Traveling to Walt Disney World is a working vacation from the time you book all of the way through the last day of your trip. When you are planning a trip to Disney World expect to plan if you want to have a wonderful vacation. Because there is so much to do on property, being well prepared will certainly enhance your vacation experience.
In no particular order, here are my Top 10 things you must know before you go.
1. The size of Walt Disney World- Walt Disney World is about the size of San Francisco. This means that you really should not plan to walk anywhere while vacationing there. To the contrary of many first timer vacationer beliefs, none of the parks are within walking distance to each other and most of the resorts are not within walking distance to any of the parks at all. When planning your Walt Disney World vacation you will want to plan for travel, it would be common to allow at least 30 minutes getting from your hotel to the parks.
2. There is way too much to see and do on one trip. - The typical Walt Disney World vacation is about 7 days. My typical Disney vacation is about 10 days and even knowing the parks like the back of my hand; I still cannot do all that I intend to do on one trip. Even with a really great plan in hand, there are many things that you cannot plan for, weather, crowds, kids that may be way to tired to do anything else without a nap. Be sure to be very flexible on your travels. Know in advance that even seasoned Disney travelers cannot see and do everything all in one trip.
3. Extra Magic Hours-If you are so blessed as to be staying on Walt Disney World property, you will want to be sure to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (EMH). These hours allow the park to either open an hour early or to close up to 3 hours later. EMH can only be utilized by Walt Disney World Resort guests as you will be asked to show your room key before you get on an attraction. When there is morning EMH, that park will open at 8:00 AM, get there by 7:45 AM so that you can see rope drop and be among the first to enter the park and ride the rides. We were able to get on Mt. Everest 8 times between 8:00-8:45 one morning....we love that ride!! Utilize the park until about 11:15 and then take an early lunch (see this post where I discuss the advantages to early lunch) then go back to your resort for some rest and go back for dinner. Usually, there is a park offering EMH for the night, and then you are fresh and ready to enjoy the evening activities. These EMH hours allow you and your family to see and do everything that Walt Disney World has to offer with limited crowds.
*The morning EMH can be a bit crowded with families but we have found some of the thrill rides to have much lower lines than regular times throughout the day.
4. Disney Transportation- Please do your research about how to use Disney transportation. This is such an invaluable tool that Disney has created to help make your stay more enjoyable. Disney provides extensive transportation options, from buses, monorails and boats from your Disney resort to all parts of the parks. Disney also provides free Magical Express airport transportation...yes I said free!! :0) I am always shocked to hear that people are renting cars. Take a week off and let Disney do the driving...less thinking for you.
*Be sure to understand the transportation routes prior to traveling as it can be a bit intimidating to new travelers.
5. Fast Passes- Disney hit the nail on the head when they came out with their fast pass system. Not only is Fast Pass free but it helps save you time and time is money. :0) Check out Fast Pass Information to learn more about how to use it.
6. Have a Plan- If you were going to a new state or foreign country you would do your research...we Disney World is a world of its own... it is HUGE!!!!! You must have a plan of action before you go; not doing so will cause you to have a less than magical experience. There are so many wonderful free options to help you get started on your research...plus it is a ton of fun to talk Disney with others that love it!! Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Find an online Disney forum to and sign up so that you can ask questions about your trip. Believe me the Disney community is HUGE and people are willing to help you for free!! Check out my favorites.. www.intercot.com or our brand new Disney Guru forum www.wdwguru.proboards.com .
- Find a FREE Disney travel agent to help you book your trip. I love Magical Journeys . They offer personal service and are Disney fans themselves...the best part is they are free to use!!!
- Find out park hours, Extra Magic Hours schedules and rehab closures while you are there, as well as any special events made available during your stay.
- Make your dining reservations in advance. You cannot expect to walk up to restaurants and get in.
- This option is not free, but get a Disney guide book and read it a few times.
Just keep in mind that with all of the planning it is still essential to be flexible with your plans. :0)
7. Staying on Property Enhances the Magic- This is my personal opinion but I feel that staying on property keeps me indulged in the Disney magic. Not only are the resorts themed to your liking but the service is top notch no matter where you stay on property. I have stayed in all categories and have always been treated like a queen. In addition, Disney gives you an ample amount of perks for staying on property:
- Disney's Magical Express(No need to rent a car)
- Disney Transportation
- Extra Magic Hours
- Disney Dining Plans
- Free Parking
- Disney Service
I know that many people stay off property and love it!! The best part about Disney is that there is something for everyone. :0)
8. Make Dining Reservations- Many people do not know that the Disney Dining reservation system is a hot item. They take reservations starting at 180 before you arrive...if you fail to make those reservations in advance you will not get into choice locations. People, including myself, wake up at 5:00 AM 180 before they depart to insure that they get those reservations. If there is a specific dining location you would like to attend, make sure to reserve it at 407-wdw-dine.
9. Know When You Are Going- Be sure to know all of the special events for the time of year you are traveling. It would be horrible to get there and miss out on The Halloween Party or the Christmas Party because you did not know it was taking place. Disney always has a celebration be sure to research your time of year.
10. Have Fun- Remember, Disney World is HUGE (did I say that already) and people get tired. You are there to create magical memories with your family and friends. Be sure to be planned but flexible as things do not always go as planned. Enjoy!!
See ya real soon!