Your Disney World Survival Guide

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Are you craving a Disney World trip survival guide from the pros? Wondering how you can make it through those long days in the Parks without crashing after day one? Lucky for you, we have the tips and tricks you need to make each Disney Park day great and make your vacation memorable.

If you are in the planning stages of your Disney theme Park vacation, this article is definitely for you!

Don’t Wing It

Family Walking

Credit: Disney

Preplanning details of your trip with the group before leaving home will make things run smoothly on your vacation. Besides, getting there is half the fun. Plan with your family, or travel crew, long before setting out for central Florida! Use the Disney app to browse attractions, restaurants, maps, and more to ensure your Disney experience is exactly what you are hoping for.

Talk about theme park¬†plans with your crew to hear what attractions are on the must-do list for each person.¬†Even having a loose Park plan will help pace your vacation and avoid hang-ups.¬†Trust us, you’ll be so glad to have a plan when you hit¬†Main Street¬†U.S.A. in the¬†Magic Kingdom¬†on the first day of vacation!¬†

Pack With Intention

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We know, we know this sounds silly, how hard could packing be? Let’s just say, you want to be sure that you are as prepared and comfortable¬†as possible for a¬†Disney vacation. Do some research before packing to ensure you have the best shoes for trekking¬†Disney‚Äôs¬†Animal Kingdom. Pack rain gear, sun protection, and the comfiest Park clothes possible. You don’t want blisters from uncomfortable shoes or your lack of a rain poncho to ruin a Park day.¬†

Walk-Up Table Service Dining Is Rarely A Thing


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Securing an advanced dining reservation for must-visit restaurants prior to the vacation is important.  If you even think you may be interested in trying out a Disney restaurant, go ahead and make a reservation in advance. There is no charge to cancel as long as you do so prior to the 24-window before your reservation. 

The few restaurants that do require upfront payment for booking like Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle and Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Polynesian Village Resort are nonrefundable.¬†¬†However, Guests will be clearly notified of the terms and conditions of reservations and the refund policy upon booking, so there are no surprise charges for canceling.

Rarely, a reservation might be available if you walk up. However, we don’t recommend walk-ups for a restaurant that is a must-do for your party.

Utilize the Experts for Trip Planning

App Screenshot

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There is no need to be overwhelmed planning your Disney vacation.  The Disney website, app, and even planning videos are available, so you can plan stress-free.  If you do have questions during the planning process, ask. Chat features on the website are a major help. You can send quick questions via chat without the need to disrupt your work day by sitting on the phone. When in doubt, hop on a chat with a Disney booking agent to ask questions. 

The website FAQs and Disney phone lines are available for Guests to get their questions answered efficiently. Do details about Lightning Lane, Park reservations, MagicBand,¬†Park Hopper, Disney Genie, and¬†early¬†theme park¬†entry¬†make your head spin? Consider contacting a Disney travel planning expert that can let you in on the lingo if you want to learn, or handle the planning if you’d rather not be involved.

Be sure to download my Disney experience app to use the mobile dining, access maps, see PhotoPass pictures and monitor ride wait times. No doubt, this app will be your best friend while visiting Walt Disney World. 

Disney Merchandise Needn’t Be Pricey.

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Disney souvenirs have a reputation for being expensive. While you certainly will see your fair share of expensive items at Disney Springs and in shops in Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom, there are practical and reasonably priced souvenirs for purchase in the Parks. Stationary, drinkware, reusable bags, Christmas ornaments, and small gourmet items like tea and coffees, are some of my favorite affordable Disney souvenirs that I actually enjoy using at home as I reflect on my magical Disney trip memories.

Staying on Property Might be Cheaper

Aerial View

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Similarly, Disney Resorts have a reputation for being the most expensive hotel option for Disney vacationers. Plenty of articles discuss the opportunity cost of staying off the property in regard to the lost Park time, parking fees, and stress. All those factors aside, take the time to price Disney lodging, you may be surprised at what you find and how the pricing stacks up to other nearby hotel options in the Orlando area. Even if the pricing at a Disney Value Resort and off-property Resort have you thinking off-property is the better choice price-wise — remember to factor in the daily cost of Disney Park parking, gas costs, and lost Park time.¬†

Break from the Parks = Morale Boost

Being able to easily and quickly take a break from the Parks is one of the top reasons I love vacationing at a¬†Disney Resort¬†hotel.¬†Walt¬†Disney¬†World is the Most Magical Place on Earth, but after a few days in the central Florida heat running on less sleep, your kids may forget that fact. Taking a day to enjoy the pool, sleep late, go to bed early, do some slow-paced shopping or hang out in the cool resort rooms is an option worth considering for families staying an extended amount of time at Walt¬†Disney¬†World.¬†You may find that the Parks feel extra magical after you’ve had a chance to take a break and recharge.

