I’m a huge Disney fan.
Disney just has this kind of magic that allows you to enjoy it not only as a child, but as an adult too. It’s always guaranteed to keep your inner child alive and well! One of the things I love doing is visiting the Disney parks. They’re just so much fun! I’ve been to both Disneyland in Paris and Walt Disney World in Florida, and I’m hoping (crossing all of my fingers) to visit the Tokyo parks this year too.
Luckily, I’ve been able to visit Walt Disney World three times in the past and I’ve even visited over Christmas Day, so I’ve done my fair share of research and planning to get the most out of my trip! I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned over the years, that will hopefully make your holiday at Disney a little easier, especially if you visit at a peak time like we did. Taking advantage of some of the services that Disney offer, you can save a lot of time (thank you FastPass) and disappointment (thank you advanced dining reservations). I’ve also shared some of the things that I think can add to your experience at, and enjoyment of, Disney, because it’s not all about the rides you know! There are definitely bits I haven’t covered, like Extra Magic Hours and Disney’s Magical Express (these require you to stay at a resort and I’ve never used the Express) and Photo Pass (an extra cost, unless included in your ticket/vacation package). This isn’t an extensive list of things to do and places to see or a blow-by-blow of each park, but just some handy hints that will help you out along the way!
Have a magical trip!
Probably my biggest recommendation is to make sure you have FastPass reservations. Some of the rides in the parks have a way you can reserve your time slot in advance online, so that you can skip the normal lines – this is called FastPass+. This is the biggest life saver, as queues for some rides can be up to a 2 hour wait (for us that was Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Toy Story Mania and the Frozen ride). We took full advantage of FastPasses on our last trip, as we only had 4 days to see 4 parks, and I can honestly say it was the best thing I did. We were able to ride almost all of the rides we wanted to using good FastPass techniques (ie making sure we got FastPasses for the most popular rides earlier on in the day)! You can only make three reservations in advance per day that you have a ticket, but they’re super useful for getting a space in the busiest rides, especially if you’re visiting at a busy time of year like Christmas. You can reserve these up to 60 days in advance if you’re staying at a Disney hotel or up to 30 days if you’re staying offsite. It’s well worth it to save yourself time on the day but it does mean you’ll need to decide what parks you visit on which days.
Snacking at Walt Disney World is probably just as popular as the rides, with some of the snacks even having cult followings! To get hold of these foods, you obviously don’t need reservations, so you could spend the day eating your way through all of the different Disney snacks instead of heading to a table service restaurant. My personal fave is the Dole Whip, a pineapple soft serve made from Dole brand pineapple – it’s super delicious! You can find it at Aloha Isle in Adventure Land or at the Polynesian Resort. Some other cult snacks include the Mickey shaped ice cream bar, the turkey leg, the citrus swirl, Mickey waffles and stuffed pretzels. I definitely think trying out a few of these (not the turkey leg – it was awful) is definitely key for your trip to Disney! If you’ve only got space to try one snack then the Dole Whip should definitely be at the top of your list!
Explore The Resort
Each hotel on Disney property is like a resort in itself with restaurants, stores, swimming pools and activities. I would definitely recommend taking the time to explore around some of the hotels if you get the chance, with Fort Wilderness being one of the most expansive areas. Here you can visit animals, ride horses, hire golf carts and boats, play archery and even experience a campfire sing along and movie night. Even if you don’t have tickets to the parks every day, you can still enjoy the rest of the Disney resort without an entry fee. You can eat in the hotel restaurants, play mini golf on two separate courses, wander along the Boardwalk and visit Disney Springs (the shopping and entertainment district of Disney). There’s so much to see and do outside of the parks, so make sure you allow yourself some ‘down time’ to find some fun activities!! If you visit at Christmas then the campsites at Fort Wilderness have some amazing light displays that you should definitely check out.
