When Does Your Walt Disney Vacation Really Begin?: Making the Most of Every Moment

by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Last modified 11-15-2012

Photo illustrating Walt Disney World - Traveling

When does your Walt Disney World vacation REALLY begin?

Now surely, if ever there was one, that's got to be a simple question… doesn't? Well, yes, and no.

Magic Kingdom - Cinderella's Castle photo
Magic Kingdom - Cinderella's Castle

The castle, with the Partners statue in shot.

The answer is always going to depend on you as an individual, and your perceptions. For some people the moment you really start your Disney vacation is passing underneath those gates, as you enter Walt Disney World. Others will say that they're not really at Disney until they've seen the castle. But what about those of us with slightly longer journeys to even get there? There are so many points at which I could truly say, "That's when my Disney vacation truly starts." There are no right or wrong answers, but these ten points may give you some fun food for thought.

Point 1: Leaving the house Now you could argue that the second you leave the house, and start your journey to Disney, that's when your vacation begins. It's at that point that everything (hopefully!) is packed, and you're off, leaving your cares and the real world behind you. However, if you’ve got a long journey ahead of you, perhaps hours of driving or flying, it may not really feel as if your vacation has started.

Point 2: Arriving at the airport Now, if you're flying, another point where you could say your vacation starts is when you get to the airport. The worry about getting there on time, and whether you're going to make your flight (surely, we're not the only ones who think like this?!) are gone from your mind. Now you can concentrate on the flight ahead of you, and the destination you're heading to. However, there’s still check-in, unless you've done it already online, checking in your bags, if you have them with you, and the dreaded clearing of security to do yet before you get on your plane.

Point 3: Getting on the plane So now, having ensured that you're not a security risk, and all your bags are (hopefully!) safely on your flight, you’re on board. You can relax, and feel like you're really starting your Disney vacation. Well, yes, and no! Of course, there could still be delays. There's nothing worse than sitting on the tarmac, waiting for the go ahead to take off, knowing that your precious Disney time is ticking away.

Point 4: Take-off Once you get to take-off, perhaps that’s the point where you really emerge into your Disney bubble. Now you're in the air, and you're on your way, but of course, you still have a few hours' travel time to get to Disney. In our case, it's nine and-a-half hours, which is essentially a full working day, which can be quite depressing at the start of the flight, knowing you have all that time still ahead of you.

Point 5: Landing So what about landing? Now you're in Florida, you’re in Orlando. You can almost taste the Disney magic! Of course, there’s still the taxiing to your gate, getting off the plane, getting your luggage, and for us poor international travellers, we still need to officially be allowed into the country!

Point 6: Leaving the airport In which case, how about once you get through all of those phases, and are finally outside Orlando International or Sanford International Airport? I know that, for us, the second the doors open to the outside world, and we felt the heat, we know we've arrived! Usually, as we tend to visit in the winter season, it’s a shock to the system, but if we've left behind exceptionally cold weather, it’s a pleasant shock too! But, you do still have to actually reach Disney.

Point 7: Passing under those Walt Disney World gates Aah... the moment that so many of us wait for, and dream about. You pass underneath those familiar arches, take a deep sigh, and you're back in the Disney bubble, into a magical land, where nothing from reality can trouble you. This is surely where your vacation starts? Well, as you might have guessed by now.... yes and no! You still have to get to your resort, and while it can be a fast process if you have a rental car, or a town car service, if you’re on Disney’s Magical Express, you may have other stops to make first before you get to your resort.

Point 8: Arriving at your resort Now you’re finally there. Not only are you on Disney property, but you’re actually at your resort, waiting to check in, so that’s surely the point at which your Disney vacation begins, isn’t it? On the flip side, you’re not yet in your room, and you’re not yet in a Disney park, which brings me to...

Point 9: Getting into your room Once you step into the room that’s going to be your party’s home for however many nights you're at Walt Disney World, suddenly you do get that "homey" feeling – well, at least we do, and I'm sure that's not just because we're Disney Vacation Club members, and are welcomed home. So that's it, surely? Well, there is just one more to cover...

Point 10: Entering a theme park Whichever your favorite is, for some people, a Disney vacation doesn’t truly start until they step foot into the parks. It could be that glimpse of the castle for the first time, or seeing the Tree of Life or Spaceship Earth, but this is what we all come to Disney for, after all.

Of course, for those of you who drive to Disney, there may well be similar points along your journey, where you pass the next hurdle, and are that little bit closer to your destination. It may be a state line, or it may be the end of a day’s drive or waking up the next morning, ready to start all over again. If you’re taking the Auto Train, a lot of the same points from flying can be applied, from boarding the train, to actually leaving, to arriving.

So which of those points do you feel is when your Disney vacation truly starts? I think, if I’m honest, I’m a traditionalist – it’s point 7 for me, as that’s when we enter the Disney bubble, and our vacation is finally underway, after all the stress of getting there.

Walt Disney World - signs photo
Walt Disney World - signs

Arriving at Walt Disney World, the sign that tells you you've made it to the magic!

About the Author:
Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!

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Reader Comments:

When we step off the plane, and go on the train ride to the luggage side of the airport,and take a deep breath,we are THERE!!!!

For my kids, it's those purple gates near DTD, they love that moment,and they're not little kids, they're "old" kids!:p They like stay within the purple gates till we HAVE to leave again......

     hsmama on November 16, 2012 @ 8:35 am
If we're driving, vacation starts as soon as we are in the vehicle and the voice on the GPS says "proceed to highlighted route."

If we are flying (which we consider to be a chore), vacation begins when we receive our check-in packet at the desk of our resort.

     DVCjulie09 on November 16, 2012 @ 12:26 pm
The MOMENT we are out the front door in California, we are on our vacation. Every minute from that point until we arrive at EPCOT (our favorite) is spent discussing what we want to do in all 4 parks.

And the vacation does not end until we show the pictures to the family back home!

     MaterK on November 20, 2012 @ 10:29 pm
I like to stretch it out as long as possible. The whole planning stage starts our vacation. I love the planning partsmiley for :):

     Simmonsx6 on December 6, 2012 @ 12:14 pm
Cost is a big factor in deciding whether or not you want to make a trip to Florida to experience Disney World. I have personally spent a whole lot of money traveling there, and did not feel at any time that I wasted my money. Vacations to Disney World are not cheap. You can vacation many other places for a lot less money. Finding out exactly what a trip would cost you is an important first move. A natural 2nd move would be to start saving, and pick a date that fits in with your savings plan. I will start saving money and then will make a trip . I want to enjoy the wonderful experience & wants to have a memorable scrapbook.

get the ocala hotel deals

     bobmike on January 25, 2013 @ 5:23 am
For me it begins the night before we leave the house. (Which coming from the UK or France is usually two nights before we actually fly out). We pack the car then go out for our first dinner of the holiday at home. When I take that first sip of the first glass of wine that is me on holiday.

     Thomhazel on January 25, 2013 @ 6:31 am
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Updated 11-15-2012 - Article #872 

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