Walt Disney World for Beginners

Walt Disney World opened on 1st October 1971 and today it is the most visited vacation resort in the world. The resort is similar in size to San Francisco and over 52 million guests visit annually.

Walt Disney World has eighteen themed resort hotels, ten Disney vacation Club Resorts,  nine non–Disney hotels, four theme parks, two water parks, several golf courses, a camping resort and various other entertainment venues. There is clearly a lot for any beginner to get their head around.

Mickey Mouse Walt disney world for beginners
Walt Disney World for Beginners

Visits to Walt Disney World do take a little planning to make the most out of your vacation. Our guide Walt Disney World for Beginners will give you a helping hand if you are either a first time or repeat visitor.

So if you don’t know your Fastpass from your Extra Magic Hours read along as you might find this information useful. We will help make sure you don’t miss those key E-Ticket attractions.

Magic Kingdom Disney World Cinderella's castle
Magic Kingdom Disney World for Beginners  

Walt Disney World Facts

Did you know that Walt Disney World has more than 200 restaurants, more than any other single-site vacation destination in the world?

Also did you know that over 10 million hamburgers & 1.5 million turkey legs are consumed at Disney World each year?

Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort in the world and unsurprisingly it has a lot of history and some fascinating statistics. Click this link to see some of our favourite Walt Disney World facts.

Main Street Barbershop quartet
Main Street USA Disney World for Beginners

Planning Your Visit

Planning your visit to Walt Disney World is an essential activity. The resort is massive and planning your trip can initially feel overwhelming.

Walt Disney World Resort includes 4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks, a multitude of dining spots, recreation and other fun things. Ensuring you don’t miss those must-do attractions can feel an impossible task.

However, with a bit of research and careful planning you can soon create the perfect vacation. Plus the planning can become one of the best parts of your vacation.

Fastpass+ & Advanced Dining Reservations

Want to learn more about Fastpass+ Advanced Dining Reservations, My Disney Experience, MagicBand or MyMagic+? Read our handy guide.

To get the most from your vacation it is essential you understand Fastpass+ & how to make Advanced Dining Reservations. Prior to making your plan make sure you know how both work.

7 Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom
7 Dwarf Minetrain a Fastpass essential.

Launched officially in 2014 Fastpass+ is Disney’s attraction reservation system. Fastpass+ allows you to book attractions in advance of your arrival at Walt Disney World .

Your reservation allows you to join a much shorter queue so you can experience the ride quicker. If you don’t use Fastpass+ you will spend a longer period in standby queues. In busy periods this will mean you will experience fewer attractions.

To use Fastpass+ before you visit you must have either:

  • Valid Ticket or Annual Pass
  • Walt Disney World Resort Hotel reservation plus theme park tickets

Guests who are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort(including Swan & Dolphin plus select Disney Springs Hotels) can book 60 days in advance plus the number of days of their stay.

Other ticket holders have a shorter 30 day reservation window. This does mean guests staying at a Disney Resort do have an early advantage and those staying outside need to be well organised at 30 days.

Walt disney World for Beginners Donald Duck Chef Mickey's
Chef Mickey’s a popular Advance Dining Reservation

Disney Advanced Dining Reservations are restaurant reservations made in advance at the majority of Disney Table Service Restaurants. Disney restaurants do fill up and standby lines, if they exist, can be long. An Advanced Dining Reservation can make sure you get into your favorite restaurants and quickly.

All guests can book reservations for Disney restaurants 180 days in advance. Disney resort guests can reserve 180 days in advance of their day of arrival and make up to 10 days of Advance Dining Reservations that same day.

Read more about Fastpass+ & Advanced Dining Reservations here.

Weather

When planning your vacation to Walt Disney World what the weather will be like is likely be something you have considered. Orlando enjoys year round sunny weather but some months are very hot & also very wet.

The coolest month is January but even then you will enjoy an average temperature of 70°F(21°C). Summer months are very hot and humid with thunder storms on around half of the days. July is the warmest month and you can expect a temperature of up to 91°F((33°C).

The Atlantic Hurricane season officially begins on June 1 each year and continues through November 30th. The majority of hurricanes are in August & September. It is unusual for hurricanes to ruin your vacation but occasionally it can happen including in 2017.

Is a storm coming to Epcot?

Planning Around Crowds

Want to avoid crowds on your vacation?

Disney World is busy!

On occasions it is very, very busy!!!

Walt Disney World will be busy during most periods of the year. However; it is busiest in Summer Months, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Year, Independence Day & Christmas.

There are lots of websites telling you how to avoid the crowds but our experience is they often tell you different answers and overall Disney World seems to be getting busier. Events such as the Food & Wine Festival now drag people to the parks during traditionally quiet periods.

