Walt Disney World 2023 Planning Guide: Experience More, Save Money at Disney

Our Walt Disney World Planning Guide is here to help you plan your entire Walt Disney World vacation from start to finish- all while saving you as much money as possible at Disney.

In this planning guide you'll find links to our most helpful Walt Disney World planning articles including tips, money saving hacks, packing lists, and more!

Common Questions:

We have free planning resources like a printable packing list PDF and planning guide (previously $14.95) for people who sign up for our free Mickey Visit planning newsletter. Our newsletter subscribers also get exclusive discounts from Disney's largest travel partner.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section of our planning guide we go over our most current frequently asked questions for a Disney World trip. General information on tickets, crowd calendars, transportation, holidays, etc. can be found after this section on this planning guide.

What is the best touring strategy for rides at Disney World?

We have a touring guide for each of the four Walt Disney World theme parks that we have tested and tried ourselves! We update these plans often and they also take into account how to best use Genie+ (or how to still enjoy the parks without it!) which is the system that replaced FastPass.

How much does it cost to go to Disney World? 

One of the things we love about our travel partner is how easy it is to get a free quote. You can reach out to them at anytime and get a quote for your visit. You can also go on Disney World's website and look at hotel/ticket prices to get an estimate of that portion of your trip. Once you've figured that out, factor in your flights and travel expenses. Once you've done that, the last part to estimate is the cost of food and souvenirs. Our article here on the cost of Disney World also helps break down expenses so you can get an idea of how to budget.

How much should I budget for food per day at Disney World? 

The best way to figure this out, especially if you're visiting while the dining plans are suspended, is to go on Disney World's website to look at the menus for the restaurants. This is the most accurate way to estimate cost when it comes to pricing food options for your family.

For example, if I am visiting Magic Kingdom for the day and I know that I have picked one table service restaurant to eat at I can estimate that cost for dinner. Let's say I pick the Plaza Restaurant. Based on the menu, I can average about $20 per adult for an entree. Add in two fountain drinks (typically average around $4) and I'm at around $50. I always round up to plan (don't forget tip/tax) so let's say I set aside about $60 for dinner. For lunch, we might plan on eating quick-service snacks like corn dogs. If I plan out two corn dogs and two bottled waters, I'm at about $30 for lunch. So based on just lunch and dinner for two people, I'm at about (remember, always round up) $100 for both meals. This is not counting snacks! And you should absolutely plan for snacks. So if I guess that we might enjoy icecream and churros throughout the day, I will set aside another $50 for snacks. So now I've roughly estimated about $150 for two people for the day for lunch, dinner, and snacks.

Keep in mind that I didn't count breakfast (we usually eat at the hotel) and that I didn't factor in other drinks outside of those I mentioned since we will likely just refill water bottles throughout the day. This is my process for figuring out my budget so you can idea of how to best plan. Everyone has their own ‘food style' when it comes to theme parks. We're more of a ‘splurge and snack' family so I budget for that. If you know your family has more self control or you plan on bringing your own snacks, you can adjust accordingly.

What's the best age to take my kids to Disney World for the first time?

This is a tough question to answer because everyone has such varying opinions. Some families might take their kids as infants while others swear on waiting until they're at least 3-5 for their first trip. Disney offers plenty of rides for small children and other activities so really it comes down to personal opinion. Disney also has an abundance of resources for people traveling with small children like a Baby Centers in the theme parks and there's great stroller rental companies to pick from.

Should I add a day at Universal Orlando? 

If you can afford it and you have the time to add on during your vacation then we say absolutely! Universal Orlando (read our guide here) has two awesome theme parks with extremely popular areas like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Orlando is really close to Disney World so it's not that much of a hassle to spend a day there. Plus there's a lot of transportation options to take you to and from your Disney World hotel to Universal if you don't rent a car.

Have a frequently asked question you want us to address? Drop it in the comments!

Keep reading for answers to your questions on when to visit, how to get cheap tickets, transportation tips, seasonal events, and what to bring!

When to Visit Walt Disney World 2023

The time of year you decide to visit Walt Disney World is one of the first decisions you make for your vacation! There are special events throughout the year to celebrate the different holidays, rotating festivals at Epcot plus pros/cons to the seasonal Orlando weather! In order to help you decide when is the best time to visit Walt Disney World consult our Walt Disney World crowd calendar which includes crowd predictions along with monthly events for the entire year.

Visiting Walt Disney World during the summer might be the first move guests want to make since it can be the most convenient time for parents with kids out of school. Summers are a great time to take advantage of the two water parks at Walt Disney World: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Spring at Walt Disney World can be another great time to visit, especially if you're looking for Walt Disney World hotel discounts and cheaper airfare.

