Frequently Asked Questions About Walt Disney World
On this page you’ll find answers to dozens of Walt Disney World frequently asked questions, including information about vacation planning, tickets, hotels and more!
- General Planning
- General Questions About Accommodations
- Questions About Disney Resort Accommodations, Vacation Packages & Discounts
- Ticket Questions
- Help! Where do I start?
- When are the best (and worst) times of year to go to Walt Disney World?
- How’s the weather when I’m planning to go?
- How can I make our Disney World vacation extra special?
- I am organizing a family reunion at Disney World. Any suggestions?
- I saw a website or an “e-book” that says it can save me a ton of money on my vacation– if I pay for it.
- I have a disability or health issue and may need special accommodations. How can I get more information?
- I need to minimize walking. Any suggestions on where to stay and how to get around?
- Does Disney World ever offer special discounts for Canadians?
- Does Disney World ever offer special discounts for visitors from the UK and Ireland?
If you have never been on a Walt Disney World vacation (or it has been a long time), it’s understandable why you might feel overwhelmed by all of the information on this site. The best place to start is with the step-by-step planning guide.
Nothing affects the value of your vacation as much as WHEN you choose to go! Trust me, this is the most important decision you’ll make in planning your vacation.
During certain peak times, the parks will be terribly crowded and the hotel rates will be sky-high. Restaurants will be booked up months in advance AND (little known fact) Disney raises meal prices at many of its restaurants during busy times of year! You’ll be able to do about half as much as you expect, and it will cost you — both in money and in precious time.
By contrast, if you go at an off-peak time, the parks will be uncrowded and the room rates will be lower. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can do in a day, when you are not fighting huge crowds.
For detailed, day-by-day crowd predictions, subscribe to TouringPlans.com and get access to its Crowd Calendar.
The BEST times to go to Walt Disney World are:
- Mid-November through mid-December (except the week of Thanksgiving). The weather is usually cool but pleasant, the Christmas decorations are up, special events are running, and the attendance is usually moderate. Expect crowds on Saturdays, especially at the Magic Kingdom. Disney’s resorts typically fill up early for all of December, but this doesn’t necessary translate into huge crowds during early December.
- Second week of January through mid-February. It’s cool (sometimes even a bit cold) at this time of year. This is one of the least busy times of year and hotel prices are lower. However, some rides will be closed for refurbishment at this time of year. The first week of January can be busy due to extended holiday vacations and the Walt Disney World Marathon. Avoid any holiday weekends.
- First three weeks of May. The weather is warm in May, but usually not unbearably so. Crowds and hotel prices are moderate. Memorial Day weekend will be more crowded, but often not as bad as you might expect.
- Late August and entire month of September (even Labor Day weekend). It will be extremely hot, and this is peak hurricane season. Plan on taking afternoons off and visiting water parks. Crowds are low. Off-site hotels usually have their rock-bottom deals during this period, and Disney has offered “free dining” packages in this time frame each year since 2005.
- During special events that interest you. Bear in mind that events held on major holidays usually attract significant crowds, however.
The WORST times to visit Walt Disney World are:
- December 26-31. This is the most crowded and most expensive time of year. Crowds get increasingly bad starting about December 20 and running through the New Year. (If you absolutely must go at this time, check out my Christmas week survival guide.)
- Mid-February through mid-April (or later, depending on the date of Easter). Easter week (the weekend of Easter and the following week) is the second most busy time of the year. Holiday weekends in this time frame, such as President’s Day, are also exceptionally busy. Expect big crowds, high resort prices and expensive airfares, but usually very nice weather. This whole period is a peak time due to various overlapping Spring Breaks, though there can be slower periods of a few days here and there, particularly mid-week.
- Midsummer (June through early August). Expect it to be very busy and extremely hot, with heavy humidity. To maximize your experience, plan on hitting the parks first thing in the morning. After lunch, take an afternoon break, then return to the park in the late afternoon/early evening. 11:00 am to 4:00 pm is the hottest part of the day and ironically the most crowded, too.
- Other holidays. Among the other busy time periods are Thanksgiving week and any national holiday with a 3-day weekend (except Labor Day weekend and to a lesser extent Memorial Day weekend).
- During special events. Some don’t create a lot of crowds, but some do.
Some less-known events that may affect crowds, park hours/experiences and/or traffic at Walt Disney World:
- Cheerleeding/Twirl/Dance Competitions – Various dates each year, especially January-March. These usually don’t have a lot of impact on the in-park crowds. The issue is that the Value resorts (All-Stars and Pop Century) play host to hordes of girls who can be extremely loud, so you may want to avoid those resorts during competitions. Some events take place at Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so that attraction might be closed. Some of the competitions and events include College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championships (January 17-19, 2014), National Dance Team Championship (February 1-2, 2014), National High School Cheerleading Championship (February 8-9, 2014), Twirlmania (February 14-17, 2014), Contest of Champions Nationals (February 28 – March 2, 2014), International All Star Cheerleading Championship (March 15-16, 2014), All Star Cheerleading and Dance Worlds (April 27-29, 2013).
- South American Tour Groups - In January and July each year, large groups of teenagers from Brazil and Argentina descend on Walt Disney World for their school breaks. Some of the groups do a lot of chanting, singing, clapping and shouting. The sheer size of the groups (up to 100 kids in a single group) can make navigating around them difficult. There have been complaints of tour group leaders taking over the FASTPASS machines first thing in the morning with dozens of tickets in hand, and thus grabbing all of the early return times.
- Mardi Gras Week. February or March (varies annually; Mardi Gras 2014 is March 4). Many New Orleans schools have all or part of this week off, so families leave town the weekend before the holiday and head to Disney World in droves. However, this usually doesn’t have a huge influence on the overall crowds, unless it corresponds with another holiday weekend.
- “Jersey Week” – Usually the first or second week of November. The New Jersey schools have a teachers’ convention (2013 dates: November 7-8; 2014 dates: November 6-7), which is often close to Veterans Day. Lots of people take advantage of this time off to pull their kids out of school for the whole week and add on the weekend before and/or after, taking this opportunity to go to Disney World in the “off season.” New Jersey is the single biggest market for Walt Disney World — you do the math!