Bigger crowds do mean longer opening hours but longer waits. This does not mean you shouldn’t go especially if annual leave means you can’t go in quieter times. In our opinion you will have a great time no matter when you go!

Magic Kingdom Crowds Disney World for Beginners

Our advice to avoid the crowds:-

  • Look at the crowd calendar on various websites to see if you can pick a pattern of the best days to visit specific parks. Our experience is these websites often offer conflicting opinions.
  • Make sure you maximise use of Fastpass+.
  • Book your dining reservations in advance.
  • Avoid parks with Extra Magic Hours even if you are staying in a Disney resort.
  • Schedule plenty of breaks and make sure you drink plenty of water.
  • Create a good plan which can be easily altered if unexpected events occur.

Our Top Disney World Mistakes

First time visitor? Or regular visitor? There are plenty of Disney World Mistakes you can make which will ruin your vacation. Here are our top tips.

We all make mistakes and there are plenty of Disney World Mistakes you can make. Thankfully most Disney World Mistakes are unlikely to ruin you vacation. If they do happen adjust your plans and continue to have a great vacation.

Here are our Top 20 Disney World Mistakes to Avoid so you have a great vacation.

Walt Disney World for Beginners plan your vacation and avoid disney world mistakes
Planning your perfect vacation Walt Disney World for Beginners

Our Disney World Top Tips

Here at Modern Life is Good we love providing Disney World Tips to ensure you have a great vacation. Here are our Ultimate Collection of Disney World Tips.

Here is a collection of tips to help you plan the perfect Walt Disney World vacation.

Extra Magic Hours

Extra Magic Hours for beginners your essential guide and questions on whether to visit Extra Magic Hours. Are they worth it? What are they?

Why not put a few extra park hours into your Disney World Plan? Wouldn’t it be even better if there was less guests?

Guests of select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels can enjoy extra time in the parks each day. Extra Magic Hours occur either before parks open or after they close to regular guests.

However; remember there are 30000 hotel rooms in WDW so that is a lot of people who can attend. Extra Magic Hours can be very busy and will often significantly increase the numbers visiting. Non Disney Resort guests can be greeted with a full park at 10 a.m..

If you are not staying in a Disney Resort in our opinion you should avoid parks with Extra Magic Hours. Even guest staring at a Disney Resort might want to consider avoiding.

Click here to learn more about Extra Magic Hours.

Buzz Lightyear Later Blast Walt Disney World for Beginners

Single Rider Line

Happy to ride on your own? Can’t get a Fastpass? Then the Single Rider Line at a limited number of attractions could save you considerable time. As long as you are happy riding on your own when a gap becomes available a cast member will fill it with a single rider.

Walt Disney World has not embraced this as much as other theme parks e.g. Universal Orlando. Currently it is only available for Test Track, Expedition Everest & Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. To learn more click here.

Rock N Roller Coaster use Single Rider Top Hollywood Studios Tips
Rock N Roller Coaster use the Single Rider Line

My Disney Experience

My Disney Experience is your guide to Walt Disney World and essential for planning your vacation. You can:

  • Keep track of your plans including your family & friends.
  • Keep all your reservations in one place.
  • View day-by-day plans including your Disney Resort hotel, FastPass+ selections, dining reservations, Wish List items and reminder notes.

You can use My Disney Experience on the Walt Disney World website but the true magic comes through the app.

Filled with handy features the app lets you view and update your plans, make dining reservations, search maps of all 4 theme parks, get real-time attraction wait times and more. Plus with free WiFi now available throughout Walt Disney World you can access this information anywhere.

You can find details on how to download the app here.

Kali River rapids
Kali River Rapids Disney World for Beginners

The Walt Disney World Theme Parks

There are 4 theme parks in Walt Disney World each with their own unique ambience. All 4 theme parks are large and usually take a minimum of 2 days to complete. Guide maps & show times are available at the entrance to all parks. If you download the My Disney Experience App on your smart phone you can also access this information anywhere. When planning make sure you include time for parades, shows plus meal breaks.

Magic Kingdom

Updated for 2018 Magic Kingdom for Beginners at Walt Disney World an essential guide for first time visitors & experienced travellers. Find out all you need to know about Magic Kingdom the top theme park in the world
The Magic Kingdom was the very first theme park to open in Walt Disney World on the 1st October 1971. Today it is the most popular theme park in the World. It often attracts large crowds and has a maximum capacity of 100,000 which is often reached on National Holidays. The parks icon is the blue & gold turreted Cinderella Castle which rises 189 feet above the park’s 142 acres.

