Planning your visit to Walt Disney World is essential to get the most out of your vacation. Our Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners will give you a helping hand if you are a first time or repeat visitor. We cover all the Theme Parks, Resorts and other attractions. Plus we have provided our top tips to help plan your vacation. Our Guide to Walt Disney World continues to grow and we have added new sections, following reader feedback, on Walt Disney World Tickets, Useful Resort Information & the History of Walt Disney World. We have also added information on all the latest news including what is coming during Fall/Winter 2018 to Walt Disney World.
Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners Contents
Are you looking for specific information? You can jump right to the various sections in our Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners Here:
- Walt Disney World The Basics including the history of Walt Disney World & Resort Facts
- Walt Disney World Attractions including information on the 4 Disney Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks & Entertainment Options.
- Where to Stay When Visiting Walt Disney World Do you need help deciding whether to stay on or off site when visiting Disney World?
- Guide to Buying Walt Disney World Tickets Choosing which tickets to buy isn’t an easy decision
- Essential Disney World Knowledge including Fastpass, My Disney Experience, Managing Crowds, Disability Access & much more.
- Walt Disney World Useful Information including wheelchair hire, ATMs, baby centers & loads of other useful Disney World information.
- Walt Disney World Hints & Tips A selection of fantastic tips to have a great Disney World Vacation plus the odd mistake you must avoid.
- Walt Disney World Transport links to all transport options at Walt Disney World
- Dining at Walt Disney World including Disney Dining Plan
- Finding Characters at Walt Disney World
- 2018 & Beyond Events & Festivities at Walt Disney World including what is coming for Fall & Christmas 2018
- Walt Disney World News How to find all the latest happenings at Walt Disney World plus the top rumours we have heard on the Disney Grapevine.
Walt Disney World The Basics
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 guest to get their head around.
So if you don’t know your Fastpass from your Extra Magic Hours read along as you might find the information on Modern Life is Good useful. We will help make sure you don’t miss those key E-Ticket attractions.
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.
A Brief History of Walt Disney World
In 2021 Walt Disney World will be 50 years old. A lot has happened in those first 50 years. Here are some of the biggest events in the History of Walt Disney World:
- On October 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom opened its doors to 10,000 guests. Also opening that day were Disney Contemporary Resort & Polynesian Resort.
- The Magic Kingdom expanded fast in those initial years. Attractions added included Pirates of The Caribbean in 1973, Space Mountain in 1975 & Big Thunder Mountain in 1980.
- Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opened in 1975 featuring clusters of boutique and handicraft merchandise shops. This area today has been expanded and is part of Disney Springs.
- In 1982 Epcot Center opened becoming the 2nd theme park in Walt Disney World.
- In 1989 what is now Hollywood Studios opened as Disney-MGM Studios
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water-park opened on June 1st, 1989.
- The first Disney Vacation Property opened in 1991. Disney’s Old Key West was initially named as Disney’s Vacation Club Resort until it was renamed January 1996.
- 1995 saw the opening of Disney’s Blizzard Beach.
- In 1998 Disney’s Animal Kingdom the 4th park opened.
- Numerous hotels and resorts opened throughout this time.
- Recent expansion has included Pandora – The World of Avatar in 2017 & Toy Story Land in 2018.
- Both Hollywood Studios & Epcot are currently undergoing multi-year expansion projects. 2019 will see the opening of the highly anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Walt Disney World Attractions
Planning your visit to Walt Disney World is an essential activity. The resort is massive and planning your trip can initially feel overwhelming especially for the first time visitor.
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. Our Guide to Walt Disney World has plenty of helpful hints & tips to plan your vacation.
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 smartphone you can also access this information both prior to your visit & throughout the day. We will provide you with tips & hints on how to plan your visit to Walt Disney World later in this guide.
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 park’s icon is the blue & gold turreted Cinderella Castle which rises 189 feet above the park’s 142 acres. The Magic Kingdom’s layout and attractions are based on Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. The park is dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters.
Visit our Guide to the Magic Kingdom to learn more about the park.
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.
You can learn more about Epcot in our Beginners Guide.
