Walt Disney World Survival Guide—What You Need to Know About Visiting Disney Parks
Walt Disney World is a world of adventure, fantasy, exciting rides and attractions, stage shows, parades, fireworks displays, and so much more. It is truly a most magical experience, and in order for you and your entire family or group to get the most out of your Disney vacation, there are a few suggestions that might come in handy.
10. Pre-Park Check Off List — Whether you are staying at a Disney Resort or traveling from another location, it is so important that you have a check off list before you leave your home or Hotel. Include anything that you may need and check it off as you pack your bag or backpack. Include items such as sunblock, sunglasses, medications, mini first aid kit, tickets or Magic Bands, camera, phone, chargers, etc. Sample sizes on the sunblock and medications saves room in your bag or backpack. Although there are plenty of shops and stores where you can purchase most of these items, it’s best to bring your own. Also, it’s a good idea to take pictures of your reservations and tickets, just in case you lose them or they get damaged.
9. Arrive Early — A Walt Disney World vacation is not cheap, and most of us save up for months or even years for this magical, magnificent vacation destination. You don’t want to waist one minute of your valuable time, so I suggest you leave your resort or home early enough so that you will be among the first guests to line up. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, ask any cast member what the Park hours are for that day at whichever Park you will be visiting first and what the transportation hours are. Have a quick breakfast snack in your room or home, then get to that bus, boat, or monorail loading area early. If you’re driving, find out how early you can access the parking lot. At a Disney Park a few minutes can mean the difference between being the first in line or being behind hundreds of other guests in line.
8. Plan Ahead — WDW’s Fast Pass+ option allows you to reserve rides, attractions, entertainment, and character greetings up to 30 days ahead of your arrival and is included with your annual pass or admission ticket. Once you register online and link your park admission, you can begin making reservations for your favorite rides or attractions. Reservations can also be made the same day at a Fast Pass+ kiosk in the theme park or by using your mobile app, depending on availability. As soon as you get your Magic Bands or admission tickets, you can begin planning your magical Disney Vacation. Dining reservations can also be made online or by phone prior or during your stay at Walt Disney World. Using your Fast Pass+ option and making dining reservations ahead of your arrival will optimize your valuable time here at the “most magical place on earth”.
7. Navigation/Best Ways to do Some Park Hopping — If you have a Park Hopper option added to your Disney ticket or Magic Band, you will probably want to make the best use of Disney’s transportation choices.
**If you’re staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, you can ride a boat, bus, or monorail to the four different theme parks of Disney Springs, depending on which mode of transportation is available at your Resort**
Here is a list of transportation available and their routes:
- MK (Magic Kingdom) to Epcot — Monorail to TTC(Ticket & Transportation Center)transfer to Epcot monorail
- MK to AK(Animal Kingdom) — monorail or boat to TTC, then bus to AK, or take a short walk from MK to Disney’s Contemporary Resort to catch bus to Animal Kingdom
- MK to DHS(Disney’s Hollywood Studios) — monorail or boat to TTC, then bus or Contemporary, then bus to DHS
- Epcot to MK — monorail to TTC, then transfer to MK monorail
- Epcot to AK — bus
- Epcot to DHS — bus(from front entrance), boat (from back entrance), walking (from back entrance)
- AK to MK — bus to TTC, then monorail or boat
- AK to Epcot — bus
- AK to DHS — bus
- DHS to MK — bus to TTC, then monorail or boat, but another option is to catch a bus to Contemporary Resort and walk to Magic Kingdom
- DHS to AK — bus
- DHS to Epcot — bus, boat, or walk
- Disney Springs — There is no direct transportation from the four theme parks to Disney Springs. The best way is to drive, catch a taxi, or Uber service
- Since there are so many routes to remember, I would type the routes on a small card and keep it with you.
- **Resort Hotel guests can check with their Hotel Concierge for available transportation to all four Parks and Disney Springs**
- Once you have used the different transportation options, it will become easier for you to remember the routes, and it’s really like an adventure. Have fun and discover new and challenging ways to get around WDW.
6. Weather Essentials — Depending on what time of the year you will be visiting Walt Disney World, the weather can be a factor in how you prepare for your visit. For those hot summer months, be sure to pack plenty of bottled water. You might even consider purchasing some polar products, such as neck wraps, cool ties, ankle or wrist wraps, or a small misting fan. On really hot, hot days, you can bring your umbrella which can double as a rain or sun repellant. For the cooler months, pack or bring a lightweight jacket for the early and evening hours. Ponchos are almost a necessity in summer, winter, or spring because of the frequent afternoon thundershowers. These Florida showers don’t usually last long, but sometimes long enough to dampen your spirits if your electronic gadgets or gizmos get waterlogged. The drainage situation is not the best during these downpours, so keeping your feet dry can also be a challenge. It would be wise to bring along an extra pair of shoes.
