2019 Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide

What to look forward to and how to save

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Now is as good of a time as ever to plan a Walt Disney World vacation.

If you are a huge Star Wars fan, or even just a little curious about how Disney brings that galaxy far, far away to life, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge arrives at the end of 2019.

Star Wars-Themed Land Artist Concept
Star Wars-themed lands will be coming to Disneyland park in Anaheim, Calif., and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla., transporting guests to a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port and one of the last stops before wild space where Star Wars characters and their stories come to life. Inside these authentic lands, guests will be able to step aboard The Millennium Falcon and actually pilot the fastest ship in the galaxy, steering the vessel through space, firing the laser cannons, in complete control of the experience. And with the arrival of the First Order to the planet, guests will find themselves in the middle of a tense battle between stormtroopers and Resistance fighters. (Disney Parks)

Of course, there are plenty of other great new things to see and do at the Disney World we all know and love.

The goal of this 2019 Disney World vacation guide is to help you save time and money while seeing as much of the resort as possible.

When to Visit Walt Disney World

New Openings

You may want to plan your Disney World vacation around some events and new openings at the parks.

Pixar presence will grow with the opening of The Incredibles city of Municiberg starting in January at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in May. 

There is also a big Star Wars presence leading up to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at the end of the fall.

Lightning McQueen is getting a new show and Cruz Ramirez will have a new meet and greet location, as will Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc.

(Disney’s Hollywood Studios is also where you can also experience Toy Story Land, Star Tours, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Rockin’ Roller Coaster.)

Slinky Dog Dash at Toy Story Land, a themed land at Walt Disney World
Slinky Dog coils twist and turn around the curves, hills, and drops of Slinky Dog Dash at Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The family-friendly coaster is inspired by the hit Pixar Animation Studios Toy Story films, and is Disney’s first coaster with a double-launch. Walt Disney World Resort guests get to race and dive around a track that stretches across Toy Story Land. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Off Season Is Best

The best times to visit Walt Disney World throughout 2019 will be while kids are still in school. January and February are typically great months to visit. Late August through November are also really great times, not counting the week of Thanksgiving. December, up until Christmas is good, too. Plus you have the option of attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Attendance will get a bit of a shake-up during the holiday season in 2019 because of the arrival of Galaxy’s Edge to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you book your vacation during this time, expect the attendance to spill over into other parks.

Festivals

Epcot, in particular, is known for its many festivals throughout the year.

Festival of the Arts will run from January, 18 — February, 25. Flower and Garden Festival will run March, 6 — June, 3.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
A magical floral topiary starring Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and Goofy welcomes sunrise at the 25th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The festival features dozens of character topiaries, stunning floral displays, creative gardens and exhibits, 15 Outdoor Kitchens with herb and produce gardens, plus the Garden Rocks concert series. (Matt Stroshane)

The International Food and Wine Festival and Festival of the Holidays both occur later in the year, with the former starting as early as August.

Plan Ahead

Magic Kingdom meet and greets, a must do on a Walt Disney World vacation
The new home for visiting royalty in the Magic Kingdom, Princess Fairytale Hall features walls of stone and stained glass windows, a spacious gallery adorned with portraits of Disney princesses and elegantly finished rooms where guests can meet Cinderella, Rapunzel and other princesses. Part of the largest Magic Kingdom expansion in history, Princess Fairytale Hall is located in the Castle Courtyard in the center of Fantasyland at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Ali Nasser, photographer)

Plan your 2019 Disney World vacation at least six months out. This provides enough time to secure the dining reservations you really want. Some of the more popular restaurants fill up very quickly. Reservations open up typically 180 days ahead of your check-in so you need to be ready.

Planning your Disney World vacation is easy and fun, but you have to be aware of key dates. so that you don’t miss out on important features that come with your vacation package.

Where to Eat

You’ll find great dining all over Walt Disney World. Character meals occur in each park and many of the resorts. Most offer a chance to meet Mickey and friends, but there are also princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom as well as Akershus in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot.

One of the best character breakfasts you can attend is the Bon Voyage breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno, which features Rapunzel, Ariel, Flynn, and Prince Eric.

Enter Disney World Early with a Breakfast Reservation

One strategy to give yourself a head start in the parks is to get an early breakfast reservation which grants you access to the park before it opens. There are a few issues to be aware of like queuing to enter the park, availability of these coveted reservations, and also the time it takes to dine. Consider advanced dining reservations at these Disney World breakfast restaurants:

Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)

Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)

The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

Garden Grill (Epcot)

Akershus (Epcot)

Hollywood and Vine (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Tusker House (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park)

An advanced dining reservation for breakfast will give you a head start in the park so be sure to select your FastPass+ accordingly. 

Entertainment Packages

Some restaurants offer packages for preferred viewing of nighttime shows or parades. Consider these if you don’t want to spend time staking out and occupying a viewing location.

This includes Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well as IllumiNations in Epcot (which in October will be replaced by an all-new show).

The Hollywood Brown Derby, one of the best restaurants on property offers a chance to meet with a real Disney Imagineer. You can also do this at Citricos inside the Grand Floridian.

Themed Restaurants

Some of the best Disney World restaurants are the heavily themed eateries like Sci-fi Dine-in Theater and 50s Prime Time Cafe, both in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

One upscale themed dining experience is Tiffins, a signature dining venue with international cuisine inspired by exploration and adventure at the Animal Kingdom Park. This restaurant also offers a Rivers of Light dining package.