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 Guide to Hollywood Studios.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom was the 4th park to open at Walt Disney World on April 22, 1998, and has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. It is the largest park in Walt Disney World covering more than 400 acres. Attendance at the Animal Kingdom rose 15% in 2017 following the opening of Pandora – the World of Avatar. 2017 attendance at the Animal Kingdom was 12.5 million making it the second most popular park in Walt Disney World. The park’s icon is The Tree of Life a 145-foot tree sculpture. The 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 about the park in our Guide to the Animal Kingdom.
There are 2 water parks in Walt Disney World. Both parks include wave pools, lazy rivers, a selection of slides, family raft rides & kid pools. Quick Service dining locations are available in each park. During winter months 1 park will close to undergo annual maintenance.
- Disney’s Blizzard Beach which is themed around a ski resort opened on April 1st, 1995. Legend has it that a freak snowstorm in the area led to Florida’s first ski resort. When the snow eventually melted it was converted into a water park. The majority of the major attractions at the park are hosted atop Mount Gushmore, an artificial hill with an elevation of 90 feet. Only the bravest guests will ride the park’s flagship attraction Summit Plummet. The attraction stands at 120 feet tall and the near vertical drops create speeds up to 60 miles per hour.
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon which is themed around a storm-damaged tropical bay opened on June 1st, 1989. It is the 2nd most visited water park in the world. The park includes one of the World’s largest wave pools. The park used to include 2 shark reefs where guests could snorkel. This attraction closed in 2016.
There are 2 main entertainment districts to discover Disney Springs & Disney’s Boardwalk.
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 more neighbourhoods.
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 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.
- 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.
Disney Springs is open every day and has no admission fee and includes free parking. 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.
You can learn more in our Guide to Disney Springs.
The Boardwalk is a smaller dining and entertainment complex which is also the home of the Boardwalk Inn & Villas. The area opened on July 1, 1996. 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. The area, although smaller, attracts much lower crowds than Disney Springs and can offer a more relaxing nighttime experience.
There is a walkway between Disney’s Boardwalk and both Epcot & Hollywood Studios. Water transportation is also available to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Yacht and Beach Club resorts and Swan & Dolphin Resorts. Guests visiting Boardwalk from other resorts will need to catch a bus from either a theme park or Disney Springs.
Golf at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is the home to 3 Championship Golf Courses and a smaller 9 hole walking course. Arnold Palmer Golf Management manages the Disney golf courses. 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.
Where to Stay When Visiting Walt Disney World
One of the first things you must consider when booking a Disney World Vacation is where to stay. There are countless accommodation options in Orlando including luxurious villas, budget motels & 5-star hotels. Many hotels include free transportation to Walt Disney World. One option many guests consider is staying in one of the 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.
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:
- Free transportation around Walt Disney World
- Free transport from Orlando International Airport
- Extra Magic Hours in a selected park each day.
- Earlier booking of Fastpass and Advanced Dining Reservations.
- Free MagicBand.
- Being able to book the Disney Dining Plan as part of your reservation.
Whilst there are cheaper options than staying at a Walt Disney World Resort the closeness and the added extras make them a popular option for many guests.
Our Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts has information on all the resorts at Walt Disney World.
Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels
Guests who want to stay near the action but do not necessarily want to stay in a Disney World Resort might consider staying one of the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels. These hotels offer several resort advantages and can usually be slightly cheaper than booking an official Disney Resort.
There are 7 non-Disney Disney Springs Resort Areas Hotels. The hotels are:
- Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
- DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Lake Buena Vista
- B Resort & Spa
- Wyndham Lake Buena Vista
- Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel
- Buena Vista Palace Resort & Spa
- Holiday Inn – Orlando Lake Buena Vista
Staying Off-Site at Walt Disney World
There are numerous accommodation options throughout Orlando. Accommodation options include luxurious villas, budget motels & 5-star hotels. Many hotels include free transportation to Walt Disney World. All these options have one big advantage over Walt Disney World Resorts and that is the price. You will get more “Bang for Your Buck” staying off-site.
Other advantages of staying off-site include:
- It is often easier to get to other attractions eg Universal Studios.
- Hotel rooms are often bigger.
- You can experience some of the many outstanding restaurants in Orlando.
- You might get additional perks eg free breakfast.
- You can get away from Disney. Staying at Walt Disney World can be pretty intense.
However, guests have to weigh up whether these benefits outweigh the benefits that Walt Disney World offer.
