Basic Disney Tips for Beginners
Sometimes, we all must learn to walk before we can run or triple jump or parkour. Learning the basics is critical to becoming better at something. In the case of a Disney visit, some of the advice pieces here tend toward the Disney veteran, the person who has vacationed in Orlando and Anaheim several times. Today, we’re going to take a step back talk to guests who are planning their first visit. Here are five basic Disney tips for your Disney vacation.
Think Hard about Your Hotel Choice
I presume that you’re a savvy shopper, someone who knows how to leverage the power of the internet to find the best prices for your vacation needs. Here’s the thing about a Disney trip. The best price for a hotel room may not provide the best value.
When you stay at a Disney resort, you receive special amenities. The company understandably incentivizes guests to spend their money on Disney hotels. They offer terrific features for guests who do so. For example, Walt Disney World has Extra Magic Hours for their parks. Each day, one of the theme parks is open an hour earlier or an hour later for Disney resort guests. You can check some of the best and most crowded attractions off your list during these 60-minute windows.
I could talk for hours about the onsite resort amenities for Disney guests. Your best bet is to speak with a MickeyTravels agent, though. Their services are free, and these agents are an invaluable source of information about various Disney amenities. Frankly, if you’re a first-time guest, you should do this anyway. The travel agent will hold your hand and walk you through the process of booking the best Disney vacation possible.
Plan for All Kinds of Weather
I’m convinced that the weather in Central Florida is some kind of elaborate prank. One moment, the scorching sun will blaze down on your sensitive skin. Seconds later, rain will pour down in a torrent, soaking your clothes. Any time you see a dark cloud in the sky in Orlando, prepare for Splash Mountain. You’re about to get drenched.
When you’re at home packing, don’t bother pulling up your weather app. It’s no more reliable than rolling bones on the floor or asking an Ouija board. You should just plan for everything. Bring enough sun tan lotion that you can bathe in it, even if you’re visiting for Christmas. When you are visiting during the winter months, also bring some warm clothes because this part of Florida can get a bit nippy at night.
Also, remember rain slickers for everyone in your family. They’re small enough that they take up little space in your luggage. You do NOT want to share one with other family members. Take it from me. That’s the way that everyone winds up getting splashed. The rain slicker can get you wetter than the rain itself if you toss it around a lot. You should also think about buying a waterproof backpack if you don’t already have one. You can use it to shield your most treasured possessions from the rain…and the actual Splash Mountain.
Understand the Parks
Walt Disney World has four distinct theme parks plus an entertainment district called Disney Springs. All five of these places have unique behaviors you should understand. Magic Kingdom is the 800-pound gorilla, the most popular theme park in the world. You’ll fight the crowds here even on the least popular days on the annual calendar. You may think you’re clever visiting on January 8th, but tens of thousands of other clever people will get in line right in front of you at Magic Kingdom. Learn the FastPass+ system here, and you’ll be fine.
Epcot has two halves. The front half is Future World, the place that has most of the rides. The back half is the World Showcase, a series of 11 (mainly) international pavilions that all celebrate the cultural heritages of the applicable countries. Future World is easy to navigate, and you can get from one side of it to the other in quick fashion. The World Showcase is 1.3 miles in a circle, and Orlando locals love it like you love your children. You should know that the calmer part of your Epcot visit will take place in Future World…but you should plan to eat many, many meals at the World Showcase. The food there is exquisite.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are the less popular parks historically. Animal Kingdom has seen a recent uptick due to the addition of Avatar: The World of Pandora. The most important thing to know about it is that the climate runs a bit hot due to all the foliage and animals. It’s also easily the most expansive Disney park. Plan to walk a lot when you visit here.
Hollywood Studios is flying at half-mast right now, but it still has a handful of marvelous attractions. I’d suggest buying a Park Hopper admission ticket. You can do most of the stuff at Hollywood Studios in three hours and then spend the rest of your day somewhere else. I should point out that it may see a slight uptick with the debut of Toy Story Land in three months. When Star Wars Land: Galaxy’s Edge arrives, it’ll instantly rival Magic Kingdom in terms of park traffic, though.
Disney Springs is a mecca of shopping and dining, and it even has unusual entertainment options. There’s a House of Blues and a Planet Hollywood there plus a combination restaurant and bowling alley. You can even watch a new Cirque du Soleil show at some point soon. The main thing to know about Disney Springs is that it does involve a lot of walking, something my mother-in-law greatly lamented during our last trip. If anyone in your family has walking issues, a scooter rental is a good idea. This is true of all four parks as well. No one should suffer at Disney. The entire purpose of the visit is to have the most wonderful vacation of your life!
How to Child-Proof Your Vacation
A few months ago, we met friends at a Main Event (think Dave & Buster’s). Their son wondered off while playing, and we all freaked out when we couldn’t find him. As fate would have it, he was only a few feet away, napping on a bench. For ten excruciating minutes, however, we didn’t know that and feared the worst. All of the bogeyman scenarios ran through our heads.
I say all of this to note that I worry about child safety a lot in my everyday life. I understand why parents would stress about a vacation to a strange place. Well, I can say from experience that Disney is just about the safest place in the well you can take your children. That’s been true for generations now, but the invention of the Magic Band has leveled up the safety measures at the Walt Disney World campus.
What you should do is order your Magic Bands in advance. When they arrive, pick the one(s) that your child(ren) will use. These devices have tracking ability, enabling Disney to find your child anywhere. You can take additional steps to protect your child, too. For example, you can write a contact number inside the Magic Band. That way, anyone who finds your lost kid can contact you immediately, alleviating your stress while securing your child’s safety.
You can take this idea a step farther, too. Have your child wear a wristband that contains extended contact information and family details. Then, do a bit of training. Teach your kid what they should do in the event that they can’t find you. Let them know to look for Disney cast members, showing them the name tags that these employees wear. Finally, teach them how to show their bracelet contact information to the cast members.
Let me be clear that it’s unlikely that any of these issues will arise during your trip. This bit of preparation and some knowledge of Disney technology will protect your family in a worst case scenario, though.
Plan to Spend Some Time at Your Resort
I oftentimes describe Disney resorts as cathedrals. They’re majestic architectural triumphs on the exterior, and the theming fosters the illusion that you’ve escaped to a faraway land. Whether you travel to the South Pacific, the Big Easy, or a 20th century BoardWalk, your resort provides a lot of escapism. It’s also a terrific respite during crowded park days.
Whenever you’re feeling like you’ll need a vacation from your vacation, use your resort as your home away from home. Disney’s specifically built them for that purpose. Plan to spend some time at the pool, and check out the various restaurant options at your hotel. I’d also suggest that you visit the stores at your resort during your first day. Think of it as a scouting trip so that you’ll know what you can and (more importantly) can’t buy at the hotel.
I’ve spent more than 40 days at Disney over the last four years. The one thing that I can say from experience is that some of our best times at Walt Disney World have happened at the resorts. We always try to spend at least one full day resort-hopping. That’s when we use Disney transportation to go to various hotels to appreciate their theming and unique amenities.
If you’re staying a week or more, I strongly suggest that you try this. My brother recommended it to us, and I’m grateful for the fantastic advice. That’s the beauty of Disney vacations. Families get to share their favorite trip highlights and ideas with one another.
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