Planning a Disney World trip for the first time can be hectic. Where do I stay? When should I go? Is it only for kids?
We’ve all been there, no need to panic. Here are some of the most questions first timers have while planning and visiting the parks.
- Where should I stay?
If you are on a strict budget (meaning you do not want to spend more than $120 a night), there are some great hotels right outside Disney property.
**If you are a Florida Resident or Annual Passholder, my best advice would be to wait 2 to 3 months to book your hotel for the Florida Residents/Annual Pass Discount, if not, you will be paying a hefty amount. Ex: I booked the Boardwalk Villa for my November vacation in August for about $340 a night, whereas it would have cost me over $700 if I would have booked earlier in the year. Keep an eye out for those discounts!**
“But I still want to stay on property.” There are hotels right next to Disney Springs, The B Hotel, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Sheraton, and Wyndam. They don’t use Disney’s buses but they do have their own shuttles to and from the parks. These hotels average from $80 to $130 a night, depending on the time of year and day of the week you plan on going.
If your budget is $200 a night, Disney offers Value ($110-$130 a night) and Moderate ($150-$250 a night) hotels. These are all right on property and offer Disney transportation to all parks.
Now, if you would like to stay close to a park, meaning you can easily walk, take a boat, or use the monorail, you will have to up your budget to a minimum of $300 a night. But there is one, or should I say two, hotels that cost about $150 to $250 a night and is located right in the Epcot area. The Swan & Dolphin are connected by walkway to Epcot, along with the Beach & Yacht Club and Boardwalk. These hotels however, are not “Disney hotels” but they do have all the same perks as the other hotels, such as Magic Hours and Disney Transportation.
- When should I book my vacation for?
Personally, my favorite time to visit it when the parks have up their Holiday decorations. Christmas is obviously one of their biggest times but you can still enjoy the holiday magic without dealing with the sea of people. Right after Thanksgiving is a perfect time. Try avoiding summer, go in September instead. Avoid Valentine’s Day at all cost, next to Christmas and New Years, it is one of their busiest days. If you want to experience Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, just know that no matter what day you go, it will be crowded like crazy. Every single Disney fan waits all year for this event. Even those that don’t care much for Disney make the trip.
- How long should I stay?
This really all depends on what you want to get done during your visit. If you just want to go to the parks, go on some rides, and eat, 3 days would be fine (but you should add on Park Hopper to your ticket if you want to visit all 4 parks). If you want to enjoy yourself and not go crazy running everywhere, I say 5 to 6 days is perfect. This gives you enough time to relax by the hotel pool, try out some restaurants, and go to all 4 parks without going crazy.
- What is My Disney Experience?
This is Disney’s very own app. Just register and create your profile. With this app, you can view reservations, see Disney PhotoPass photos taken during your trip, make dining reservations, reserve Fastpasses, see wait times for your favorite rides, and so much more.
- What are Park Hopper, Memory Maker, and FastPass+?
With a regular one day ticket, you are allowed access to one park per day. The park hopper option is an add-on which allows you to visit more than one park in one day, you can visit all 4 if you’d like. You can also leave the park, relax at the hotel, and come back later for the fireworks show. This add-on is about $50 per day per person.
Another add-on is the Memory Maker. Instead of carrying around your camera, you can have Disney photographers take your pictures, and they will be sent to your My Disney Experience account, as well as ride pictures. If not, you can still have your pictures taken, but you would have to pay each picture you want to print out or downloaded to your computer. The pre-purchase price for this is $149 and full price $169.
**Disney’s Gold Pass, Platinum Pass, and Platinum Plus Pass all include both Park Hopper and Memory Maker**
FastPass+ is a service on My Disney Experience which allows you to reserve access to rides, shows, and some character greetings. You must have a valid ticket or annual pass to use this service. There is no additional fee as it is already included in your ticket. Just make sure to reserve with time or you will be waiting in some long lines.
- What will the weather be?
Remember, you are visiting Florida, humidity, rain, and lots of sunshine. So, make sure you are prepared for that. During the holidays, it does get cold so make sure to pack a sweater or two. It won’t be cold every single day, but it can get really chilly, especially at night.
- What are Magic Bands?
These are colorful wristbands that connect to My Disney Experience. It is your hotel room key, ticket, and credit card (only stores your credit card if you are staying in a Disney hotel). Best of all, they are water-proof.
- Everything in Disney is for kids, what can I do then?
This is not true. Disney made sure to incorporate adults to the fun. As of Dec. 23, 2016, all 4 parks service alcohol.
Epcot has become an adult’s go-to due to its World Showcase (11 countries represented). The most popular thing to do is Drinking Around the World. This is a challenge which aims you to try and drink at every single country in one day. Just know it is possible, just pace yourself and make sure to eat and drink water as well.
In Disney Springs, you will find several restaurants and pubs with live music, as well as House of Blues.
Over at the Boardwalk, you will find Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar and sing-along. There is a cover charge. The fun begins at 8:00 pm until 2:00 am.
The more and more you visit, you begin to learn little tricks here and there, from where and when to make a line to meet characters, when to go on popular rides, and even “secret” entries.
When login into My Disney Experience, you will see what time your favorite character will be doing meet and greets. One of the most popular ones has become Gaston. You can find him right by his Tavern, near the umbrella. Best time to start making this line is 20 minutes before, and if you want to be the first one, get there 30 minutes in advance. This meet and greet has become so popular that crowds form just to watch what craziness he is going to say or do.
The biggest tip of all is know when to go on certain rides. At the very beginning of the day, very end of the day when the park is about to close, and when it is raining. If you have already seen Fantasmic over at Hollywood Studios, skip it and head over to Toy Story Midway Mania. My friend and I did this and we were allowed to go through the Fastpass entrance. Another great time to go on the most popular rides is when it rains. Everyone always tries to go into restaurants, stores, or even leave the park, leaving lines empty. Can you believe we waited only 15 minutes for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Roller Coaster?
For those visiting Epcot, head towards the International Gateway located between France and England. This entrance takes you to all Epcot resorts. If you want to grab some lunch on the Boardwalk or if you have reservations at Beaches and Cream in the Beach Club, this is the best way to get there. Now if you have a park hopper ticket, you can use this walkway to go over to Hollywood Studios. You can take the boat or take the 15-20 minute walk.