A trip to Disney World is a LOT! There’s tons of planning, preparation, and thought that goes into a Disney trip and there’s a lot you need to know ahead of time. (This is BEFORE the zillions of miles you’ll walk and stuff you’ll actually do once you’re there!)
But that’s why we’re here! To give you the latest news and all the tips and tricks you need in order to win at Disney! Sometimes we all just need to get back to the basics though, right? We’re giving you a primer on some of the most commonly thrown around phrases in Disney World and what they mean! Here are some of the things you need to know before your Disney World trip:
Advance Dining Reservation
When it comes to planning a Disney World trip, dining reservations are everything (sure, we guess the rides are fun too!). An Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) is exactly what it sounds like: it saves you a spot at one of Disney World’s restaurants. It’s just like a normal reservation you’d make at a restaurant back home, for the most part. You can make these reservations on the Disney World website 60 days ahead of time.
Although we don’t recommend dining reservations for EVERY meal of the day (gotta save some time for the rides and other things to do!), it’s definitely a good idea to grab some reservations, especially if you have particular restaurants you really really want to try. And remember you can modify or cancel these for free up to 24 hours before the reservation. Then if you cancel it’ll cost you a $10 fee per person.
Mobile Walk-Up and Mobile Check-In
Mobile Check-In is one way to check in at a Disney restaurant now. You simply head onto the My Disney Experience app (something we’ll explain later in this article) and check in! Most restaurants also have a QR code near the entrance you can scan to check in this way as well. As soon as your table is ready, you’ll receive a text or notification and head over to the restaurant’s check-in desk.
Mobile Walk-Up, on the other hand, is a virtual standby line you can join to get into certain restaurants without a reservation. Simply scan the QR code at the front of a restaurant and join the digital line or see what has walk-up availability in My Disney Experience. You’ll be notified when a spot opens at the restaurant, but this process isn’t guaranteed to bring fast results. There’s no guarantee tables will be available, but it’s a great option, where offered, for a last-minute meal!
Quick Service, Counter Service, Table Service, Family-Style, AYCTE
There are a LOT of ways to categorize Disney World restaurants! One of these categories is Quick Service, which is any stand, kiosk, or “fast food” style restaurant that gives you food right away or quickly after ordering. Counter Service is used interchangeably here. Basically, it’s any spot you get a (typically) more affordable, fast meal without a reservation.
A Table Service restaurant is any restaurant that involves sitting down, waiter service, and a somewhat longer experience! These are also the restaurants that often require Advance Dining Reservations and some use a standby line like the Mobile Walk-Up. Think of these like any sit-down restaurant you’re waited on and served your food.
Family-style is a big buzzword at Disney World right now since many of the buffets have returned as family-style spots. Family-style involves large sharable portions of food coming to the table, kind of like a miniature buffet just for you! The food is usually served in a big skillet or on platters and is scaled to match the size of your group. Some spots have been family-style for a long time, like Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom or Garden Grill in EPCOT.
Finally, AYCTE stands for “All You Care To Eat” and this term typically applies to many of the family-style spots at Disney World! It basically means that they’ll keep the food coming and you’ll leave with a full belly! Any buffets that have returned, like Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom or Biergarten in EPCOT, are also considered all you care to eat.
My Disney Experience
The My Disney Experience App is going to be your best friend on your Disney World trip! This official Disney World app has the ability to make dining reservations, place mobile orders for food, do all the planning and Lighting Lane stuff that comes with Disney Genie/Genie+, check ride wait times, view any PHotoPass photos, and so much more!
With how connected this app is to Disney World as a whole, we definitely recommend you get this app and get set up before you go on your next Disney trip.
Speaking of Mobile Orders…you’re gonna want to be really familiar with those! Mobile ordering is the norm at Disney World right now for most Quick Service offerings. All you got to do is hop on the My Disney Experience app and pick where you want to eat, order your food, and specify when you want to pick it up!
