Having been to Walt Disney World more times than I can count, I’ve picked up a few things along the way! There are definitely things I wish I knew before these trips started and I am always learning. So here are 100 things I’ve learned that may help you before your first trip.
1. Your hotel is the biggest variable in trip pricing. Holidays and summers are far more expensive than other times of year.
2. The more crowded the time of year, the more planning you should do!
3. Disney is one of the most popular categories in podcasting. Download some and get excited for your trip.
4. There are big differences between staying onsite and offsite.
5. If Disney releases a discount after you’ve booked, you (or your travel agent) can rebook at the lower price assuming there is availability for your resort and dates.
6. You can make requests about your onsite room location.
7. You save $30 on Memory Maker by buying it in advance.
8. Some restaurants, like Be Our Guest and ‘Ohana, are more difficult to book if you wait.
9. Book popular restaurants later in the trip if staying onsite – Because the guests whose vacations will start earlier than yours will reach their 180 +10 days before you, some popular restaurants will be full when you reach your 180 days out. Book those restaurants later in your trip for more availability.
10. Use Touring Plans Dining Reservation Finder – Use this tool to hunt any reservations you wanted and didn’t get! It works!
11. Decide on the Dining Plan – Once you know where you’re eating, run the numbers and see if you will save money with the Dining Plan. If yes, add it on!
12. Every part of your trip assumes you have a MyDisneyExperience account and have downloaded the Walt Disney World App – It will keep track of your dining reservations and your FastPass+ selections, you can book and rebook dining and FastPasses on the go with it, find your way somewhere, and more.
13. Screenshot the App – Because glitches can happen, screenshot your plans. It will save your battery life on your phone when you need to check your plans, and give you a record of what you have booked should the app or cell service go down.
14. Download Lines – You will also want to use the Lines app. We constantly check it to decide where to head next.
15. Pick Your MagicBands – If you are staying onsite, pick your Magic Band colors (or buy upgraded design ones) before they ship around 30 days before your trip.
16. You don’t have to buy park tickets from Disney.
17. FastPasses are your friends – Book those FastPasses 60 days before you go if staying onsite, 30 if not.
18. Travel agents will wake up early for you – Some of the above tips require early wake ups. Book your trip through a travel agent and they’ll do that for you. (And usually at no cost to you.)
19. Shoes are your most important wardrobe decision – Good shoes are the difference between fun and misery at Disney. Bring good walking shoes. Don’t bring brand-new ones, break them in first! I recommend bringing two pairs and rotating them.
20. Bring ponchos – I’m a fan of Disney ponchos, but I also usually bring light, throw away ponchos that I pick up at Walmart before I leave for a couple of dollars each. They’re great to keep in your backpack, just in case.
21. Bring a good backpack – Bring a comfortable backpack that will fit some daily supplies like bottles of water, change of clothes for the kids, etc. Pro Tip – If it’s too girly, your husband and teenage son may not want to take turns carrying it.
22. Bring an external phone battery charger – Bring a battery charger for your phone. They’re cheap! You won’t regret it.
23. Bring gum – There is no gum sold at Disney. If you are a gum chewer, BYOG.
24. Bring some groceries – We are fans of breakfast in the room. We bring breakfast foods for the room and get a quicker start in the morning. We bring pop tarts, cereal, paper bowls, and plastic spoons.
25. Order some groceries – Use a grocery service like Garden Grocer to deliver what you can’t bring in your suitcase like milk, bottles of water, soda, etc.
26. Drop off luggage before and after – Bell Services will store your luggage or carry-ons when you don’t have a room. Drop it off and head for the parks when you arrive, or leave it with them on your last day after you check out of your room to enjoy some extra time in the parks.
27. Take pool breaks – The resorts have great pools. Take a pool break in the afternoons. Your children will love you for it.
28. Value resorts do not have waterslides – While the value resorts have some fun pools, they do not have slides. Pick your resort accordingly.
29. Some value resorts have double beds – That’s right. Double beds. Pick your resort accordingly.
30. Value resorts are not sketchy motels – Double beds and slides notwithstanding, value resorts are still great options. They’re super themed, clean, and safe places to stay. Most guests aren’t in their rooms that much.
31. Moderate and Deluxe resorts have queen beds – With the exception of Pirate Rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort, the rooms at moderate and deluxe resorts have queen beds.
32. Deluxe resorts may be worth the money – The deluxe resorts are beautiful resorts with great restaurants, pools, bigger rooms, and upgraded linens. If you are staying in one, make sure you take the time to enjoy it!
