I’m always getting asked for my Walt Disney World top tips, so if you’re planning your first visit, or you’re just after some tips and recommendations for your next visit to the Walt Disney World parks, I’m going to start this now and keep adding to it as I have new experiences. If you have any great tips to add, please do let me know and I’ll happily add them (with credit to you of course!).
Planning your trip
Firstly, when’s the best time to visit? Well, any time! But obviously if you hover on the edges of busy periods like the school holidays, it’s likely to be quieter. Great times are January (avoid the first week or so), February (not Valentine’s Day), September (avoid Labor Day and the Food and Wine Festival if you must), the end of October the Halloween decorations are gorgeous) and early December (ditto the Christmas decorations). Avoid all the public holidays and you’ll avoid the crowds, but you’ll also miss some of the special events).
If you’re planning a short visit, say 5 days, avoid the weekends.
FastPass+ is included in the price of your park ticket. Make sure you link your account up to your park admission ticket using the My Disney Experience app, then book your FastPass+ tickets for your favourite attractions. Do it as early as you can (30 days in advance – or 60 days in advance if you have a resort hotel reservation with tickets) – there is limited availability, especially to the more popular attractions. Once you’ve booked your initial three FastPass+ tickets, you can then continue to make – and use – FastPass+ selections, one at a time.
Talking of the app, it’s invaluable when you’re in the parks (WiFi is free and very fast) – you’ll be able to access maps to find your way around as well as check wait times for attractions, find out timings for parades and shows, find character locations, make and change restaurant reservations and even look at menus.
Where to stay
Some people discount staying in a Walt Disney Resort hotel thinking it’s really expensive. In fact, there are SO MANY brilliant reasons to stay at a resort hotel:
- Disney’s Magical Express, the complimentary roundtrip service between Orlando International Airport and select Disney Resort hotels in VERY flashy Disney coaches
- Extra Magic Hours which will entitle you to enter the park an hour earlier or stay later on certain days.
- MagicBands! You’ll get a fab Disney wrist band which acts as your room key, entrance ticket, method of payment (if linked to a credit card), FastPass+ entry and much more! (or if you’re not a guest at a resort hotel or a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, you’ll get a card, but you can purchase a MagicBand in the parks)
- Free bus transportation between parks, Disney Springs and the resort hotels
- Bagging your FastPass+ early (guests staying on property get to reserve FastPass+ tickets 60 days in advance, as opposed to 30 for other guests)
- Wake up calls from characters
- Getting your shopping sent back to your room so you don’t have to carry it around.
- CAMPFIRES! Most of the resort hotels do fantastic evening campfires where you can roast marshmallows – it’s really a magical experience (and I don’t use that word lightly!)
- Movies under the stars – another lovely evening treat – curl up and watch your favourite movies in the balmy evening air – such a lovely experience! Different resorts have them in different locations, but when we stayed at the BoardWalk Inn, we watched our movie on the grassy area nearest the BoardWalk, with the moon twinkling over the water behind us. Le sigh…
If you want recommendations for Walt Disney Resort hotels, check out my top five Walt Disney World Florida hotels.
Inside the parks
If you want to meet your favourite princesses at Princess Fairytale Hall, make sure you book as soon as you can (see above) – the FastPass+ tickets are mega popular and sell out really quickly (don’t forget that Queen Elsa and Princess Anna are now based at the Royal Sommerhus in Arendelle at the Norway Pavilion in Epcot).
Talking of Arendelle, the new Frozen Ever After attraction is now open at the Norway Pavilion too – get those FastPasses early!
I can never bring myself to miss the parades, but if you’ve maybe already seen it, grab the chance to head to the more popular rides – the queue will be shorter.
Grab a free drink (or ten) at Club Cool at Epcot (it’s tucked away in Future World and I’ve never noticed it before) you can go in and try different Coca Cola products from around the world. It’s free and a lovely way to cool down when it’s really hot.
Talking of thirst – stay hydrated – you can always ask at any of the counter service restaurants for a cup of water, they’ll happily oblige.
