You Can Avoid These
Planning is the big enchilada in making your Walt Disney World visit an enjoyable vacation. It’s true, without it you may find yourself standing in the middle of the resort amazed at the scope and size of Walt Disney World not knowing where to go next while other guests pushing by you on every side know where to go and what they want to do. Failure to plan is the worst mistake you can make. Knowledge gives you the power to turn your WDW vacation into an extremely memorable vacation rather than an expensive, upsetting, disappointment for your entire party. Even some guests willing to do some planning can make avoidable mistakes. We don’t want that to happen to you, so read on.
5. Thinking you can “do” 1 park per day: It is possible for you to cover all or most of a park, such as Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in one day, including eating meals, with careful planning. You will need more than one day to experience all of Magic Kingdom and also Epcot. Knowing what FastPass+ is, and how to use it, can make a big impact on your day. Crowds will have an impact on your ability to move through the parks as well. Weather is also a factor. Check the forecast and come prepared. If it is raining the crowds in the parks will be smaller, but it also means if there is lightning in the area outdoor attractions are likely to close for safety issues.
You will want to be at the park at least 15 minutes prior to its opening time to make the best use of your time. Now, you need to get this FastPass+ concept down if you are going to use it wisely. To begin open an account on the MyDisneyExperience website and download the app to your smartphone. If you don’t have a smartphone you can still use the website to make your FP+ reservations. If you are staying in a WDW resort you will be given a MagicBand, custom ordered for free, and it will serve as your room key, room charge account, and hold your FP+ information. Link your purchased ticket to your MyDisneyExperience and you can make FP+ selections 60 days prior to your arrival date. If you are not staying on property you can still open a MDE account and enter your ticket information as soon as you have it.
If you would like to purchase a MagicBand they are available at Downtown Disney and inside each of the theme parks. You can link all these together yourself or ask for help at a MyMagic location inside the parks. You can change or make FastPass+ reservations at a FP+ kiosk which are placed around the theme parks for your convenience, or through the MDE app on your phone. FastPass+ is a reservation you make for a specific hour of time that you choose when you would like to experience an attraction in the parks. Each guest receives three FP+ reservations in one park, each day. You may make additional FP+ reservations after you use the first three. These additional FP+ can be in the same park you have been in or you can park hop and use them there. These additional FP+ are made at a FP+ kiosk only, then you experience that attraction, and you can make additional FP+, one at a time, after that until the park closes. Some attractions can be experienced in the morning, prior to the arrival of larger crowds, without need of any FP+. Reading our blog articles will help you determine which FP+ you want and learn about which ones are hardest to get.
The size and scope of Magic Kingdom requires at least two to three full days in order to see/do it all. Epcot is also worthy of three days. If you don’t want to see it all because you plan on coming back again, you may want to consider purchasing an Annual or Premium Annual Pass that is good for unlimited admission to Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Premium Annual Pass provides unlimited admission to the same parks and adds free golf at Oak Trails a walking 9-hole golf course, ESPN Center, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, DisneyQuest, special pins available for purchase, and free parking at the parks. The Passes also offer discounts on dining, resort stays and merchandise. If you will be visiting for at least 10 days in one year (365 days from first day of park admission) it is worth considering the Pass purchase.
4. Not having a realistic understanding of the costs involved in a Walt Disney World vacation: The first thing most people look at when beginning to plan their first Walt Disney World vacation is to look at the official website to see how much it would cost and if they can afford it. This is a good place to start! Take a look at any Specials going on for the time you will be visiting. Is there a package that suits your needs? Disney often puts discounts on the resort rooms and also packages that may include Disney Dining and/or Memory Maker. You can see photos, descriptions, and prices for every WDW resort so you can find a place that fits your ideal vacation resort and your financial parameters. I have always been able to find a great place to stay and one that did not cost so much we couldn’t afford to eat while we were there because that has become a very big part of the experience for us. My family has stayed at the Fort Wilderness Campground in a tent so we could afford the rest of our vacation costs. It was really fun and it is clean! I am glad our income grew along with us so we could stay at many different WDW resorts along the way. Visiting other resorts you think you may like to stay at in the future before you head home is a good way to see if that is the place at which you would like to plan your next Disney vacation.
