So — you’re going to Walt Disney World? EEK, how exciting!!
It can take a LOT of time and work to plan a Walt Disney World vacation — and while there’s plenty of stuff that’s nice to know before you go, there’s some info you NEED to know if you want your trip to go smoothly.
1. Disney World Is HUGE…And You Need to Plan For Travel Time
Walt Disney World is HUGE. We’re talkin’ “Four theme parks, two water parks, thirty+ hotels, 3 golf courses, a dining and shopping district, and more!” huge!! Disney World is TWICE the size of the island of Manhattan — that’s REAL big, guys.
When planning your Walt Disney World vacation, you need to understand just how big it really is and how that will affect your plans. One major consideration: the time it takes to get from point A to point B. Using Disney’s free transportation can take up a good chunk of time, not to mention the time spent covering the sheer distances you’ll cross to get where you’re going.
Disney always recommends allowing at least one hour to get where you’re going — whether that’s from a park to a resort, between parks, or between resorts. And while that may sound outrageous, we often find it to be just about right.
Let’s look at an example: imagine you’re in the Magic Kingdom at the castle. You’re headed to Epcot to have dinner at Spice Road Table in the Morocco pavilion in World Showcase. While traveling between the Magic Kingdom and Epcot doesn’t seem like a formidable distance (it’s just a few miles, really), here’s what you actually have to accomplish:
- the time spent waiting for the monorail in Magic Kingdom,
- changing monorails at the Transportation and Ticket Center,
- going through security at Epcot,
- waiting to tap in at the tapstyles in Epcot, and then
- walking from the Epcot main entrance all the way to Spice Road Table on the other side of the park
Altogether, that can easily take you an hour or more. Now you could book a rideshare like a Disney World Minnie Van through your Lyft app, but while that transportation option will pick you up at the Magic Kingdom and drive you directly to Epcot’s entrance, you’re still looking at close to an hour when you factor in the time waiting for the Minnie Van, going through Epcot security and entrance gates, and walking to Spice Road Table.
Try to schedule accordingly when planning out your Genie+ Lightning Lanes (more on that later) and disney dining reservations to allow plenty of extra time to get around. Trust us, you’ll enjoy your vacation MUCH more if you’re not spending half your time running late! Check out our look at the Disney Transportation options below!
2. Flying? Plan Ahead To Get From the Airport To Disney World
Are you flying to Orlando? Then you’ve got to know how you’re getting from the airport to Walt Disney World. Luckily, there are lots of options out there to choose from. For example, you can take a cab, rent a car, call a ride share service, reserve a Minnie Van, or take Disney’s affiliate bus service, Mears Connect.
Minnie Vans and rideshares or cabs are typically faster and more cost-effective. Renting a car gives you the freedom to go as you please, but you’ll need to account for parking fees at the parks and your resort hotel.
There are pros and cons to each, so make sure to do your research and choose the one that works best for you! If you work out your plan ahead of time then you can hop off the plane, hop into your ride, and let the magic begin!
3. Packing Considerations
Before you go, you gotta pack for the trip! What shoes to bring for walking endless miles in the rain? What should I wear? Will it be super hot? Does it get cold at Disney in Winter? Do I need a bathing suit? What am I forgetting? SO MANY things to keep in mind when you pack up to head to Disney.
Lucky for you — we’ve got you covered! We put together our huge list of everything you could possibly need to pack so you don’t forget anything before you go! Check out our packing guide below!
4. What Activities and Amenities Are Available At Your Resort Hotel?
Awesome pool? Great dining? Fun activities for the kiddos? You’re probably doing a lot of research on the Disney Parks, but make sure you take time to learn more about your resort hotel as well!
Disney resorts are chock-full of amenities for all age groups, and many Disney guests like to spend a considerable amount of time exploring and enjoying their resort hotel. Disney resorts can have some pretty killer pools, fun play areas for kids, fun runs, fine dining options, spas at some locations, and more! Learn what’s available at your resort and try to schedule some time to take advantage of those things.
A great time to enjoy your resort (or visit another one!) is your check-in day! Check out our DFB Video below for our picks for great arrival day activities!
