Mythological gods, toys that move, and a mouse that speaks in complete sentences. The world of Walt Disney is filled with all sorts of creatures that are equal parts magical and ageless.
You’re not one of them.
Count the number of people currently in line for “It’s A Small World.” Then count the number of guides on how to get the very most out of your All-American Disney Vacation™. The numbers you come up with will be about the same.
Those know-it-all guides consist of ways to save trivial amounts of money. They demand a level of planning that would stump an air traffic controller. Follow their directions, and you will turn the Happiest Place on Earth into a medieval torture dungeon.
The permanent residents Disneyland in California, and Disney World in Florida, live forever. You don’t need to be super-human to enjoy visiting them. Here’s a Visit Disney guide for all us foolish mortals.
Disneyland or Disney World?
First thing’s first: where are you going? There isn’t a wrong choice, but you should consider a few factors.
If you’ve never been to either, go the the closer one. Disneyland and Magic Kingdom are the centerpieces of each grouping of resorts. While they are not carbon copies, they share similar layouts and many of the same rides. Plus, this guide is all about simplifying. Recommending a cross-country trip would immediately violate that pact.
If the distance to each is roughly the same from where you live, consider how much time you have to dedicate to Disney. If you only have a couple days, go for Disneyland. Three good days on the left-coast Disney is enough to see most everything. If you have a week, go for Disney World. Twice as many theme parks, plus water parks, and a larger shopping area can fill much more time.
Finally, if you are looking for more bang for your buck, head to Disney World. Park tickets get cheaper for each day you add. A five- or six-day ticket at Disneyland would mean seeing the same two parks several times. There are also fewer Disney hotels at Disneyland, and they’re much more expensive than Disney World’s value hotels. And, speaking of Disney hotels…
Stay in a Disney Hotel
Dive right in to the Mouse’s world. By staying at a Disney property, the logistics of getting to and from the parks becomes much simpler. At Disneyland, you can walk to the parks. At Disney World offers free transportation between all the hotels and parks, by bus, monorail, and sometimes boat. Plus, you’ll get to take advantage of “Extra Magic Hours” only available to Disney hotel guests.
Plus, the themes of the hotels are amazing. Disneyland offers the Grand Californian, all decked out like a Northern California hunting lodge; the Disneyland Hotel, which pays homage to the park’s roots and Walt Disney himself; and Paradise Pier, a boardwalk hotel straight out of the 1920’s.
Disney World has too many hotels to mention them all. If you can’t find one themed to your tastes, you have odd tastes. Vacation near a Caribbean beach, in New Orleans, or a Polynesian village. My personal favorite are The Cabins at Fort Wilderness, where you can stay in a three-room cabin tucked into a pine and cypress forest. You can spread out and relax in a quiet environment, have your coffee on the deck, and enjoy the view of the wetlands.
Get Your Magic Bands
Another perk of staying in a Disney hotel is that you will get Magic Bands. Magic Bands look like a little rubber wrist watch without the watch part. Each member of your party can go online and pick their own color.
Magic Bands are pretty magical. They act as your ticket to the park, but the magic doesn’t stop there. They act as the key for your hotel room and a way to save ride pictures to laugh at (and buy) later. You can also link them to a credit or debit cart, allowing you to use them almost anywhere that within Disney.
Plus, if a child wonders off, it can help cast members identify your child and get them back to you. Scanning the Magic Bands will get you reunited with your kid fast, which is amazing. Unless your plan was to lose a child on vacation, in which case I can think of a lot cheaper places to do that.