Its layout and attractions are based on Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. The park is dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters.

Read more in our guide Magic Kingdom for Beginners.

Mary Poppins Magic Kingdom

Epcot

2108 EPCOT Guide for first time visitors, beginners and experienced travellers. Find out all the basics on EPCOT including World Showcase and Future world
Epcot opened on October 1st 1982. It covers 300 acres and is more than twice the size of Magic Kingdom. It was the 2nd Theme Park to open in Walt Disney World. The park is represented by Spaceship Earth, a giant sphere that also serves as an attraction of the same name.

Epcot is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement and is split into 2 sections Future World & World Showcase. It is often described as a permanent World Fair.

Read more in our Beginners Guide to Epcot.

Spaceship Earth Epcot for beginners
Spaceship Earth Epcot

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios was the third park to open at Walt Disney Word & currently the World's biggest building site. Our Hollywood Studios for Beginners guide is a useful resource for both first time visitors and repeat guests.
Dedicated to show business the park opened on the 1 May 1989. The theme park was launched by Disney in response to Universal Studios opening in Orlando. Previously the park’s icons have been the Earful Tower & the Sorcerer’s hat but now the park is without an official icon.

Until 2008 the park was officially known as Disney-MGM Studios. 10.8 Million guests visited the park in 2015  making it the eighth most-visited theme park in the world.

Read more in our Beginners Guide to Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom was the 4th park to open at Walt Disney World on April 22, 1998. It is the largest park in Walt Disney World covering more than 400 acres. 10.9 million guests visited the park in 2015 making it the 4th most visited park in the United States.

The park’s icon is The Tree of Life a 145 foot tree sculpture. Animal Kingdom is dedicated to a kingdom of real, ancient and imagined animals. In total there are around 2000 animals representing 300 species.

Read more in our Beginners Guide to Animal Kingdom.

Tree of Life Animal Kingdom
Tree of Life

Water Parks

There are 2 water parks in Walt Disney World.

  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach which is themed around a ski resort opened on April 1st 1995.
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon which is themed around a storm damaged tropical bay opened on June 1st 1989.
Typhoon Lagoon Walt Disney World
Typhoon Lagoon Disney World for Beginners

During winter periods just 1 water park remains open with the other undergoing maintenance.

Entertainment Districts

There are 2 main entertainment districts to discover Disney Springs & Disney’s Boardwalk.

Disney Springs

The story of Disney Springs begins at our new Town Center, which is oriented around a series of bubbling natural springs that first attracted settlers to the area. From there, the town grew to encompass three additional neighbourhoods.

Disney Springs Disney World for Beginners
Disney Springs

Previously known as Downtown Disney the conversion to Disney Springs was completed in Spring 2016. Originally opening in 1975 Disney Springs now consists of over 150 stores, restaurants and entertainment locations.

Disney Springs
Disney Springs

Disney Springs is split into several neighbourhoods each with a distinct feel. The neighbourhoods are:

  • Town Center depicts the fictional town’s central business district, featuring Spanish Revival architecture from the 1920s. The area opened in 2016 and features many well known retailers.
  • The Landing depicts the fictional town’s transportation hub and marina. The area features nautical-themed restaurants and shops. The landing was the former site of Pleasure Island which closed in 2008.
Paddlefish The Landings Disney Springs
  • West Side was developed in the 1950s according to the town’s fictional history. West Side was originally part of Downtown Disney and now features several popular restaurants plus a bowling alley and movie theatre. Disney Quest was located in this area until it closed on July 2, 2017 to make way for The NBA Experience.
  • Marketplace houses many shops and restaurants reminiscent of the American Craftsman-style of the 1930s.
T-Rex Cafe Marketplace Disney Springs

Disney Springs is open everyday and has no admission fee and includes free parking. There is a preferred parking area that currently costs $10.

Disney Springs
Disney Springs Disney World for Beginners

Bus transportation is available from all Walt Disney World resorts. There are water-taxis running to Disney Springs from Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside, Old Key West & Saratoga Springs Resorts.

Disney’s Boardwalk

The Boardwalk is a smaller dining and entertainment complex which is also the home of the Boardwalk Inn & Villas. The Boardwalk is a quarter-mile promenade containing dining, shopping and nightlife options. It is designed to look like a Mid-Atlantic seaside village from the early 1900s

Disney's BoardWalk
Disney’s Boardwalk

Golf at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World is the home to 3 Championship Golf Courses and a smaller 9 hole walking course. To learn more about Disney World golf click here.

There are also 2 themed miniature golf complexes called Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. Each complex has 2 separate courses.