Walt Disney World Tickets
There have recently been some significant changes to Walt Disney World Tickets. Read our Guide to Disney World Tickets for further information.
Creating a section on Walt Disney World Tickets has been one of the biggest challenges for this guide. There are just so many options!
Unfortunately, there are also several mistakes guest can make if they are looking for a bargain. In our opinion you should avoid the following:
- Never buy second-hand tickets. It is impossible to know whether the advertised unused days are correct plus Disney scan guests fingers prior to admission. All tickets are untransferable & it is highly likely that your tickets will be useless.
- Don’t buy off eBay or from other site offering extremely cheap tickets. There is a good chance they will be a con. There are several legitimate authorised ticket dealers and whilst they will offer some discount it is usually only small.
- If a deal seems too good to be true it probably isn’t genuine. Timeshare companies often offer cheap tickets but be very careful before taking up any offers!
Disney Magic Your Way Ticket
This is the entry-level ticket to Walt Disney World. It is the cheapest level ticket but offers the least options. Guest can book tickets between 1-10 days in length and can visit 1 park a day. The Magic Your Way Ticket does not include entry to other attractions eg water-parks. Tickets must be used within 14 days of first use.
Disney Park Hopper
The Disney Park Hopper Ticket offers the same benefits as the Magic Your Way Ticket but in addition, you are allowed to visit more than 1 park each day. In fact, you can actually hop to all 4 parks every day.
Disney Park Hopper Plus
This ticket contains all the same options as the Park Hopper but with additional Plus Options. For each day ticket you purchase you are also entitled to 1 admission a day to either:
- Disney’s Blizzard Beach
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
- One round of golf at Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course
- ESPN Wide World of Sports
- Disney’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course
- Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course
There are various additional rules on how you can use these Plus options which you should check with your vendor.
Guests who are staying at Walt Disney World for an extended vacation or more than once a year might want to consider purchasing an annual pass. Annual Passes offer several discounts on merchandise & dining which might make them cheaper than they first appear. There are several options available which you can check out here.
This ticket is only available in the UK & Ireland but offer major benefits and at a much cheaper price. Tickets are valid for 7, 14 or 21 days and offer hopping admissions to all theme parks and water-parks. They even come with a free memory maker!
Essential Disney World Knowledge
Once you have planned where you are going to stay, you need to you quickly learn the basics of how to plan your Walt Disney World Vacation. Visits to Walt Disney World are not as simple as booking an all-inclusive resort. There are key booking windows to secure dining reservations and make ride reservations. We will guide you through all the Essential Disney World Knowledge you need to enjoy your vacation.
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. To get the most from your vacation you must get an understanding of Fastpass+ as soon as possible.
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.
Our Guide to Fastpass+ will give you all the essential information. In addition, we have Fastpass strategies for each theme park.
Disney’s Advanced Dining Reservations are restaurant reservations made in advance at the majority of Disney Table Service Restaurants. Disney’s 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.
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.
Our Guide to Advanced Dining Reservations has further information.
My Disney Experience is a free online guide to Walt Disney World that allows guests to plan their vacation. My Disney Experience launched in 2012 and is available through either the Walt Disney World Website or the dedicated Mobile App.
Through this free service you can:
- Keep track of your plans including those of 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.
Having access to the App is essential when you visit any of the Walt Disney World parks. 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.
Our Guide to My Disney Experience provides more information including how to get the App.
Why not put a few extra park hours into your Disney World Plan? Wouldn’t it be even better if there were fewer 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 a particular park. Non-Disney Resort guests can be greeted with a full park at 10 a.m. following morning Extra Magic Hours.
For 2018 & 2019 the number of guests having access to Extra Magic Hours has increased further. Select non-Disney owned Walt Disney World Resorts have now been given access too.
If you are not staying in a Disney Resort in our opinion you should avoid parks with Extra Magic Hours. Even guests staying at a Disney Resort might want to consider avoiding.
Our Guide to Extra Magic Hours provides further information.
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. You join a separate line & 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 read our Guide to The Single Rider Line.
Whilst Disney World appeals to families of all ages some attractions are not suitable for young children. Many of the attractions have height restrictions for safety purposes. Disney does enforce Height Requirements strictly and you will not be allowed to board if you are under the height requirement. Make sure you consider height restrictions when booking Fastpass+ Reservations so children are not left disappointed.
