Read Before You Buy: Walt Disney World Vacation Complete Guide

Going to Walt Disney World Resort is the epitome of a magical experience for families, which is why planning it should be one as well! However, too many times, people (and especially parents) become overwhelmed by just how challenging and confusing it can be, especially for first-time visitors. With so many hotels, parks, attractions, dining options, and shows to choose from, one may not know exactly where to start. This is where we at StudyFinds come in to help make sure you have all the tools in place to have a memorable experience without any stress or confusion. 

From booking the right hotel to getting the most out of your time in the parks (and yes, there are multiple), let us take the guesswork out of planning your Walt Disney World vacation so you can focus on creating lifelong memories with your loved ones. Use this guide to navigate the resort like a pro and make the most of every magical moment.

Walt Disney World highway sign
Have the happiest time during your vacation at Walt Disney World! (Photo by Katherine Welles on Shutterstock)

First things first, if you are planning a Walt Disney World trip, download the My Disney Experience appThis will keep your plans organized and easily accessible at your fingertips. The app allows you to make dining reservations, mobile-order food, manage Disney Genie+ options (which work as a lightning lane onto select attractions,) and even view wait times for rides.

By utilizing this handy tool, you’ll be able to maximize your time in the parks and ensure that you don’t miss out on any must-see attractions. Of course, whenever you start planning any vacation, you’re going to want to understand a little bit about where you’re going to get a better understanding of what you, as an individual, want to prioritize on your trip. As we mentioned, Walt Disney World Resort consists of four theme parks as well as two water parks, a shopping and dining area known as Disney Springs, four golf courses, and a plethora of other attractions and shows available on the property. It’s important to plan ahead and decide which experiences are the most important for you to prioritize on your trip. Most parkgoers like to make sure they hit all four theme parks on their vacation, so let’s dive into those first.

Walt Disney World Theme Parks

Magic Kingdom

brown and blue concrete castle under blue sky during daytime
Magic Kingdom (Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash)

Magic Kingdom is the park most people think about when they think of Walt Disney World. For reference, it’s the one with Cinderella’s Castle at the end of beautiful Main Street, USA. It’s also the park where you’ll find classic attractions like Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Spread across five (six if you count Main Street) “lands,” the Magic Kingdom consists of Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Tomorrowland. Additionally, Main Street, USA, serves as an entrance to the park and a nostalgic tribute to early 20th century America, with shops including the Emporium, Main Street Confectionary, Casey’s Corner, The Plaza, and more. 

Magic Kingdom is also going to be your place for the best of the best in Walt Disney World’s parades and shows. Including a nighttime castle and firework show called “Happily Ever After.” Magic Kingdom is, for sure, a stop you’re not going to want to miss.


white and blue boat on river under blue sky during daytime
EPCOT (Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash)

Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, more commonly referred to as simply EPCOT is another beloved park that is unique to the Walt Disney World resort in Florida. If you ever heard of “drinking around the world,” well, this is the home of it. Originally an idea from Walt Disney himself of wanting to make a futuristic community for people to live in, after his passing, the idea was transformed into the EPCOT we know today. 

Featuring rides such as Soarin’, Test Track, Mission Space, Living with the Land, and more, EPCOT is the place to go for a mix of thrilling attractions, educational experiences, and international cuisine, which brings us to the World Showcase. It consists of 11 pavilions, each representing a different country in the world, and it is here that you will experience a rich taste of cultures from across the globe.

Highlights of World Showcase include Frozen Ever After, a “Frozen”-inspired ride in Norway; La Cava Del Tequila, a tequila bar in Mexico; and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a trackless ride based on the beloved film in France. Throughout the year, this section of the park will also host festivals such as “Food & Wine,” “Festival of the Arts, and “Festival of the Holidays, which are always a treat if you plan your trip accordingly!

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

gray concrete statue under blue sky during daytime
Galaxy’s Edge (Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash)

Formally known as Disney-MGM Studios for our old timers, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park for movie magic. Though admittedly, it’s lost some of its old Hollywood glam over the years (including the removal of the improv troupe, the Citizens of Hollywood), the Studios have also added some very popular attractions in the last few years.

