You don't need an 800-page gorilla of a guide to plan your Walt Disney World vacation. Beat the crowds, the cost, and the chaos with Dave and Josh's up-to-date, comprehensive, step-by-step advice for the perfect Walt Disney World vacation.
It doesn't get any easier than this:
If planning your Disney vacation has put the pain into your pixie dust, this is your magic wand to make it go away. Whether it's your first trip to Walt Disney World or your fortieth, The easy Guide will make it your best. Don't go see Mickey without it.
Chapter 1: How to Use This Book
Chapter 2: Why Age and Height Matter
Chapter 3: How Long to Stay
Chapter 4: When to Go
Chapter 5: Where to Stay
Chapter 6: How to Spend Your Time
Chapter 7: Where to Eat
Chapter 8: Which Tickets to Buy and How Much to Budget
Chapter 9: How to Set Everything Up and Get Everything Done
Chapter 10: Where to Go Next
Congratulations. You are about to embark on a trip filled with magic and memories to one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations. But with a Walt Disney World trip comes hundreds of decisions, from when to go to where to stay to what to eat to which attractions to experience. Walt Disney World spans more than 39 square miles and includes four major theme parks, two water parks, an expansive shopping and dining district, a 24-screen movie theater, more than 20 Disney-operated resorts, dozens of restaurants, hundreds of attractions, and a whole lot more.
That’s where we come in. Whether this is your first or your fiftieth visit, this book will prepare you and your family to make the best choices, eat at the restaurants that provide the most value, make sure you experience the best Disney has to offer, eliminate as much time waiting in line as possible, and guarantee that your experience at Walt Disney World is magical and stress-free.
This guide is written to help all visitors plan better vacations, whether you’re a first-timer still unsure of how Space Mountain and Dumbo the Flying Elephant are different, or if you’re an experienced returning visitor trying to decide whether you want to pick Na’vi River Journey or Flight of Passage as your Pandora FastPass+ choice at Animal Kingdom. We’ll introduce each topic and then expand on it with tips and tricks so first-time visitors are quickly brought up to speed and returning visitors will learn new strategies to maximize their time and money.
Why this book in particular, you ask? Dave and Josh share thousands of theme park visits, hundreds of hotel room stays, and far more theme park meals than either of them would probably like to remember. Their experience culminates in this carefully crafted guidebook designed to be the framework for every step of your vacation planning. Both are firm believers that a little planning goes a long way. By spending time mulling the many options now, you’ll set yourself up for the best vacation possible.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the planning!
Dave by day is a strategist and problem solver for clients ranging from the Fortune 500 to local not-for-profits. At night and on weekends he writes yourfirstvisit.net, and, lately, Disney World guidebooks. All the time he’s a husband, dad, son, and brother. He has a BA from the University of Chicago, and both an MA in English Literature and MBA from the University of Virginia, where he also completed the majority of work for a PhD in English Literature. He spent almost a decade as a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Co., Inc., and since then has largely operated as an independent strategy consultant. He founded yourfirstvisit.net in 2009—the first Disney World site aimed squarely at first-time visitors who may never return. He visits Disney World six to ten times a year, and in 2017 he stayed in his 140th different Disney World-owned hotel room.
Josh grew up in Seattle, Washington, the only known city to adequately prepare a person for Orlando’s wet summers. He was fascinated by Disney theme parks long before his first visit to Disneyland at age eight. He started easyWDW.com in the spring of 2010 as an outlet to help visitors maximize their theme park experience with practical, hands-on advice. He lives just 15 minutes from Magic Kingdom’s gates and records more than a hundred theme park visits every year, each with the express intent of uncovering ways to better enjoy everything the parks offer. In his spare time, he enjoys dressing his Duffy the Disney Bear in fabulous outfits, taking his dog to the park, and the occasional single malt scotch.
