Updated for 2016!
Planning a vacation at Walt Disney World is fast becoming a very complicated ordeal. Between deciding where to stay, choosing restaurants, and now scheduling Fastpass+ rides up to two months in advance, it’s enough to stress out even the most avid planners. Cheapskate Princess teamed up with another great planner, Linda from Great WDW Tips (aka The Disney Tip Curator) to provide you with a list of items that people often forget to tell you about Disney World. It’s hard to remember everything, so we’ll help you out with 10 of our best tips.
1. There is very limited shade.
There is not a lot of shade at Disney World, depending on what park or resort you walk around. The walkways through the theme parks alone are almost totally exposed to the sun.
The number one reason people wind up seeking medical treatment at the parks is reportedly sunburn. Thus, you need sunscreen. Bring a bottle that has not expired(did you know they have expiration dates?) apply it often, and put on a hat and sunglasses as a bonus.
2. Go EARLY if you want a prime seat for parades and shows.
Some people, like me, don’t really care if they have a front row seat for parades and shows. Our family watches fireworks from behind Cinderella Castle, arriving literally three minutes before start time. But many groups, because of need or want, start arriving for parades and shows hours before kickoff times, which means prime seating is often long gone before you show up at the last-minute.
Linda recalls first-hand, “I was shocked at how EARLY people lined up for the Main Street Electrical Parade. We arrived two hours ahead of time, and I think my husband and I got the last seat on the curb. I hadn’t planned on that, but because of an injury, I knew we had to sit down for the parade. So he sat and held our place while I went and got us something to eat! “
So if you want a great un-obstructed view (having used a potential viewing Fastpass+ for rollercoaster rides or princess meet & greets) then plan to get there possibly hours before start time. And then ask yourself, if you’re spending $100 plus a day to be in the park, is this really the best use of your time?
3. The parks are almost always busy.
Those fabulously tempting TV commercials show just a few people strolling leisurely through the parks, but the reality is there are people everywhere at Disney now. Ev-re-where. Locals and repeat visitors alike lament how there seems to be no real “down time” in Orlando anymore. Long gone are the days when you walked straight on popular rides without a substantial wait.
Prep the kids and the adults traveling with you that waiting in lines anywhere from ten minutes to well over an hour has become the somewhat expected norm. If you go when the kids are out of school, you will be surrounded by throngs of roller coaster and princess enthusiasts At some point, you WILL be waiting in line, so try to be patient.
4. 180 days is not just a mere suggestion.
You can start making dinner reservations 180 days out from the first day of your vacation. This is a suggestive option, because many people will not plan their trip that far in advance. However a great many people will, and by the time you get your plan together, the times for your preferred dining locations may be taken.
Linda agrees, “My Travel Agent just mentioned that at 180 days out, everything she’s trying to book for clients is already booked in terms of Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs). That’s just crazy for October!”
You can always take a gamble and show up at your restaurant of choice, which has worked for our family many times at some of the less popular restaurants. But for your safest bet, start planning at 200 days and call to make your ADRs at 180 days out.
5. You will walk forever.
The parks and resorts are vast, and you will walk miles and miles each day. This might be one of the biggest surprises people talk about once they got home, was just how much they walked and how tired their bodies were. Ten miles a day and up is not unusual for many people.
You need to do some practice walking several months before you head to Orlando, and this goes for kids as well. You don’t want to be sitting on a bench resting your feet while the fun passes you by.
6. The weather is quite unpredictable.
From pop up thunderstorms to cold spells, Orlando is not always mild and sunny.
Linda experienced just that. “When we were there in December of 2013, I brought all kinds of clothes. Good thing. It went from mildly chilly to summer-like hot and humid. And in May it was warm during the day, but I froze at night! Disney is just all over the place weather-wise and hard to plan. Layer, layer, layer!”
