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Planning your first trip to DisneyWorld!

Planning your first trip to DisneyWorld is both exciting and intimidating.  There are so many choices and so many different options to customize your trip.  I have many people ask me where to start.  I have outlined a few basics in this article to help you.  Also, be sure to visit our discussion forum.  You will find tips, tricks, and ideas from other visiters.  Also, be sure to share your experiences and stories in our discussion forum when you get back!

Where to stay?
This is probably the most asked question by DisneyWorld first timers.  There is no simple answer to this question.  What I can do is explain the advantages and disadvantages to the different options.  The first decision is Do I stay On Disney Property or Off Disney Property? To answer this question, you need to decide what you want to do on your vacation.  Will you be visiting other attractions in Orlando (Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.)?  Are you trying to stretch your budget?  Are you planning to spend some vacation days NOT at the parks?  Do you prefer roomier accomidations at a lower price?  Do you prefer more privacy such as your own private pool?  If you answered YES to these questions, then you might want to consider an off site location.  The Orlando area offers a wide variaty of hotesl, condos, and even homes that you can book for your vacation.  If cost is your main concern, there are many budget hotels near DisneyWorld that offer inexpensive rooms and complimentary transportation to the parks.  If you prefer large accomidations, you can rent homes in the Disney area.  These homes can range from 3 to 7 bedrooms with their own private pools.  Most homes will rent for less than the dailey rate charged by Disney onsite hotels and offer much more room and privacy.  The disadvantage to renting a house is that you typically do not get daily maid service.  Also, you will more than likely need to rent a car to get around.  Overall, however, the cost will probably be less than staying on site.  Staying off site also gives you more flexibility to visit the the other attractions in Orlando.  However, if your vacation plan is to totally immerse yourself in the Disney experience, nothing beats staying at an on-site hotel.  Disney service is second to none.  By staying onsite, you will literlayy never need to leave the property.  Everything is provided.  You can even choose to have your meals included in the package.  Disney also provides several levels of onsite hotels based on your budget. 
Visit our Where To Stay Page for more details.

How long should we stay?
We have been going to DisneyWorld nearly every year for the last 10 years and we still have not seen everything and done everything.  You must realize that you will not see and do everything on one trip.  The idea is to plan ahead.  This will determine how many days you should stay at DisneyWorld.  Another major consideration is cost.  Each day you stay, the cost goes down per day.  Disney purposly designed their cost to encourage you to stay longer.  For example, a five day ticket to Disney costs $268.  A six day ticket costs $278 and each additional day only costs $10.  This cost structure makes it attractive to stay longer.  You will however be paying for extra hotel days and meals! 

Which parks should I visit on each day?
There are several thoughts on this.  My family always pre-plans the parks we will visit each day.  To save some costs, we tend to purchase the tickets that are NOT park hoppers.  Park Hopper tickets allow you to go to more than one park in one day.  Standard tickets only allow you to visit one park per day.  The standard tickets cost less.  In my opinion, there is so much to do at each park that there is no need to go from park to park on the same day.  Also, by going park to park in one day, you are waisting time.  Disney also provides Extra Magic Hours at difiernt parks for guests who stay on site.  Many guests will choose those parks to visit.  My opinion is to avoid the parks with the Extra Magic hours.  These parks tend to be the most crowded on those days.  We also base our planning on any events that may only occur on certain days, such as Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios.

Should I pay for the meal plan option?
Disney offers a great meal plan option; but is it for everyone?  The Disney meal plan has 2 choices, a quick service meal plan or a deluxe meal plan.  The quick service meal plan gives each person 2 quick service meals and 1 snack per day.  The deluxe plan gives 1 quick serve, 1 sit down and 1 snack per day.  We have purchased the quick service plan in the past.  It was more than enough food.  In fact, we would always have extras on the last day.  Since it is a use it or loose it plan, we would use them all up on the last day and either give them away or purchase non perishable snacks and take them home with us.  I can't imagine getting the sit down service every day, it would have been too much for us.  The plans can generally save some money, however the cost has gone up recently and they have reduced the benefits (the quick service use to include 2 snacks instead of one and the sit down plan use to include tips but now the tips are extra).  My opinion is that the dining plans are more of a convenience than a cost savings.  The dining plan allows you to not have to worry about money and to use your room key for everything.

Should I pay for the Park Hopper option?
The park hopper option on your tickets allows you to go to multiple parks in one day.  We have gone both with and without this option.  My opinion is that unless you are only going to be at Disney World for 1,2 or 3 days, go without this option.  If you are going to spend 4 or more days at Disney World, you can spend an entire day at each park and not waiste time jumping from park to park. 

Should I pay for the no expiration option?
This option allows you to purchase a multi day ticket that will never expire.  Normally, a multi day ticket to Disney, let's say a 6 day ticket, allows you to enter the parks for 6 days within a 14 day window.  Once the 14 day window is over, the ticket expires regardless if you use all 6 days or not.  Adding the no expiration option allows you to use these 6 days anytime.  The problem with this ption is that it is very expensive, nearly doubling the cost of the ticket.  The only time this option is worhtwile is if you plan on making multiple visits to Disney World for only 1 or 2 days each time.  Otherwise, go for the expiring tickets.