33. There are refrigerators in all rooms – All rooms on property have small refrigerators.
34. Laundry – There are washer and dryers at all resorts should you need to wash clothes.
35. Schedule a Mickey wake-up call – Schedule a wake-up call from the phone in your room and the big cheese himself will be the one to wake you up!
36. Book a bounceback offer – Some of the best deals at Disney World can be had by booking while on your current trip. There will probably be a flyer in your room with the current special. If not, call 8844 from your resort phone or call your travel agent and they will help you.
37. Pools close early – Don’t save your swimming for late at night without checking first. Many resort pools close at 10.
38. Visit resorts you aren’t staying at – The resorts are wonderfully themed. If you have time, go visit some of them to see what they’re like, especially for the holidays!
39. Disney Magical Express busses do not leave immediately – You will probably sit for a while after loading.
40. Disney Magical Express busses make a few stops – You probably will not go directly to your resort–the bus will stop at a few resorts.
41. Pick up your own bags after 10 p.m. (and maybe 7 p.m.) – Magical Express will not pick up your bags from the airport after 10 p.m. When they do pick them up at other times of day, they will take a few hours to get to your room, so if you want to go to bed early, you may want to get them yourselves if you land any time after 7 p.m.
42. Resort busses are not always on a perfect schedule – They tend to come around every 20 minutes, but they definitely can be faster or slower. Put your patience hat on!
43. Resort busses may stop more than once – Many resort busses also have a few stops, so it won’t be a direct trip.
44. Uber/Lyft are soooo convenient – Car services like Uber/Lyft can save you a lot of time (especially when traveling between resorts) and cost a lot less than cabs. Disney also has their own service, called Minnie Vans.
45. Disney has great food – We went a lot of years just eating on the run, and not appreciating the great variety of food that Disney has. Slow down and enjoy it!
46. Quick service is not just chicken nuggets and burgers – The above is true for quick service meals as well. Flame Tree Barbeque and Satu’li Canteen at Animal Kingdom are two of the best places to eat in a park!
47. Eat at resorts – On busy days, or when taking a break, leave the parks and eat at a nearby resort. There are some great options and they usually won’t be as crowded!
48. Mugs work at all resorts – If you have a refillable mug, it will work at any resort, not just the one where you are staying.
49. Share meals – Disney has pretty big portions. If you’re a light eater, share with someone!
50. Order kids meals – Adults can also order kids meals if you aren’t as hungry.
51. Snack Snack Snack – If you do either of the above and are still hungry, don’t despair. Disney snacks are amazing. There are Dole Whips, Mickey Bars, popcorn. . . the list goes on. You won’t starve.
52. Eat quick service at off times – Eat at off times when possible. Counter service places will be much less crowded if you eat early or late.
53. Eat at the food booths – Epcot seems to have a festival of some type almost year round these days! The food booths they set up are the best part. Snack your way around the world!
54. Water is free – Any quick service place will give you a cup of free water. Just ask!
55. You can get a large soda on the dining plan at quick service meals – If you are on the dining plan, you will get a soda with your quick service meal. They will give you a regular-size soda, but you can get a large just by asking.
56. Order a la carte at quick service – If you just want a burger and no fries (um, why?) or a Mickey waffle and no bacon (gasp) you can order just want you want and pay less.
57. Sit down meals take a long time – Table service meals are great, and I definitely recommend them, but realize that they will take a good amount of time out of your day.
58. Make reservations before the park opens – Book a table service meal before the park opens for great empty park pictures!
59. Character meals are worth it – Character meals are a great option for families. Good food, great characters.
60. A dining reservation does not mean you will sit immediately upon arriving. You will probably still have a short wait.
61. Some restaurants can to be called directly – Some restaurants have much more availability if you call them directly for reservations. T-REX and Rainforest Café are prime examples.
62. Eat at Disney Springs – Disney Springs has some wonderful places to eat. Spend some time there!
63. The Chocolate Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream is my favorite dessert on property – That’s a big statement, and absolutely true. Try it!
64. Disney chefs work with dietary needs — Low sodium, allergies, vegetarian menus, and more, Disney chefs can help with your specific needs.
65. Eat at the bar at 50’s Prime Time – If you don’t have reservations, try getting a seat in the lounge. You can order off the full menu and get that fried chicken fix.
66. Prepare your children for Disney – Watch YouTube videos, the wonderfully awful Tower of Terror Movie, Disney movies, etc. Take away the fear of the unknown and ramp up the excitement!
67. Bring a stroller – Even if your child hasn’t used a stroller for a couple of years, walking at Disney is like no other walking. It will exhaust even the most active of children.
