I just returned from my second trip to Disney World in 15 months. In addition to the obvious like be in line at the park when it opens, I have learned some things that made my second trip so much better. Hopefully this will help other newbies have better experiences.
- It takes much longer than expected to get from one place to another. People move slowly and distances are longer than you might expect. You have to get to a monorail, wait for it to come, and then wait in line to get on it. You have to get to where the buses are and then wait for it to load up and go. Getting from one park to another can take close to an hour. There is the added degree of difficulty with many visitors traveling with young children and strollers and they are carrying backpacks, packages, balloons, etc. A number of visitors also use electric scooters. Everyone moves slowly everywhere – this goes for walking within the parks. Even if you personally are unencumbered by young children, strollers, packages, etc., you will be slowed down by everyone else. Leave at least a half hour more than you think you need to get from one place to another.
- Wherever you are at meal time, that’s where you eat. When you have a hungry, tired family, you don’t want to be trudging through crowds to a different park or resort as it takes much longer than expected to get from one place to another (see above). Also, you cannot count on restaurants where you have reservations to honor them at the assigned time. We had to wait an average of 55 minutes at 4 different restaurants where we had confirmed reservations. Not worth it.
- Get Your FastPasses as Early as You Possibly Can. People staying on property can get them 60 days in advance. Others can book them 30 days in advance. The window for booking begins at 12:01am starting on that day so stay up late and do it through mydisneyexperience.com. The most popular attractions get booked immediately. Try for the more popular ones on the last day of your park admission if you have a multi-day ticket. Another tip is that you can enter five minutes before and five minutes after your one-hour FastPass window. So go five minutes early and “jump” the line. You are allowed three FastPasses per day. After you use them you can add more from the My Disney Experience app and from a kiosk at the park where you want the FastPass. More about FastPasses: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/fast-pass-plus/
If You Want to Meet a Lot of Characters, Book Character Meals or Multiple-Character Experiences. Kill multiple birds with one stone by booking for example a meal at Cinderella Castle (I don’t know why it’s not possessive – Cinderella’s Castle), at Cinderella’s Royal Table, where a selection of princesses come by every table; or at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian Resort, where Prince Charming and Cinderella and her stepmother and stepsisters come by. The latter is a buffet and a loud, crowded room; the former is a more elegant, table service experience. An example of multiple characters in one place is Pete’s Silly Side Show in Magic Kingdom where you can meet Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy. Check out the options and book the ones that are most important to your family: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/#/character-experiences/
- You can bring food and drinks into the parks. Super helpful to pack snacks, drinks, and sandwiches as the lines can be long for food. Also, you often have to wait a long time in line for rides so kids need snacks and everyone needs to keep hydrated. To carry things, use a backpack, not a purse. Having the weight distributed evenly really helps during long days of carrying stuff.
- Get Food Delivered to Your Hotel. I’ve used gardengrocer.com twice and have been very impressed. They deliver when expected and the website is easy to use. It’s so great to have cereal and milk, items to make sandwiches, fruit, bottles of water, etc. Saves money and time.
- If You Want Adult-Only Time…There are Children’s Activity Centers where your kids are entertained and fed; and in-room babysitting so parents can have a quiet meal, take a walk, watch fireworks, decompress in the hot tub, etc. I’ve used both in-room babysitting and Lilo’s Playhouse at the Polynesian and have been very pleased. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/recreation/childrens-activity-centers/
- Study the Crowd Calendar. Even if you don’t have a choice of when you are visiting, check out the Crowd Calendar so you know what you’re in for. It covers special events, when attractions are under renovation, and a lot of other crucial info: https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/crowd-calendar/
- YouTube Everything You Question. I was wondering if the Seven Dwarves Mine Train would be appropriate for our group and I wanted to know more about Lilo’s Playhouse children’s activity center. The Disney World website was short on info but it seems like you can find anything on YouTube. I found videos to show me experiences at both and those helped me make my decisions.
- If You Are Using a Stroller Read This. Mark your stroller with a colorful bandana or other items denoting it is yours. You need to have it stand out from the sea of strollers. You should also know that your stroller might not be in the same place where you left it when you entered an attraction or restaurant. Disney employees (I can’t bring myself to call them cast members) sometimes move them for various reasons. You might think it has been stolen but look in the general vicinity and you will most likely find it. If you don’t bring your own stroller you can rent one at Disney or have one delivered to your hotel via orlandostrollerrentals.com. I used the latter service and it was excellent – it was at my hotel upon arrival and I left it with bell service upon my departure.