Sunday, 6 January 2019

So you've seen the advert on TV, you've pestered your other half for months, you've worked out the finances and nows the time... you're ready to book your first trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida!

I booked my first ever trip to Walt Disney World back in 2011 for 2012 over the phone, directly with the Walt Disney travel co. as I had no idea where else I could book it. It was a bit of a impulse booking to say the least, I will never forget the day, I was still living at home with my parents, I looked on the website up in my room, realised I could actually afford it and the rest is history. I went from pipe dream to booking in about 30 minutes and paid well over the odds in the process.

This article has been set out to guide you through the process, remove any stress or confusion you might encounter along the way and hopefully make sure you pay absolutely no more than necessary for your Disney trip.

Lets jump straight in.

1. Decide When You Want to Visit?

A lot of people ask me, when is the best time to visit WDW? And truthfully there isn't a right or wrong answer here. 

Gone are the days when parks would be half empty during 'off peak' months. There are times when the parks will be unbearably crowded ( thanksgiving, 4th July, NYE etc) but basically accept the fact the parks will be busy whenever you go so I wouldn't get too hung up on this factor. 

Now a lot of you will be restricted to children's holidays and so that will be your starting point. One thing I would say here is potentially looking at taking your kids out of school even just a day or 2 can save you a fortune. Those prices rocket as soon as its half term, summer break etc. 

If you don't have kids, well then don't go during kids holidays, you will find the cheapest deals outside those times and you should take advantage of this. 

In terms of weather, Orlando offers year round sunshine and much higher temperatures than the UK, so unless you are a ginge like me you are basically guaranteed a lovely tan whenever you go.

October is Hurricane season and Orlando has rarely been affected by this in recent years as it is pretty mainland however it is something you may want to consider especially if you were perhaps considering adding a Disney cruise to your stay. 

Other factors that may sway your decision include special events and festivals, such as flower and garden which runs March - June and Food and Wine which is generally End of August time through end of October. You might want to consider if you want to see the halloween decoration or perhaps visit during Christmas time. 

You also might want to consider checking out if any of your favourite sporting teams are playing or perhaps if NASA has a shuttle launch that year and base your dates on that if it is something that really interests someone in your party. I would love to see a rocket launch over at Kennedy Space Centre one day for sure!! 

2. Decide Where You are Going to Stay 

The first consideration here is will you stay on Disney Property or nearby? My recommendation for first timers would always be to stay on property. 

Disney can be hard enough to navigate without having to deal with the general Orlando area, roads and transportation. 

Staying offsite however can save you a chunk of money initially but remember you will need to allow for car hire plus petrol and parking which isn't cheap (around $25 a day at present). 

Popular offsite areas include Lake Buena Vista, about 10 minutes drive from Disney Springs, just east of Disney property. Some families also like the I - drive area which offers great connections to Universal and Seaworld too. 

If you decide you want to stay on Disney property you will need to choose which resort is right for you. One thing I would say here is that all resorts are well serviced with transportation and unless you are staying at say the contemporary and can walk over to Magic Kingdom, all resorts will require a 15-20 minute bus to parks so don't get too hung up on this.

The main focus really needs to be the design of the property and the facilities. Do they meet your parties needs? In my opinion, all the resorts are fantastic in their own way, but for example the pools at the deluxe resorts are much more exciting than those at the value resorts so if you know your kiddos will be at the pool every afternoon this may sway your choice. Or if you want to hit the gym or go for a run every morning (I've seen it, as I walked back to my room with my breakfast burrito), then you might want to look at a resort that has a gym and good running trails like Caribbean beach. 

Ultimately price is probably going to play a huge factor here. But you may want to consider, when the UK free dining offer is in place ( it generally runs every April through October for bookings for the following year), upgrading from a value to a moderate is well worth it to have all your food included. The price difference is usually around £100 - £150 pp more but you would easily spend double if not triple that on food for a 2 week stay. 

3.How Long Should You Go For?

I don't think anything can quite prepare you for just how much there is to see and do in Walt Disney World alone, and that is before you add in things like Universal, Seaworld, Busch Gardens etc

My quick answer to this question is 14 nights, Minimum!! For 2 reasons, firstly you will never see or do half of everything in a week let alone all of it and secondly UK tickets are generally 14 days as standard and its no cheaper for a 7 day ticket. 

If you can do longer, do it. The longer you stay, the better value your park tickets will be because you will really get the most out of them. 