No other Walt Disney World guidebook is as up-to-date as the Easy Guide. Not only is it current when it's first published, we release revised edition every quarter to make sure it stays current. Sample our Pandora coverage:
With the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar, and the addition of plentiful nighttime entertainment, touring Animal Kingdom is more complicated than it was prior to Pandora’s debut on May 27, 2017. First, the new land brings two rides in Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage, each of which boasts 60+ minute peak waits and incredibly limited FastPass+ availability. Guests able to book FastPass+ for Flight of Passage will have the easiest time as Na’vi River Journey is easy to ride with a short wait first thing in the morning or last thing at night. But Flight of Passage FastPass+ are typically unavailable 30 days before a given date, meaning off-site guests won’t find any availability. Flight of Passage also sees wait times take off immediately after opening, which necessitates an arrival at least 60 minutes before the park opens in order to be among the first couple hundred people to arrive at the ride.
Furthermore, the addition of the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular, Tree of Life Awakenings projection show, and the novelty of experiencing Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and Pandora after dark, may be cause to stay later into the evening than past visits. With regular summer hours being as long as 8am–11pm, it would be difficult or impossible to spend all 15 hours in the park with the heat and the crowds. Guests with longer trips may elect to spend parts of two days at Animal Kingdom or otherwise plan a lengthy afternoon break over the course of a single day. Some guests with a limited number of attractions that they would like to experience may also be able to make a late arrival work.
Overall, it’s possible to enjoy the majority of Animal Kingdom’s best attractions in a single day, but those who would like to see all of the shows, walk the nature trails, and slow down a bit to take in all of the sights and sounds should consider spending two days. That’s particularly true much of the year when seeing Rivers of Light and experiencing the other nighttime attractions is difficult due to operating hour restraints. The introductions, reviews, and cheat sheets that follow will help guide you through the planning process.
Animal Kingdom’s newest land, with a reported price tag north of $500 million, is a breathtaking sight to behold. Towering mountains that appear to float in midair greet guests with bright flora, cascading waterfalls, and thousands of details spread out around the 12-acre expanse. It’s one of the most immersive areas in any theme park worldwide. Avatar Flight of Passage is the marquee attraction. A state-of-the-art motion simulator, riders actually feel like they’ve mounted a banshee before taking a ride through the lush landscape of Pandora. Na’vi River Journey is its much tamer cousin, featuring a scenic, slow-moving boat ride through a dark, bioluminescent rainforest.
Windtraders, Pandora’s principal retail store, offers interactive experiences in addition to the thousands of items available for sale. Visitors have the opportunity to “adopt” a banshee that sits playfully on the owner’s shoulder, complete with a remote control that moves the limbs of the bird-like predator. Guests may also elect to have their own Avatar action figure made based on their likeness. After being scanned by a technician, the figure will be available to take home shortly after.
Satu’li Canteen, the land’s major quick service, offers some of the best and most unique fast food at Walt Disney World. Best are the various bowls filled with steak, chicken, fish, or tofu on top of several different base choices, including quinoa and vegetable salad or red and sweet potatoes. Other choices include steamed pods filled with vegetable curry or cheeseburger. Kids can choose from a smaller version of the bowl, in addition to a hot dog or cheese quesadilla. Pay special attention to the blueberry cheesecake dessert.
A takeaway bar named Pongu Pongu sits next to Windtraders, offering alcoholic and non-alcoholic frozen beverages, in addition to pineapple-filled cream cheese lumpia, which are like spring rolls with a sweet, tropical flavor.
Unsurprisingly, virtually none of the merchandise or anything else you see in Pandora focuses on the characters or plot of the first Avatar film. Seeing the movie will enhance your experience a bit, but the rides are perfectly enjoyable with virtually no previous knowledge of James Cameron’s alien world.