Hocus Pocus Walt Disney World

Although some guests may prefer visiting Walt Disney World in the Fall to avoid the summer heat. The major draw of visiting Walt Disney World in the fall is the Halloween season including Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. This ticketed event grants you access to all the special Halloween entertainment, trick or treating, Halloween meet and greets, and more!

One of the most magical times of the year to visit Walt Disney World is the holiday season! The big event of the Disney Christmas season is Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom.This ticketed holiday party includes a special holiday parade, themed decorations, Christmas treats, and holiday overlays on attractions. Another consideration to keep in mind is planning a Walt Disney World trip on birthdays or anniversaries which is another special event to plan your trip around!

Picking what time of year to visit Walt Disney World will alter your resort experience whether you visit during the summer, spring, fall or winter because Disney always celebrates the seasons… especially if they include holidays!

Walt Disney World Reservation System 2023

Theme park reservations are a requirement to enter Walt Disney World park: you need both a theme park ticket AND a park ticket. You should reserve your park days the instant you book your vacation package. You can easily change your park days later if you need to but it's best to book your dates the instant you know what days you're visiting.

You never want to be in a position where the park you want to visit is out of reservation spots! Our guide to the Walt Disney World theme park reservation system can walk you through how to make a reservation.

What Walt Disney World Hotel To Stay In

One thing that tends to overwhelm people traveling to Walt Disney World for the first time is the amount of hotels that are offered. Our guide with reviews of every Walt Disney World resort hotel will help you plan which hotel is the best fit for your vacation.

The Walt Disney World hotels are categorized into these three price groups in order of highest to lowest: deluxe, moderate and value. The deluxe category hotels are the most luxurious hotels that Walt Disney World has to offer with top tier amenities, signature dining and conveniently located to the parks. The moderate hotels offer a similar class of amenities although the rooms will not be as upscale as you'll find at the deluxe resorts. The value resorts are the most affordable hotels but don't discount them as not being quality! Our favorite value hotel, the Pop Century Resort, has access to the Skyliner which is one of the best transportation options in Walt Disney World. You can read more about the difference between moderate vs. value resorts to see category fits your needs best.

Walt Disney World hotel guests receive many perks aside from on-site transportation but deluxe resort guests receive access to the popular Disney After Hours access which is a great way to access the parks with minimal crowds! And all resort guests receive the benefit of early entry which allows you into the park before guests staying off site.

You also have the option of camping at Walt Disney World which gives you the same on-site perks but the opportunity to combine two experiences into one!

Our full guide on current Walt Disney World hotel discounts includes current deals to save you money on our next trip. Our budget tip on how to save 5% on Disney gift cards will also help you save money on your Walt Disney World hotel packages.

Walt Disney World Transportation

Walt Disney World Resort is the size of San Francisco which means figuring out your transportation options are the resort is a crucial part of your vacation planning step. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World hotel then on-site transportation is included in your stay. The hotel you are staying at will dictate which transportation options are available to you. The hotels closest to Magic Kingdom that use the Monorail system typically fall into that Deluxe category while hotels further away are more budget friendly. Some hotels offer transportation via the new Disney Skyliner, monorail, and water transportation.

Whether you're figuring out how to navigate getting yourself to/from the airport or looking for the best on-site transportation hacks, it's good to be prepared before your trip.

Discount Walt Disney World Tickets

One of the best ways to try to save money for your Walt Disney World vacation is to try and save money on your tickets. We have put together a comprehensive page with all of the known discounts on Walt Disney World tickets plus tips on purchasing your tickets and information on Walt Disney World annual passes.

Our travel partner, Get Away Today, is the best place to book your Walt Disney World vacation. They not only have a lowest price guarantee, but also offer incredible customer service. It does not cost any extra money to use get Away Today and they offer free concierge services for guests booking trips and staying at Disney on-property hotels.

Get Away Today's complimentary concierge services include:

  • Consultation call to understand the complexities of your trip and the preferences of everyone in the group
  • Walt Disney World dining recommendations and reservations based on your family
  • Tailored advice for how your family can best experience Walt Disney World
  • Frequent price checks to ensure that you are receiving the lowest prices possible on your tickets and hotel. This perk comes in handy when Disney releases discounts after you've already booked- Get Away Today will automatically apply them to your vacation package.
  • Dedicated support so that you can have the best trip possible!

You can get a a free Walt Disney World quote here!

