Our Giant Guide to All Things Disney World!
Disney World is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the country, and even the world. This is understandable. It is, after all, the most magical place on earth, and with so much to see and do there, one could easily spend weeks or even months exploring the place without getting bored. This is especially tempting if you’re visiting in the comfort of an RV, where you can return to your own space at the end of each magical day.
Still, as wonderful and exciting as a Disney trip is, planning a trip to this wonderful place can be incredibly overwhelming. All of those things to see and do can make it difficult to pick and choose the best options for your family, and those who have never visited before may be confused by the ins and outs of planning such a trip. On top of that, Disney World is expensive, meaning you’ll also want to be searching for the best ways to save money as you plan your trip.
Lucky for you, you aren’t all on your own. We’ve spent plenty of time in Walt Disney World Resort, and we’re happy to share everything you need to know in order to plan the most perfect Disney RV trip ever.
All About the Disney World Parks
First, let’s discuss the Disney parks so you can go in with an idea of what to expect.
Many people are completely unaware that Walt Disney World is home to not one park, not two parks, but a total of four incredible theme parks, two water parks, a shopping district, and more! Knowing this can completely change the way you plan your vacation.
The four main theme parks include:
This is the classic Disney park that everyone thinks of when they think “Disney World”. It’s home to Cinderella Castle, a variety of princesses, and of course, the Mouse himself. You’ll also find an entire land dedicated to the future, a land of adventure, another themed around the Old West, a Fantasyland, and more.
If you want the quintessential Disney experience, this is the park for you.
Favorite attractions in this park include:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Haunted Mansion
The ultimate place to go for some serious “edutainment”, Epcot is all about learning new things.
The entire front section of the park, Future World, is dedicated to science of all sorts and features aquariums, movies, exciting rides, and more.
The back part of Epcot is referred to as the World Showcase and features a lagoon ringed by 11 pavilions, each one representing a different country. Here you can enjoy food and drinks from around the world, see a variety of entertainment, and shop a huge selection of goods imported from each represented location.
Favorite attractions in this park include:
- Test Track
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Frozen Ever After
The theme of Hollywood Studios has shifted a bit over the years, and there is now very little about it that reminds one of Hollywood, at least in the classic sense.
That said, it’s still a totally amazing park and is home to some of the newest Disney attractions, including the all new Star Wars area, as well as Toy Story Land. This is the place to be if you’re in search of thrills and being immersed in some of your favorite movies.
Favorite attractions in this park include:
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Toy Story Mania
- Tower of Terror
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Rise of the Resistance
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Lastly, there is Animal Kingdom. As you might gave guessed, this park is all about animals. Live animals wait to be discovered around every corner, and a safari ride can be taken through many of the habitats, often allowing guests to get up close and personal with the animals!
Additionally, this park is where you’ll find Pandora – The World of Avatar and all the amazing attractions offered there.
Favorite attractions at this park include:
- Kilimanjaro Safari
- Expedition Everest
- Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
All four of the parks are well worth a full day of your trip. That said, Magic Kingdom and Epcot can each easily fill a couple of days if you have the time.
Don’t have time to see all of the parks this trip? We recommend making Magic Kingdom a priority no matter who you are. Epcot tends to be a favorite for adults, and Hollywood Studios is ideal for big Star Wars or Toy Story fanatics. Finally, Animal Kingdom is ideal for those who love James Cameron’s Avatar or animals in general.
Use this information to pick and choose the best options for your family.
Time-Saving Tricks for Visiting Disney World
No matter how much time you have in Disney World, it never seems like enough. For this reason, people are always on the lookout for ways to save time while visiting the resort. If you’re on the hunt for time-saving tips, you’ve come to the right place.
Below are several ideas that’ll ensure you get the most out of your time in the most magical place on earth.
Make a Plan
Because Disney World is such a huge place with so many things to do, it’s easy to end up wandering around simply trying to figure out where to go next.
Instead of wasting time meandering and possibly zig-zagging across the parks, download a map of each park beforehand, decide which things you want to do, and make a plan that follows a logical path. Doing this means you’ll know exactly where to go as soon as you enter the park, and the path you need to take through the park.
Note: Rides can close unexpectedly and lines may be longer or shorter than expected. For this reason, it’s a good idea to be flexible with your plan.
Arrive at Opening
First, you will want to arrive at the parks a few minutes before they open each day. This allows you to be one of the first guests to enter the park, so you can take advantage of the shorter lines found first thing in the morning.
