Heading to Disney World, or planning a trip? I have a few Disney World tips for you to make sure you don’t get caught making the same mistakes that I have made in the past.
I love Disney World, and while I haven’t been 20-plus times like some people I know, this will be my fifth trip. I always use this book to guide my decisions and it rarely leads me astray. I don’t know all there is to know about Disney World, but I’ve learned enough that I think I can share my wisdom with you.
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1. Fashion over function.
It is so tempting to dress cute when you go to Disney World, and the world of Instagram makes it look like everyone does.
But remember these things:
- You are going to walk until your feet scream.
- You are going to sweat or get rained on, or both.
- You are going to ride many rides, with all sorts of seating situations.
Make sure you wear shoes that are seriously broken in. I’ll be rocking my Nikes that I also wore all around Greece, my Keds that I wore to Greece or my Converse slip-ons that are about a bajillion years old.
If you want to wear a sundress – which is reasonable, because Florida is hot – make sure it’s one you feel comfortable walking around in and riding attractions in. I am all for light dresses but I don’t like worrying if it’s going to fly up!
2. “Let’s just play it by ear.”
I do not advocate for overplanning your trip to Disney World, but I definitely don’t recommend going light on the planning either.
At the very least, you should…
- Buy your tickets in advance.
- Make dinner reservations in advance.
- Know what park(s) you’ll visit each day.
- Make FastPass reservations in advance.
From there, I understand not planning out your day to the minute detail.
My mom and I started by checking the Crowd Calendar to decide what parks would be best to visit on what day. We always have four days to dedicate to each park and then a fifth day to adventure, rest, shop and explore. Then, we made our dinner reservations and our FastPass reservations.
3. Not making dinner reservations.
If you want to eat at any of Disney’s top restaurants, make dinner reservations as soon as you can. Not making dinner reservations = huge mistake, especially if you wanted to take your child to a character dining experience or eat at a signature restaurant.
Mom and I get the Disney Dining Plan – it’s a matter of convenience more than anything, and we really like to eat – and the first thing we do after buying tickets is make our reservations.
If you don’t want to eat at Disney restaurants, then you don’t need to make reservations. But if it’s important to you that you go to Chef Mickey or Be Our Guest, get ready and don’t slack on it.
If you were wondering, on this upcoming trip, Mom and I will be eating at…
- Teppan Edo in Japan in Epcot (we’ve eaten here before and it’s a good time and delicious)
- Sanaa in the Animal Kingdom Villas Resort
- Via Napoli Ristorante in Italy in Epcot
- Olivia’s Cafe for brunch at the Old Key West Resort
- Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming at Disney Springs
- Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom (so freaking excited yo)
4. Buying bottled water in the parks.
Don’t do it. You just don’t need to. Bottled water costs between $3 and $4 in the parks, and unless you really hate the taste of Florida water, it is a waste.
You can fill a reusable water bottle up at any water fountain in the park. Plus, you can get a cup of ice water from any quick service restaurant for free.
5. Planning a trip immediately before, after or during a major holiday.
Don’t go to Disney World when everyone else in the universe is going to Disney World.
It’s already an incredibly crowded place.
It gets even worse around Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, etc. Any time kids are out of school, you can guarantee more people will be flocking to Disney World. That means longer waits for attractions, less dinner reservations and just general crowds everywhere you go.
Look for the weeks before holidays, when school is probably still in session and people are less likely to take vacations. We always love going in September, after Labor Day. We’ve never been in October before so we’ll see how we like this!
6. Not taking advantage of Disney resorts.
I always, always, always recommend staying on-site if you can. I get why you wouldn’t – you do save money, that is 100% true.
But if you can afford a value resort like Pop Century or even a moderate resort like Port Orleans French Quarter (my personal favorite), you will have a better experience, I promise you. The bus systems alone are worth it, plus you get a few extra perks, like…
- Make dinner reservations 10 days earlier than everyone else going to Disney World at the same time as you.
- Make FastPass reservations an entire 30 days earlier than everyone else going to Disney World at the same time as you.
- Free airport-to-hotel transportation.
- Free Magic Band to use as your park key, room key, credit card, etc.
- Access to Extra Magic Hours.
- Ship your souvenir purchases back to your room.
7. Driving instead of using Disney transportation.
If you stay on-site, you have access to…
- Disney busses
- The monorail
- Watercraft, depending on your resort
No need to drive. If you stay on-site and drive anyway… There’s really no need. Save the gas money and the wear and tear on your car, and take the bus unless you’re pressed for time.
8. Ignoring some of Disney’s more under-appreciated attractions.
Are you hot, tired or cranky? Or all three?
It’s time to appreciate some of Disney’s best, low-traffic attractions. There are attractions at Disney World that have little to no wait almost 99% of the time, and when you need to get out of the sun or rain or give your feet a break, don’t discount them. There’s more to do than hopping into a souvenir store!
A few of my favorites are…
- It’s Tough To Be A Bug in Animal Kingdom (there can be a wait for this sometimes, but it’s never too bad)
- Swiss Family Treehouse in Magic Kingdom (you don’t get a break from walking, but it’s a little spontaneous Disney fun.)
- Club Cool in Epcot. (Sodas from countries around the world! I love it!)
9. Eating crappy food.
There is no excuse to eat hot dogs and hamburgers (unless, I guess, if that’s what you’re craving) while in Disney World. There just isn’t.
If you love food, you’ll be in a good place. I haven’t gotten to try the Mobile Order option yet – it’s been newly added since the last time I went to Disney World in 2011 – but that will make it even easier to get great food on the go for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A few of my favorite quick service restaurants in Disney World:
- Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn for Tex-Mex in Magic Kingdom.
- Sunshine Seasons for everything under the sun in The Land area of Epcot
- Tangierine Cafe for Mediterranean in Morocco in Epcot
- Yak & Yeti in Asia in Animal Kingdom
- Flame Tree Barbecue (which is self explanatory) in Discovery Island in Animal Kingdom
I haven’t gotten to try Woody’s Lunch Box in Hollywood Studios. It has rave reviews, but the rest of the food in Hollywood Studios is OK to fair. I usually stock up on snacks when we go to Hollywood Studios and skip straight-up meals.
My favorite restaurants in Disney World include…
- California Grill (one of the best!) at the Contemporary Resort
- 50’s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios
- Tutto Italia Ristorante in Epcot
- Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios