What You Should Know Before
You Book Your Walt Disney World Vacation
The Disney theme parks have some really great and unique offerings that can be especially helpful when planning your Disney vacation, but there’s so much information out there that these offerings sometimes get lost in the shuffle. That’s why we have come up with this list of info and tips that we’ve come to know over the years into one, easy-to-read place so that it will hopefully help you plan your next Disney adventure!
If you are like we were the first time we started planning for a family vacation to Disney World, we were more than a little confused about such things as “FastPass” and “MagicBands”. While they do work on a very basic scale (such as scanning your “MagicBand” at the park gate for admission or walking up to one of the few “FastPass Kiosks” in the parks to reserve your spot on whatever ride is left), they can actually do a lot more that you may not be aware of – some of it may even save you some money or time, which is always a good thing! There may even be a “hidden” feature or offer for some of these that every Disney guest should know in order to get the most out of their Disney vacation.
While we try to keep this list as up-to-date as we can, it is good to be aware that Disney offers and policies are subject to change at any time (especially pricing) and they do make changes quite often. We recommend that you always double check the official Disney website to make sure that you have the correct information for the time period you will be visiting the parks, and if you can’t find what you are looking for on their website, you may want to call them to speak with a Cast Member about any specific concerns or questions you may have. They usually have the answers and are happy to help, and if they don’t have the answers they do their best to find out.
WALT DISNEY WORLD TIPS:
(Last Updated September 25, 2019)
Most info and tips on this page only apply to Walt Disney World as other Disney Resorts around the world often have different systems and offerings.
Tickets, Travel, and Hotels
- All standard one day Disney tickets allow you to visit only one park per day. This means that if you go to Magic Kingdom on Monday of your trip, you cannot visit any other park, such as EPCOT, that same day). This also means you cannot reuse that one day ticket on another day (each standard one day ticket only buys admission to one park for one day). However, if you buy a Park Hopper ticket (also know as a Multi-Day ticket), this type of ticket allows you to visit as many of the parks as you wish on a single day. Though if you want to be able to park hop each day of your trip, you will need to purchase separate “Park Hopper” tickets for each of those days.
- Walt Disney World tickets are no longer paper tickets. When we went to Disney World for the first time 21 years ago, we had paper “Forever” tickets. We actually had a day left for each of us and got to use those tickets for admission 20 years after they were first purchased! Now Disney tickets are plastic cards that are scanned at the theme park entrances (sort of like a credit card, except you tap the scanner rather than swipe) rather than paper. However, if you have a MagicBand or receive a MagicBand complimentary with your Disney resort stay, you may not actually receive a plastic card version of your ticket since your tickets are loaded onto your MagicBand. You may also receive a ticket/ticket number by email that you can print off (which I recommend doing just in case), though you probably won’t use it unless you loose your card or MagicBand.
- Disney World tickets expire quickly and are now date-based. Sadly, Disney tickets now expire 14 days after you use your first day, so no more Forever Ticket options like 20 years ago, and they are also date-based, meaning that when you buy a ticket it will be for a selected day (for example, you can no longer buy a one day ticket to use on any day of the year, but rather you will buy it for a specific day, such as on January 24, 2019). Also, because tickets are now date-based, this also means that ticket prices can also vary from day to day depending on certain factors. An example of this would be a standard one day ticket for Christmas Day, December 25th, which currently costs $159. This is a higher price than December 2nd, which is $117, because of supply and demand and a higher percentage of guests wishing to visit on Christmas day compared to December 2nd. It is also important to be aware that Disney can change these prices at any moment, and has been raising prices quite frequently in the last several years, often without much warning.
- Disney World frequently offers special ticket and package deals for both Florida and non-Florida residents. Special pricing and package offerings are actually quite common at Disney World and come in many different forms, so be on the look out for a great deal! One of Disney’s newest offerings is the Mid-Day Magic Ticket, which offers admittance to a park after 12:00pm. It’s a good idea to check Disney World’s official website frequently for these special offers, and also check to see if Disney’s calendar webpage lists their lowest priced months, as this is sometimes available (these are generally their “off-season” times, so ticket prices can drop quite a bit at these times). Visit Disney’s ticket page to see their current offerings.
