Disney World, like most places I’ve written about, is easily one of my favorite places to visit. Disney World can be a difficult and overwhelming place to navigate, so here we will offer some Disney World travel tips that will hopefully make your life a little bit easier when planning a trip to Disney World.
There is SO much to say about Disney World, so for those of you who don’t feel like reading this whole article and the blog posts linked to it detailing things further, here are the Disney World travel tips that I highly recommend.
- DON’T STAY IN A DISNEY RESORT
- BUY TICKETS BEFORE YOU GET TO THE PARK
- DON’T BUY PARK HOPPER TICKETS (unless you’re only there for 2 days and have to squeeze in all the parks)
- GET THE DISNEY APP ON YOUR PHONE AND USE FASTPASS+
- DON’T RENT A CAR (unless you absolutely have to)
The first thing we did when planning our trip to Disney World was buy our plane tickets to Orlando. We had a very limited window of when we could go to Disney World, so we didn’t have many options in this regard. If you have more flexible travel dates, try to book your flight early and shop around for the days that are cheapest. Coming from Philadelphia to Orlando with American Airlines in early August set us back about $265 per person, round trip.
HOTELS/RESORTS IN DISNEY WORLD
The next step was to figure out where we would stay for the week. This was not my first trip to Disney World – we went many times when I was young, so we stayed in a lot of different resorts. I also used to go to Disney World in high school and college for our spring break lacrosse trip, and we stayed in a lot of different hotels and resorts as well, so I didn’t have to spend hours googling Disney World Travel Tips, like I normally do when we travel somewhere. Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s worth the extra money to stay in a Disney resort.
Ultimately, we decided to stay at Embassy Suites Orlando – Lake Buena Vista Resort and I can’t recommend this place enough. For 6 nights, we paid about $860. The rooms were big and clean, and the air conditioning worked great. There was a cafe inside where we could get coffee or small snacks; there was also a place that served pizza and ice cream. There was a great bar inside, as well as a bar outside by the pool. The pool isn’t huge, but it was always very clean, and even in early August when I would expect it to be pretty crowded, it never actually felt crowded.
Additionally, this price also included free breakfast for both of us, and the breakfast was absolutely phenomenal. They had the standard breakfast buffet, but they also have made-to-order breakfast – you can walk up, tell them what you want, and they will make it for you fresh. This was all included in our price. The Mickey Mouse waffles were definitely my favorite!
Included in our reservation at Embassy Suites, we also got free snacks and drinks between 5pm-7pm every single day. For snacks, there were chips, vegetables, dip, popcorn, cotton candy – plenty of things to snack on to hold us over before we had a real dinner. Additionally, the drinks included soft drinks like sodas, but also select wine and beer. Snacks and drinks were unlimited between these hours.
Embassy Suites did have a shuttle to the parks, but it ran at weird times so we ended up not using it. We didn’t want to rent a car because we didn’t think it was worth the expense and we didn’t want to deal with parking, so we used Uber the entire time we were there. The price to get to the parks from the hotel were pretty minimal compared to the convenience of being able to come and go as we pleased and not deal with the parking situation. Of course, if you have more than 3 or 4 people, this can be a little more complicated and could get more expensive, so maybe a car is a good option for that kind of situation.
DISNEY WORLD TICKETS
Once you’ve decided how to get to Disney World and figured out where you’re going to stay, the next step is to determine what kind of Disney World Tickets you’ll need, and where to purchase them from. When people are looking for Disney World travel tips, I think one of the first things most people look for, myself included, is a way to get cheap Disney World tickets. I get it – the tickets are very expensive, especially if you are taking your family. When I was researching where to buy the tickets from, I searched a long time for discounted Disney World tickets but at the end of the day, I ended up buying tickets directly from Disney.
There may be websites where you can save a few dollars here and there, but for me, it was difficult to determine what was real and what was a scam. The last thing I wanted was to spend money on Disney World tickets and not receive them on time, or show up at the gate of the park and be told that they aren’t real. I know the tickets are expensive so saving any amount of money is a plus, especially if you’re bringing your family, but for us, it wasn’t worth the trouble. When we chose to go to Disney World, we were prepared for the kind of prices we would pay for tickets, and we had decided we were going to do it anyway.
Once you figure out where you’re going to buy the tickets from, the next question is what kind of tickets you will buy – park hopper passes, passes that include the water parks, how many days you need tickets for, etc. If you want to read more about the specific types of tickets you can buy and how we decided what to get, CLICK HERE.
Regardless of where you are going to purchase your tickets, buy them before you get to the park. Otherwise, you have to wait in line! The last thing you (and your young children if you have them) are going to want to do is get to Disney World, excited and ready to go, and have to stand in a long line to get your tickets.
