My son and I have been frequent visitors to Walt Disney World Resort (WDW) in Orlando, Florida since he was 2 years old. The four theme parks we visit at WDW are Disney’s Animal Kingdom (our favorite), Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We are sharing some learnings and tips from our visits to Disney World.
I use these travel tips for WDW Orlando Parks in combination with my personal and business travel checklist.
Before you go
💡Even if you have previously visited Walt Disney Parks, it is helpful to conduct online research to get informed about notable updates and changes since your last visit. This will help you be aware of any new attractions, dining options, or entertainment offerings, as well as potential adjustments to policies, operating hours, or park guidelines. By staying up-to-date, you can make the most of your time at the parks.
💡 Consider staying in a Disney affiliated hotel. They have excellent transportation to and from the parks included in the price of the stay.
💡 Check the weather before each day’s visit to the parks. However, always pack necessities for rain, regardless of the forecast. It has often rained when I have visited Walt Disney World Parks in Orlando. Be prepared and dressed to accept, embrace, and enjoy the rain as part of the experience.
What to bring to the parks
💡 We recommend carrying a backpack into the park containing the following useful items. The weather in this area is usually hot and rainy. My son and I often visit WDW for a week during the April Spring Break, the July Summer, holiday season, and the days after Christmas through New Years’ Day.
💡 Be sure to carefully review the list of prohibited items that are not allowed in the parks. I once had a jacket with an attached whistle and had to discard the whistle to enter the park. The same Property Rules page also lists prohibited activities.
💡 Carry a transparent and waterproof backpack.
💡 Be aware that items in your backpack may trigger the security alarm when you enter the parks. Be prepared to allow inspection of your bags. So don’t pack them too tight and consider using a transparent backpack.
💡 The Kali River Rapids ride now allows you to take your (waterproof) backpack on the ride, we learned on August 23, 2022. In previous years, pre the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to store our backpacks in lockers for the Kali River Rapids ride.
💡 Bring a portable waterproof umbrella. I recommend davek New York. We have often experienced heavy rain at Walt Disney World Parks.
💡 Keep a light summer-weather friendly rain-jacket with a waterproof hoodie in your backpack. These are preferable to flimsy ponchos that can easily tear and are harder to do things in. Wear shorts or quick drying or waterproof pants.
💡 Wear water-friendly shoes in the park. Your shoes are likely to get wet on water rides and when it rains. My go to shoes for working out and adventures involving water are the Vivobarefoot Ultra III Bloom Men’s.
💡 Bring Klean Canteen or similar insulated flask that keeps water cold. Storing beverages in plastic bottles or non-insulated containers will quickly make them warm and no longer enjoyable to drink as you walk around in the hot weather in the park. This will save you money compared to buying bottled water because there are many free water and ice refilling stations all over Disney parks. Staff at most restaurants at Disney Parks happily let you refill your water bottle for free. Even if you purchase cold drinks, your flask will keep them cold. This is especially useful if you are carrying a transparent backpack which may have a greenhouse-like warming effect. Bring one flask per person in your party.
💡 Bringing a high quality water filter while traveling is important for access to clean water, cost savings, and control over water quality. Bring a Greyl or similar water filter for use in your hotel room. Also, bring protein powder and a shaker such as a Blender Bottle to mix shakes if you work out daily including during vacations.
💡 Consider wearing a secure fanny pack or clothing with zippered pockets to keep your wallet, keys, and phone secure and with you on rides.
💡 When visiting Walt Disney World, especially with children, consider using a dedicated camera like a GoPro or a mirrorless camera for capturing photos and videos. This can help conserve your phone’s battery and allow you to focus on enjoying the park and staying safe with your family. Using a dedicated camera can also minimize distractions from your mobile phone, allowing you to be more present in the magical moments. GoPro is an excellent mini camera for travel as an alternative to using your phone for adventure photography.
Visiting amusement parks presents challenges that can increase the risk of accidentally dropping or losing your camera or phone compared to everyday life. Here are some reasons why securing your phone and camera is particularly important at WDW:
- Attractions and thrill rides: Disney Parks are home to various attractions, including high-speed roller coasters, spinning rides, and sudden drops. During these adrenaline-pumping moments, unsecured devices can easily slip from your grasp, resulting in potential damage or loss.
- Crowded areas: Walt Disney World can be quite busy, with large crowds navigating narrow walkways and queues. Bumping into others or being jostled by the crowd can cause you to accidentally drop your device.