Walt Disney World Resorts

With over 30,000 hotel rooms; 3,000 Disney Vacation Club units & 799 campsites the accommodation options in Walt Disney World are numerous. Disney World Resorts provide unique theming, accommodation to suit a range of budgets & the opportunity to stay in the middle of the action. Our beginners guide to Walt Disney World Resorts has been updated for 2018.

With over 30,000 hotel rooms; 3,000 Disney Vacation Club units & 799 campsites the accommodation options in Walt Disney World are numerous. Disney World Resorts provide unique theming, accommodation to suit a range of budgets & the opportunity to stay in the middle of the action.

All Star Sports Resort Disney World for Beginners

If you are visiting Walt Disney World nothing beats being in the heart of the action by staying in a Disney World Resort. In addition guests staying at Disney owned resorts get a number of perks including:

However; there are cheaper options by staying in some of the many hotels & villas located throughout the Orlando area. Although the closeness and the added extras make Disney World Resorts a popular option for many guests.

To learn more about Walt Disney World Resorts click here.

Contemporary Resort

Walt Disney World Transport

Disney World without a Car. Details of Magical Express, Taxis & Uber. How can you get to Universal Studios without a car? Plus the new Mini Van Service

Getting around Disney World without a car is easy. Disney has its own fantastic internal travel network. From buses, monorail & ferries you will be transported across Disney World for free. Services are regular and reliable.

However; it does take a little longer than driving so remember to leave plenty of time if you have made dining or fastpass reservations.

It is also worth remembering that direct routes are not available to all locations. To travel to another resort you will usually have to change at either a Theme Park or Disney Springs.

To read more about Orlando transport options click here.

Disney’s Magical Express

Getting from Orlando International Airport without a car to Disney World Resorts is a breeze via Disney’s Magical Express.

Once you are through immigration and baggage claim follow the signs to Disney’s Magical Express which is located on Side B Level 1. You will need to quickly register at the check-in desk and you will then be transported; usually after a short wait; to your Disney Resort for free.

If you are returning to Orlando International Airport at the end of your vacation the day before check-out a Transportation Notice will be delivered to your room. You will need to bring with you this notice to board your coach.

Test Track at Epcot Single Rider
Test Track Disney World for Beginners

MagicBands

MagicBands are now a key part of many guest’s Disney World Vacation. This rubber bracelet acts as your park tickets, your room key, your room charge card, your Fastpasses are linked with them, they store your photographs, manage your dining reservations and your Disney Dining Plan. A built-in Radio Frequency Identification Chip provides the technical stuff.

If you are staying in a Disney Resort you get a MagicBand free. In advance you can pick your colour on the Disney website. These will be shipped to your home address in the US only or can be picked up from your resort reception.

Other guests can buy a band in advance or in the parks. Whilst you can still use a traditional ticket for you park entry and Fastpass+  you will miss out on the extra interactions if you don’t have a MagicBand.

Photo Pass

Splash Mountain Magic Kingdom Fastpass+ MyMagic+
Splash Mountain taken from Memory Maker Disney World for Beginners

Disney Photo pass allows guests to buy photographs taken by photographers throughout the park. Your Photo Pass pictures can be accessed through the My Disney Experience App. Purchases can be made online or at theme parks.

Guests will be given a card by a photographer which can then be scanned after each photograph is taken. Guest with Magic Bands can have these scanned and not carry a separate card.

Memory Maker is a package which allows you to download and keep all the pictures you have taken in a 30 day window including ride photographs. Memory Maker is cheaper to buy before you arrive and is often included as an extra in Disney World resort bookings.

Dining at Walt Disney World

From snack carts to quick service counters to Character Meals to table service to some of the top restaurants in the United States there is an almost limitless list of dining options in Walt Disney World which are bound to suit every budget.

Guest who might think that Disney World is all about burgers and fast food will be surprised by the options available. However; if you want a burger Disney World does serve over 15 million a year.

Disney Dining Plan

Updated Guide to the Disney Dining Plan including all your questions on Walt Disney World Dining Answered. Includes 2018 changes including alcoholic beverages.

The Disney Dining Plan is a prepaid meal plan offered at Walt Disney World for those staying in Disney owned resort hotels. Meals are added to your Magic Band or Card and you present your card to pay for your meal.

The plan must be booked before arrival with a valid park ticket and is not available to guests not staying in a Disney resort. It is also open to Disney Vacation Club members.

On occasions Disney offer free dining packages to guests as part of their reservation.

To learn more about the Disney Dining Plan click here.

