Over my years of going to Walt Disney World starting at the age of 7, I learned quite a bit of tips, lessons and helpful information through watching my mother freak out, my own experience, books, planning for friends/family vacations and listening to people complain. It is not just about what goes on in the parks, either. All the important planning needs to include from the moment you leave your house, airport, car and all the way up until you walk back into your house when you return from your Walt Disney World vacation. For a helpful step-by-step WDW planning guide, click here.
In order to enjoy yourself as much as possible while at Walt Disney World, you have to put a lot of planning into it ahead of time. If you are a planner, great! If not, see if someone in your vacation party is a planner or if someone can help you. Read through the pages on this site. If you cannot find the answers here or need an opinion, join our Facebook group! Just click here.
Here are the most important basics to get you started on what to expect when you go to Walt Disney World.
Walking–There is a lot of walking! There is a lot of walking around your hotel, walking to get to transportation, walking to get to the front gates of the theme parks and then the walking in the theme parks. Start walking before your vacation to make your excessive walking at Walt Disney World easier on yourself. No exaggeration!! We once walked 53 miles in 3 days and we only went to two parks. Walking in advance with the sneakers you will be wearing at the park will allow you to determine if there are places you need extra cushion to avoid blisters. Sneakers and socks are best, of course.
Expensive–Sometimes, I am surprised to hear people complain about it being so expensive. Of course it is expensive! It is the cleanest, largest, Happiest Place On Earth with the best attractions for ALL ages. For some tips on how to save for your trip in advance and some money-saving tips, click here. Maybe pack some snacks in your luggage at home and pack them in a backpack. Having groceries delivered to your hotel is helpful. For more information about grocery delivery, click here. Bottom line is that Disney is a company that has stockholders. They have to make money to exist. You get what you pay for. You want good, clean, quality and fun entertainment for all ages? You got it! Just be prepared to pay top notch for it.
Weather consideration–In the Spring and Summer it gets incredibly hot, which it is actually the humidity that makes it feel worse than it really is. If you encountered the same temperatures at Disneyland in California, it is not as oppressive, because they do not have the humidity like the East has. Afternoon rainstorms are very common, too. It can get downright cold in January. There are rare occurrences when it gets VERY cold or the wind makes it feel colder than it really is. Most of the time, it occurs in January, but I have been there in October, November and December when the temps dropped and the winds kicked in requiring a few layers. During those months, a sweatshirt usually takes care of that and it tends to get warmer as the day goes on. The answer: prepare to wear layers. You can subtract clothing as the day goes on and add the layers back on as it gets cooler. Bring long pants and a coat/sweatshirt. While we tend to get excited weeks in advance and start packing, it is best to check the forecast a couple days before you leave and then pack clothes accordingly.
Guide Map–Study your Guide Map and learn the lay of the land before you arrive. (**FP’s, character meet and greet and shows are temporarily suspended.) This will be beneficial when scheduling fastpasses before your vacation, too. They have plenty of maps as you enter the parks every day. Keep one on you at all times so you can locate a bathroom as soon as someone needs one. The maps also give you park operating hours, restaurant hours, show times along with times and locations of the Disney characters. For more information about FastPasses and tiers, click here.
Maintenance/Refurbishment Schedule–Be sure to view what could be closed when planning your vacation. Click here to see the most recent refurbishment schedule. It may still be warm to you in January in Florida, but they tend to close down the water parks for annual maintenance in January and February. It may be swimming weather to you, but it is not swimming weather to most of the southern population. Our pools have been closed at our resorts in the past due to refurbishment. We could have planned in advance to go to a water park, if we wanted to. Or, it would be a HUGE disappointment if you learned, only once you arrived, that Space Mountain is closed for refurbishment. It is good to know in advance so you can make other arrangements, change dates or just simply know so you and your vacation party will not be disappointed. There are unexpected refurbishments after you book your vacation. Be sure to check back for refurbishments even after you book so you can make changes, if needed. Yes, people do change their vacation dates if their favorite attractions will be closed. There is nothing we can do if attractions break down, though. I was just about to step into my seat for Space Mountain when they closed the attraction and sent a few hundred people down the ramp disappointed, but it is what it is. Things happen.
Water–Stay hydrated!! The number one reason guests get fatigued, sick or light-headed in the park is usually because of dehydration. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Walt Disney World has drink carts and drinking fountains everywhere. You can carry a water bottle into the parks with you. Disney does allow you to walk up to every quick service restaurant and ask for a cup of water for free. The kids may say they are fine, but keep a close eye on their water intake and reinforce drinking water. Depending on the temperatures and activity, they will need more water than other normal times.
Lots of People–Just because you chose a time to go to Walt Disney World that is considered to be slow does not mean there are no crowds. It just means there are less sardines in the can. There are no slow times anymore. There are less crowded times. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. There are tons of people everywhere. There is a line for everything. There are only a handful of times we went on an attraction with no wait. That is just because Disney is that good at keeping things moving. Lines at Disney can be like the grocery store. No one at the checkout counter and then BAM! You have long lines all at once and they do not die down for hours or at all, because there are more and more people coming into the parks and making their rounds at their favorite attractions. If it gets too hectic with too many people, leave that park and go to another park (if you have park hopper). Above all, patience is key. Like I said earlier, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. You will be relieved and pleasantly surprised when you see a wait time of 15-30 minutes at a ride. You will come to realize that those wait times are short!!