For 2014 and 2015 Disney World vacations, these are the best tips and tricks! While there’s a million different opinions out there, who knows what’s current and what’s outdated! Having just come back from another research expedition in Disney World, I’m confident these tips will help you on your Disney World vacation!
In no particular order…
1. Research, research, research! The more you know, the better your trip!
2. If cost is an issue, know when the best deals are. If crowd levels are an issue, know when the lowest crowd times are (hint, they are typically very similar times). Crowd calendar 2014, best times for 2015.
3. Start walking before you go. You can easily log 8-10 miles a day at Disney and while you take breaks, you’ll need to build some endurance. Take some family walks and start to get your legs ready!
4. STAY ON PROPERTY! While it may seem more expensive on the surface, you won’t need to rent a car, get transportation to/from the airport, or pay for parking.
5. Think about using a travel agent. We know how to get the best discounts, when discounts come out, and are actively looking to save you time and money! Plus, we are FREE to work with!!!
6. If you book your Disney vacation before a discount comes out, you will have to call Disney to apply the new discount. It doesn’t get changed automatically. During a big discount, you may be on hold for a very long time!
7. Think about your budget. Now think about adding about 20% more to it to make it a more reasonable number for Disney. You can definitely do Disney on the cheap, but if you’re thinking about cost the whole time, it makes it less fun for the adults!
8. Look into the dining plan and what it includes. See if it’s for you (or how you can get it for free!)
9. Make sure Disney knows about any celebrations during your stay! You’ll get a few freebies and some recognition as well.
10. Children under 3 are free in Disney. If you’re thinking about a vacation before or after your child turns 3, you’ll likely save at least $300 if you go when they’re 2!
11. Similarly, Disney considers 10 year olds Disney adults. That means there’s a price break between 9 and 10. Park tickets don’t make a huge difference, but dining does!
12. Park tickets become cheaper the more days you add (sometimes adding a day of park tickets can be as low as $30 for a family of 3-4). Disney does the math for you when you are booking your package, so check it out!
13. Plan for a day off. Disney can get exhausting. Make sure you take a break during your trip, whether it’s a planned pool day, downtown Disney, or just a day without parks. You won’t get bored!
14. Ask questions! If you’re in Disney and are confused, lost, or need help, cast members (Disney employees) are here to help!
15. Plan at least one table service dinner. Even if you’re not on the dining plan, it’s a good experience!
16. Try new food! You’re on vacation. Don’t be afraid to book a unique restaurant or menu item (especially on the dining plan!)
17. Ask your server for suggestions. They’ll give you a good opinion or at least tell you the most popular menu items.
18. Save room for dessert! There’s some awesome options on all the menus.
19. Explore other resorts. It’s fun to just look around another resort if you’re in the area (think Magic Kingdom and Epcot areas). You don’t need any sort of ticket or pass to walk around in the common areas. It’s fun to look around!
20. Bring sunscreen and wear it! Bring more than you think you need. Nothing like feeling miserable and uncomfortable after one day of vacation! Reapply after pool or water rides.
21. Bring snacks to the park. You can also bring your own water bottles. Anything except glass and alcohol is allowed into the parks! If you have a place to store it or are fine carrying it, you’ll save a ton of money!
22. Bring your own stroller. Sure it’s a pain to lug it through the airport and check it at the gate, but it’s better than $18/day for a single stroller or $31/day for a double stroller!
23. Decorate your stroller so you know it’s yours. Colored ribbon, a sign, etc. will all be helpful. Yes you left it in a certain place, but cast members rearrange strollers for the most capacity. This is especially helpful if you are renting a stroller.
24. Share meals. Share meals! Seriously. For quick service/counter service meals, start with one meal for every 2 people. You can always go back and get another or one or get a snack to share. Don’t throw away the expensive food!!! Look at appetizers and meals to share for table service meals. If you made a reservation and you’re not that hungry, don’t be afraid to share a meal. The only place you can’t share are buffet meals. Via Napoli does not allow sharing on the dining plan, but you can share if paying out of pocket.
25. Bring your refillable mugs to the parks! While you can’t officially refill them, it’s a great way to share one of the large fountain drinks from counter service meals. You can also fill them with water from the water fountains or ask for some free ice water at any counter service (a word of warning that Orlando water doesn’t taste the greatest!)
26. Use Disney transportation. It’s FREE! It adds to the experience of Disney.
27. Know how to get from here to there BEFORE you leave! If you need to make a cheat sheet on your phone or index cards, do it! You’ll save headaches later.
28. Driving to Disney? Parking is free at your resort and all the theme parks if you stay in a Disney resort! Bring a GPS or some directions to get you to the main roads. Once there, Disney signage is great to get you to your destination.
29. Download the My Disney Experience app to your smart phone. You can update reservations on the fly and check for various show times and character meets in the park.