NOTE: I do know that many people use and can vouch for undercovertourist, so you can check there for tickets and prices before buying them directly from Disney.
DISNEY FASTPASS+ - MUST USE
We arrived at our hotel, Embassy Suites, in the late afternoon. We didn’t have time to go to the parks that day, so we just hung out at the hotel and got some rest so we could get up nice and early for our first real day in Disney World. If I can give you all one piece of advice when planning your Disney World vacation, one of the absolute most important Disney World travel tips I can give you is this: USE THE DISNEY APP FOR FAST PASSES – called My Disney Experience. Create an account and login so you can use all of the features.
The app will allow you to pick a Disney Park – let’s say Hollywood Studios, for example. It will give you a map of the park, and on the map, it will also show you all of the wait times for all attractions in the Disney park. For example, as I type this, there’s an approximate 40 minute wait time for the Tower of Terror. You can have the map show you where all of the restaurants are, and you can make a reservation directly through the app. The map will also show you where all of the restrooms in the park are, which is especially convenient if you have small children with you.
Other than just having a map of everything, the app also lets you set up your FastPass+, which truly can make or break a day at a Disney park. A FastPass is basically the VIP line – you sign up early, go at the time you selected, and you get on the ride very quickly, instead of just waiting in the regular line.
Up to 30 days in advance, you can start booking your FastPass. Here’s how it works: You can book 3 FastPass+ experiences per day, to start with. After you use all 3 of your FastPasses, or the window for the last FastPass is over you can then get another FastPass. Once you use that one, you can get another one, and etc. But keep in mind, once you use your first 3 FastPasses, you can only get one at a time, and you have to wait until that one is complete before you can get another one.
You can also only reserve 1 FastPass from a Tier 1 attraction, and 2 from the Tier 2 attractions.
THE FUN PART - THE DISNEY WORLD PARKS
This section is very specific to who you are traveling with and how old everyone is. When we went, it was just the two of us, so this is geared toward adults who will be going to Disney World.
WALT DISNEY WORLD MAGIC KINGDOM
I love all of the Disney World parks and think they all have something different to offer, but the Magic Kingdom is the one that feels most like Disney. There’s Disney everything everywhere, and I think it’s a good park to start with to kick off your Disney World vacation! Keep reading for my Magic Kingdom Disney World travel tips! I’m not going to go through all of the attractions at each park, but I’ll list some of my favorites that shouldn’t be missed.
- The Haunted Mansion – This ride is one of my favorites, I think mostly because we went on it a lot when I was a kid. You don’t necessarily need to waste a FastPass on this one – it’s popular, but usually you can find a time that the line dies down to 30-45 minutes and just wait. It’s spooky, but not scary, so I honestly think it’s suitable for most children. There are no height restrictions for this attraction
- Pirates of the Caribbean – Also a really great ride at Magic Kingdom. I didn’t waste a FastPass+ on this – we just checked the Disney App and went when the lines seemed to die down a little bit, which worked for us. Definitely suitable for children. There are no height restrictions for this attraction
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – This attraction is suitable for children and adults of all ages. You ride in a car and try to shoot targets – but it’s actually fun, even for adults. If you have kids who are dying to do this ride, maybe grab a FastPass because it is pretty popular. If it’s not a must-do, just see if you can catch a time where the lines are short enough. There are no height restrictions for this attraction.
- Splash Mountain – This is a water ride with a fairly large drop, but it’s still very much geared toward children. It’s a great ride if it’s a nice day out – you will probably get pretty wet. You must be at least 40 inches or taller to ride this attraction.
- Tom Sawyer Island – This is another attraction, if you can call it that, where my fondness comes from being here as a young child and really loving it. It’s an Island, and you have to ride this little log raft to get there. if you have children, this is a great thing to do. Once you get to the island, there are forts, caves, windmills, all sorts of things that children would love to explore. Not really something I would recommend unless you have children.
DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Some of my favorite rides are in this park. This is a park you can do on a shorter day – it’s not nearly as large as Magic Kingdom. I also don’t think it’s the best Disney park to go to if you have young children. There are a few attractions you geared toward young children, but overall, it’s really one of their parks that is geared more toward adults.
- Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster – This is one one of my favorite rides in Disney World. I would strongly recommend using a FastPass for this ride, otherwise you’ll likely wait in line for more than an hour. The ride is built to make waiting in line slightly more enjoyable than most other attractions because of the memorabilia inside, but ultimately it’s still just waiting in line. You must be at least 48 inches or taller to ride this attraction.
