Travel Tips for Disney World

Travel Tips for Disney World

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  1. So, you’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation? Congratulations! Disney World is one of the most magical places on earth to vacation at. From the exemplary customer service, to the rides, shows, hotels, and dining experiences. If you take the time to do some advanced planning, you are going to have a wonderful vacation!

    Before You Go:

    • Choose the time of year you visit carefully. Unfortunately, many people can only travel in the summer due to their children’s school schedules. If at all possible, try to travel at other times so you can maximize your experience. The lowest attendance is during January and early February, Right after Labor Day up until Thanksgiving week, and the week following Thanksgiving until mid-December. However, don’t stress if you have to travel during a busier time. With proper planning you can still have a great vacation!


    • Choose where to stay. Orlando has so many lodging options which can make choosing a hotel intimidating! Your biggest decision is to decide whether to stay on-site on Disney’s property, or whether you will choose an off-site location. There are pros and cons to both.

      If you choose to stay on-site, you will generally have an easier time getting to and from the parks. You’ll also be immersed in "Disney Magic" 24 hours a day due to the wonderful theming of Disney’s hotels. You’ll have room charge priveledges throughout the park. You’ll also have access to free transportation both from the airport and to and from all of Disney World’s parks. Finally, you’ll be able to purchase the Disney Dining Plan if you choose. The disadvantages to staying on-site are mostly financial. You will pay more for staying on Disney Property, dining is generally more expensive. You may find it a hassle to use Disney transportation, and you will have a harder time visiting other Orlando area attractions.

      If you choose to stay at an off-site hotel or vacation home, you will generally be able to find better/larger accommodations for the same or a lower price. You will also have better access to restaurants, shopping and other non-Disney attractions. Some hotels offer scheduled shuttle service to the parks and free breakfasts. If you choose to stay off-site, keep in mind that getting to and from the parks may be more difficult. This is more important if one plans to take afternoon breaks from the parks. Off-site guests must pay for parking at Disney theme parks if they drive, so be sure to factor the parking costs into your off-site savings. FInally, shuttle service is limited at many hotels, some hotels share shuttles making the service very slow and/or crowded, and some hotels charge for using their shuttle service.


    • Make Advanced Dining Reservations. This is a mistake that many first time Disney visitors make, not making Advanced Dining Reservations (otherwise known as ADR’s). Disney is unlike most other vacation destinations, where you would simply choose a restaurant, walk in and wait for a table. Any sit-down Disney restaurant requires reservations! You can make ADR’s up to 90 days in advance either online or by telephone.

      My favorite dining resource is they have full menus for all restaurants on Disney property. Browse through the menus and decide which ones look good to you and your family.  Be adventurous!  Try some ethnic food in EPCOT or visit Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge; it has lots of African flavors – but something for everyone! 

      If you have little ones (or young at heart!), be sure to try a Character Meal!  There are several princess themed ones, several with Mickey and the gang, and even one with the Playhouse Disney characters.  Kids love the individual attention they get from the characters as they visit each table.  Be sure to have your autograph book and camera

      Be sure to look into the Disney Dining Plan and see if it is a good fit for your family. Disney offers two pre-paid dining plans to guests staying at a Walt Disney World hotel.  The first option is a quick-service dining meal.  This gives you credits for counter service restaurants in all of the theme parks and hotels. The second plan, gives you three credits per night of stay; 1 credit for a counter service meal, 1 credit for a sit-down meal, and 1 credit for a snack.  The meals include one entrée, one dessert, and one non-alcoholic beverage.  Gratuity is NOT included for the sit-down meals.

      The current cost for the full-service dining plan is $39.99 per day for adults and $9.99 per day for children ages 2-9.  If you have ever been to a theme park before, you know how expensive food gets, and Disney is no exception!  This plan means that the majority of your meals are prepaid. One way to use the plan is to bring breakfast food and eat in your room before heading out for the day, then use a counter service credit for lunch, get an afternoon snack, and use the sit-down credit for a nice dinner. 

    After You Arrive:

    • What to take into the parks: The last thing you want to do is lug around a giant bag, but there are some essentials you’ll need to take with you, depending on the age of your kids.  If you have a stroller, you’ll have somewhere to put the bag, but you also need to make sure it’s a bag that you can grab to take on rides with you while the stroller stays outside. 

      Park Essentials


      Cards – if you stay on-site at a Disney Resort, you’ll have a credit card type ID that is your hotel key, park ticket, and charge card all in one.  I recommend buying a lanyard with a clear pouch on the end.  You can buy these on the cheap before you go at any office supply store, or they are in every Disney gift shop (with cute Disney themes!).  This makes it so easy to keep track of them. 

      Cell Phone – Useful to have in case you and the rest of your party become separated for any reason.  I also used mine to save my ADR confirmation numbers in, so I can quickly look them at the restaurant if there is a question.


      Park Maps – pick them up at the front gate when you come in, along with an entertainment schedule for the day.  You’ll refer to them often.

      Rain Ponchos – Another thing to buy at home which will save you money.  Florida is notorious for quick showers on most days.  With your ponchos you’ll stay dry.  Buy an extra one to cover the stroller, unless you have a rain cover. 

      Snacks/drinks – It’s a lot easier (not to mention cheaper!) to pull out a baggie full of goldfish and a juice box for the kids when they need it. 

      Stroller – While you can rent strollers in the park, at $15 per day for a single and $31 a day for a double, you may prefer to bring your own to save money and it may keep your child more comfortable. Also, you have the advantage of using it around the hotel and while waiting for the buses.  Don’t underestimate the power of a stroller, even for your preschooler who wouldn’t normally use one at home.  The average adult walks about 10 miles a day at Disney and little legs just can’t keep up!  You and your child will be much happier with a stroller, whether you choose to rent or bring one from home.

    • Use Fastpass as often as possible. Fastpass is Disney’s system to reduce wait times at popular attractions.  It is FREE and every guest – whether you are staying on Disney property or not can take advantage of it!  For example, say that you want to ride Splash Mountain, but the line is 2 hours longs.  Instead of wasting 2 hours standing in line, make your way to the Fastpass machine for that attraction. You will need the admission ticket for everyone in your party that wants to ride the attraction.  You insert your tickets, and the machine prints out a ticket with a one hour time window printed on it. Anytime during that one hour window, return with your family to the ride and enter through the special Fastpass entrance. You will bypass most of the regular line and only have to wait about 5-10 minutes to enjoy the ride.You are only allowed to have one Fastpass at a time; basically you are not eligible to get a second Fastpass until the time window for your first one has started.  So if your time window for riding Splash Mountain was from 12:00-1:00, at 12:01 you would be eligible to get another Fastpass.


    A Disney World vacation can be some of the best memories you can make with your family.  The look on your child’s face as they meet Mickey Mouse for the first time, or see the castle, is priceless.  Disney World really is about magic, fun, and family. I hope with some of the tips and ideas here, you will be able to make the most of your trip!




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