Since everyone seemed to love my tips for visiting Universal Studios, I thought it was only fitting that I share my tips and advice for visiting another theme park I love, Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. My parents have been taking me to Disney World since I was six months old, so it’s safe to say I have a bit of experience when it comes to mastering the parks. As an adult, I love and appreciate Disney World even more, and Matt and I try to visit at least once a year. You may think that’s a bit excessive, but with the parks constantly expanding, it seems like there is always a new attraction to check out.
Michelle of Mash Elle, Ashley of Ashley Brooke Nicholas & Stephanie of Diary of a Debutante
Visiting a theme park and resort as large as Disney World can be overwhelming. Usually you only have a short amount of time to cover everything, and if you’re anything like my family, you don’t want to miss a thing. Since I’ve visited Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL 20+ times in my lifetime, especially in recent years, I thought I would round-up my top ten tips for making the most of your Disney World vacation. If you follow my tips, you’re sure to make the most out of your trip, without exhausting yourself and your family.
1. Stay at a Disney World Resort.
There are many different benefits of staying at a Disney World Resort. You may be tempted to snag a room for a lower rate at a nearby hotel, but you’ll save in so many other ways by staying onsite. Guests staying at Disney World hotels get first access to FastPass+ and Disney Dining Reservations, ensuring spots for the best rides and restaurants. If you want to dine at restaurants like Be Our Guest or ride Avatar Flight of Passage, early access is key. Disney World hotel guests also get extra time in the parks. Everyday a different park hosts Extra Magic Hours, which allow guests to access the park either an hour before opening or two hours after closing. If you weren’t able to get a Fastpass+ you wanted, Extra Magic Hours are a great way to get on rides before they’re open to the general public. Another huge perk of staying at a Disney World hotel is free ground transportation to and from the airport, as well as from park to park. Parking at the theme parks can get expensive, so complimentary transportation translates to a major savings.
2. Or stay at a Disney Springs Resort Area Hotel.
If you weren’t able to grab a room at one of Disney World’s hotels, the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels are another great option. Matt and I stayed at Disney Springs hotels on our last few trips, and we are so glad we did. The Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels are considered official Disney properties. They don’t include all of the benefits of staying at a Disney World hotel, but they do include the important ones like access to Extra Magic Hours and shuttle service to the theme parks, water parks, and other attractions. The shuttle doesn’t run as frequently as it does for the main Disney hotels, but Matt and I had no issues with it at all. We also LOVED that all seven of the Disney Springs hotels are walking distance to Disney Springs. Whenever we visit Disney, we love spending time at Disney Springs, so being able to walk there whenever we wanted was unbelievable. The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, where we have stayed twice, is literally right next to the walking bridge that takes you to Disney Springs. Very convenient!
3. Opt for the park hopper.
When purchasing your Disney World theme park tickets, you’ll notice you can add the Park Hopper option to your ticket for an additional fee. In my opinion, it is worth every penny. The Park Hopper allows you admission to all four parks in the same day. If you want to start your day at Magic Kingdom and end it watching the fireworks at Epcot, you can. If you missed a ride at Hollywood Studios one day, you can go back another night. It gives you the flexibility to see everything the parks have to offer. Now that Matt and I have gone on every attraction at Disney World, we especially love the Park Hopper option. It allows us to go on all of our favorites at each park in the matter of a day.
4. Make dining reservations ahead of time.
Vacations should be in the moment and fun, but Disney World vacations do require a bit of planning ahead of time. Making dining reservations months in advance may seem crazy, but if you want to eat at certain restaurants, I recommend it. In fact, they’re 100% necessary during the peak months if you want to eat at all. That may sound a bit dramatic, but if you don’t have reservations, getting seated at a restaurant without one may be difficult, and sometimes even impossible.