California Grill Orlando Planning
California Grill Signature Dining Disney World for Beginners

Food Allergies and Intolerance

Disney World Allergies

Walt Disney World is one of the best places to visit if you have food allergies or intolerances. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is the recipient of a FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Award. The award was given for their dedication in proving a safe and enjoyable dining experience. Having visited Disney World several times with my daughter who has lactose intolerance we have seen the commitment from staff to offer a safe dining experience.

To learn more click here.

walt disney world for beginners Quick Service Breakfast Be Our Guest
Quick Service Breakfast Be Our Guest

Walt Disney World Character Meals

2018 guide to Disney World Character Meals. In addition we have exclusive video footage from many of the venues.

Character Meals are located throughout Walt Disney World. They are offered at each theme park plus at several resorts. Whether it is Mickey Mouse, a Disney Princess or Winnie the Pooh there is likely to be a character meal where you can meet your favourite character.

Whilst they often don’t offer the best food character meals are always great fun. They also offer the opportunity to meet some of the most popular characters without the queues you will meet in the Theme Parks.

To learn more about character meals click here.

Character meals walt disney world for beginners
Snow White Princess Storybook Dining

Over coming months we will be creating an expanded section on Disney World Dining. Please keep checking back.

Character Hunting Walt Disney World

Love them or hate them if you have young children; & perhaps if you don’t; you are going to spend a bit of time seeking them. Fastpass Plus & Character Meals can significantly cut the amount of time waiting to see your favourite character but waiting on occasions is unavoidable.

Chip & Dale Walt disney world for beginners
Walt Disney World for Beginners

Character meets in Walt Disney World are now very organised affairs. Today it is unusual to find unexpected characters just wandering around a park. Many of the biggest character meets can now be reserved in advance using Fastpass.

Goofy pete Silly Sideshow Magic Kingdom
Meeting Goofy Disney World for Beginners

The My Disney Experience App or the time guide; available at the entrance; will tell you where you can meet your favourite character. Guest relations or any Cast member will help if you are struggling to find your idol.

Whilst most Character Meets are well advertised a few still occur which will not show on your park guide. Character Palooza is an unpublished character meet and greet that occurs on any day that Hollywood Studios holds performances of Fantasmic here you will find between 5-10 rare characters.

Frozen in Noway EPCOT meet Anna and Elsa
Frozen Characters in Norway Epcot

Special Events & Festivities

Throughout 2018 there will be regular Special Events & Festivities at Walt Disney World. These special events help make a Disney Vacation extra special and magical.

3 festivals will make their annual return to Epcot in 2018:

  • Festival of the Arts.
  • International Flower and Garden Festival.
  • International Food and Wine Festival.

Epcot Food & Wine Festival Epcot facts
Epcot food & Wine Festival

Over in Magic Kingdom we will see the return of the annual parties:

  • Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Both these parties have an extra admission cost but are a great opportunity to experiences rides with little wait, meet rare characters and see special entertainment.

Plus expect a list of further events to be announced throughout 2018. We already know Disney After Hours in the Magic Kingdom & the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend will be returning.

Here is a link to some of the special events held in earlier years.

Coming in 2018

The big 2018 event is the opening of Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. However, there are a selection of other new attractions and facilities opening. To find out more click here.

Disney World for Beginners

We will be further expanding this guide in coming months adding new content.

Please keep checking back and let us know of anything you would like to see included in this guide, any errors we have made or any questions you might have.

You might find the following articles useful to continue your planning:

Why we think 2018 is the best year ever to visit Walt Disney World

20 Disney World Mistakes to Avoid

Top 5 Walt Disney World Must-Do 2018

How to Speak Disney

Disney's Family Magic Tour
Speak Disney like a Cast Member Disney World for Beginners

Top Magic Kingdom Tips

5 Attractions to Skip Magic Kingdom

5 Must-Do Attractions Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom Mistakes

Coming soon Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World for Beginners carousel
Carousel Magic Kingdom Disney World for Beginners

Top Epcot Tips

5 Attractions to Skip Epcot

Coming soon Epcot

Future World EPCOT
Future World Epcot

Top Hollywood Studios Tips

Coming soon Hollywood Studios

Walt Disney World for Beginners Hollywood Studios

Top Tips Animal Kingdom

5 Must Do Attractions Animal Kingdom

5 Attractions to Skip Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Mistakes

Top Tips Pandora – The World of Avatar

Pandora - World of Avatar
Pandora – World of Avatar Disney World for Beginners

Plus are you planning to Visit Universal Orlando? Here are our Top Tips.

Happy vacation planning!

David

2 COMMENTS

  1. Disney dan | 29th May 17

    Really useful guide. Look forward to seeing it expand further…keep up the good work.

    • @Modlifeisgood | 29th May 17

      Thanks Dan
      Further updates will be coming soon

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