How to Plan a Trip to Walt Disney World

Keep the costs of flights, hotels, rental cars and, of course, park tickets in mind when planning your Disney trip.
Dec 22, 2021

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We already know that a trip to Walt Disney World is one of the most popular vacations around. With an average of over 58 million visitors per year, odds are you have at least a friend or two who’ve visited. But did they mention how many moving parts there were when planning their trip? From flights, to park tickets to hotels, booking a vacation at the happiest place on earth is no laughing matter.

Let’s take a look at how to plan a trip to Disney World, and ways to save money on your vacation.

Booking flights

Depending on how far away you live, you’ll likely need to book flights for your Disney trip. Orlando International Airport (MCO) is the nearest airport to Disney World, located just 20 minutes away by car. Finding flights to and from Orlando is typically easy, with more than 600 flights per day operated by over 20 different airlines.

As with many things, flexibility is key when it comes to finding cheap flights. High-season airfare is nearly always more expensive than shoulder or off-season rates.

Of course, with so many different airlines flying into Orlando, you have plenty of options when it comes to redeeming airline miles for flights. Whether you’re looking to book with American, Delta, United, Alaska, Southwest or even JetBlue, you can find multiple flights per day from each carrier.

Budget airlines such as Spirit and Frontier also offer flights to Orlando, but you’ll want to consider the additional fees associated with these airlines. Your airfare may cost less, but paying more for seat selection and a carry-on bag can eat into the discounts.

Nerdy tip: Travel cards such as The Platinum Card® from American Express feature an annual airline fee credit that reimburses you for expenses like checked baggage and other incidentals. Enrollment required. Terms apply.

Many of the airlines that operate award flights use a dynamic or semi-dynamic pricing scale, so you're best off using your miles to fly during non-peak travel times.

Renting cars

Renting a car can be an affordable way to make your way around, but finding a rental car that works for you can be challenging — especially if you need a speciality vehicle. Regardless of your preferred rental car company, consider using websites like Autoslash to search for your ride. Autoslash will scour multiple booking sites and a variety of loyalty programs to find the best rates for your dates.

Even better? After reserving a car, you can enter your reservation details in their price tracker to get notified if the price goes down. If it does, you can cancel your original reservation and get in on the better deal.

Another way to search for rental cars is with Costco Travel, which includes a waived additional driver fee for eligible drivers.

Finally, if you’d rather maximize the number of miles you’ll earn on your booking, consider using a travel portal for your rental car. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® card, for example, offers 10 Ultimate Rewards® points per $1 spent on rental cars via the Chase travel portal. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, meanwhile, offers 10 Capital One miles per $1 spent on rental cars booked through the Capital One travel portal.

Reserving hotels

Whether you're looking for ultra-budget accommodations or high-end luxury, Orlando is chock-full of hotels you can book using cash or points.

Like flight rates, hotel rates will often vary according to season, but you can sometimes find rooms for as low as $32 per night — even on a weekend.

There are also plenty of options when it comes to hotel loyalty programs, including choices from Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, Choice Hotels and Wyndham. You’ll even be able to find a few properties within walking distance of Disney parks.

Nerdy tip: If you’re looking to book with a non-chain hotel, consider using Hotels.com, which offers the opportunity to earn free nights on your bookings.

Walt Disney World’s Swan, Dolphin and Swan Reserve resorts are located near Epcot and offer a water taxi to the park’s entrance. These properties aren’t cheap, however, even when booking with Marriott points. As Category 6 hotels, you’ll need to pay between 35,000 and 60,000 points per night depending on peak or off-peak dates.

Buying theme park tickets

There’s no other way to say this: Disney World theme park tickets are expensive. Costs will vary depending on how long you stay, with multi-day tickets costing less per day than a single-day ticket.

You’ll definitely want to factor ticket price into your budget in advance. The Disney World website features a calendar that’ll display how much your tickets will cost based on your travel dates.

Nerdy tip: You’ll need to make a park reservation in order to enter Disney World, so be sure to check that there’s availability before purchasing your tickets.

If you’re looking to save money on your Disney World tickets, consider buying from authorized resellers such as Undercover Tourist. These websites will shave a few dollars off the price of your ticket. You can also opt to redeem points for your theme park tickets, but choices are limited for Disney World.

Planning for miscellaneous expenses

An extra tip on how to start planning a trip to Disney world: Don't overlook miscellaneous expenses.

Miscellaneous costs will vary based on your travel party and the type of vacation you're looking for. Do you have kids? Don’t forget to factor in extra money for toys and snacks. Are you a fan of fancy dining? Budget for a few sit-down dinners during your trip so you can enjoy some of the spectacular food Disney World has to offer.

Other common expenses include drinks, transportation, parking, tips, souvenirs and the inevitable last-minute ponchos/sunscreen/spare shoes.

If you’re looking to plan a trip to Walt Disney World

There’s no doubt that Disney World vacations require a lot of planning. Before you go, be sure to consider all the factors that go into the trip, including flights, hotels, rental cars, park tickets and extras. With a little foresight and good budgeting, you’ll have your Disney World trip figured out in no time.


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