If you’re planning a Disney World vacation (especially if it’s your first time), you may have a lot of questions!
There’s a bunch of basic information that needs to be covered before you can move on to the nitty-gritty stuff, and today we’re discussing those questions. Buckle up, we’ve got a lot to cover!
What Does Disney World Include?
Disney World is a MASSIVE place. It’s comprised of 4 theme parks, more than 25 resort hotels, a shopping and dining complex (Disney Springs), golf courses, mini-golf, the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, 2 water parks, and so much more!
This place is seriously huge and it would take you weeks, if not months, to do EVERYTHING. The property itself is actually the same size as San Francisco!
What Are the Four Parks
- The original Disney World park, very similar to Disneyland Park in California. Opened in 1971.
- Contains 6 themed lands: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.
- Home to Cinderella Castle and many of the iconic “Disney” things like Space Mountain, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.
- The second WDW park opened in 1982.
- Comprised of two parts: Future World and World Showcase.
- Future World is currently under construction and being transformed into a much more modern and beautified area. It’s currently home to Spaceship Earth (the giant golf ball), Soarin’, Journey Into Imagination with Figment, Test Track, and more.
- World Showcase is home to 11 different pavilions-themed after various countries around the world.
- This park hosts four different food-based festivals throughout the year: Food & Wine, Flower & Garden, Festival of the Holidays, and Festival of the Arts.
- Used to be MGM Studios and opened in 1989.
- Was previously themed to be a “how the movies are made” park, complete with a studio. But now also takes guests into the movies.
- Home to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land, a replica of the Chinese Theatre, Tower of Terror, and more.
- NOT home to Wizarding World of Harry Potter — that’s at Universal Orlando, a different resort entirely from Disney World.
- The most recent WDW park and opened in 1998.
- Home to Pandora — World of Avatar, Expedition Everest, the Tree of Life, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and more.
- Many REAL animals live here that you can see.
Each of these parks has its own unique personality and theme, and there are plenty of things to check out no matter which you choose to visit!
Do I Have to Stay in a Disney World Hotel?
No, you do not have to stay in a Disney hotel to have the full Disney World experience. However, if you choose to stay in a Disney World Resort, there are more than 25 options to choose from. They’re not all over-the-top Disney-themed with princesses on the walls and characters everywhere (but you can find that if you want it) and they come at three different price points: value, moderate, and deluxe.
You can also stay in hotels not owned by Disney that are on Disney World property. There are some in the Disney Springs area, in addition to options like the Four Seasons and the Swan and Dolphin Resorts. These hotels get many of the same perks as Disney-owned resorts, and you can sometimes score special deals and lower prices for them specifically!
How Do I Get to the Parks?
If you’re not staying onsite, then you’ll likely need to drive yourself or pay for an Uber/Lyft. Some offsite hotels offer shuttles, but you’ll need to double-check when you arrive.
If you’re staying onsite, you can take free transportation from your resort. Some of these options include Disney Skyliner, buses, boats, or monorail. Make sure to ask your resort if you’d like to know which options are available.
When Are the Parks Open?
If you check on the Disney World website, you’ll find the park hours listed for each day. They change from day to day. You may arrive at the parks before they open, and we generally recommend trying to arrive 45-60 minutes early. This gives time to go through security and get inside. Sometimes you’ll even be able to get on the rides early!
You may also stay after the parks close in some cases. Sometimes dinner will wrap up after the park closes. Also, many merchandise shops stay open for a bit after park closure. Park hours vary depending on the park and the day of the week. You can check the Disney site for hours!
What is My Disney Experience?
My Disney Experience (also known as MDE or MDX) is the Disney World app. We HIGHLY recommend getting this app before you travel! With this app, you’ll create a Disney account (same as your Disney World website account) and you’ll be able to view all of your plans, like your tickets, dining reservations, FastPasses (once they return), and resort stay.
In the app, you’ll also be able to Mobile Order food, check wait times, and search for important information that you may need throughout the day. Try to familiarize yourself with the app’s features before your trip.
What Are MagicBands and Do I Need Them?
MagicBands are wristbands that guests may purchase to link to their My Disney Experience account. Once linked to your account, they store your tickets. You can tap your MagicBand to enter the parks, open your hotel room, get your PhotoPass pictures, and pay for purchases (if you’re staying in a Disney resort).
MagicBands are not necessary for your trip, as many of the same features can be accessed with the Key to the World park ticket card. Disney has also introduced a lot of these features in their new MagicMobile service, allowing guests to access park tickets on their smartphones.
Where Are the Characters?
The short answer: they’re all over the place! Right now, you’ll be able to spot many of your favorite characters from a distance in the parks, popping up at random times. Look out in places like the EPCOT Entrance, the Main Street train station, and on various stages in Galaxy’s Edge.
You’ll also spot several Disney friends traveling through the parks on cavalcades, promenades, motorcades, and flotillas. These run randomly throughout the day and function like “mini parades.” And if you want to guarantee that you’ll see your favorite characters, you can book a character meal at select Disney restaurants.
How Do I Skip the Line for Rides?
In the past, Disney offered a free system to guests called FastPass+ that allowed guests to reserve times to visit various attractions in advance. This system was suspended when the parks were closed, and it has officially been replaced by a NEW, paid service called Genie+.
Genie+ costs $15 per guest, per day and can be purchased ahead of your trip (you would be required to pay for the entire length of your trip if choosing this purchase method), or you can purchase day-by-day as needed after you arrive to Disney World.
Should you choose to purchase Genie+, you’ll find that it functions similarly to how FastPass+ functioned in the past. You select a one-hour return window for a particular ride or attraction’s “Lightning Lane” (formerly known as the FastPass lane), and once you redeem that reservation, you may make another selection. If your reservation isn’t for several hours, you may make an additional Genie+ selection 120 minutes after you have made your previous Lightning Lane reservation.
Keep in mind that while most rides are included with the purchase of Genie+, not EVERY ride is included. Each park has a select number of high-demand rides that require a separate fee in order to make a Lightning Lane reservation. Note that you are not required to purchase Genie+ in order to make a Lightning Lane reservation for these select rides.
Regardless of whether or not you choose to purchase Genie+, there are other ways to wait less in the line. We recommend arriving early at the parks (45-60 minutes before they open) and heading for the most popular rides first. Do some research ahead of time to find what these rides are and which ones you want to ride most. You may also find shorter wait times at the end of the night.
How is the Food?
We’ve got good news — most Disney World food is MUCH better than you’d expect! Not everything in the parks is hot dogs, burgers, and chicken nuggets. You can find incredibly fancy cuisine, meals from cultures around the world, and comfort food all over the place.
And Disney snacks are one of the things that guests love the most! We’ve got tons of recommendations, so make sure to get the DFB guide to get the best food advice. It has plenty of information on what to eat in the parks, and we even have special guidebooks for the EPCOT festivals.
We hope that the answers to these questions can help you plan your Disney World vacation. And if you need more advice and tips, make sure to keep tuning in to DFB!
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What big questions do you have about Disney World? Leave them in the comments!