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Savvy Travel & Family Time

Escape Into a World of Magic: How to Plan the Ultimate Disney Family Vacation

We could all use a little magic. Why not head to the Magic Kingdom? 

A Disney family vacation is a great way to create memories, have fun, and interact with beloved characters. Tens of millions of people visit Walt Disney World every year. It boasts four separate theme parks, two water parks, and three dozen hotels. 

The park can be a little overwhelming. It covers 25,000 acres, bigger than most national parks and islands. But you can plan the perfect Disney family vacation for you and your loved ones. 

Here is a quick guide. 

COVID

Disney World is open to the public. But COVID restrictions are expected to remain in effect well into 2021. 

All guests two years of age and older are required to wear face masks. The mask must have at least two layers, and it must cover your nose and mouth. 

Guests will have their temperature screened. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed into the park. Anyone in their party will also not be allowed to enter. 

Guests must maintain social distancing of six feet. Barriers and signs are placed throughout the park, marking where guests can stand in line and wait for others. Cast members are stationed around the park to help with social distancing. 

Guests are currently limited to one park per day. The water parks are also closed during this time, though one will reopen in March 2021. 

Purchases

To enter the park, you need a reservation and a valid admission to the same park. You will need a reservation through September 2021, though the reservation system may stay post-COVID.

You make a reservation online through My Disney Experience. You can make reservations for as many days as you want, provided you have admission tickets for those days and parks. 

You have many ticket options from there. One-day tickets begin at $125, and the price per day drops for the more days you purchase. Some days cost more than other days, so examine the calendar closely before buying. 

Purchase your tickets well in advance, preferably six to seven months. Cancellations can occur at any moment, and buying in advance reduces cancellation fees. Buying in advance also helps you purchase FastPass+, which lets you skip lines. 

Do try to purchase your airfare, hotel, and transportation alongside your admissions. Spacing your purchases out can cause processing delays. 

If you want to reduce your prices, you can buy packages that bundle your airfare, hotel, and ticket prices in one. Some packages can also include dining and transportation to and from the park. Compare different packages together before purchasing. 

Consider purchasing a vacation ownership program. Disney Vacation Club offers timeshares that are more cost-effective than ticket admissions. The DVC booking window covers eleven months, giving you all the time you need to plan your vacation. 

Hotels

Perhaps the greatest debate amongst Disney connoisseurs involves hotels. There are pros and cons to staying on-site or going off. 

Staying on-site gives you premium amenities. Even the cheapest on-site hotels offer slick designs and large rooms. The more deluxe the hotel, the more dining options, and the better the service you have within the hotel. 

Staying on-site gives you extended hours. Disney World stays open for an additional hour or so for its hotel guests. Staying on-site also lets you access your hotel room easily from the park. 

Staying off-site is far cheaper than staying on-site. You can still receive good amenities, even from a standard hotel room. Most hotels offer discounts for families and Disney guests, so do some research to see what the different offers are. 

The General Disney Family Vacation

Once you’ve figured out your purchases, you can figure out what you’re going to do. 

Think about your family. Little kids have different needs than teenagers and adults. Think about what attractions they would like, and what characters they would want to see. 

In general, most families spend six to seven days in Walt Disney World. They usually spend three days in the Magic Kingdom and then dedicate one day to each of the other three theme parks. Some families add an extra day for a water park. 

Most families go in the summertime when kids are out of school. But you can go to Disney World at any time of the year. The holiday season offers special activities, including Halloween and Christmas celebrations. 

If you are looking for smaller crowds, schedule your vacation for weekdays in the middle of the month. The early weeks of December also tend to have smaller crowds than other times of the year. 

Most families spend their entire vacation in attractions, but Disney World has other services. They have golf courses, boutiques, and nightclubs. Some families leave a day for these activities. 

Attractions

The rides are the biggest selling point of Disney parks. You have dozens of rides per park to choose from, from rollercoasters to dark rides to boat rides. Most rides accommodate all guests, but dark rides are best for teenagers and adults. 

The lines on some rides, especially the most popular ones, can run up to four hours long. Purchase FastPass to cut some of the lines, but be prepared to wait on others. Bring a book or podcast, and soak in the scenes all around you. 

Leave time during each day to walk around. Walking around the park is a pleasure in and of itself, allowing you to see characters and ride designs. 

Dining

Dining is an underrated part of the Disney experience. Each park has dozens of dining options, and there are additional places to buy snacks all around the park. You can choose a quick-service meal or a more formal table-service meal. 

Purchasing a meal plan reduces your overall costs. You can also order online through mobile apps, freeing you to go on more rides. 

Character Dining lets you and your family eat with your favorite characters. Character Dining is extremely popular, with reservations made six to seven months in advance. Reserve a time with your favorite characters when you buy tickets. 

All services in every Disney park can make accommodations. If you have an allergy, or if you have a specific diet, tell your server. They will give you options that meet your needs. 

If dining is too expensive for you, you can shop for groceries and have them delivered to your room. Disney does not allow guests to bring outside food into their park, so this is only an option for on-site guests. 

Stay Savvy

It’s a small world, after all. A Disney family vacation brings the entire family together for a fun week of rides and experiences. 

Plan your vacation out in advance. Purchase reservations, ticket admissions, and airline and hotel accommodations together. Join the Disney Vacation Club to reduce your overall costs. 

Schedule your vacation for a time that works best for you. Prepare for long lines, and think about your various dining options. 

Travel broadens the mind. Broaden your mind about travel by following our coverage. 

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