Hey, Disney Food Blog friends! We know that A LOT goes into planning a Disney World vacation and that it can get pretty confusing and overwhelming at times. There are Advance Dining Reservations, FastPasses, hotel options, festivals, Extra Magic Hours, special ticketed events…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
So here are answers to your BIGGEST Disney World Planning Questions right now!
Choosing the right Disney World hotel can be daunting. There are different levels of hotels, off-property (non-Disney-owned) options, and different modes of transportation available depending on where you stay.
So, we’re going to check out two of the BIGGEST questions we’re typically asked about Disney World hotels.
Should I Stay at a Monorail or Skyliner Resort?
Last year, Disney introduced a new form of transportation — the Disney Skyliner. But what you may not know is that only select Disney World hotels and parks offer direct Skyliner transportation.
The Skyliner will only travel between these resorts, also accessing Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. (Note that ANYONE can use the Skyliner — you don’t have to be staying at these resorts to get on!)
A few Disney World resorts also offer monorail transportation. These include: Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The monorail will go between these resorts, Magic Kingdom, and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), which offers monorail access to Epcot.
Readers often ask if they should choose to stay at a monorail or Skyliner resort. This decision may boil down to where you plan to spend most of your time. If you’re planning to be at Magic Kingdom and Epcot predominantly, maybe the monorail resorts are right for you.
But if you’re headed to Hollywood Studios and Epcot the majority of your stay in Disney World, you may consider a Skyliner connected resort.
You also may need to choose based on your budget. Monorail resorts are all Deluxe Resorts, meaning they cost a good bit more than value or moderate Disney Resorts. The Resorts on the Skyliner line touch all price points, from some of the most expensive to least expensive rooms on property, depending on the Resort.
Is Staying on Property REALLY Worth It?
Disney World has quite a few of their own hotels on Disney World property. But, there are a LARGE number of hotels off property that offer easy access to Disney World as well. Since many of the off-property hotels offer significantly cheaper rooms, readers often ask if staying ON property is really worth it.
Honestly, this is going to be different for every family depending on personal preferences and budget!
A few benefits to staying at a Disney-owned resort are that you will be completely immersed in Disney your entire trip. You will also have access to Extra Magic Hours, which means that you can spend extra time in one of the theme parks each day, either before or after it closes.
You can also book your FastPasses 60 days in advance (in comparison to 30 days if you don’t stay at a Disney hotel). FastPasses can be booked before your trip and allow you to skip the regular line in order to enjoy attractions more quickly. Another benefit of staying at a Dinsey-owned hotel is that you have free transportation to and from the parks (AND to and from the Orlando International Airport!).
AND you get a complimentary MagicBand to use for your room key, making purchases, PhotoPass, and more. Don’t forget, that Disney has a wide range of hotels, meaning there is something for a wide variety of price points!
We personally love how close these hotels are to the parks and we enjoy the fact that we don’t have to leave that “Disney bubble” when staying at an on-property hotel.
But, it is important to remember that a few non-Disney owned resorts offer some of these special perks as well. So if you are having a tough time deciding between a Disney hotel, a good neighbor hotel (most of which are still actually on Disney property but they’re not owned by Disney), or a completely off-site hotel, we suggest comparing prices and benefits.
Are you still going to be able to have the trip your family envisioned when staying off-property? Does the off-property option give you the financial flexibility you were looking for? Will transportation to and from the parks each day be an issue? If everything checks out for you, go for it!
With four parks and two water parks, understanding everything that goes into planning a park day can get a little confusing. So here are a few of the park questions we’re asked on a regular basis.
What’s the Difference Between a FastPass and a Boarding Group?
Currently, Boarding Groups are only available for Rise of the Resistance in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You aren’t able to book these days ahead of time. Instead, a select number of these are released each morning and you must be inside the park to grab one. Then, you will be notified through your phone what group you’re in and when it’s your turn to ride.
Due to the popularity of the ride, boarding groups tend to be completely given away in minutes each morning.
