyliner Resorts for example get you close to EPCOT Park and Hollywood Studios. While those resorts aren’t within walking distance, this transportation option helps you skip the lines at the buses. And some Disney Resorts offer boat transportation

  • Animal Kingdom: The Resort Closest to Animal Kingdom is Animal Kingdom Lodge, this park is the farthest from most of the parks. It is, however, just a 10-minute bus ride from Animal Kingdom. 
  • EPCOT or Hollywood Studios: For a Disney Resort Closest to Hollywood Studios or EPCOT try a Disney Boardwalk Resort. The Swan and Dolphin Hotels are both are within walking distance of EPCOT and Hollywood Studios also.
  • Magic Kingdom: While the Closest Resort to Magic Kingdom is Disney’s Contemporary Resorts, it’s also one of the most expensive. Staying at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds, Wilderness Lodge or the Monorail Resorts can get you closest and easiest access to the park. 
  • Central Location to All 4 Parks: If you need to be central we’d recommend Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter. Bus rides tend to be about 10-15 minutes to every park from here, it’s the best on-site hotel for getting everywhere faster. They also offer boat transportation to Disney Springs. 

Disney Pro Tip: is our go-to site anytime we’re not booking directly through Disney. For one thing, the rewards program will earn you a free night and Disney hotels are often included. They’re also the best place to look for last-minute deals.

hurrican hannas beach club yacht club bar and grill falafel

Decide Where to Eat at Disney Each Day

We’ve become emotionally attached to at least three meals a day. But, chances are that the good restaurants will be booked on a last-minute trip. So how can you grab the best food at the last minute and on a budget? 

Choose Quick Service Restaurants Ahead of Time

While advanced dining reservations may be difficult to get to some of the best Disney Restaurants, you can always focus on the Best Quick Service Restaurants at Disney to hold you over. There are quite a few wonderful quick-service walk-up counters across the parks that do just fine for a last-minute trip.

Find Disney Restaurants that Have Last-Minute Dining Reservations

If you’re looking for something fancier, certain restaurants, like Tiffins at Animal Kingdom, Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom, Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios, and Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge usually have openings. Be sure to check out our post on which restaurants are best for Last Minute Disney Reservations at Walt Disney World. 

Mobile Order at Walt Disney World

Avoid waiting in line with mobile orders at Walt Disney World. This allows you to preorder your food in the My Disney Experience App and pick it up at the window when you’re ready. No waiting in lines and the food is ready when you are. This is available at select restaurants so be sure to check the app for options.

Order Disney Meals To-Go!

Walt Disney World has many restaurants that offer a To-Go Menu. Fancier restaurants like Sanaa, Ale and Compass, and Steakhouse 71 all have To-Go Menus. While the full menu at most restaurants is not offered as To-Go, you can find many of the main dishes and sides available. Just pull up the to-go menu in the app, pick an arrival time and order everything you need. Note that you will need to check the To-Go Restaurants a many of the To Go Restaurants

Disney Pro Tip: Check the Disney event schedule while you’re sitting at the airport. We were lucky enough to catch the tail end of the Food and Wine Festival during our mini trip. And an EPCOT festival can be a godsend during an unplanned Long Weekend at Walt Disney World. Check out the Festivals and Events page for things like menus so you can check out the foods available at the outdoor kitchens at EPCOT.

packing for disney

Pack Really Light

Whether you’re checking your bags or carrying a bag on the plane there are perks to packing light. Check out our post on How to Pack Light for a Quick Trip. For a long weekend at Walt Disney World, pack as if you were carrying all your own luggage. While we may have been spoiled by the Magical Express where all of our luggage is simply managed for us, when we’re toting around our own bags, we pack less. 

Disney Pro Tip: Plan simple outfits and bring good shoes. Since you are not going to have time to unpack everything into the drawers and closets, having outfits that are wrinkle-free and can be layered is key. A quick trip should be easy and fun, don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be with a full wardrobe!

Use the My Disney Experience App

Our favorite Disney Vacation Planning tool is the Disney My Experience App. As a home for all our resort information, tickets, Lightning Lane Passes and Disney Genie +, restaurant reservations, and more, you need this app on your phone. 

  • Book Lightning Lane and Disney Genie+ so you don’t have to wait in line for select rides. 
  • Mobile Order Food. Take advantage of mobile ordering so you don’t have to wait in the lunch lines.
  • Create your MagicMobile Wallet: Use this wallet card to go touchless and scan in at the parks, rides and pay for food at restaurants. 
  • Self-Checkout at Disney Gift Shops with Disney Mobile Checkout. 
  • Check Ride Times and Bus Arrival Times from your Resort. 

Disney Pro Tip: Take a break and look up the next parade or show. Chances are during regular vacations you don’t have the time to fill your day with these little extras, but since you’re not on a schedule tied to rides or dining you can take the time to take a break.

Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground

Plan to Do LESS!