5. Determine Your MUST-DOs Before Your Trip
There are SO many attractions and shows in Walt Disney World that it can be REALLY overwhelming to try and cram it all into one trip! Before you go, make sure you know your absolute must-dos for each person in your group and work those into your plans!
You can save time by avoiding things no one wants to do and keep everyone in your group happy. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING at Disney World.
Want a look at some of our favorite rides to help you get started? Check out our DFB video below for our favorite attractions!
6. Which Attractions Will Be Closed While You’re in Disney World
Disney attractions regularly close for scheduled refurbishments. Often, they are simply performing routine maintenance, and other times they are “re-imagining” them. (Re-imagine is a “Disney” word for changing or drastically updating.)
Refurbishments are unavoidable, but what a bummer it would be if you got to Walt Disney World only to find out your favorite attraction or restaurant is closed!
Make sure to check Disney’s refurbishment calendar before you go! Disney posts all scheduled refurbishments on their calendars, so you can see exactly what will be closed when you go. If there is a must must MUST do, plan your trip accordingly and wait to visit when your favorite is back open.
7. What is Disney Genie?
Disney Genie is a new service on the Disney World App that has four primary features: a tip board, a planning service, Genie+, and Individual Attraction Selection. All of these new features are all major helps for any Disney trip!
First, Genie’s tip board features wait times for attractions (as well as the next available Lightning Lane reservations), schedules for shows & parades, and food that’s available for Mobile Order!
Genie also features a free planning service that, based on your interests and must-do attractions, activities, and food, will plan out your day for you! Throughout the day, the itinerary will adapt according to your choices, crowds, and other factors (you can even tell Genie to never show you specific attractions or food ever again).
The paid tier of Disney Genie, which is called Genie+, gives you access to a range of services, the most notable of which are access to Lightning Lanes (the new FastPass replacement). With the $15 per person per day cost of Genie+, you get access to Lightning Lanes, audio experiences, and other perks.
However, Genie+ doesn’t get you access to every attraction’s Lightning Lane. Especially popular rides, like Rise of the Resistance and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, are part of Individual Attraction Selection: an a la carte Lightning Lane service that exists outside of Genie+. In order to get access to these more popular attractions’ Lightning Lanes, you’ll pay a fee per attraction per person.
Confused? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. We’ve got a TON of articles about Disney Genie, outlining everything you need to know.
8. What are Early Theme Park Entry & Extended Evening Hours?
There are two ways to get some extra time in the parks: Early Theme Park Entry and Extended Evening Hours. Early Theme Park Entry, available for Disney World Resort Hotel guests, allows guests to enter parks 30 minutes early!
For guests at Disney World Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villa Resorts, there are Extended Evening Hours, which allow guests to stay in the park later on select dates.
During Extended Evening Hours, only select attractions are open, but it can be very rewarding to visit the parks during these extra hours.
9. What Special Events are Happening During Your Visit?
Before you go, it’s important to know what is happening at Walt Disney World during your trip! Is there a big park anniversary? How about a new land or big attraction opening? Is it Dapper Day? Are you expecting classic Epcot but it’s opening day of the Food and Wine Festival?
Some special events may mean heavier crowds, but others can also mean special limited-time merchandise and treats or experiences you can plan to try!
Spend some time checking out Disney’s calendar and various social media channels so you know what is happening before you get to Orlando! And don’t forget to sign up for the Disney Food Blog Newsletter! We’ll keep you in the know on EVERYTHING happening in Disney World!
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10. There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Vacation
Don’t get us wrong — you can (and should!) have a fantastic, memorable, fun Disney trip. But no matter how hard you prepare or how perfectly you schedule your days, SOMETHING won’t go just right.
It might rain one day. An attraction might have technical difficulties. Your kids might be exhausted and just want to hit the pool instead of a park one afternoon. And you know what? That’s a-okay!!
None of these things can RUIN a vacation — only a bad attitude can. So plan, plan, plan your perfect Disney vacation. But make sure you’re flexible and able to adapt if things don’t go exactly how you envisioned them. Going in with a great attitude and being adaptable to change can ensure you make the most of your fabulous trip!
Want more Walt Disney World planning information? Check out this DFB Guide Video below:
And if you love this video, there’s plenty more for you to enjoy over on our DFB YouTube Channel!
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What’s your favorite Disney planning tip? Let us know in the comments!