Taking a vacation to Disney World is one of the most fun experiences you can have, but it can also be a stressful, frustrating, and exhausting process if you aren’t going into it fully educated on the many different aspects of the Walt Disney World Resort. Because it’s such a massive company, policies and procedures are constantly being updated, new technology is always being implemented, and it can be hard to keep up with the seemingly never-ending changes.
Our goal is to help you have the easiest, most enjoyable time possible, so we’re sharing some tips, tricks, and advice for planning a successful Disney World trip. Keep reading to learn the 10 things we wish we’d known before our most recent trip to the Disney World theme parks!
In this article:
The Importance of Dressing for Comfort
There are several reasons why it’s better to dress for comfort rather than fashion when spending the day at Disney World. The weather in Florida can be all over the place depending on the time of year. If you’re visiting during the winter months, the temperature can drop significantly in the nighttime and early morning hours. On the other hand, if your trip is taking place during the summer, you can expect intense heat and humidity along with thunderstorms popping up out of nowhere. Whatever the weather is, you’ll want to be comfortable and prepared!
Additionally, the amount of walking and standing that you do during a day at the Disney theme parks is astronomical, and it’s important to be dressed appropriately for that kind of activity. Wearing shoes that will last you all day and clothes that won’t give you a heat rash or soak in your sweat will make your experience so much more enjoyable.
Plus, there are now so many cute Disney-themed clothing options with these characteristics that it’s easy to dress comfortably while also feeling put-together and fashionable. Try wearing bike shorts under your dress or matching your sneakers to your Disney-bounding outfit—there are lots of great ways to get the best of both worlds.
The Necessity of Mobile Ordering Your Meals
If you’re trying to pack as much into your trip as you possibly can, a great way to save some time is by using the Mobile Order option on the My Disney Experience App. You can select your food and beverage choices, pay on the app with a credit/debit card or mobile wallet, and then when everything is ready—which for most dining locations is in 10 minutes or less—you just head to the mobile order window and grab your meal, all without needing to wait in line.
The Mobile Order option is available at almost all quick-service locations in the theme parks and resorts, and a few table-service restaurants at some of the Deluxe hotels even offer boxed-up takeout meals. So if you’re staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and decide you’re craving Sanaa bread service but weren’t able to snag a reservation, you can place a mobile order, head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and take your food to go. It’s a great way to enjoy a wide range of tasty meals without the hassle of waiting in line!
The Ease of Using Merchandise Mobile Checkout
Did you know that in addition to using the My Disney Experience app to order meals, you can also use it at some Disney World merchandise locations for a quick and easy checkout experience? The Merchandise Mobile Checkout option on the app allows you to skip the line in some of Disney World’s largest stores, like the Emporium at Magic Kingdom or World of Disney at Disney Springs, by having you check out directly through your phone.
Once you’re in the store and you’ve found some souvenirs you’d like to bring home, all you need to do is scan the barcode on each item and then check out using one of the mobile payment options available. After you’ve completed your purchase, you’ll simply show your receipt to a Cast Member, and then you can be on your way! It’s a perfect way to avoid dealing with the long wait that can happen at some of the main merchandise hubs, especially if you’re doing your shopping when the park is packed or when everyone is heading out for the night.
The Possibilities of Exploring Outside the Parks
While the main event when planning a Disney World vacation is obviously going to the theme parks, there are so many fun and interesting places to go and things to see in other areas of the Walt Disney World Resort too! There are the two waterparks, Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, two miniature golf courses, Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland, and Disney Springs, the massive shopping, dining, and entertainment complex.
We also recommend taking time to explore the resorts, as each one is uniquely themed and has its own special offerings. There are several easy ways to “resort hop” and see multiple resorts one after the other without needing to drive from place to place. You can take the Monorail around to enjoy the three Deluxe resorts on its loop or ride the Skyliner to experience several different resorts that are within a short walking distance of the stations. There is so much to do around Disney World that you could easily take up an entire day without ever stepping foot in one of the theme parks!
The Perks of Taking Advantage of Free Activities
It’s no secret that a Disney World vacation can be quite costly, even if you’re just purchasing the basics of park tickets, a hotel room, and food and beverages. This is why it’s so important to take advantage of as many free activities as you can during your stay. Within the theme parks, you can find a smattering of unique experiences you can participate in that are included with your park admission. The Play Disney Parks mobile app plays a big role in this, as it has a ton of games and challenges to play throughout all four theme parks. For example, at Epcot, you can use the app to participate in Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure where you’re searching for ancient artifacts.
Even outside of the mobile app, there are several great activities to take advantage of. Also at Epcot, the World Showcase includes the Kidcot Fun Stops where you can collect activity cards while learning about each pavilion’s culture. And at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can learn to draw some of your favorite Disney characters at The Animation Experience at Conservation Station. It’s definitely worth learning about and partaking in as many free experiences as you can, and the Play Disney Parks app provides a perfect opportunity to spend quality time with your group while also passing the time waiting for attractions and shows.
