An Insider's Guide to Disney World

Be Smart About Summer

If you can't wait until the off-season, plan your trip for the first two weeks in June or the last two in August. This is the least crowded time during the warm-weather months.

Call the hotel directly, and ask about any discounts or special offers available. Use the local number and not the "800" reservation system: You can sometimes get a better deal this way, especially on last-minute bookings.

Stay for four nights and five days, at least. This is enough time to see all the parks and still have some downtime by the pool so you won't feel like you need a vacation when you get home.

Choose a Disney resort if possible. This makes it really convenient for families to go back and forth from the hotel to the parks. Even if you're on a budget, there's usually only a $20-a-day difference between Disney's value properties (Pop Century and the All-Star resorts) and an off-site hotel, where you'd probably have to spend that much on transportation and parking.

See it from the top. For an amazing view of the Magic Kingdom's fireworks, make a reservation (407-939-3463) at the California Grill, which is located on top of Disney's Contemporary Resort, for 30 minutes before the start of the show. Your kids will be blown away by the display -- and you won't have to fight the crowds inside the park.

-- Kim Wright Wiley, author of the Walt Disney World with Kids travel guides

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