So you’ve decided to go to Walt Disney World – Congratulations!! Now that you’ve made the toughest (or easiest) decision, let me help you out with some tips to make the rest of your planning smoother…
1. Plan, but don’t overplan. Yes, I know this sounds silly, but run with me!
2. Have a serious think and talk with your loved ones about how long you need. When planning, I have always gone for at least 1 day per park (plus extra if you’re gonna want to explore Orlando outside of Disney). When you think about this, seasonal events should be thought about and taken into account.
3. Next is hotels – does theming matter, is there a park you want to be closer to? All the resorts are grouped together based on what Park or area they’re closest too, for ease of booking. For me, I choose based on theming and amenities – with the Disney transportation system only getting better, closeness to a park doesn’t fuss me as much.
4. Coming back to the plan, but don’t overplan, when you’re working out how many days to spend there, I like to map out where I’ll be each day (yes, I’m an organiser haha!) that way I can work out what’s important for me to do and if I need to book anything for it. Think FastPasses or ADR’s – Advance Dining Reservations.
5. For Walt Disney World, I would recommend buying tickets and booking hotels as far in advance as you can. That way you can utilise all the pre-holiday perks to help you book.
6. FastPasses help you “skip the line” on rides. They can be booked 60days in advance if you have a hotel and ticket reservation and 30days if you only have the tickets. The FastPass system can be quite complicated, but essentially you get three for each calendar day and there are different “tiers”. Which is to stop people from booking the one big ticket ride three different times during the day. When you go to book, you’ll be able to choose what time you want it to be at. Once you’ve used all three for the day, you can then go and book more for later on in the day.
7. ADR’s, or Advance Dining Reservations, are incredibly important to be aware of if you are keen to get a reservation at a particular restaurant. Bookings open 180days early – from the first day of your trip!
8. On dining, book in your restaurants ASAP so you can get the ones you want – some are notorious for booking out completely within one or two days – I’m looking at you Chef Mickey’s, Ohana and Cinderella’s Table!
9. If you’re visiting WDW for a special occasion, include it in your booking notes and drop past Guest Services to get a badge as well – you never know what Disney Magic may come your way!
10. At least one night, stay till the very end – 30mins after closing, Cinderella’s Castle does a “Kiss Goodnight” to those still in the park. Plus, the shops are open an hour after the park closes, so you don’t have to lug around your bags all day!
11. Also, if you get in line right before close, you can stay there. For example, if you get in a 90min standby line at 10.59pm, you’ll be walking off it to an empty park
12. All the Parks and Resort areas have free wifi!
13. On that, remember to pack (and charge!) portable chargers, it’s very easy to chew through your battery scrolling on facebook while waiting in line for a ride/parade/fireworks, or uploading all your snaps to social media!
14. Ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover at night – the neon lights of Tomorrowland look even better from above.
15. Bell services are amazing if you utilise them well – not only can they hold your luggage for you, but they’ll also transport it over to other Disney hotels, as long as you know what area you’re staying in.
16. Kids of all ages go crazy for “Hidden Mickey’s”. They are literally Mickey heads hidden around the parks, hotels, really anywhere Disney, hidden there by Disney Imagineers. There are books detailing where to find them, but make a game of it when the kids are getting restless.
17. Be creative with your WDW pictures – a picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle is obviously a must do, but think outside the box. In Magic Kingdom, I really like the side of the castle at night where the water reflects off the water. World Showcase has some smaller nooks and crannys where you could convince your family that you’re in another country! And for Hollywood Studios, I love Sunset Boulevard as the crowds are thinning out as it has a gorgeous feel to it with the palm trees and neon lights.
18. Get the “My Disney Experience” App on your device. It literally has everything for your holiday on it. You can view any resort and dining bookings, your Fastpass selections and any PhotoPass pics you get taken.
19. Ask for Ketchup at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. Trust me.
20. You can set the alarm so Mickey will call you to wake up.
21. You can also arrange to have Mickey give your little ones a call to tell them they’re going to Walt Disney World for a holiday!
22. If you’ve set your booking up with a credit card linked, there is no need to formally check out – anything owed will automatically be deducted and you can be on your way.
23. If you want a different view point for Illuminations at Epcot is to book at table to La Hecienda (or others on the edge of the lake) for 30mins before the show starts. Be prepared to arrive early and request a window table – you may have to wait for it, but the view will be worth it!
24. When you purchase anything in the shops in the parks, you can get it delivered to your Disney hotel free of charge.
25. If you want to be able to see the Magic Kingdom before opening hours, book into the Crystal Palace for breakfast before 9am and you can wander through an empty Main St USA.
26. You’ll receive a Magic Band either in the mail (US residents only) or when you check in to your hotel. Your Magic Band is your most essential item for a stay – it is your room key and and linked to your My Disney Experience – so FastPasses, PhotoPass pictures and Dining Reservations.
27. To make your stay more seamless, you’ll always receive a map of your resort when you check in – take a picture of it, so then you don’t need to carry it around all the time.
28. If you have little kids that can’t or won’t ride a ride, you can participate in the Rider Switch Program. Basically, you enter the ride as per normal, but tell the cast member you want to do the Rider Switch and they will give you a pass for it (works like a FastPass), you ride and enjoy it, give your partner the pass and take your little one, they jump in the Fastpass line and have fun!
29. Disney has started to rollout Mobile Food ordering – place your order on the My Disney Experience App and then head to the marked window to pick your food up.
30. Some attractions have a single rider line. The perks being that you can get on a lot quicker than regular standby – sometimes by up to half the time! But you also run the risk of most likely being split up from the rest of your party.
31. Halloween and Christmas are incredibly popular times due to the parks being completely decked out in holiday decorations, so be prepared for crowds!
32. The special holiday parties can be very worthwhile if you make the most of the additional extras. Instead of doing rides (even though there will be little wait for them!), I would be eating seasonal snacks, trick or treating on Halloween, seasonal character meets and enjoying the fireworks and parades.
33. Once you’re in line and checked in for your 3rd Fastpass of the day, open up the MDE app and get your 4th!
34. If you’re planning on using the Magical Express from the airport, and want to leave later or your party are arriving on multiple flights, book the DME for the latest flight number, not your own individual flight numbers.
35. If you’re using the DME, don’t rely on getting to your resort by a certain time – your stop might be the last one for your bus loop. If you’re in a rush, consider Uber or a taxi – it’s not free, but depends on how desperate you are to get there.
36. Don’t try to be a hero and push through the day without a rest – you’ll burn out quickly and won’t make it through your trip! Instead, go early and have a mid-afternoon rest – go back to your hotel and nap or go in the pool, then head back afterwards.
37. Use the MDE App to find characters – my favourite encounter is with Gaston!
38. Do your research into the characters you’re gonna meet – it will make your interactions much more interesting if you can say something about their character or movie.
39. There is a lot of negative feedback on the bus system at WDW. I, however, can overlook all of it’s faults being an international visitor. If you’re a local visitor, you may be able to justify the carparking costs, but the cost of hiring a car on top of those are factors in us not having issues with the bus system – plus they’re free! I just wish they would go between resorts…