It’s not always that simple though. Mobile Order pickup windows can fill up fast at popular mealtimes, so be sure to order long BEFORE you’re hungry!
To keep this My Disney Experience theme going, let’s talk boarding groups! This is a tricky time in Disney World because right after it seems everyone wrapped their head around boarding groups, Disney was like “J/K, learn Disney Genie now!” and further complicating things. The gist of boarding groups remains the same, but only one ride, at this time, is operating on a virtual queue/boarding group: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
Let’s break down the boarding group system as it stands now. Boarding passes are available twice a day at 7AM and 1PM and require you to have a park reservation for the same park as the ride you’re trying to get on. When the clock strikes, you’ll select “join” in the My Disney Experience app and select members of your party to join. You’ll get an estimated return time and notified when it’s your time to ride. You typically have an hour to return and ride. Of course, this isn’t quite as easy said as done. Boarding groups go FAST, often in seconds, meaning you might be left out of luck to ride or, in the case of Remy’s, need to consider purchasing access to the Lightning Lane for the Ride (more on that in a bit!).
MagicBands are your ticket, your room key, can act as your way to make purchases, and more while you’re at Disney World! Although these are no longer complimentary with your Disney World trip and there are other options for tickets and room keys (you can even open your hotel room with your phone!), a MagicBand can really come in handy.
There are a wide variety of MagicBand designs, giving you a lot of ways to make your MagicBand into a fashion statement!
Park Pass and Park Ticket
Now for something that can be REALLY confusing if you haven’t visited in the past year or so: Park Passes and Park Tickets. So, Park Tickets are your tickets to Disney World (simple enough, right? 😂). They come in single park and park hopper varieties, the first lets you go to one park per day while the other lets you hop between parks in the afternoon. These are very similar to the pre-2020 ticketing system.
Park Passes (AKA Park Reservations) are a newer addition. Basically, after you buy your park tickets, you have to reserve your spot at the particular park you want to start your day. Those with Park Hopping abilities can “hop” to a different park at 2PM. These can go quick for especially popular days, so you’ll want to grab them ASAP!
Disney Genie, Genie+, Lightning Lanes
The newbie in the bunch. We’re skipping covering FastPass in here because, well…it’s not around anymore. Enter: THE GENIE. This new planning tool has two components — one free and one not. Genie (no+) is Disney’s new planning tool that will be found in the My Disney Experience app. It will help guests maximize what they get done, offering suggestions across the board for rides, dining, and more. You’ll tell Genie what your party is interested in doing and it will try to help make that happen. That’s the theory, at least. We’ll see how it works in the wild once it all launches October 19th.
Then there’s Genie+. This is, to way over-simplify it, basically FastPasses now. It’s a way to bypass the standby lines for many attractions, gaining you access to “Lightning Lanes” (AKA the FastPass queues they put new signage over 😂). But it’ll cost you — $15 per person per day. Guests can choose to purchase it or not and not everyone in your party needs to purchase. Guests can book an attraction they want to ride with a shorter wait every two hours or sooner, if they use the Lightning Lane pass they’ve currently booked. If you ever used Disneyland’s MAXPASS when it was around, it’s similar to how that plan worked.
The other component of this is a la carte “pay per ride” attractions. Basically, the popular rides in each park that will see the highest wait times typically. Think Rise of the Resistance, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, and more. There are two of these currently per park. You can’t book these with Genie+, rather you need to pay a fee per person, per ride, with the highest price being $15 per person for Rise of the Resistance. Guests are limited to 2 per day in any combination of parks. The most unique ride with this offering is Remy’s in EPCOT, where guests can only access the ride by joining a virtual queue OR by paying to gain access to the Lightning Lane.
Again, all of this goes live October 19th and we’ll be covering everything and answering all of your questions, so stay tuned.
These are just a few of the things you’ll need to know for your next Disney World trip! We’re always keeping up with the latest Disney news and giving you the best tips and tricks! Stay tuned for more!
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What do you think of these essential terms? Anything we miss? Let us know in the comments!