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7-Step Guide to Planning Your Disney Parks Family Vacation

Disney Steps to Vacation Feature

Whether it’s your first visit or one of many, planning a Disney vacation only takes a few tips and tricks, plus a little pixie dust. In our step-by-step guide, we’ll show you budget-friendly vacation planning tips for your next getaway to Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort.

1. How Do I Take Advantage of Disney® Visa® Card® Perks?
2. When’s the Best Time to Visit Disney Parks?
3. How do I find deals on flights to Disney theme parks?
4. What Are the Benefits of the Disney Visa Card when staying at a Disney Resort?
5. When Should You Make Park and Dining Reservations?
6. How Can You See Some Favorite Disney Characters?
7. What are the Must-See Attractions and Rides?

Disney Steps to Vacation Step 1

1. How Do I Take Advantage of Disney® Visa® Card® Perks?

Disney Visa Cardmembers get savings throughout Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort on select dining and merchandise and so much more! View the Disney Visa Cardmember Vacation Perks page to see what kinds of extra benefits you can experience on your next Disney family vacation. To find the latest deals before booking, check the Disney Visa Card Limited-Time Offers page on a regular basis. This page is your one-stop shop for finding the latest and greatest deals. If you haven’t yet discovered the Disney Visa Card, click here to see the great perks the card offers for your family.

Cardmember perks include:
  • Photo Opportunities at Private Cardmember Locations12
  • 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at select locations at Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort when you use your Disney Visa Card13
  • 10% off select dining locations most days at Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort when you use your Disney Visa Card14
  • And much more!

Disney Steps to Vacation Step 2

2. When’s the Best Time to Visit Disney Parks?

When you begin vacation planning, you’ll want to find the time that’s right for your family and think about what season to go to the Disney parks. Peak times can always change, but in previous years, crowds have been fewer in mid-to-late September—making early fall a great option.

Here are other off-season times to visit:
  • Mid-November through mid-December
  • Second week of January through mid-February
  • First three weeks of May

And if you want to attend during fan-favorite events or times of year, there are plenty of exciting activities you don’t want to miss.

Special times to visit:
  • November through early January: Take in all of the holiday delights!
  • Early to mid-spring: Magic blooms at the Disney parks, including the EPCOT® International Flower & Garden Festival and the Disney California Adventure® Food & Wine Festival, among others, depending on the year.
  • September through October: With treats, tricks and costumes galore, Disney at Halloween time will cast a spell on you!
Ready to purchase your tickets?

After you check theme park availability, it’s time to purchase your admission and make your reservation. Choose from ticket options to suit your vacation style and budget, like:

    • Standard Theme Park Ticket: You can choose 1- to 10-day options at Walt Disney World® Resort and 1- to 5-day options at the Disneyland® Resort. Multi-day tickets cost less per day and allow you to visit multiple theme parks.
    • Park Hopper option: Want to visit more than one theme park in one day? The Park Hopper option lets you hop between parks after 2 p.m. at Walt Disney World® Resort. With a Park Hopper ticket at the Disneyland® Resort, you can enter the second park after 1 p.m.
    • Park Hopper Plus option: You can visit more than one Walt Disney World® Resort theme park per day, plus visit a water park or other fun location, like Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.

The cost of a one-day ticket depends on the date and time of year you visit. To see pricing for upcoming dates, and to purchase your tickets and make park reservations, view the calendar for Walt Disney World® Resort or the Disneyland® Resort.

Disney Steps to Vacation Step 3

3. How do I find deals on flights to Disney theme parks?

Got your travel date? Next up when planning a Disney vacation is to book a flight. Finding discount airfare can take some research, but with these tips and tricks, traveling with kids on an affordable Disney vacation is just one step closer!

  • Fly on Tuesday or Wednesday if possible. Keep your schedule flexible and compare ticket prices so you can see which day of the week has the most affordable fares.
  • Check fares for alternate nearby airports, like Tampa International Airport and Orlando Sanford International for Walt Disney World® Resort or John Wayne Airport for the Disneyland® Resort.
  • Compare ticket prices for one passenger to quotes when buying family tickets, as some airlines offer family or group rates.
  • Use the Walt Disney Travel Company to book your Disneyland® Resort or Walt Disney World® Resort vacation.
  • Book with your Disney Visa Card to earn Disney Rewards Dollars or use your Disney Premier Visa Card and redeem for a statement credit toward airline travel.5
Disney Steps to Vacation Step 4

4. What Are the Benefits of staying at a Disney Resort?

Guests staying at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels have access to many great benefits such as:
  • More Time in the Parks – Enjoy early theme park entry and get a 30-minute jump on your Disney day. And, for those staying at Disney Deluxe Resort hotels or Disney Deluxe Villas, you can also stay later with extended evening theme park hours on select nights. (Valid admission, a park reservation, and Key to the World Card or MagicBand required.)*
  • Access to Resort Transportation – Get to popular destinations throughout Walt Disney World Resort® by complimentary bus, boat and monorail services. Or glide to select locations on Disney Skyliner!
  • Pre-Arrival MagicBands Pricing – Guests staying at a Disney Resort hotel have the option to purchase MagicBands at special pre-arrival prices up to six days before arrival. You’ll use your MagicBand to unlock your room, enter the parks and much more.
  • Park Proximity – From most Walt Disney World® Resort hotels, the theme parks are only a short ride, or sometimes even walk, away.
Check out some lodging options at Walt Disney World® Resort:
  • Magic Kingdom® Area Resorts: Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • EPCOT® Area Resorts: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Area Resorts: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios® Area Resorts: Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • Disney Springs® Area Resorts: Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, Disney’s Old Key West Resort

And remember: booking a stay at a select Walt Disney World® Resort hotel can bring a vacation package that includes multi-day tickets or the ability to visit more than one theme park on the same day! Ask about available vacation packages when you book to ensure you see as much of the magic as possible.

