Wish Upon a Star
Booking a trip to Walt Disney World can seem a little daunting – from picking a resort to working out how to plan your days. With a couple of visits to WDW under my belt (and 5 Disney trips in total) I’ve accumulated a little bit of knowledge along the way. I might not have been quite as many times as Disney veterans with season passes, but I’m pretty sure my passion for planning my trips there will rival the most hard-core fan.
I’ve gathered together as many tips and tricks as possible in this post so you’ll know what to expect when you book a Disney holiday! Make sure to check out my on spending time at Disney as an adult for tips on resorts, shopping, the best rides for adults and nightlife.
Something you might not quite understand until you arrive at WDW is just how big it is. I could tell you that it’s twice the size of Manhattan and I’m not sure you’d believe me until you get there. If you haven’t hired a car, getting around WDW is a relatively easy affair. At each Disney hotel you’ll find buses that will transport you around the resort, and if you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel in the Magic Kingdom area, there is the option of the Monorail to make transportation even easier. There is even the option of boat rides from certain hotels to parks and back. So despite its size, transport isn’t something you have to worry about, particularly because all Disney transportation is complimentary!
But you WILL do a lot of walking. We were almost averaging 20,000 steps each day, which is around 10 miles. So make sure to pack your walking shoes!
My Disney Experience
is every Disney guest’s best friend. Through the site and App you are able to plan your itineraries for each day, book restaurants, view your resort and ticket reservations, book FastPass+ for rides (more on that soon!) and download PhotoPass images.
Downloading the App is a must – not only can you access everything mentioned above, but also see maps and directions around the parks, park hours and wait times for all rides. You’ll totally rely on it, so make sure you get it before you go!
Whilst on most holidays I’m happy to go with the flow and see where the day takes me, you’ll get the most out of a WDW holiday if you plan your days in advance. On our trip, we had allocated a day at each of the four theme parks, and two days to relax, shop, swim at the waterparks, and head back to anything we think we might have missed.
Our days at the parks were determined by which was offering , meaning we’d have as much time in the park as possible. Once you’ve worked out where you’ll be on each day of your trip, it’s time to get booking FastPasses!
When you’re staying at a Disney resort, you are able to 60 days before your trip. If you’re at a non-Disney hotel, you’ll be able to make your reservations 30 days in advance. A FastPass+ reservation allows you to gain access to a much, much shorter queue for some of Disney’s most popular rides during your chosen time slot.
You are only able to book up to three FastPass+ reservations per guest each day, so it’s important to pick rides that usually have the longest wait times. I suggest making those reservations for the first half of the day, as after your three have been used up, you are able to book more through the App or at kiosks around the parks. Availability for the most popular rides does go very quickly, but it can be done on the same day. For example, once Alisha and I had used our three FastPass+ reservations at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Star Tours and Toy Story Midway Mania, we were able to book to go on the Rock’n’Roller Coaster later in the evening, which meant we didn’t need to queue up for the 90 minutes in the Standby queue.
Rides often with the biggest queues: Space Mountain, Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Test Track, Soarin’, Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock’n’Roller Coaster, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain and Kilimanjaro Safaris.
I can’t stress how important it is to make reservations at restaurants whilst visiting WDW! On our first trip there last year we naively thought that we’d be able to walk in wherever we fancied and be able to get a table – this led to lots of disappointment and long waits, as all table service and buffet restaurants at Disney use the reservation system, and with tens of thousands of people in the parks each day, you’ll bet that they get booked up in advance.
Advance Dining Reservations can be made up to 180 days beforehand on . Whilst that might seem a little extreme, people WILL book the most popular restaurants at the best times that far ahead. I booked our dining reservations two weeks before we were flying out, but by then I had already missed the opportunity for tables at some of the restaurants I wanted to visit, even at early or late mealtimes.
Restaurants that often book up quickly: Be Our Guest, Le Cellier, Ohana, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickeys.
