I long for the days of the past when planning a theme park trip did not involve preparations equal to that of a small international summit. These days, however, a visit to Walt Disney World is no casual matter, and to get the biggest bang for the buck, visitors have to understand certain key facts. That is why I bring you these seven essential facts for visiting Walt Disney World.
1. Walt Disney World is actually four parks. Many Disney novices fail to realize that Walt Disney World is not just one park, but four separate parks requiring separate admission to each. Minimum amount of time required to visit all four parks? Four days. The comfortable amount of time required? Six days. Throw in two water parks and you’ve got a solid week’s worth of vacation right there.
2. Walt Disney World is a theme park destination, not an amusement park destination. What’s the difference? In short, the intensity of the rides is the difference. While many of Disney’s rides are fun, exciting, and creative, they’re not really meant for intense thrill seekers. Folks who want their socks knocked off by a bevy of wild roller coasters are better served elsewhere. In Florida that means Universal Studios or Busch Gardens.
3. Planning is essential. With the amount of money required to visit Disney, a large amount of preplanning is required to get the most from your investment. This means doing a lot of reading on websites and in guidebooks. My favorite guidebook of all time is “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.” Not officially sanctioned by Disney and therefore chock full of REAL helpful tips and tricks, this is the quintessential book for planning a Disney vacation. The accompanying smartphone app is also helpful.
4. There are multiple hotels with provided transportation. Staying “on-property” gets guests several perks including extra time in the parks, the ability to make dining reservations earlier, use of transportation between parks and other hotels, and automatic Magic Bands with the stay. There are hotels for all price ranges.
5. Book dining reservations early. This is no joke. Reservations are required for many Disney restaurants, and the ones with characters fill up the fastest. In some cases, guests need to book up to six months early to get into places like Cinderella’s Royal Table or the Be Our Guest restaurant.
6. Character Meet and Greets take as much time as waiting in line for rides. One huge part of a Disney vacation is meeting characters since they sign autographs and pose for pictures. The wait to meet certain characters can be longer than waits for major rides. Families who want to see characters AND ride the rides will need to budget extra time for this. And, if you think your kid won’t want to meet characters, just wait until they see all the characters in the park. Even my teenager couldn’t pass up a chance to meet Anna and Elsa from “Frozen!”
7. Fast Passes are essential. These passes allow you to jump into a shorter line and get on rides (or meet characters) even faster. This is a “must-do” and like many things at Disney, there’s a strategy involved.
Feeling exhausted yet? The vacation hasn’t even begun! Join me next time, when I’ll share some of my best tips and tricks for mastering the Disney experience!
Contact Holly McElwee at [email protected]