Destination Guide: Walt Disney World
A Disney vacation can be the trip of a lifetime. Here’s how to navigate the parks and stay on Plan.
Open since 1971, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida is a memory-making getaway for kids, parents, even couples who want to marry in a star-dusted Fairy Tale Wedding. It has the magic of Cinderella and Snow White with Buzz Lightyear and The Haunted Mansion thrown in for thrills. It has the old-time attractions plus new ones to love.
It’s fair to say that you can’t duplicate a Disney experience anywhere else, which is why WDW draws such huge crowds. But that doesn’t make a WDW visit a once-in-a-lifetime excuse to blow your healthful eating efforts. We’ve found great ways for you to enjoy ever minute of your Disney vacation with Mickey and friends while keeping an eye on your Weight Watchers goals.
Managing the maze
While sugar-dusted churros and oversize turkey legs certainly rank among WDW's most memorable food offering, the park has stepped up to the plate with fresher, lighter choices that will leave you feeling satisfied, not deprived. In the Magic Kingdom, for example, you can sidestep the hot fudge sundae at Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies and grab a strawberry yogurt at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café.
And there are more ways to burn calories during your visit than by standing in line for a ride or lifting a fork at a buffet. WDW also offers plenty of opportunities to stay fit. For starters, on what other family-friendly vacation would you be walking all day? The resorts also offer fitness centers, open 24/7; inquire when you call to book your package (or visit
and check under Things to Do/Recreation). If you prefer to be outdoors in the toasty Florida sun, consider staying at a resort like the Caribbean Beach, where you can bike, walk or run around Barefoot Bay, or the Swan, which has a lap pool.
If you plan it right--and have someone else watch the kids for a couple of hours—you can even build in other sports, from golf to waterskiing. Go ahead, take the plunge. And work the option that works for you, whether that means luxurious, at a resort with a spa, or rustic, in your RV.
Managing your time
The park is particularly abuzz at Christmas, Easter, summer and other school breaks. You’ll have a calmer experience if you avoid those windows and probably spend 50 percent less time waiting on lines. Other timesaving tips as you plan your trip:
- Weekends are popular with families who live in the Orlando area. Monday through Wednesday tends to be quieter.
- Flights and hotels fill up during peak times. If you’re really in a pinch, check Vacation Rentals by Owner at www.vrbo.com and search Disney World, to find places nearby. Some homeowners are willing to negotiate rates if they have vacancies and not much time left to book them. The least crowded times to visit WDW are usually mid-January through early February; late April through late May; and fall (except Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks).
- If you do choose a busy time to go, a free Fastpass will ease endless waiting. Pop it into the machine near a popular attraction—such as Space Mountain or Peter Pan’s Flight—and get a piece of paper marked with a time to return. Then take the express lane when you come back. (FP time slots go fast, so check in early morning at attractions you really don’t want to miss.)
- Orlando offers other great finds, too, besides Disney. You might want to weave in a side trip to Universal Orlando Resort (home of all things Harry Potter) or SeaWorld Orlando.