Another feature that I hadn’t made the most of until this trip is the Disney PhotoPass service. All throughout the resort there are Disney PhotoPass photographers who will take your picture whether it be with your favourite characters or at an iconic location and photos and videos are even captured on rides. By tapping your MagicBand on the Mickey Head symbol (that the PhotoPass photographers have or the ones by photo screens) your photos will link to your My Disney Experience account where you’ll be able to view them all.
We were kindly given for this trip which gives you unlimited downloads of all your PhotoPass pictures! This is great for people that want to put up snaps online straight away or are spending a lot of time in the parks.
Tip: With every UK & Ireland Adult Ultimate Ticket (7 day, 14 day or 21 day), Memory Maker is included with your ticket (when it’s usually $169 at the gate!).
When you start planning your trip through My Disney Experience, you’ll be able to order your . “What is a MagicBand?”, I hear you cry! Wonderful, that’s what it is! Your MagicBand has multiple uses, and stores both your park tickets and FastPass+ reservations, so you can use your MagicBand for entry to the parks and attractions. It can also be linked to a credit card, so can be used to spend money in all Disney restaurants and shops.
It acts like a contactless card, making bringing your purse out obsolete. Of course, it’s something you have to go careful with as tapping it at cash registers can get rather addictive, but that’s something you can check daily if you wish at the front desk of your resort, who will happily print out summaries of your spending for you. You can also set a limit on your MagicBand to ensure you don’t spend more than you have!
Something I was lucky enough to experience for the first time during this trip was what it’s like to be a VIP at Disney, complete with our own tour guide for the day. Previously I had no idea that you were able to book , but there is a whole host of extras that you can get your hands on if you’re willing to part with a bit of extra cash.
Our VIP Tour Guide Susan picked us up from the front of our resort, and we made our way in her wonderfully air-conditioned car to a back entrance of Magic Kingdom – this is how the real famous people do Disney! Once inside, Susan showered us with fun facts about the park and was able to take us on any ride in the FastPass+ queues as many times as we wanted. This meant we could go on every single ride in the park before lunchtime if we wanted to! Whilst we didn’t have girls chasing us around the park like some of Susan’s previous clients (*cough* members of One Direction!) we still felt like stars.
What to Wear
As I mentioned in my , adults aren’t allowed to dress up as their favourite characters at Disney, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your outfit. If you hadn’t guessed already, I love theming my outfits depending on which park I’m visiting, but some Disney fans take it a step further with something called Disneybounding. Disneybounding is when you pick a character to portray and rather than wearing a costume, you channel their look through colours and accessories – you’ll see exactly what I mean if you scroll through this !
to wear it…
And where to take a picture of your Disney-inspired outfit? Well, the purple wall of course! The purple wall has become the place to shoot Instagram pictures at Magic Kingdom. You’ll find it near the entrance of Tomorrowland – it’s easy to spot! It’s so perfect for shooting #ootds that it even has its own . Impressive, eh?
Another photo you’ll probably want to take whilst at WDW is the iconic castle shot. Whilst you can have one of the Disney PhotoPass Photographers shoot it for you in the official spot, but if you want to be sure you don’t get anybody else in the background, head a little closer to the castle and get your photographer to crouch on the ground – that way you’ll get your castle shot, sans people in brightly coloured t-shirts milling in the background.
All of the details…
I think I’ve mentioned my love for Disney’s incredible details in almost every post from this trip. But my knowledge of WDW trivia just scratches the surface! Whilst I can reel off a few basic facts (for example, that Main St. was designed using forced perspective to make it look longer and the castle look bigger as you enter) but there are entire websites dedicated to chronicling the most minute but fascinating details. Check out this list of or this page of if you want to delve in – but be warned – it’s addictive!
One way that Disney has fun with their guests through their love of detail is by placing Hidden Mickey’s all around the park. If you’ve got a keen eye you’ll be able to spot the famous shape of Mickey’s head with ears in hundreds of places around WDW, whether it’s a design on a carpet, a small detail on a picture frame or even a shadow on a ride. Once again, there are entire sites dedicated to cataloguing all of the Hidden Mickeys. Have a look through and prepare to be amazed at just how many there are.