If you’re interested in eating at some of the table service restaurants, like ‘Be our Guest’ (Beauty & the Beast themed!) in Magic Kingdom or ‘Tusker House’ in Animal Kingdom, then you’ll probably need an advance reservation. You can sometimes turn up on the day and get a spot, but if you really want to eat at a specific table service restaurant then it’s safer to book your spot!! Character dining is probably the most popular, as you get to meet your favourite characters while you eat. At some places you’ll meet the Fab 5 (e.g. Hollywood & Vine), whereas others are host to the characters from Winnie the Pooh (Crystal Palace) or a collection of Disney princesses (Cinderella’s Royal Table). You can reserve your space up to 180 days in advance and you might want to take advantage of this service, especially if you’re interested in dining with the princesses, Mickey or other characters!
Magic Bands are bracelets that are linked to your account on the Disney system allowing you to use them as a credit card, a room key and your park tickets all in one! They come in a variety of colours and you can even purchase bands with different designs if you want to make it more interesting. You use them to enter your hotel, pool area, the parks and even to scan in for your FastPass times on rides. They make life super easy! When booking through the Disney site, you’ll automatically have a Magic Band included, which you can choose to have sent to you or to collect when you arrive at the resort. We chose not to attach our card details to ours, so we could track our spending, but you can actually use the band to pay in stores around the parks for any purchases you make.
Once you’re on Disney property you can take advantage of all the free transportation options to take you between the parks and hotels. Buses, boats and the monorail are all options of Disney transport and are a great way to get around if you don’t have a car. Even some of the offsite hotels near to the park will offer shuttles to get onto the property and then you can grab Disney transport from there! Not all transport runs at all times, so do check that before you plan your days. Obvious Fact: The picture here is not a form of Disney transport, but in fact some theming near Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. How cool is that?!
If the transport routes get a little confusing, then this map done in an Underground/Subway style is fantastic!
My Disney Experience
This application and website is a bit of a lifesaver when it comes to keeping your holiday in order. Everything to do with your Disney trip is organised on here, from your park tickets and accommodation to your FastPass+ and dining reservations. The app also gives you park maps and ride wait times directly on your phone, meaning wherever you are in the park you can see which rides have the shortest queues. You can also find extra FastPasses on the app too! It’ll be your best friend in the parks, especially when you’re looking to nab a FastPass while in a queue for another ride, or to check wait times while you’re finishing your lunch.
Accessories and Tees
Minnie ears, Mickey hats and graphic tees are all things that people love to wear around the parks. WDW doesn’t allow you to fully dress up, unless it’s a Halloween party, but you can always accessorise yourself with full Disney style. Minnie ears in all designs are definitely the most popular things to wear in the parks, but so many companies sell Disney t-shirts too. From mainstream brands like Uniqlo and Primark to small independent sellers online, you can find a huge range of Disney themed shirts to wear in the parks (I love the designs from these guys)! Another popular trend is to go Disney bounding, which means wearing an outfit that alludes to a Disney character. So for example, wearing a spotty dress and Minnie ears to be Minnie Mouse or a purple dress and flowers in your braided hair to be Rapunzel. Disney is definitely the place to dress up as your favourite character somehow and release your inner child! Also, I love looking at @ashtinelikekutcher on Instagram for fun Disney outfit flatlays and @whereiskirstie for a fabulous selection of fun Disney accessories (and her photos of all the Disney parks are gorgeous).
If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World then I definitely recommend checking out the following people for some fantastic inspiration and help! The Disney Tourist Blog is a font of knowledge – and gorgeous photos – about the Disney parks in Orlando and also those around the world too. He has restaurant reviews, trip reports, suggested itineraries and so many planning posts. If videos are more your thing then The Tim Tracker is an awesome daily vlogger who shares fun activities to do in Orlando. He focuses mainly on the Disney and Universal parks, so his vlogs are a great place to start your planning! Instagram is a great place to check out all the new foods and snacks as well as to see photos from around the parks themselves. I love @thepixietraveler for Disney treats (and her Disney food Insta @ohlookmorefood) and @ohyeahdisney for brightly coloured fun photos.
Visiting Walt Disney World is so much fun, so whatever you do you’re going to have the best time. If you happen to visit at a busy time of year, then hopefully some of these tips will help you out and make your days a little easier! But when all is said and done, you’ll be spending time with Mickey Mouse and honestly what could be more fun!! You’ll genuinely have the most magical time and I hope you enjoy every second of it.