When I am telling people about the 6 week USA adventure we enjoyed last year they are often perplexed by the fact we spent as many nights at Disneyworld as we did. Disneyland in Anaheim is generally the place Australians are more familiar with and I think it is safe to say that if you spent as many nights ay Disneyland as we did at Disneyworld you would definitely have done everything.
Eight nights at Disneyworld is not enough time to do everything.
Disneyworld is made up of 4 parks plus 2 water parks and the downtown Disney area that is open to the public. We did not include the waterparks in our magic your way package, and that was a good thing. We barely had time to swim in the pool at our resort, we would not have had time to spend in the water parks.
There are many many resorts to choose from at Disneyworld. We stayed at the Beachclub and I would choose to stay there or the Yachtclub or at one of the boardwalk resorts if we went back. They are central to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios meaning that you are less reliant on buses for the whole time you are there. Getting between parks during busy times around opening and closing can be a bit of a slow process.
The Animal Kingdom resort looks fabulous but it puts you far away from the rest of the parks and there are no night time shows inside the Animal Kingdom so you would end up finding yourself travelling much more than by staying there than at one of the more central resorts.
The budget all-star resorts have been given thumbs up by both a friend who stayed at one and an old school friend who was lucky enough to work there for a year.
Include food in your package. You are highly unlikely to be going anywhere else to eat and it is cheaper and infinitely more convenient to have it prepaid and included. Make sure you book some of your meals before you go.
There are some really nice restaurants (especially at Epcot and at Downtown Disney where you food package is still valid) and it's easier if character meals are prebooked. That said if you arrive at the start of a meal session it isn't all that difficult to get a table at a character meal.
Make good use of the fast pass system and plan your days.
Once you are at Disneyworld it is hard to get out. We wanted to spend a day at Universal studios. That involved hiring a car, just getting to the car hire place to pick it up was tricky. It is also expensive. Between car hire and the park tickets for Universal and paying for the days' food it cost us the best part of an extra $1000 which would have paid for another couple of days park entry, accommodation and food at Disneyworld.
It's sliding scale, the longer you stay the cheaper it is per day.
If you are planning on doing some shopping for clothes do that first so you don't need to pack more than you need. Stay outside the park near the outlets if you are going to be shopping in Orlando.
It's a 4-5 hour flight from LA to Orlando. We left Sydney around lunchtime which got us in to LA mid-morning. We then had a red eye flight from LA to Orlando. We checked ourselves in to the Holiday Inn express and tucked ourselves into bed for the afternoon before heading back to the airport. That was a sensible move, next time I would prebook the accommodation so we knew where we were going. You do actually pay for the room overnight even though you are just there during the day. The airport hotels don't seem to do day rates.
April and October seem to be the cheapest times to stay at Disneyworld. I'm told you are best to avoid it at Christmas when it is crowded and during summer when it is really hot and crowded. Ideally it's best to visit before the American school year finishes but after Spring Break or after school has gone back in August but before Thanksgiving. We were there at the beginning of May and the heat some days even managed to affect us, seasoned hot weather dwellers that we are :)
I can't tell you how highly I rate a family trip to Disneyworld and I would take us all back there in a heartbeat if I could.