68. Children love pin trading – Bring pins, buy pins there–whichever you do, be prepared. Children love to trade pins at Disney.
69. Use the Baby Care Centers – Each park has a Baby Care Center for diaper changing, feeding, and resting.
70. Use Rider Switch – If you have a little one that’s too little or afraid to ride, use Rider Switch so everyone doesn’t have to miss it.
71. Characters will either terrify or enthrall your children – Plan accordingly.
72. You can’t do it all – Unless you have planned a 21-day trip, you aren’t going to be able to see and do it all at Disney. Accept it and slow down and enjoy yourselves.
73. Walt Disney World is Huge – It’s the size of a small city. You will walk several miles a day. Plan accordingly.
74. Have a plan – Know what is most important to you and your family. Make sure you do it!
75. Get to the parks early – Get to the parks before they open. The short lines are worth the missed sleep.
76. Book FastPass number four ASAP – As soon as you have used your three booked FastPasses, book number four on the app.
77. Even if the FastPass line looks crazy, get in it – FastPass lines can get jammed sometimes and look crazy. It’s still quicker than the regular line.
78. Single rider lines are awesome – If you don’t mind being split up, single rider lines can save you a lot of time.
79. Park hoppers are a good idea – Park Hoppers aren’t cheap, but they give you so much flexibility to visit different parks on the same day.
80. Water parks are worth it – Disney World water parks are awesome–especially when you need to beat the summer heat.
81. Let others in ahead of you for theater shows – Don’t always try to be the first in a theater. Let some people in ahead of you to get seats towards the middle.
82. If there are two nighttime shows, the second will be much less crowded – Go to that one!
83. Get ready to be tired – You will hit a wall. You’ll be exhausted. Hopefully happily so.
84. Get ready for your children to be tired – If you think you’re tired, think of the children. There will be meltdowns. Plan accordingly.
85. Take a break – Take a mid-afternoon break. Go swim, go nap, go read, just sit. You won’t regret it.
86. Split up – If you are with a group, you will not all have the same priorities. Split up! There will be plenty to do together.
87. Take a no parks day – If you have enough days, take a break one day. Enjoy your resort, shop at Disney Springs, swim–there’s plenty to do, at a much more relaxed pace!
88. The longest line you may stand in all day is the resort bus line after fireworks – Plan accordingly.
Shopping and Souvenirs
89. Ask for discounts – If you have a Disney Visa, Annual Pass, or are a Disney Vacation Club Member, make sure you ask for available discounts.
90. Get your free Disney Visa photo – If you have a Disney Visa, you can get a free character photo at Epcot. Check the Disney Visa website for details.
91. Get your free button – If you are celebrating just about anything, you can get a free button at the resorts or in the parks. Just ask!
92. Check your dining receipts – There are sometimes shopping discounts listed on the bottom of your dining receipts. Make sure you check them!
93. Character Warehouse – There are Disney outlets near the parks. Visit them to stretch your souvenir money!
94. You may not want Mickeys all over everything – When you’ve picked out what you want, step back and put a critical eye on it. Are you caught up in the Mickey madness, or do you really want a dress with Mickey heads all over it?
95. Some things are behind the counter – Disney stores have ponchos and medicine behind the counter. Just ask! If your resort shop is closed, the front desk even has some medicine for sale behind their counter.
96. Send purchases to your resort or the front of the park – You don’t have to carry your purchases around all day. Have them sent back to your resort or to the front of the park to pick up at the end of the day.
97. Ship purchases home – If you’ve over-shopped, or are worried about something breaking in your suitcase, you can have purchases sent directly to your house for a small shipping fee. If you’re shipping outside of Florida, they even waive the Florida sales tax.
98. Shops stay open after the parks – The big stores usually stay open an hour after the parks close. Save your shopping until then.
99. Return purchases at any store – If you’ve changed your mind about something, you don’t have to go back to the store or park where it was purchased. Take it back to any of the parks, or even your resort store!
100. Don’t Believe Every Tip You Read on the Internet – While the above tips are worth their weight in gold (okay maybe silver), there are some baaaad Disney tips out there on the internet. Don’t scream at Woody and Jessie and don’t assume nothing has changed from a five-year-old blog post. Make a plan, be flexible, expect the unexpected, and have fun!
So do you have any tips for us? Share them here.
Tammy Whiting is the owner of Storybook Destinations. Did you know Storybook Destinations offers a complimentary subscription to TouringPlans with qualified Disney and Universal bookings? Click here for a no-obligation quote on your next vacation!