How to plan a Disney World vacation
Experience the perfect family vacation.
I was lucky as a kid. When Disney World opened I was six-years old, and I lived just an hour away from the park. For those first few years Disney World was eclipsed by the much older and larger Disneyland in southern California. Disney World, as I remember it, was in the middle of nowhere. We would drive forever, it seemed, through the woods on Interstate-4 before getting to the park.
A lot has changed. Nearby Orlando has expanded during the following three decades or so until it has grown up and around Disney World and Kissimmee, the town where Disney is located. No longer just one single park, Disney World now includes The Magic Kingdom (the original park), The EPCOT Center, The Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM Studios) and two water parks called Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon.
It also has one of the coolest McDonald's I've ever seen. In fact, cool McDonald's restaurants seem to be a thing in Orlando. There's one called McD's that I believe claims to be the largest in the world and another with a huge sea water aquarium in the center, complete with sharks.
Two Types of Disney Vacations
In terms of Disney World vacations there are two basic ways to go. First you can stay somewhere nearby in Kissimmee, Orlando or one of Orlando's other many small surrounding towns and simply visit the park. Or you can stay at one of the Disney resort hotels and never even leave the grounds. And let me tell you, if you haven't been there the grounds are truly massive. The Disney campus is far larger in square miles than most towns.
Option one is a good one if you want to do other things while you're in the area. There are several other excellent theme parks in the Orlando area and plenty of other things to do. Vacation options in Orlando seem limitless.
For this article I want to stick with actually staying on Disney grounds and spending most if not all of your vacation at Disney. It's easy to do. With four full theme parks, two water parks, several resort hotels, a variety of restaurants and not one but four 18-hole golf courses on the nearly 40-square-mile campus, you could literally live at Disney. In fact, Disney has its own gas stations, police department and fire department.
Considering how ridiculously expensive theme parks have become, I'm sure when I mention staying at one of the Disney resorts, most people cringe. However, having done it both ways myself, I can tell you that the costs of staying on Disney grounds for a week or staying at a local hotel for a week and simply visiting can actually be pretty similar.
Like any other place, Disney has some package deals. And if you're flexible with when you plan your vacation, you can do even better. Being that it's located in Central Florida, Disney is opened all year. The park has actually only closed fewer than half-a-dozen days in its entire four-decade history. So on average, the park has closed one day every 10 years.
It's safe to say then, that whenever you choose to go, the park will be open. However, if you choose a time that does not coincide with summer, spring break or winter break, you may find a pretty good deal.
For the best prices you can stay at one of Disney's value resorts. These are basically hotels. I've stayed at them, and they're nice and the price was right. These include the Pop Century Resort and the All-Star resorts which have movie, music or sports themes. Other than the massive swimming pools in the centers of these resorts and some really cool decorations, these are basically just hotels.
The next step up are the moderate resorts, which include the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort, the Port Orleans Resort: French Quarters and the Port Orleans: Riverside. Currently the prices start at roughly $150 per night. For the latter two you can take a ferry boat over to the theme parks from the hotel.
For those with more expensive tastes there are the deluxe resorts. These include the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Beach Club, the Boardwalk Inn, the Contemporary (the one the monorail rides right through), the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, The Wilderness Lodge and the Yacht Club. Some of these start out at a bit more than $200 per night and some over $300 per night depending on the resort. Finally there are some cabins and campgrounds for a more outdoorsy experience.
All in all a Disney World vacations package including park tickets and lodging can cost as little as $1,200 or so for a family of four for a three-night, four-day package or as little as roughly $1,500 for a week-long stay for four.