However, if the kids are too small to ride it does not mean adults and older siblings can’t. Rider Switch, also sometimes known as child swap, allows guests with small children to take turns riding while another adult stays with the child. How Rider Switch works is easy:-
- The entire party should approach the Cast Member at the entrance who will give a Rider Switch Ticket.
- Group 1 will ride the attraction
- Once complete the 2nd Adult and up to 3 more guests, which can include some who have already ridden, can join him through the Fastpass queue.
Disney World provides extensive facilities for all forms of disabilities including visual, auditory, mobility & cognitive disabilities. You are able to contact Walt Disney World at (407) 560-2547 or [email protected] prior to your visit to discuss your requirements.
Walt Disney World has created a Disability FAQ which you also might find useful to review.
There are also specific park guides which you can find on the following links:
Disability Access Service
Disney recognises that some guests with disabilities are unable to tolerate long waits in lines for attractions. The Disability Access Service allows Guests with disabilities, as well as an allotted number of people from his or her party, to schedule a return time at a specific attraction that is comparable to the wait time when they first arrive at that attraction. To register guests should visit the Guest Relations Lobby in any park. The Disability Access Scheme is a new service, previous guests might be familiar with the old front of the line scheme. Unlike the old scheme, the majority of guests with disabilities, including those with poor mobility, will not be entitled to a DAS but Guest Relations will be happy to review how the parks can best meet your needs.
We have extensive further information on facilities available on our Guide to Walt Disney World with Disabilities.
MagicBands are now a key part of many guest’s Disney World Vacation. These rubber bracelets act as your park tickets, room key, 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 at a Disney Resort you get a MagicBand free with your reservation. Other guests can buy a band in advance or in the parks. Whilst you can still use a traditional ticket for your park entry and Fastpass+ reservations you will miss out on the extra interactions if you don’t have a MagicBand.
Our Guide to MagicBands has further information.
Photopass allows you to keep the highlights from your Walt Disney World Vacation. Disney’s Photographers will take your pictures that are then linked to an online account. You can view your photographs online or in the My Disney Experience mobile app. There is no charge to have photographs taken or to view them online but there is if you want to download them. Photopass is available in all Disney’s parks & occasionally at Disney Springs.
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.
You can earn more about Photopass & Memory Maker in our guide.
When planning your vacation to Orlando what the weather will be like is likely to be something you will have considered. Florida’s official nickname is “The Sunshine State” which was officially adopted in 1970. Whilst it is highly unlikely you can visit Orlando and not encounter a fair measure of sunshine this can certainly be offset with plenty of rain and the occasional hurricane. Orlando & Disney World weather can be unpredictable and if you are not prepared can reduce the enjoyment of your vacation.
July is the hottest month in Orlando with an average temperature of 28°C (82°F). However, it does get hotter than this with average July highs topping 33°C(91°F). The coldest month is January with average temperatures of 15°C (59°F). However, you will still manage to enjoy highs of 70°F (21°C).
Rain does occur throughout the year but June to September are the wettest months. November is usually the driest month in Orlando.
Humidity is high in Orlando from late April to early November. Guest may find the level of humidity initially uncomfortable and it might take a few days to acclimatise.
Hurricanes are something that worries many first time visitors to Florida. 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.
You can read more about the Disney World Weather including our Top Tips to Beat the Orlando Weather in our guide.
Want to avoid crowds on your vacation?
Disney World is busy!
On occasions, it is very, very busy!!!
No matter when you visit you will meet some crowds. Sometimes the crowds will be light but on occasion, they might feel unmanageable. 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.
Although Walt Disney World will be busy during most periods of the year it is busiest in Summer Months, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Year, Independence Day & Christmas.
There are lots of websites telling you the best days to visit each park but our experience is they often tell you different answers. We certainly do not recommend paying for this information. However, with a bit of planning, you can still have a great day no matter how busy the park is.
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!
You can read more advice & tips in our guide Avoiding Crowds at Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World Useful Information
Sometimes it is difficult to find all the information you need prior to your vacation. The following information you might find useful if visiting Walt Disney World. Please let us know if you think anything is missing.
Theme Park Rules & Prohibited Items
Walt Disney World Theme Parks have several rules to ensure guest safety & protect the park environment. In addition, there is a list of items which you are prohibited to bring into any park. All guests & searches are subject screening prior to gaining entry to a park.