- Star Tours – Also a very cool ride – a motion simulated space flight. You sit in seats, similar to movie theater seats, and wear 3D glasses while the screen in front of you takes you on a tour as if you are in Star Wars. Pretty child friendly. You must be at least 40 inches or taller to ride this attraction.
- The Tower of Terror – I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is also one of my favorite rides! This ride takes place in the elevator of an old haunted hotel. It’s not a roller coaster, but drops you up and down in the elevator. Probably not recommended for very young children, as the height restriction is 40 inches or taller.
Epcot is very different from all of the other Disney parks. Epcot is special in its own way, and you absolutely must visit Epcot when on your Disney World vacation. Apart from having normal attractions like all of the Disney Parks do, Epcot also has the Around the World Showcase where it showcases different countries from across the world. It may not be perfect, but it’s unique and it’s really cool to visit each ‘country’ when you go there. If your party is made up of adults, you should definitely spend some time walking around the countries, sampling typical food and drinks from each country. Kids may find this part of the park slightly more boring, but it’s a definite must do for older Disney visitors. Now let’s get into some of the actual attractions in Epcot!
- Mission SPACE – I like this ride a lot. It’s another simulation ride – you’re in a spaceship, and you watch a screen as the spaceship moves a little bit. There are two options – orange and green. The orange option is the more intense option – it lets you feel the force of the spaceship launch, whereas the green option is way tamer. I have done both, and I like the orange option better, but I love all sorts of ‘thrill rides,’ That being said, the orange option can definitely make you feel a little nauseous – make sure you don’t do it on an empty stomach when your blood sugar is low, but I also wouldn’t recommend doing it after a very large meal either.
- Soarin’ Around the World – Don’t miss this one! You ride Absolutely use a FastPass+for this one. This is one of my favorite rides in all of Disney World. It feels like you are actually hang gliding through the air. Depending on some of your FastPass choices, other ones will be limited throughout the day – you’ll be able to see this on your Disney App – so just plan wisely. This is one of those attractions that you may not be able to do if you don’t get a FastPass, unless you plan on waiting in line for 2 hours. Plan ahead! This ride is suitable for children, however you must be 40 inches or taller to ride this attraction.
- Test Track – Also a must do. For this one, you’re in a car on a track, going through all sorts of phases to ‘test’ the car. It has a lot of jerks and turns, and a small drop. It’s not quite like a rollercoaster, but it’s more intense than a simulation ride. You must be at least 40 inches or taller to ride this attraction. Either use a FastPass for this one, or monitor the app and try to catch it early in the morning or toward closing time to avoid long lines.
- Frozen Ever After – I will admit that I didn’t ride the Frozen ride, but if you have kids, I imagine this is a must do. The wait was far longer than we were willing to wait, especially since I have never even seen Frozen. I highly recommend using a FastPass if this is something you want to experience while in Epcot. This ride is located in Norway. I used to love this ride before it became Frozen, but I imagine it’s far more popular as Frozen!
DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM
Animal Kingdom has one of my favorite things in all of Disney World….
- Festival of The Lion King! This show is great – I highly recommend seeing it while in Animal Kingdom. Definitely suitable for all ages. Get in line early to make sure you get good seats.
- Dinosaur – This is also one of my absolute favorite rides in Disney World. You get into a small ‘vehicle’ and get transported to prehistoric times to see the dinosaurs. There are some small drops and twists/turns, but it’s relatively tame. It can get dark, so children who are afraid of the dark may not like it. I recommend using a FastPass for this, as this ride is pretty popular. You must be at least 40 inches or taller to ride this attraction.
- 3. Kilimanjaro Safaris – Ride in a big open-air vehicle and see the animals on this safari ride. Definitely worth doing. Children of all ages and heights can enjoy this attraction.
- Kali River Rapids – A raft/water ride, definitely worth doing on a nice day. This ride does have some small drops and definitely has twists and turns, so it may be somewhat scary for very young children. You must be at least 38 inches or taller to ride this attraction.
5. Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain – This is another one of my favorite roller-coasters. Unfortunately, I had to ride this one alone because my partner in crime was too scared! There aren’t that many attractions I like enough to do alone, but this is one of them. I recommend a FastPass for this attraction. You must be at least 44 inches or taller to ride this attraction.
Another one of our Disney World travel tips –> Animal Kingdom is definitely one of the best Disney parks to go to if you have children. There are SO many things you can do with young children here. There are plenty of rides, games, and shows for people of all ages.
NOTE: During our most recent trip to Disney World, the World of Avatar was not yet open, so I don’t have any personal experiences to share in regard to that area of Animal Kingdom. It looks pretty awesome though, and I can imagine that if you want to ride Avatar Flight of Passage, you should get a FastPass. Hopefully we get a chance to get back there one day soon!