Disney World is the most popular vacation destination in the world. Due to its size and popularity, planning a trip to this magical place can be daunting. It’s always a good idea to get tips and information from those who have been there before, maybe even several trips. From someone who has just completed his 20th trip to Disney World (since 1990), here are my Top 20 Secret Disney Tips.
1) Plan early – You can book your Disney World trip up to a year out. Obviously, that’s not always possible, but the more time you have to plan and save up, the less you will be stressed. Plus, Disney will allow you to make monthly payments up until your due date, which depends on whether you booked a package (room, tickets, dining) or a room only.
2) Read a guidebook – If you are a reader and/or a planner, travel books can be a great source of helpful info. There are literally dozens of Disney World guidebooks available. Other planning options include websites dedicated to Disney World trip planning, which can be found with a quick internet search. If you commute to work, consider listening to Disney World podcasts.
3) Stay with Disney – This tip can be controversial, as there are strong opinions both ways. As someone who has stayed both offsite and onsite, I prefer to stay with Disney. While it is less expensive to stay outside Disney property, being in the Disney “bubble” for your entire vacation has several benefits, including 24/7 Disney hospitality, the use of Disney transportation and being close to the theme parks.
4) Airport transportation – If, like most, you fly into Orlando, consider how you will get from the airport to your hotel, and back at the end of your trip. If you stay with Disney, you can use their complimentary Magical Express bus service. If you’re staying offsite, rental car agencies abound at the Orlando airport. Other options include hiring a towncar service (quicker and more personal) or a taxi. Cost for these services range from $45-$75 one way.
5) Tickets – At about 7 months out, make a rough plan for how many days you plan to visit the parks. Keep in mind, the more days you add to your ticket, the less you pay/day. You also need to consider if you will visit the water parks, play golf or mini golf, shop or just hang out at your resort hotel.
6) Weather – What time of year will you be traveling? May-October is in one word…HOT! The rest of the year can be anything from hot to downright cold! In the winter, think layers. Check the forecast before you go and plan accordingly.
7) Dining plan or not? – Disney has several dining plans for pre-purchase. Personally, I think the dining plans are just too much food! However, if you prefer to pay up front or plan to do character meals, the dining plan can save you stress and money. Check out the Disney menus online and do the math.
8) Where to eat? – You can make table-service dining reservations up to 6 months out from your trip. Even if you have no idea where you want to eat 180 days from now, make reservations at your favorite restaurants, as many book up early.
9) Groceries – There are several Orlando-based grocery stores you can access online. They will deliver groceries directly to your hotel room. All Disney hotel rooms come with a mini fridge. This can be a great way to save money and time in the theme parks.
10) Character meals – A great way to meet characters is by booking a character meal. There are several options, with various Disney characters. You can enjoy a good meal, a comfortable setting and the characters come to you. Have your autograph book, a big pen and your camera ready! *Bonus tip: Schedule a character breakfast before official park opening and you can enter the park when it’s empty-great for photos!
11) Fastpass+ – If you do nothing else, learn about fastpass+ and take advantage of it, unless you actually like standing in long lines! Basically, it’s a way to reserve a spot on the most popular attractions, character meet-ups and shows, with little or no waiting.
12) Single riders – If your group doesn’t mind splitting up, you can save time by getting in the single-rider line at some of the popular attractions, such as test Track and Rock ‘n Roller Coaster. You likely won’t be separated by much.
13) Parades/fireworks – Do NOT, I repeat do NOT miss the parades and fireworks at Disney World! They are spectacular and will likely be the highlight of your trip.
14) Plan to rest – Trust me, you will walk a lot on your Disney trip. In your mind, you may think you can go several days straight from park opening to closing. Not likely. Plan some time to sleep in, enjoy your hotel pool or see a show. Your feet will thank you!
*Bonus tip: If you are traveling with young children, try to keep them on their regular sleep schedule. The whole family will benefit.
15) Souvenirs – At Disney, everything begins with a line and ends with a gift shop. Budget money for souvenirs; everyone will want something. T-shirts runabout $30 and coffee mugs about $15. *Bonus tip: If you are staying at a Disney hotel, your souvenir package can be delivered straight to your resort, freeing you up from carrying it around all day.
16) Wear good shoes – A trip to Disney World is NOT the time to break in new shoes! Keep your feet happy and you will be happy!
17) Rain – It rains (almost) every afternoon in the summer in central Florida. It’s cheaper to bring ponchos or umbrellas from home; they are available at Disney, but you will pay more. *Bonus tip: Keep touring, even in the rain. The lines will be shorter as many people will leave the parks.
18) Strollers – Strollers are available for rent both at Disney World and from outside agencies. If you elect to bring your own, be aware you will have to gate check it at the airport and fold it up before boarding the Disney buses.
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19) Use Memory Maker/Photopass – You can pre-purchase this option or just use it on the fly. Basically, Disney has photographers spread out all over the theme parks and waterparks. They take your picture, scan your Magic Band or ticket media and voila!, your pictures are now in your account. After your trip, you can view your pictures (and purchase if you haven’t already). A real bonus here is that no family member is left out of the picture!
20) Arrive early! – This may be the best advice of all. The first 2-3 hours in the morning is the best time for touring the parks, as lines are shorter and temps are cooler. Plan a sit-down meal or a swim at your hotel in the heat of the day. You can return to the park later that evening for the nighttime activities.
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!
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