Planning a Disney vacation can become overwhelming pretty quickly. Did you book the resort? Are your dining reservations on the right days? Are there characters at this breakfast? What about the app? How are we getting there? The questions are enough to make you just give in and give up. But let’s face it, you didn’t spend all this money on your Disney vacation to sit by your resort pool drowning in indecision. Here are our Top 10 Walt Disney World Tips to Remember.
STAY ON-Property at Walt Disney World?
While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend this if you were at Disneyland, if you’re headed to Walt Disney World, you’ll find Disney Resorts comparable to other Orlando hotels. And if you’re lucky enough to book during a sale or bounceback offer prices go as low as 89 dollars/night. We’ve even seen some offers as low as 49 dollars a night! Apart from cost, there are other reasons we would definitely suggest staying on Disney property.
As a Disney resort guest, you get access to loads of perks. Check out all the Perks of Staying on Property at Walt Disney World
- Early Morning Theme Park Entry allows you early and late access to the parks
- Bus and Skyliner access
- Check-in service for your airline at the resort (we use Southwest)
What we really love about staying onsite is that you’re immersed in the Disney experience completely. Mickey cartoons play in the dining hall, Disney movies are offered on the lawn at night at most resorts and the gift shop is right near the concierge desk for last-minute souvenirs. If you’re staying at the All-Stars Value Resorts you’ll get crazy Disney chaos in a good way. If you’re staying at a moderate resort you’ll get extra amenities, more relaxation, and a lot more quiet with all the Disney flair. Or opt for the deluxe resorts. No matter which resort you choose it’s an experience you won’t get at the local Wyndham.
GET THERE EARLY OR STAY THERE LATE
This is one of our most repeated Walt Disney World Tips across like a dozen posts on this blog. If you’re staying at a Disney resort you’ll be able to take advantage of Early Morning Theme Park Entry which allows you additional 30 minutes in the park before it opens. This means we get more rides, more snacks, more meet and greets more hidden mickeys, and more shopping. Getting there early or staying there late for even just one day during your vacation will make your Disney experience more memorable than you can imagine. Yes, chances are you’ll have groggy grown-ups in the morning or whiny/ sleepy kids at night but sometimes that just means lots of coffee or an extra stuffed animal… both great vacation experiences!
You’ll also see a completely different Disney! In the mornings the park is calm, quiet, lines are minimal and you get beautiful unobstructed views for pictures. In the evenings you’ll get to experience rides and lands at night! Late-night parades, fireworks, and our favorite end-of-the-day tribute to Walt Disney, The Kiss Goodnight.
MAKE SURE YOU PLAN YOUR RIDES
With the new Disney Genie+ Service and Lightning Lane, multiple ride strategies will need to be in place. Which rides will you pay for? How long are you willing to wait in the standby lines for your favorite rides? Your best bet is figuring out ahead of time, which rides you plan to ride in each park. Then prioritize the busiest ones for mealtime hours, when the waits are lower. You can also plan to get in line early with Early Theme Park Entry or purchase Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane for whatever rides are needed.
DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF…AND IT’S ALL SMALL STUFF
No matter how well you plan your Disney vacation there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. First, we’d just like to remind you that you’re at Disney, the most magical place on earth. If you’re late for your dining reservation or don’t have everyone in your dining party, don’t worry it’s Disney, they’ll figure out a way to get you seated. Or if the monorail breaks down and you miss your Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo appointment, don’t worry it’s Disney, they’ll make room for you somewhere in the schedule. If you get stuck on Splash Mountain during the Halloween party and sit there for 30 minutes wondering if anyone will ever find you or if you should prepare to sleep on this ride, don’t worry it’s Disney, they have GPS trackers on every magic band and they know you’re stuck on the ride, help is on the way.
These aren’t extremes, all of these things have happened to us and while we may have been freaking out at the time and close to tears we now know not to worry. It’s Disney. There’s a reason Disney owns practically everything on the planet, they know what they’re doing. Perfecting the customer experience is their forte. They want you to have an amazing vacation. They will do everything they can to make sure you do.
WEAR GOOD SHOES
Believe it or not, this is one of our TOP Walt Disney World Tips. Because we can’t stress this one enough. Nothing is less magical than having blisters and sore feet by the end of your one day at Disney where you realize, yes, you just walked 15 miles today and you have 5 more days to go. We’re not exaggerating this one. Look at your phone… we find we routinely walk between 13-15 miles at one park in one day.
We’ve worn through good shoes, regretted opting for flip flops, and have spent time searching for socks and large bottles of foot cream. That said, douse the need to be Instagram-cute all day long. Do we advocate for a good outfit change and photoshoot- yes, absolutely! Do we suggest just stashing those cute shoes in a locker after your mini photoshoot- yes, absolutely! A great pair of shoes for Disney will have a thick insole, be worn-in, and preferably a little flexible. You can also pack a pair of flip flops to give your feet a breather halfway through the day, but unless your flips are Sanuk, with thicker soles- they are not all-day Disney shoes.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget to stop and drink something! Let’s face it, at Disney you are focused on rides, food, parades, and characters…not necessarily on keeping your body hydrated. Bring a water bottle and fill it on your own, grab the triple-filtered water for free at Starbucks, or plain ‘ol water at any quick-service restaurant. Add fun drinks to your hydration lineup to ward off headaches and grumpiness. We like the night blossom drink at Pandora in Animal Kingdom, the American Dream at American Adventure in Epcot, Lefou’s Brew at Magic Kingdom, and the PB and J Milkshake at Hollywood Studios. We’re staying away from alcohol when we’re trying to stay hydrated… so it only felt appropriate to throw in a milkshake. Check out all our favorite Cool drinks to beat the heat at Walt Disney World.