30. Arrive at the parks 30-45 minutes prior to park open. At times the parks open before the posted time. You can get through more of the park in the first 2-3 hours of the day than any other time!
31. Even if you’re tired, wake up for “rope drop” (park opening). You can always take a break later.
32. Take breaks! Whether it’s for lunch inside the park or a nap or some pool time outside of the park. You can’t make it 12-14 hours in the park without a break.
33. Be aware of Extra Magic Hours. Late hours are great to get some more popular attractions out of the way. If you are willing to get up early for morning Magic Hours, make sure you arrive before the park opens, otherwise it’s not worth it.
34. Fall brings some early park closures to the general public. Check the park hours on Disney’s website for days that close early due to special events. You may want to avoid that park. Animal Kingdom also closes earlier during lower crowd levels. Make sure you plan ahead if you have park hopper tickets.
35. Make your FastPass+ reservations at your 60 day window – this is for your entire vacation. This opens at midnight EST. If you want to meet Anna & Elsa, this needs to be done the second the window opens! Make sure your reservations are made at least 30 days in advance as that’s when day guests can make reservations.
36. Take advantage of all your FastPass+ allotments. Even if you aren’t sure, book it!
37. Make your dining reservations as soon as possible. This has become extremely competitive in the last 2-3 years. Resort guests can make reservations 180 days in advance (this is for your entire vacation, not just one day). If you don’t have a resort reservation, you can make reservations 180 days in advance (but you’ll have to do it each day).
38. Check out the FastPass+ bypass for Be Our Guest for lunch.
39. Package reservations must be paid in full at 45 days prior to your arrival. Room only reservations are paid upon arrival.
40. Think about online check in. If you are arriving earlier in the day, make sure Disney knows about it. While it’s no guarantee, the more they know, the better.
41. If you don’t like your room assignment on check in, you can always ask the front desk if there is another available room you can switch to (in a different location on the grounds). The worst they can say is no!
42. Wear good walking shoes! Flip flops are not good walking shoes.
43. Bring an extra pair of shoes in case one gets wet from rain or if you get a blister.
44. Bring first aid supplies. Disney does have first aid at each of their theme parks, however bring some good band aids, blister band aids, and moleskin with you. It’ll save you walking time to get there and making your injuries worse.
45. On days with a threat of rain, pack a pair of sandals or crocs. This is the only time I’ll ever suggest sandals in Disney. EVER. More suggestions on what to do on rainy days.
46. Pack your own ponchos. You’ll save money. Don’t forget a poncho or tarp for your stroller!
47. Pack a ziplock bag or two for cameras and cell phones on rides where you can get wet.
48. Take a photo of where you parked. After a long, hot day, you may not remember. Also take a photo of your rental car’s license plate!
49. Bring an extension cord. There aren’t always enough plugs available or in a nice place.
50. Think about staying closer to the park you’ll be at the most. You’ll save time traveling to and from your resort each day.
51. If pool time is important to you, choose a location with a great pool. You may want to spend a little more money on a moderate or deluxe resort to have a water slide. My favorite pools are at Beach & Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Coronado Springs. Of the value resorts, Art of Animation and Pop Century have fun pools (but no water slides).
52. Decide if you want to park hop. I think park hopping is beneficial, but it may be too much for young children or your first trip. You will get to see more in less time. Add a park hopper to your tickets and cut down on the number of days of tickets giving you time to take a day off!
53. Explore Downtown Disney. The World of Disney store has everything you could ever want to buy!
54. Stay cool. Drink water, don’t get dehydrated. If you’re feeling ill find a cool indoor show to watch or take a little break in one of the bathrooms.
55. Stop and enjoy your surroundings. Running from one thing to the next isn’t very much fun! Enjoy your surroundings.
56. Don’t try and do too much. Don’t plan every second of every day. Go in with a general plan and be open to change.
57. Know height restrictions for different Disney attractions before you go. They are strict.
58. Don’t make your kids go on something they are afraid of. There’s always another trip another time.
59. Find free stuff in Disney! Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom gives you free cards. Play the game or just take the cards. It’s a great distraction.
60. Really enjoy each country of World Showcase in Epcot. They are really interesting and intricate.
61. Take family photos with the Disney photographers. Your MagicBands will upload the photos to your account. Even if you don’t purchase them, it’s still fun!
62. If you see a Disney photographer hovering around, it’s likely because a pop up character meet will be on the way. If you want to know, ask! They’ll tell you the information they have.
63. Check out all the evening fireworks/shows. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios each have one and they are all amazing, whether it’s the first or 100th time you’ve seen them.
64. Watch Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from different vantage points: Main Street, Tommorowland Bridge, Polynesian Beach, California Grill (reservations required).
