While I firmly believe you can have plenty of Disney fun without setting foot inside the actual parks, the 4 parks of Walt Disney World are the big draw. There’s a lot to see, do, and experience out there and it helps to have a plan.
I don’t know about you, but I still get a slight case of sticker shock when I look at park admission prices to anything Disney. A single park, single day pass will set you back $95 for the Magic Kingdom or $90 for one of the other parks. Ouch. Thankfully, Disney really wants you to spend more than just one day with them, so they give discounts for tickets that span multiple days. Instead of costing $475 for a 5 day pass (1 park per day, $95 x 5), it’s only $289.00 (or $57.80 /day); for 10 days it’s only $339 (or $33.90/day). Now, if you want the flexibility to Park Hop (go to multiple parks in a single day, a very useful feature in my mind), it’s a flat $59 (plus tax) no matter how many days your ticket is good for.
As Florida residents, we generally get a break on ticket prices–I think the theory is that if they charge us less, we’ll be likely to visit more often–and they also give up a lot more options. Whereas anyone can purchase an Annual Pass (a definite savings if you plan to be in the parks for 10+ days or are planning 2 trips within a calendar year), Florida residents actually get some seasonal options that might black-out certain high-traffic periods, but otherwise are good deals. I kept digging and found out that the Weekday Select Annual Passes for Florida residents have the usual high-traffic black-out dates (which we’d never want to visit during anyway) but are good any other Monday-Friday. Since we’ll be driving down there on a Sunday and heading home the following Saturday, this was pretty much perfect. Best part, these passes cost $212–so for what one regular Annual Pass (FL Resident discount applied) would have costs, we got 2 Weekday Select passes. (For reference sake, a 5-day Park Hopper–annual passes are automatically hoppers–would have been $346, so even if we don’t make it back before our anniversary, we still did pretty good.)
And if I hadn’t stepped in to “help” plan, Mr. Road Trip would have spent way more than he needed to, but he’s learning.
Right This Way
Tickets done, now comes the fun part: deciding which parks to visit on which days. Now, I know not everyone wants to be that structured, but forewarned is forearmed and all that, and I like to be prepared.
Disney will almost always be busy, and often packed. Sites likeÂ www.easywdw.comÂ and others, though, make a habit of predicting the crowd levels to help people like me plan the least stressful way to tour the World during our trip. They also include which parks might be opening early or staying open later (for resort guests only, a definite perk) called Extra Magic Hours or EMH.
For more in-depth planning I think PassPorter’s Walt Disney World guidebook is tops! I first found this guide back in 2004 when I was planning two long weekend trips and it was awesome to have all that information at your fingertips. Every attraction is rated and described and the maps are incredibly detailed. They also offer digital versions if you prefer to carry your tablet or smartphone instead of a guidebook (though I prefer the print version–it has planning pockets in the back).
By planning ahead I know that Animal Kingdom (the only park Mr. Road Trip has yet to visit–it wasn’t open last time he was there) closes earlier than the rest of the parks, and that Monday (the day we plan to visit AK) is evening EMH hours at Hollywood Studios, so we can plan to hop over there and get some extra rides in after supper. And while we plan on spending all day Tuesday at EPCOT enjoying the regular sights as well as the Food & Wine Festival, I found out that the former lead singer of STYX, Dennis DeYoung, is performing Thursday night as part of the Eat to the Beat concert series (part of the Food & Wine Festival) so we’ll leave DHS (our least favorite park, though the PIXAR updates might change our mind) early enough to catch his 6:45 show before our 8pm dinner reservations in Japan. And then for Friday we’ve secured our tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the first of the season, as soon as the ticket sales opened, so whatever we don’t get to on Wednesday (our planned MK day), we can catch up on that night when the crowds will be even lower.
And, of course, having a park plan makes the final prep step that much easier…
Do you like to have anÂ itineraryÂ on your vacations or just go with the flow?