What To Know About Walt Disney World BEFORE You Visit

Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can seem like a part-time job.  Trying to determine which parks to head to, where to eat, what resort to stay at can seem like a lot to figure out.  Don’t worry though- we have what you need to know about Walt Disney World before you visit!  These helpful, quick tips will make sure you are ready for the magic.


1. Park Passes

The first thing you need to know before going to Walt Disney World is that you need to have a Park Pass Reservation in order to get into one of Disney’s four main parks.  Once you have a valid ticket and have linked that into your My Disney Experience account, you can quickly, and easily make your park pass reservations.  This is important as you must have these prior to entering a park.  

Credit: Disney

2. My Disney Experience App is Key

Over the past few years, we have seen Disney start to move more and more to a digital experience.  Guests could unlock their doors with their phones, order food, check bus times and wait times.  Since reopening, the My Disney Experience app has become even more essential to a Walt Disney World vacation.  This app is needed throughout your vacation to order food, check into table service dining, open your resort door, get a Rise of the Resistance boarding pass and so much more.  The app holds so much information that it is important to spend some time making sure you have it downloaded and have played around with it a little prior to heading down.

3. Check Park Hours

Before heading down to Walt Disney World, make sure you check park hours.  Disney has greatly adjusted park hours since reopening in order to help space out crowds in the mornings.  The four main parks have staggered opening times often from 8 am to 11 am with Animal Kingdom opening early and Epcot opening last.  Also, check those closing times.  The parks aren’t staying open late into the night anymore.  Instead, parks are closing anywhere from 5 to 9 on most days.  Make sure you are aware so you plan accordingly.

Photo Credit: Matthew Cooper (www.thetimethespace.com)


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4. Park Hopping is Modified

Park hopping can be a great way to visit a couple of parks in one day; however, this option is slightly different than what we are used to.  Guests who have a park hopper option on their ticket, are able to park hop after 2 pm and only if they visited the park, they held a park pass for earlier in the day.  This can greatly change your strategy when it comes to park hopping.  With limited hours and the new restrictions, you will have to be creative when it comes to hopping.  Consider hopping from Hollywood Studios to Epcot using the skyliner to make hopping faster.

5. Character Experiences Are Different

Before you go it is important to know that you won’t be getting hugs from your favorite characters this time around.  Although characters seem to be out and around more than normal, the interactions are from a distance.  Guests can’t meet characters one on one right now due to physical distancing.  Instead, guests can see their favorite characters in cavalcades or hanging out in the parks like at the train station in Magic Kingdom or the gazebos in Epcot.  Even though these experiences are different, they are definitely not any less magical.

 6. Character Dining Is Back, but Changed

Along with adjusted character meet and greets came the change to character dining.  We are excited that guests can still eat with their favorite characters at Chef Mickey’s, Topolino’s Terrace, and Minnie’s Hollywood and Dine even if the experience is different.  Characters will meet guests from a distance as they enjoy their delicious meals.  Even though you can’t get an autograph, the characters come by enough that you can snag that selfie.

7. Things Might Take Longer

The free transportation at Walt Disney World is something that we absolutely love.  We are grateful that someone else will drive us around from park to park, or a skyliner will fly us over to our next destination.  Before you head to Walt Disney World, make sure you are aware that transportation might take longer than expected due to health and safety guidelines.  Buses, monorails and skyliners are only seating a limited number of groups meaning that you might have to wait for a few buses before you catch your ride.  Disney has been great at getting lots of buses going at park opening and closing, but be prepared to wait a little before heading to the park or back to your resort.

8. Lines, Lines So Many Lines

Something to keep in mind prior to heading down to Walt Disney World is that you will see a lot of lines, but don’t be scared.  Disney right now seems to be a maze of lines- lines for rides, lines for food, lines for shopping, but these lines aren’t as scary as they seem.  Physical distancing requires that groups maintain a six feet distance which as a result causes lines that might only be a 15-minute wait to look hours long.  Don’t be scared when lines wrap into other lands or you can’t seem to find the end, just keep asking, use the My Disney Experience app and be assured that the lines aren’t as long as they seem.

9. Think Ahead for Food

Disney is requiring that all guests use the My Disney Experience app when it comes to eating in the parks and resorts.  For quick-service locations, guests are asked to mobile order and for table-service guests are asked to use the app for check-in.  Because of both of these requirements, you will want to plan ahead for your dining.  If you want to have a sit-down meal, these can be booked 60 days prior to check-in.  If your party is more of a grab and go family, consider ordering your food earlier than you want to eat.  Disney only has a limited number of pick-up times for each dining location so if you wait until 12:30 to order lunch from Woody’s Lunch Box, you might not have a pickup time until later in the day.  You can order food as soon as the restaurant opens so if you know where, what and when you plan to eat, get that order in early.

Woody’s Lunch Box

 10. The Magic Is Still Alive

The number 1 thing to know prior to heading down to Walt Disney World is that the magic is still 100% alive and present in the parks and throughout Walt Disney World Property.  Even though things are slightly different right now, the magic, dreams and pixie dust are still there and you will have an amazing time.

We hope these quick tips help you prepare for your Walt Disney World Vacation.  Have a magical time!

About Jennifer Retzlaff

My name is Jennifer Retzlaff and I became a lifelong Disney fan during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 6th grade. From that moment, Disney became a big part of my life. I live in Iowa with my husband and two kids who are growing up too quickly for my liking. I started introducing my love for Disney early to my family with a Disney honeymoon and then trips when our youngest of 18 months. Since then, our family has been to Walt Disney World over five times and we continue to plan and dream for the next trip. I love the magic that Disney brings to people through the theme parks, cruises, adventures and movies they create. As a teacher, I try to bring that magic into my classroom to help kids believe that “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” I recently reached a dream of mine as I joined Magic Vacation Planner as a personal travel advisor. With this team, I can now help others plan magical vacations. As a passionate writer, I also have my own blog at magicalvacationsbyjen which is also where you can follow me on instagram for trip reviews along with tips and tricks for your next magical vacation.