Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How to Have a Magical Time at Walt Disney World

I recently read a blog that was a list of "rookie mistakes" made by first timers visiting Walt Disney World. Besides being a lazy list stretching to fill itself out (what parent needs to be told that everyone needs to go potty when one has to go?), I don't like when a list of tips is couched in the smug terms of "rookie mistakes". Planning your first trip to Walt Disney World is already intimidating, right? I'd rather tell you how to add value than imply that you're going to make mistakes!

1. Obviously my first tip is to use a travel agent who is a Disney specialist! (That's me!) A great Disney specialist thinks the Disney travel agent training College of Knowledge test is too easy. They can help you book dining, Fast Pass +, special tours, and will have all kinds of extra tips. Most importantly, it shouldn't add any additional cost to your reservation! The travel agent is paid commission by Disney and the prices they see are the same ones you see if you do it yourself. You should DEFINITELY take advantage of this free service if it's your first trip. And even if you are a veteran of WDW, chat with a travel agent anyway! You might learn about something new!

2. Use My Disney Experience! Oh, I love this smart phone app so much that I keep it on my phone home screen even when our next trip isn't for 424 days. *cough* Sometimes I just like to put it up to see how long the line is for Toy Story Midway Mania right now, or if I could get a Be Our Guest reservation tonight. Whether you are using the browser version or the app, you can manage all your dining reservations and check menus, see ride wait times and manage Fast Passes, see character and entertainment schedules, and even see where all the PhotoPass photographers are, and you can do ALL of this in real time because the parks have free wifi. My Disney Experience is essential for making your vacation easier.

3. When it comes to rides, there are two things you should know about. First, FastPass+ (FP+) is Disney's pass for skipping the lines. Unlike Universal's Express Pass or Six Flags Flash Pass, the Disney FP+ is totally free. It's a good idea to get advice on booking FP+ if you don't visit WDW often, so you don't "waste" a FP+ reservation on a ride that is typically walk-on (5 min or less wait). Second, WDW has this cool feature called Rider Switch that will let both parents ride a ride a ride that their kids cannot (or will not) ride without having to stand in line twice. Click the link for detailed instructions on how to use Rider Switch.

4. Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort! I cannot stress this enough. So many people I talk to balk at the price of WDW lodging because it seems much more expensive than, say, a Holiday Inn. Here are just some of the things you get when you stay at a WDW resort: Magical Express picks you up at the airport AND takes your bags straight from the airplane to your room. No waiting at the baggage carousel! Extra Magic Hours get you an extra hour at the parks in the morning and two extra hours in the evenings. Resort transportation gets you anywhere you want to go so you don't need your car and don't have to pay parking fees at the parks. This is especially great if you decide to Drink Around the World at Epcot. You can have your park purchases delivered straight to your room, so you don't have to carry them around. You can charge to your room with Magic Bands. AND you get early access to dining reservations, which is a big deal if you are dying to eat at Beast's Castle. I could go on and on. I stayed off-property the last time we were in Orlando and I'll never do it again.

5. Splurge on something special. It's hard to know the value of an experience you haven't seen yet, so you will just have to take my word for it. Here are some suggestions that will be the highlight of your magical vacation: Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage, Keys to the Kingdom tour, Fantasmic Dining Package, Wishes or Illuminations Dessert Party, Wayama Safari (adults only).

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