Head to the Back
When the gates open and you’re allowed into the park, head first to the most popular attractions that will have long lines later in the day. After riding the most popular rides, head to the back of the park and work your way forward from there. This helps you avoid the biggest crowds, as most people will do exactly the opposite.
Take a Break
The parks almost always get really crowded in the early afternoon and stay that way until dinnertime. You can avoid those crowds and ensure you’re well rested for the evening activities by heading back to your RV for a nap, a swim, or some relaxation before dinner.
Stay Until Close
When you get back to the park after your afternoon break, plan to stay until the park closes for the night. Often, the last hour or two before close is the slowest part of the day, and this is when the most magical memories are made and when you’ll be able to hop quickly from one ride to the next.
Check Wait Times
If you want to avoid long waits in line, it can be incredibly helpful to check wait times from the My Disney Experience app before heading to an attraction. If the line is too long for your tastes, try doing something else before hopping over.
Tips for Dining in Disney World
The restaurants at Disney World are the best theme park restaurants we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. In fact, we’d even go so far as to say Disney food is better than a lot of food we’ve had outside of theme parks. For this reason, we highly recommend doing some research beforehand and carefully choosing where you dine, so you have the best Disney dining experiences possible.
The first and most important dining tip we have is to make reservations for any and all sit-down dining you want to experience while in Disney World. Currently, dining reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance, and reservations for the most popular restaurants should be made as soon as possible.
Some of our favorite sit-down dining locations include the following:
- Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Be Our Guest
- Le Cellier Steakhouse
- Monsieur Paul
- Rose and Crown Dining Room
- Biergarten Restaurant
- Tokyo Dining
- Garden Grill Restaurant
- ‘50s Prime Time Cafe
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
- Hollywood Brown Derby
- Tusker House
- Yak and Yeti
- Rainforest Cafe
Pick Out Your Quick-Service Dining
Quick-service dining locations don’t require reservations. Still, it’s good to have an idea of what’s available, so you can choose the options that appeal to you most. Therefore, we recommend doing a bit of research beforehand and deciding where you might eat before you ever arrive at the parks.
Some of our favorite quick-service restaurants include the following:
- Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
- Columbia Harbour House
- Sleepy Hollow Inn
- Katsura Grill
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse
- Tangierine Cafe
- Woody’s Lunch Box
- Backlot Express
- Docking Bay 7: Food and Cargo
- Flame Tree BBQ
- Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes
- Satu’li Canteen
Check Menus Beforehand
In addition to deciding where you’ll eat before your trip, we also recommend having an idea of what you’ll eat. This helps with budgeting and can save time that would otherwise be spent making decisions in the moment.
Current restaurant menus can be viewed on the Disney World website.
Make Use of the App
The My Disney Experience app is good for a lot of things, and a couple of these involve dining. To save yourself some time, use the mobile ordering option in the app before heading to a quick-service location to eat. You can also check in for your table-service meals on the app, removing the need to check in at host/hostess podiums.
Seek Out Character Dining
Many restaurants that normally offer character dining are not currently doing so. This is because Disney has had to make many changes to their character dining experiences since reopening. Fortunately, a few have reopened and we expect to see many more open in the near future.
Character dining is one of the most fun dining options offered on Disney property. Not only that, but because you’ll get to hang out with Disney characters while eating your meal, you won’t have to spend time seeking them out while in the parks!
How to Save Money while Visiting Disney World
As mentioned before, a Disney vacation is not cheap. Sure, it’s worth the money, but it doesn’t hurt to try to save a bit of money wherever you can. Below are our favorite tricks for visiting Disney World on a budget.
Pack a Lunch
One of the very best money-saving tips is to pack a lunch when visiting the parks. Most would assume this is completely against the rules, but in reality, Disney has no problem with guests bringing in outside food a drink, as long as it isn’t in a hard-sided cooler.
Considering how much the food in Disney World costs, this can be a huge money-saving move.
If you don’t want to pack lunches every day of your trip but still want to save on food, another option is to split bigger meals at some of the in-park restaurants. This works especially well if you and your friend are light eaters, or if you supplement the meal with snacks brought from home.
Have Breakfast for Lunch
Generally speaking, breakfast is cheaper than lunch. Because of this, if you eat a late breakfast right before restaurants switch to the lunch menu, you can have your mid-day meal for less.
Buy Souvenirs in Advance
Souvenirs in Disney World are incredibly pricey. While some items are very unique and might actually be worth the markup, many simply are not. If you’re traveling with kids who will want to buy everything they see, consider purchasing souvenir items in advance at dollar stores, Disney Store outlets, and box stores and handing them out throughout the trip.
