Pre-Planning for a More Luxurious Disney World Experience

When you say “Disney” to some people, “luxurious” isn’t exactly the word that would spring to their mind. They are more likely to envision long lines, large crowds and over-emotional children. I am here to tell you, however, that Disney can be one of the most luxurious and amazing vacations you and your family can have. All you need is a bit of planning, organization and pixie dust!

luxury disney world
Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, Orlando, FL. Photo: Songquan Deng

My family recently traveled to Orlando, Florida for a three-week vacation in the sun. For the first week, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge within Walt Disney World itself. This is one of the larger resorts and has the added magic of animals wandering by your balcony and the opportunity to watch animals close up.

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For me, this trip actually began two years ago. That’s when I started planning for my husband and I, our two sons aged five and six, along with my parents and older sister to travel to Disney. The magic of Disney starts when you first make the reservation, and you see just how exciting your time will be.

luxury disney world
Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. Photo: jewhyte

In order to make the most out of this experience, you need to plan. You need to know which dining plan you will be on and work out which restaurants are good for you. You can begin making reservations for Disney restaurants around the whole of Walt Disney World six months before your vacation commences. This shows just how busy they are and how important it is to book in advance.

Two months before your trip, you can also make your Fast Pass reservations so you can plan what rides or experiences are absolute musts for you and your family. If you wait until the day of secure your place on these rides, you often simply won’t get the ones you want.

luxury disney world
Thunder Mountain roller coaster at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Rostislav Bychkov

All of this can be done using an app on your phone called My Disney Experience. This amazing app is your gateway to all things Disney: it includes details of your accommodations, any reservations you might have, it holds all photographs taken of you and your family while in the parks and also shows live wait times for all rides and experiences. Free Wi-Fi is standard across the parks and resort hotels, so it couldn’t be easier. The app also allows you to order your personalized Magic Bands, which are like a smart watch that act as your park ticket, room key, credit card, dining payment, fast pass and photo pass all at the same time.

We arrived at Disney World having booked everything in advance. We knew our itinerary, our food plans and our movements, so there was no stress or hassle on the day.

To make the most out of a Disney Dining Plan, you need to know exactly what you can use and where. The plan we had allowed us one quick service meal, one snack and one table service meal per person per day. You can use more on one day of any of the things you like, but would then need to buy food to make up what you use.

luxury disney world
Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. Photo: jewhyte

Snacks were things like bottles of water, ice creams or even churros with chocolate sauce or a pretzel with cheese. A quick service meal was the kind of meal you would eat at a lunch time or breakfast, usually where you walk up to order and carry your food away. These meals would include a drink and did not involve any tips or service charges. A table service meal would be your ideal choice for dinner, where you would have a waiter service and would definitely require a reservation. These meals included an entrée, a dessert and a drink, though some alcoholic drinks were additional. Service was not included on these credits.

luxury disney world
Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom. Photo: Walt Disney World

The best place we ate was the Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom, where you are treated to beautiful food in the dining room of the Beast’s castle. The location and attention to detail are stunning. You can even see snow falling outside the windows and the ceiling is breath-taking. You can also meet some of the characters after your meal. We ate magnificent steaks here and left very relaxed after such an amazing experience. It was absolutely essential to book.

Another truly gorgeous place to eat is the Coral Reef Restaurant within Epcot. This beautiful restaurant overlooks the inside of the largest of the ocean exhibits and over dinner you can watch beautiful fish, sharks, turtles and the occasional diver swim by. We found this the perfect mix of relaxation and fun, as the children were given cards to identify the fish as they swam past and we enjoyed amazing food with very content little people.

Lots of the families I spoke to while we were there didn’t realize the vast array of restaurants that you could use on your dining plan and actually ended up just eating quick service meals while rushing round. With prior planning you can eat some amazing gourmet food, much of which is produced on the Disney site itself.

luxury disney world
Spaceship Earth at Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. Photo: aroas

I found that for dining, Epcot is one of the better parks, with the world around the lake and each country having a table-service restaurant in the speciality food of that country. The Japanese steak house was a huge hit with the children, as the chef cooks the meal for you at your table.

There are also some wonderful restaurants in Disney Springs, which just has the right balance between luxurious shopping destination, entertainment complex and all-round grown-ups playground. The TREX restaurant is here, which although quite noisy with the moving dinosaurs and periodic meteor showers, had mouth wateringly wonderful food and an actual dig site for children to dig up dinosaur bones to their hearts content. Now if that’s not a plus when you can sit with a glass of wine knowing the children are in their element, I don’t know what is!

The Disney hotel experience in itself is like one I have never had before. Nothing is too much trouble, every care and effort is made to the finite detail meaning that pretty much anything you could want or need is catered for along with a smile and some Mickey Mouse ears. The floral displays, lack of rubbish, polite staff, wonderful facilities such as state of the art gyms, children’s clubs, play areas, swimming pools and refillable drinks for all the family while in your hotel are just a few of the many reasons why this vacation was one of the most luxurious ones we have had while also being one of the best ones for my hard-to-please children.

The bar made the most delicious cocktails and with every room had a balcony where you could sit for hours, chocolate martini in hand, watching the giraffes and zebras passing by the balcony, while also being able to glance back at the happy, sleeping children having had the time of their lives.

There was always a vast array of activities for all the family going on at the resort hotel, which included animal safaris, family bonfires, music lessons learning to play African instruments and many others.

The little things at Disney really are thought of with regards to family life. The concierge at the hotel had a number of tools that could be used to take off some of the packaging that is used on toys you can purchase in the shops around the parks and resorts, which kept my children very happy.

There are Disney professional photographers on hand at most points throughout the parks and waterparks so you can have your photographs taken as a family without someone having to be out of the picture holding the camera. This was fantastic for us and meant we could just scan our magic bands and less than twenty minutes later have gorgeous photographs of us all that were sent directly our phones. I absolutely treasure these pictures and you can save them at no extra charge.

You can go to Disney and rush around, some families love this but we liked the pace we had set for ourselves. We had the whole magical experience, went on some amazing rides, ate some wonderful food, swam in gorgeous, warm swimming pools and sipped cocktails made with Disney Magic. Now what is more luxurious than that?

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About Lucy Fisk

Lucy FiskLucy Fisk is a mother of two in her thirties living in Kent, England. She loves to travel with her family and has been lucky enough to see lots of the world, which she now enjoys visiting with her children. Follow her adventures on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

Click here to read Lucy's articles

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