1. What is Walt Disney World (WDW)?
Vacation resort/ theme park in Orlando, Florida (not Anaheim, California – that is Disneyland) that is spread out over 47 square miles – there are 4 major theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. There are 2 water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon). And there are 22 onsite resort hotels, plus shopping and 100+ restaurants (in the Downtown Disney resort area, throughout the parks, throughout the various resort hotels, etc.), as well as various recreational and sports activities (ESPN, plus water sports, golfing, horseback riding, Richard Petty drivealong, Cirque du Soleil shows, etc.). There is something for everyone.
2. What is an onsite Disney hotel?
The “official” Disney hotels include 22 properties that range from campgrounds to cabins, to value hotels, to moderate hotels, to deluxe hotels, to Disney Vacation Club properties (think condos that rent out as a hotel room). Staying at an onsite hotel accords you special perks. (Note: Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan are not “official” Disney properties. Neither are the oodles of hotels in the Disney resort strip.)
3. What is the difference between a base ticket and a park hopper ticket?
A base ticket lets you enter one park a day, and only one park a day. A park hopper ticket costs ~$50 USD more per person (you pay once, for your entire stay), and allows you to enter multiple parks on the same day. This is particularly helpful to take advantage of extra magic hours, when staying at an onsite resort. (Note: you cannot use extra day counts on a base ticket to enter a second park on one day. You will be escorted to the guest services area to upgrade your ticket to a park hopper ticket.)
4. What are “extra magic hours”?
This is a special perk that Disney accords its onsite guests (i.e., staying at one of the official 22 onsite Disney resorts) only. This perk alternates through the 4 major parks, and depending on the season/ volume at the parks, there can be more than one per day. Generally, the early magic hours let you enter the designated park one hour earlier than the general public. The evening extra magic hours let you stay up to three hours after normal park closing.
5. What is the Magical Express?
This is another special perk that Disney accords its onsite guests. You have a free shuttle to transport you from the Orlando International airport to your Disney resort, and back again.
6. Isn’t it better to stay offsite?
Not really. Offsite may give you extra space, if your family is large and you’re particularly budget conscious, but staying onsite gives you the free transportation to and from the airport, access to the free transportation in and around the parks (so you don’t have to rent a car and/or pay to park it), ability to buy the Disney dining plan, access to “extra magic hours” , and also allows you to be surrounded by the magic 24 hours a day.
7. Is there a bad time to go to the parks?
Any visit to Disney is a magical time. You can always work around time schedules and crowds, and plan accordingly. However, the parks generally are more crowded when kids are out of school. Easter, Christmas, July 4th are particularly busy, so if you have to go then, make sure you stay at an onsite hotel to take advantage of extra magic hours, and plan your meals! (there’s never Really a bad time to go to Disney)
8. What is the Disney dining plan?
There are several versions of the dining plan, which, again, is a perk that Disney only allows its onsite guest to purchase. You can purchase a quick service meal (think of it as Disney’s equivalent to MacDonalds), a regular dining plan (one quick service, one table service, and one snack per person per night), or a deluxe dining plan. You can also purchase a wine add on. Disney dining plans offer tremendous value (particularly during promos where it is offered for free.) Disney has 100+ restaurants that participate in its dining plans in and around the parks, and resort hotels.
9. What is a “fastpass“?
Think of this as Disney’s virtual ride queuing system. You’ll find an atm-like kiosk next to the ride, and you have to insert your park pass in the “atm. ” You’ll get your park pass back, along with a “fastpass” that gives you an hour window to return for a ride. This allows you to wait in a different queue than the standby line, thus shortcutting the wait time considerably. (There are limits to how often you can get a fastpass. See my separate blog post on point.)
10. Do you have to plan your Disney vacation?
No – you’ll always have a good time at Disney, but with some advance planning (especially if you get me to plan your vacation), you can have a fantastic time at Disney. A little planning will make your experience so much better – particularly if you schedule character and/or restuarant meals in advance. (No one wants to queue up for 2 hours when you’re hungry.)
Give me a call, and let’s get planning your next trip to see Mickey!