Among the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, you will also find Galaxy’s Edge, a land entirely made to immerse yourself in the world of “Star Wars. Featuring mouth-numbing drinks at Olga’s Cantina, blue milk at the Milk Stand, and Chewbacca himself making the rounds. Galaxy’s Edge is truly a sight to see, but no sight is greater than the full-scale Millennium Falcon right in the heart of it all, which also serves as the entrance to one of the two rides in the land.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is also home to Toy Story Land, meant to make you feel like you’re in Andy’s Backyard, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, the Tower of Terror, and some truly magical stage shows, including the nighttime spectacular “Fantasmic. Here, you’ll get to see everyone’s favorite mouse battle the evil Maleficent!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

green and brown tree with string lights
Pandora (Photo by Hansun kim on Unsplash)

Lovingly referred to as DAK by locals and Disney aficionados, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the last of the four parks, but, oh boy, is it unique. 

Featuring six lands, including two continents and Pandora (the planet from “Avatar”), to state the obvious, DAK is the park for animal lovers. Here, you’ll get to see lions, elephants, giraffes, and more on Kilimanjaro Safari, fly on the back of a banshee on Flight of Passage, and learn what it’s like to be as Tiny as an Ant in “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.” And let’s not forget about the thrilling Expedition Everest roller coaster, where you can come face-to-face with the legendary (nonmoving) Yeti. 

With its focus on conservation, education, and entertainment, Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience that will leave you feeling inspired and in awe of the natural world. Plus, there’s a petting zoo affectionately named the Affection Section; what more do you need?

Water Parks

Typhoon Lagoon

Disney is also home to not one but two water parks. This includes Typhoon Lagoon, which is home to one of the world’s largest wave pools. Meant to mimic a tropical paradise hit by a, you guessed it, typhoon, the park’s slides, raft rides, and water coasters are adorned with beach remnants brought on by the disaster. With attractions like Crush ‘n Gusher and Miss Adventure Falls, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for thrills or a more relaxing experience. After a day of splashing around, you can unwind on the sandy beaches or float down the lazy river, making it a truly unforgettable day at the water park.

Blizzard Beach

Blizzard Beach is the other water park and property, and this one is themed as if you’re basking in the sun on a ski slope! Split between four sections—the Green Slope, the Red Slop, the Purple Slope, and Ground Level, Blizzard Beach offers a unique and exciting twist on traditional water park experiences. From the thrilling slides like Summit Plummet to the family-friendly attractions at Tike’s Peak, there is no shortage of fun to be had at Blizzard Beach. The park also features a one-acre wave pool, perfect for catching some waves or relaxing in the sun. With its immersive theme and variety of attractions, Blizzard Beach is sure to provide a day of fun and excitement for guests of all ages.

Other Experiences

water fountain near green and blue dome building under blue sky during daytime
Disney Springs (Photo by Philip Arambula on Unsplash)

While all of the above parks require a ticket for access, there is one place on the Walt Disney World property that doesn’t, and that is Disney Springs. Formally known as Downtown Disney, in its heyday, the district was a party hotspot with bars, clubs, and restaurants galore. However, Disney Springs has since been transformed into a family-friendly shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. Visitors can stroll through the outdoor promenade, shop at unique stores, dine at a variety of restaurants and enjoy live entertainment. With its diverse offerings and relaxed atmosphere, Disney Springs is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy some leisure time without the need for a park ticket.

Walt Disney World is also home to four golf courses, as mentioned earlier, providing another option for visitors to enjoy some recreational time outside of the theme parks. Features Disney’s Palm, Disney’s Magnolia, and Disney’s Lake Buena Vista, which are all 18-hole courses; there is also Disney’s Oak Trail, which features junior tees for youngins that is only nine holes. The resort also features two mini-golf courses called Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland, respectively. ESPN Wide World of Sports is also on the property, which serves as the host for a number of professional and amateur sporting events throughout the year, as well as the Tri-Circle D Ranch, which serves as the home to all the Disney horses and is a working stable and ranch located in Fort Wilderness, which brings us to our next category.