Disney Steps to Vacation Step 5

5. When Should You Make Park and Dining Reservations?

It’s easy to reserve activities and make dining reservations while vacation planning by using My Disney Experience app for your Walt Disney World® Resort vacation.You can also use the Disneyland® app for your visit to the Disneyland® Resort to make dining reservations at select locations.

Once you have created a My Disney Experience account and purchased park tickets for Walt Disney World® Resort, you can purchase Disney Genie+. This service is ideal for same-day planning, as it allows you to select the next available arrival window, one at a time, for Lightning Lane entrances at select attractions and entertainment (subject to limited availability; once per experience per day). You can also individually purchase a time to arrive using the Lightning Lane entrance at up to two highly demanded attractions each day (subject to limited availability; attractions not included with Disney Genie+).

There are so many delicious places to eat at Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort, including the parks and nearby at Disney Springs® or Downtown Disney® District. One of the best ways to ensure you get to enjoy Disney parks food is to make a dining reservation (which you can do up to 60 days in advance at many restaurants). In addition to using the Disney Visa Card to secure your Disney dining reservations, you can also use it to save 10% on your dining experience at select locations most days, such as:14

Walt Disney World® Resort

EPCOT®:

  • Biergarten Restaurant (see restrictions)
  • Coral Reef Restaurant
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse
  • Rose & Crown Dining Room

Disney’s Hollywood Studios®:

  • The Hollywood Brown Derby (see restrictions)
Disneyland® Resort

Disneyland® Park:

  • French Market Restaurant
  • River Belle Terrace

Disney California Adventure® Park:

  • Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill
  • Wine Country Trattoria
  • Paradise Garden Grill
Disney Steps to Vacation Step 6

6. How Can You See Some Favorite Disney Characters?

One of the best ways to get photos with some favorite Disney Characters is to visit private Cardmember locations in both Walt Disney World® Resort and the Disneyland® Resort. There, you can get a complimentary Magic Shot photo download, digitally enhanced with Characters appearing right next to you.12

You can also catch Characters in a cavalcade. Find out when and where these fun parades are happening by using the My Disney Experience app for Walt Disney World® Resort or the Disneyland® app.

Disney Steps to Vacation Step 7

7. What are the Must-See Attractions and Rides?

Don’t miss your favorite attractions! Prioritize which ones you want to hit first. Whether you’re into thrilling attractions or are looking for something the whole family can ride, you can use these lists while planning your Disney vacation.

Top Disney Attractions for Kids

Enchanted Tales with Belle
This interactive storytelling adventure is perfect for princesses of all ages.
Walt Disney World® Resort – Magic Kingdom® Park

Muppet*Vision 3D
It’s time to play the music… and watch a 3D adventure come to life around the theater as the beloved Muppets put on an unforgettable show.
Walt Disney World® Resort – Disney’s Hollywood Studios®

Peter Pan’s Flight®
A gentle reenactment of Peter Pan’s voyage through Never Land is full of wonderment without being too scary.
Disneyland® Resort – Disneyland® Park
Walt Disney World® Resort – Magic Kingdom® Park

Turtle Talk with Crush
Don’t miss Turtle Talk with Crush, where friends, from Disney and Pixar’s film Finding Dory are swimming over for a most excellent time at the “human tank”. The coolest turtle around takes questions from audience members and answers them right before their eyes, with everything from facts about the ocean to deep (or deep-sea) thoughts on life.
Disneyland® Resort – Disney California Adventure® Park
Walt Disney World® Resort – Epcot®

Top Resort Attractions for the Whole Family

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
This massive area with multiple attractions takes you on an unforgettable adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
Walt Disney World® Resort – Disney’s Hollywood Studios®
Disneyland® Resort – Disneyland® Park

Kilimanjaro Safaris®
From the comfort of the safari bus, animal lovers get close to exotic creatures amidst their natural habitats.
Walt Disney World® Resort – Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park

Pirates of the Caribbean®
This classic attraction takes a journey on the High Seas through pirate territory, and the beloved music can keep younger seafarers humming through the spookier parts.
Disneyland® Resort – Disneyland® Park
Walt Disney World® Resort – Magic Kingdom® Park


Now that we’ve covered the basics of planning a Disney vacation, doesn’t it feel good knowing you can get the most from your Disney getaway, while saving the most too?


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Disney® Premier Visa® Card

NEW CARDMEMBERS CAN

EARN A $300

STATEMENT CREDIT

after spending $1000 on purchases in the
first 3 months from account opening.6

NEW CARDMEMBERS CAN

EARN A $300

STATEMENT CREDIT

after spending $1000 on purchases
in the first 3 months from
account opening.6

NEW CARDMEMBERS CAN

EARN A $300

STATEMENT CREDIT

after spending $1000 on purchases
in the first 3 months from
account opening.6

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Shopping Perks
Disney Photo Opportunity
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Disney® Premier Visa® Card