I’ve read horror stories from vacationers who got torrential rains dumped in their shoes as days turned into a soggy week. My kids will never forget a day at the Magic Kingdom that started out in the upper 70s and ended in the lower 40s, as the five of us hugged together for warmth in shorts and t-shirts.
Bring your layers and ponchos, and keep an eye on the weather forecasts. Buying weather supplies on site can be costly.
7. “Go hard & sleep at home” only works so long.
A Disney vacation is expensive, and a great many of you probably don’t make it to Orlando every year. But walking upwards of 10 miles a day, starting before sunrise and barely getting back to your room before the alarm goes off again, takes its toll on both body and mind. And if you’ve ever traveled long hours with small children, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and tantrums begin to wear on your very soul.
It’s wise to build in down time, depending on what your family can handle. A mid-afternoon nap here or even a day off from the parks after every couple of day can make the difference between surviving and thriving on your WDW vacation.
8. You cannot do everything you plan.
The Disney emphasis these days is certainly pre-planning. Pick your dates and your resort, plan your meals, plan your rides, plan-plan-plan and then do more planning. But no matter how much before-thought you do, most of us have a hard time following that plan exactly to the letter. Times have to be altered, wake up calls are frequently bumped up, and that’s all part of vacations.
Disney World is just too big to do and see it all.
Linda concurs, “No matter what you do, you will be far more tired at the end of the day (and your trip) then you’ve ever thought possible. But always allow time for the unexpected fun (or a desperately needed rest period) that can’t be scheduled, even if it means missing out on one of your pre-planned Fastpass+ times.”
9. Disney costs more than you think.
Most families make budgets before a trip, so they don’t arrive home with Post Disney Vacation Syndrome (PDVS), only to be met with a huge Disney Visa bill in the mailbox. Budgets are a fantastic idea, as long as you build in money for impulse buys and snacks.
With sweatshirts priced over $50 and t-shirts reaching above $25, it’s hard to find anything there days priced under $5. Even key chains hover around $10. You will suddenly feel the need to purchase items you certainly don’t need, but Disney-want is a strong urge to fight.
And snacks? There is a snack stand or restaurant every 100 feet, with chilled water bottles calling your sweaty name. If you are not on the free Dining plan, you can wreck a budget on snacks alone in a very short time.
Snacks and souvenirs are a great part of any vacation, so factor in some $$ for those items and other expenses that could pop up, as part of your original budget. We refer to that as “MOUSEcellaneous.”
10. You’ll find Fastpass+ is fabulous or terrible.
Fastpass+, ever-changing in the trial phases, will either be the best thing to happen to your vacation or the source of your biggest complaints. Linda used Fastpass+ in the earlier stages of the system. “There’s a bit of a learning curve. But since it’s the way things are done now, try to just go with the flow, do your best, and don’t let it ruin your vacation. Remember… there are other experiences (than just the rides) that can actually create some of your BEST memories … if you let them.”
We used Fastpass+, finding it both pretty cool and yet frustrating. It was nice to schedule rides months in advance, but when we changed plans last-minute, the only rides left were the dregs of Fastpass+es. Our teens didn’t even want to ride what was left. You’ll probably love it or hate it, and I see merit to both emotions.
These tips sound like just too much common sense to you? Then you’ve probably been to Disney World more time than you can count. Never over-estimate the power of simple common sense on vacation, especially if visiting Disney World is a relatively new vacation destination for your family.
Your trip to Disney World will make memories of a lifetime. Hopefully, as you plan your trip, these 10 Tips of often forgotten information can help take your travels to new levels of fun and family memories.
A big thanks to Disney Tip Curator Linda for her words of wisdom.
If you love Pinterest, you do not want to miss her absolutely amazing Disney Pinterest planning boards. She’s pinning all sorts of tips & tricks to help you have your best trip ever to Walt Disney World. Spend less time in line!
To read another article Linda helped us with, use this link:
And while you are here, check out our most popular article ever…
Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you applying sunscreen in the shade of Main Street’s awnings as you start your Disney day.
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
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