Look for Freebies
Another great way to save on souvenirs is to look for freebies. Believe it or not, there are quite a few of these in the parks and they make great alternatives to the expensive t-shirts and pens in the gift shops.
Some of our favorites include:
- “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom” game cards in Magic Kingdom
- Wilderness Explorer book and badges in Animal Kingdom
- “First Visit” and “Celebration” buttons at any park
Invest in Gift Cards
Disney gift cards can be spent in almost every location in the parks. Since these gift cards can be found at discounted prices, it only makes sense to stock up before your trip and use them to buy tickets, food, souvenirs, and more.
Target Red Card
One way to get discounted Disney gift cards is to purchase them at Target using the Target Red Card to get a 5% discount.
American Express Blue Cash Card and Kroger
Another option is the American Express Blue Cash Card, which will give you 6% back when you buy your Disney gift cards at grocery stores. Use this card at Kroger and combine it with their awesome fuel rewards deals to save even more.
Office Supply Stores
Both the Chase Ink Business Cash and the American Express SimplyCash Plus Business offer 5% cash back at office supply stores. This means you can use these cards to purchase Disney gift cards at Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, etc. and save 5%.
Finally, there are the discounted cards sold at wholesale clubs such as BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club. These cards are typically sold in packs and can save you up to 10%.
Spend Time Outside of the Parks
Want more Disney time but can’t afford more days on your park ticket? You can extend your time in Disney World by spending a day at Disney Springs, Disney’s BoardWalk, or a resort hotel. Just be sure you make a dining reservation at any hotel you plan to visit, as you won’t be allowed in otherwise at this time.
Skip the Hotel
Our final tip is a big budget-saver. Disney hotels are nice, but they’re expensive, and the hotels in the surrounding area can be hit or miss. Save some money and ensure you can sleep in a safe and clean space by choosing RV camping over the hotel during your Disney visit.
As a bonus, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground in the only Disney resort that doesn’t charge extra for parking. By staying at this campground and using the free transportation to and from the park you can avoid the steep parking fees altogether.
Camping Near Disney World
Not only does choosing camping save money, it also tends to be a more comfortable experience. After all, most hotels don’t offer a full kitchen, separate sleeping spaces for each member of your party, and a yard where you can have a campfire.
Of course, choosing the camping option means you will need to find a place to park your RV. Fortunately, there are plenty of those nearby.
Fort Wilderness Campground
This campground is actually run by Disney and located on Disney property. It is by far the best place to stay if you want to be close to the parks and enjoy all the perks that come along with staying in a Disney resort.
The campground features a few different pools, a water slide, a hot tub, dining options, pony rides, archery, and more. The Magic Kingdom is a short boat ride away, and all other parks can be reached by bus. All sites are paved and feature full hookups, the bathhouses are clean and inviting, and plenty of trees ensure privacy at each and every campsite.
The biggest drawback to staying in Fort Wilderness is the price which is very steep, though still less than staying in a Disney hotel.
Tropical Palms RV Resort
Want a comfortable and clean camping experience for a little less? Tropical Palms RV Resort is only minutes from the Disney Parks and features all of the amenities one would look for in a luxury RV resort.
The restrooms are incredibly clean, the pool is heated, and the hot tub is very welcoming after a long day in the parks. Once again, you’ll be treated to paved sites and full hookups, and the staff here is kind and welcoming.
Orlando/Kissimmee KOA Holiday
KOA RV resorts are always a good choice, and the Orlando/Kissimmee location is no exception. This campground offers amenities such as full hookups, clean bathhouses, and a pool and hot tub, as well as a jump pad, basketball court, dog park, and playground.
It’s only 20 minutes from the Magic Kingdom parking lot, and is a fantastic place to take the RV during your Disney World vacation.
Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake
Those looking for a cheaper option might check out Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake. This is a city-run park and is quite lovely. It doesn’t offer much in terms of amenities, but full hookups are available, sites are level, and there is a bathhouse and laundry room available.
Best of all, the trees in this large park—and the campground’s location at the very back of it—make it feel completely secluded from the city, allowing you to sleep in the peace offered by nature after leaving the hustle and bustle of the Disney parks.
Magnolia Park is another great budget option. This is a county park, and it offers a traditional camping experience while still providing visitors with the most basic comforts, such as water and electric hookups and hot showers. While this park is a bit further from Disney World than other parks mentioned, many people feel it’s worth the cost savings and the ability to stay in a beautiful location.
Hopefully this guide provides you with the information you need to plan an amazing RV trip to Walt Disney World Resort. Why not start by finding the perfect rental RV? We’re sure you’ll find something right here on RVshare!