As soon as I start getting into the details with someone about planning a Walt Disney World vacation, I can see the stress building in their eyes. I think what gets people is how far in advance you have to make so many decisions. It’s overwhelming, and if you have never been to Walt Disney World before or it’s been a while, it’s hard to know what decisions to even make and when you need to be making them. Have no fear! That’s why I’ve started this blog, to help you make those decisions. We’ll get into all the nitty-gritty details in due time, so if you don’t fully understand something I’m talking about in this post, you will soon. Here are a few simple, crucial tips that really make a difference in surviving a vacation to Walt Disney World.
1. WEAR SUPER COMFORTABLE SHOES, PREFERABLY TENNIS SHOES.
I can already hear every woman mourning their beloved flip flops and sandals over this one. I get it guys. I hate tennis shoes too. I love flip flops. I love sandals. I like my feet to be free. I think I look 50% less attractive the second a tennis shoe hits my foot. But guys, you will do so much walking. For most of my trips, I average between 16,000 – 20,000 steps per day and can easily go over 20,000 depending on the park and what kind of day we have planned. Please do your feet (and back) a favor and wear the tennis shoes. This will also eliminate any crankiness due to tired limbs, blisters, etc. I typically pack 2 pairs of tennis shoes (in case one pair gets wet and needs to dry) for the parks, 1 pair of cute sandals for Disney Springs, and one pair of comfortable flip flips for the pool/resort. My favorites are OluKais. They are expensive, but worth the investment.
2. ARRIVE AT THE PARKS BEFORE THEY OPEN.
I will go into more detail about this in future posts, but let’s say Hollywood Studios, one of the four Walt Disney World parks, states an opening of 9:00am on the website. This really means rides are already running and people are already in line at 9:00am. The park gates have been opened for around 30 minutes at this point and people have already strategically headed for a ride that will accumulate large waits throughout the day. They are participating in something Disney fans affectionately refer to as “rope dropping,” and rope dropping can really save you a lot of time.
3. KNOW HOW TO USE THE MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP.
The My Disney Experience (MDE) App is the mobile app Disney uses to help you plan and keep up with your vacation details. You can also access it via the Walt Disney World website, which allows you to view more detailed information than the app, though the app is getting better. MDE is your life when if comes to planning and even once you are on your vacation. It is where you can see your reservations, modify plans, check wait times on attractions, access PhotoPass and so much more. The first step you need to take in planning your trip is to make an account via the Walt Disney World website, click here, then download the MDE app after your account is set up.
4. MAKE ADVANCED DINING RESERVATIONS AND FAST PASS+ RESERVATIONS.
Okay, this is one that many of you will have the most confusion and questions about. There are two major dates that you want to be prepared for as you’re planning your trip. The first is the date you can begin booking dining reservations, 180 days before your trip (Yes, you read that right. That is 6 months in advance.). The second is the date you can book Fast Pass+ Reservations, 30-60 days before your trip depending on if you are staying on the Walt Disney World Resort property or not. Fast Pass+ allows you to book experiences and attractions in advance for the parks, and, yes, there is a limit to how many you can make. Again, we will be spending a lot of time delving into both of these in future posts.
Just taking the time to understand and utilize #3 and #4 will already put you ahead of many guests. You’d be surprised how many people are not aware of these or do not take advantage of them.
5. DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL.
There is so much to do at Walt Disney World, y’all. I’ve been 12 times in my life and still have not experienced everything there is to offer. Your trip will go so much smoother if you really prioritize what is important to you and your family. If you try to do everything, you will be frustrated and exhausted. If your group loves the Disney characters, then focus your trip around character dining experiences, meet and greets and shows and attractions that feature the characters you love. If you’re the nostalgic bunch, then focus your trip around the Disney classics. If you are all about the details, take a guided park tour or grab a couple of books detailing the history, details and hidden mickeys of the parks and spend some afternoons exploring. Decide what’s important to your crew and hone in on that. Of course, I will offer up some example trip itineraries and ideas for each of these and more in upcoming posts.
6. DON’T RUSH, TAKE BREAKS AND BE FLEXIBLE.
I realize that you will probably spend a lot of money on a vacation to Walt Disney World, and I definitely encourage you to utilize your time and get the most bang for your buck, but please don’t pursue that at the cost of your sanity. Disney World can be a magical place, but it can also be one of the most stressful places. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen parents cuss each other (and cast members (the term used for Disney employees)) out IN FRONT OF THEIR CHILDREN. It happens more often than you think. You’ve paid a lot of money. It’s crowded, you’re hot, and some motorized scooter just cut you off. People lose it. Again, prioritizing what is important to you will really help in bringing a more relaxed pace and positive mindset to your trip. Laugh it off when something doesn’t go your way. Show compassion, kindness and patience when others aren’t. A cast member may just gift you with some spontaneous, extra magic for your efforts. And if you have young kids, be sure to plan a mid-day break/swim/nap back at the hotel to get re-energized for any evening festivities. Remember this is a vacation and a huge part of why you have even decided to take this trip is to reconnect and make memories with your family.
Speaking of memories…
7. UTILIZE MEMORY MAKER.
Memory Maker is a package offered as part of Walt Disney World’s PhotoPass service that allows you to pay a fee up front of $169 or $149 if you purchase in advance to have unlimited access to all your PhotoPass photos. These include photos taken by Disney photographers stationed throughout the parks, on ride photos, and character meet and greets. There are a lot of places where you will get or want to get your photo taken. With Memory Maker, all photos linked to your PhotoPass on your My Disney Experience account can be downloaded up to 45 days from the day they were taken for your personal use. Anyone can use PhotoPass and utilize Disney photographers, but without Memory Maker, you will have to purchase each photo individually. So Memory Maker is definitely the better value, and you’ll have a bunch of great photos to remember your trip by with everyone in the shot!
8. START THE DAY WITH A CHARGED PHONE AND BRING A PORTABLE CHARGER.
You’re going to be using your phone a lot. Between checking the MDE app, taking photos, etc, you definitely don’t want to get caught with a low battery.
9. USE A BACKPACK AS YOUR PARK BAG.
Carrying a backpack to the parks is a game changer. It evenly distributes the weight across your body and it’s got plenty of room for all your park gear. I can easily pack my phone charger, Minnie ears, rain jackets, extra water bottles, snacks, extra clothes, hand held fan, sunscreen, etc and not feel weighed down. Plus I’ve got a great place to throw any acquired souvenirs, and I’ve never had any issue with it fitting on any ride. I definitely recommend a bag with water bottle pockets on the outside for easy access. I usually put 2 water bottles in one side and my phone in the other. I used to carry a crossbody bag, but a backpack is more comfortable for me and holds more, double bonus!
10. ASK FOR HELP.
If you are in the planning stages, this is a great time to reach out to your friends who love planning Walt Disney World trips. If you don’t have any friends like that, well, now you have me. Seriously, planning Walt Disney World vacations is a big part of what I love to do in life. I’d be more than willing to help you. You can contact me here. And don’t forget, once you are on your vacation, cast members are more than happy to help you with anything you need! I would advise you not to ask when the 3 o’clock parade at Magic Kingdom is though 😉
Have a magical day!