65. Get your spot for parades early. The shady spots go first, so if that’s important, stake your claim!
66. Think about Memory Maker. You’ll be able to put your camera away and have tons of pictures for your return!
67. Customize your MagicBands. It’s so much fun to see the rainbow of colors arrive at your doorstep instead of plain gray ones.
68. Use your MagicBands to their fullest extent. They’re more than just a key to open your door. Pay for anything and everything in Disney World, gain entry to the parks, use your FastPasses, etc. It’s actually really fun!
69. Call Disney if you need more than one room. It’s easier to properly link the reservations and they can book it faster than you could online. While you’re on the phone, ask if there are any PIN codes attached to your account.
70. Start your vacation on Sunday. Friday night and Saturday night stays are the most expensive. Crowds are also highest on a Saturday.
71. Arrive early in the day and leave late in the day. This will allow you the most time. Even if you’re not going to the parks.
72. Magical Express service TO your resort can take up to 90 minutes from your arrival. You’ll likely stop at other resorts on the way to your own. Be patient!
73. Magical Express service FROM your resort typically leaves 3 hours before your flight. Plan your flight accordingly.
74. Be cautious before booking a dining reservation the night you arrive. Flights get delayed, things happen.
75. Try a character meal! Even if you are dining as adults, it’s fun to watch kids faces light up.
76. Don’t yell at your kids. You’re in public and people can hear you!
77. Eat at off peak times. You’ll definitely be able to tell peak lunch and dinner times by the amount the crowds dwindle. If you can take advantage of that, you’ll get more for your time.
78. Did you know the average number of attractions done in a day is 8.5? While it’s definitely possible to do more, don’t have extreme expectations for your visit.
79. Stop and enjoy the cupcakes.
80. Order customized maps and study them before you arrive. It’ll help you as you get to the parks each day. This is done on Disney’s web site.
81. Grab a daily schedule for the parks on your way in. You’ll know about special events, live shows, and character meets.
82. If you are in line for an attraction before the park closes, you’ll be able to ride or meet a character. A cast member will turn you away if the park is already closed, but you won’t have to leave the line.
83. Disney buses run until the last guest is out of the parks. You won’t get left behind!
84. There’s a place for nursing mothers if you’re taking a very young child to Disney. Ask a cast member for more information.
85. Enjoy attractions more than once. Just because you already did them on this trip, doesn’t mean you can’t do it again, especially if the line is short!
86. Head straight for the headlining attractions/rides first thing in the morning when lines are shortest.
87. Eat a decent breakfast. Even if you plan on enjoying some food at the parks, don’t go on an empty stomach and then get lost in running from ride to ride.
88. Pack some simple breakfast foods in your luggage. Pop Tarts and granola bars are easy grab and go things to get you to the parks early!
89. Think about club level service. Breakfast, snacks, hot and cold appetizers, happy hour drinks for adults, desserts, and after dinner cordials. It won’t be all of your meals, but we were able to keep full throughout our stay. Free bottled water too!
90. Meet at least one character during your trip. I don’t care if it’s kids or adults, it’s still fun!
91. Prepare your kids for the trip: waiting in line, being courteous, using manners, etc.
92. If there are two lines, choose left. 95% of the time that line is shorter!
93. The shops on Main Street in Magic Kingdom are open longer than the park. Shop on your way out after the fireworks show.
94. Get a set of “first ears”!
95. Enjoy Club Cool in Epcot. Get a free beverage and try the different flavors of Coke around the world!
96. Take a night off and watch a movie at your resort. Don’t like the movie your resort has, check out the other resorts!
97. Try Dole Whip (I prefer the floats!)
98. Sit and enjoy some of the live shows. Don’t feel like it’s a waste of time. They are truly enjoyable and it’s a load off your feet.
99. Pay attention to the details! The different things on Cinderella’s Castle, all the animals in the Tree of Life, etc. It’s truly amazing!
100. Think about a dinner show! Disney has 3 on property and they’ll all really fun! Two credits on the dining plan or a decent out of pocket charge, but it’s a great way to take a nice long break!
101. Learn about Pin Trading and trade with cast members!
Whew! Did I forget anything important?
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A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!
Interested in booking a free dining Disney vacation package of your own? Contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. While we won’t know until Monday what resorts are included, it’s great to be able to make a quick, informed decision about your vacation package as some rooms go quickly and they are all on a first come, first serve basis. If you do not have an active Disney reservation, it is very easy to make a new reservation online and secure your spot. Did you know that working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you? Receive advice, park strategy, knowledge, and the gift of time (before, during, and after your trip) for no additional cost to you!
If you have a current Disney World reservation and want me to do the hard work of calling to update your reservation to free dining, you are able to transfer your trip to me at no cost. (You do not need to cancel your existing reservation or pay any additional deposit to make this change. It’s one piece of paperwork and an email away! This is subject to Disney approval).