- ABC’s Very Merry Christmas Day Parade footage is taped in advance in Magic Kingdom, usually shortly after Thanksgiving (dates for 2013 are December 6-7). The exact dates are often not released publicly, but they usually leak out a few weeks prior. Unless you want to watch the production process, you may want to avoid Magic Kingdom on those dates, because the taping creates crowd problems. Also, some shows or parades may be cancelled or rescheduled. The Christmas Day Parade is broadcast on ABC on December 25 each year.
- Pop Warner Week – The Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer & Dance Championships are held at Disney World in early December (2013 dates: December 7-13). The Value resorts and some of the Moderate resorts will be FULL of kids (both football players and cheerleaders – there are 64 football teams and 400 cheer squads competing). Expect a lot of noise if you stay there. This event can cause increased crowds at the parks in the evenings (not during the day, since they are busy competing).
Click on this link and enter MCO (the Orlando airport code) and the dates of your planned trip, to see historical weather patterns.
While every Disney World vacation should be a blast, if you’re celebrating a special occasion, want to inject a little romance, or just plain want to do something extra, I do have some ideas for you.
- To learn more about what Disney can offer for your special occasion (birthday, anniversary, etc), click here.
- For interesting and unusual activities and experiences, most of which are very inexpensive, click here.
- For info on special events and festivals that may be taking place during your visit, click here.
- Want romantic ideas for a Disney World vacation? Visit the Romance page.
Yes! Click here for my report on organizing a family reunion at Walt Disney World.
I saw a website or an “e-book” that says it can save me a ton of money on my vacation — if I pay for it.
There are several websites out there that claim they’ll share the secret of saving big money on Disney vacations. The thing is, they want you to pay a monthly or annual fee for the information. I have investigated many of these sites, and at the risk of tooting my own horn, I can honestly say you’ll get more and better information right here on MouseSavers.com — for FREE.
Likewise, there are many “e-books” being sold on eBay, claiming to share exclusive secrets about how to save money on your Disney vacation. Many of these “e-books” are selling copyrighted material from MouseSavers.com and other useful (and FREE) websites like Deb Wills’ allearsnet.com. Some of the “e-books” on eBay are literally nothing more than a list of links to various websites.
Quite a few of the “e-books” I’ve checked out contained wildly outdated, erroneous or just plain wrong information. I’ve even seen some that advocated fraud, such as acquiring a Florida ID (which is a felony if you aren’t a resident) in order to buy discounted tickets!
In short, don’t waste your money.
I have a disability or health issue and may need special accommodations. How can I get more information?
Here are some great resources for anyone with a disability or special need who plans to visit one of the Disney theme parks:
- Teri’s Disney Travelers’ Disability FAQ – a wonderful FREE resource for those with disabilities (and their friends and family) who are planning a trip to Walt Disney World. Lots of great links to additional information, too.
- Disney’s official information about help for those with disabilities at Walt Disney World.
- PassPorter’s Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line (formerly titled PassPorter’s Walt Disney World for Your Special Needs) is very useful for many people planning a vacation at Disney World. Among the special needs it covers are hearing and visual impairments, mobility issues, ADHD, autism, dietary issues such as allergies and vegetarianism, many medical conditions, pregnancy/breast-feeding, size (tall/big) and age (infants and seniors).
- For those with special dietary needs, the Diz-Abled.com website provides menus from virtually all of the Disney World restaurants and provides information about each restaurant’s special needs policies. The owners of this site also publish a guidebook, Walt Disney World with Disabilities, covering disabilities and special needs at Walt Disney World.
If you have difficulty walking long distances, or you’ll be traveling with someone who does, please consider renting an “Electric Convenience Vehicle” (ECV), also known as an electric wheelchair or “scooter,” even if you don’t normally use one. A day in any of Disney’s theme parks will entail walking at least 5 miles and up to 15 miles.
To get around with the least walking outside of the parks, I highly recommend renting a car. Pick a hotel with valet parking for extra convenience. You can retrieve the car and pick up anyone who has difficulty walking right in front of the hotel each day. Parking at three of the four theme parks is easy (see below for exception) and the walk to the parking lot tram from your car is engineered to be fairly short — usually shorter than the walk from the Disney bus stops or Monorail. The parking lot tram will deliver you to the front of the park at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
So driving to the parks is ideal… EXCEPT for Magic Kingdom, where after parking, you take a tram from the parking lot to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then transfer to the Ferry or Monorail to reach the park. For that park specifically, taking a Disney bus from a Disney resort is much better, as it will put you right near the entrance. Note that the Monorail resorts (Grand Floridian, Contemporary and Polynesian) as well as Ft. Wilderness resort do not have bus service to Magic Kingdom.
If you will have a car, the most step-saving of Disney’s resorts is Wilderness Lodge. All rooms are in the main building and the building’s layout is relatively compact by Disney standards. There is valet parking. You can take a bus to Magic Kingdom to avoid the parking issues. (There is also boat service to Magic Kingdom from Wilderness Lodge, but it requires some walking through the grounds to get out to the dock, and it may be difficult for some people to step into the boat.)
If you will have a car and need a less expensive hotel than Wilderness Lodge, pick any non-Disney hotel in the area, such as one of the MouseSavers Preferred Hotels, and drive to the parks each day. You’ll have a little extra walking when you visit the Magic Kingdom, since you won’t have access to a Disney resort bus, but it’s workable. That might be the day to rent an ECV, even if you’re not doing so during the rest of the trip.
If you are dead-set on not renting a car, the most convenient hotels are Disney’s Grand Floridian and Contemporary. You’ll want to be in the “main tower building” rooms, which are of course the most expensive: the Monorail stop will be in the same building. From those two hotels you can take the Resort Monorail directly to Magic Kingdom. To get to Epcot you take the Resort Monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center, where you transfer to the Epcot Monorail. You will have to take a Disney bus to Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios from those two resorts, however.
No rental car and need a less expensive hotel?
