Important Things to Do Before your Disney Vacation
“Help, my Disney vacation starts next week, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff!”
I hear this statement more often than I would have thought of possible. A lot of my friends are extremely accomplished professionals. When it comes to vacations, however, they’re…let’s just say not detail-oriented. Over the years, I’ve become the Disney expert that they trust to help them remember all of those minutiae about their travel plans. I’d like to pass along this wisdom to you so that you have the best trip possible. Here are the things you’ll need to remember in the week leading up to your trip.
Pay Your Bills!
No, I’m not talking about rent or the mortgage, although you should pay those things, too. Otherwise, you won’t have a home when you return. I mean the Disney expenses that you may not have addressed yet.
In a previous article, I posted the ultimate vacation checklist. One of the items I mentioned was the Disney Dining Plan. I highly recommend it to everyone since this package provides a kind of cost control for your meal budget. Sometimes, you can even get it for free. Most of the time, you’ll have to pay, though, and the bill comes due three days prior to your trip. If you haven’t bought and paid for the dining plan by then, it’s too late.
My advice as a longtime Disney visitor is that you should pay for this several months in advance of your Disney vacation. In doing so, you have more money to spend as your trip approaches. I understand that this isn’t possible for everyone, but it’s an excellent practice for those who can afford it.
Similarly, you should pay for your theme park tickets in advance. By doing so, you can avoid a (potentially) long line once you reach Disney. Since everyone needs admission to get into the park, anyone without valid tickets has to buy them. The guests clever enough to pay ahead of time can skip this aspect. It’s an aggravation you don’t need at the start of your first big day at Disney, and you can easily avoid it by paying ahead of time!
Call Your Credit Card Company
This step sounds crazy, but it’s necessary. With ID fraud so pervasive, credit card companies have strong security measures in place. That’s great news for you, as it protects your identity AND your bank account. It has a downside when you travel, though.
When your credit card company notices charges at a city where you don’t live, their automated system may trigger a card lockdown. Don’t laugh. This has happened to us. In fact, it happened when we used our DISNEY credit card at WALT DISNEY WORLD!!!
We use a different credit card for most of our payments, but we switch to the Disney card for our Disney vacations. Chase, in their infinite wisdom, locked the card and texted us about a verification of a potentially unauthorized charge. Since technology is so good today, we were able to clear the matter up in a matter of minutes, but it was momentarily frustrating.
The kind Chase employee in the fraud department told us how to avoid the issue in the future. It’s simply to alert your credit card company that you will be traveling and that Disney charges are valid. They’ll notate this in the system and prevent the potential embarrassment of a rejected card. It’s a five-minute process that can clear up a lot potential aggravation.
Use Online Check-In!
There are two phases to this suggestion, and both of them are important. While Orlando International Airport is incredibly efficient, your local airport may not be. Since you don’t want to miss your flight out of town, save yourself a headache by checking into your flight online. You can skip the lines at the airport and use the automated kiosk to check your bags. It’s vastly preferable to, well, the entire airport experience.
Similarly, you should use online check-in for your resort, too. By taking this extra step, you can skip the hotel lobby entirely! Once you’ve completed Disney resort check-in, your Magic Band will open your hotel room door, saving you some time at that exciting moment when you are only a bus/boat/monorail ride away from the parks!
You should also have all your documents handy for when you reach the airport and then Magical Express check-in in Orlando. I’m talking about a photo ID, a valid passport (if needed), and your Magical Express letter.
Check Your Luggage
I’ve previously listed several packing tips for your trip. This isn’t going to be a regurgitation of that piece. Instead, it’s something more specific. More people from out of state fly into Orlando than drive. The Walt Disney Company is aware of this fact, and they’ve set up a brilliant system to streamline the process. Magical Express envelops you in the Disney Bubble virtually the moment you arrive at Orlando International Airport.
You walk to a special part of the airport. There, you’ll check in with a Disney cast member, and this person will direct you to the appropriate bus. You’ll take it to your hotel. The best part is that the buses have televisions that play informational videos about things to do at Walt Disney World. The process eases Mickey Travelers into your dream vacations, creating the comfortable atmosphere that will surround you during your vacation. This Disney Bubble is like a warm hug that never stops the entire time that you’re at the parks.
You need to set up Magical Express before you leave to use the service, though. And part of that setup involves luggage tags. Disney will mail you these tags, which you’ll attach to your bags. Should you forget to do so, you’ll have to wait on your luggage at the airport, a process that can slow you down by 30 minutes or more. Since you must then wait for your Magical Express bus, forgetting to tag your luggage could cost you an hour or more the moment that you arrive at Walt Disney World. That’s the time when you are most excited to get started. So, PLEASE remember to place your Magical Express tags on your luggage!!!
Expert tip: If you book your Disney vacation through a Disney travel agent, they will coordinate Magical Express for you…for free!
Grab Some Cash
Tipping is always an awkward conversation. Many people have strong opinions on the subject, and I never like to discuss uncomfortable subjects. Keeping that in mind, here’s why you should take some cash. Magical Express drivers accept tips based on service. There’s no rule stating that you do this; a lot of people do NOT.
Personally, my family does. I also believe that it’s a nice practice. So, I suggest that folks bring a few dollars for the driver and then a few dollars for the person who delivers your luggage. From discussions with drivers, they appreciate a tip of $5-$10.
The luggage situation is trickier. When you use Magical Express, your bags will be delivered to your room. You have no need to tip these employees and would have to go out of your way to do so. In other words, most hotel guests don’t have to tip at Bell Services, at least on the way in.
Some guests have split stays, though. These are trips wherein you stay at multiple Disney hotels. Should you do this, you must interact with Bell Services to pick up your bags and again when you want them delivered to your room at the next resort. In these (admittedly rare) situations, you should expect to tip both cast members.
On your way out of Walt Disney World, the reverse portion of Magical Express again goes through Guest Services. During this interaction, the employees do expect a tip. Since they’re the ones handling your bags on the airport transfer, it’s best to make them happy, too.
Keep Your Magic Bands Handy
Your Magic Band can do so much at Walt Disney World that you may struggle to define it. Prior to your trip, however, you should think of it as a form of payment, proof of identification, and a hotel key. Since it does so much, you’ll need it the moment you touch down in Orlando.
In fact, you can skip a lot of overhead at Magical Express check-in by having your Magic Band. When you shop at the Disney Store at Orlando International Airport, your Magic Band is already set up to allow you to pay for merchandise. When you use the Magic Band at the special Disney section of the airport, you’ll get directed to your bus. When you use it at the hotel room, you can enter your room.
All of this sounds great in theory. Alas, many people don’t understand the utility of Magic Band and pack it with their luggage. That’s super-bad, as you’ll have to wait on the arrival of your luggage from Magical Express before you can enter the parks. While you can enter your room using your smartphone or an old-fashioned room card, it’s a suboptimal solution. You should keep your Magic Band out just like with your airport check-in documents.
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