If you’ve never been to Disney World or don’t go often, planning a trip can seem like a daunting task. We’re taking the stress out of the process, sharing what you need to know when planning a trip to the happiest place on earth.
Download the Disney World App
If you’re planning a trip to Disney, downloading the app should be your first step. You can use it to purchase park tickets, annual passes and special event tickets (like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party), book your Disney hotel, check-in, make dining reservations, order food, book Fast Passes, check ride wait times while at the park, check the show and parade schedules and more. It’s really a must-have on any trip!
Many people choose to stay at a Disney resort when visiting Disney World. There are options for just about every price point, divided into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe and all offer some perks. Though they recently started charging for parking, they offer free parking at the parks (which starts at $25), extra Magic Hours — where guests of select Disney resorts can enjoy time in the parks before they open and after they close. They also offer complimentary shuttle services to and from the parks.
If you’re looking to stay off-site but still nearby, we highly recommend this location.
Reservations. Disney World offers quick service restaurants (think cafeteria or fast-food style dining) as well as table service restaurants. Reservations at the table service restaurants open 6 months in advance. So if you are planning to go to popular restaurants like Chef Mickey’s for a character breakfast or Be Our Guest Restaurant (located at Beast’s castle in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland), you’ll definitely want to book as far in advance as possible as these fill up quickly. If it’s booked, there’s still a chance to snag a coveted reservation — check back 24-48 hours before your trip. That’s when they’re most likely to receive cancellations.
Order through the app. Use the app to order your meal ahead of time so you can skip the line and go straight to pick up your food. This option is available for many of the quick service locations.
Special dietary needs. If anyone in your party has special dietary needs — say for example, you need gluten-free, be sure to mention it. Many spots offer options to fit these needs.
FastPass+ is a digital ticketing system that allows every ticket holder the opportunity to “skip-the-line” on three select attractions at one park per day. Once you’ve completed the three attractions you can add more Fast Passes one at a time (if any are left at that point in the day). If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you can book your Fast Passes 60 days in advance. Otherwise, you can book them 30 days prior. Be sure to use your Fast Passes on high-demand rides. This typically includes roller coasters and iconic rides like Peter Pan. Between Fast Passes, you can find attractions that usually have much shorter wait times, like the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Mickey’s Philharmagic and the Mad Tea Party Spinning Tea Cups.
Baby Care Centers. Mamas, this is for you: all four theme parks have baby care centers. They are equipped with private nursing rooms with rocking chairs, feeding areas with high chairs, changing stations and women’s bathrooms, kitchens with microwave and sink, and shops offering essentials like diapers, formula and more, should you forget any of those items.
Special Needs. Disney does their best to ensure everyone in the family has a great time, and they have services for guests with special needs, both physical and cognitive. You can learn more about them here.
Rider Switch. Parties with more than two guests may be able to take advantage of the attraction Rider Switch program, which enables you to experience an attraction while another member of your party waits with the guest who does not ride. You then “swap” to enable the other party member to enjoy the attraction without having to wait in line again (YAY for parents with littles who can’t ride roller coasters yet!).
What to Take
Disney World allows guests to bring food and drinks into the park. Number one on the list is a cooler with bottled water. You can buy an entire case of bottled water at Costco for the price of one bottle at the park.
I also highly recommend you take strollers, stroller fans, bottled water, baby food, diapers and wipes, ponchos, stroller rain cover, sunblock, and change of clothes (for baby or for yourself if you plan on riding Splash Mountain). All of these items are available for rent or purchase at the park, but you’ll be paying much higher prices.
More to Come
From the most Instagram-worthy spots and must-have foods to Disney on a budget, we’ve got plenty more Disney guides coming your way! In the meantime, let us know of any specific questions you may have about your next trip.