Consider Best Western Lake Buena Vista near Downtown Disney. It is a compact high-rise (for less walking at the hotel) and has buses that go direct to the individual theme park parking lots. The bus stops at the theme parks are further away from the front gates than the Disney bus stops, but getting to the hotel’s bus stop from your room is much closer than at Disney’s Value or Moderate resorts, which are spread out.
If you really want to stay at a Disney hotel, you’re on a tight budget and you won’t have a car, your best options are:
- Pop Century Resort – Shell out the extra money for a “Preferred” room. Preferred rooms will be closer to the resort’s bus stops, but even so, you’ll be doing a lot of walking at the resort itself.
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – The resort’s single bus stop is in the main building (Animation Hall) and the walk from there to the buildings housing the Family Suites is as minimal as you’re going to find at a Value resort. The Finding Nemo suites are closest, followed by The Lion King suites and then the Cars suites. It’s a significantly longer walk to The Little Mermaid standard rooms, however.
Not often, but occasionally. In the past, when the exchange rate was much less favorable for Canadians, Disney World occasionally offered “at par” specials on vacation packages, hotel rooms and tickets, particularly in the off-season.
You can visit Disney.ca and click on the Special Offers tab to see any current deals specific to Canadians, but 99% of the time the offers are the same as those distributed in the US. Sometimes the Canadian offer will have a different discount code, but otherwise it will be identical to the US offer.
Canadians can book the US offers. The Disney specialist travel agency I recommend, Small World Vacations, gladly works with clients around the globe. They have many clients from Canada.
Yes. Disney sometimes offers special deals for visitors from the UK and Ireland on holiday packages, hotel rooms and tickets for Walt Disney World. To see more information on Walt Disney World offers for visitors from the UK and Ireland, click here.
In addition, UK residents can book the US offers. The Disney specialist travel agency I recommend, Small World Vacations, gladly works with clients around the globe. They have many clients from the UK and Ireland. Unfortunately they cannot book UK-specific offers, but sometimes the American offers are a better deal. It’s also worth noting that the US vacation package offers have much more advantageous cancellation and change policies than the UK holiday package offers.
- Where should I stay?
- What’s the difference between the Disney resorts, the Swan & Dolphin, the Downtown Disney hotels, and other hotels?
- What is a “Good Neighbor” hotel?
- When and how can I get the best deal at one of the MouseSavers Preferred Hotels?
- I have more than four people in my party. How can I find reasonably-priced accommodations?
- Are vacation homes or “villas” a good bet?
- Are there any pet-friendly hotels in Orlando?
- TripAdvisor says one of your recommended hotels is terrible!
That’s a complicated question that depends on your preferences as far as cost, location, convenience and more. I really can’t make that decision for you, but here is some information that may help:
- If you want to know more about Disney’s resorts, visit my page that compares them and explains why I think some are better than others.
- I’ve picked some excellent non-Disney hotels, which I call my MouseSavers Preferred Hotels. Go here to learn more about them.
What’s the difference between the Disney resorts, the Swan & Dolphin, the Downtown Disney hotels, and other hotels?
In addition to the obvious differences in terms of theming, proximity to the theme parks, etc., each of these hotel types has a different level of special privileges.
Privileges available when staying at one of the Disney resorts, which include Value resorts, Moderate resorts, Deluxe resorts, Deluxe Villas (aka Disney Vacation Club) and Ft. Wilderness cabins & campsites:
- Access to Extra Magic Hours
- Ability to use Disney’s Magical Express (free transportation and luggage transfers to and from the airport)
- Ability to make up to ten days of Advance Dining Reservations starting 180 days prior to check-in.
- Ability to buy a Disney Dining Plan, with purchase of a vacation package. (Click here for more details.)
- Unlimited free use of the excellent Disney transportation system (buses, boats and Monorails) which connects all of the Disney resorts to the theme parks and Downtown Disney, and connects the Disney resorts to each other.
- FREE parking at all of the Disney theme parks (you’ll be given a parking permit at check-in).
- Charging privileges – you can charge most purchases in the Disney resorts and theme parks to your room key.
- Package delivery – have theme park purchases delivered to your Disney resort.
Privileges available when staying at the Swan and Dolphin hotels:
- Access to Extra Magic Hours
- Unlimited free use of the excellent Disney transportation system (buses, boats and Monorails) which connects all of the Disney resorts to the theme parks and Downtown Disney, and connects the Disney resorts to each other.
- FREE parking at all of the Disney theme parks (show your room key at the parking gates).
- Package delivery – have theme park purchases delivered to your Disney resort.
Privileges available when staying at Shades of Green:
- Access to Extra Magic Hours
- Unlimited free use of the excellent Shades of Green bus system that goes to all four theme parks and the Ticket and Transportation Center, and easy connections to the Disney transportation system (buses, boats and Monorails) once you are at one of the theme parks or the Ticket and Transportation Center.
Privileges available when staying at the Downtown Disney hotels:
- Access to Extra Magic Hours – Hilton in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort ONLY – the other 6 Downtown Disney hotels DO NOT participate.
- Unlimited free use of the very good Downtown Disney bus system, which connects the Downtown Disney hotels to the theme parks and Downtown Disney. Downtown Disney buses do not go to the Disney resorts.
- You can use the Disney transportation system (buses, boats and Monorails) once you are at one of the theme parks, the Ticket and Transportation Center, or Downtown Disney.
Privileges available when staying off the Disney property (all other Walt Disney World-area hotels):
- Most hotels off the Disney property have “scheduled” transportation to the theme parks — typically 2 departures in the morning and 2 return buses in the evening — and no transportation to Downtown Disney or Disney resorts.
- You can use the Disney transportation system (buses, boats and Monorails) once you are at one of the theme parks, the Ticket and Transportation Center, or Downtown Disney.
A “Good Neighbor” hotel usually has a ticket shop in the lobby that sells full price Disney tickets. Other than that, the “Good Neighbor” designation means nothing for the consumer. It does not guarantee quality. Some “Good Neighbor” hotels really aren’t very nice, while others are excellent. Some are close to Disney World, while others are quite far away.
