Here we go with part 2 of my Disney planning series...
Once you’ve got your dates in mind, the next step is to book your trip. First step is your Disney World package, then depending on where you live, you have to decide how to get there, either by planes, trains, or automobiles which will also affect how you get around not only Orlando, but also inside WDW. But one step at a time…let’s start with the WDW portion of your trip.
There are several ways you can go about booking a Disney trip, either online, through the phone to Disney central reservations, or through a travel agent (although I don’t get using a travel agent…why pay extra to have someone do the same job you can do yourself with a bit of research-Disney doesn’t offer very many discounts privately that they don’t offer publically, the travel agents just know what they all are (as could you with that magical tool called research!). And what are websites like Travelocity or Expedia but online travel agents?
We book directly through Disney because it makes it very easy for an OCD to go online several times a day to check to make sure everything is OK (well, except for the two hours a night that Disney’s website is down for maintenance that is). You can also buy special event tickets and book your dining reservations online (again, which we’ll discuss later) and they are all tied to your package reservation (making it even easier to stalk your booking).
You can book either a package or book the individual components separately (your resort, park tickets, and dining options). Frankly, unless you’re a Florida passholder or an annual passholder, I don’t know why you’d want to book separately, and even they have package options. It would be almost insane not to book everything ahead, the longer you stay the cheaper it gets and if you buy your tickets on a day to day basis at the park gates you're paying full price, and that's just plain silly! The base park ticket for one day is $95, after 7 days you've hit $665 (more expensive than the price of an annual pass), but for a 7 day package ticket it's about $307, that's a savings of $358 (at least 30 pins or a big fig or 10 to 15 T-shirts...in other words, major shopping dough!).
The first thing you'll need to do is to pick is the level of resort. I’ve discussed the different levels and quantity of resorts before (oh, BTW, resorts are what WDW calls their hotels and motels because they are so much more – they are worlds upon themselves). But I’ll give a short recap – you have five levels of resort and each has their own theming: the deluxes (10 in all) with theming based on the lodges of the Pacific Northwest (hmm, wonder why I started with that one) or Hawaii with all it’s flora and fauna (and don’t forget Merriweather-take your time on that one), and the list goes on and on; then there are the moderates (5 of these including the cabins at Fort Wilderness), with their islands of the Caribbean and the French Quarter of New Orleans; the next level is the DVC’s (Disney's answer to timeshares) and are located adjacent to the deluxes sharing their themes, but some have their own theming like the old town of Key West; the values with their very scary over-sized outdoor theming based on movies, music, or sports or pop culture through the decades, or even the newest resort based on the new classics of Disney/Pixar movies; and finally, you have the campground at Fort Wilderness.
We do typically stay deluxe for many different reasons, the least of which being the fact that there are fewer children there. Yes, I know it's inevitable to run into children at Disney, but you don't have to swim in them! Plus, deluxes are hotels instead of motels like moderates or values, so there is that whole comfort level of being indoors (and not having to hear tons of little feet running up and down the walkways outside at all hours of the night screaming and hollering - which always happens!). I'd rather pay for a higher level of resort and go less, than deal with the chaos that is the values! Moderates are tolerable, less kids than values, more than the deluxes, but there is still that walkway issue. I may be poor, but I do have social issues and first and foremost is making sure I can deal with my surroundings, or the trip is ruined, and money wasted anyway, so best to just be on the safe side. Besides, I have been by myself a couple of times, and I feel that the indoors of the deluxes makes for a safer environment than the outdoor resorts (which is why I choose Wilderness Lodge since it's one single building and no external ones to half to walk to and fro from - not including the fact that I have a horrible sense of direction and always get lost trying to find my building at the other resorts).
Next up will be ticket levels. The Base Magic Your Way ticket is where you start. Then you’ve got to decide the add-ons. The first choice is the Park Hopper option, which is really the most important. The ability to go to the Magic Kingdom in the morning and Epcot for dinner in the evening is almost a must (frankly because the table service restaurants in MK are all pretty much character meals), but that is not the only reason to get a hopper...Animal Kingdom is not a full day park, and even if you manage to stay all day long, it still closes at 5 pm, you need to be able to hop to another park or you’re wasting an entire evening of your trip (although you could spend the night shopping at Downtown Disney-but I don't recommend going there at night unless you like tons of people (it's always better to go Downtown in the morning). Or if you don’t finish in Epcot one day (well, actually you need at least 2 to 3 days for Epcot as you do in the Magic Kingdom), you can go the next morning and then finish up the day in another park like the Disney Studios (which really isn’t a full day park either, but you definitely want to be there in the evening…a reason we’ll discuss later in another post).
The other add-on is the Water Park Fun and More option. We personally don’t go to the water parks and the “more” part is golfing, Disney Quest (the worst example of Disney not taking care of their property), and Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex (where certain major league ball teams do their spring training, and even sometimes, someone’s favorite footie team!). We don’t use this option and we never add it. Unless you are planning to spend half your trip in the water parks, it's just cheaper to buy a one day ticket to them, Disney Quest is best left alone, and the Wide World of Sports are usually only frequented by those on specific reasons, like training or competitions.
After the ticket options, is the dining add-on, but let’s save that for another post because it's a life onto itself!