Hey! Are you traveling to Walt Disney World for the first time? Is the trip only a few days away? Have you done little by way of planning, figuring that everything will work itself out when you get there? If any of this is true, let me be blunt. You’re in a world of hurt. You’re poised to have a nightmare of a “vacation.”
Okay, take ten seconds to freak out.
Are you appropriately stressed? Okay, now take a deep breath. I’ve got some good news. These trips CAN turn out great. All you need to do is read every word of the rest of this article to find out what you haven’t done yet that’s important. Here’s everything you need to do right now to enjoy a wonderful trip to Walt Disney World.
Let’s start with the basics
I’m sure you’ve already got a hotel room booked and travel plans finalized. Those are travel basics. What you apparently didn’t realize is that Walt Disney World requires a few more steps. I’m going to take you through each of them so that you can avoid a few moments of aggravation.
The first thing you’ll want to know is how transportation works at Walt Disney World. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you’re in business. All of their hotels offer some form of transportation to and from the parks as well as Disney Springs and the Disney water parks. It won’t be perfect, and you’ll wind up with a horror story or two about the time you waited forever or just missed a bus/boat. All your pain and suffering means is that you’re now a Disney veteran with a tale from the battlefield to share with others.
While some theme park tourists still do so, you won’t need to rent a car when you stay at a Disney hotel. The buses, boats, and monorails can take you everywhere you need to go. If you have planned to rent a car or intend to do so, understand that parking at the resorts is free to paying guests. You’ll also get a parking sticker that enables you to park at all four theme parks without a fee. If you’re staying offsite, the situation is a bit more complicated.
Once you reach Walt Disney World, you can use the transportation systems in place just the same as any other guest. Getting to the campus is the problem. Many third party hotels offer a ride to and from the parks at set intervals, but you’ll be stuck on site for an extended period. That can get hot and sweaty and is cause for someone in your family to have a meltdown. Having your own car gives you a bit more control of the process, but you’ll pay twice for the option. In addition to the car rental fee, you’ll also have to pay to park at the theme parks, and that costs between $20 and $35 per trip, depending on how close you want to get to the front gate.
A solution that benefits guests staying offsite as well as travelers at Disney resorts who need to get somewhere fast is ride-sharing. Uber and Lyft both have strong presences in Orlando, Florida. For a reasonable fee (somewhere between $8 and $15 in most instances), a driver will take you wherever your family needs to go. At the parks, they can basically take you to the entrance. If you have money set aside for a car rental, run the calculations to see if ride-sharing saves you money. Even if it doesn’t, you might be willing to pay more for the convenience. Theme park tourists who prefer a layer of control and plan to do a lot of non-Disney stuff while in Orlando should still consider a car. Otherwise, I’d strongly suggest letting Uber and Lyft drivers take you where you need to go.
Of course, there’s one more form of transportation you should consider prior to your trip. That’s your feet. You’ll walk a ton while you’re at Walt Disney World. If you’re planning on wearing a new pair of shoes during your vacation, break them in NOW! Otherwise, you’ll suffer blisters while you’re traversing the parks, which will make all the walking that much more treacherous. Alternately, dig out your favorite pair of comfortable shoes and wear them every day at Disney. You’ll be so glad that you did.
Learn to love the FastPass
The first thing you need to do is set up FastPass+ selections. FastPass is Disney’s way of moving a theme park tourist to the front of the line. You can book up to three of them in advance, and they’ll guarantee that you get to ride some of a theme park’s most popular attractions with minimal inconvenience. These will inform your decisions about how to approach your time at the parks. You should understand that rides like Frozen Ever After, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Test Track will run out of FastPasses each day. Disney only offers a limited amount. You need to book them in advance to avoid getting shut out.
How do you book your FastPass+ selections? First, you need tickets to a Disney theme park, which I’m presuming you’ve already bought. With those in hand, you need to set up a My Disney Experience account on Disney’s site. Then, you can book here. Alternately, you can (and should) download the My Disney Experience (MDE) app. It’s capable of much more than reserving your Fastpasses, something we’ll discuss later. In booking your selections, something you should keep in mind is that earlier is better. The instant you use your allotted FastPass selections, you can make more via the MDE app. Even when the best ones sell out, you’ll still find plenty of great attractions with available options. Remember to pick the earliest one whenever possible unless it interferes with your plans.