Basically, I would advise you to ignore the “Good Neighbor” designation, as it doesn’t guarantee you anything at all.
The MouseSavers Preferred Hotels are hotels I’ve hand-selected in the Walt Disney World area because they offer outstanding value and excellent quality. All of the MouseSavers Preferred Hotels offer year-round, specially-negotiated room rates and/or extras for MouseSavers.com readers. These ongoing deals can typically be booked up to a year in advance.
In addition, some of the hotels will occasionally offer even deeper discounts or other promotions if they have empty rooms to fill. The timing of those offers is highly variable. At some hotels there will be specials when there are no conventions going on, while for others it’s just a seasonal thing. Overall, specials tend to show up 3-6 months in advance.
Some of the promotional offers appear on MouseSavers.com, but some discounts are listed only in the MouseSavers Newsletter or the MouseSavers Hot Deals emails. If you haven’t already signed up for those, I recommend doing so. Both publications are FREE. Click here to sign up.
Sometimes the MouseSavers Preferred Hotels promote last-minute discounts and deals through the MouseSavers Facebook page. You can “like” that page and you’ll see any specials that pop up.
For those who want or need more space than you’ll find in the typical hotel room that accommodates a family of four, there are options in three categories: Disney’s resorts, non-Disney hotels located on Disney property, and off-site hotels.
By the way, if you will have a large group, you may want to read my reunion tips.
A family of 5 or larger can be surprisingly expensive to accommodate at a Walt Disney World resort, because Disney’s hotels aren’t geared toward large families! Ironic for a “family” destination, but true.
- Value resort rooms sleep 4.
- Most Moderate resort rooms also sleep 4; the only exception is the Alligator Bayou section of Port Orleans Riverside, where you can get rooms with a trundle bed that will sleep a 5th (small) person.
- Many standard rooms at Disney’s Deluxe resorts sleep 5, except Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard rooms sleep 4 max) and Wilderness Lodge (rooms sleep 4 except for Deluxe Rooms, aka Junior Suites, which sleep 5).
One thing to bear in mind: Disney doesn’t count a child under 3 who sleeps in a crib in its room occupancy limits. You can add one baby to the room without additional charge. So if your family includes a baby, you can subtract one person from your count.
I’m occasionally asked if Disney is “strict” about room limits. The answer is yes. Disney didn’t invent the limits; they are dictated by the Fire Marshal, based on the square footage of the room and the number of beds. The limits are for your own safety and comfort. (Also, if you sneak in extra people, they will not receive room keys, so they won’t be able to access Extra Magic Hours or charge anything to your room account. People not listed on your room roster also don’t get to use the FREE Magical Express transportation to/from the airport and they cannot be added to any Dining Plan you purchase.)
If you want to stay on Disney property with a family of 6 or more, you can choose from the following options:
- two standard rooms – with two rooms you’ll be able to sleep at least 8 (see above for occupancies) and you’ll have two bathrooms
- a Family Suite at All-Star Music Resort or Art of Animation Resort (opens 2012) – sleeps 6, 2 baths, small kitchenette, costs approximately the same as two Value Resort rooms
- a Family Suite at Art of Animation Resort – sleeps 6, 2 baths, small kitchenette, costs substantially more than two Value Resort rooms
- a cabin at the Ft. Wilderness Campground – sleeps 6, 1 bath, full kitchen
- a 2-bedroom Villa or 3-bedroom Treehouse at one of the Disney Deluxe Villa (Disney Vacation Club) resorts – sleeps 8 or 9, 2 baths, full kitchen (by far the least expensive way to book one of these is to rent DVC points)
- a 3-bedroom Grand Villa at one of the Disney Deluxe Villa (Disney Vacation Club) resorts – sleeps 12, 3 baths, full kitchen (by far the least expensive way to book one of these is to rent DVC points)
- a suite at one of the Deluxe resorts – occupancy varies, baths vary, no kitchen, wildly expensive and never discounted
There are a couple of nice options that are on Disney property (in the Downtown Disney area), but not operated by Disney:
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort offers spacious rooms that have bedding for 4, but they will supply a rollaway for a fee, making the room sleep 5.
- Only one hotel in Downtown Disney has reasonably priced 1-bedroom suites that will accommodate 6 people: DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort, which is one of the Downtown Disney hotels. These suites also include a mini-fridge and microwave.
Outside of Disney property, there are some excellent options:
- The upscale Caribe Royale Resort and its less expensive sister property Buena Vista Suites both offer 1-bedroom suites that sleep 6, and you get a mini-fridge and microwave. Buena Vista Suites includes a full hot breakfast buffet in the rate.
- The Caribe Royale also offers fabulous 2-bedroom villas that sleep 8 and beat Disney’s prices by a mile.
- SpringHill Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village offers “studio suites” that accommodate up to 5 guests, plus you get daily complimentary hot continental breakfast.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista in the Marriott Village has family suites that sleep up to 5, depending on configuration. Daily complimentary continental breakfast is included in your room rate.
There are dozens of companies and hundreds of individual homeowners out there on the Internet offering rental vacation homes (also called “villas”) in the Orlando area. I get many questions about this option, which on the surface sounds like an appealing way for families (particularly larger families) to save some money on accommodation.
This is a controversial subject and I have received a ton of email from people who have rented vacation homes. Overall, I don’t see much of a pattern: emails regarding vacation homes tend to run 50-50 pro and con. Some people are extremely enthusiastic about their experiences with vacation home rentals and have reported to me that they were very happy with this option. (Sadly, when I’ve followed up on some of the glowing letters I’ve received on the subject, I learned a few were sent by “shills” who own or manage such homes.) I’ve received about an equal number of letters from renters who have been extremely disappointed with the experience.
I have decided not to feature rental vacation homes on MouseSavers.com. That’s partly because of the mixed reports I’ve had from readers, but it’s mainly because I have done considerable in-person research on vacation homes. Without identifying myself or revealing my connection with MouseSavers.com, I have viewed a lot of homes and had extensive conversations with property managers and individual owners. Some of the homes were much nicer than others. However, I came away from my research feeling uncomfortable with recommending any particular company or individual.