Home to over 25 hotels, the Walt Disney World Resort has a range of accommodations to choose from. First up are the deluxe options. Ideal for those wanting to truly enjoy their hotel experience, some of these resorts include Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, which all happen to also be on the monorail line. 

The Disney monorail is convenient for those looking to travel to and from the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, which is a treat for those staying there; however, the monorail does not run to any other resort or park. However, there are plenty of other reasons to enjoy a Disney deluxe resort, including spa options, great in-house dining options, and luxurious amenities.

Some other deluxe hotels include Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, which feature walking privileges to both EPCOT and Disney’s Skyliner, which travels to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and other moderate resorts.


Your moderate hotels are going to be your middle-of-the-road accommodations. These resorts may feature more basic amenities and dining options compared to deluxe resorts, but they still offer comfortable rooms and convenient access to the parks. Some popular moderate hotels at Disney World include Disney’s Coronado Springs and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, the latter of which also offers access to the Skyliner. These hotels are a great option for families looking for a balance between comfort and affordability during their Disney vacation. These resorts often offer in-house restaurants as well, but they are more family-oriented.


The Value Resorts are going to be for those on a budget, and there is nothing wrong with that. Ask any Disney fan, and they will tell you about the good times they have had at one of the All-Star resorts, which brings us to some noteworthy hotels. All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, and All-Sar Sports, as well as Pop-Century and the Art of Animationare all part of the Value Resort category. These resorts offer themed rooms, fun decor, and larger-than-life icons that make for a memorable stay.

While the amenities may not be as luxurious as those at the Deluxe Resorts, the Value Resorts still provide a comfortable and convenient place to rest after a long day of exploring the parks. Not to mention pools and bars to boot. Plus, with complimentary transportation to and from the parks, staying at a value resort is a convenient option for any money-conscious traveler.


Table Service

The last thing we are going to be talking about today is dining while in Walt Disney World, and the first thing to cross off the list is what kind of food you want to eat on your vacation. Quick-service, table-service, or a mixture of both. For table service, of which there is a plethora, you’re going to need to make a dining reservation ahead of time, especially for big parties, and when I say that, I really mean anything bigger than two. One thing to note about Disney dining is that people make these reservations months in advance, so if there is a restaurant you for sure want to go to, make sure to open your My Disney Experience app and book it sooner rather than later.

Table service restaurants exist throughout the four parks, resorts, and Disney Springs area, so there is much to pick from depending on your tastes. You can opt to eat in one of the restaurants around World Showcase for a taste of the world, dine as a guest of Beast himself at “Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom and enjoy some rootin’ tootin’ barbecue at Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Toy Story Land. You can also opt for a Disney Dining Plan. This is especially great for those sit-down dinners and for those who like to enjoy food while on vacation.


The Disney Dining Plan isn’t strictly for table-service dining, however. You can also purchase a plan that goes towards quick-service meals and snacks throughout the parks. Your quick-service options are going to be fast-food eateries. This is good for those going to the parks who don’t want to waste time in a full-fledged restaurant. Quick-service restaurants are available at every park (including water parks) as well as in every hotel (including value resorts). Locations include Pecos Bill in Frontierland, Satu’li Canteen in Pandora, and every food court available at any hotel. Plus, you can use your snack credits for tasty treats like churros, Mickey ice cream bars, and popcorn throughout the resort. 

Well, that about wraps it up on your “must-know list when it comes to your next Walt Disney World vacation. Remember to make dining reservations in advance, especially for popular restaurants, and pack comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen for those long days in the parks. And most importantly, have fun and create magical memories that will last a lifetime! 

For a look at the consensus picks by reviewers for Disney, check out our “Best of the Best” guides below:

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. 

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About the Author

Jilly Hite

New York raised and Florida-based Jilly Hite studied screenwriting and theatre at The Lee Strasberg Institute before becoming a full time content creator and podcaster. She loves old movies, musical theatre, and her pup Ted.

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