Let’s talk about the food, because even though you are coming to theme parks, you have a whole world of eating available that is far above other parks. You can surf the Disney website looking at photos and descriptions of each restaurant, counter service, table service, even kiosks. You can even see the current menu along with the prices of most which means you could virtually plan what members of your party may enjoy eating and the costs for that meal. Please make sure there is something on each menu that everyone in your party would want to eat before making a reservation there. That is just disappointing to have one of your children look at you in tears asking you what you thought they would want to eat there. That pretty much ruins the evening. It is worth taking a glance at the menus beforehand. If you have special dietary needs Walt Disney World is one of the best places to eat as they have chefs trained to offer you choices and even kiosks with specialty items. The chef at a table service restaurant will come out and explain which dishes meet your requirements.
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3. Not understanding the perks of staying on Disney property vs. off property savings: Choosing to stay at a Walt Disney World resort brings many perks along with an immersion in Disney theming. Guests who fly into the Orlando International Airport can opt to receive free bus transportation from the airport directly to their resort and then back to the airport avoiding the need and costs involved with renting a car or taking a taxi. They can then transport themselves around the resort by the use of Disney buses or boats avoiding traffic and parking fees. If you enjoy the International Food & Wine Festival with a little over your usual intake you always have a ride “home” to your resort. WDW resort guests enjoy Extra Magic Hours where you gain admittance to a park early or it stays open later just for you to enjoy. You also have the opportunity to make dining reservations or FastPass+ reservations much earlier than non-resort guests. Only resort guests can choose a Disney Dining Plan so if the idea of having all your meals and snacks covered is appealing to you, then choose a Walt Disney World resort for your stay.
What could be the reason for staying off property when there are so many great reasons for staying in the WDW resort? Money. You can find many hotels nearby for a fraction of the cost and many even offer bus service a couple of times a day. A popular option for staying off-property is that large groups can see a substantial savings and even more room for their party. Vacation rental homes nearby that afford multiple master suites, theater rooms, full kitchens, their own swimming pool, etc. can be very appealing. If you want to make your own meals, as much as possible, then the vacation homes or all-suite hotels may be a better bargain for you. Keep in mind you will still have to travel to and park if driving yourself. Those parking fees can add up! If you don’t want Disney food you can walk or take a short drive to many, many restaurants from your off-property hotel, some of which are a bargain.
So it is a trade-off on which experience you want, and what you can afford.
2. Not planning on off-park days to enjoy the resort: Will you be wanting to spend more of your time at the parks, or more enjoying your resort? Even if you want to spend the majority of your time at the attractions, consider giving yourself some downtime during the hot afternoons, or at the end of the day. The pools in the area often remain open late at night, but without slides, etc. that add to the noise. The Disney resorts are so beautifully themed that you simply must walk around and see what is there. The pools match the theme of the hotel and often come with incredible slides or other water park features. They are each unique and special. The shops, the food courts, restaurants, lobbies, grounds, rooms all reflect the theming so choose one that interests you. If you purchased tickets that include a Disney water park you really need to fit that in because they are the best! Maybe you like to golf? Take at least a morning to get a round of golf in on these beautiful and challenging courses. There are many options on watercraft and water sports. Have you looked at the World Showcase Lagoon in Epcot thinking “I would love to fish here”? Well, you can! Would you like to go horseback riding? Then head over to Fort Wilderness Campground. If shopping is your thing then check out Downtown Disney for the best shops and entertainment venues. Try resort hopping to see what other Disney hotels have to offer and perhaps scope one out for your next WDW vacation! The point is, there is SO much to do at Walt Disney World that taking some time away from the parks to enjoy the rest of the resort is also a great option for you.
1. Not making reservations: Even the spontaneous guest needs to eat. It would be a shame to be surrounded by all these great restaurants and never enjoy one of them. Plan and make a reservation for at least one table service restaurant on each trip. You won’t be disappointed if you look through the information on dining and find a restaurant that has menu items that each of your party will enjoy. Other reservations that could be made are for special tours, reserving tee times or boat rentals, and of course, FastPass+. When making these plans it is essential that you do at least a minimal amount of research to make sure you are selecting what your party would really like to experience, not just what someone else tells you. If your party gets motion sickness easily, you will know not to get a FastPass+ time for the Mad Tea Party ride. If you have a little princess in your family whose whole vacation would be fulfilled if she were to meet a specific Disney princess, then you can make that happen for her through a FP+ reservation. A little research is good, but the more research and planning you do, will help you know which reservations to get, and just as importantly when and how to get them.
I hope that we have answered some of your planning questions with helpful information. You do not have to plan every minute to have a fulfilling vacation experience, but a little research will go a long way to set up some basics like reservations and choosing where to stay. Have a magical vacation!