A little background: There are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of vacation homes in the Orlando area. In fact, I think it’s safe to say the market is flooded with such properties, which is why the rentals are often relatively cheap. A lot of the owners are residents of the UK, though some Americans also own rental homes. The homeowners typically vacation in Florida for one month per year and let a property management firm rent out the home for the rest of the year. A lot of the property management companies that service vacation home rentals are also real estate agencies that are in the business of selling vacation homes.
The majority of vacation homes are located in Kissimmee, a town neighboring Orlando, where you will find rows and rows of tract homes that are mostly used as rentals. While there are significant exceptions, on the whole the Kissimmee homes tend to be cheaply furnished and a little tattered around the edges. Most of them are pretty ordinary and don’t offer much in the way of luxury, other than (usually) a pool.
There are some luxury homes in other areas of Orlando, which charge much higher rents. You may end up paying as much per night as you would for a luxury hotel. If you really want extra space, these may be worth looking into. Personally at that price level I’d prefer the services of a fine hotel, but others feel differently.
Don’t count on the “10 minute” drives to Walt Disney World that all of the vacation home rental companies seem to advertise. The drives are usually more like 20-30 minutes in normal traffic. (You might be able to get to Disney World in 10 minutes from some of the homes in the middle of the night, if you hit all the lights.)
While I’m sure there are many honorable people who rent out their own homes, renting directly from the homeowners is something you must carefully research. Homeowners are usually not professional property managers and in some cases they are also not local residents. Unfortunately, if anything goes wrong, it can be difficult to get any problems fixed and/or money refunded, particularly if the owner lives out of the area.
If you’d like to rent a vacation home, my advice is to proceed with extreme caution and get plenty of references. Be sure to check on whether the home is in foreclosure, which is currently a big problem in Florida. (Homes in Osceola County can be checked through public records on the Osceola tax collector’s website and/or County Clerk’s website.) You may also want to contact the homeowner’s association where the home is located, to make sure the owner is up-to-date on association dues. (If the association maintains a pool, you may not get access to it if the homeowner is behind on dues.)
I get many emails from vacation home owners and management companies who want me to promote their properties on MouseSavers.com. Sorry, but at this time I don’t have the time or inclination to check out any more vacation homes. I wish you good luck with your rental business.
All three of the official hotels at Universal Orlando (Portofino Bay Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Royal Pacific Resort) are pet-friendly. While they don’t have a size limit on the pets, there is a pet fee and they my limit the number of pets per room and in the hotel overall. It’s best to call in advance and make sure they know you are bringing your pet(s).
Pets are welcome at Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista, and most rooms will accommodate small or large pets, for a flat fee. Pets are allowed on property, but are not allowed anywhere in the pool area. Pets must stay in rooms when not accompanied by their owners. Make sure to check with the hotel on any other restrictions.
None of the Disney resorts allow pets, except for some designated campsites at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Campground, for which there is an extra charge per day. There is a centralized kennel (Best Friends Pet Care) on Disney property near Port Orleans Resort where you can keep your pet when you are in the theme parks. Reservations are strongly recommended, as it frequently sells out. Substantial daily fees apply and you’ll need a car to reach the Pet Care Center.
Other Orlando-area hotels that do allow some pets include Sheraton Safari (dogs up to 80 lbs), Holiday Inn Express Lake Buena Vista (40 lb limit; pet fee applies), Country Inn & Suites at Calypso Cay (not sure of size limit; pet fee applies) and Residence Inn Orlando SeaWorld/International Center (not sure of size limit; pet fee applies). Be sure to call and double-check their policies.
This is actually not a frequent question, but occasionally I do hear from someone who is really worried about staying at one of the MouseSavers Preferred Hotels because of something they read about the hotel on TripAdvisor.
I know it’s difficult to make a decision about a hotel, particularly when you are traveling from a distance and not familiar with the area. That’s exactly why I developed the MouseSavers Preferred Hotels program. I only recommend about a dozen hotels in the Orlando area, out of hundreds. Click here for more information about how they are selected.
I visit all of the MouseSavers Preferred Hotels regularly, on both announced and unannounced visits. On average I visit them twice a year, and I stay at them on a rotating basis. I also pay attention to the extensive feedback I receive from my readers about the hotels, which is overwhelmingly positive. I sincerely believe you can rely on my recommendations.
The problem with TripAdvisor is that absolutely anyone can write a review, including the hotel’s competitors and the hotel’s own staff. (Don’t believe me? Watch the second half of this video from the Today Show.) On TripAdvisor I’ve seen multiple reviews that were obviously written by the same person about the same hotel stay (even though this isn’t officially allowed). Naturally that totally messes up the hotel’s rankings. I’ve seen more than one review that was a complete fraud: information in the review was so factually inaccurate that I doubted the reviewer had been within miles of the hotel.
Of course there are also some reviews by real guests, but some of them may be completely unreasonable or have an axe to grind. Guests who were unhappy are much more likely to post reviews than those who had a good stay.
So while I do look at TripAdvisor sometimes, I take the reviews with several grains of salt. At minimum, I recommend ignoring the very low and very high reviews and looking at those in the middle, as well as the overall ranking.
- When will new Disney resort discounts become available? (Or, will there be discounts at the time I plan to visit?)
- When will next year’s Disney resort room rates or vacation package prices be released?
- Is it possible to use more than one discount for the same Disney resort reservation?
- Should I reserve now, or wait until the Disney resort discounts come out?
- If I already have a Disney resort reservation, can I add a new discount?
- I need to arrive a day or two before a package discount offer begins. Can I still use the offer?
- Can I get the Dining Plan with a “room-only” Disney resort reservation?
- What’s the deal with “Free Dining”?
- Are there discounts at the Ft. Wilderness Campsites?
- The Disney resort discount code you list isn’t working for me.
When will new Disney resort discounts become available? (Or, will there be discounts at the time I plan to visit?)
I wish I knew! The resort and vacation package discounts are somewhat unpredictable. Only Disney knows when (or if) the next ones will come out. I have no crystal ball — I can’t predict what Disney may decide to do.