I always recommend my customers add a few days at the beginning or end of a trip actually staying at Universal. This gives you all the perks of extra park hours etc and then doesn't eat into your time at Disney. This might be something you want to consider including. Your Thomas Cook agent can help you price this up. 

4. Should You Book The Disney Dining Plan?

Well before you decide, make sure you check out my post the explains the details fully here 

If the Free Dining Offer is on, I say YES every time. Do that upgrade to a moderate and get the dining plan. 

If you are booking when the offer is not on or perhaps you are travelling when the offer isn't valid, then you need to consider if you're family will get the benefit of you paying for it. 

Are you foodies? Are you a 3 square meals a day family? Do you have big appetites? If so then it will most likely save you a fair few bucks when you are there, but if you aren't particularly big eaters and you have little ones who generally just steal a bit off your plate when you eat out then it might not be worth it. 

The portions are huge in Disney and most mains are enough for 2 adults to share so you could easily split a meal between your kids or with your kids. 

The one big benefit to the dining plan is that it is all paid for before you travel, you aren't constantly checking the menu prices or having to count whats left in dads wallet. 

Also when your little ones see every one with that famous Mickey bar, they are going to want one and at around $6 a pop it all quickly adds up. 

There are snacks on every corner in WDW and with the dining plan you don't have to say no to them. 

If you book your package with Thomas Cook and spread the cost with Direct Debit your dining plan will be part of this so you will barely even notice it as a cost and simply enjoy the benefits (snacks) when you are there.

5. Where Should I book This?

Ok so you've decided when to go, you've picked your dream resort and you're adding that quick service dining plan because the thought of daily Mickey Bars is just too good to miss. 
Now where do I go to book all this? 

With ME!!!!!!!

As I work for one of the biggest travel companies in the UK, I have access to the largest number of flights and providers, so I can make sure I get the perfect package and at the best price for your trip.

I will make sure we dot the i's and cross the T's so that you don't have to worry about printing your tickets off or arranging parking at the airport. We can do all of that for you. 

And when you book through me, you will have my help and support throughout the whole process. I am always just at the end of a phone, and even during your magical trip, you can message me even the smallest question and I will get back to you.

Every booking made with me will be fully ABTA and ATOL protected through Thomas Cook Uk and I make no financial gain from your booking. I simply do it because I love it.

But you dont live anywhere near me... No problemo!
Once we have confirmed your magical trip, I can either pop all your documents in the post or you are welcome to collect them from your nearest Thomas Cook store with the reference code I will give you. 

6. When Should I Book?

There is no right or wrong answer here. But as I mentioned earlier, the free dining offer for UK packages normally runs from mid April to mid Oct every year, for packages travelling the following year. Booking during this time will nearly always get you the cheapest price overall. 

If you aren't staying on property and so won't be using the dining plan, January can be a really good time to book as most airlines and travel companies have offers and discounts throughout the month. 

I will always be able to tell you about, and make use of the best discounts and offers available at any one time and if you would like a quote or a rough idea for future years even, please just send me a message using the contact form in the side bar

We've Booked Our First Trip to Walt Disney World... Now What??

Congratulations, you're going to the happiest place on earth. But you're not quite there yet. 

Theres still so much more planning to do... nobody said this was going to be easy. But honestly, planning is half the fun.

  • First things first, make sure you create a MyDisney Experience account here . This is where you will see all your holiday details. I explain everything you need to know about that here 

  • You are going to need to book all your dining reservations 180 days before you travel. I know this sounds crazy but a lot of the best restaurants get booked up fast. I talk you through the booking process here . 

  • You will also want to book your fastpasses for every day of your trip. This is done through My Disney Experience as well. Fastpasses can be booked 60 days before your trip if you are staying at a disney hotel or 30 days before if you are staying offsite. I have tips and tricks for booking your fastpasses for each park here.
of course if you book with me I can assist or even do all of the above for you

  • And finally, last but by no means least, you will need to apply for your ESTA (visa). Security in the US is pretty tight and this last bit is non negotiable. You will not be able to visit the states without one. The process is super easy and in most cases takes about 15 minutes. You will pay $14 by card and in my experience you will receive your visa response in 2 to 3 days.
This time frame isn't guaranteed however so I would apply here as soon as you book your trip if you haven't ever applied for one before. Never apply through any other website other than the one I have linked for you. There are plenty of fake and scam sites out there. 

This is what the official webpage looks like

If you still ave any questions regarding booking or planning or you would like a quote for your next trip please get in touch using the form below

Happy Planning!!

K x 

#travel #disneytravel #waltdisneyworld #disneyworld #disneyholiday #bookyourdisneytrip #wdw 


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