This may feel contradictory, but really this is our most important advice. You’re not fitting Disney into a long weekend so you can do ALL the things. Without things on a schedule, the days will naturally feel longer. It’s actually quite amazing. Pick a ride or two you want to ride each day of your mini trip. With just a ride or two on your schedule for the day and no locked-in time you have to be there, you can afford to wait in a line and go when the wait times are lower around mealtimes. Check out our best Disney Ride Strategies to make the most of your long weekend at Disney World. 

Disney Pro Tip: “Plan” free time. Whether that’s allowing extra time to browse the shops, lounge on the hub grass at magic kingdom, or grab an ice cream at Beaches and Cream this non-schedule will help you feel like it’s a vacation instead of a mission.

Pick the Right Travel Companions

A last-minute long weekend at Walt Disney World is not for the faint of heart. And its success is highly dependent on who you travel with. We are extremely lucky to have friends and family that usually share our travel temperament of hanging out, finding the best food, and liking less of a schedule when we’re on vacation. Of course, you know your travel companions best. Prep your family and friends ahead of time. Keep expectations manageable. Identify those few things each of you wants to fit in this trip and make sure you do them.

Disney Pro Tip: Talk through the concept of downtime and relaxing. This may sound crazy, especially for a short Disney vacation. But if you’re like most families ( American in particular) you will be very trained to go, go, go. This mindset could be trouble on this type of vacation because during the strolling, ice cream, and waiting in line you’ll get this sense that you should be doing something. Anything. Something bigger. Or something else. That’s not what this mini-break is for. It’s not a mission. You’re not here to get stuff done. Take in a show, stop and watch what’s happening around you. These are the things that make Disney magical. Remind your people.

Make a List of Disney Must-Do’s to Make the Most Your Trip

One of the hardest things about planning a Walt Disney World Weekend trip is that there is SO MUCH to do. In fact, at two days, you may not get in all 4 parks unless you’re park hopping. Let alone the water parks, Disney BoardWalk or Disney Springs. That said, what are your priorities for this Disney World trip? We’ve given our best tips for planning a day at Disney World, for you to read once you’re done here. 

Are you bent on meeting Mickey? Want to ride TRON? Need to see the Happily Ever After Fireworks Show? Whatever your reason for visiting, we’d recommend limiting your trip to 1-2 parks, to get the most in. And if you’re going to try to fit all 4 Disney parks in 2 days, then know that you’ll need a park hopper ticket as well, to do so. So, what’s most important? Here are a few big things you may want to add to your Disney Must Do List for your Weekend at Disney World trip. 

  • Magic Kingdom: Ride Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion,  it’s a Small World, PeopleMover and TRON. Get a LeFou’s Brew from Gaston’s Tavern, a Cheshire Cat Tail from Cheshire Cafe. Browse the gift shops, watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade at 3pm, and Happily Ever After at 9pm. 
  • EPCOT: Ride Spaceship Earth, Soarin’, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Frozen Ever After. Grab an American Dream slushy from Fife and Drum in the America Pavilion, and breakfast or lunch from Les Halle’s Boulangerie Patisserie. Be sure to get freshly made Werther’s caramel popcorn from Karamell-Kuche, or a Pretzel and Beer in Germany. Stay to watch the Luminous Nighttime show on the lagoon. 
  • Animal Kingdom: Ride Kilimanjaro Safari and Flight of Passage. Catch the stage show Festival of the Lion King, and browse the Harambe gift shop. Try the Pineapple Crisp Sundae and Pineapple Hard Cider with Dole Whip from Tamu Tamu. Grab drinks and lunch at Nomad Lounge. 
  • Hollywood Studios: Ride Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Slinky Dog Dash, Tower of Terror and Rise of the Resistance. Grab a lunch box tart from Woody’s Lunch Box, and a Pretzel at Baseline Taphouse. Eat at the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge and browse the gift shops on sunset Boulevard. 

Main Street Trolley Dancers Fall

Do Something You Haven’t Done Before

This vacation is gonna be short. You know it’s gonna fly by and you’ll want something special to add to the memories. For us, on this last trip, it was the glitz of a new hotel experience and a full room service breakfast. But we also added simple stuff like ordering a pizza from the Trattoria al Forno pizza window. This can be pre-planned or not. It’s up to you. If you can master the strolling part of this mini-break, you’ll be able to find lots of things you’ve never done before and can do at a moment’s notice. Disney Pro Tip: Keep your to-do list small. This isn’t an opportunity to add stuff to your vacation that will keep you on a tight schedule. It’s an opportunity to try something new.

Hopefully, this has given you a few critical tips that will make your next impromptu vacation a little less impromptu and much more fun. If you have questions ask them! We’re happy to chime in and let you know what’s worked and what hasn’t.

How to make the most of Walt Disney World if you're only going for 3 or 4 days. Here are our best tips for making your vacation feel like a vacation, have a great time and what to think about ahead of time. #disneyworldvacations #lastminutetrip #longweekend #disneyvacation

Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

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.

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