However, you can get a general idea of the historical trends. To assist you in planning future trips for which discounts have not yet been released, check out my chart of release dates for the deepest discounts (including discount codes, Annual Passholder rates and Florida resident rates).
In addition, here are some general observations about future discount availability:
When offered, “room only” discounts for the general public, Annual Passholders and Florida residents are usually relatively last-minute. Don’t expect to get a big discount way in advance — typically the discounts are released 2-4 months in advance. Sometimes the discounts are restricted to certain resorts or room types.
Vacation package discounts are sometimes released a little earlier, but seldom more than 6 months in advance.
Naturally, Disney only offers discounts on its resorts when it has a significant number of rooms to fill. Therefore the most popular dates and resorts are typically not discounted.
Some additional observations:
- I have seldom seen a discount offered for resort check-ins between December 26 and 31. That is the busiest time of year at Disney World.
- Easter week, Thanksgiving week and other major holiday periods are often “blacked out,” meaning most discounts don’t apply at that time. Sometimes AAA discounts have been available at these times, however.
- Suites are not always discounted. Family Suites at Art of Animation and All-Star Music are often included in promotional discounts, but the fancier suites at the Deluxe resorts are not necessarily included, or may be discounted only 5%.
- Club Level rooms can sometimes be obtained at a discount, and the 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom villas at the Disney Vacation Club resorts are often included in promotional discounts, especially at at Old Key West and Saratoga Springs resorts. 3-bedroom villas are usually excluded from discount offers.
Discount codes must be thought of as a “clearance sale” — if you want the discount, you have to be willing to take what’s left over! It’s important to be flexible with both dates and hotels, and to be persistent in calling back periodically to see if anything has opened up.
Only Disney knows for sure, but it’s usually sometime in the summer prior, so for example July 2013 for 2014 room rates and vacation packages. You can get a general idea of the historical trends by checking out the list of past release dates for “rack” (full price) room rates and vacation packages.
If you book a “room only” reservation for next year before the official rates are released, your deposit will be based on this year’s Peak Season rates. When the correct rates are released, your reservation will be adjusted to reflect them.
No. You may choose only one discount.
If you are making a “room-only” reservation, you can use ONE discount, be that a discount code for the general public, AAA rate, Annual Passholder rate or Florida resident rate. You may not use the discounts in conjunction with one another.
Most “room-only” discounts (i.e., AAA, Florida resident, general public discount codes) cannot be used with vacation packages. Sometimes there are special discounts on vacation packages, however. Also, Annual Passholders can now buy special vacation packages that include just the hotel room and dining plan, and the room portion is sometimes discounted.
Thanks to Alex B for suggesting this topic.
If you will be traveling during a busy period and/or you want a specific resort and/or a particular room type, you should book a “room only” reservation as soon as you know when you’ll be traveling, so that you are sure you have a room at the time you want to travel. If you aren’t super-picky about your resort or room type and you plan to travel in a non-peak season (January, first half of February, May, September, non-holiday periods in November and December), you can probably wait until 2-4 months in advance to make your plans.
Disney allows “room only” resort bookings up to 499 days in advance, though exact pricing doesn’t become available until the summer of the year prior. In the meantime, you’ll be charged a deposit based on the highest room rate for the current year.
If you belong to the Auto Club, you might as well see if you can get the AAA discount on your “room only” reservation now, in case nothing better comes along. AAA rates come out in the summer for the following year.
“Room only” reservations can usually be changed later to reflect any discount codes or Annual Passholder discounts, if they become available. However, only a certain number of discounted rooms are released for each code or discount. If those are all taken when you call, you will not be able to switch to the discounted rate, even though you already have a reservation.
If a discounted package is released later and you are interested in changing from “room only” to a package, you may have to book the package and then cancel the “room only” reservation.
Don’t book a full-price package now if you are planning to look for discounts later. All packages have restrictive rules about cancellations and changes. Also, some of the package elements (especially airfare and insurance) are usually nonrefundable.
Maybe. If you have made a full-price “room only” reservation and it is more than 5 days before you’re supposed to check in, you should be able to change the reservation to reflect any available discount. However, only a certain number of discounted rooms are released for each code or discount. If those are all taken when you call, you will not be able to switch to the discounted rate, even though you already have a reservation.
If you have made a full-price vacation package reservation, it still may be possible to take advantage of a new discount, but it’s much trickier:
- “Room only” discount codes cannot be applied to packages, so you’re going to have to cancel the package to get those discounts. If you have at least 45 days before you’re supposed to check in, you can probably cancel the package reservation without penalty. After that date you’ll pay a penalty fee. Certain parts of packages are usually not refundable, including trip insurance and airfare. I would recommend that you first book a discounted room and then cancel the existing package reservation.
- If a discounted package becomes available for the same hotel, room type and dates you have already booked, they may be able to switch you to the new package, and you would get either a refund or a credit on your room account. If the hotel, room type and dates you have booked are not available with the discount, but you are willing to be flexible in order to save money, you may be able to switch your package to a different hotel, room type or dates that will qualify. If you have at least 45 days before you’re supposed to check in, you can probably change the package reservation without penalty. After that date, there’s usually a penalty of $50 or more for changing the package.
If you booked through a travel agent, the agent must make any changes to your existing reservations. The same general rules given above will usually apply.
Yes, but it’s a little complicated. Let’s say there’s a vacation package deal that is valid for check-ins staring March 3, but you need to arrive March 2. You’ll have to make two reservations: a room-only reservation for March 2 and then a reservation for the package starting March 3.
If you want to stay in the same room, you can request to have the two reservations linked in the system. Also, when you check in, let them know you have two reservations and would prefer to stay in the same room (this isn’t guaranteed, but it’s rare that you will have to move).
On the day your package stay begins, you’ll have to officially “check out” for the first reservation by check-out time (11:00 am) and “check in” for the second reservation. You’ll have to go to the front desk and get new room keys, which will have any package benefits, such as your meal plan, coded on them. Your package benefits will be available to you as soon as you get those new room keys, so I would advise checking in first thing on the morning your package stay begins.
