Planning a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida takes lots of planning to ensure you get the best out of your time there.
There is no doubt that Disney does magic in bucketloads, but depending when you travel, it can also be extremely busy so it is important to book some of those must visit attractions before you get there.
My Top Tips when you have booked a holiday to Walt Disney World
1. Download the My Disney Experience App
It is easy to use – simply create an account which allows you can manage your booking, before you get to Disney.
Once you are there, the app also gives you opening times, park maps, parade times, locations of rides, real-time queue lengths, allow you to book restaurants and ride fast passes and display any photopass photos you have had taken. It is the ideal companion for any visit to Walt Disney World, but be warned, it does drain your battery on your phone so I would recommend taking a powerbank for any on-the-go phone charges.
2. Fast Passes
It does seem early in the list to mention booking fast passes and for the majority of the rides, you are fine to book when you arrive, however, for new rides such as Pandora; Avatar Flight of Passage, the Na’Vi River journey and the soon to open Toy Story Land these book up extremely quickly and you can expect queues of up to 3.5 hours.
The FastPass+ system is better than any we have in the UK by far. Not only is it free to use, but it lets you reserve access to select attractions, entertainment and more up to 60 days before check-in when you have a Walt Disney World Resort hotel reservation (30 days in advance with standard entry tickets).
You are given three FastPass+ per day initially, so book three early ones and once they are used you can book three more. They can be used for rides and character meet and greets.
3. Magic Bands
The magic band is a watch-like band you wear on your wrist which is linked to your My Disney Experience account. You use it to unlock the door to your room, gain entry to the parks, get your photo pass pictures, gain fast pass access to rides and even pay for your meals.
You are automatically allocated grey ones, but you can request different colour ones before you arrive or pay extra for themed ones which are available in the shops on site. They come in one size, but are fully adjustable to fit both children and adults, by removing the outer strap for the kids!
4. Dining Plan
The dining plan is worth its weight in gold as it is a great way to budget for food and drink whilst you are in Walt Disney World.
Having a dining plan is the equivalent of staying half board and can be found FREE during selected promotion periods. For each night of your stay, each guest receives:
- 1 waiter service meal
- 1 self-service meal (can be used for breakfast or lunch)
- 1 non-alcoholic drink per meal
- 2 selected snacks
- Refillable mug (can only be used at the hotel)
There are over 100 locations to choose from and character dining is included with the waiter service meals. Self-service meals are great for casual dining or pit stops in the parks and snacks are available at Quick-Service restaurants and outdoor food carts throughout the resort, including drinks, popcorn, crisps, ice cream, sweets, biscuits and fresh fruit. In fact, we didn’t spend any extra money on food and drink whilst we were there.
5. Disney Memory Maker
Getting photo’s of all the family together is always a challenge as one of us is always behind the camera. Disney’s Memory Maker solves this and is something that a lot of english theme parks could learn from.
Costing an additional $149 for the family, it is an incredible new way to enjoy unlimited digital DisneyPhotoPass photos captured at hundreds of locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort, including select attraction and dining locations. We had pictures taken all over the parks and the photographers are easy to spot in their uniforms.
The photos are conveniently connected to your online Disney account with a touch of your MagicBand or card and you can even have Magic Shots one which featuring Disney Characters and effects, added to your photos.
6. Plan Your Stay Around Extra Magic Hours
On designated days, the Disney parks open early or stay open later for guests staying at Disney Resort hotels. These are called ExtraMagic Hours. Plan your stay with these in mind and you will get crowd-free access to the best rides. We walked straight onto three or four during this time and it is also the best time to book the Jedi Training Academy. which is not included in the FastPass+ system.
7. Travelling between parks
Did you know that Disney World is occupies 47 square miles – the size of Greater Manchester?
Disney provide buses to and from each resort from each hotel which run approximately every 20 minutes. I cannot fault the service at all, the buses were fully air-conditioned and each driver we met was happy and jovial. They do get very busy though, especially at the beginning and the end of the day, but the adults always gave up their seats for the kids.
If you want to travel between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, there is also the Monorail system which operates between the two and some of the Disney Deluxe resort hotels.
8. The Weather
Florida is known as the Sunshine State and the weather when we went in August is hot, hot, hot!
Disney know this and I was surprised to see that most queuing areas were not only undercover, but also had giant fans to keep the air moving and you cool. Indoor rides were all air-conditioned and if you were starting to get too hot, sitting in a cool theatre for half an hour for a show was the perfect way to cool down.
Shops and toilets (restrooms) were air-conditioned, plus cold water was available at water fountains throughout the park.
I have heard stories about the rain in Florida and we did see heavy showers and thunderstorms most afternoons, however, not only is it a relief from the heat, the rain is warm so is actually quite pleasant and apart from one afternoon, they last less than an hour. We did buy poncho’s for the worst showers though as it is far too warm to wear rain jackets.
Friends who have been to Walt Disney World advise that April is the best time to visit for milder temperatures, as the average daily temperature can reach highs such as 28°C (83°F), with minimum temperatures of 15°C (53°F), but it normally sits somewhere in between.
9. If you are taking an under 5, take a Buggy
Sebby is 4 and can walk quite a distance but by day 3 he was shattered and wanted carrying everywhere.
Disney is hard on everyone’s legs, especially when cramming it into seven days like we did, so I would recommend you take a buggy or hire one. It costs $15 per day for a single and $30 for a double and was a real blessing.
10. Take a break!!
If there is one thing Disney is, it’s full on!
On days in the main parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, we were at breakfast at 7am and in the parks for magic hours by 8am up until the evening shows, meaning we were not back at our hotel until 10pm most nights.
I would recommend a minimum of a 10 day to 14 days to get the best out of a Disney break and I would strongly recommend that you take a day to relax in between park visits, or go for half a day and return to the hotel in the afternoon to chill by the pool.
What is your top tip when visiting Walt Disney World?