- Taking photos with characters: While capturing memories with beloved Disney characters, it’s easy to become distracted and lose grip on your camera or phone, especially when trying to manage excited children.
- Water attractions and shows and the rain that we mention multiple times in this blog post: Disney Parks feature water-based attractions and shows where splashes or sudden movements can lead to accidental drops or water damage to your devices.
Retrieving a lost or dropped device at Walt Disney World can be time-consuming and challenging. Depending on where the device is lost, it may require assistance from Cast Members or even temporarily shutting down an attraction for retrieval. In some cases, it may take hours or even days before your device is recovered and returned to you. If you drop it in certain places, it may be irretrivable.
Securing your phone using a tether or strap can provide peace of mind while visiting Walt Disney World. There are several options available for keeping your phone safely attached to yourself. One popular choice is using a phone lanyard or neck pouch, which allows you to wear your phone around your neck, keeping it accessible and secure. Alternatively, consider using a wrist strap that connects to your phone’s case or a crossbody phone case with a shoulder strap, both of which offer hands-free convenience while keeping your device close. For added protection during thrill rides or water-based attractions, you might want to invest in a waterproof phone pouch with a secure strap. My son and I use the QuadLockCase system to tether our phones. For tethering Quad Lock cases, I suggest using one the following accessories attached to a lanyard or wrist strap: Phone Ring/Stand, Sports Armband, or Belt/Utility/Backpack – Clip.
- Since selfie sticks or hand held extension poles for cameras or mobile devices are not permitted in any Disney theme parks or water parks, I do not recommend Quad Lock’s Tripod/Selfie Stick plus Lanyard accessories for use at WDW.
💡 Get the My Disney Experience app on your phone. It is almost necessary to visit the WDW parks these days. Among other essential features these has a map of each park and tells you standby wait times for rides.
💡 Get and wear Disney Magic Bands. This way you will avoid having to take your ticket cards/ passes/ phone out of your pocket/ wallet dozens of times. If you own an Apple Watch, it also works as a Magic Band after you download the My Disney Experience App to your iPhone and add your passes to Apple Wallet. You can learn about using your Apple Watch, iPhone, and Android devices as Magic Bands at Disney’s Magic Mobile service.
💡Wearing a sun hat will not only protect you from the sun, but also provide additional coverage when it rains. Some sun hats have a water evaporation based cooling feature where you can pour water on the hat, shake off excess water, and put it on.
💡 Keep a phone battery charger external battery and regular phone charging cable in your backpack. You can keep the charging brick on the side pocket of your backpack where water bottles are kept and keep your phone attached to it. This way you can keep taking photos even when your phone is low on battery. I recommend a normal charge cable, not the multi-tip cables as they get disconnected easily while moving.
Special Events & Tours: Discover Unique Disney Experiences
Enhance your Walt Disney World experience by participating in one of these special events or exclusive behind-the-scenes tours. Gain a unique perspective of the parks, learn fascinating stories, and enjoy exclusive experiences that will make your visit even more memorable. Here are seven exceptional tours to consider during your trip. Please note that each of these experiences cost a significant amount in addition to the tickets.
- Keys to the Kingdom Tour: Delve into the secrets of the Magic Kingdom with this five-hour walking tour. Discover hidden gems, learn about the park’s history, and enjoy backstage access to areas typically off-limits to guests. This tour is suitable for Disney enthusiasts who want to uncover the magic that brings the park to life. I recommend this behind the scenes tour on a later visit after you have already visited Magic Kingdom at least once, preferably two more times. This will make more sense and be more enjoyable if you have already experienced the park as a regular visitor and know it well.
- Behind the Seeds at Epcot: Explore the future of agriculture with this guided tour through Epcot’s Living with the Land attraction. Learn about innovative growing techniques, interact with unique plants, and gain insights into sustainable food production. This tour is ideal for those interested in science, agriculture, and the environment. You can enjoy this one on your first or any visit to Epcot.
- Savor the Savanna at Animal Kingdom: Embark on a premium safari experience in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Journey through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve and enjoy a private viewing of the stunning savanna, while savoring African-inspired cuisine and beverages. This tour offers an intimate and unforgettable wildlife adventure. You can enjoy this one on your first or any visit to Animal Kingdom.
- Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom: Experience a guided expedition through the heart of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Traverse rugged terrain, cross rope bridges, and come face-to-face with incredible wildlife. The tour concludes with a delicious African-inspired meal while enjoying panoramic views of the savanna. You can enjoy this one on your first or any visit to Animal Kingdom.
- Caring for Giants: Get up close with the majestic African elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Learn from animal specialists about elephant care, conservation efforts, and the daily lives of these gentle giants. You can enjoy this one on your first or any visit to Animal Kingdom.
- Up Close with Rhinos: Join this unique experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to encounter white rhinos up close. Gain insight into rhino behavior, biology, and conservation efforts from the park’s dedicated animal care team. You can enjoy this one on your first or any visit to Animal Kingdom.
- Starlight Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Embark on a nighttime adventure to spot the nocturnal creatures that inhabit the savanna. Equipped with night-vision goggles, you’ll witness the fascinating behaviors of these animals under the cover of darkness. You can enjoy this one on your first or any visit to WDW.
For an even more personalized and luxurious experience, consider booking a Disney Private VIP Tour. These customizable tours provide the ultimate Disney experience, with a dedicated guide who will tailor the day to your preferences, granting expedited access to attractions, preferred seating for shows, and more. Disney Private VIP Tours are perfect for those seeking a truly exclusive and memorable visit.
By adding one of these special events or exclusive Disney tours to your itinerary, you can enrich your visit to Walt Disney World and create memories that will last a lifetime. Remember to book your tour in advance, as spots often fill up quickly. These unique experiences cater to a variety of interests and preferences, ensuring that everyone in your group can find something special to enjoy during your magical Disney vacation.
Being physically fit when visiting Walt Disney World Parks with children offers several advantages that can significantly enhance your family’s experience. First, keeping up with the boundless energy of kids requires stamina and endurance. A good level of fitness enables you to actively participate in their excitement, whether it’s exploring different areas of the park, riding attractions together, or joining impromptu dance parties with Disney characters.
Second, children often need assistance in navigating the parks, whether it’s lifting them onto your shoulders for a better view of a parade or carrying a backpack filled with essential items like snacks, sunscreen, and extra clothing. Being physically fit allows you to comfortably manage these responsibilities without feeling overly burdened or fatigued.
Third, maintaining a healthy level of fitness can help you better enjoy the thrill rides and attractions that Walt Disney World has to offer. Certain attractions may require you to be in good physical condition to participate safely and comfortably. By staying in shape, you can confidently and comfortably experience a wide range of attractions, ensuring that you and your child don’t miss out on any of the park’s exhilarating experiences.
Fourth, visiting Walt Disney World Parks often involves long days of walking under the hot sun. My Apple Watch has counted walking more than 20,000 steps in a single day. Being fit equips you to handle these physical demands and maintain your energy throughout the day, ensuring that both you and your children can fully enjoy the magic of Disney.
Being physically fit while visiting Walt Disney World Parks with children provides numerous benefits, including the ability to keep up with your kids’ energy, manage essential tasks such as carrying backpacks, participate in various attractions safely and comfortably, and withstand the long days of walking in the sun. By maintaining your fitness, you can create an enjoyable and memorable experience for the entire family. You can read more about my commitment to fitness in my blog post titled What I am learning from working out daily for 1,001+ consecutive days.
During the Disney Vacation
Tips for Rides and Activities Inside The Parks
💡 When enjoying roller coaster attractions at Disney Parks, my son and I politely request the front row seats. Generally, Disney Cast Members are more than willing to accommodate such requests, allowing guests to enjoy their preferred seating experience. Some rides including Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Animal Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot even feature designated waiting areas specifically for those who express a preference for front-row seating.
💡 On some attractions, particularly some of the older ones, where you sit can provide a significantly better experience. For example:
Soarin’ Around the World is a popular attraction at Epcot in Walt Disney World, featuring a simulated hang-gliding experience with breathtaking sights and sounds from around the globe. The ride consists of three concave screens with multiple rows of seats in each section.
For the best experience at Soarin’, consider the following seating preferences:
First you will encounter three concourses A, B, and C. In our experience, which concourse you are sent to doesn’t matter. In each concourse, there are sections A, B, and C. These lettered sections do matter.
- Center Section (B): The center section (B) provides the most balanced and immersive view of the screen, as it aligns you with the middle of the projection. This position helps to minimize distortion and gives you a more accurate perspective of the scenes.