The link provides more information on Theme Park Rules & Prohibited Items.
Walt Disney World Park Hours
Park hours usually get released about 6 months in advance. However, they often change as you come closer to the actual date! Usually this is too longer hours than initially announced.
Click the link to get all the latest Walt Disney World Park Hours.
Payment for Goods
In addition to cash, Walt Disney World is happy to accept most credit cards. Cards are accepted almost everywhere including the smallest mobile counters.
All of the Disney Resorts and Guest Relations at the Theme Parks offer International Currency exchange. However, there might be limits on how much you can exchange and rates are not usually good.
ATMs are located throughout Disney World and can be located on park maps and the My Disney Experience App.
Guests with Magic Bands & staying in a Disney Resort can setup room charging for purchases inside parks & Disney Springs.
Baby Care Centers
Baby Care Centers are located in all 4 theme parks. These centers are complimentary and offer a comfortable environment to care for your little one.
- Private nursing room
- Changing room
- Unisex bathroom
- Feeding area with highchairs
- Kitchen with microwave, oven and sink
- Main room with television, table, chairs and sofa
- On-site shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase
You can locate the Baby Centers on park maps.
Accessing the Internet
WiFi is now available throughout Walt Disney World. There are occasional black spots eg in lines but coverage is almost universal within parks & resorts. However, the speed isn’t the fastest and there are regular dropouts. We have noticed the service is less reliable when parks are busiest.
In our opinion having the ability to access WiFi is essential at Walt Disney World and we even recently named it our Number 1 Walt Disney World Tip.
Lost & Found
It is easy to lose things at Walt Disney World but perhaps amazingly things often do get found! If you lose anything it is important to report it straight away.
Information on how to report your lost items is located here.
Refurbishments & Closures
Walt Disney World is constantly changing and it almost inevitable there will be some refurbishments & closures whenever you visit. Visit this handy guide to see all the current refurbishments and closures
Smoking including electronic cigarettes is banned in most areas of Walt Disney World. In addition to theme parks, smoking is not permitted within resorts including balconies.
All resorts and parks have small designated smoking areas. Smoking areas can be located on relevant maps.
Are you celebrating something during your visit?
Whether it is a birthday or just your first visit a celebration button will let everyone know. Disney Cast Members will even pay you special attention.
To collect a celebration button visit Guest Services.
If you think the kids might need a stroller then you should bring your own. Walt Disney World does include a lot of walking & late nights and even the most independent small person might get a little tired.
If you find you do need a stroller after you arrive they are available to hire at all Disney World parks.
Wheelchair & ECV Rentals at Walt Disney World
Electric Conveyance Vehicles are available for rent at all Walt Disney World theme and water parks as well as Disney Springs. They are available on a first come first served basis and are only available for daily rental. Current prices are:
Walt Disney World Theme Parks
- Daily: $50
- A refundable $20 deposit is required at this location
Walt Disney World Water Parks and Disney Springs
- Daily: $50
- A refundable $100 deposit is required at this location
Wheelchairs are also available to rent in all parks. Locations are highlighted on park maps & My Disney Experience App.
If you are going to need a scooter for more than a couple of days then you should consider a long-term rental. There are many companies providing this service across Orlando. 4 providers have been credited with being Disney Featured Providers.
If you use a Featured Provider your scooter can be picked up & dropped off from Disney Resort Bell Boys. In addition, if your scooter breaks down these companies are permitted to enter the parks. The current 4 featured providers are:
- Best Price Scooters and Strollers: (866) 866-3434
- Apple Scooter: (800) 701-1971
- ScooterBug: (800) 726-8284
- Buena Vista Scooter Rentals: (866) 484-4797
You are also welcome to bring your own ECV or wheelchair into the park. All forms of Disney World Transport are able to transport ECVs plus cast members are experienced at getting them on & off transports.
Walt Disney World Tips & Hints
Planning your visit to Walt Disney World is an essential activity. The resort is massive and planning your trip can initially feel overwhelming for the first-time visitor. Ensuring you don’t miss those must-do attractions can feel an impossible task. Plus have you considered whether you want to visit Universal Orlando, SeaWorld or the other fantastic attractions available in Orlando?
However, visiting Orlando is not as difficult as it first seems. 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. Why not get the whole family involved in the planning?
