Magic Kingdom, just one of the 4 major theme parks at Walt Disney World, sees over 20 million visitors annually. It is indeed a “Magical” place and clearly worth the hype! However, a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida can be a bit overwhelming. There is so much pre-planning involved and when you’ve never been, how is one to know what to do? This blog entry is for you - newbies!
Numbered for flow, but in no particular order, other than the first one. Which is...
Use a Travel Agent! Perhaps your friend has been a dozen times and says they will help you, and yes, they know you better than we do. However, we also know more about the behind the scenes, have access to a special Travel Agent dedicated phone line to Disney. We also have the advantage of the “collective” experience of hundreds of clients of all family sizes, make-ups, friend groups and more. We know how to help with everything from reserving you a stroller from an outside company or make Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservations, to helping with a Disability Access Pass and everything in between. As I am always reminding, our service is free, costing you nothing, and you get additional knowledge and information than you wouldn’t from booking on your own.
Advanced Planning is to your advantage. Table Service dining reservations are accepted 180 days before the date of travel. Many of the most popular locations will fill up at that time. It helps to know when you want to travel and book it at least 6 months ahead of time. Fast Passes can be arranged 60 days in advance of travel. That is not to say you can’t have an amazing trip booking closer than this. It is just a bit more stressful to arrange the plans you want, or you may have to wait in lines that you could have used a Fast Pass to bypass with advanced planning. Again, we are here to help you decide where you want to eat 6 months from your travel date and which attractions you will want to fast pass 2 months before you even arrive!
Consider adding Travel Insurance to your vacation plans. Things happen. People get hurt, a loved one passes on, and sometimes vacations have to be canceled. It can be smart to protect your investment with travel insurance. Ask us for more details when booking.
Get to know your My Disney Experience Account. This website and phone app is your key to a smooth trip. It contains all of your reservations, tickets, resort information and maps. It shows you current standby wait times for attractions at all parks. It allows you to book additional Fast Passes after you use your first 3. It allows you to order Quick Service food and avoid lines. It will tell you when the next bus is scheduled to arrive at your location. For your trip, it is your best friend!
Walt Disney World requires a LOT of walking! I’m talking up to 24,000 steps per day (according to my FitBit). Comfort, in these conditions, is so much more important than fashion. Pack well broken-in shoes that you know will see you through the day without foot pain or blisters. And take breaks when you need them to give your feet a rest.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Even Florida can get cold in the winter. Hurricane season is from June to November. And summer is H-O-T HOT! It’s good to stay on top of the forecast to comfortably pack for your vacation. Along these lines, please pack rain gear. You may get lucky and it won’t rain, but odds are against it. Disney sells ponchos for an inflated price at the first sight of raindrops. It’s better for your wallet if you are prepared and bring your own.
Know and understand that the Free Disney transportation provided throughout the property takes time. Expect to wait at least 10 minutes (up to 20) in the bus queue. Plan to spend at least 20 minutes on the bus when it arrives. Expect at least 15 minutes (longer at busier times) to get though security and the ticket gates. That’s about an hour already. There is a reason Disney tells you to allow 90 minutes for travel if you have a Dining reservation. It’s best to prepare yourself and anxious children that you WILL get there. Pack a distraction. A phone app or a small toy goes a long way to ease the instinct to whine. Also note: often times it is standing room only on the bus. If you want a seat, you may have to wait for the next bus to arrive. I recommend just standing if you are able. It’s not that bad. All resorts now have a screen with next bus arrival times which is very helpful in knowing what to expect in terms of waiting.
There is a lot of Hurry Up and Wait. In addition to the waiting for traveling to and from parks, there is a lot of in park waiting as well. Even with a fast pass, expect at least 10-15 minutes before you actually experience an attraction. If you don’t have a fast pass, standby lines can be long - over an hour or more. Many lines are air conditioned and have some sort of built in entertainment, but waiting is still waiting. Settle in, enjoy the scenery and go with the flow! Bringing small distractions for children can make waiting for them much easier. Phones apps, a coloring pad, or enjoying a snack in line are just a few suggestions.
