Back to Basics: Walt Disney World Vacation 101
Have you ever traveled to Walt Disney World? If so, has it been several years since your last trip?
The truth is that many readers haven’t vacationed at Walt Disney World in a long time, if ever.
As such, you may feel overwhelmed by some of the discussions and advice we present on MickeyBlog.
Today, I’m going to get back to basics. Here’s what you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World. Think of it as Disney Vacation 101.
Tell Me about Walt Disney World
I’m not overstating the matter when I describe Walt Disney World as the center of the theme park universe.
Walt Disney World operates the most popular theme park in the world, Magic Kingdom.
The campus also hosts three more parks, all of which are in the top nine in global attendance.
You may confuse Disneyland with Walt Disney World – I know I did for many years – but one is much more popular than the other.
Roughly 28.6 million people visited Disneyland’s two theme parks in 2019. Meanwhile, Walt Disney World’s parks hosted 58.8 million people.
Disneyland is older, as Walt Disney created it in 1955. The easiest way to remember Walt Disney World is that he died before it opened.
So, Walt Disney World pays tribute to the man who purchased the land in Florida where the theme parks reside.
This place is effectively its own city, running its own government. For this reason, Walt Disney World hasn’t compromised any with its design.
Everything you’ll find here is grand in scope, as Walt Disney World is roughly the same size as San Francisco!
Tell Me about the Parks
Briefly, Walt Disney World contains four different parks. Magic Kingdom is the original theme park and the most popular one.
EPCOT came next. It’s currently in a transitional state, as Disney moves away from infotainment in favor of attractions based on intellectual properties.
EPCOT combines spectacular rides with the World Showcase, where Disney celebrates 11 different cultures with thematic pavilions.
You’ll find Disney-fied versions of China, Italy, France, and Norway, among others.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom combines the spectacle of some stunning rides and attractions with many zoo elements.
You can watch the animals frolic in their natural environments here, and you can even interact with a few.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios embraces the company’s movie heritage. However, this place has evolved into a more modern experience in recent years.
Hollywood Studios hosts the already legendary Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
The theming at Star Wars Land is so immersive that you’ll forget you’re in a theme park.
Tell Me About the Best Disney Rides
Walt Disney World combines classics like Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion with new attractions.
Over the past five years, the parks have added Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Slinky Dog Dash, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Frozen Ever After.
Everything I’m mentioning here is an E-ticket ride, something that will blow your mind with its quality.
However, I’m only scratching the surface here. During a visit, you’ll have your choice of (literally) more than 100 attractions across the four parks.
Other rides you shouldn’t miss are Toy Story Mania!, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Soarin’, Test Track, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
You will definitely get your money’s worth when it comes to Walt Disney World rides.
Tell Me about Disney Resorts
You should stay at an official Disney resort. Walt Disney World operates more than 20 of them, and there’s one to fit every budget.
Each Disney hotel comes with spectacular amenities and logistics. You’ll find at least one property near each Walt Disney World theme park.
Also, these hotels feature a combination of counter service restaurants and fine dining plus other amenities.
Disney also offers complimentary transportation to and from all four theme parks plus Disney Springs and the water parks.
Depending on where you stay, you will ride a bus, boat, or monorail to your destination.
Disney hotel lobbies deserve special mention for their immaculate design.
Many of them feature shops that sell merchandise as well as general vacation sundries.
Disney doesn’t want guests to leave Walt Disney World, and so the resorts can satisfy any need you may have. You can even order a pizza via room service.
Since all Disney hotels vary in pricing, your best bet is to contact a MickeyTravels agent.
These Disney experts provide a free service to you, and they will find you the best possible deal for your vacation.
Tell Me about Admission Tickets
As I type this, we’re in a pandemic. So, this answer requires more detail than usual.
Disney sells admission tickets to all its parks. During standard times, you can buy a package that entitles you to admission to one park a day.
For a few dollars more per day, you can add Park Hopper. This feature entitles you to visit as many Disney theme parks as you like on a given day.
Alas, Park Hopping isn’t available due to Coronavirus.
So, you’ll want a standard admission ticket during your stay. You should know that Disney provides deeper discounts for more extended stays.
Tickets won’t cost significantly more for seven days than for five. You may wonder what the catch is.
The answer is simple. Disney wants you to stay longer and tries to price you in. It’s a business practice that benefits you as well as Disney.
Tell Me about Magical Express
Disney wants your vacation to be as comfortable as possible. You shouldn’t have to worry about anything when you’re at the Most Magical Place on Earth.
So, the company has created a convenient system for guests who fly to Walt Disney World.
Magical Express will streamline the luggage process at Orlando International Airport (MCO).
Before you depart from your local airport, you’ll attach luggage tags to your bags.
During non-pandemic times, you won’t have to worry about your luggage again!
Disney will take care of everything, shipping your bags to your Disney resort.
Alas, the company cannot do this at the moment. You must pick up your luggage at MCO and bring it with you.
If your room isn’t ready yet, Disney will hold your bags at Bell Services until later. This is great if you want to head straight to the park!
Of course, the other integral part of Magical Express involves transportation.
You may wonder about the best way to get from MCO to your hotel. And that’s the main reason for Magical Express.
You’ll fly into MCO and head to the Magical Express counter. I’m not joking when I say that signs for it are seemingly everywhere and impossible to miss.
Disney runs Orlando.
When you reach the Magical Express station, you’ll get in line for a bus. When your ride arrives, you’ll board the bus, the proverbial Magical Express.
This bus will take you to your hotel. It’s absolutely free to use, and it will drop you off right by the hotel lobby!
Plus, you can play Disney trivia, learn about Walt Disney World activities, and watch Disney cartoons while riding the bus!
For planning purposes, expect the Magical Express drive to your hotel to take 35-40 minutes.
Tell Me about Magic Bands
Oddly, this one will change a bit on January 1st, 2021. So, let’s start from the beginning and work our way into next year.
A few years ago, Disney spent more than a billion dollars trying to improve the park guest experience.
The company hired a tech firm to create wearable bracelets capable of some remarkable stuff.
With your Magic Band, you can:
- Open your hotel room door
- Pay for goods and services
- Enter theme parks
Yes, a Magic Band works as a cashless payment system, a hotel room key, and a theme park ticket.
The system appeared brilliant a few years ago. Then, the rise of smartphones made the Magic Band somewhat superfluous.
With your phone, you can open your hotel room door and make contactless payments. So, it can already do two out of three.
As such, Disney has chosen to phase out Magic Bands. Currently, guests staying at official Disney resorts receive Magic Bands for free.
Beginning with hotel stays on January 1st, 2021, Disney won’t do this anymore.
You can still get Magic Bands for your traveling party, but you must pay for them. Expect to pay $15-25 each for them, although some cost as much as $35.
I highly recommend Magic Bands because wearables make your life easier. You won’t have to lug around extra items at the parks.
Your Magic Band and a photo ID will take care of your basic needs.
You can enter the parks, eat meals, and shop, all without needing a wallet. It’s liberating.
In fact, some cruise lines and tourist meccas have taken the idea because it’s so practical.
Okay, that’s enough information for now. In part two of this series, I’ll go into detail about the theme parks, restaurants, water parks, and Disney Springs.
Feature Image Rights: Disney