On your “room only” night(s), you would have no package benefits. However, if your theme park tickets are part of the package, you can pick the tickets up and use them, up to 3 days before your package begins. Go to any theme park Guest Relations window (or Downtown Disney Guest Relations) and request Early Ticket Pick-Up. (Major theme parks only: this cannot be done at a water park.) Note that although you can pick up your tickets early, you cannot get access to the Dining Plan or any other benefits of your package until you have actually checked in for the package stay at your resort.
No, with two exceptions:
- If you are an Annual Passholder, Disney now offers the Dining Plan as part of a special vacation package that does not require you to purchase tickets. These packages are sometimes discounted during certain seasons of the year.
- If you are a Disney Vacation Club member staying at a DVC resort on points, the Dining Plan is available as an add-on through DVC Member Services, without purchasing tickets.
If you don’t qualify for either of those exceptions, you have already purchased tickets and you want the Dining Plan, here’s a trick to consider: you can buy a Magic Your Way vacation package of any length and include only a 1-Day/2-Day/3-Day Base Ticket per person in your package, depending on the minimum ticket length required for that package. (In other words, you do not have to purchase a ticket that matches your length of stay. Most packages require only a 1-Day Base Ticket. Some promotional packages, such as “Free Dining,” require a minimum 2-Day or 3-Day ticket.) As long as you don’t use the Base Tickets, they will not expire and can be applied later toward the purchase of a more expensive ticket.
Since 2005, during select times of year, Disney has offered a free dining plan when you purchase a full-price vacation package that includes hotel room and tickets. Disney has mainly offered this plan in late summer as an incentive to get people to visit Disney World at a time when Southern schools are back in session, which causes the theme parks and hotels to empty out. Additionally, that period is peak hurricane season and extremely hot and humid.
Starting in 2008, the dates were extended into the fall and winter (except for holiday periods) because of the faltering US economy, in order to fill empty rooms. In years after that, it was occasionally offered during other seasons as well. However, with the economy recovering in 2013, it was offered only for limited dates in September through December.
To see exactly when “Free Dining” has been available in past years, and when the offer was released each year, check out my chart of release dates. There is never any guarantee that Disney will continue to offer any particular discount, but this one has been extremely popular, so it will probably continue in the future, as long as Disney has a lot of rooms to fill.
Sometimes. If there is a general public, Annual Passholder or Florida resident resort code available for the time when you want to travel, it may be applicable to campsites. The only way to find out is to call Disney and ask if the code applies to campsites.
All of the resort discount codes on MouseSavers.com have been checked out carefully and come from legitimate published sources such as Disney newspaper advertisements, faxes sent to travel agents by Disney, Disney websites, etc.
While I’m not infallible, I can tell you that when someone writes to tell me a code didn’t work, it almost always turns out to be one of three things:
- The person who wrote me is trying to use a code for dates or resorts for which it is not intended. This is just plain not going to work.
- There are no rooms at that rate remaining in the system for the particular combination of dates you want at the hotel you want. (Typically Disney holds a limited number of rooms for each code.) It’s best if you have some flexibility in your travel dates and/or choices of hotel. If you can’t get your first choice, you can always try calling back from time to time, since rooms are released frequently.
- It might be a problem with the reservations agent. Some of the agents at the Disney Reservations Center are more knowledgeable and helpful than others. If you have double-checked a code and made sure that it covers the resort and dates you want, but the person who answers the phone is telling you it won’t work or doesn’t exist, politely end the call and try again. There are hundreds of agents, so it’s very unlikely you’ll get the same one twice.
If you talk with three different Disney agents and they all agree that the information about a particular code or discount on MouseSavers.com is wrong, please email me so I can make a correction.
- What’s the best strategy for getting the cheapest tickets for Disney World?
- How can I find out if old tickets are still valid or still have days left on them?
- Can I share a ticket with another person?
- Can I use my ticket for two theme park admissions in one day?
- Is there such a thing as a half-day ticket or a discounted ticket for those entering the parks late in the day?
- When will ticket prices go up?
- The special newsletter prices for Undercover Tourist seem to be the same as their regular prices.
- You say Undercover Tourist offers lower prices than Disney, but Disney’s prices seem lower.
- I think I found a cheaper price for tickets than Undercover Tourist.
- Can I use FASTPASS if I buy my tickets from Undercover Tourist or another non-Disney source?
- Do I have to buy my tickets from Disney to enter the parks during Extra Magic Hours?
- Are there special tickets for visitors from the UK and Ireland?
- Walt Disney World Ticket Advice Page
First, go here to see an “in a nutshell” summary of the best sources for various types of tickets.
If, like most people, you are planning to buy multi-day (3-Day to 10-Day) tickets, the best prices are almost always through Undercover Tourist. Its prices are all-inclusive (tax included, free shipping).
You’ll get a good deal just by purchasing through the regular Undercover Tourist website. However, if you have some time before your trip, you can save a few more dollars. Sign up for the FREE MouseSavers Newsletter and the Hot Deals emails in order to access even better ticket deals from Undercover Tourist. The newsletter contains a private link that offers access to deeper discounts on Undercover Tourist tickets than those available to the general public.
If you have lots of time, be aware that Undercover Tourist almost always puts two or three specific Disney World tickets on sale each month and announces this in a Hot Deals email around the end of the month. If the tickets that are on sale aren’t the ones you want, wait and check the next month. I would recommend that you wait and watch for a deal on the tickets you want until they go on sale, or until the end of May. If the specific tickets you want don’t go on sale, go ahead and buy at the end of May through the private newsletter link, because ticket prices may go up at the beginning of June.
For years the answer was that you would have to go to Walt Disney World and take the tickets to Guest Services to get this information. However, the ticket department at Disney is sometimes willing to look up the information if you email or fax copies of both sides of the tickets and your photo ID. Call (407) 566-4985 and listen to the recorded information about the exact information you must submit.
