Visiting Disney for the first time is amazing, but what keeps the Walt Disney Company in business are the people that keep coming back again and again because that first time was so great. For those first-timers, there’s a lot to know about your Disney vacation that makes it different from any other. I recently went to Disney with friends for their first time. I realized there were so many things I knew about Disney that I needed to share with them, in order to make their day ten times smoother! Here are ten pieces of helpful information for people who are visiting Walt Disney World for the first time in forever. (Yes, yes that was a Frozen reference.)
10) Magic Bands: What are they?
The Magic Band is a Disney innovation that puts your room key, credit card, park ticket, and FastPass all together in your very own bracelet. Fancy, huh? The Walt Disney Company has now made it possible for you to essentially walk around the park with nothing but your Magic Band. No paper tickets, backpack, or wallets necessary. Instead of having to take out your park ticket or wallet each time you want to get a FastPass or pay for food or souvenirs, now you can just scan your Magic Band. These little beauties are customized by color and you can even purchase charms to personalize them.
9) Fast Passes: What are they?
Fast Passes are wonderful and beautiful things. Don’t want to wait in line for Toy Story Mania for two hours? You don’t have to! Prior to your vacation, or in the parks, use the My Disney Experience App or a Fast Pass kiosk to book up to three Fast Passes each day for a single park. Fast Passes will “save your spot” in line while you are in the parks. When it comes time for your Fast Pass for the ride, show, or parade of your choice, you just go up to the Fast Pass entrance of the attraction and scan your ticket or Magic Band. Your wait will be significantly lower than those waiting in the Stand-by line.
8) What’s worth a Fast Pass?
Many rides that exist in Walt Disney World do not require Fast Passes to get on them quickly. Newer rides and popular attractions are what you want to use those precious three initial Fast Passes selections on per day. Once you’ve used your 3rd Fast Pass, connect to your My Disney Experience App or visit a Fast Pass kiosk to obtain a 4th Fast Pass and so on until the park closes. Older, less popular attractions usually require little to no wait. An easy way to decipher between the two is to do some simple online research or to ask a Disney cast member for help at the in-park Fast Pass kiosk.
7) Disney Dining Plan: What is it?
The Disney Dining Plan is a structured set of meals with a certain amount of snacks, beverages, and food items you can purchase per person, each day. The plan varies from all quick service meals – Quick Service Dining, Regular Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Unless your family is full of big eaters, I recommend not going with the Disney Dining Plan. You don’t get money back for the food you do not purchase, so if you think you would rather go with the a la carte option of only paying for what you actually will eat, I would go that route. The Disney Dining Plan can also be confusing, so I suggest researching your specific plan before you buy it so you know exactly what you’re paying for.
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6) Photo Pass Service: What is it?
Disney’s Photo Pass Service is a free-to-use, in-park service that makes it easy for whole families and parties to have photos from their vacation without having to take them themselves. Cast Members around the park with cameras are called Photo Pass Photographers. These Cast Members can take your picture in front of the best views in Disney, including Cinderella’s Castle, the Epcot Ball, and the Tree of Life. They then give you a card that holds your pictures from your visit to Disney. When you arrive back at home, you can go online and see your pictures. You can then purchase these pictures in different sizes and formats to personalize your memories! Using the Photo Pass Service is especially wonderful is you decide to purchase Memory Maker – where all of these Photo Pass photos are yours for one set price.
5) Dining times:
My family learned this tip the first time we went back in 2004. A majority of park guests eat lunch at noon-1 pm and dinner from 5-7 pm, just based on habits from home. To avoid long lines and crowds at the quick service restaurants, I recommend not dining during those times. The amount of time you wait in line to get your food is quite long compared to your wait before or after these peak times of day. For a more efficient dining experience that will save time on vacation eat a early/late lunch and early/late dinner so you can spend more time soaking up the Disney magic rather than standing in line. No dining reservation or want to save even more time? Try the Mobile Food and Beverage App located on your My Disney Experience Account. This will allow you to order and pay for your food from your phone then let the quick service location know when you have arrived for pick up.
4) Stay onsite:
This tip can really make a difference in your vacation. Staying on Disney property versus staying offsite in the Orlando area can be a tough choice to make, but I definitely recommend staying onsite. Free transportation to the parks and Extra Magic Hours are just two of the many ways why staying on-property is worth it. Disney offers a wide range of hotels as well, so you can choose to stay at one that best fits your budget and preferences.
3) Disney’s Magical Express: What is it?
For Walt Disney World Resort guests who fly into MCO, Orlando’s International Airport, I highly recommend taking advantage of Disney’s magical express service. Instead of having to spend the time and money renting a car to drive from the airport to Walt Disney World, this service will chauffeur you by way of charter bus. Your luggage is even magically sent to your Walt Disney World resort room. It doesn’t get much better than that, right?
2) Everything is onsite:
In my non-Disney vacationing experience, I have noticed that all the amenities tend to be spread out. Disney is different. Everything you could possibly need can be found onsite, from restaurants and resorts, to gas stations and “pet hotels.” Whatever you can dream of, Disney has it. For specific inquiries, visit Guest Relations at the entrance of each park, or your resort concierge.
1) Let Disney do the driving:
One of my personal favorite perks of vacationing in the world of Disney is that once you park your car at your resort, you don’t need to get back in it until it’s time to drive home. As they say in Disney, “Let us do the driving!” Walt Disney World’s complementary transportation systems give you the choice of bus, boat, or monorail to get around to the parks, water parks, and resorts. There’s no need to spend more money on gas than you already do, so take advantage of this free Disney amenity!