Tiffins at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Tiffins, a new restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrates the art of traveling and includes the adjoining Nomad Lounge with waterfront views with outdoor seating. Open for both lunch and dinner, Tiffins’ menu features a diverse menu drawing from places that inspired the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Indian English word “tiffin” means a midday meal or type of container used to carry food while traveling. (Scott Watt, photographer)

Jungle Navigation Co Ltd Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom is a happy medium, with great food and remarkable detail and humor.

FastPass+ Selections

FastPass+ is Disney World’s revised FastPass system. Disney resort hotel guests can begin making selecting FastPass+ selections 60 days prior to arrival for the entire length of stay. All other park guests begin selections at 7 a.m. ET, 30 days prior to arrival. You can make these selections online or through the app.

Hopefully, by this point, you know where you plan to be, what you plan to do, and when. The FastPass+ system is great for ensuring you will have an opportunity to experience favorite attractions, but it also locks you into a schedule. Try to afford yourself plenty of time and flexibility.

You are allowed to choose three attractions. On the day of your visit, you can choose more once your three FastPasses are used.

You must have admission tickets linked to your Disney account and also link the people to it that you intend to secure FastPass+ for.

FastPass+ Strategy

Speaking of using FastPass+, it’s no longer a paper ticket. MagicBands (pictured below) not only serve as FastPass+ entry but they also allow you to charge food and drink, open your hotel room, and much more enabling guests to travel light when inside the park. 

If you don’t opt for a MagicBand, as they do require purchase (starting at $14.99), you’ll be issued a card with an RFID chip.

MagicBand in use during a Walt Disney World vacation
A Walt Disney World Resort guest uses a MagicBand to enter Magic Kingdom theme park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Guests also can use MagicBands to enter their Disney Resort hotel room, buy food and merchandise, enter Walt Disney World Resort theme parks and water parks, access their selected FastPass+ experiences and connect to Disney’s PhotoPass. MagicBands are part of the new MyMagic+, which has the ability to connect nearly all aspects of the guest vacation experience at Walt Disney World Resort. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

If you have early entry to a Walt Disney World park by purchasing an upgrade or making breakfast reservations, take this into account when selecting FastPass+. You will have a head start on the biggest attractions before most guests have a chance to get there.

With that in mind, don’t get fast passes for those rides. For example, after breakfast At Cinderella’s Royal Table, you can go straight to Big Thunder and Splash Mountain before the queue starts to fill up.

Guide to planning a 2019 Walt Disney World vacation
SPLASHDOWN! — Brer Rabbit’s quest for adventure and his rival’s plot to do him in launch Walt Disney World Resort guests on an action-filled journey with a thrill-packed, five-story “splashdown” finale on Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom. The attraction is based on animated sequences in Walt Disney’s 1946 film “Song of the South.” Magic Kingdom is located in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Garth Vaughan, photographer)

Select your FastPass+ for late morning to early afternoon, as the park begins to peak in attendance.

Continue to save some time by ducking into a restaurant to have lunch around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. when the crowds start to peak and the sun intensifies.  

Saving Time at Disney World Parks

One of the best ways to save time and sanity at Disney Parks is by not purchasing Park Hopper tickets.

When you choose a park, for the day, this allows you to fully enjoy it. Moving from park to park is okay if you only want to sample each park in a short amount of time.

However, in most cases, the transportation from park to park and the additional security checks are far too time-consuming to make visiting multiple parks in a day realistic, especially with kids in tow. Unlike Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks in Anaheim, the Walt Disney World parks are quite spread out from each other.

Security Checks

Be prepared to stop for security before entering every park. You will also be met with security checks anytime you get off the monorail.

Bypassing Crowds

There are some places where you can bypass the majority of crowds. Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a separate entrance through the Rainforest Cafe gift shop, for example.

Epcot has a rarely used side entrance to the World Showcase called the International Gateway. This gem has flown under the radar for decades, although this will soon change with the arrival of the Skyliner Station in fall of 2019.

A variety of VIP tours are available through Disney and other service providers which will help you minimize wait time or skip queues altogether. You can read more about our VIP tour of Magic Kingdom.

Disney World Hotels

There are lots of tips and arguments out there about where to stay in Disney World.

Sometimes, value resorts are the answer if you are looking to save money. Moderate Disney World hotels are somewhere in the middle, which is either the best of both worlds or the worst, depending on who you ask.

Deluxe resorts offer more convenience, more accommodations, and more detailed thematic environments. We prefer Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World for a nice combination of Disney, quiet luxury, and Extra Magic Hours.

Those looking for luxury on Walt Disney World vacations should choose Four Seasons Orlando

There are no wrong answers, concerning which Disney World hotels to choose. Staying at a Disney World resort hotel definitely has more benefits that include:

  • Extra Magic Hours
  • Constant Disney surroundings
  • Free transportation and parking
  • Priority access to FastPass+ reservations
  • The convenience of having purchased merchandise sent to your hotel

When you choose your hotel, remember that it is the largest cost factor in your vacation and downgrading could mean more freedom in dining and entertainment. You may stay at the Disney’s Contemporary Resort because you want to eat at California Grill, one of the best restaurants on property. But, you could just as easily take an Uber, or a Minnie Van from Port Orleans and save a hefty chunk of change.

How to Buy Discount Walt Disney World Tickets

Get Away Today offers discounts on a variety of Walt Disney World tickets and hotel packages that will save you money off gate pricing. Have a look.

Buy Disney World Tickets

Also take a look at our guides to Hong Kong Disneyland, Shanghai Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.

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