Walt Disney World (WDW) can be very overwhelming, even for seasoned veterans, but especially for first timers. WDW is gigantic and covers four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping district called Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney – which I like way more), and more than 25 on-property resorts. Below are 9 tips that will help your Disney vacation go more smoothly!
1. Don’t over do it. There is a bazillion (okay, maybe not THAT much) things to do at the happiest place on Earth, but it is wise to not over pack your itinerary. You don’t want to burn yourself and your kids out by doing too much. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly OKAY to stop and LOOK UP. Yes…LOOK UP, especially when you’re inside a shop or line queue.
2. Schedule your Fast Pass + selections wisely. There are some attractions that do not warrant a fast pass, such as It’s a Small World at Magic Kingdom and Triceratop Spin at Animal Kingdom. If you’re staying on property, you can select your fast passes 60 days in advance. If you’re staying off property, you can select yours 30 days in advance.
Of course, you need to take into consideration a few factors:
– What are the ages of your party? There are attractions that are not geared towards the elderly and small children that you need to keep in mind. I even have a list of toddler friendly rides that might aid your FP+ selections.
– Know your child. Even if your child has reached the minimum height requirement for a certain ride, it is a wise idea to trust you and your child’s instincts. If you or your child has reservations about them riding…let’s say…Tower of Terror, do not schedule a fast pass for this attraction.
– The proximity of your FP+ selections and your dining reservations. You need to look at a map before choosing your FP+ and dining reservations to ensure that you’re not rushing to make your designated reservation time. For example, it’s probably not ideal to book a FP for Space Mountain for 12:30-1:30PM and a FP for Thunder Mountain for 1:30-2:30PM. The two attractions are on opposite sides of Magic Kingdom.
– Are you park hopping? If you’re planning on visiting more than two parks per day (aka park hopping), then you need to keep in mind FP+ and dining reservations for that, too. If you’re using the bus line, monorail or ferry boat, you should allow AT LEAST half an hour, if not more, to reach your next reservation.
3. Make dining reservations well in advance. You can begin making dining reservations 180 days in advance. Popular restaurants like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table fill up ridiculously fast. Our favorite is Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Most restaurants will not have seats available for walk-in’s, and if they do…it’ll be a long wait. I witnessed a conservation between a guest and a host at Hollywood and Vine where the guest was complaining about her family not being able to get into any restaurant at Hollywood Studios. He was attempting to inform her that most of the guests began reserving their spots 6 months in advance, but she was none too happy. Luckily there are quick service restaurants available!
– Consider purchasing a Disney dining plan. There are different plans available to fit nearly every guest. We always choose the regular Disney Dining Plan, which includes 1 table service meal, 1 quick service meal, and 1 snack per person per night. We also received a refillable drink mug that we could use at our resort.
4. Start training! You can expect to walk at least 8 miles per day at Disney World. My feet were killing me after the first day because I didn’t warm myself up. I’ll admit…I’m a sedentary person. I went from walking very little to 8-16 miles per day, and the condition of my poor feet showed.
5. Wear appropriate shoes! I know some ladies can run a marathon in stilletos, but let’s get real…that can NOT comfortable! Like I mentioned in my previous tip, you’re going to be walking…and walking…and walking some more. You’re going to collapse on your bed at the end of the day, pop some ibuprofens and then wake up to do it all over again.
6. Be sure to meet your favorite characters! Can you believe that some first timers are unaware that you can actually meet your favorite beloved Disney characters? That’s right! I actually have a spreadsheet with where you can meet your favorite characters that you can print out and use for your upcoming WDW trip!
A little tip: If the sign says that Mulan meets at 2PM, you need to be in line by 1:45PM at the latest. I can’t tell you how many times I missed meeting the Fairy Godmother outside of Cinderella’s Castle because I arrived 10 minutes before the actual meeting time. Character lines can be just as long, if not MUCH longer, than ride lines. Take the Anna and Elsa meet and greet, for example!
7. Get Memory Maker! Memory Maker is a service that WDW offers where a PhotoPass photographer will take your picture so the entire family can be in the shot! Memory Maker also includes ride photos, which last time I checked, were around $25 a pop.
Memory Maker also includes videos for Tower of Terror and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train! Check mine out!
8. Do NOT ask where the Harry Potter rides are! The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is absolutely BREATHTAKING, but it is not apart of Walt Disney World. You need to hop on over to Universal Studios for that!
9. Use a travel agent! A Disney travel agent takes all the headache away from our clients by taking on the FP+ selections, dining reservations, and discount applications. If you’ve ever been on the phone with Disney, especially when a discount is released, then you know that it can take hours! Who wants to do that?