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How to Plan a Walt Disney World® Resort Vacation


Getting ready to visit Walt Disney World® Resort? Explore this guide for the details you’ll need—which theme parks to experience, where to stay, what options you have for out-of-the-park fun and in-depth steps for planning the ultimate vacation. Bonus: As a Disney Visa Cardmember, you can receive special vacation financing when you book with your Disney® Visa® Credit Card.1

An Overview of Walt Disney World® Resort

Walt Disney World® Resort packs a lot of enchantment into 43 square miles. We’re talking four theme parks, two water parks, and seemingly endless shops and restaurants at Disney Springs®, plus an array of must-see Resort hotels and golf courses! Let’s dive into your options.

  1. Magic Kingdom® Park: This is the quintessential Disney experience, where fantasy becomes a reality in six lands with more than 40 attractions and experiences. Come here for the iconic spots like Cinderella Castle, Haunted Mansion, “it’s a small world” and Jungle Cruise, just to name a few.

  2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park: Embark on a guided African safari in one land and explore Pandora—The World of Avatar in another. Hang tight for a raft ride through scenic jungle landscapes on Kali River Rapids, among many more adventurous experiences. And don’t forget to snap a selfie in front of the Tree of Life!

  3. Mom and son

    • Disney’s Hollywood Studios®: Live your adventure at this theme park among some favorite films and Characters. Come here to experience exhilarating attractions like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and more.

  4. • EPCOT®: Unleash your imagination and explore endless possibilities, like taking a trip around the world in a day or setting off into space. The international pavilions in World Showcase highlight the food, culture and fun of 11 countries, from Morocco to Canada to China and beyond. Don’t miss Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in the France Pavilion. And venture to the three other neighborhoods, such as World Nature, where you can experience the high-flying escapades of Soarin’ Around the World.

  5. • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park: It’s always pool season at Disney (especially at this theme park, where the water is heated in the winter)! Here you’ll find 11 thrilling attractions, including North America’s largest wave pool, roller coaster-esque water slides and kiddie-friendly aquatic playgrounds.

    Girls at Typhoon Lagoon

  6. • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park: This 66-acre water park is designed to look like a defunct snow ski resort where all the melted snow turned into water. Whoosh down one of the tallest and fastest free-fall body slides, take on the eight-lane Toboggan Racers and discover frosty fun for everyone.

  7. • Disney Springs®: An outdoor marketplace with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and lively entertainment, this delightful destination is also home to the world’s largest collection of Disney merchandise at World of Disney. Not to mention, there’s family friendly waterfront dining and lovely views by land, water or even balloon.

    Friends Shopping

  8. • Disney Resort Collection hotels: With 25+ Resort hotels to choose from, you’re bound to find the perfect place to suit your style and budget. We suggest starting your search based on which theme park(s) you’ll be visiting most.

  9. • Golf courses: Walt Disney World® Resort is dotted with four golf courses—Disney’s Palm, Disney’s Magnolia, Disney’s Lake Buena Vista and Disney’s Oak Trail—each unique in play and experience. And three are certified by Audubon International as Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuaries!

Steps for Planning a Walt Disney World® Resort Vacation

There are lots of ways to make the most of your Walt Disney World® Resort vacation. To help you plan, we’ll cover our advice for finding the right time to visit, selecting the perfect Resort hotel for you, and booking unforgettable meals and activities. Check out How to Budget for a Disney Vacation for additional planning tips!

  1. 1. Select your travel dates and length of stay

    So, how many days should you set aside and when should you visit? The truth is, it really depends on what’s best for your family. The holiday season—November through early January—is a fun, festive (and popular) time to visit. The same is true in early to mid-spring for the EPCOT® International Flower & Garden Festival. And in September through October, Magic Kingdom® Park is decked out for Halloween.

    There are a few “off-season” windows where there may not be as many visitors, but still plenty of magic. Consider booking your Walt Disney World® Resort vacation from the second week of January through mid-February or anytime in the first three weeks of May (before most kids around the U.S. are off for summer break). Got just a few days to enjoy? We’ve got you covered with ideas for an ideal Disney long weekend—no matter what time of year.

  2. 2. Make your theme park reservations and get tickets

    You can typically book a Disney vacation quite far out in advance, so be sure to make your reservations as soon as you’re able! Theme park reservations open as early as 17 months in advance. It’s best to purchase admission and make any necessary reservations for the theme parks well before your visit so that you have greater chances of experiencing all the rides and attractions on your list.

    Now, let’s talk about your ticket options and where to buy Walt Disney World® Resort tickets. For starters, there is a Standard Theme Park Ticket that allows you to choose 1- to 10-day options. Then, there’s the Park Hopper option that lets you hop between parks after 2 p.m. And finally, with the Park Hopper Plus option, you can visit more than one theme park per day, as well as a water park or golf course. Purchase your tickets on the Walt Disney World® Resort website.