- If you stay offsite (anyone staying in a non-Disney owned hotel outside of their property), you will have to pay separate fees for parking at each of the theme parks. Currently, standard parking for the Disney World theme parks run about $25 per day. Check the Disney website for more information on parking fees.
- Disney Resort guests (onsite guests) have the option of free transportation to the parks and Disney Springs on Disney buses, monorails, boats, or skyliners. Each Disney resort hotel has different transportation options, such as Art of Animation and Pop Century offering skyliner transportation to Hollywood Studios and Epcot, or monorail transportation for Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary. However, buses are the most common type of Disney resort transportation to the theme parks. To learn more about bus transportation and their routes, visit Disney’s official website. It’s also helpful to know that some resort hotels share buses with other resorts (such as All Star Music often shares with All Star Movies or All Star Sports), and those resorts with shared buses can sometimes end up having a longer wait time due to extra stops.
- Disney Resorts offer many services and experiences that are unique to Disney hotels (some are even free!) Some hotels have specific Disney theming, and others offer one-of-a-kind experiences unique to that specific resort, such as drawing classes at Art of Animation with a Disney animator or songs around the campfire at the Fort Wilderness campsite. Resort hopping (visiting other resorts) is encouraged, which means that you may be able to participate in a lot of these unique offerings even if you aren’t staying at that particular resort. All Disney resorts also feature at least one pool, a restaurant/counter service food, a souvenir shop, a kid’s playground, an arcade, and other fun activities depending on the time of year or special events. Be sure to check out the amenities and activities offered at the different Disney Resorts before you book to see which is the best fit for you and your family (also be aware that while resort hopping is encouraged, pool hopping is not allowed).
- If you fly into the Orlando Airport, Disney’s Magical Express bus will transport you to and from your Disney resort hotel for free. This only works if you are staying onsite and flying into the Orlando Airport, so if you stay offsite or arrive a different way, you will need to find your own transportation for your entire trip. To learn more about how “Disney’s Magical Express” works, check out Disney’s official webpage.
- Be aware that there are many toll roads in Orlando outside of Disney property. Each toll is a different amount and accepts different types of payment methods depending upon the toll booth. Some take credit cards, others take cash and offer change, while others require exact change (as in exact coins – they don’t even accept dollar bills). These toll booths will also be where you least expect them, and so we always carry some cash and coins with us in the car just in case we need to go off property for any reason or are driving into Orlando. Tolls can be anywhere from less than $1 to several dollars each, so it’s good to be prepared.
- Disney resort guests and Annual Passholders get complimentary standard color MagicBands, or they can upgrade to certain designs for a discounted price. At this time, any guest staying on Disney property and Annual Passholders can receive free plain colored MagicBands with their resort stay or AP ticket purchase. Onsite guests and APs now also have to option to choose from a select variety of designs and themes for an additional $10 per band should they choose to do so, though this is not required. The MagicBand is worn on the wrist like a watch (or if you have a second generation MagicBand you also have the option of popping out the center piece/token and placing it in a lanyard-type holder or keychain holder). To learn more about how MagicBands work, check out Disney’s official MagicBand webpage.
- MagicBands can serve as one’s park ticket, room key, and reservation identification for such things as FastPass+, PhotoPass services, and Magical Express. For tickets, however many day tickets you have purchased will be uploaded to your MagicBand, eliminating the need to pull out a physical Disney ticket card each time you enter the theme parks. This means that if you buy tickets for four days of your trip (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday), you will use the same MagicBand each day at each theme park and they will come preloaded onto that band. Your MagicBand also serves as your Disney Resort room key, meaning that each person in your party automatically has their own room key. It can also be used as your admittance to FastPass+ lines since once you’ve made your FastPass reservations through My Disney Experience or the in park kiosks they are automatically loaded onto your MagicBand. They can also serve as your identification link to PhotoPass photos taken by Cast Members throughout the park, and as your Disney’s Magical Express ticket should you take this free bus transportation from the Orlando Airport to your Disney resort hotel.
