It is no secret that I’m a Disney fan and know a lot about the Walt Disney World property in Orlando, Florida. I tend to get a lot of the same questions when people are starting to plan their upcoming trips, so I thought I’d help out with some fun tips.
Walt Disney World Basics
There are 4 Main Theme Parks
Magic Kingdom: is the classic Disney park with the beautiful Cinderella castle.
Favorite Ride: JUNGLE CRUISE
Cool Tip: Relax and bring a snack over to Tom Sayer’s Island to escape some of the crowds and get out of the sun for a bit. Explore the caves and take a nap on a bench.
Epcot: is where innovation is matched up with an extraordinary trip around the world.
Favorite Ride: SOARIN’
Cool Tip: Try Kim Possible’s World Showcase Adventure. It’s a lot of fun and great for ALL ages!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: is where Disney magic meets the movies
Favorite Ride: (TIE) ROCKIN’ ROLLERCOASTER and MUPPETS
Cool Tip: Go to the Indiana Jones show super early to get a good seat, and be loud to get to be in the show!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: is not just a zoo!
Favorite Ride: Expadition Everest
Cool Tip: Go on the Safari early in the morning because the animals are typically more active.
Other WDW fun things
Blizzard Beach: Water park with a winter theme. Tallest water slide in the world!
Typhoon Lagoon: My favorite water park! Snorkel with nurse sharks, ride water roller coasters, and enjoy the best wave pool ever!
Downtown Disney: a great location for Disney merchandise and decent food. Make sure to stop in Ghirardelli’s for some free chocolate.
Disneyquest: an interactive virtual video game world.
Disney Resorts: take time to walk around the resorts – they’re gorgeous! My favorite is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Boardwalk.
TIME OF THE YEAR
I would suggest to go during the “off seasons”. This would include early-mid October and November (stay away Halloween), and early December. You should typically stay away in late March, April, June – August, Dec 15 – Jan 2, and during any holidays. The price is pretty consistent throughout the year – it’s just that the parks are busier – so you might have to wait in line longer.
Tickets can be a challenge, and there are no true good options at getting “discounted tickets”. Any true ticket location will not go below a 10% discount (that’s typically what they get when they purchase at bulk rates). Anything lower than a 10% discount means that you’re going to sit through a timeshare presentation (many times they don’t even give you the tickets they promise at the beginning) or that they purchased “unused ticket days” from another customer. Only Disney can verify how many days are not used on a ticket, so many people come to the front of the parks with their “unused ticket days” tickets that they got on HWY 192, only to find out that they were scammed and there is nothing that they can do to get their money back. So, when it comes down to it.. buy the tickets directly from Disney – because they’re guaranteed and you’re also covered if you lose the ticket (they can look up what you purchased with your credit card information).
Now, many people think it might be convenient to share tickets, and Disney wouldn’t be the wiser. However, Disney scans your finger when you enter the park and matches it to your ticket – so the best practice here would to be just buy tickets for each person and rest assured that you’re safe to go in. You don’t want to get banned from the property for stealing.. 🙂
There are a crazy amount of options when it comes to what kind of tickets you can buy, especially with numerous days and add-ons. It all depends on how much you want to play, and how long you’ll be in the Orlando area. I’m a firm believer in purchasing less than what you intend on using – because otherwise you’re left with days on your ticket that are costly to extend beyond the 10 or 14 day expiration period.
7 Days trip: I would recommend purchasing a full 3 or 4 day “Ticket with Park Hopper Option”. The park hopper option is awesome because you can go early when the parks first open (9am), take a break back at the hotel (or just keep going), and then close the parks down. You’ll have the flexibility to jump from park to park – which is perfect if you’re going off season. There are 4 parks, so this will give you a full day in each park, and the ability to go to another park if you are done/bored in the park you’re in. You can also choose the general ticket without the “Park Hopper Option” – just know that if you go into two parks on the same day, you use 2 days on your ticket. It’s better to get the package tickets – they’re cheaper overall.
I would honestly skip the water parks if you’re there for a short amount of time. They’re a blast, and the weather is usually perfect (they heat the water too) – but I would spend your time in the main parks while you’re there. Spend the rest of the time you’re in the Orlando area actually relaxing! Enjoy the hotel pool, do some light shopping, and enjoy some of the Disney Free Items listed below.
- Arrive early. Most people relax and take their time when they’re on vacation. Get there right when the parks open, and you can have some of the busiest attractions done by lunch time!
- Start in the back of the park and work your way forward after you get there early.
- Walk to the left. Most people run to the right when they get into the parks.
- Use Fastpasses! Fastpasses are free and very easy to use. Put your park ticket into the Fastpass machine and your Fastpass will come out telling you when to return to the attraction. You can see the current time that they’re distributing Fastpasses for, and sometimes it is the same amount of time as waiting in line! Also check the bottom of the Fastpass for the next time that you can get a new one. Check out the park map for Fastpass locations.
- Leave the bag at home. Backpacks, purses, camera bags, and other extras can be a hassle at the parks – not to mention that you have to go through the long security check at the front of the park – so leave them at home. Frequent park goers typically just carry their ID, 2 credit cards, some cash, a cell phone, and their keys. Trust me – your shoulders will thank you!
FREE THINGS AT DISNEY
- Buttons! Go to any Guest Services or Vacation Planning booth for your complimentary Birthday, 1st Visit, Celebrating, Anniversary, and more buttons.
- Downtown Disney. There is free parking and really pretty – so get out there and have some fun! Great shops, fun music, and more!
- Disney Busses. All of the Disney busses are free. You don’t need an ID or anything!
- The Boardwalk. Jump on a free Disney bus and go to the Boardwalk Resort by Epcot. It is a great location for shops, food, and nighttime entertainment. This is also a fantastic location to watch the 9PM Epcot Fireworks.
- Magic Kingdom Fireworks. It’s true that Disney spends tens of thousands of dollars a night on their spectacular firework shows. Take a bus to one of the Magic Kingdom monorail resorts (Polynesian, Grand Floridian, or the Contemporary) and get a good spot to face the front of MK. The Disney enthusiasts love the hammocks on the beach at the Polynesian resort – just make sure to get there early.
I hope this helps! I’m more than happy to try to help with any other questions you might have.
3 thoughts on “Disney Advice from a Former Cast Member”
Thanks for sharing your expertise, Amy! A Disney trip can be overwhelming both from all the options, and from other super-in-depth sources of information. Concise advice like yours is helpful and appreciated.
My pleasure! Definitely let me know if you have any questions – I’m here to help! 🙂
What a wonderful blog post! It makes me want to go back to Disney! Wonderful suggestions!