  3. 3. Book the right Disney Resort hotel

    There are some serious advantages to staying at a Disney Resort hotel. Proximity means you’ve got more time to spend in the parks, plus there’s an endless array of convenient transportation options, and you can use your pre-arrival discount to purchase a Disney MagicBand+ before you arrive.

    You’ve got plenty of choices, depending on your travel budget and style. Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a favorite of families partly because it’s walking distance to Magic Kingdom® Park, while outdoorsy groups love Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. To experience the magic of Europe that Walt Disney fell in love with once upon a time, book a stay at Disney’s Riviera Resort. Get more advice on where to stay by reading our article, Find the Best Walt Disney World® Resort Hotel for Your Family.

  4. 4. Plan your travel to Orlando

    When you’re traveling to Walt Disney World® Resort, you’ve got two airport options: Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB). Keep in mind, when you book your tickets with your Disney Visa Card, you’ll earn Disney Rewards Dollars to redeem during your getaway.2 And if you’ve got a Disney Premier Visa Card, you can help cover the cost of your airfare by redeeming Disney Rewards Dollars for a statement credit toward airline travel.3 (Prefer a road trip? You can also earn 2% in Disney Rewards Dollars at gas stations with your Disney Premier Visa Card.)4

  5. 5. Make Walt Disney World® Resort dining reservations

    You can make reservations up to 60 days in advance for most restaurants around Walt Disney World® Resort (in some cases, Guests at select Disney Resort hotels can book even earlier). You’ll want to book as early as possible, especially if you plan to visit some of the most popular places like Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be Our Guest Restaurant. Cardmembers can save 10% on most meals, most days at select locations, listed in our Guide to Cardmember Dining Perks at Walt Disney World® Resort.56 To give you a taste, a few examples include Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Le Cellier Steakhouse at EPCOT®.

  6. 6. Book Enchanting Extras

    The Enchanting Extras Collection is a lineup of specialty tours, events and activities you can book in advance to enjoy during your vacation. Take a private safari tour complete with African-inspired drinks and tapas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park or create your own Disney dream day with a Private VIP Tour, among many other options. With roughly 70 different experiences in the lineup, there’s something for everyone. And Cardmembers can redeem Disney Rewards Dollars toward booking Enchanting Extras!2

  7. 7. Plan your daily Disney park itineraries

    With so much to see and do inside Disney parks, it’s best to have a gameplan. Make your vacation easy by ironing out a few logistics in advance. First, choose the attractions and destinations you absolutely can’t miss, then build daily plans and transportation around them. Take advantage of complimentary and convenient ways to get from place to place, including bus, boat, monorail and aerial gondola. Standard theme park parking is included for registered Guests of Disney Resort hotels and select Annual Passholders. If you’re staying outside of Walt Disney World® Resort and prefer to drive, you can pay one fee for a parking pass good all day at all four theme parks. Visit the official page for current rates and more details.

    Download the My Disney Experience app so you can access a variety of tools designed to make your stay easier— including the complimentary Disney Genie service, which creates a custom Disney day just for you, inspired by your top interests. And as you build your dream itinerary, be sure to include a stop by the private Cardmember locations for Character Experiences in EPCOT® (in Future World next to Journey Into Imagination With Figment) and Disney’s Hollywood Studios® (outside of the Star Wars Launch Bay in the Animation Courtyard).7

    Father and daughter
  8. 8. Pack your bags!

    One of the best things about a Disney vacation is dressing the part. Stock up on themed t-shirts, luggage and other awesome accessories at, where you can save 10% on select purchases with your Disney Visa Card.8 Snag a pair of ear-resistable ear headbands or jazz it up in a spirit jersey. And while you’re on vacation, if fashion inspiration strikes, you can pick up new items and save 10% on select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at shops throughout the parks.59

We hope you’ve found the vacation planning tips you need! In case you’re looking for more, check out these other great guides: The Best Disney Credit Card Tips for Your Disney Vacation and Disney Vacation Planning: Do and Definitely Do List. Happy travels!

Disney® Premier Visa® Card


EARN A $300


after spending $1000 on purchases in the
first 3 mos. from account opening.10


EARN A $300


after spending $1000 on purchases
in the first 3 mos. from
account opening.10


EARN A $300


after spending $1000 on purchases
in the first 3 mos. from
account opening.10

The Mandalorian Premier Card Art Vintage Mickey Premier Card Art
Shopping Perks
Disney Photo Opportunity
Vacation Perks
Disney® Premier Visa® Card

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