- You can use your MagicBand like a credit card to pay for purchases in stores or for food in most restaurants. This is completely optional, but a great offering for those who would like to not have to pull out a credit card every time they make a purchase or pay for a meal. All you need to do is tap your MagicBand to the credit card machine (it will have a spot to the left of the keypad below the little lights) and then enter your four digit PIN number as you would for a debit card. From our experience, any purchases you make with your MagicBand in the Disney Parks or Disney Springs will be charged to the credit card you used to pay for your resort hotel room unless you provide them with another card. You can ask them to charge your purchases to a different credit card if you prefer, just make sure you do this at the front desk before you head to the stores and buy all those souvenirs.
We also discovered that they add up your purchases with your MagicBands all along before charging your account. Once you hit $500, they then charge it all at once. For instance, if you make purchases with your MagicBand at World of Disney in Disney Springs, Agrabah Bazaar in Magic Kingdom, and several other shops/restaurants throughout your trip, you most likely won’t see each of those transactions come through separately. Rather, they will all come through as one large charge from Walt Disney World once you’ve charged $500 worth (this is not a limit though, you can still continue to make more purchases after you reach this amount). So, while charging with a MagicBand works the same way as if you were to pay with your actual credit card at a store, those purchases won’t probably show up on your account until you reach $500 (or the end of your trip if you don’t spend that much).
- You can customize your MagicBand after you book your Disney Resort stay. According to the website, you can customize your band so long as it is at least 11 days before your arrival date. However, we received several emails from Disney stating that we must customize our MagicBands before 30 days out since that was the deadline for them to ship the bands to us, so pay close attention to any special notifications or emails you get from Disney to make sure the dates/deadlines aren’t different from what you are expecting. You may choose one of their color options for free (otherwise all of your MagicBands will be a grayish/black color by default), or you can upgrade to one of their select special designs for an extra $10 per band. You may also purchase a MagicBand from the Disney Store or in the parks that are much more decorated with such things as characters and special designs, but these often cost upwards of $15–$30 each. Disney’s official MagicBand webpage has more info about how to customize your MagicBand before they are shipped to you.
- Offsite guests can purchase MagicBands to use instead of a physical ticket if they prefer. From the research we have done, it seems as if offsite guests (those who are not staying at a Disney Resort) can only use their purchased MagicBand for park entrance and FastPasses (not for purchases or restaurants like onsite guests can). If you are staying offsite, you must pay full price for your MagicBand (unless there’s a sale, of course), and MagicBands can be ordered from the Disney Store online or purchased at countless stores within Walt Disney World, including World of Disney at Disney Springs.
- To enter the park or use FastPass with your MagicBand, tap the band to the Mickey symbol on the entrance pedestals. For park entry, once the ring around Mickey’s silhouette lights up, you will place your finger or thumb onto the fingerprint scanner until it changes color as well (every time we have entered the park it has changed from blue to green). You will need to do this each time you enter the park, even if you are re-entering the same day. This will also be the same process should you use a regular card ticket instead of a MagicBand. For FastPass reservations, it will be the same process, minus the fingerprint scanner.
- The FastPass+ system (also known simply as “FastPass”) is a type of Disney VIP service that allows guests to skip the standby line for most attractions and shows. When FastPasses were first introduced, guests had to use in-park kiosks in order to secure their reservations for whatever park they were in at the time (much like Disneyland’s current FastPass system). Disney World eventually upgraded this system, allowing guests to make reservations ahead of time using the My Disney Experience website or app. This new upgraded system is now known as FastPass+, though guests are still able to use in-park kiosks to make same-day reservations should they like to do so.
- FastPass reservations work differently for rides than they do for shows. When you use FastPasses for rides, you basically get to cut-in-line (the standby line, that is), though there is sometimes still a wait if there are a lot of people already waiting to ride that attraction. This allows you essentially skip the typical 30 minute or more wait times for attractions, though this isn’t always the case – occasionally the FastPass line can end up being a longer wait than standby, so it’s important to check wait times for each attraction before using your FastPass reservation. You will be given an hour long time block to arrive (unless you are close to park closing hours, in which you may be given a shorter time block). This means that your party may arrive at any time within this hour to ride this ride using your FastPass reservation. This is generally also the same process for Character Meet & Greets.
