After “Where to stay?”, “How long to stay at Disney World?” is one of the most popular questions I receive from guests and friends planning a trip to Orlando.  While there is no magical answer, there are a few things to consider when deciding how long you want to bunk with the Mouse.

Cost

Depending on where and when you choose to stay, the difference in a long weekend and week can be a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand.  Look at your budget and decide whether you’d prefer a longer trip at a moderate resort or a shorter trip in a grand villa.  You also have to take into account the cost of additional nights on the dining plan, should you choose to purchase it, or the cost of paying out of pocket for meals for x amount of days.  Once you pass four days, additional days on your park tickets are a drop in the bucket at about $10 a day, so it’s not too big of a factor.

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Vacation Time

Time off of school and/or work also plays a pretty important role in deciding how long you’re going to live in the magic.  Are you working with a holiday weekend?  Or are you a teacher whose family has the entire summer to vacation?  Is it worth it to you to take unpaid leave if you don’t have the time accrued?  Maybe you have “use it or lose it” hours?  Figure out what works for you, and that will help determine the length of your stay.

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Now that we’ve gotten past the two big factors that apply to most vacations, let’s take a look at some Disney World-specific scenarios.

One Week

When asked, I always suggest travelers plan to spend a week at the World.  Seven days allows two travel days, four full park days and one day of down time.  This is my perfect trip (though we regularly do an eight day trip as well).  I suggest Disney-goers, especially first time visitors, spend a day at each of the four major theme parks.  If they choose to visit the parks at any time during the other three days, they can revisit favorites or attractions they didn’t have time for on the initial visit.  I also really like the down day so guests can recharge their batteries, rest their feet, enjoy the resort offerings, etc.

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Additionally, some promotions and discounts require a minimum stay, and shorter itineraries wouldn’t be able to take advantage of these deals.

Get Park Wise: If you’ve only purchased four days of tickets for your week-long stay but decide you really want to hit the parks daily, you can easily add days to your ticket by visiting any ticket desk on property.  Additionally, you can also add the park hopping option once you’ve arrived.  This helps avoid wasted money if you decide park hopping isn’t for you and wasted park entries if you were too tired to go to the parks again.

A Long Weekend

Sometimes those elusive four-day weekends seem like the perfect time to add a little magic to your life.  This is a great option if you’re already familiar with the parks and know your way around Walt Disney World.  It’s also a nice weekend choice for those who live within driving distance.  Depending on where you’re coming from, sometimes the airfare is exorbitant and would almost seem wasteful for a short trip.

Having a park hopper is a great idea for a shorter trip, especially if you know you’ll want to hit all four parks during the weekend.  For first timers, if a long weekend is your only option, it can be done, but it will be a crammed, tiring trip if you’re looking to get the most out of your vacation.

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Get Park Wise: If you visit Walt Disney World often, consider coinciding your long weekend stay with special events.  I recently had guests visit during Food and Wine Fest during a holiday weekend, and they had a great time eating and drinking their way around the World Showcase.  All other parks were just a bonus.

Double Digits

This seems to be a trend among international visitors for a few reasons.  Again, just getting to Florida can be so costly that travelers want to get the most bang for their buck and stretch their vacation time.  While Disney is often “home base,” guests also often visit other area attractions which requires longer stays.  A 10+ day stay is also perfect for leisurely travelers who don’t necessarily want to be at the parks all day but want to experience a lot of what they have to offer.  Staying longer also gives you the opportunity to try out other activities such as the water parks, Disney Quest, resort recreation, etc.

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We’ve done double digits trips, and while the days are nice and relaxed, it is a lot of time living in close quarters and out of your suitcase.  We’ll definitely do it again, but it’s something to think about, especially if you’re traveling with extended family or friends you’re not used to being so close with 24/7.

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How long do you stay at Walt Disney World and why?