Disney gurus Josh Humphrey and Dave Shute have helped countless families plan the Walt Disney World vacations of their dreams with practical advice and unique touring strategies. They’ve distilled their best advice into this comprehensive, up-to-date-for-2017 book for both first-time visitors and “any-timers” who want their Disney World vacation to be both flawless and fun.
You’ll learn the “easy” way to:
Take the planning pain out of your pixie dust. 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
Visits by Age and Height
Trips with Children of Different Ages
Chapter 3: How Long to Stay
Budgets, Time Available, and Ages of the Kids
The Value of Time Away from the Parks
If It's Your Only Visit, Aim for Nine Days in Orlando
Chapter 4: When to Go
Crowds and When to Go
Prices and When to Go
Weather and When to Go
Month-by-Month Comments on When to Go
When to Go If It's Your Only Visit
Chapter 5: Where to Stay
Stay at a Walt Disney World Owned Resort
The Perk We Rarely Recommend
How to Pick Your Disney Resort Hotel
The Value Resorts
The Moderate Resorts
The Deluxe Resorts
Other Disney World Lodging Options
Chapter 6: How to Spend Your Time
FastPass+ at Walt Disney World
Choosing the Best FastPass+ Time Slots
Designing Your Own Walt Disney World Itinerary
Example Itineraries for Walt Disney World
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
The Magic Kingdom
The Cheat Sheets
Animal Kingdom Cheat Sheet
Epcot Cheat Sheet
Hollywood Studios Cheat Sheet
Magic Kingdom Cheat Sheet
Chapter 7: Where to Eat
Where to Eat at Walt Disney World
Advance Dining Reservations
The Disney Dining Plan
Saving Money on Dining
Dining Reviews: Introduction
Dining Reviews: The Theme Parks/p>
Dining Reviews: Disney Springs
Dining Reviews: The Disney Resorts
Chapter 8: Which Tickets to Buy and How Much to Budget
Disney World Tickets and Prices
Budgeting an Only Visit
Saving Money on a Disney World Visit
Spending Even More at Walt Disney World
Chapter 9: How to Set Everything Up and Get Everything Done
My Disney Experience, FastPass+, and Magic Bands
Disney World To-Do List
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 Soarin’ Around the World or Frozen Ever After as your Tier 1 FastPass+ choice at Epcot. 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.
Getting free updates. We will update this 2017 edition several times between its initial August 2016 publication date and the summer of 2017, when our 2018 edition will come out. In a new feature for our 2017 edition of this guide, we are offering free updates!
The paperback and Kindle versions are for sale on Amazon.com, and the PDF version is for sale on Gumroad.com.
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 more than six years ago—the first Disney World site aimed squarely at first-time visitors who may never return. He visits Disney World eight times a year, and later in 2014 he will stay in his hundredth different Disney World 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.
Banish the quest work from your trip with Josh and Dave's in-depth analysis of park touring strategies.
General Touring Philosophy Because of its massive size and the long duration of many of its attractions, Epcot is best experienced over two days, particularly now that Frozen Ever After is such a high priority. Most visitors will want to use FastPass+ at Frozen on at least one day and otherwise keep mostly to one side of the park on each day. This way, you cut down on the amount of walking necessary and you won’t run into waits longer than a few minutes all day. On one day, visit Future World East and the World Showcase pavilions from Mexico through the US, riding Frozen with FP+ in the early afternoon. On another day, hit Future World West and the pavilions from Canada through Japan, potentially adding Frozen with FP+ on the way out.
With just one day, things are more complicated if you want to try to do Soarin’, Test Track, Frozen, and IllumiNations. The best way to accomplish that is to ride Test Track at rope drop, use FastPass+ at Frozen, ride Soarin’ around 7pm, and then see IllumiNations after. If you’re willing to forego seeing IllumiNations, Frozen typically has an actual wait under 30 minutes at the very end of the night, but the ride may not be operational. If you’re willing to risk it, ride Test Track or Soarin’ first thing, use FastPass+ at the other, and get in line for Frozen about five minutes before park close. Those skipping Frozen can instead enjoy IllumiNations.