5. Consider the Disney Dining Plan.
While the Disney Dining Plan may not be for everyone, I think you should seriously consider it. There are tons of sites out there that breakdown the cost of each meal, and help you calculate exactly how much you would save, but the truth is, the Disney Dining Plan saves a lot more than money. It saves time. The Disney Dining Plan is a prepaid meal plan that guests can purchase to help them budget and potentially save money. Depending on which plan you purchase, you’ll be given a set number of credits you can use throughout your time at Disney World. The credits are designated for snacks, quick-service, table service, or signature dining. Personally, I love knowing that when I get to Disney World my meals are covered. I don’t have to worry about cash or credit cards, I can simply swipe my Magic Band. It also puts my family in more of a routine, whereas without the Disney Dining Plan we tend to aimlessly eat and spend. In my opinion, the Disney Dining Plan gives guests the ability to try restaurants they maybe wouldn’t try normally. If you’re paying for the plan, you tend to want to take full advantage of it, so you try restaurants and meals you normally would have skipped if you were paying out of pocket.
6. Make your FastPass+ reservations ahead of time.
If you want to see all of the rides and attractions on your list, reserving FastPasses ahead of time will definitely help. You’re allowed to schedule three Fastpasses per day, and then once you use those Fastpasses, you can schedule more one by one. The parks can get extremely crowded, so securing a FastPass for your favorite ride will ensure you actually get to go on it.
7. Utilize the My Disney Experience app.
Our trips definitely wouldn’t run as smoothly without the My Disney Experience app. The app allows you to keep everything you need for the best Disney World vacation ever all in one place. Once you link your account, you’ll be able to access everything from your hotel information, dining reservations, and FastPass+ selections. It also allows you to change your FastPass+ selections, and select new ones throughout your time at the park. During our last visit to Disney World, we were meeting friends so we didn’t make any FastPass+ selections ahead of time. Surprisingly, we were able to coordinate and create FastPasses throughout the day, allowing us to go on twice as many rides. The app can be a bit finicky, but if you keep refreshing we found that more and more FastPass+ options will appear. (Thanks, Ashley!)
Rose Gold Minnie Ears
These rose gold minnie ears are a must-have item right now. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a pair at the parks during a restock. If not, you can grab a pair on Amazon. They’re more expensive, but available if you desperately want a pair!
8. Get to the parks as early as possible.
I know you’re on vacation and you probably want to sleep in, or hang by the pool, but if you want to see all that Disney has to offer, I recommend waking up early. Honestly, Disney World is so exciting it can turn anyone into a morning person, myself included. Orlando can be excruciatingly hot on most days, so we also love heading out to the parks early because it allows us to go on a few attractions before the day reaches peak temperature.
9. Pack a backpack with all of the essentials before you head to the parks.
A day at Disney World can be really long, so it’s important to pack anything you might need throughout the day. I personally love bringing a backpack. It’s comfortable, you can take it on the rides, and it fits everything you need, and then some. Some essentials I typically pack are a poncho, sweatshirt, reusable water bottle, portable phone charger, sunscreen, baby wipes, gum, and a few light snacks.
Chic Diaper Backpack
A modern twist on the diaper bag! Perfect for storing all of your baby’s essentials during a day at Disney.
10. Bring a portable phone charger and reusable water bottle.
I know I already mentioned my essentials, but I have to reiterate the importance of both a portable phone charger and reusable water bottle. Since you’ll most likely be spending your entire day at the parks, and phone batteries tend to be awful, you’ll want to bring a portable phone charger. Aside from the fact that you’ll want to make sure you have enough battery to check the My Disney Experience app or play games while waiting for rides, you also want to be sure you can get in-contact with the people in your party incase you accidentally get split up. And trust me, it happens. As I’ve mentioned probably 100x times in this post, Orlando can get very hot. Having a reusable water bottle allows you to drink as much water as you need throughout the day, without having to constantly buy $5 water bottles. It not only saves money, but it’s totally necessary for your wellbeing.
Portable Phone Charger
Light and portable, and essential for a long day at the parks!
We just got back from Walt Disney World last month and I’m already itching to go back. This past trip was especially fun because I got to spend time with my three best friends I made through blogging, Ashley, Stephanie, and Michelle. If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World, I hope my 10 tips to make the most out of your Walt Disney World vacation help you while doing so. If you have any questions about Disney World, don’t hesitate to e-mail me and ask. Incase you haven’t noticed, I kind of love planning and visiting!