Walt Disney World Resort
Walt Disney World – It’s Showtime!!!
The theme parks of Walt Disney World are more child friendly than any other parks in Orlando. Most of the attractions are perfect for children and adults that are not looking for big scary thrill rides. There are some rides suitable for the big thrill seekers amongst us but not as many adventurous attractions as the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks.
Walt Disney World have some amazing shows that are great for all ages and this is where they excel. Not every Disney show is ideal for toddlers even if it looks like it would be. You miht want to think twice about before you just get in the queue. Read each of my Disney theme park reviews in detail to learn more.
Walt Disney World made Orlando the best city in the world for children and big kids like me. Walt Disney World is great but it’s hard to do everything in one trip even if you are there for 2 weeks. To ride every ride, see every show, visit each water park is almost impossible to do in a fortnight. Even for people who don’t like rides, Disney is still a must do activity. If you haven’t already, read about how Disney World was born at the beginning of this Orlando Guide
It isn’t called ‘World’ for no reason
Between all of the Disney parks, Walt Disney World is over 47 square miles and employs over 63,000 staff (Cast Members). This gives you an indication as to how big this place is. I can’t say enough about how great Walt Disney World is although it can be quite expensive. Disney World Tickets have rocketed in recent years and the pricing structure makes it hard to just do a couple of days. Even with the high ticket prices, it is still the ‘must visit’ attraction in Orlando.
The parades, the fireworks and the closing ceremonies are truly breathtaking. The shows are like nothing you can get back home on any day out. The Disney staff are the best theme park staff around. They are so welcoming and helpful if you need any help during your visit. After saying all this, I still believe the best thing about Disney World is the rides.
My Disney Experience App
The Disney My Experience app is the one app that you must download for your Orlando holiday. This app is great and it has so many useful features. New features are being added all the time so once you get used to it, you will use it on every trip.
You can book FastPass+ with the app and you can check LIVE wait times for rides and attractions.
Visit the My Disney Experience App section to download the app and find out more about the app.
Play Disney Parks App
Another must app to help keep your children entertained when waiting in line for an attraction. Turn wait time into play time with the brand new Play Disney Parks App. You can play interactive games and learn more about the attractions and parks of Disney.
The app is available for IOS and Android devices. Remember to logon to the Disney Wi-Fi Disney-Guest when you are in the park.
Disney World FastPass+
The Disney FastPass+ system is a brilliant feature of the My Disney Experience App above. This feature allows you to book your rides, shows and character meets before you even travel to Orlando. Visit my dedicated FastPass+ Page to get tips and read an in depth guide on how to book your FastPass+ reservations.
The first ride of the day
Unless you are parked very close to the turnstiles of the Disney theme park you are visiting, you need to jump on one of these trams. The trams will take you straight to the entrance of Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. In Magic Kingdom the tram will take you to the Seven Seas Lagoon where you will then catch the ferry or monorail to the entrance.
There will be a Cast Member at the back of the train being as entertaining as they can. It will probably be hard to hear due to the noise but tune in if you can. They will also remind you of where you parked if you forgot to take a photo of the car park sign.
Security and ticket procedure
When you get to the entrance of the Disney World theme park you will need to have your bags checked by security. The queue would usually be on both sides of a table so make sure you get in the shortest queue. Even if one side reduces quickly, move over to that side because the staff want you to do it. If you don’t have a bag you can miss this table. Most security people are very pleasant and some of them love to make you chuckle while checking your bags. Listen for them saying “Cheers” to you at the end. They think this is really funny because it is only British people that use the ‘cheers’ phrase.
Finger print scanner
Whether you have a Disney MagicBand or just a standard ticket, you need to go through a finger print scanner. Use the finger you registered the ticket with and hold your MagicBand or ticket to the Mickey mouse shaped scanner. These sometimes play up a bit so you may need to do it a few times before it works. This is a security measure to make sure people are not sharing tickets on different days.
Disney’s Memory Maker is free when you buy an Ultimate Disney Ticket or $199 if you buy it as a stand alone purchase. Disney’s Memory Maker is a system that stores all of your Walt Disney World photos in one place. You can download all of your theme park ride photos as well as character photos taken in the parks. Each time a Disney Cast Member photographer takes your picture, it will be added to your Memory maker account. You can then access them all in the My Disney Experience App.
Disney’s MagicBand isn’t just an attractive looking wearable device, it is so much more. It allows you to leave your money and your tickets at the hotel and enjoy a day in the park. The MagicBand links into the family Disney account so it has all of your ticket information as well as FastPass+ reservations. If you have the Disney Dining Plan, the MagicBand allows you to get your meals without handing over vouchers.
