By Spencer Spellman, on September 17, 2013

Disney World: Know before you go

Today we’re thrilled to have a special guest from Disney on the Expedia Viewfinder blog. Today’s guest blogger, Kay Belin, a Disney Parks Moms Panelist, shares with us all a few tips before visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Read her post below and find out more about the Disney Parks Moms Panel at the bottom.

Considering it is one of the largest family vacation destinations in the entire world, Walt Disney World can be a common source of anxiety for most families. It can be overwhelming, however, one can easily overcome this anxiety with a little bit of planning and a deep breath. Families are able to ensure their vacation stays true to the Disney magic they expect by planning their trip ahead of time. Disney offers a number of tools to ease in this process.

As guests head into the planning portion of their vacation, there are a few things they should take into consideration. To make the family vacation a success, guests should understand what Walt Disney World has to offer and what will be available during their stay. Here are some tips to consider for your next trip to Orlando, Florida to Walt Disney World.

Disney offers three resort categories 

Some families like to be close to the parks and others choose to save money and spend less for their room. Disney offers three resort categories: value, moderate, and deluxe. Most families can find a great resort that fits their vacation budget. Take time to check them out and compare, and don’t forget to look at the Disney Vacation Club properties as well. If they are available, any guest can reserve them for their vacation without being a member. The bonus to staying on-property includes: complimentary Magical Express bus service to/from the Orlando Airport, your resort, and anywhere on property. In addition, you have the ability to visit the parks during their Extra Magic Hours, when they are only open to Disney resort guests.

Know the theme parks

You can find maps of each of the four parks and the entire property at the Disney website. It is encouraged that you actually have everyone study them well in advance of your vacation. Have a general plan of what places to visit and activities to participate in, and let each member of the family have input to make it a true family vacation. You can find park calendars about six months ahead on the Disney website to assist you in the process. Make sure to check out all four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot), as well as the two beautiful water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach).

Pick up a Times Guide

When you arrive to your resort, or any theme park, make sure to pick up the Times Guide. This guide will contain all of the information you need for your stay there. It is especially helpful when you are trying to coordinate a meet and greet with any of the beloved Disney characters. These guides will usually inform you of who is in the parks that day, and when and where you can meet them! It also contains information and updates on all the attractions and activities currently happening.

Make advanced dining reservations

So many families arrive unprepared, not realizing that all of the Disney table-service restaurants accept advanced dining reservations. These can be made up to 180 days before your arrival date and is strongly encouraged. There are very few times when you can walk up and find a table. The more popular ones, such as character dining and the newer locations, book up immediately, so you don’t want to disappoint your family by not getting the reservations you need. Consider booking lunch over a dinner, since this is often a bit less expensive.

Viewfinder Tip: Book your entire Disney World vacation on

Downtown Disney

Most guests decide to come to Walt Disney World because they have four great parks to visit. However, there is much more to a Disney vacation. For example, Downtown Disney abounds in fun during the day and night, and it is where you can find Disney Quest, Splitsville (bowling), AMC Theater, and Cirque du Soleil, just to name a few. It’s an all-encompassing entertainment, dining, and shopping complex. It also houses World of Disney, the largest Disney merchandise store.

Disney resort-specific activities and recreation

Guests can enjoy all kinds of sports and recreation, such as golf, fishing, boating, and horseback riding. Consider checking out these activities on a day when you would rather hang out instead of heading to the parks. Every resort offers a wide array of activities, ranging from The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort’s Chip ’N Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long to Disney’s Beach Club Resort, containing a sand-bottom pool.

Understand Florida weather and crowds

Summers will be busy, hot, and humid, with afternoon thunderstorms. Florida’s fall and winter months can actually be quite cool, so sweatshirts might be needed. However, generally there are not as many guests during this time. Spring is scattered with spring break vacation weeks. As you would probably expect, holidays are always busy and you will find the parks crowded. Pick a vacation date that best suits your needs and comfort.

As you can see, planning is important for a Walt Disney World vacation. But, it is also a lot of fun and should involve the entire family. You will want to have most of this done about six months in advance and then start your countdown to a great Disney vacation in Orlando, Florida!

Kay Belin is a member of the 2013 Disney Parks Moms Panel. Panelists have received/will receive a Walt Disney World Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, Disneyland Resort or Disney Vacation Club vacation for panelist and up to three family members and/or park tickets for their participation on the Walt Disney World® Moms Panel. The views expressed in the Panel are those of the panelists, who are independent contractors. These views are not intended to reflect the opinions of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online, its affiliates, its management, its agents or its employees and have not been reviewed or approved by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online prior to posting.