Sckylar is always planning her next trip home. As an avid Disney fan, she loves any opportunity to share knowledge about her favorite place.
Do Plan Ahead.
This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many first time Disney goers decide to play it by ear when they visit Orlando. While it may be fine to visit Anaheim without a plan, I would not recommend it for Disney World. Disney World tops out at 25,000 acres, compared to Disneyland’s 500 acre playground. There is so much more to do in Orlando, whether you’re spending time at the parks, dining in Downtown Disney, or visiting the rest of the city.
So, what exactly do you plan? Great question. First, you need to decide how long you are going to be staying in Orlando, what your budget is, and if you will be spending any time outside of Disney.
Disney World has four parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. This may seem overwhelming to the newcomer, especially if you won’t be in town long enough to spend a full day at each park. So, Do Your Research. Find out which parks appeal to you and your family the most and plan your time around those attractions. I recommend planning a full day at each park, if possible. However, if that isn’t something that works with your itinerary, Magic Kingdom and Epcot have enough attractions to last an entire day, whereas at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom you could be done in half a day.
Don’t Overspend On Tickets.
Don’t buy tickets directly from Disney. Instead, go to travel sites like undercovertourist.com and parksavers.com to get discounted tickets. Remember, the more days you buy, the better the deal. For each additional day added to a ticket package, the less per day you actually spend. For instance, for June 2015, a one day ticket sells for $105, a four day pass is $76.25 per day, and a seven day pass is $47.96 per day according to the Disney website (Disneyworld.disney.go.com). You will need to decide if your family is doing Park Hopper tickets. Park Hopper passes are more expensive, but they can be worth it in the long run. A Park Hopper pass will allow you to jump between the four parks as often as you want in the same day. This is important if you do not plan on spending an entire day in a single park. If you do not purchase a Park Hopper pass you will not be able to visit more than one park in the same day.
Do Download the My Disney Experience App.
My Disney Experience is an essential tool for planning a Disney vacation. The app gives you access to real-time wait times, park hours, character greetings, and show times. It lists every dining experience available as well as a menu for each restaurant. It enables you to pull up a virtual map of each park as well as shows you where the nearest restroom is. Most importantly, however, it allows you to easily select and modify your FastPass+ experiences.
Do Use FastPass+.
FastPass+ allows you to skip the long lines and go straight to the attraction. You can select your FastPass+ reservations as early as 60 days before check-in when staying at a Disney resort and as early as 30 days before your trip when staying off property. I recommend reserving your FastPass+ selections as soon as possible. You can make changes to your reservations anytime, however, in my experience, waiting until the last minute to select FastPass+ attractions means that the attractions you want may not be available at the times you need. You are allowed three FastPass+ selections per day. Each FastPass+ must be reserved for the same park which means that even if you do have Park Hopper tickets you can’t reserve a FastPass+ in both Epcot and Magic Kingdom on the same day.
Don’t Get a Late Start.
There is so much to do and usually so little time to do it in. You’re spending hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to be at Disney World, so why waste your time sleeping in a strange bed? The parks open at 9 AM most days. Get to the gates early to beat the crowds and spend more time on the attractions. If you are staying at a Disney resort be sure to check the Extra Magic Hours schedule. Extra Magic Hours is when the parks are open to Disney resort guests and no one else, either before the parks officially open in the morning or after the parks close at night.
Do Bring Your Own Food.
Disney allows you to bring your own food and water. Designate a party member to carry a backpack and stuff that thing full of snacks and sandwiches. Disney Dining can get expensive and while some of the food is exquisite (especially the food at the higher-end places), most isn’t worth the dough it costs.
Don’t Get Dehydrated.
While at Disney you will be outside in the sun all day. Since Disney lets you bring your own water, pack those giant liter sized bottles and refill them when they empty. Disney also sells water bottles at just about every kiosk. Ask for a cup of ice water when getting lunch and there’s no charge! Avoid getting over heated. Stay in the shade whenever possible, wear a hat, drink plenty of water, and if you’re someone who is prone to heat stroke, invest in one of those water-spritzing fans.
Do Pack For the Weather.
Check the weather reports before you leave for your trip. Florida’s weather can be sporadic. Be sure to pack accordingly. Don’t Forget Sunscreen or Comfortable Walking Shoes. You will be walking. A Lot. Be sure that you have comfortable tennis shoes. Sandals and flip flops might be cute, but they also can cause blisters and may not be allowed on some of the rides. Remember sunscreen! Florida can get extremely sunny. It also rains a lot. Rain ponchos are sold at the souvenir shops for ten bucks a pop. Ponchos can also be bought at any dollar store and are just as good at keeping you and your belongings dry as the ones bought at Disney, even if they don’t have Mickey’s face on the back.
Don’t Miss Out on the Rest of Orlando.
While Disney is amazing and it’s definitely worth spending the majority of your time there, be sure to save some time for the rest of the city. Universal Studios Orlando is a twenty minute drive from Disney property and is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Wet N’ Wild and Sea World are also nearby. Don’t miss out on Gatorland, the attraction that first put Orlando on the map before Disney World was built. Spend some time in the city at the local restaurants and if you’re a golfer, check out some of the local golf clubs.