Anyone who knows me, knows I love Disney World. I may be a married adult, without children, but it is my go to place when I need to relax and just enjoy life. It really is the happiest place on Earth. Every time I go to Disney World I learn something new that makes my next trip even better. But why should you have to learn these things on your own? I will make it easy on you. Here is my list of the top 10 things (in order) I wish I would have known before going to Disney World.
1. Stay on Property
I know there are budget places to stay that are close to the parks but trust me, it is worth it. Staying on property is great because you get your magic bands early, you can load them ahead of time with credit card info, tickets, fast-pass selections, photo-pass info and secure it with a pin. You can even customize them before they are sent. You also get free parking at all the theme parks (savings of $15 a day) or you can use the free transportation. Another great thing is the free amenities what come with staying on property, like the pools, ability to ship things to your hotel 2 weeks before you arrive, movie rentals and the ability to have things you purchased while at the parks or Disney Springs sent back to your room. Some properties even offer a character tuck-in at bedtime for a fee. The bottom line is, when you go to Disney you should be focusing on having fun and not have to worry about how you are going to get to the park or how something is going to get back to the room. Trust me, the extra is worth it.
2. Check the Yearly Crowd Calendar
I know sometimes you cannot help when you book a vacation. The kids are out of school or you are going for a special occasion, however when you can select the dates to your vacation, unencumbered by those restrictions, it is important to check the crowd calendar. I like the crowd calendar by WDW Prep School, because it also shows holidays and estimated weather. We went for my 30th Birthday, December 28th and it was not as fun as the other times because the park was packed, so be careful and if you are going during the peak time, be prepared with tons of meal reservations and select your fast-passes early.
Pro Tip: If you are going to celebrate a special occasion, look at the calendar before and after the event and try to get the majority of your trip in either yellow or green. And let the resort know too, they will help you celebrate for free.
3. Look at Park Hours Online Before Booking
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is kind of a big deal. It took me going there three times to think of this one. So why is this important, I mean after all, it is number 3? The reason this is important is because Disney World will often have private events that either close the park early or require an additional event ticket for you to stay late. I love the extra magic hours and depending upon the time of year you go, these times can be dramatically different. Check out the hours here.
Pro Tip: You may want to change your dates slightly to get the most out of the park hours.
4. Disney Vacation Club is Great, Even if You Are Not Going Every Year
DVC is great. You can use your points to stay at amazing Disney properties or go almost anywhere and use them at hotels you know are going to be great. They also do a lot of US and international tours that take you around the world like a local. Check out the free DVD here.
Pro Tip: Schedule a tour for early in the morning. Afterwards, they will take you to whatever park you want and you will get 3 more fast-passes for each family member. They also have breakfast and you will usually get a gift card, even if you do not purchase.
5. Grocery Delivery
I have only done this for our most recent visit, however it will be a staple in my Disney World planning from now on. You can get everything from booze to diapers. They will even put your frozen food in your freezer before you get to the hotel. I love, love, love it!!! Garden Grocer is my favorite company.
Pro Tip: Take advantage of the savings by ordering in advance, (15 Days= 5%, 30 Days= 7%, 60 Days= 10%) off your subtotal.
6. Make Your Fast Pass Selections (60 Days in Advance)
If you want to ride the most popular attractions or get perfect seating for the fireworks, you will need to do this ASAP. Get your tickets and book everything as early as possible. You can do your fast-pass selections for the entire trip 60 days from your first day. Keep in mind after you select the 3 fast-passes, you can go back in and make changes to them individually to make sure you get the exact times you want.
Pro Tip’s: I like to make all my fast-passes for about an hour or two after the park opens. You get to enjoy the short lines of getting there early and then you can go back to a kiosk and add another one after all three have been used. Also, the App is great for making changes on the go.
7. Make Dinner Reservations Early (180 Day in Advance)
It may seem like there is no way to know where you are going to want to go this far in advance, but if you look at the park hours and decide which parks you want to visit each day, it will make it easier. The fancy places and ones that feature characters always fill up first, so if you want to make some of them part of your trip, book them early.
Pro Tips: Do not forget Disney Springs, they have some very high end places to eat now and you can book everything on the app. The app also shows you places per location, which helps.
8. Download the My Disney Experience App Ahead of Time
You may think that waiting to download this app is fine and it is, but downloading it early will allow you time to link everything and get accustomed to using it. I guarantee, this will be your best friend while on your trip, so get it early and be ready to use it a lot!
Pro Tip: I also like the Shop Disney Parks app. If you are in the park and see something you cannot live without but they do not have it in your size, you can easily use the app to barcode the tag and have it sent to your house or find out where the item is at another store. Very handy!!
9. The Dining Plan Has A Lost of Different Options
Originally I thought that there was only one dining plan. However, after further research I have found that there are in fact three: quick service, standard, and deluxe. You can use all three options at all Disney World parks and Disney Springs. If you want to know more about the three options, I suggest reading more from Mouse Hints.
Pro Tip: You can track your meals with the easy-to-read receipt your server will provide you, which displays your remaining meal balance.
10. Get the Free Button
Disney World is wonderful at making guests feel like they are the extra special, especially when they are visiting for a special occasion. And, as far as Disney is concerned, every day is a special occasion! One of the most popular freebies offered by Disney are complimentary celebration buttons. There are nine choices available: Happy Birthday, My Magical Triumph, Family Reunion, Just Engaged, 1st Visit, Happily Ever After – great for any romantic occasion, Just Married, Happy Anniversary, and a generic pin for any celebration called, I’m Celebrating. Buttons are available at Disney World resorts and in the parks at Vacation Planning Booths, guest services and other locations. Cast members will have sharpies and can personalize any of the buttons for your special occasion and if you tell them in advance they will have them ready for you upon arrival.
Pro Tip: Along with being fun and a great souvenir, the pins mean extra attention from cast members. Any cast member who sees you will wish you a happy anniversary, happy birthday or offer congratulations on your special occasion. You may even get a bonus birthday cupcake or special treat.
Well, that is my list. What did I miss? I would love to hear from you to make this list more comprehensive.