FastPasses can be reserved up to 60 days in advance for Disney resort guests and 30 days in advance for non-resort guests and Annual Passholders. These are offered for a large number of attractions and experiences. You can pre-book up to three per day in one park of your choice. After your three are used up, you have the option to book additional FastPasses, one at a time, in any park of your choice.
So basically the big difference is MOST rides offer FastPasses and the flexibility to pre-book them. Boarding Groups require preparing to get to the park EARLY to snag a group when they’re released same-day.
Can I Bring My Own Food?
While WE love our park food, we know that there are many reasons why you may want to bring your own food to the parks. And you’re totally able to with a few exceptions. Glass bottles and containers are not permitted though Cast Members tend to make an exception for baby food (but we suggest thinking of alternative ways to bring these items in case they won’t let you bring in the baby food).
The most notable exception is you can’t bring alcohol into the parks. Other than that, you are mainly limited by the size of your food receptacle — it can’t exceed 24″ x 15″ x 18″. Also, last year Disney cracked down on loose ice in coolers coming into the parks. Now guests may only bring sealed ice packs to cool food.
Which Epcot Festival Is the Best?
Each Epcot Festival offers something a little different and they all have GREAT food and drink options. So saying which Festival is best will likely be a matter of personal preference.
If you’re looking for bright colors, Broadway stars, and over the top food presentation, you may prefer Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts. In 2020, the Epcot Festival of the Arts had 12 booths, plus a few additional locations. This is on the lower end of food options in comparison to other Epcot festivals, so this may be something to keep in mind if you’re looking for a wide range of food.
This festival also offers the Disney on Broadway Concert Series. During the festival, a range of Disney broadway stars put on free shows each night for guests to enjoy. So, if you’re a lover of all things Broadway or Disney music, this could be a big bonus!
Festival of the Arts typically takes place in Jan and Feb, so it tends to offer fewer crowds and cooler temperatures.
Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival is full of colorful flowers and stunning topiaries. Flower and Garden typically has around 17 food booths along with a few additional festival locations. This festival also offers the Garden Rocks Concert Series. During these free shows, popular bands that span decades perform for Epcot guests!
Flower and Garden tends to fall during Spring Break so crowds may be bigger and temps may be on the warmer side. But this is a stunning and fun way to welcome Spring!
Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is the “original” festival, and it really brings it in terms of food and drink offerings. This fest boasts about 35 booths, meaning there is a LOT of food to choose from. Many of these food booths have delicious fall-like options!
This festival also tends to have more special events like cooking seminars with chefs, Party for the Senses (where guests can sample a HUGE array of foods and drinks in a party setting), cheese seminars, hands-on workshops, and more.
This festival typically runs from late August to mid-November so the crowds and weather will range a bit, depending on when you visit.
Food and Wine also brings Epcot’s Eat to the Beat Concert Series to the scene. Here, popular bands across all genres from the 80s, 90s, and even the 00s take the stage. There is a wide variety of entertainment for Epcot guests to choose from.
Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays is perfect for those who want to experience holidays at Disney and love learning about festive traditions. This is another festival with fewer booths — it typically offers 12 per year. We promise you should be able to find delicious cookies and hot cocoa in your walk around the festival, so no worries there! 😉
This festival runs through Christmas so you can expect more crowds and cooler temps. But it’s a fun and festive way to celebrate the holidays.
Festival of the Holidays also includes the popular Candlelight Processional.
Here, the Christmas story is told by a celebrity narrator while a 50-piece orchestra and choir (comprised of a Disney cast member choir along with an ever-changing group of guest choirs from around the country) accompany the re-telling.
Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth It?
The biggest draw of the Disney Dining Plan is that it allows guests to pay for their food in advance. There are four dining plan options to choose from and each one offers something different at a variety of price points.
Whether you want to eat fast food for your entire trip or if you want to dine only at sit down restaurants, Disney has a plan that should fit your family’s needs.
But, this can get expensive. So, we’re often asked, “is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?” The bottom line is that you will really have to crunch the numbers to determine this.
