The house of mouse

How to Take a Disney Vacation from Seattle

The big question: Disneyland or Disney World, California or Florida?

By Allison Williams November 4, 2022

Bedazzled mouse ears are basically a requirement at Walt Disney World.

Disney is not just a company or a film studio. Nor is it a theme park, or even six theme parks around the world—Disney is an iconic experience and a way of life for the people that love it. Which means that planning a Disney vacation is a world unto itself. To make sense of what Seattleites, in particular, should know about making the big Mouse trek, we turned to those who would know: family travel bloggers.

"It's one of the most iconic family destinations," says Marcie Wirtz Cheung, who runs a blog called Marcie in Mommyland from Seattle. She visits both Anaheim's Disneyland and Orlando's Walt Disney World regularly—multiple times a year, pre-pandemic—and has even been to Disneyland Paris.

Cheung states the obvious: Choosing between Land and World from Seattle is largely about how much time and money you have. California can be done in a weekend (flights around two hours, 40 minutes), while Florida is more like a week (five and a half hours in a plane). Those hours are meaningful when it comes to carting around kids—but it's not the only difference.

"Disneyland is very chill, people are friendly and happy," says Cheung. She calls it "that fake LA nice," but notes that low-key West Coasters and first-timers might have an easier time with the smaller theme park (about 500 acres over two parks, compared to Walt Disney World's 27,520 acres with four main parks). Not only are the California pair of Disneyland and California Adventure walkably close, but non-branded hotels are just as close to the theme park, making those cheaper alternatives an easy option. 

"Disneyland is like a training session for Walt Disney World," says Becca Robins, who blogs about Disneyland at This Crazy Adventure Called Life. She likes the maneuverability of California's park, not requiring monorails and gondolas and boats to get around. She notes that hotels within walking distance of Disneyland are especially helpful; the Boise resident goes there about once a month.

The larger Florida destination has "an East Coast vibe," according to Cheung, and everything is more intense. It may take a half hour of driving to go from Cinderella's castle to the Animal Kingdom. Not only can it cost more to take in the whole multi-park experience, but that cost can feed vacation stress. "More crying kids, and I heard so many parents say 'We paid so much money, stop crying,'" at Disney World, says Cheung.

Still, notes Spokane's Tammilee Tillison, who blogs at Tammilee Tips, that larger expanse in Orlando really delivers the immersive Disney experience people are looking for, from hotels to shopping centers to Cirque du Soleil shows: "Being able to visit multiple parks during your vacation is a great way to feel like you are getting more for your money."

Disney does not release all its visitation info, but website Disney News gathers what's available to estimate that Disneyland got more than 28 million visitors in 2019, compared to more than 60 million for Disney World. Orlando is definitely the behemoth, and there are also Disney cruises leaving nearby for the "theme park, but floating" experience.

Though Cheung visits both with her two young children, she holds special affection for California's Disneyland. She knows one Seattle family that turned it into a day trip right before school began: an early flight out of Sea-Tac, a full day at the park, and then one of the last flights back that night. She was impressed.

There are a billion blogs out there about the ins and outs, secrets and tricks to navigating the Disney parks, but Cheung notes one secret weapon wielded by Seattle visitors: comfort in the rain. A few pairs of rain boots can open up access to a less crowded day in the park. Plus, rain in California is almost always warmer than the Pacific Northwest version, and "we don't melt," she says.

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