The MagicBand will also create some magical memories for you as you explore around the parks. You will discover these later in the holiday on the My Disney Experience App. Disney’s MagicBand is also waterproof so you can use all of the benefits in the Disney water parks.
All of the MagicBand benefits above are for Walt Disney World Resort Hotel guests only. If you are not staying in a Disney Hotel, you can still buy a MagicBand. You would only be able to link your tickets to the MagicBand through the My Disney Experience App. This will allow you to leave the tickets at home and get entry into the park as well as use your FastPass+ bookings.
Eating in Disney World
There are so many restaurants in the Orlando theme parks it is mind boggling. Americans love to eat and this is reflected in the American theme parks. Some of the Walt Disney World table service restaurants will already be fully booked when you visit the park so you may want to book an Advanced Dining Reservation before you visit.
Advanced Dining Reservations
The Walt Disney World Advance Dining Reservations (ADR’s) allow you to book a table in a restaurant months in advance. All you need to do is visit the Disney Dining Page and select a restaurant. Choose a date and time and away you go. Table service restaurants, Dinner Shows and Character Dining experiences are all part of the program. Here are some facts to help you understand how it all works:
- You need a Disney account to book a dining reservation.
- You do not need to be staying in a Disney hotel to book an ADR.
- An ADR can be booked as far back as 180 days in advance
- You can cancel an ADR but ask about penalties
You can also book over the phone. To call Disney Dining from your UK phone number, dial 001-407-939-3463 and you can book by phone.
It might sound crazy booking a restaurant reservation up to 6 months but a lot of people do it. If you want to experience Character Dining or eat in a certain restaurant, it is first come first served. I phoned the reservation line (for research purposes) to enquire about a booking for 3 months time. I told the operator I want to eat in Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios on a specific date. She informed me that they are fully booked but she could reserve a place in Hollywood & Vine. This just proves how popular the restaurants are so do not hang around.
Taking your own food
If you have special dietary requirements or you just want to save a few quid, you can take your own food to the parks. You can only take food that does not require heating. As I covered in the Visiting Orlando Theme Parks section you can also take your won drinks into the parks.
Don’t take a selfie stick to Disney World
I made this mistake a few years ago and I had to throw it in the bin. Walt Disney World banned selfie sticks in the parks back in 2015 and the security checks will find them. Universal Orlando Resort allows selfie sticks so it does get a little complicated. Amazingly there is a website created to tell you where you can or cannot take a selfie stick. Visit CanIbringMySelfieStick.com to check locations. Check by attraction name and not city.
Save queue times during Disney parades and shows…
…by getting to the popular rides while most people are busy watching the shows and parades. Only do this if you have already seen the parade or show or are if you are planning to watch them another time. The parades and shows are amazing and you wouldn’t want to miss them.
Meet Mickey and his Pals
The Disney characters are always walking around the parks but the parks are so large, you may struggle to find them. If you find the ‘Mickey Mouse Glove’ on the paper version of the theme park maps, you will be able to track down the character locations.
Disney Pin Trading
Similar to the Coin Collector tip, this is another fun thing for you and your kids to enjoy. Disney trading pins (or badges as Brits call them) can be quite cheap. If you get the right one (a rare one) they can fetch up to £250 on auction sites like Ebay. There are thousands of different pins released each year and they are a nice souvenir of the holiday.
There are lots of Disney Cast Members that wear special lanyards full of colorful pins. The pins illustrate everything from the Disney characters to Disney theme park attractions. To trade pins, you can seek out a fellow pin collector (they won’t be hard to spot) or a Cast Member wearing a pin trading lanyard. Present a tradable pin to the person and ask for a one-for-one exchange.
How to get pins
A large selection of “core” pins can cost between £3.50 and £5 each. There are over 80 locations throughout the 4 main Disney World parks where you can buy the Disney pins. There are also dozens of pin trading stations where guests gather to display and exchange pins with other collectors.
Disney’s Pin Traders at Disney Springs Marketplace has the largest selection of trading pins and pin accessories at Disney World. You will find Disney character pins and even pins commemorating the Disney parks, attractions and even resort hotels.
If you want to get started collecting Disney pins, head for the Guest services at any Disney theme park. You can collect a free pin there at these locations. The free pins up for grabs include ‘First Timers’, anniversary pins and birthday pins. These free pins aren’t the best looking pins but hey, they’re free. Most kids love any form of badge to wear.
Keep your eye on your Disney parking receipt. On one of our recent visits our ticket had an offer on it “Collect a FREE Pin from the Pin Station”. We took it to the Pin Station and swapped it for this Mickey and Minnie pin.