You don’t get ‘chucked out’ when the parks close, in fact, you can still join a line just before closing and ride an attraction – plus the queue will be smaller.
Disney cast members are lovely. Ask them anything, from directions to tips on rides, restaurant recommendations, picture opportunities… they know loads and are always happy to share. For example: the cast members accompanying characters will sometimes give you a sneaky heads up about their next time/location so you can loiter there and get a head start in the queue, and the official photographers will always happily take a pic with your camera too if you ask nicely (I know you will).
We met this lot, by the way (above) when we visited Animal Kingdom for the first time after it started opening at night. There are all sorts of lovely things to see and do, from the night-time safaris to music and dancing, watching the iconic Tree of Life come alive with music and beautiful animated imagery, and – very soon – the gorgeous new Rivers of Light show.
Head straight to the back of the park and work your way to the front – most people start at the nearest attraction.
If, like Charlie, you’re obsessed with scoring high on Toy Story Midway Mania, check out this fab post.
Disney Springs – the fabulous new venue where you can basically just spend the whole day chilling out, bowling, shopping and eating is open now. Click here for all you need to know about Disney Springs!
Other lovely things to do at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
Fancy some time away from the parks? Well, don’t forget Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks.
Or, spend some time at the incredible ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
Don’t forget to visit the BoardWalk area – it’s just gorgeous. Hire a little two-person Sea Raycer boat – Charlie and I absolutely loved our trip on the water…
Ooh, or hire a bike! It’s great fun and there’s lots of really gorgeous woodland paths and trails to cycle around. We spent the afternoon cycling around Fort Wilderness. Fab fun!
How about a magical evening cruise from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (and also at other locations) to watch the beautiful Wishes firework display from the water. It’s heavenly, and the soundtrack is synced up and played on the boat too. We loved it!
As well as the dining options at Disney Springs (mentioned above), I have SO MANY recommendations for fab places to eat, including, but not limited to:
Casey’s Corner for awesome hot dogs (by the way, if you’re on a budget or not hugely hungry, Casey’s do a footlong hot dog meal for around $10 which is easily big enough to share), Tony’s Town Square on Main Street (oh the zucchini fries) and the utterly stunning Citrico’s at The Grand Floridian Resort.
The Flying Fish on the BoardWalk was always one of my favourite restaurants (I mentioned it in my top ten Disney Dining experiences back in 2013, along with Citricos, and it’s just reopened, looking utterly beautiful. Hopefully I’ll get to update that review very soon!
Talking of the BoardWalk – more fabulous cupcakes and yummy things can be found at the BoardWalk bakery – it’s a lovely place for breakfast too, plus you can walk into Epcot easily from there.
Ooh, and also now on the BoardWalk, a brand new, gorgeous ice cream parlour called Ample Hills Creamery has just opened.
And talking of ice cream AND the BoardWalk, walk along to the gorgeously styled Beaches and Cream Soda Shop by the Yacht and Beach Club guests and challenge your whole family to share The Kitchen Sink, basically an enormous sink-sized bowl of ice cream, hot fudge sauce, bits of cookies, fudge brownies and goodness knows what else.
For a special night out, book dinner at the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, and get a gorgeous view of Wishes Nighttime Spectacular at the Magic Kingdom (the cocktails are ace too).
Talking of the Contemporary Resort, the cupcakes in the Contempo Café are UH-MAZING (I hear rumour of a fabulous new watermelon one). Take the monorail and treat yourself to a gorgeous sweet treat and a sit down.
Also at the Contemporary Resort, The Wave is awesome too.
One of my favourite places to eat is at the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Cobb salads are incredible (and huge) – go in and enjoy the atmosphere – even if you just share a salad!
Lastly, look out for free Disney dining offers. They can be confusing, so here’s gorgeous Disney Dave to explain all about it:
Click here for loads more information and trip reports from Walt Disney World, and as usual, feel free to email me via my contact form if you have any questions at all.