How to Plan for Food at Disney World

The Walt Disney World Resort provides a wide variety of different types of food. You will find classic amusement park food mixed in with upscale restaurants. Our full guide to dining at Walt Disney World includes reviews of the most popular dining options, tips on getting reservations plus and overview of character dining!

Walt Disney World classifies their dining options in two categories: table service and quick service. Table service is defined as restaurants where you are seated with a typical waiter/waitress and offer advance dining reservations you can reserve 60 days in advance. You can book a reservation on the official Disney website or call the reservation hotline at (407) WDW-DINE. Most of the restaurants are Disneyland that are considered table service book up in advance so its highly recommended you book reservations for the ones you're interested in.

If you miss out and don't find a reservation, I recommend trying Mouse Watcher which will search relentlessly for a variety of days/times for your chosen restaurant for $5 per restaurant search. While many free services like this exist, I've found this one to be the most successful.

If you're looking to save money at the parks, cutting down on food costs is one of the best ways to do it and finding the cheap food at Walt Disney World is a great way to save.

Every Theme Park at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World has four theme parks and two water parks plus a large shopping district! Our attraction guides to the Walt Disney World theme parks will help you decide which park has what and what to prioritize. I recommend reviewing each one as you plan your days at the park and what you plan on doing!

  • Magic Kingdom
    • The traditional park where you can find Cinderella's Castle and classic rides like Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, it's a small world, and more.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios
    • This is where you can find Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Toy Story Land and the new Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway attraction.
  • Animal Kingdom
    • This park is known for its safari with wild animals, the Pandora themed land and the Tree of Life.
  • Epcot
    • You'll recognize this park right away from its iconic ‘golfball' entrance but also is known for its international experiences and the new Guardians of the Galaxy rollercoaster.

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind

Walt Disney World also offers two water parks to choose from:

  • Blizzard Beach
    • This waterpark offers a ski resort themed vibe that many guests enjoy for its unique theming and its large water slides.
  • Typhoon Lagoon
    • This waterpark offers a traditional vibe with palm trees, beach themed water slides and a pirate ship.

Blizzard Beach chair lift

Walt Disney World also has a downtown district known for shopping, restaurants, and other experiences:

It can be easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of options at Walt Disney World which is why I recommend reviewing our Walt Disney World touring guide to give you an idea of how to approach your day for each theme park.

The other key to managing the theme parks at Walt Disney World right now is being familiar with Genie+ at Walt Disney World which replaced the previous FastPass option. Our guide covers which attractions offer it, how to use it to plan your day and whether the cost is justified! You essentially purchase Genie+ which gives you access to a shorter line than the much longer standby line. If this Walt Disney World trip is a ‘once in a lifetime' visit, then it's absolutely worth the cost! Part of the appeal of using MagicBands at Walt Disney World is using Genie+ as you can tap your MagicBand to scan your pass to access the Lightning Lane (the faster line you paid to access!) which makes your day more hand free.

It's also a good idea to check the Walt Disney World Height Requirements to get the full information on ride height requirements plus the ability to do rider switch – this allows parents with children that don't meet height requirements to only wait in line once so they both can ride! It's also crucial for families to know what tips you should know about keeping your family together and how cast members handle lost children in Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World 2023 Packing List

Deciding what to bring on your Walt Disney World vacation can be a big decision! From what to wear, what to pack in your bag, and what food to bring are all things to plan for. Our packing list guide has you covered with everything you need to bring based on our years of experience of visiting the Disney Parks.

There are so many souvenirs to chose from at Walt Disney World, it can be overwhelming to decide what to purchase. While it can be easy to get caught up in the many, many stores you will find at Disney World- there are some souvenirs that stand the test of time. Opt for the more memorable gifts that will stand the test of time.

Another popular item to collect and trade at Walt Disney World are Disney pins which you can trade with other guests and inside the Disney shops. Our guide to Disney Pin Trading gives an overview of this time honored tradition which makes for a great souvenir that can carry over into future park visits as well.

And if you find yourself wanting to purchase something that's too large to pack into your suitcase, Disney also gives you the option to ship your souvenirs back home.

Plan Your Walt Disney World Vacation!

That should be everything that you need to plan your Walt Disney World vacation. If you still have questions about planning, see our Ask Us page.

Be sure to sign up for our planning newsletter so that you can get access to our exclusive hotel discounts and special planning tips. We have a dedicated team of writers covering new Disney World content weekly! Check out our blog for everything you need to know to plan a successful Disney vacation!

If you need any other help or have questions, don't be afraid to email me.

Disclosure: We have used all the products recommended on Mickey Visit. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products featured.

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