To make it worthwhile, you will need to maximize your credits, meaning that you use them to purchase the most expensive meals and snacks possible in order to come out ahead. And even with the lowest-level plan, it’s still a LOT of food, so sometimes snack credits and meals can go to waste if you’re not careful.
If you score the Disney World Free Dining Offer when Disney releases it, you will have a better chance of saving money with the dining plan. But don’t forget, if you take advantage of that offer, you won’t be able to take advantage of other (possibly more cost-saving) offers, like discounts on your hotel room.
AND if you’re an Annual Passholder who chooses to add on Disney’s Free Dining Plan offer, you will still have to purchase the minimum number of tickets (as stated on the offer) for everyone ELSE in your room. With Free Dining or paying for it out of pocket, everyone in your room has to get the same Dining Plan. So no getting it for just mom and dad and hoping to save a few bucks on the kiddos.
Again, we always suggest that you crunch the numbers to see if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it for your family! And we know that can seem daunting, but luckily we’ve done the work for ya.
We have full charts and graphs detailing potential savings in our DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining. We also have an entire chapter answering if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it in the guide as well.
So, check it out and use WDW2020 for 25% off. The guide is also guaranteed so if you don’t love it, you’ll get a full refund!
General Disney World Vacation Question
Should I Use a Travel Agent and Are They REALLY Free?
We enjoy using a travel agent because YES they are FREE and they can do all the hard work for you.
Don’t want to wait on hold for hours with Disney? Want to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck? Then let the travel agent do all the tough stuff for ya. They can also monitor discounts and keep a record of all your vacation information to ensure that you’re planning to best trip possible.
We always use Small World Vacations because they have proven to be a reliable service time and time again.
Should We Visit for Christmas or Halloween?
Wow, this is a HARD one to answer! If you wanna get dressed up, trick or treat around the park, meet rare villains, and watch the stage come to life with Oogie Boogie and the Sanderson Sisters then Halloween may be for you. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party offers all of these things and so much more.
Learn MORE about Mickey’s Not-So-Scary by checking out the video below.
If you want cookies, snow, and hot cocoa then you might want to consider heading to Disney World for Christmas. You can find these options and more at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
This is also the time of year that ALL of the Disney World theme parks offer fun holiday festivities and decorations, like the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. Many of the resorts also offer fun Christmas activities as well. These include huge trees and incredible gingerbread houses and sweet shops!
Learn all about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party by watching the video below!
How Expensive Is It Really Going to Be and Is It Worth It?
We’re not going to lie, going to Disney World can be pretty expensive. But the good news is that there are options to work with for different budgets. How much you spend will really depend on where you eat, stay, and how long you visit the parks.
Disney also offers an assortment of dining and hotel discounts. Throughout the year, Disney will release things like Free Disney Dining Plans and more.
You can find all of these offers on Disney World’s discount page. This is updated frequently, so be sure to keep checking! We also share as soon as new offers are released, so check back with us for updates!
So, is it worth it? Well, if all you’re going to do is think about how much money you’re spending, it might not be the right time. Instead, we suggest giving it a few years until you’re ready to be okay with the investment even if things go wrong on your Disney trip.
What Should Be the Length of Our Vacation?
Disney World is HUGE and if you’re wanting to ride every attraction, you will likely find that each park can take days to get through! People often don’t realize just how much there is to do! So, you will really need to lay out what is on your must-do list (for each member of your family!).
If want to experience every park, Disney Springs, and the water parks, then you should probably book at LEAST a five to six day vacation. If you just want to visit Magic Kingdom, then you could probably go for a weekend!
Disney World is so big and complex that there is a LOT to take in when planning a trip. Unless you visit frequently, you might need to turn to the pros for advice. But hey, that’s why you’ve got us! 🙂 We’ve been there, done that so we can give you our unbiased opinion so YOU can make the best decisions for your trip.
What questions do you have about planning a Disney World vacation? Let us know in the comments below!