Before reading this review, know that while there are some people who have made many trips to Disney World, I am not one of them. My review is based on one visit but there were many things I wish I had known before traveling and some things I feel as though I lucked into and easily could have missed. If you are planning a trip, or just thinking about one, this review may help!
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from a trip to Disney World. The amount of planning involved seemed overwhelming and I was worried about long wait times for rides. I was happy to find that the amount of time I had to put in before the trip wasn’t too terrible and since everyone at Disney World is extremely knowledgeable and helpful it makes the waits and long walks bearable.
1. Stay at a Disney resort.
Although I initially balked at the cost, I realized that there are many advantages of staying on property, including free transportation to and from the airport with baggage pick-up, free parking at the parks should you drive, free transportation to all the parks plus daily “Extra Magic Hours” at rotating parks allowing less crowded access to rides. You also have the ability to make restaurant reservations and FastPass reservations for rides before the general public, and the ability to simplify your visit by using a Magic Band bracelet from everything to entering your room to park admission to paying at restaurants and gift shops so you don’t even need to bring a wallet with you to the parks.
2. Make FastPass reservations.
Be sure to make FastPass reservations for rides as soon as possible. If you are not familiar with FastPass, they are passes that enable you to jump the line for your favorite rides and popular character meet-and-greets. Considering wait times to meet Anna and Elsa can top three hours and popular roller coasters can have wait times of over two hours this is a huge time savings.
Everyone with a ticket is entitled to three FastPasses a day at no extra charge. The trick is, you need to reserve a time in advance – 60 to 45 days in advance depending on whether or not you are staying on property. Some rides fill up almost as soon as they open. It pays to do some advance research on rides your family may enjoy, paying attention to height restrictions and looking at a map.
3. Learn the FastPass tricks.
Parks tend not to be as crowded early in the morning, so if your family is one of early risers, save your FastPasses for later in the day and take your chances with lines earlier in the day. Also, although it took me a couple of days to realize this, once you use up your FastPasses for the day you can get new ones within the park. However, there must be FastPass slots available and you can only get one at a time. Since it’s not guaranteed that you will get a same-day FastPass for a ride and/or time of your choice, these should be viewed as nice bonuses when you get one that works out. Another tip I learned after a couple of days is that if you show up to a ride to use a FastPass and find no line you can choose to not use your FastPass and go through the regular line. Then, you can exchange your FastPass for another ride.
4. Know the height restrictions.
Many rides have a height restriction of 40 inches. Some rides have a height restriction of 42 inches. A couple have even higher height restrictions. If you are traveling with a child who may not be able to go on some rides, try to have a back-up plan with a nearby ride to avoid tears. Also, traveling through the parks with a stroller is a pain. The parks are big so it may be worth the pain, but strollers need to be left at the designated stroller parking area for that ride. This is not necessarily near the exit to the ride. We found that leaving the stroller in one spot while we explored the surrounding area worked better than moving the stroller a few feet each time we wanted to go on a new ride.
5. Go see a Disney show!
An unexpected discovery was how great the shows at Disney are. Initially I had not planned on seeing any shows, but when we found one without a wait to get in we decided to check it out. Most shows are a very kid-friendly ½ hour or so in length and I’m not exaggerating when I say they are Broadway quality in every sense. There are many options from Beauty and the Beast to a Frozen singalong where Elsa actually makes it snow to Fantasmic, with fireworks and projections on water.
Although I was initially skeptical, after my family’s visit I can see why a trip is universally seen as such a magical experience!
Some things to note
- As soon as you decide you are going to Disney World start researching rides and restaurants.
- Take note of the first day you are able to make FastPass and dining reservations and do so as soon as you can.
- Keep your eyes open for deals for staying on property. There are periodic 30% off deals for Disney hotels and free dining packages are usually offered a couple of times a year. Mouse Savers is a good source for news about discounts.
- Look for news about new rides that may be opening (including the new Star Wars attractions in development) or rides that may be closed for maintenance during your visit. All Ears is a good site to check.
- As with any vacation, it’s easy to loose track of time. Using My Disney Experience to plan is a big help. Once at Disney you can use the My Disney Experience App to keep track of all of your FastPass and dining reservations. The app also lets you know real-time waits for rides as well as times of events like parades and fireworks.
- If you have a Princess at home consider a special event like a make-over at the Bippidy Bop Botique or dining with the princess at Cinderella’s castle. Breakfast might be worth the price to avoid waiting in line to meet princesses during your trip – and it’s one of the few ways to actually get inside the iconic castle.
Hope this helps just a bit and have a great trip!
Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.