Other than that, there is no way to find out in advance how many (if any) days are left on your old tickets. You will have to go to Walt Disney World and take the tickets to Guest Services. It’s best to do this at the theme park Guest Services windows, or Guest Services in Downtown Disney. The concierge desks at the resorts use a different system and may not show any remaining “plus” features on the tickets.
Magic Your Way tickets (issued January 2, 2005 and later) are only good for 14 days after their first use unless you purchased the “No Expiration” option for the tickets.
Unused theme park admissions and “plus” features on the old Park Hopper tickets issued prior to January 2, 2005 never expire.
No. Disney World tickets are nontransferable. Only one person can use each ticket. Disney uses a biometric finger scan system (which takes a partial fingerprint) that prevents you from selling or sharing a ticket.
One exception: the old (pre-2005) Hopper tickets did not use the finger scans originally. As of June 20, 2005 Disney started requiring the scans, even on old tickets. If an old Hopper ticket was last used before that date, it may not have a scan recorded on its magnetic strip, so anyone would be able to use it. But once it is used now, a specific person’s scan is recorded on the mag strip, so no one else will be able to use it in the future.
Only if you purchase the Park Hopper option.
Because of the price structure of Magic Your Way tickets, which cost only a little more for extra days, in many cases it would seem to be cheaper if you could just add extra days to a ticket and use up two admissions on one day, instead of paying for the Park Hopper option. (For instance, buy a 6-day ticket and use two admissions per day for 3 days.) But Disney won’t let you do it.
The entrance gates are programmed to prevent you from using a Magic Your Way ticket without the Park Hopper option at more than one park on the same day. The gate attendant will stop you and instruct you to go to the ticket booths and buy the Park Hopper option if you want to get into the second park.
You can enter the same park multiple times on the same day with any ticket, however.
Is there such a thing as a half-day ticket or a discounted ticket for those entering the parks late in the day?
Not for the general public. Even if you arrive 5 minutes before the parks close, you pay for a full day.
However, if you are attending a convention in the area, contact your convention organizers to see if they are offering special discounted convention-only tickets that allow Disney park entrance only after 2:00 pm or after 4:00 pm.
Only Disney can say for sure, but typically the prices of Magic Your Way tickets and Annual Passes tend to go up at least once a year. From 2006-2010, this happened the first week of August each year. In 2011, Disney changed the pattern and since then has raised prices in June.
Past dates when prices went up: August 6, 2006; August 5, 2007; August 3, 2008; August 2, 2009; August 5, 2010; June 12, 2011; June 3, 2012; June 2, 1013.
For the past several years I’ve been able to find out the dates of the ticket price increases at least a day or two in advance, and I’ve announced those increases through a MouseSavers.com Hot Deals email so that my readers could buy their tickets before the prices went up. If you would like to receive those notifications and you are not currently a subscriber to the FREE MouseSavers Newsletter, sign up here and be sure to select the option “I would also like to receive occasional MouseSavers last-minute ‘hot deals’ by email.” If you are already a newsletter subscriber and want to receive the Hot Deals announcements, click here for help.
No, there really are lower prices from Undercover Tourist if you go through the private MouseSavers Newsletter link that appears in every issue.
The reason you’re seeing the same prices is that a “cookie” is set on your computer when you visit through the newsletter link. If you go directly to the Undercover Tourist site afterward, the cookie causes your screen to display the MouseSavers Newsletter rates.
However, if you delete cookies and/or close down your browser, reboot your computer and return to the Undercover Tourist site without clicking through on the special link, you will see the regular prices for the general public, which are higher.
When you’re on Undercover Tourist’s private page for MouseSavers Newsletter subscribers, you will see a “welcome MouseSavers” message. When the general public comes to the Undercover Tourist site, the message and the special prices are not visible.
It can seem that way at first glance. The reason is, the prices displayed on the Disney website do not include tax of 6.5%, which must be paid regardless of where you live. The tax is added later in the ordering process.
Undercover Tourist prices already include tax and shipping. Once you add the tax, you will always find that multi-day Disney World tickets are cheaper through Undercover Tourist.
I’ll bet you didn’t, at least on a legitimate site that sells to the general public. (Exception: if you are a Florida resident, active or retired military, or work for a large corporation or government agency, check this page for possible options.)
People frequently ask me about Disney World ticket prices offered through Travelocity, Orbitz and various ticket broker sites. “They’re offering buy 4 days, get 3 free!” they say. Well, do the math before you get too excited. Offering “days free” on tickets is just a marketing gimmick. After the third day on a Disney World Magic Your Way ticket, the cost of adding extra days (even at full price from Disney) is very low. So ticket vendors sometimes discount a 7-day ticket to around the price of a 4-day ticket and call it a “4 day ticket plus 3 days free” or something similar.
So ignore any “days free” language. What you need to figure out is the bottom line price for the ticket you want! Bear in mind that most sites publish prices that do NOT include tax (which is 6.5% regardless of where you buy Disney World tickets) or any site fees or shipping. You typically have to go all the way through the purchase process to see the total price. By contrast, Undercover Tourist prices already include tax and shipping.
So check out any legitimate open-to-the-public site you want and get the bottom line price. I can practically guarantee you’ll find Undercover Tourist is cheaper, especially through the private MouseSavers Newsletter link that appears in every issue. Undercover Tourist is legitimate and has great customer service. In fact, unlike any other ticket agency I know about, Undercover Tourist actually allows returns of unused tickets! This is unheard-of in the ticket business, where normally all sales are final.
In addition, there are some very sketchy places to buy tickets, which I don’t recommend no matter how low the prices may seem.
Yes. FASTPASS works with any valid Disney theme park admission ticket, purchased anywhere. It’s not tied to how you paid for your tickets or where you bought them. To work in the FASTPASS machines, a ticket must have been used to enter one or more of the Disney theme parks that same day.
FASTPASS is also not tied to where you’re staying. You do not have to be a Disney resort guest to use it.
No. Extra Magic Hours are for guests of any Disney resort, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels or Hilton in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort. The Extra Magic Hours benefit has nothing to do with where you purchased your tickets. As long as you have a valid theme park admission ticket and you’re a qualifying resort guest, you’re all set.
Yes. Click here to see more information.