- Front Row (Row 1): Sitting in the front row minimizes the chances of having other guests’ feet dangling in your line of sight, which can be distracting. The front row also offers an unobstructed view of the screen, enhancing the sensation of flight.
Remember the following. Go to whichever concourse A, B, or C, the cast members send you to. Inside the concourse, the Center Section (B) provides the best, least distorted views.
To request specific seats on Soarin’, politely ask the Cast Member attending the attraction’s entrance for your preferred section and row. They will do their best to accommodate your request, but please note that seating preferences are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed.
While the center section and front row are generally considered the best seats for Soarin’, the ride is designed to provide an enjoyable experience for all guests, regardless of their seating position.
💡 Use the mobile order function in the My Disney Experience app to order food at non-fine-dining table service restaurants. This will save you a lot of time compared to standing in line to order.
💡 Set an alarm 15 mins before each Lightning Lane or Virtual Queue reservation. Use Siri on your Apple Watch or iPhone or to do this quickly and conveniently. Android users, use the Google Assistant.
💡 Ensure you and your child make a restroom stop before embarking on popular attractions or facing lengthy wait times. This proactive approach not only helps to prevent the need for urgent bathroom breaks during the ride or while waiting in line but also allows for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience. By taking care of restroom needs in advance, you can fully immerse yourself in the magic of Disney without any unnecessary interruptions.
In my experience, a Disney vacation with children is an exciting, wonderful, and heartwarming experience. It is not a lazy vacation where you spend hours resting and relaxing during the day. So be sure that you and your family all et at least 8 hours of sleep every night during this vacation. This will not only enable you to enjoy the packed days at the parks, but also not make you you completely exhausted when you return to work the next week.
Safety Plans for Children
💡 When traveling with children, tether a mobile phone to the child so they don’t lose it. Quadlock case works well for this. Or, have them wear an Apple Watch with a secure strap.
💡 When traveling with children, set a meeting spot with them in advance. Aim to pick a meeting spot which has rain shelter. Otherwise, if rains hard, the child may not be able to stay there if the spot is not rain sheltered.
💡 Have your child memorize your phone number and email address. Help them remember using a daily practice quiz every morning before heading to the parks.
💡 Teach your children how to identify Disney staff (called cast members by Disney) in the parks. They are friendly and helpful. Feel welcome to ask them questions.
💡 On one of our trips, my son and I wore N-95 masks due to concerns about COVID-19, the flu, and other airborne respiratory risks. Especially since we wore sun hats and I also wear eyeglasses, I converted the two behind-head elastic band loops on my N-95 mask to behind the ear loops. I did this by cutting the two bands in the middle and reattaching them on the same sides. This made it easier for me to take my mask on and off and then enter and exit crowded places. Warning: This is not medical advice. Modifying an N-95 mask this way is likely to reduce its effectiveness by potentially weakening its sealing around the nose and mouth.
12 Money-Saving Tips for Your Walt Disney World Vacation
A visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, can be a magical experience, but it can also be expensive. With some careful planning and smart choices, you can save money without sacrificing the fun. In this section, we’ll share 12 tips to help you save money while enjoying the magic of Disney. Please note that a few of these tips for those on a tight budget are contrary to some of the advice and tips we have shared elsewhere in this blog post.
- Plan your visit during off-peak times: Traveling to Walt Disney World during less busy periods, such as weekdays or non-holiday seasons, can result in lower accommodation costs and potentially discounted park tickets. Plus, you’ll enjoy shorter lines and fewer crowds.
- Choose economical accommodations: Opt for either off-site hotels or Disney Value Resorts (more info below) when planning your stay. Off-site hotels near Walt Disney World often offer competitive prices and additional perks, such as complimentary breakfast or shuttle services to the parks. If you prefer staying within the Disney property, consider one of the Disney Value Resorts. These resorts provide a more affordable option while still offering the convenience and immersive Disney experience. By selecting budget-friendly accommodations, you can save a significant amount on your overall trip expenses.
- Buy tickets in advance: Purchase your park tickets ahead of time and search for special offers, discounts, or promotions. Multi-day tickets often provide better value per day compared to single-day tickets.
- Use Disney gift cards: Buy discounted Disney gift cards at wholesale clubs or during special promotions to save on park admission, merchandise, and dining.
- Bring your own food and drinks: Pack snacks, sandwiches, and refillable water bottles to save on food costs inside the parks. Disney allows guests to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages, as long as they follow the park’s guidelines.