5. Locker Rentals — Guest lockers are available to rent on a daily basis at each Walt Disney World theme park, for a nominal fee, plus a refundable fee of $5. There are different sizes available. These lockers are key operated, so no change is necessary. Just return the key no less than one hour after the park closes to get your refund. The lockers are located near the entrances of each theme park. Keep up with your receipt, because if you will need a locker at another theme park that same day, just show your receipt to the cashier, and all you will have to pay is the refundable $5 fee. Lockers can be very helpful for storing those extra items you have brought along in case of emergencies and a good place to keep souvenirs while you enjoy the Parks. The fee entitles you to a locker for the entire day, at all four theme parks. As long as you keep your receipt, the $5 refundable fee is returned to you when you leave any of the four parks.
4. Ways to Save on Dining — The Disney Dining Plan offered to Disney Resort Hotel guests only and can be quite expensive, depending on which plan you choose. Occasionally Walt Disney World offers the “free” Dining Plan to select Resorts on certain dates. The free dining plan is an excellent way to save on dining and includes full service and counter service dining, plus snacks. If the free dining plan is not available at your Resort during your vacation or you’re not staying at a Disney Resort, there are other ways to save money on your meals. Eat breakfast before you arrive, either at home or at your Resort. Bring snacks, such as peanut butter crackers, breakfast bars, trail mixes, etc., and plenty of bottled water. Drink mixes are an added benefit. Keep treats and snacks in a locker or your backpack. Find a bench or outdoor table and enjoy your snacks. Kids’ meals are another way to save. You get just the right amount of food without feeling stuffed. You can also order individual food items from select counter service restaurants, such as French fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, etc. If you take advantage of some of these suggestions, you will save money. I would also suggest having one good meal, possibly in the evening, at one of the many less expensive counter service restaurants.
3. End of the Day Package Pickup — This service is one of the best perks Walt Disney World offers at all four theme parks. Who doesn’t visit Disney World without purchasing Disney gifts, souvenirs, Mickey ears, collectibles, etc. The problem is carrying all your bags around the Parks all day. The solution is the Package Pickup Service. Here’s how it works: When you make your purchase at any theme park shop, tell a Cast Member at the register you would like to use the package pickup service. Just fill out a form with your pertinent information, and one copy will be on your package, and you will get a copy. Then, before you leave the Park, stop by the Package Pickup location to retrieve your merchandise. All of your purchases will be packaged and handled with care, ready to go home with you. There is no fee for this awesome service. So, don’t hesitate to buy that fragile or oversized gift. Buy it and pick it up on your way out.
2. Walk, Don’t Run — The real beauty of the Fast Pass+ option is knowing you don’t have to make a made dash to get to one of the thrill rides at Disney. You have your reservation. Take your time. Walt Disney World is a magnificent, magical world where fantasy thrives, and dreams really do come true. There are so many things to do and see that are missed if you are in a hurry to get to that one attraction. Enjoy the shops, the restaurants, and the surroundings of each of the four Parks. Slow down and “smell the roses”. At some point of the day, find a bench or place to sit, have a cool, refreshing drink or frozen treat, and watch the crowds go by. You can even make a game of it with your children, like have them pick a certain style of shoe people wear, then watch and count as the parade of people walk by. After a few minutes see who picked the more popular style. Count strollers, scooters, or Mickey ears. It’s a fun way to relax and enjoy another element of a Disney vacation. You’ve spent a lot of money to just whiz through Walt Disney World, experiencing only the rides, shows, and attractions. There is so much more to this magical world. Take your time and soak it all in.
1. The Kiss Goodnight at the Magic Kingdom — The Magic Kingdom (basically the Disneyland of Walt Disney’s creation) is a favorite Park of most guests, and there is a wonderful nightly event that a lot of people are not even aware of. After the final “Wishes Fireworks Extravaganza” of the evening, usually just before Park closing, most guests make a mad dash for the park exits, only to be confronted with the heaviest crowds of the day, all going one way at the same time. The shops on Main Street are literally standing room only. Most of them do not know what they are missing. Approximately 30 minutes after the official announcement of the Magic Kingdom Park’s closing, Cinderella’s Castle will start to twinkle with lots of blue and purple hues before “When You Wish Upon A Star” begins playing on all the speakers. The “goodnight kiss” is in the words of the narrator, who gives a heartfelt good-bye, with words like, “thank you for joining us today for a magical gathering of family, friends, fun, and fantasy…quotes from Walt (…a special place, where when you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true), and the final words, “Until we see you again, have a safe trip home. Thank you and good night.” And that’s not all. The next voice you hear over the loud speakers is Mickey Mouse saying, “So long, everybody. See ya real soon!” The song, “When You Wish Upon a Star” finishes up with a
very dramatic crescendo which will bring tears to your eyes, happy tears of course.
There are so many ways to enjoy Walt Disney World, and so many tips, secrets, and helpful hints. They are all useful and can make your trip so much more enjoyable and memorable. My best suggestion for making this a truly magical Disney vacation is to be prepared, have a plan, but also enjoy a lot of spontaneity. Don’t limit yourself to your reservations. Be flexible, and enjoy every minute. Put the guide book away for a little while and explore the Parks on your own. Whichever way you choose to navigate Walt Disney World will be a magical adventure you will never forget.
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like MickeyTravels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!