Kids Might Enjoy the Resort as Much as the Parks

Disney pool

Credit: Disney

Speaking of Disney World Resorts, there is a chance that your children may have just as much fun at your hotel as in the Parks.  With incredible themed pools, activity counselors that play with kids, game rooms, outdoor movies, bike rentals, and other recreation options available at spots like Port Orleans French Quarter, Pop Century Resort, or Fort Wilderness Resort, it should come as no surprise that kids will enjoy hanging out at your resort. The attention to detail at Disney Resorts ensures that time outside the Parks is just as magical for families.

Budgeting is Key

Avoid the trap of overspending by budgeting before your trip.¬†¬†Research the costs of food, activities, and souvenirs. This gives you a leg up, so your family can adjust spending expectations appropriately. You can absolutely plan and allocate enough money per day to enjoy¬†Walt¬†Disney¬†World¬†with no surprise costs.¬†A trick I love is buying Disney gift cards in the months leading up to the trip. Gift cards are a great way to put money in your “Disney vacation¬†bank” in the planning stages of your vacay and can help pay for dining or souvenir costs when you make it to Orlando.

If the kids have earned cash to spend on souvenirs, help them budget their money to shop within the Parks. They’ll feel empowered and excited to spend their money (especially if it’s loaded onto a cool character-laden Disney gift card) and perhaps will be less likely to ask for items from each gift shop you pass.

Early Theme Park Entry is the Key to Shorter Waits and Cooler Temperatures

Take advantage of the early Park entry if it’s available.¬†During these hours, the Park is open exclusively to¬†Disney Resort Guests before the general Park¬†opening, or after the general Park closing.¬†¬†Most of the year, there are early entry options and late closing options (also called extra magic hours) in two different Parks daily.¬†Visiting attractions during¬†early¬†theme Park¬†entry¬†means cooler temperatures and shorter wait times.¬†You will be surprised at just how much more ground you can cover during this time span versus during a busy Park¬†day.

Know Those Credit Card Perks

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Disney’s Chase Visa card has perks that extend beyond the cash-back points you receive.¬†¬†Chase cardholders should keep an eye open during a¬†Disney World¬†vacation¬†to take advantage of any exclusive cardholder perks.¬†¬†Air-conditioned phone charging stations in Epcot’s¬†World Showcase, a lounge at EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival, and a backstage line to meet¬†Star Wars¬†characters at Hollywood Studios are all Chase Visa cardholder experiences my family has taken advantage of over the years.

¬†Disney Chase Visa members also enjoy a discount at select¬†Walt¬†Disney¬†World restaurants when they pay using their card. If you have questions about discounts or promotions, feel free to ask a Cast Member. It’s never too early to start saving for your next Disney vacation with the credit card cash back you earn.

When in Doubt, Ask a Cast Member.

Walt¬†Disney¬†World¬†Resort is a fun vacation destination with plenty of Cast Members that are more than happy to help you.¬†¬†If you need directions, advice, or assistance — just ask. The Disney team is committed to providing an excellent Guest experience and wants you to have a fun, relaxing, and magical Disney trip!

As always, drop by Disney Dining to learn about must-try restaurants, tips, hacks, and the latest Park news!

About Katie Chapman

Hey There! I am a Georgia native with a passion for writing, traveling, cooking, decorating, pugs and of course all things Disney. Growing up in South Georgia just a few hours from Walt Disney World made for a magical childhood. Some of my best memories were made on Main Street U.S.A. with my sister watching SpectroMagic nighttime parade or beside my grandparents, parents and extended family at Chef Mickey’s celebrating on a family vacation. Epcot was my favorite park from a young age and I credit it with my interest in and love for international travel. As a kid I loved meeting characters and watching films around World Showcase and could spend hours exploring each of the countries in Epcot. These days, my husband and I get away to explore a new country whenever we can and even incorporate trips to The Disney Store and Disney Parks around the world in our travels. One of our travel goals is to visit every Disney Park in the world. I love writing about Disney restaurants, park tips, Disney outfit inspiration and Disney history. Pocahontas is my favorite Disney Princess (90s kid here!) but Mr. Toad is my spirit animal. When I’m not at Disney I’m reading about park history, watching Disney documentaries and shopping vintage Disney merch for park outfits. I never pass up a reservation to Ohana, an empty seat on Living with the Land or a Violet Sake.