For shows, you may be seated in a special section or you may just be allowed in to the seating area earlier than those guests in the standby line so that you have a better choice of seats. You will typically have a FastPass arrival time window of fifteen minutes before a show starts. That means that if you want to see the 6:00pm showing of “Finding Nemo: The Musical” and are able to get a FastPass for this show, you will need to arrive between 5:30-5:45pm. This is because you will be let in to the theater before those in the standby line.
- To use FastPass in the Disney World parks, reserve your FastPass ahead of time, then walk up to the FastPass pedestal within your allotted time and tap your MagicBand to the Mickey silhouette. Once it turns green, you are ready to head into the FastPass queue or inside the theater right away (though sometimes there is still a line to wait in, though it is usually much shorter than the standby line). Your FastPass reservation should disappear from your My Disney Experience app as soon as you use it, but occasionally it takes a few minutes to disappear (if it doesn’t disappear within five or ten minutes, try editing your plans or notes and see if that helps, otherwise check with a Cast Member to see if there is an issue).
- You may still have to wait in line even if you have a FastPass. Keep in mind that FastPasses don’t always guarantee that you’ll be able to immediately walk on to any attraction. There are times when you may still have to wait a little while (especially if you arrive early to a show or if a ride was just loaded), but the wait time will more than likely be significantly less than that of the standby line in most cases (though as mentioned above there are sometimes exceptions). For example, we was able to get same-day FastPasses for Splash Mountainsometime in the mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, and we were able to ride within ten-fifteen minutes. We literally walked passed an incredibly long standby line of people who were waiting over an hour to ride. However, on one of our trips to Animal Kingdom, we waited over 45 minutes in a FastPass line for Kali River Rapids while the standby line appeared to be moving faster because there were less people in that line. The latter is generally less common, though, so FastPasses are usually your best option for extremely popular rides and shows. These FastPasses can go fast and there are only so many per time slot/show time, so get them when you can and keep checking the My Disney Experience app often to catch the most-difficult-to-get FastPasses.
- You are only allowed three FastPasses for each park to start with for each day. This means that you can only pick three attractions and/or shows to use FastPass for at first. Once you use those three FastPasses, then you may choose one additional FastPass to use that day. After using that additional FastPass, you may choose one more and so on until park close. For example, if you are visiting Magic Kingdom on Monday and want to ride ten rides and see two shows, you can only reserve FastPasses for three of those rides/shows to start with (you may have any combination of rides and shows so long as it is only three total and they are not in the same tier). Until I visit the park and used those three initial FastPasses, you will be unable to reserve any other FastPasses. However, after you have used those three initial FastPasses, you will have the ability to reserve one additional FastPass for another experience. After using this additional FastPass, you can reserve one more additional FastPass, and this cycle continues for as long as FastPasses are available (generally until shortly before park closing).
- You may only use a single FastPass reservation one time. Once a FastPass is used, it should disappear from your list of FastPass reservations (though it will occasionally glitch), so you can only use it once. This means that you may not re-enter the FastPass line and ride the ride again. If you want to ride the same ride again, you will either have to get in the standby line or, if available, get another FastPass using one of the in-park kiosks or your My Disney Experience app on your mobile device (we definitely recommend using the app instead of visiting a kiosk if possible because the kiosks tend to be far and few between).
- Certain parks have a tier system for rides and shows. Currently, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all have a tiered FastPass system, so you may not be able to get all of the FastPasses that you want at the same time. For instance, if you want a FastPass for Soarin‘ and Test Track at Epcot, you may only choose one of these for your initial three FastPass selections because they are in the same tier. However, it is a good idea to keep checking the app throughout the day since after using your first three FastPasses you are able to select another attraction from any tier for your subsequent FastPasses.
- Walt Disney World resort hotel guests can reserve their first three FastPasses up to 60 days before their arrival date and for up to ten days of their trip, while off-site visitors have up to 30 days before their trip. This means that if you are visiting Disney World for fourteen days and have already purchased fourteen days worth of tickets, you can only reserve FastPasses for each of the first ten days of your visit. You may also want to consider logging on to the My Disney Experience website as soon as they become available (see below) as some of the most popular FastPasses go in a matter of minutes. Because of this, you will also want to prioritize which attractions are most important to you and secure FastPasses for those first.