- Non-bottled drinking water is free at Walt Disney World Parks. There are many drinking water fountains and the restaurants will give you a cup of water with or without ice for no charge.
- Share meals in your group: Disney restaurant portions can be quite generous, so consider sharing meals to save money, reduce food waste, and be healthier by restricting your caloric intake.
- Take advantage of free activities: There are plenty of free activities available at Walt Disney World that can add value to your vacation without increasing your expenses. Some of these experiences include:
- Resort hopping: Visit different Disney Resort hotels to explore their unique theming, architecture, and atmosphere. You can also enjoy free entertainment, such as live music or movies under the stars at select resorts.
- Disney’s BoardWalk: Stroll along Disney’s BoardWalk, a picturesque waterfront promenade featuring shops, restaurants, and entertainment. You can also catch a glimpse of the nightly fireworks from nearby parks.
- Electrical Water Pageant: Catch the whimsical nighttime display of illuminated floats that glide across the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. This classic show is visible from several resort locations and is free to enjoy.
- Monorail loop: Hop on the Walt Disney World Monorail System for a scenic ride through the resort. The monorail offers unique views of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, as well as several Disney Resort hotels.
- Disney Springs: Spend an afternoon or evening at Disney Springs, an entertainment and shopping district with live music, unique shops, and diverse dining options. While shopping and dining are not free, simply strolling through the area and enjoying the atmosphere can be a fun, no-cost experience.
- Opt for a Disney dining plan: If you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel, consider adding a dining plan to your vacation package. This can help you budget your food expenses more effectively and potentially save money on dining.
- Utilize Disney’s free transportation: Take advantage of Disney’s complimentary transportation system, including buses, monorails, and boats, to get around the resort without incurring extra costs.
- Plan and budget ahead: Research prices and options for dining, souvenirs, and experiences before your trip. Set a daily budget for spending and stick to it to avoid overspending during your visit.
- Use discounts and memberships: Check for discounts available through your AAA membership, military status, and your employer. You might find deals on park tickets, accommodations, or even dining. If a family member or friend of yours works for one of the Disney companies, they may be able to help you get a great deal.
- Skip the Park Hopper option: Opting for the Park Hopper option can increase the cost of your tickets significantly. Here are some additional reasons to consider skipping the Park Hopper option:
- Time efficiency: Traveling between parks can be time-consuming, especially during peak hours when transportation may be more crowded. Sticking to one park per day allows you to maximize your time spent on attractions and entertainment within that park.
- Less stress: Planning a day at a single park can be less overwhelming and more manageable than trying to fit multiple parks into one day. Focusing on one park allows you to explore at a more relaxed pace and immerse yourself in the park’s atmosphere.
- Prioritize must-do attractions: By visiting one park per day, you can prioritize the must-do attractions and experiences within that park, ensuring you don’t miss any highlights.
- Focus on park-specific events: Each park offers unique events, such as parades, nighttime spectaculars, or special character meet-and-greets. By spending an entire day at one park, you can fully experience and appreciate these events without rushing between parks.
- While the Park Hopper option offers flexibility, skipping it can save you money, reduce stress, and help you maximize your time at each park. By focusing on one park per day, you can fully immerse yourself in the park’s atmosphere, prioritize must-do attractions, and take advantage of park-specific events.
Disney Value Resorts
Here is a list of the most economical Disney brand hotels, also known as Disney Value Resorts:
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort: This resort celebrates the unforgettable fads and trends from the 20th century, with larger-than-life icons and themed pools.
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort: This resort is inspired by Disney films, featuring giant movie-themed icons and a Fantasia-themed pool.
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort: A resort dedicated to music genres, including country, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, calypso, and Broadway, with guitar- and piano-shaped pools.
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort: This sports-themed resort showcases giant sports icons and features a Surfboard Bay Pool and a Grand Slam Pool.
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort: A resort that immerses guests in the magic of Disney and Pixar animation, with themed areas based on popular films such as The Lion King, Cars, Finding Nemo, and The Little Mermaid.
By following these 12 money-saving tips, you can enjoy a magical Walt Disney World vacation without breaking the bank. Plan ahead, take advantage of discounts and free experiences, and make smart choices to ensure a memorable and budget-friendly Disney adventure.
💡 Have Fun!
(Updated: 2023 April 30)
My sources of this information include my own experiences as well as the Disney World Web site.
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