First Timers to Walt Disney World? Happy dance time! Heading to Disney can be very confusing for the uninitiated. No other travel destination has as many moving parts as Disney. Let’s go through the top 5 things to know before your magical vacation.
FastPass is a free service for guests of Walt Disney World. Guests staying on Disney Property and the Lake Buena Vista hotels can book Fastpasses 60 days in advance. Other guests can book 30 days in advance. Walt Disney sends you a handy reminder card and email when your booking window opens. Pay attention to this day and be prepared to log in as soon as it opens. We usually create a reminder for ourselves.
FastPass is essentially appointment times for the most popular attractions. They are great as they ensure you will get to experience some of the busiest rides during your visit. You do not need a FastPass for every ride, and having a FastPass for one ride doesn’t prevent you from waiting in line for any other rides. It is a great way to ensure you’ll get to do the 1-2 rides per park that you or your kids can’t leave Disney without doing.
Which FastPass attractions to book is really a personal decision as each person’s needs are different. In general, continual motion rides and rides that can handle large volumes of people (think Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, any of the shows) you really don’t need a FastPass for. Save it for things like Peter Pan or the Kilimanjaro Safari.
For more information on FastPass check out our FastPass Essentials Guide.
The Dining Plan is program offered by Disney which allows for you to prepay for your meals. The Dining Plan is made up of 3 tiers. They are – Disney Quick Service Dining Plan, Disney Dining Plan, and Disney Deluxe Dining Plan with different options per plan. While you may think you won’t eat all the food – trust me, you are moving A LOT at Disney and you will be hungry!
We love it as it makes for one less hidden expense. We have done Disney both ways and the dining plan is a money saver. The prepay aspect is nice for us as it eliminates an expensive variable at the end. Our go to choice is the mid-tier, Disney Dining Plan. New in 2018 the plans includes either an alcoholic beverage or non-alcoholic beverage per meal. You can enjoy a sit down meal daily which is a great way to spend time with family and enjoy Disney dining. Foodies take note, Disney is on point with food.
All the Disney Dining Plan options include 2 snacks per day as well which can be exchanged for things like waters and quick bites both in the theme parks and at your hotel. Walt Disney World has come along way with food options and now have many healthy good quality options with makes even the quick serve only plan an attractive deal.
Similar to the FastPass keep an eye on the date. With dining we recommend you book your sit down meals in advance, up to 180 days. Don’t leave dining reservations to chance. Disney sit down restaurants are busy and you more than likely won’t be able to walk up day of. You can book your dining reservations through the MyDisneyExperience either online or on the app. Disney will remind you when it’s time to book! Lastly, this does not include tax and tip so don’t forget to leave tip (rookie mistake)! The receipt is a little confusing so your waiter/waitress can help you determine what you owe and what you need to tip on.
Choosing a Hotel
Staying on Disney property or not may be the biggest decision of your trip. Yes, Disney Resorts are expensive (!!). Yes it may be cheaper to say elsewhere, BUT there are a ton of perks to staying on Disney Property that make your trip so darn easy and fun that we couldn’t recommend staying at an off property hotel. Check out our piece on hotels coming out within the week – a hotel for every budget and need.
It may beneficial to stay off property if you were going to Orlando or the beach primarily then only planning to do Walt Disney World for a few days. Otherwise, for our needs, Walt Disney World hotels are it.
What Disney Resort is right for you? We share our resort recommendations based on the type of Disney Vacation best fits you!
When you stay at Walt Disney World all transportation included. Disney will pick you up and drop you off at the Orlando International airport for free and there’s a myriad of transportation within the park. You wouldn’t need a rental car, and we never get one when we go. Nate also has a piece on all the free transportation around the Walt Disney World properties for all your transportation details.
Park admission is not cheap. Especially for tickets from 1 to 5 days. After 5 days, it’s a nominal cost to add additional days. Your park tickets includes all the rides, shows, parades, and fireworks! Disney puts on a 20ish minute firework show at all parks nightly, except at the Animal Kingdom. The Animal Kingdom has a brand new night show called Rivers of Light, beautiful show! Just no fireworks because of the animals, makes sense. Again how many days you go for depends on your needs but remember, you can’t do it all in one day. Don’t try. You’re better off doing Magic Kingdom for 2-3 days than trying to cram a park in per day.
Should you get the park hopper? We recommend it. Our favorite part is the flexibility it gives you. You can easily jump from park to park allowing you to start the morning at the Magic Kingdom and grab dinner at Epcot. Throw in a stop off at the pool midday (it’s hot in Florida!) and it’s perfect Disney day. If you’re like us and generally skip the pool going park to park is pretty easy. Overall it lets you be more fluid with your day and it definitely reduces stress. This why we love the park hopper!
Walt Disney World is a great time and ultimately the most important thing is the time spent with your family or group. Now that you know the few things you need to know before you go, you’ll be fully prepared to enjoy your trip! You may even run into your favorite bloggers!