- Your Walt Disney World FastPass selections will become available at exactly the time given (currently 7:00am ET) either 60 or 30 days from your arrival (depending on whether you are staying onsite or not). The first time we ever reserved FastPass selections ahead of time for a Disney World trip, we were told that our FastPass options would become available and 7:00am sixty days ahead of our arrival date (we stayed on property). As we found out, if you log on to the My Disney Experience website or app even just a minute before 7:00am ET on the given date, it may appear that you are unable to select your dates for your trip and unable to make FastPass selections. There’s no need to worry, however, since it is most likely not a website glitch. We thought we were going to lose out on our FastPasses and have to call about a website issue, but at exactly 7:00am ET time, all of our trip days and every FastPass option appeared. We were then able to select our trip dates and FastPass choices one by one.
- FastPasses go extremely fast, so you may want to have more than one person in your party logged into their accounts at the same time to acquire several at once. Since you can get three FastPasses for each of your theme park days (for up to ten days of your trip), you may want to have more than one person reserving FastPasses when they become available. For example, I and my mom log into our separate Disney accounts at the same time for our trips, and we each have our own list of FastPass selections organized by priority for us. So, while I am getting a FastPass for Avatar Flight of Passage for our visit to Animal Kingdom on the fifth day of our trip, she is getting a FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios for the 3rd day of our trip. This way, we are able to reserve two FastPasses at once, and we continue this process until all of our FastPass slots are filled for each day. Since you can reserve FastPasses in any order (day or park), we usually try to reserve the hardest-to-get FastPasses first (like my example above) rather than going in day or park order.
It can also a good idea to work backwards when reserving your FastPasses, which means beginning with the last day of your trip (remember you can reserve up to ten days of your trip if it is longer than that) and working your way back to day one. This is because there is a good chance there will be less people making reservations on that day as they must also wait 60/30 days before making their FastPass reservations and the further out you are from the earliest date available the less people will have access to depending on the length of their stay and arrival date. Also, most people tend to start with day one and work in chronological order, so the earliest dates will most likely see the most competition over the limited number of available FastPasses.
- If you don’t get a FastPass you want because they are already gone, you may still be able to get them at some point. This is especially true for those staying offsite, because those staying onsite have already had thirty extra days to get these FastPass reservations. Keep checking as often as possible (several times a day if you can) to see if someone lets go of their FastPass for the rides/shows you want. These will go fast too because other people are also waiting for someone to cancel their FastPass for that ride/show, so that’s why you want to check often and get it as soon as you see it. Even if your not totally sure if you can fit that time slot into your schedule, grab it anyway if you really want to ride that ride or see that show. It’s usually easier to re-work your day plan than to find the exact time you want for an already-full FastPass ride/show. This tip works both for reserving FastPasses ahead of time and reserving same-day FastPasses.
- While you’re in the Disney World parks, check the My Disney Experience app often to try to get the FastPasses you want. Like I said above, FastPasses can also sometimes suddenly become available, even if they were previously all taken. Whether you want to change a FastPass to a different ride/show, change to a different time for a ride/show, or you want to get your next FastPass after you’ve used your others, you’ll want to keep an eye on this app. During one of our trips, we wanted to ride Test Track, but there was a wait time in the standby line of 60 minutes. We checked the app every few minutes for the next 30 minutes or so and a Test Track FastPass became available. After we rode Test Track, we decided we’d like to ride it again, and we ended up getting another FastPass right before closing time. The same thing has happened for us multiple times for countless rides at all the parks. This is why it is a good idea to keep checking if you can and not give up if you really want to ride a specific ride or see a specific show (just be aware that this app does use cell phone data, so make sure you have enough data in your cell phone plan or you may be charged extra if it uses too much). It is important to reserve a FastPass that you want as soon as you see it, though, as they can disappear within seconds.
- If you’re standing in a long standby line, check the app for a FastPass for that ride. If you are able to get a FastPass for the ride you are waiting for, you may be able to leave the standby line and you may ride that ride much sooner than if you had continued to wait. This is something that happens more often than you might expect, so it’s a great idea to check!