Universal Orlando Resort have also started selling pins so keep your eye out on your visits to Universal. They are a little bit harder to find and their range is not as extensive as the Disney range.
Transport between Disney World parks
If you have parked in any Disney World theme park you can hop to another Disney World park and not pay parking again.
If you are planning to visit multiple Disney World theme parks on the same day but aren’t driving, here are the different transport options. The Ferryboats, monorails or buses will get you around the parks……
Disney buses provide free transportation to and from all 4 Disney parks. You do not have to be a Disney Resort guest to use this free service. The collection and drop off points are close to the main gates of each park.
You can also hop into a cab at all of the Disney theme parks and get there quicker. Checker Cabs are very common throughout the Disney theme parks and you won’t find it too hard to locate one.
Disney World Rentals
Standard wheelchair rental fee is $12 per day if required for just one day. Length of stay rental would cost $10 per day
Electronic Convenience Vehicles (ECV)
ECV rental for the 4 main theme parks is $50 per day plus a $20.00 refundable deposit. The ECV rental fee for Disney Springs and the water parks is $50 per day plus a $100 refundable deposit. The reason for the higher deposit is because it is easier to steal one n these locations.
If you are going to rent a single stroller (pushchair) at the Disney parks, they will cost you around $15 a day. A double will cost you $31 per day at 2019 prices. There is a slight discount if you are going to rent one for the whole length of your stay. You wouldn’t want to do that though. Read about buying a cheap stroller in the Visiting Orlando Theme Parks section
Disney World Rider Switch
Rider Switch is basically the same as the Child Swap at Universal Orlando Resort. This feature is for families that have small children or have someone in their party doesn’t want to ride. One adult can stay with the non rider while the rest of the party queue for the ride. When the riders have finished, they can swap places with the adult that waited.
Every time we have used this service, the Cast Members have always allowed other party members to ride again. It wouldn’t be as much fun on your own and they understand this.
Front Of Line for health reasons
If you or anyone in your party has a condition that limits their ability to queue, you can ask for help with waiting in line. Go to the Guest Relations in any of the 4 main theme parks and they will help you there. My father has Alzheimers and dementia so he doesn’t enjoy waiting in line. I asked Guest Relations if there was anything they could do and they gave us a special Fastpass. This allowed us to use the Fastpass line for the Flight Of Passage ride in Animal Kingdom.
Disney Cast Members (Disney employees)
The Disney Cast Members are the best staff of any Orlando theme park. Striking up a conversation with Disney cast members might even earn you a little treat. You could end up with some meal vouchers, a bunch of FastPasses or other goodies. Even if you have a complaint, complain in a nice manner and you could strike it lucky if the Cast Member likes you.
Hidden Mickey’s are visualisations that have been created in the 3 circle shape of Mickey Mouses head and ears. The fun shapes have been positioned around the parks for you to try and find. They are sometimes silhouettes or abstract images, even floral displays. I have even seen Hidden Mickey’s as simple as an arrangement of objects on a table.
The Hidden Mickey’s are created by Disney Imagineers and they can be found everywhere across the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks. Hidden Mickey’s began as an inside joke among Walt Disney Imagineers – the artists and engineers who design Disney parks and attractions.
As word spread of these subtle little tributes to the famous mouse, guests sought to find them all. While you are at any of the Disney parks, try looking for them throughout your visit. Can you spot a Hidden Mickey in this photo taken in Mickey’s garden? you probably can and this is the sort of thing that you are looking for. Most hidden Mickey’s are not as easy to spot as this one though.
Characters in Flight
Whilst you are travelling around Orlando you may spot a large blue balloon in the skies. This is the Characters in Flight attraction at Disney Springs.
The tethered balloon was unveiled by Disney in 2009 and it was decorated with some of Disney’s most well known characters. Mary Poppins, Aladdin, Dumbo and others could be seen around the balloon. The balloon was redesigned in 2017 and now contains no characters. Maybe it should be renamed ‘In Flight’
This is a real gas balloon and guests will be taken 400ft in the air for around 10 minutes. You will get an amazing 360 degree view of the Walt Disney World Resort. The balloon operates daily from 8.30am to midnight – weather permitting.
When we went to see the balloon at Disney Springs in 2010 the prices were quite reasonable. Just a few months later they already gone up. Ah well, I suppose that’s inflation for ya! 🙂
The balloon can hold up to 29 guests and the current prices at time of publication are as follows.
Adults $20 ages 10 and up
Children $10 ages 3 to 9 years
2 years and under are free and tax is included in these prices.
NOTE: If you visit before 10 a.m, tickets cost only $10 per person.