10 things I wish I had known before our holiday to Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom

Most people booking a holiday to Walt Disney World in Florida would be planning for months, reading reviews and getting hints and tips on things to see and do but we had just a few days notice before our trip.

I have to say that the staff were amazing and more than happy to answer any questions we had and wearing our “1st time at Disney” badges certainly helped, but here are the things I wish I had known before our trip:

1. The My Disney Experience App

Available on iTunes and Google Play this app 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.

It is simple to use, simply create an account and you can manage your booking, plus it will give 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.

My Disney Experience App

2. 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.

Magic Bands

We were 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. Plus, they are fully adjustable to fit both children and adults!

3. Fast Passes

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).

Fastpass+

You are given three FastPass+ per day initially, so book three early ones and once they are used you can book three more. Most rides were bookable when we were there, however, new ones such as Pandora; Avatar Flight of Passage and the Na’Vi River journey were fully booked throughout our stay, so I would advise you book these before you get there.

Avatar

To use the FastPass+ system, simply scan your Magic Band at the fastpass touch point – simple!

Magic Band

4. Dining Plan

I have to admit that the dining plan confused me at first, but that is possibly because we had been travelling for 13 hours when the member of staff was trying to explain it to me.

It is, however, a great value way to budget for meals whilst you are staying at Disney and is the equivalent of staying half board and is FREE for holidays booked by 19th October 2017, for stays from 1st January 2018 to 30th November 2018.

Walt Disney World

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.

Character Dining

In fact, we didn’t have to pay for extra food for the entire time we were there.

Epcot had the best variety of food as they had traditional restaurants in the World Showcase area from Norwegian, where we enjoyed a meal with the Princesses, to Chinese, Japanese and even a traditional English Pub – the Rose and Crown.

Belle

Throughout the park we had the option of many different foods and the kids enjoyed things from Nachos and Chilli, chicken strips, pizza, burgers and salads.

Tips: You are expected to tip between 18-20% at table service restaurants and this is displayed at the bottom of your dining plan receipt. It worked out approx $30 for the five of us at each table service meal. There’s no need for tipping at counter service venues.

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 and costs an additional $149.

Chewbacca

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.

Tinkerbell

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.

Frozen

6. 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.

Disney Bus

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.

Monorail

7. The Weather

One thing I was worried about before our holiday was the weather as August is hot, hot, hot in Florida.

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.

The Little Mermaid Show

Even shops and the toilets (restrooms) were air-conditioned too, 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.

Disney Rain Mac

8. 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.

Jedi Training

9. 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.

Walt Disney World

Even with the buggy, Sebby was asleep by the time the evening shows were on and we still had to carry him from the park entrance back to the bus, but it really saved our shoulders!

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.

Most people have two weeks to enjoy 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, as it did get to the stage where the kids were very tired and grumpy!

Art of Animation Hotel

Our hotel, the Art of Animation had the largest resort pool in Walt Disney World and a large splash park area as well as a play park and a large outdoor cinema screen which shows some Disney favourites al fresco in the evening.

Art of Animation

There are also two waterparks to consider too: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Typhoon Lagoon

We visited Typhoon Lagoon and the kids adored floating down the lazy river, jumping over huge waves in the giant wave pool and playing in the splash park, whilst Hubby got to release his adrenalin side by hurtling down the huge water slides.

Typhoon Lagoon

What do you wish you had known before a trip to Walt Disney World?

Disclaimer:  This post is in partnership with Walt Disney World and Mumsnet. I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity and all opinions here are my own.

10 top tips for visiting Walt Disney World



28 thoughts on “10 things I wish I had known before our holiday to Walt Disney World

  1. These are some great tips, I want to visit even more since reading this! The photos seem like amazing value and they look brilliant x

  2. Jenni says:

    This is really handy for those going for the first time. It’s reassuring that they have thought about the hot weather and do something to help

  3. Kira says:

    These are some really good tips! We’re hoping to go next year… exciting!!!

  4. Clair says:

    Reading this has got me so excited! Can I take a buggy and get my other half to push me around haha?

  5. Great tips – I can’t imagine trying to prepare myself to go on holiday as quickly as you did lol! The dining plan sounds good, will look into that x

  6. The fast pass app looks far better than the fast passes that they have in the UK I completely agree x

  7. Wow I didn’t know Disney World is as big as the entire Manchester area. That is massive.

  8. Sarah says:

    These are really great tips! Oh my gosh I want to visit! I’ve only ever been to Disneyland Paris. I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW BIG DISNEYWORLD IS!!

  9. Ickle Pickle says:

    Oh I SO want to go back! I still have our WDW ponchos from 12 years ago! It looks like you had an amazing time. Kaz x

  10. We haven’t done Disney Florida yet but these are great tips for when (if!) we do! Taking a break is so important, it’s so full on!

  11. Anosa says:

    I have not yet ventured out to Walt Disneyland only to Disneyland Paris and was impressed with the fastpass there too

  12. Cathy Glynn says:

    These tips are really useful as we are hopefully planning a trip there soon x

  13. Brilliant tips thank you for sharing. Looks like you all had a great time x

  14. Erica Price says:

    I wish I’d known about the Fast Pass system before our trip. We went at a busy time and there was almost nothing left on it because everyone else had booked up.

  15. I love the idea of magic bands! We took T to Disney Paris when she was three, I wish I had known that some queues took too long. Next time, I’ll probably bring a folding chair 😉 Lovely photos too.

  16. Emma says:

    Last time we visited I completely missed the part about being about being able to request coloured bands, so we all had grey ones too!!

    My top tips would be to get fast passes as soon as you can, and the free food offer when available is AMAZING!!

  17. Hannah says:

    These are some really great points and ones I will be sure to remember! It’s my dream to visit Disney Florida 🙂

  18. We have never visited Walt Disney World, however, it looks like an amazing place to visit! I guess with it being so busy it needs all of those times etc in place to ensure everyone can get involved. Super handy tips if we ever decide to hop across the Atlantic!

  19. We went to disney 4 years ago and systems have improved so much. Its so good that you can get those wrist bands that allow you to manage your your books etc. Fast passes are the best thing ever to save lots of queuing.

  20. Laura H says:

    The Magic Bands so useful and convenient for a stay at Disney World!

  21. Patrick says:

    I just want to know how you got to meet Captain Jack Sparrow?? Haven’t been to Disney Florida but it looks like fun…..

  22. I have heard great things about the Disney Experience app and need to make sure we use it on our next trip to Disney. We are in Tampa so it’s not too far from Orlando… Cheers!

  23. I went to florida when i was 11 and i would love to take my 3 boys! This is really useful so thank you!

  24. Emma says:

    It’s even more magical than I thought!!! I am so impressed with the fast track system and the fact they have fans in the queuing area aswell is amazing! I always over heat when queuing in the sun!

  25. Fabulous tips thanks Kara. Lots to bear in mind before our trip in January. Seriously considering booking earlier now so we get all our fast passes booked. Love the photo pack. Not sure my 4 year old would agree to a buggy lol

  26. Kim Carberry says:

    Oh wow! It looks like you had such an amazing time!
    I understand now why people take months to plan a Disney trip. There is so much to think about and plan x

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