Planning your Disney Vacation is great fun and having access to our Ultimate Collection of Walt Disney World Tips will help the process. We will make sure you know all the Top Tips, Hints & Mistakes to Avoid to have a great vacation.
However, if you want our very best Walt Disney World Tips the following guides might be worth an early visit.
If everything about a Walt Disney World Vacation just seems too overwhelming our Walt Disney World Survival Guide might just help. The guide is full of all the essential tips & hints to start your planning and make sure you survive in the “Happiest Place on Earth”.
There are hundreds of tips in our Ultimate Collection of Walt Disney World Tips but these 5 Walt Disney World Tips & Hints are our very best. If you read nothing else, you must read this!
Our Guide to Walt Disney World Mistakes is the most popular page on Modern Life is Good. There is a good reason for its popularity, mistakes can potentially ruin your vacation. Both first-time visitors and “experienced Mouseketeers” all regularly make mistakes with planning a vacation. However, it is unlikely any mistake will ruin your vacation but it will cut your fun. Read our guide to find out about the most common pitfalls.
Getting around Disney World is easy. Walt Disney World has its own fantastic internal travel network. Complimentary transportation is available from all resorts 45 minutes before Disney Theme Park opening time up to one hour after Disney Theme Park closing time. Additionally, buses run until 2:00 a.m. from the Disney Springs Area.
There are 3 main forms of complimentary transportation at Walt Disney World buses, monorail & ferries. 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 learn more read our Guide to Walt Disney World Transport.
Driving at Walt Disney World
Many guests choose to hire a car when in Orlando. If you are staying in a villa this is your only realistic option. Orlando roads are good and well signposted. The quality of roads extends when you are in Walt Disney World which has an extensive well-maintained road network.
If you are driving you will have to pay to park. Complimentary parking is no longer free for Disney Resort Guests who now have to pay a daily rate but this does include theme park parking.
Standard Overnight Parking charges per Resort Category in May 2018 were:
- Value Resorts: $13 per night
- Moderate Resorts: $19 per night
- Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts: $24 per night
Disney Vacation Club members are excluded from parking charges.
Guests not staying in a Disney Resort pay one fee for a parking pass good all day at all 4 theme parks. Current parking rates are:
- Preferred parking: car or motorcycle – $45 per day
- Standard parking: car or motorcycle – $22 per day
- Oversized Vehicle Parking: Shuttle, Limo, Camper Trailer, RV, Bus or Tractor Trailer – $27 per day
Registered Guests of Disney Resort Hotels, select Annual Passholders, Premium Passholders and Disney Premier Passport holders enjoy complimentary standard self-parking at Disney theme parks.
In my opinion, you don’t need a car when visiting Walt Disney World. On our last few trips to Orlando, we have managed without a car just fine. Orlando without a car is not practical in all situations e.g. if you are staying in a local villa or a local hotel without shuttle transportation. However; if you are staying at a Disney World Resort or a nearby hotel which provides park shuttles you will be fine.
We have created a guide to navigating Walt Disney World Without a Car. The guide also includes information on how to get to Universal Orlando, other Orlando attractions and getting to your resort from the airport. We have also provided information on Uber, Lyft & the new Minnie Van Service.
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(you can do this in advance and if you already have your MagicBand just tap the post on arrival) and you will then be transported; usually after a short wait; to your Disney Resort. This will be a shared ride so the might be drop-offs at other hotels first.
Between 5:00 am and 10:00 pm domestic arrivals & those International arrivals who check luggage in with Disney Staff can have their luggage directly delivered to their hotel room. Alternatively; you can transfer your own luggage with you on the Magical Express.
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. Disney’s Magical Express really is a good service even if it is not quite “magical”.
If you are arriving at Orlando Sanford airport things are not so easy. There is no Magical Express at Sanford. Your options are taxi or shuttle but they are not cheap. Expect to pay up to $150 for a taxi.
Walt Disney World serves a lot of food, an awful lot of food. There are over 6,000 food items available at more than 475 different locations. Amazingly Walt Disney World would be the 45th largest food chain in the world if it became a food service company. The number of dining choices can be bewildering. From a simple burger bar to some of the highest rated restaurants in the United States there is something for everyone.
