Ah, the magical feeling you get when you enter any of the four Walt Disney World Parks is overwhelming, and it’s hard to believe you are actually there. There are, however, a few important things to take care of before your start on this magical journey. Here are a few suggestions that have been a help to my family and myself when we visit Disney World. I hope they will be useful when you visit Mickey’s home if Florida.
1. Before you leave your On or Off Property Resort, or Home— Checklists are priceless when preparing for a day at any of the Parks of Walt Disney World. We are talking about 25,000 square acres and almost 50 square miles of Disney property, and most is dedicated to visitors who have come to enjoy the magic! In other words, if you leave something behind, there’s no quick trip back to your home or Resort. There are plenty of places on the property to replace what you may have forgotten, but it would not be easy to replace a camera, phone, or other electronic devices. Of course, if you forgot your magic bands, you’re in for a long drive or bus ride back to your home or hotel. So, make that “don’t forget” check off list, and make sure every item has a checkmark.
2. Bag Check Entrance To The Parks—Before you enter any of the Parks, and if you are carrying any sort of bag, camera, small totes, purses, etc., you will have to go through the bag check area, where every bag is checked by security personnel. They look thorough every bag with great care, and will let you know if there is a problem with any item in your bag. These security people are very thorough and are there for every guest’s protection, and I myself, are very glad they are there. One suggestion I have for anyone who is bringing in any sort of bag is to have every pocket and zipper open and ready for searching. Your time here will be substantially reduced if the security people do not have to unzip and open pockets while you stand there and watch. The lines will move much quicker if every guest has all the zippers unzipped and pockets open for viewing.
3. Photo Opportunity—Before you visit each theme park, be sure to get that “magical” photo in front of its iconic centerpiece. Here are some examples: Magic Kingdom-right in front of the train station and beautiful floral arrangement of Mickey’s head; Epcot-pose with the “gigantic silver golf ball” in the background; Hollywood Studios-looking down Sunset Blvd. with the reproduction of the renowned Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in the background; Animal Kingdom—the best photo op for Animal Kingdom is posing with the Tree of Life in the background. For your photo albums, it’s a good idea to highlight each Park with a photo that distinguishes it from the others. The reason I place this on the “do first” list is that sometimes you can get so immersed in the pleasure of each Park you may forget to get that first entrance photo.
4. Lockers—The lockers can be a very convenient way to store some items you may not be using all day, but might possibly need later. For example, depending on what time of year you visit Walt Disney World, the evenings can get a bit chilly, so bring lightweight sweaters, jackets, etc. and store them in the locker until needed. Another perk about the lockers is that if you are visiting more than one park, you can return your locker key, receive your $5 deposit, then present your receipt (plus the deposit) at the next theme park at no additional cost. I have taken advantage of the lockers every time we have visited WDW. I bring one bag which contains miscellaneous medical supplies (bandaids, first aid ointment, sunburn relief, muscle rub, etc.), ponchos for that surprise afternoon rain shower, backup camera, etc, spare sunglasses, etc. Lockers are a good way to unload all your “might need or just in case” items so you don’t have to spend extra money or extra time traveling back to your Resort.
5. Safety Precautions—Before you enter each WDW theme park, make sure you know where the first aid clinic is located. Every Park has one. Just go online and you will find a map of each Park and where these centers are located. No one ever wants to lose a child while at Walt Disney World, but it does happen. Here are a few hints to if you lose someone in your group: Have a photo of each member of your group in your possession at all times. Each day, make a note of what each person is wearing (general description—shorts, capris, long pants, shirt color, shoes, etc.) and approximate size and weight. Or, to save time take a group picture at the beginning of each day, making sure there is a good view of everyone. Let the younger children know who to go to if they find themselves lost. My best advice is to tell younger children to find another child and ask their parents for help. It is not easy for a child to try to find a cast member in a crowded situation, but children and Moms and Dads are always around. For the teenage or pre-teens, tell them to find a cast member for help. The cast members know exactly what to do, and will get lost members reunited with their group quickly and efficiently.
6. General Plan—Walt Disney World is huge, so it’s a good idea to have at least a general plan of which theme park or parks you will be visiting each day, what attractions you’d like to visit, and what dining plans you want to take advantage of. Be sure to have your attraction and ride reservations where they can be easily accessed (keep that phone charged—there are charging stations in each park). If you have dining reservations, you might want to schedule your attraction reservations near the restaurant. Sometimes a ride may break down, and you may have to wait before it starts up again, and dining reservations cannot be changed on the same day. A little planning ahead of time will result in a more magical day at WDW.
7. Weather—Check the weather forecast every day before you depart for Walt Disney World. Most weather information is current and correct, so if there is a forecast of heavy showers, bring those ponchos. If the weather is calling for really hot temperatures, bring lots of water bottles. You can store quite a few in a large locker. You can even bring a small cooler that will usually fit in one of the larger lockers. If the evenings or days are going to be cooler, put those lightweight jackets or sweatshirts in your locker for later, or if you have jackets on when you arrive, you can use the lockers to put them away until evening. Be aware and check the weather daily, and you will be glad you did.
8. Group Hug—I know this is going to sound really corny, but get with your family or group each morning before you embark on your day’s journey, and say a few words of encouragement, prayer, etc. Make an agreement with everyone that it’s going to be a glorious, magical day, with no problems, no accidents, great fun, great food, and a fantastic day for all!
There is no right or wrong way to prepare for your visit to Walt Disney World. There are, however, a few things to consider, which I have mentioned, that could make your day a bit more enjoyable. You can be creative and think of some ways that you and your family or group can plan ahead. Research rides and attractions to make sure every member of your group will be able to access certain rides. There are ways parents with younger children can ride the more aggressive roller coasters by taking turns. In the end, whether you have a plan or not, you are in for a Disney dream come true!
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