Avatar Flight of Passage. The lengthy standby queue is a spectacle in its own right, winding around a mountain outdoors before arriving at the laboratory inside. Guests enter the first of two pre-show rooms, where riders are introduced to the Avatar link process. Next, guests are instructed on how to mount the ride vehicle, which is similar to getting on a bicycle. Some larger and/or taller guests have had trouble fitting on the seat. There is a test seat in front of the entrance that you can try if there’s any concern. The trick is to sit as far forward as possible with your legs against the front restraints. The theater where the ride takes place is split into two rooms on each floor with three floors per theater. Eight riders in a single file line will board in each room, for a total of 16 people per floor or 48 people per theater. Unlike Soarin’, the ride vehicles aren’t lifted into the air in dramatic fashion—each row is already situated where it needs to be. After takeoff, the theater and ride vehicles move to simulate flight to great effect with the 3D images working in tandem with physical effects to create a real feeling of soaring through the world of Pandora. Even those that suffer from motion sickness typically report few problems. It’s a tremendous move forward in flight simulation and a don’t miss.
Scary Factor. The ride vehicle restraints are a bit strange and some of the effects are surprising, but most riders should be at ease upon takeoff. Only those extremely scared of heights should be put off. The theater drops a few feet from time to time to simulate a mild plunge, but there is nothing overtly scary about the experience. Almost everyone leaves proclaiming it as one of their favorite rides, making it worth any initial unease. Motion sickness is much less of a problem than at imulators like Star Tours due to the smoothness of the ride and the high frame rate of the film.
When to Go. Absolutely first thing in the morning if you arrive at least an hour before open. Standby waits are shortest during the day between 1:30–4pm and riding last thing at night is a viable alternative with actual waits that should be 45–70 minutes. Use FP+ if possible. Expect to Wait. Posted waits are typically 120+ minutes within 30 minutes of opening. Other than absolutely first thing in the morning, expect to wait between 60–90 minutes in the afternoon and 50–75 at park close. Peak waits are typically in the vicinity of three hours. Where to Sit. Seats in the middle of each row (seats 6–10) have a more straight-on view with the middle row experiencing the most movement.
Continued in 'The easy Guide 2018'!
Other Walt Disney World guidebooks may have more pages, or lots of pretty photos, but the Easy Guide has the most extensive, comprehensive analysis the Disney World parks, resorts, restaurants, and touring strategies in print. Sample our Disney Dining Plan coverage:
Disney World dining is expensive. For some guests, it may even be the priciest component of the vacation, eclipsing the cost of lodging and theme park tickets. The three versions of the Disney Dining Plan (Quick Service, Regular, and Deluxe) are a way to prepay some of these dining expenses.
Years ago, when the Regular Dining Plan included appetizer and tip at sit-down restaurants, you could actually save some money by using these plans. These days it’s hard for us to recommend them, although the new-for-2018 inclusion of a single alcoholic drink per meal will improve the value payoff of these plans for some, and for others make the cost of the plans easier to forget.
The addition of one alcoholic drink for each quick and table service credit will change the value equation of these plans for some. Exactly which specific beers, wines, and mixed drinks will be eligible for these credits is unclear at press time—at least some of Josh’s preferred fancy-pants drinks will be excluded, while Dave’s $7 Bud Lights will be not only included but positively encouraged. At press time, no quick service venues at Magic Kingdom offer alcohol, although that may quickly change. But those who would otherwise have paid cash for at least one less-expensive alcoholic drink at most of their meals anyway will see an additional value of around $15–30 per night for the Quick Service and Regular Plans, and even more for the Deluxe Plan. This additional value may well turn the plans into more reasonable economic choices for those who imbibe in the ways that they reward.
(Also new in 2018 is the option of a single non-alcoholic specialty drink per quick service and table credit for those over and under 21—think milkshakes, smoothies, and such. Those 21 and over can do only one drink or the other. Those who would have paid cash for these anyway will also see value to the change.)
We suggest skipping the dining plans, with these exceptions:
With or without a dining plan, the typical family eating their meals on property should budget $40–$75+ per adult per day, and between $20 and $40/day for the kids—depending on their ages and appetites.
Continued in 'The easy Guide 2018'!