I had been a West Coast Disneylander my whole life, with only the dream to one day see Walt Disney World. I knew if I were to get there one day, it’d have to be by getting a job there, which inspired me to do the Disney College Program after graduating with my BA. Well, since then I’ve stuck around and am now a WDW Annual Passholder. So get ready, because I’m here to share with you everything I’ve learned about this place to help you and your family have the Walt Disney World vacation of your dreams!
1. Get Familiar with the My Disney Experience App
Those paper Fast Passes you get at Disneyland don’t exist here, at WDW everything happens with you Magicband (or ticket). It would benefit you to download the My Disney Experience App as soon as possible and get familiar with it because this can make or break your trip. If you don’t have a smartphone, it’s not necessary for Fastpasses, as you can claim some at kiosks throughout the park, but it sure does make things much easier. With this app you can also see wait times, your recent Photopass and ride photos, as well as make dining reservations. Once you have all your plans in place, it’s recommended to screen shot your plans each day and set them as your lock screen.
Pro-Tip: When purchasing tickets, skip the Hopper Passes, while these are GREAT for Disneyland, getting from park to park isn’t as easy here… Trust me, the way things are spread out here can get a little frustrating when you’re used to just walking from park to park like in Anaheim. You’ll want to dedicate one full day to each park/area and you’ll save a lot of money by doing so.
2. Weather Conditions
I think the hardest part of getting used to Florida, for me, was the weather… You can be melting in humidity one moment and the next a monsoon has hit! I definitely recommend having a poncho on hand, and buy them before you get to the park (like at Walmart) to save a good amount of cash. Oh, and don’t forget your sunscreen! You don’t want to be one of those bright red tourists.
3. Hydrate… For Free
Speaking of Floridian heat… People don’t realize how fast they can get dehydrated in this humidity… I remember working at Epcot over the summer, there was a week that people were passing out left and right! Oh and if you didn’t bring your own bottles, no worries, head over to any food service register and they’ll give you a cup of ice water free. You’ll probably notice they’ll have a bunch ready… So DON’T give in to the overpriced Dasani.
4. When it’s just TOO HOT
When ice cold water just isn’t helping either there’s a good amount of rides that NEVER have lines and ALWAYS have A/C!
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic (Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland)
- Country Bears (Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland)
- Carousel of Progress (Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland)
- People Mover (Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland)
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros (Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion)
- Muppet Vision 3D (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
- It’s Tough to be a Bug (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
5. Outside the Four Parks
You don’t have to spend all your time at the four major parks to enjoy yourself at Walt Disney World, there’s plenty more to do like:
- Shopping or Dining at Disney Springs, as well as enjoying live performances at night.
- Take a stroll along the Boardwalk, between Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
- Disney also has a couple of waterparks, Blizzard Beach and my favorite, Typhoon Lagoon, I could spend all day in that wave pool.
- Minigolf in Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland (right next to Blizzard Beach).
Pro-Tip: Leave at least one day of your vacation completely free of parks to explore everything else WDW has to offer… including the hotels…
6. Explore Hotels
I really recommend staying on property, there are multiple prices ranges to fit everyone’s budget. You can take my quiz to see which hotel is the best fit for you! By booking with Disney you’ll get a complimentary Magic Band and free transportation anywhere you want to go on the property. I also love the Disney’s Magical Express service that brings guests from the airport to their hotel, while also taking care of the luggage.
My favorite hotel to explore is the Art of Animation, where you can take photos with GIANT statues of characters from Lion King, Little Mermaid, Cars, and Finding Nemo. Animal Kingdom Lodge is also a lot of fun, you can watch animals roam on the African savanna and enjoy award winning cuisine.
Protip: Take the Monorail loop around to visit the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and end at the Polynesian to grab a drink at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.
7. WDW Exclusives
One of the most interesting things for me as a first timer to Walt Disney World was seeing the differences in the rides, for example, the Jungle Cruise here has a whole temple themed tunnel that you go through, which isn’t in its Anaheim counterpart. Pirates here has a nicer queue BUT the skeleton scenes are much better at Disneyland… Yeah, the WDW version has a mermaid skeleton, but it’s actually a little disturbing if you like mermaids… The interior of WDW’s Haunted Mansion makes up for everything Pirates lacks though. Many more scenes in this version of the ghostly manor. Space Mountain is COMPLETELY different here, it has two tracks and feels a lot more old school… which kind of makes it more terrifying, especially in the front row. The seats are bobsled style like in the Matterhorn. The Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios moves more than just up and down here, with a whole scene of actually rolling through the Twilight Zone, a must see for sure.
Some unique rides you MUST experience while at WDW include:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor
- Test Track
- Spaceship Earth
- Mission Space
- Journey into Imagination with Figment (I mean, it’s odd, but you can’t really go to Epcot without doing it)
- Great Movie Ride
- Rock n Roller Coaster
- Expedition Everest
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
So here’s a great question I got that I’d like to go into detail for now: If you’ve been to Disneyland many times, is it worth it to go to WDW?
It’s a great question, and although DisneyLAND is still my all time favorite park, I definitely think WDW should be experienced by every big Disney fan. While at first it was a little overwhelming, the size and spectrum of this… WORLD is incredible. Of course Epcot and Animal Kingdom are completely unique, but it’s more than just the parks that are different. It’s literally the feeling of living on Disney property for however long your vacation will be. You don’t just walk across the street and leave the magic, you’re a part of it the entire time you’re there. It’s a little hard to remember that there’s a real city just outside the parameters.