- If you see a short standby line for a ride you already have a FastPass for and you are willing to wait in that short line, cancel your FastPass reservation for that ride before you use it and choose a different one immediately. One one of our trips, we had a FastPass for Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride from 6-7pm, but around 1:30pm we discovered it had a standby wait time of about 15 minutes. We decided to wait in line to ride the ride and canceled our future FastPass for it so we could get a different FastPass for a different ride instead. If you are okay with changing your schedule around a bit, you may very well be able to ride more rides or see more shows than you thought you would using this method!
- It is possible to change one of your FastPasses without loosing the others. You are able to change a FastPass to a different time or a different attraction without affecting the others. Just be aware that if you don’t have Park Hopper tickets or an Annual Pass you won’t be able to acquire a FastPass in a different park without letting go of all of your current FastPasses for that day first. So if you’re thinking of maybe going to Epcot on Monday instead of Magic Kingdom, but you already have FastPass reservations for Magic Kingdom that day, you won’t be able to see what FastPasses are available on Monday for Epcot without removing all of your Magic Kingdom FastPasses for that day first. You will really want to be absolutely certain that you want to change days, because once you let go of your FastPasses, they are most likely gone for good unless someone cancels their FastPass selection for those attractions as well and you are somehow able to get those. Once you choose your FastPasses for each park on whatever days you selected, you are essentially locked in to those parks on those specific days unless you want to take the risk of losing the FastPasses you already have for the day you want to change to a different park.
Advanced Dining Reservations, Disney Dining Plan, and Mobile Order
- Get your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) for restaurants ahead of time and work your schedule around these. Advanced Dining Reservations are often the hardest things to get or change, many times even harder than FastPasses, so you want to make ADRs your first priority. If there is a restaurant you really want to eat at, we would even suggest planning what days you visit each park around that reservation availability. For example, if you really want to eat at Cinderella’s Royal Table and have four days worth of tickets to Disney World, check ahead of time to see what days/times are available for reservations before deciding what day you will visit Magic Kingdom. If you think you want to visit Magic Kingdom on Monday, but the only reservation available for Cinderella’s Royal Table that week is at 2:00pm on Wednesday, considering making Wednesday your Magic Kingdom day instead (of course, this may not be an issue if you have Park Hopper tickets and can visit more than one park per day). Then go from there to reserve your FastPasses for Magic Kingdom on Wednesday instead, working around your dining reservation time and location.
- Some Advanced Dining Reservations go extremely fast. You can usually reserve a spot at these restaurants 180 days in advance to your arrival day, so you may want to consider this when picking your vacation dates. If you decide to take your vacation sooner than 180 days away, you may be able to still get a dining reservation for your vacation, but it will often take more time and effort to find a reservation. You may need to take the same approach as your most-difficult-to-get FastPass selections – check as often as possible until one becomes available. It is also important to do some research ahead of time to find out which restaurants charge up front for your reservation and which do not. Most Walt Disney World restaurants at this time do not charge a fee to make a reservation, but a select few do, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table. Also, check the cancelation policy for the restaurant you would like to make a reservation for – most Disney World restaurants allow you to cancel up to a certain point (usually 24–48 hours) without a fee, but this might not always be the case.
- The Disney Dining Plan isn’t really free. Even though it is sometimes referred to as the “Free” dining plan, you will still have to pay for your meals unless there is a special promotion package which makes the dining plan free under certain conditions (usually it comes with a specific length of stay in select resorts that are not discounted). If you don’t have one of these special promotions and want to use the Disney Dining Plan, you will need to purchase it through a specific vacation package. You will then get a certain amount of food “credits” to use in restaurants, and this food credit program is referred to as the Disney Dining Plan. We recommend doing as much research as possibly on this dining plan to decide whether or not this will benefit your family, especially when comparing it to any other offered discounts available at the time (such as room discounts). The general consensus seems to be that the Disney Dining Plan is best for larger parties that want to eat at several expensive restaurants (especially character meals) in order to fully use the food credits you have paid for. Otherwise, it may end up being cheaper to pay for meals individually during your trip. You can read more about Disney’s dining options on their website.
