You’re going to Disney World YAY! Whether you’re being forced into this or can’t pick which ears you want to wear each day, here is a quick Disney World 101 that hopefully won’t make your head explode!
- Decide whether you’re going to stay on property or off. The main perk of staying at a Disney property is the super convenient roundtrip shuttles to and from the parks AND the airport; but if you’re ok providing your own transportation, then you can save a buck or two by staying at a normal hotel (or even an Airbnb if you’re feeling super thrifty (read my Airbnb how-to here)). Other Disney resort perks are extra hours at the parks each day, a free Magic Band ($13 savings) and early FastPass planning (we’ll hit these later). There are Disney hotels starting around $100/night, and I’ve stayed at an awesome Airbnb that was $28/night. So decide what route is best for you and go from there.
- Purchase your park tickets. There are 4 theme parks and 2 water parks. Check out the different ticket options as there are 1 day tickets, 4 day tickets, multiple park tickets, group tickets, etc etc etc. From my experience, trying to hit 2 parks in a day can be a little tight unless you’re a pro and know exactly what you’re wanting to do in each. All 4 parks are full of Disney characters and fun rides and experiences, so honestly don’t feel like you have to hit all 4 in one trip. Check out the different parks and see what’s most appealing to you and go with it…
- Magic Kingdom has all the OG Disney characters and princesses and lots of iconic rides and experiences. The firework show is LEGIT. It’s my absolute favorite thing about Magic Kingdom – so DON’T MISS IT!
- Epcot is neat for adults. For 21+ and anyone interested in other cultures/travel, you wander through different countries and eat and drink and shop your way around the world. There’s also characters in each country, like the Frozen characters are in Norway, Belle is in France, Mulan is in China, etc; there’s a few rides, like Nemo and a space-themed one, and a Mickey/Minnie character photo op up front, but it’s more about exploring. So bring your walking shoes! Fun fact: the employees in each country are all originally from that country!
- Hollywood Studios has a Star Wars paradise, super fun Toy Story Land, the iconic Tower of Terror, a Frozen singalong and more! You can find some characters like The Incredibles and Sully and Olaf in between experiences like Indiana Jones, the Rock’n’Roller Coaster through Hollywood Blvd, and the brand new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway that’s supposed to be spectacular!
- Animal Kingdom is the tamest in terms of Disney mania, but not when you consider all the amazing animal experiences there. Some of my fav rides are the Kilimanjaro Safari, Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest; and my fav attractions are Na’vi River Journey, Festival of the Lion King and meeting Pocahontas on Discovery Island. You’ll be mesmerized by the animals and attention to detail at every turn.
- Logistics! Don’t worry, I’m just going to list a few little tips that will help you make the most of your trip!
- If you haven’t already, register and create a Disney World account and link your park admission tickets, Disney hotel stay, and any other reservations you’ve made. The platform is very easy to use and very convenient for having all reservations and plans in one place.
- The FastPass+ is your BFF and is included with every park ticket! Long story short- most rides & experiences have a regular line and a FastPass line that’s significantly shorter, and you can book your FastPass place in line 30 days before your visit. You can reserve 3 each day, and the most popular ones (like the Frozen ride & Space Mountain), get booked up fast, so mark your calendar 30 days out and have a top 5 list and you should be able to get 3 good ones. And as soon as you’ve used all 3 at the park that day, you can sign up for more while you’re there. I did this over and over, going from FastPass line to FastPass line and never waited more than 20 minutes. (If you are staying at a Disney hotel, you get to books yours 60 days out!)
- Use the Disney World app! Download the My Disney Experience app and from there, let it help you with everything- FastPass reservations, ordering and paying for food instead of waiting in line, restaurant reservations, ride wait times, park maps, show times, and more.
And a few more tips before you leave…
- Take a look at a park map before you go. It’s so helpful knowing the basic layout of the park and will help you navigate throughout the day. You can pick out all the things you don’t want to miss.
- Even though you connected your park tickets to your Magic band, bring the CC you purchased them with JUST IN CASE. A friend of mine’s band wouldn’t scan at the gate so she had to pull up her tickets on the app and show the CC she used to purchase them. You don’t want to get stranded, so better safe than sorry!
- If applicable, mark your stroller with some sort of distinguishing thing, like a big colorful ribbon or something, so you can easily recognize it in the sea of 100+ strollers. There’s no theft issues at the Happiest Place in the World, just don’t want you wasting time trying to find yours at every stop.
- Disney Springs is an area totally separate from Disney World and is a fun spot filled with all kinds of boutiques, restaurants, live music, bowling alley, movie theater, and sits on a pretty lake. It’s a neat place to walk around and grab a bite or some ice cream without the Disney World price tag (and it’s kid friendly).
- Parking is $25/day in each park. There’s little shuttle trams running constantly so don’t worry if you have to park far away. I believe there are Uber stations for drop off and pick up too if that’s your plan.
- If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can connect your credit card to your Magic Band and use it in the parks. So convenient!
- Magic Kingdom tip- When you first walk in, don’t stop at the first photographer you see in front of the castle. There are photographers all up and down Main Street, and most of them don’t have lines. The first ones always have long lines because people don’t know to keep going!
- Consider having groceries delivered to your hotel room when you get there. Having a stocked fridge can save money, time and energy. I recommend Amazon Prime Now.
- Restaurant reservations fill up fast, especially the character dining ones. Expect to pay up, but know that the food is actually very good and all of the experiences go above and beyond. Also, space out your restaurant reservations if you have more than one a day. The portions are huge and you’ll be wandering around so much that it is exhausting trying to make multiple reservations all over the place.
- My favorite place to buy ears and custom shirts are Etsy. There are so many amazingly creative shops and I love supporting small businesses. There’s tons of different price points and 500 million to pick from, so get to browsing. FYI- official Disney ears start at $25.99 and can be found all over each park and Disney Springs. There’s huge Disney gift shops all over Orlando- they’re cheap in price and quality, but kids don’t know the difference 🙂
- Enjoy the nuances. There’s so much attention to detail that’s out of this world, so don’t plan so much that you miss out on all the magic that Disney World has to offer!
TRAVEL BONUS! I’ve been to 15+ countries and have my personal tips for each location to share with you! Paris * Amsterdam * Northern Lights in Norway * My Fav Travel Items * Rio de Janeiro * Iceland * Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany * Airbnb Tips * Summer Olympics * I Can Fly * Harry Potter Studio in London * Auschwitz * Cheap Flights 101 * Ireland * Ultimate Bucket List * Albuquerque Balloon Festival * Luxury Travel Items * Disney World for Adults (coming soon… Train through Switzerland, Sound of Music in Salzburg and Havana, Cuba!)