Characters Joy and Sadness inside Innoventions West are the highest priority and see waits of 30–60+ minutes. Visit first thing if possible or late at night. The princesses in World Showcase can see substantial waits. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy at Character Spot can also see 30–50 minute waits. It’s best to do Character Spot near park close or use FastPass+. Most other characters will have 5–20 minute waits. Random characters may also appear in between the Canada and United Kingdom pavilions and to the left of Liberty Inn in the US in the afternoon.
Rope Drop Epcot has two entrances. Guests arriving via Disney bus, monorail, or their own vehicles will enter via the main entrance at the front of the park. The International Gateway entrance in between the France and UK pavilions in World Showcase is used by those arriving from the BoardWalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, and Dolphin resorts.
Thirty minutes before open, Disney will begin letting guests enter the park from both entrances with holding areas in one of three spots. If your group arrives later than you’d like, check to see if Disney is still letting in guests with breakfast reservations on the far left or right side of the entrance. If yes, wait until these lines open to everyone and hurry over for a shorter wait
Those headed to Frozen are held in front of La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion, while those headed to Test Track are held in the Innoventions Breezeway outside of MouseGear/Electric Umbrella, and those headed to Soarin’ are held in the opposite Innoventions Breezeway outside of Character Spot. Frozen is the most popular and most uncomfortable of the holding areas, which is why we recommend using FastPass+ for it. Those headed to Test Track or Soarin’ should do their best to stay in front of the pack, but being among the first people to arrive is less important thanks to healthy capacities and fewer people. The International Gateway entrance is typically better for Frozen, but will put you at a slight disadvantage at Soarin’ or Test Track due to how far away it is. Those with pre-opening breakfast reservations at Akershus in Norway have an advantage if they are able to finish breakfast and be outside by 8:50am.
Continued in 'The easy Guide 2017'!
Dave and Josh's comprehensive coverage of Disney Springs includes the most up-to-date information available in print about the new construction and the recently opened Town Center.
The majority of Town Center is new construction built on top of what used to be a parking lot and in essence more than doubles the amount of retail available to those visiting the Springs. It’s virtually all mall brands from the likes of UGG, Vera Bradley, Under Armour, Sephora, Pandora, Anthropologie, UNIQLO, Zara, and about 35 more. Many are quick to point out that the aesthetic doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the outlet mall up the street, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as walkways are wide and vibrant and the overall look is quaint and charming. A full listing of stores is available at DisneySprings.com.
Town Center includes Planet Hollywood, which is expected to reopen in fall 2016 with a new planetarium theme, in addition to a new bar area. It remains to be seen whether the food and ambiance are improved over the past iteration, which was largely regarded to be the worst restaurant on property.
It also adds Frontera Cocina, a modern Mexican restaurant brought by celebrity chef Rick Bayless and operated by the same company that takes care of dining in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot and at Coronado Springs. We like to visit the bar area for margaritas and appetizers, but anyone looking for enchiladas, tacos, or other Mexican specialties for lunch or dinner should give it strong consideration. In addition, two new quick services join the lineup. There’s Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, which serves up their own creations or with any toppings you like for under $10. The “fast” in the name comes from the fact that it takes less than three minutes to cook your selection. D-Luxe Burger serves up the best quick service hamburgers on property, but a single burger and fry will run you anywhere from $15 to $18, though most people will find an $8 large fry is enough to share between three or more people. Finally, The Daily Poutine is located near World of Disney and offers a menu of french fries topped with things like gravy & cheese curds or fried yucca, black beans, pulled pork, & queso fresco. Each bowl makes for a very shareable snack, but we’re not sure we’d make one into a full meal for one.
Finally, the Coca-Cola Store is mostly retail inside of a large building, but does offer a rooftop bar that offers a variety of cocktails, in addition to fun trays full of Coca Cola soda samples from around the world. For around $15, you can sample sixteen different sodas and eight different floats with ice cream with great views of the rest of Disney Springs. Visit for a taste of something different. Literally.
Continued in 'The easy Guide 2017'!