- Disney’s new Mobile Order system is often much faster than standing in line. Not all Disney restaurants offer Mobile Ordering, but the list is growing rapidly. This fantastic new feature available through the My Disney Experience App allows you to order your food ahead of time with a credit card and then you can pick up your order at the counter when it is done. With the way this works, you can order food from anywhere in the park and do other things while the Cast Members prepare your food rather than stand in a long line of people waiting to order (and then waiting again for your food to be made). Occasionally you may still have to wait in a line (though it is usually much shorter than the regular line) to get your food at very popular restaurants such as Woody’s Lunch Box, but the process is much less stressful and time consuming from our experience.
- Extra Magic Hours (and sometimes EXTRA Extra Magic Hours) are available for Disney Resort guests. For those staying onsite, Disney often offers extra hours either before a park opens or after closing exclusively for resort guests to enjoy the parks (meaning those staying offsite or driving in for the day will not be allowed in to the park for these hours). This schedule is ever changing from week-to-week and only certain parks have Extra Magic Hours on certain days, so check the schedule online and each day at your Disney Resort (the schedule should be posted somewhere in the lobby). A new offering this year that came along with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is EXTRA Extra Magic Hours, which allows guests into certain parks even earlier than usual.
- PhotoPass and Memory Maker are optional, and Photo Pass photos can be purchased before or after your trip. Though sometimes used interchangeably, PhotoPass generally refers to any single photo taken by a PhotoPass cast member or PhotoPass automated cameras (such as at character meet & greets) which is then uploaded to your Disney account when you scan your MagicBand. You won’t be charged for any photo taken or uploaded to your account unless you go to your Disney account and choose to purchase them.
Memory Maker is the general term used for a photo package you can purchase ahead of time and then choose a certain number of your PhotoPass photos to download after your trip. You may purchase a Memory Maker package before your trip for a minimal discount (in general we would not recommend getting Memory Maker ahead of time unless you are absolutely certain that you will want a large amount of PhotoPass photos because it is quite expensive and PhotoPass photos can often be hit or miss). You can always buy single PhotoPass photos individually, but they are quite expensive – around $15 per photo at the moment. To read more about PhotoPass and Memory Maker, visit the Disney website.
- PhotoPass cast members and most other cast members will take a picture with your phone or camera for free. You can usually get a great photo with your own camera or phone if you ask a cast member to take it for you.
- Disney counter-service restaurants will give you free ice water in a to-go cup if you ask. You can find free ice water in any park, but they do not offer a lid or straw anymore, so you may want to buy or bring your own water bottle along to poor your drink into. Most rides also will not allow any beverages without a lid, so keep this in mind if you’re deciding whether or not to bring your own bottle or cup with a lid.
- You will have to go through security before entering each park. All theme parks have a bag check at which you are expected to lay all bags (backpacks, purses, coolers, etc.) on the security table and wait for a security officer to go through each pocket. This is located before you get to the park entrance where you scan your ticket or MagicBand, and you will go through security every time you are about to enter one of the theme parks, regardless of whether or not you have already been to that same park already that day. In addition to this, you may be selected at random to go through a metal detector. While it may seem tedious for us as guests to go through this process, I can imagine it is probably much more tedious for the security guards to do this job all day every day, but they almost always still manage to have a smile on their face and engage in polite conversation. Safety is a priority for Disney, and in today’s world we are grateful that they do this. We feel much better knowing they are keeping the guests as safe as they can – even if it does take me an extra five or ten minutes in line.
- Make sure you leave any banned items behind. Such things as weapons (or even things that may be mistaken for weapons, such as squirt guns), selfie sticks, loose ice, and opened beverage bottles are not allowed in the parks (you can take in unopened/sealed bottles so long as they are not glass or alcohol). Make sure to check the list of banned items before attempting to enter the parks.
- There are measurement requirements for certain things such as bags and strollers. Disney World recently updated their stroller policies, so it’s a good idea to make sure your stroller still meets the requirements even if you’ve taken it into the parks in the last couple of years.
- No pets are permitted in the Parks except for approved service animals. Certain Disney hotels do allow dogs to stay for a fee, however, so you may want to research this ahead of time if you plan to bring a pet or if you would rather not stay in a hotel that allows pets.