GRAB A DOLE WHIP
We give you permission. Get a Dole Whip. Feel okay about completely abandoning whatever diet you may be on, this treat is worth it. We love the dole whip floats and if you’re feeling extra grown-up some places can add rum to this sweet treat. There is a reason that people talk about this Disney snack. 1. You can’t get it anywhere else! Disney’s partnership with Dole is what makes this possible. 2. It’s semi-healthy with a large amount of Vitamin C which can protect your skin from that Florida sun. 3. It can give you a reason to venture over to The Polynesian Resort on the monorail to stop by the Pineapple Lanai. You can also get this in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom. Is this one of our Best Disney Snacks at Magic Kingdom? Yes. We think so.
ALWAYS SEE THE 2ND PARADE AND FIREWORKS SHOW AT PARTIES
If attending Magic Kingdom for a party at Halloween or Christmas, you’ll notice there are 2 parades and 2 evening firework shows. Like almost everyone, we’re always super excited to save our seats for the parade or stand around the castle at 9 waiting for the fireworks show. That is until of course, we realized that every single person is doing the exact same thing which suddenly means all the rides are left open with no waits!
As Walt Disney World Tips go… finding rides with no waits is a TOP TIP! For this reason, we absolutely recommend trying for the second parade or the second fireworks show instead of the first. Your chances of riding everything you didn’t get Lightning Lane Passes for earlier are good and your view of the fireworks at the later show will be better. You may even get hub grass seating! Always a plus. Of course, if your toting around kiddies and really need to wrap up your day another quick tip would be that people leave the parks after the fireworks at 9 or 11, which means the busses will be packed at both times. So you can easily end your day at the end of the 2nd parade around 730/8 and miss the crowds.
HAVE AT LEAST ONE PLANNED MEAL FOR THE DAY
We must admit we go a little crazy about Disney food. Properly spoiled by the Free Disney Dining Plan we become kinda grouchy if we don’t have a meal planned. In other posts when we’ve chatted Walt Disney World Tips, we ALWAYS bring up the importance of a sit-down meal. Preferably one each day.
We can’t even elaborate on how amazing it is to actually sit down in a decent restaurant after walking that 10 miles and riding all the rides for the day. Whether it’s a nice cappuccino at Liberty Tree Tavern or the hot enchiladas at San Angel Inn and Ristorante sometimes you just need a great meal to top off your great day. Mind you this doesn’t have to be a sit-down Table Service meal if you don’t want to spend the money. Your planned dining could be as easy as chatting with your family/ friends about the best quick service restaurant at each park so you’re all on the same page.
Why This is Important?
As we mentioned before the best Disney vacation is the one where you can just show up and relax.. that only happens if you do the proper planning beforehand. Disney parks have dozens of restaurants that boast a wide variety of menus, it’s best to identify if your travel companions like American cuisine or sushi prior to trying to find those places in any given park and realizing they’re 5 miles apart. Make this easy. Pick one restaurant for each day of your trip. Sure you can plan all your meals, but make an effort to pick at least one place that everyone will like. If you need reservations make the reservation. If you choose a quick-service restaurant pick the time you’ll take a break and eat. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day. You’ll need a break, and a meal can offer that.
BE IN THE MOMENT
Okay. Imagine this. You’ve spent a bunch of money on this Disney Vacation, found the cheapest flights, got a sitter for your dog, and put the lights in your home on automatic timers. After you’ve spent about 6-12 months of your life planning every detail, pinning every pin you’re finally at the resort ready for this vacation. Unfortunately, you can’t turn your real-life self OFF! In between rides you read every email, check every app notification, and scroll through Facebook like it’s your job. You take calls from your boss and your family during the parade and try to solve problems happening at home.
Here’s the thing, this is the typical Disney vacation for about 75% of vacationers!
- Did you really just spend four thousand dollars to bring your family somewhere so they could watch you work remotely?
- Did you just waste those 6 months planning so you could scroll through Instagram on Pirates of the Caribbean? NO!
Really Be In the Moment
Of all the Walt Disney World Tips, this is probably our most important one. In our 10 Ways to Unplug at Disney post, we break down a few things you can do to separate yourself from your phone, laptop, and all those apps. You should BE IN THE MOMENT. Unless you’re used to meditating this will feel weird to you. Try it. Disney has so much to notice, you should turn off the phone and notice it!
Did you know Main Street smells like cookies? And the Beach Club smells like aloe? Did you notice the graves at the Haunted Mansion come to life? Did you see all the hidden mickeys in the Gran Fiesta Boat Tour with the Three Caballeros at Epcot, Mexico? Could you tell that the screams coming from the Tower of Terror are pre-recorded to go off every time the tower drops? Promise yourself that on this vacation you will just take everything in. You will spend time with your fellow travelers whether they be friends or family and you’ll devote 100 % of your attention to this vacation, to relaxing, to just being. You deserve it.
Hopefully, these tips will help you prioritize what’s really important for your Disney Vacation. Check out our planning tools and reviews for more ideas.
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.