When traveling to Walt Disney World, it is important to understand the park systems and policies. The following will outline certain aspects of the four Disney Parks that will help you maximize your time and money. Also included are tips that will make your trip more MAGICAL and less stressful.
Be prepared to pass through security when entering any Disney Park. The fastest entry will be for those with no bags, all others will be required to stop at a security checkpoint and have their bags checked before entry. If you are prepared with your bags open (and removed from strollers), you will find entering the parks easier and quicker.
As you enter a Disney Theme Park you should take a copy of a park guide and entertainment schedule. This will allow you to review the layout of the parks and attraction options. The entertainment guide will advise on all shows including times and locations. The park guides will also cover park policies, locations of ATM machines, dining options and other important information.
Disney’s Fastpass system is a way to cut down on your attraction wait time allowing you to maximize your day at the parks. Attractions that offer Fastpass will have a marked area with distribution machines. Each member of your party will need to insert their park ticket into the machine in order to receive the Fastpass tickets. Each ticket will show the return time so you will know when to return to the attraction. Come back anytime within the time range shown on your pass (example 1:00-2:00pm) and use the Fastpass return entrance. You will have little or no waiting time. Just be sure to check the posted return time on the overhead signs before you insert your ticket. Disney does limit the number of Fastpass that a person can have at one time. Read the bottom of your Fastpass ticket to see when a second one is available to you. This will enable you to double up on the passes and cut out wait time on the top attractions.
Always try to secure Fastpass tickets before you sit down for a meal or while waiting for a parade or show. This allows you to minimize your waiting time and maximize your time getting on the best attractions.You can even send one member of your party to the Fastpass distribution machine with all of the park admission passes. They can secure the Fastpasses for everyone while you wait to be seated for your lunch or dinner.
This system allows both parents to ride attractions without spending extra time waiting on line. The way it works is that both parents and child/children wait on line and once you get to the ride loading area, advise the cast member you are ‘swapping off’. One parent rides as the second parent waits with the child. When the rider parent exits they take the child and the second parent rides without any other wait time. If you have an older child and a younger one, the older child can ride with each parent – getting two rides in one wait time!
This is a very convenient service offered at every Disney Park. All of your purchases can be forwarded o the park exit or to your Disney resort. This enables you to shop without being concerned about carrying your packages with you throughout the park
Your entertainment guide will alert you to any scheduled parades, including the parade routes and times. It is not uncommon to see people lining up an hour before parade time, as popular parades gather quite a crowd.
You should also consider your parade spot carefully, especially if you are staking out the area a long time before the parade actually starts. A spot in the direct Florida sun might be too much for small children or older adults. Waiting time for a parade is a good time to get snacks for the kids – there will be plenty of popcorn, ice cream and pretzel stands in the area.
It is also a great idea to secure a Fastpass before you line up for the parade, as you probably will be able to watch the parade and then move directly to the attraction at your Fastpass return time.
If you are willing to skip the parades, it is a great time to visit the more popular attractions, as the lines may be shorter.
Find out the direction of the parade before choosing your waiting spot. Spots in the front of the parade will see the parade first and have a shorter waiting time, letting you get back to the rides sooner.
The big question is bring your own or rent at theme parks. Benefits of bringing your own stroller:
- You are able to use the stroller during travel to Orlando (especially in the airports)
- You will have stroller to get into and out of the parks (carrying a child back to the bus or car after a long day at the parks is no fun).
- You can use your stroller when visiting Downtown Disney or other Orlando attractions.
- Saves you money from paying for daily rentals.
- Ability to store items in your stroller (rentals have very limited storage areas).
When renting a stroller makes sense:
- When you don’t feel you will need a stroller for most of your trip.
- When you have two children that can use a double sized rental.
If you rent a stroller at one park and then ‘hop’ to another one in the same day, you can use your receipt to get a replacement stroller at no charge.
If you do rent a stroller be sure to use the express rental program. A cast member is waiting at the entrance (before security checkpoint) with stroller to rent. This saves you time from waiting on a line as soon as you enter the park. Strollers are available as singles or doubles. There is also a discount if you rent for multiple days of your trip.
Planning your meals will also help save you time and money during your Walt Disney World vacation. In order to save time when touring the Disney Parks, you should plan to eat your meals during off-times (early lunches, early or late dinners). This will enable you to avoid the crowds that descend on all dining areas during peak lunch times (12:00-2:00pm) or prime dinner times (5:00-7:00).
Bringing snacks into the parks is almost a necessity, especially if you are traveling with small children. It will be impossible to stop and buy food ever time your child wants a snack. It will save time and money if you pack light snacks for the day. Child sized water bottles or juice boxes are great for staying hydrated. Crackers, cookies, and pretzels are easy to carry and help keep the kids happy. The parks offer many food choices and you will probably wind up purchasing the Mickey Mouse ice cream pop at least once on your trip, but having your own supply of snacks is never a bad idea.
These snack items can be brought from home or better yet, purchase them once you arrive in Orlando. There are plenty of food stores such as Winn Dixie, Publix or Gooding’s. Locations can be found on the internet or in the yellow pages (hotel cast members can also guide you to their location).
When traveling with a large family or group the cost of renting a car may be worth the ability to travel to local grocery stores for food, and will enable you to eat meals outside the Disney property, another big cost saver.
As of 2004, Disney starting including refrigerators in their Deluxe Resort rooms. Most other Disney hotels will rent you one for approximately $10 per day. This may be a good deal if you plan to buy cans of soda, water bottles, milk and other items that need to be refrigerated. A good way to save money on buying breakfast everyday is to purchase small boxes of cereal, packets of instant oatmeal, or other breakfast food items that you can eat in the room. Any Disney hotel will bring you a coffeemaker for your room at no charge (just call housekeeping). You can use it for morning coffee or run it with water only to have hot water for your oatmeal or hot tea.
Do not call and request a refrigerator in advance at the Disney Deluxe Resorts. If you do they will quote you a $10 per day charge. If you wait until you arrive, the refrigerator will probably already be in the room. If not, you can notify the front desk and they will send one to you at no charge.
When you purchase your Disney park passes, it includes use of the Disney transportation systems including buses and monorails. The monorail systems travel from the Magic Kingdom, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), Magic Kingdom Resort Hotels (Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary), and Epcot.Try to experience the monorail system during your trip to Disney. Both kids and adults love the ride, it is especially magical to ride it through the Contemporary hotel or from the Magic Kingdom to Epcot, where you travel around the Spaceship Earth ‘ball’ before you stop at Epcot.
For a special treat try to get seats in the front compartment of the monorail. While waiting on line for the monorail, ask the cast member there if you can ride in the front car. If there is availability they will usually let you ride with the driver. This offers a fantastic view and your kids will love it. The maximum number of guests that can ride in this car is four. During crowded times, it is quite difficult to secure seating in the front car, although it is easier when traveling on the monorails from the Magic Kingdom resort hotels