- Smoking is no longer allowed at the parks. While smoking used to be permitted in certain areas of the parks, but after a recent policy change smoking is no longer allowed in any of the parks.
- Anyone over the age of 14 cannot wear a costume or mask into the park. The only exception at Walt Disney World at this time is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which is a separate ticketed event that is held on select nights from August through October. Click here to read other clothing rules.
- Disney World has special offers for veterans and those who are currently in the armed forces. The Military Discounts for Park Tickets page on the Disney website includes information on current ticket discounts for Service Members (active or retired) and their families. Military personnel may also receive certain resort rooms at a discount, or the option to stay in a special resort (called Shades of Green) which is reserved only for Service Members and their families and located near the Magic Kingdom.
- Disney World offers specific accommodations and help for those who are disabled or have special needs. Depending on your need, Disney has different offerings that may be helpful to you, such as disabled parking, rentable wheel chairs, and the Disability Access Service for the parks (DAS). You can out more about these services on the Disney website. For guests with cognitive disabilities and Autism, there is also an informational PDF providing guests with even more details on specific Disney World offerings.
- Photography and videography for non-commercial use is encouraged on most attractions and for most shows. There are a few exceptions to this for various reasons, but in general Disney does not mind if you take your own photos or videos. Be aware that the use of flash or video lighting is not permitted on certain rides and during certain shows – listen for the announcement over the speakers before a ride or show to know what is and isn’t allowed.
- Many Disney stores no longer use plastic bags for purchases. This is true of the local stores we have been to in the past year, and at the time we were told by a Disney Store Cast Member that the parks would be eliminating plastic bags at some point as well. All of the stores that we shopped in at the parks during our last trip still offered plastic bags, but this will probably change in the near future. If you’d like a bag for your purchase at a local Disney Store (and possibly the parks at some point), you will either need to purchase a reusable bag or you will need to bring your own.
- If you are in the parks, you may have the option of sending your purchases to the front of the park or your Disney hotel to pick up later. There are some requirements for this service (specifically if you would like it sent to your resort near the end of your stay), so be sure to check into this ahead of time to see if it is something you would like to do and what the requirements are.
- While it’s good to be flexible in your schedule, it’s also a good idea to have some sort of loose plan for each of your days in the park. There is so much to see and do it can be really overwhelming, and there’s no possible way to fit everything into one day – even if there aren’t a lot of rides or shows you want to do, the wait times can take up a huge amount of time in your day. For that reason, it’s a great idea to research what you’d like to do ahead of time (approximate time it takes to ride a certain ride or see a certain show, average wait times, where in the park they are located, etc.) and prioritize. Planning a rough draft of what you want to do in each park is also especially helpful when figuring out which area of the park you want to be in for certain times of the day. Since each park covers a lot of space, there’s a lot of walking between each attraction, so you don’t want to be running all over the park to make it to what you want to do (especially if you have FastPass times reserved or dining reservations). For instance, if you have reservations at Be Our Guest restaurant at 12:00pm, you don’t want to schedule a FastPass to meet Mickey at Town Square at 1:30pm because they are on opposite ends of the park. It’s a good idea to figure out ahead of time where each attraction, show, or restaurant is located so you can do the things in that area around the same time if possible.
- There are two official Disney discount stores near Walt Disney World. The Disney Character Warehouse Outlet on Vineland Avenue and on International Drive are practically down the street from Walt Disney World and located quite close to each other. While these Disney outlets do occasionally have regularly priced items, the majority of their stock is heavily discounted. We have found Disney T-shirts as low as $0.99 and Mickey Ears for $1.99! Prices do very depending upon the item and style of the item, but these outlets are a great place to stop before going to the Parks since you can even sometimes find current Park and Disney Springs offerings (Mickey Ears, T-shirts, bags, etc.) for a lesser price then you will find in the parks and Disney Springs. If you have a child that wants to go to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or The Pirates League, it’s especially a good idea check the outlet beforehand for discounted princess dresses and pirate outfits. Also, if you like to pin trade, there are often great discounts for pin sets and individual pins as well.