As a travel planner who plans a lot of Walt Disney World Vacations for families, couples, and groups I get asked a lot of questions in the process of selecting the perfect resort and package match for each group. But, around my hometown I’m also known as the “Disney Lady” (it might have something to do with my license plate and decals on my car, or maybe my extensive collection of Disney related clothing). Either way, it opens me up to questions about Walt Disney World anywhere from standing in line at the grocery store or leaving church on Sunday Morning. While the questions vary depending on that person’s particular interest, there are at least 10 that are a common thread between almost everyone:
10. We want to have those Magic Bands—how do we get those?
This answer is twofold. If you are booked at a Walt Disney World owned & operated resort you will get a Magic Band (free of charge) included with your reservation. This can be a room only reservation or a Magic Your Way package. All you need to do is log on to your My Disney Experience account, link up that reservation and then select the color of the band you prefer.
If you are not staying at a Disney owned & operated resort you will not get a Magic Band… receiving one is not based on having tickets but on where you are staying. But, you can still purchase a Magic Band if you want one. They are available at DisneyStore.com or the Disney Parks Shopping App before your vacation, or you can purchase them in almost every shop once you arrive. The price varies with the plain single color being the least expensive all the way up to the most expensive decorative, limited edition or personalized options.
9. How much does it cost to get FastPasses?
Unlike most things at Walt Disney World, the answer is nothing—they’re free! Each person with valid Walt Disney World admission is eligible to make 3 FastPass+ arrangements for the day. Just be sure to link your tickets or your package reservation to your My Disney Experience account. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort you can begin making those 60 days in advance, if you are staying off property you can begin 30 days in advance. Once you’ve used your first 3 FastPass+ (or they’ve expired) you can make another one (the “rolling 4th”), and one after that and so on. All based on availability for attractions.
8. Is it worth it to stay onsite?
Under most circumstances my answer here is yes. Even when comparing costs of off-site vs on-site hotels you often come out ahead at a Disney resort due to the complimentary Magical Express for airport transfers, free parking at the resort and in the parks, free shuttle, and no resort fees. Those things can add up at other hotels. Aside from financial concerns I find that clients have a more positive experience when staying onsite because of the convenience of location and transportation along with staying inside the Disney “bubble” of service, cleanliness and theming. Also, keep in mind that onsite guests have an advantage for both dining and FastPass+ reservations. They can make dining for all of their vacation at 180 days prior to their check-in date, and they can make FastPass+ at 60 days out (a month before it opens to offsite guest). For those popular and hard to get reservations that is a key factor.
7. Should I add Universal to my vacation?
For some people this starts with an explanation that the 2 Universal theme parks are separate from the Disney parks. It is definitely confusing since Disney does have a movie themed park, and because they are so close together in the Orlando area. I’m not really sure there is a right or wrong answer about whether or not to add it, but something to figure out. How old & how tall are the children? Many of Universal’s rides and attractions are more intense than Disney’s so it skews toward a bit older audience. What is your budget? Because Disney is crafty in the way it prices its Magic Your Way tickets going from say a 4 day ticket to 5 days only adds a minimal amount–$10-$15 or so. But if you want to add a day (or 2) at Universal you are looking at well over $100 per person. So, if the budget is tight it may be more cost efficient just to do another Disney day. How many days is your vacation? Disney has 4 excellent theme parks. Depending on the interests of your family or travel group some of them may not be full day parks—but you also need to rest and enjoy your resort sometime. If your vacation time is 4 days or less you may not want to try to squeeze Universal in there as well. These are just a few of the factors to consider.
6. Is [Fill in the Blank] worth visiting?
I have been asked this about every single theme park at Walt Disney World… including the Magic Kingdom. Usually it is something like, “My kids are teenagers, is Magic Kingdom going to be worth it or is it too baby-ish?” Or, “I have little kids so we are going to skip Epcot, it isn’t really worth it.” As a complete Disney Nerd and parks fanatic these questions hurt my feelings a little bit. I truly think that no matter what your party’s demographic is you should go to each of the 4 theme parks at least once—particularly if it is your first visit. The only exception (which I have done myself) is if you do not have enough days to go to each park. I think that there are some many unique characteristics to each park and the Imagineers have put in so many details that you will want to experience each one. And as far as attractions go every park has something to offer varied interests—easy going rides, more educational rides, thrill rides, excellent shows, and characters to meet. If you have visited before and you decide one of the parks isn’t for you and you want to spend more time in another I say go for it, but just like your mama said when you were eating dinner—you don’t know if you don’t like it until you try it.
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5. What is the best place to eat?
Oh, if I had a nickel for every time someone asks me this. The trouble is, it is nearly impossible to say one place. More questions are needed. Is it for a special occasion? Do you want something fun? Do you want characters? Do you want fine dining? Are you a vegetarian? Do you like Chinese/French/Italian/Japanese/Moroccan/Indian food? Generally when travel clients ask me this question I give them a rundown of 2-3 of my favorite quick service & table service restaurants in each park to get us started. In Epcot I just say the World Showcase. A travel planner can definitely walk you through all of the options to customize their recommendations for your family’s likes and wish list. If you are planning on your own you can go to sites like DisneyDining.com for reviews and other dining information, or the official Disneyworld.com site for sample menus.
4. What is the right age to take your child for the first time?
This is another question that is really hard to answer. For me, it is as soon as possible (have to start the indoctrination as early as possible, right?). I took two of my sons when they were infants and we are lucky enough that they have been back nearly every year of their life. They do remember bits and pieces of the trips when they were young, but those memories were mainly for me. The reactions of my 2 year old going up by himself to meet the characters for the first time are absolutely priceless. And at every stage of life they are different and are interested in different things. We have had trips where we were focused on finding as many characters as humanly possible. Other trips have been how many thrill rides can we fit into one day. With my teenager it is hitting the food booths and a festival then going out to a nice dinner, or experiencing a backstage tour. As I said before, there is truly something for every age at Walt Disney World. However, if you think you will only be visiting Walt Disney World once—a trip of a lifetime—you may want to make sure your child is tall enough to ride most of the attractions. You can find height requirements on the Disneyworld.com website. Usually somewhere around early elementary school most children are tall (& brave) enough to ride almost everything, but still young enough to get wrapped up in the magic. But side note, I still get wrapped up in the magic too.
3. Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth It?
The million dollar question. And it really comes down to looking at how you want to vacation. I have some families who want to do lots of character meals, or who want to enjoy a lot of table service restaurants. For them the dining plan can be a savings over paying out of pocket. I have other groups who just want the convenience of having everything paid for ahead of time and not having to worry about the price on the menu. The dining plan gives them that convenience. Then I have others who don’t want to be tied down to reservations, don’t want to eat table service meals because of the time it takes away from their park time, or who want more flexibility in their planning (maybe 2 character meals and 1 table service for their 5 day stay). For them the dining plan is not a good choice. Families who are on a tighter budget for their trip may not want to add the dining plan either. They may find it easier and less expensive for them to bring food from home, make a stop at a grocery store (or have groceries delivered), go offsite for a couple of meals, share food at a quick service, or order appetizers at a table service.
2. How Many Days Should I Go?
I like to recommend a minimum of 5 days of vacation—not travel days, but vacation days. If you can afford that both financially and with your vacation days from work. This gives you 4 park days and a break day to rest, enjoy your resort and maybe Disney Springs. Depending on when and how you arrive and depart you may have a couple of other partial days to visit the parks. You just want to be careful not to completely wear yourself out. Ideally I like to see a family be able to travel from say Saturday-Saturday so they have 6 days to “play.” Then you have 5 full park days (so you can repeat your favorite) and a break day in there too.
1. How Much Is It Going to Cost?
This is a question that I refuse to answer until I put together a vacation proposal—there are too many variables. But, a Walt Disney World vacation is not going to be inexpensive. You have some control over the budget by deciding which grade of accommodations works best for your family—everything is available from value hotels to deluxe resorts with multi-room suites and even a Club Level service. You can also tweak your spending by the amount of days you stay, the amount of days on your park ticket, the add-ons to your park ticket (like park hopper and water parks), and the type of dining you want. While a Walt Disney World vacation is going to be an investment for most families, one they will save for, it is a vacation that has a lot of value for the price. The type of service and the level of entertainment you will experience on a Walt Disney World vacation—for everyone in your family from age 1-99, no matter what they are interested in—is world class and second to none.