Bring snacks. You are permitted to bring snacks into Disney Parks. Those little bags of Goldfish crackers or fruit snacks can go a long way in keeping children content until meal time. Pack them in your park backpack, additional suggestions described in this post: http://uniglobeblog.wixsite.com/wendy/single-post/2016/10/13/Packing-your-Park-Backpack
Utilize Mobile Ordering. This is on your My Disney Experience account and allows you to order food from Quick Service locations without waiting in line. Just order from the app- you could be clear across the park and in line for an attraction- then click when you arrive at the restaurant, and they will tell you when to go to the pick-up window. Easy Peasy and one less wait in your day! Details in this post: http://uniglobeblog.wixsite.com/wendy/single-post/2018/02/09/All-About-Mobile-Ordering
Shop early in your trip and ship the goods to your resort for free. While you can find general Walt Disney World products EVERYWHERE in all parks and resorts, a lot of merchandise is location specific, especially for the attractions. For example, if you see a shirt you really like at the Tower of Terror gift shop, you won’t encounter it elsewhere. And you won’t find any safari merchandise outside of Animal Kingdom or Animal Kingdom Lodge. But no sense in lugging your purchases around the park all day. Instead, you can use their free resort delivery option, so long as you still have a day of your trip left. The day after purchase, you can pick it up from your resort gift shop. Or for same day pickup, you can have your purchases sent to the Package Pick Up area at the front of each park (and a back location at EPCOT). Just notify the cast member at the time of purchase which option you would like to do! Note: consumables cannot be sent to the resort.
You won’t see everything and that’s OK. With so much to see and do over so much area, you are bound to miss something. There aren’t enough hours in a week to do it all. In addition, some attractions are just less thrilling/interesting than others. Many attractions are dated and hold nostalgia as an original attraction but may mean nothing to you. In other words, some attractions are just “OK”. Work with your travel agent and friends to know what would be a “MUST DO” for your family and focus on those. Anything beyond is a bonus!
Disney Springs is NOT a “MUST DO”. It’s nice, mind you, but essentially it’s glorified higher end retail shopping. There are nice sights and opportunities- dining galore, Goofy’s candy shop, Lego Sculptures, to name just a few. But in my opinion, you shouldn’t feel like you HAVE to squeeze it in to your vacation. If you are there for an extended time, sure! Go enjoy. But don’t stress over it.
Enjoy the Freebies. Disney offers many additional services and entertainment. Use them! For example- ask for 1st Visit buttons and wear them. Talk to Cast Members. Anything you need to know they have the answer to and if they don’t, they will find out. They want you to have a wonderful time and will sometimes go out of their way for 1st timers. Photopass is a free service and a great way to have your entire party included in photos throughout the parks (and they will even take pictures with your camera/phone). Rider swap will allow you to experience attractions without additional wait if you have a small child unable to ride. Complimentary ice water is available at any Quick Service location. Stickers are often available at many locations. Just ask!
Stay as Long as you are Able. Tickets go down in price the longer you are there. A 3-day ticket (at time of publishing) costs $305, where a 7-day ticket is $415. A longer trip can cost less than trying to do 2 separate trips over time - allowing you to experience more for less!
Ask Questions. When you book through UNIGLOBE Ohio Valley Travel, we help you every step of the way and answer any question you can imagine. I typically visit Disney World at least twice a year to stay on top of all the new happenings. Want a personal review of a Table Service location? We have them. Not sure which tier resort you want? We know the differences between them as well as the pros and cons. Want a room location request? We help with that and arrange it for you. Not sure if your child would like the new Slinky Dog Dash attraction? I’ll describe it to you in every detail. We are here to help with every piece and detail of your vacation.
So there you have it! My beginners guide to the most important “Need to Knows” for a successful 1st visit. I look forward to helping you plan your next magical Disney vacation!