We have created a Guide to Walt Disney World Dining for Beginners which is full of helpful information to plan your vacation. Our guide includes information on the type of restaurants available, how to get those key dining reservations & plenty of hints & tips.
Earlier in this guide, we discussed Disney’s Advanced Dining Reservations. These are restaurant reservations made in advance at the majority of Disney Table Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World. Disney’s restaurants do fill up and standby lines, if they exist, can be long.
You can find out more in our Guide to Advanced Dining Reservations.
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 only available to guests staying in a Disney Resort. It is also open to Disney Vacation Club members.
On occasions, Disney offers free dining packages to guests as part of their reservation.
Our Guide to the Disney Dining Plan has further information including the 2018 changes which for the first time includes alcohol.
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 to proving a safe and enjoyable dining experience.
Our guide to visiting Walt Disney World with Food Allergies & Intolerances contains helpful information.
Character Meals are located throughout Walt Disney World and 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 & offer the opportunity to meet characters without lengthy waits. Our guide to Walt Disney World Character Meals provides further information.
Love them or hate them, if you have young children & perhaps if you don’t, you are going to spend a lot of your time at Disney World seeking the Famous Disney Characters.
Character meets in Walt Disney World are now very organised affairs. Today it is unusual to find Characters just wandering around a park. Fastpass Plus & Character Meals can significantly cut the amount of time waiting to see your favourite Characters but waiting in line on occasions is unavoidable. On occasions, these lines can be very long especially to meet the most popular characters.
Many of the biggest Character meets can now be reserved in advance using Fastpass. This can significantly cut your waiting time although you will need to sacrifice a ride Fastpass.
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. However, don’t expect to find all your idols as many characters rarely make appearances.
Many Characters can be met or seen away from the regular meet and greets which can save you time on your vacation. Our Guide on How to find Characters at Walt Disney World will help you maximize your vacation time and still meet your favourites.
Special Events & Festivities During 2018 & Beyond
Throughout 2018 there will be regular Special Events & Festivities at Walt Disney World. These special events help make a Disney Vacation extra special. We think 2018 is the best year to visit Walt Disney World Ever. Make sure you read our reasons why 2018 is going to be an unforgettable year.
Events are announced throughout the year and new events are already being announced for 2019. This helpful calendar has information on all the events announced to date.
Annual Festivals & Parties
4 festivals currently return annually to Epcot:
- Festival of the Arts.
- International Flower and Garden Festival.
- International Food and Wine Festival.
- Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
Over in the Magic Kingdom, there are 2 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.
Fall & Winter 2018
Whilst these used to be some of the quietest periods at Walt Disney World, an increasing quantity of festivals and parties now brings big crowds. Here are some of the highlights you can expect during fall and winter 2018 at Walt Disney World:
- The 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival runs until November 12. Expect big crowds especially at weekends for this incredibly popular annual festival. The folks at The Disney Food Blog have reviewed the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival and their site is worth checking out if you are visiting this year.
- Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party bizarrely started on the 17th of August this year. Is it just me but does mid-August seem a little early to be celebrating Halloween? There are a host of new activities at this years party. Our September Walt Disney World News has further information.
- The Holiday Season will bring a collection of special event and festivities throughout Walt Disney World. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at The Magic Kingdom & Epcot International Festival of the Holidays will make their annual return. There will even be holiday songs on Alien’s Swirling Saucers! Click the link to find out more details on this year’s Holiday Season at Walt Disney World.
- Mickey Mouse is 90 on the 18th November ad Disney parks around the world will be celebrating the special event. The day will be marked with commemorative merchandise, photo locations and more. However, the celebrations do not last just one day and through into 2019 Disney parks will be celebrating the “World’s Biggest Mouse Party“.
Walt Disney World News & Rumours
Walt Disney World is constantly changing and every month there are announcements of new developments or rumours of changes at Walt Disney World. At Modern Life is Good we try and keep you up to date with all the latest news from Walt Disney World.
Visit our Walt Disney World News Section for all the latest information.
We will be further expanding our Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners in coming months. 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.
We love hearing from our guests and will reply to any comments or suggestions you make.
You may find Our Top Walt Disney World Planning Tips article helpful as a next stop.
Check out our YouTube channel for videos from Walt Disney World.
Plus are you planning to Visit Universal Orlando? Here are our Top Tips.
Happy vacation planning!