The Fun of Watching the Live Performers
In the same vein of “there’s more to do in Disney World than just the theme parks,” there’s also much more to do inside the theme parks than just attractions! We recommend checking out as many live entertainment offerings as possible during your vacation. The larger productions include shows involving actors and characters like Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire (Magic Kingdom), stunt performances like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and full-length musical productions like Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond! (Disney’s Animal Kingdom).
There is also a variety of street performers that pop out to entertain smaller crowds as they’re passing through. There are singing acts, like The Dapper Dans (Magic Kingdom) and The Voices of Liberty (Epcot), and instrumentalists like the Casey’s Corner Pianist (Magic Kingdom) and the Green Army Drum Corps (Disney’s Hollywood Studios). You can even find movement performers like DiVine (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and physical comedians like Sergio (Epcot). The performance times can be found on the My Disney Experience app so you can ensure you don’t miss any of the entertainment options available!
The Benefits of Asking Cast Members for Recommendations
One of the best ways to find some great places to spend your Disney World trip is by asking the Cast Members for their recommendations! No one knows the Disney World parks and resorts better than Cast Members, who usually choose to work there because they are fans of the parks and are passionate about assisting visiting guests. Even those who aren’t specifically part of the Guest Relations or Concierge teams are willing and able to provide guidance if they aren’t in a safety-critical position and are asked nicely.
If you are unsure about something you’ve got planned on your itinerary or just want to find out the best location to sit and watch the fireworks show, Cast Members can offer you some advice or at least point you in the right direction to find it. And although it’s not guaranteed, sometimes Cast Members will even create a magical moment for you if you’ve established a good connection with them while asking for their recommendations. When guests exhibit kindness and patience with Cast Members, they are much more likely to spread some kindness back.
The Importance of Reading Disney World’s Guidelines Before Arriving
Planning a Disney World trip is no easy feat and can often take days or weeks to pull together, so it’s incredibly important to read Disney World’s guidelines before you arrive. When you’re putting so much time, energy, and money into creating a fantastic trip, the last thing you want to deal with is showing up at the theme parks ready for a fun day and being told that you’re not permitted to bring your stroller in because it’s too large, or that your child isn’t tall enough to ride an attraction you promised them they could ride.
Disney World has specific requirements and restrictions in place for a reason, whether it’s for keeping everyone safe or simply not being a nuisance to other guests and Cast Members. If you show up without having read what you are and are not allowed to do, it’s going to throw a wrench in your plans when you end up needing to take your stroller back to the car or dealing with an upset kid who was excited to ride a major rollercoaster. Reading all of Disney World’s guidelines prior to starting your trip will help you have an overall more enjoyable vacation experience.
To learn about some of the things that are restricted from the Disney World theme parks, be sure to check out our list of 10 items that you are forbidden to bring to Disney World.
The Benefits of Booking a Character Meal
Meeting characters can be one of the most fun parts of visiting the Disney World theme parks. However, the lines can often be long, and because most of the characters only come out for short periods at specific times of the day, you may miss the opportunity to see them if you show up at their meet-and-greet location too late. The best way to avoid this issue—and also keep you from wasting time standing in line—is to make at least one of your dining reservations for a table-service restaurant that offers Character Dining. You can knock out visiting several characters at once while enjoying delicious food at the same time.
There are several different dining locations at both the theme parks and resorts that include the opportunity to meet a selection of Disney characters, whether during a specific meal period like breakfast or at any time you dine throughout the day. Enjoy breakfast with Mickey and his friends at Topolino’s Terrace (Disney’s Riviera Resort) or Cape May Café (Disney’s Beach Club Resort), dine with the Disney princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom) or Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot), or have a meal with Winnie the Pooh and other characters from The Hundred Acre Wood at The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom).
The Need to Pace Yourself
No matter what the length of your Disney World trip is, it’s important to know that your vacation will be most successful—and enjoyable—if you pace yourself on how much you try to tackle each day. There are a lot of factors that can have a major impact on your trip, including weather changes, crowd levels, and park hours, and you can easily become burned out if you try to accomplish too much in a short period of time. Taking each day a few hours or a couple of activities at a time will really help you make the most of your vacation.
If you’re staying on property, go to the parks early in the morning to knock out a bunch of rides before the crowd levels pick up, then head back to your resort for a couple of hours to swim, nap, or just hang out before going to the park for the rest of the evening. It will help you avoid the busiest and hottest part of the day, and you’ll be ready to keep going later into the night. Even if you can’t make it back to your hotel for this break, just finding a quiet corner of the park where you can sit down and relax for a while will make a big difference in your mood and help you recharge for the rest of the day.
You can read about some of our favorite places to spend some downtime in our guide to the best secret spots in Disney World.
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