However, if you aren’t a Disney nut (or at least aren’t one yet), you may just want a quick list of planning tips for how to best navigate the basics of your vacation Disney World.

Fortunately, Kristen Kemp has written an article that provides an overview of some of the most important planning tips and suggestion that you can follow both before your trip and during your stay at Disney World.  Let’s take a look at some of the best suggestions, mixed together with some of my own ideas and opinions (Source).

Little Kids – Too Young?

Consider waiting until your children are at least four years old before making your family pilgrimage to the vacation kingdom of the world.  Many kids younger than that can’t participate in some of the attractions and can easily get tired and cranky from the crowds, noise, heat, and general over-stimulation that Disney parks can generate.

That said, Disney World has done a lot in recent years to promote “magical beginnings” and encourage parents of little ones to make their vacation plans at Disney.   You will probably want to consider your children’s personality and perseverance before planning a trip to Disney.  And remember that you don’t need to “go commando” when vacation with little ones, trying to see everything and do everything.  Plan for a slower pace, and perhaps allocate time for afternoon breaks back at your hotel room for a nap or a dip in the pool.

Stay On Disney Property

Consider staying at a Disney owned hotel.  Many people are concerned that staying on Disney property will blow their vacation budget.  It is true that Disney has plenty of expensive hotel rooms, especially during peak vacation seasons such as spring break, summer, and Christmas.  However, they also have many value hotel rooms which can be as good a deal as some off-site hotels.

Staying at a Disney hotel provides some benefits that you simply can’t get if you stay off site.  A key one is free transportation and parking.  If you don’t mind taking just a little extra time when moving from one place to the next, Disney busses will shuttle you from place to place so that you can relax and leave the driving to someone else.  And if you do choose to bring or rent a car, you get free parking at the theme parks – which can save you around $15 per day.

Staying at a Disney Value Resort, like All Star Music, can be both affordable and fun.

Staying at a Disney Value Resort, like All Star Music, can be both affordable and fun.

One of the biggest benefits is Extra Magic Hours.  This is where only Disney resort guests get to take advantage of special early or late hours when a select theme park is open only to those staying on Disney property.  During those special hours the crowds are generally lower and you can quickly see and do many things that might otherwise take lots of time.

Remember Fast Passes

Disney has an ingenious system where you enter your theme park admission ticket into specially marked machines and get back a slip of paper that acts as a reservation to ride an attraction at a later time – and without having to wait very long in line.  Many first time visitors either don’t know about this or fail to take advantage of it because it seems too complication.  If you aren’t sure how it works, ask any Disney Cast Member (aka employee) and they will be happy to help you out.

Using these Fast Passes even just once or twice a day can save you hours of standing in line.  Keep in mind, however, that Fast Passes can and often do run out for some of the more popular attractions, and they can run out very early in the day.  If you have your heart set on riding a signature attraction like Soarin at Epcot or Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, plan to arrive when the park opens and get a Fast Pass for these attractions right away.

Make Dining Reservations

Eating at a Disney World restaurant can be lots of fun.  Disney restaurants not only have great food but also provide great atmosphere and in some cases special experiences.  But if you don’t have a reservation, or Advance Dining Reservation (ADR in Disney speak), you might end up waiting a long time.  Or you might even be unable to get into some of the more popular restaurants.

Disney generally takes dining reservations 180 days ahead.  Count back 180 days on your calendar from when you plan to eat at a Disney restaurant.  Call in first thing in the morning 180 days before your meal.  Yes, it sounds crazy to think you need reservations so far in advance, but you will be glad you did.

Disney World offers some fun dining experiences like the 50s Prime Time Cafe.  It's like taking a step back in time, and it is a ton of fun. Be sure to call head for dining reservations.

Disney World offers some fun dining experiences like the 50s Prime Time Cafe.  It’s like taking a step back in time, and it is a ton of fun. Be sure to call head for dining reservations.

The author suggests taking a cab or driving to a local Orlando Walmart or Disney Outlet store to purchase your Disney vacation souvenirs.  You can find a wide selection of Disney character merchandise at far lower prices than you will see in the theme parks.  The selection and quality might not be quite as good, but the prices are sure to be much better.

This tip is practical and can save you some serious money, but I’m not sure I’m really all for it.  Part of the Disney magic carries over even into retail shops – where the displays, selection of merchandise, and helpful Cast Members can make for a great buying experience.

Shopping at Disney can be a fun way to purchase high quality merchandise, but you can often save money at off-property shops.

Shopping at Disney can be a fun way to purchase high quality merchandise, but you can often save money at off-property shops.

If you follow the tips presented here you will hit most of the highlights that will allow you to have a great Disney World vacation with untold hours of planning.