HOW TO PREPARE FOR FLORIDA VACATION:
§ BOOKING A FLIGHT:
Best price direct from https://www.jetblue.com/ if you prefer them.
§ RENTING A CAR OR GETTING A LOCAL TRANSPORTATION:
§ https://www.costcotravel.com/ - BEST CAR RENTAL RATES
§ Join UBER or estimate your FARE
§ Join LYFT or estimate your FARE
§ MEARS TRANSPORTATION CODE: WEB10 - WILL SAVE YOU 10%
To make a parking reservation: https://www.airportparkingreservations.com/
§ BOOKING A HOTEL:
Book a super cheap Disney resort as a mystery hotel through Hotwire
D23 Gold Members can save 20 percent off rooms and receive complimentary self parking.
Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Click here to reserve a discounted room.
Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace – Click here to reserve a discounted room.
§ PLANING ON WHAT TO VISIT:
§ GETTING TICKETS:
Use Disney ticket calendar .
§ Trusted brokers for Disney World include:
Trusted brokers for Disneyland include:
Disney World Tips for Trip Planning
When celebrating a special occasion be sure to stop by guest services or your resort’s front desk and get a corresponding button to wear. Wear this button around the parks and you may receive some very special treatment.
Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort and get FREE transportation to and from the airport! Disney’s Magical Express is a wonderful Disney Resort perk, which you should factor into your hotel decision-making process.
Don’t want to splurge for Memory Maker? You should still stop at the photographers stationed throughout the park because they will take a picture with your personal camera as well a Photo pass version.
Want to avoid having to pay airline’s checked baggage fees or for overweight luggage? Disney Resorts will accept packages on your behalf up to two weeks prior to your arrival at the resort. There is a fee of $5.00 per package.
When staying on property, be sure to check out when each park’s Extra Magic Hours are. Extra Magic Hours are when a Disney park stays open either two hours later or opens one hour early. This is only available to guests staying on Disney property. For more information check out Are Extra Magic Hours at Disney World Worth Your Time?
Looking for activities to do while taking a day off from the parks? Head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and check out their reserve of animals. They have dozens of viewing areas scattered throughout the resort. Check out our full review, Everything you need to Know about Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Is there a crazy long line for the monorail at the Ticket and Transportation Center? Then take the resort line, the third stop is the Magic Kingdom. The same holds for exiting the park. The Ticket and Transportation Center is the resort line’s second stop.
Need to take a taxi somewhere? Try Uber or Lyft, they are significantly cheaper than taking a taxi.
Have a young child you are bringing with you on your vacation? You can leave your car seat at home unless you are renting a car.
Disney opens up their dining reservations 180 days in advance. Be sure to call 180 days out if there is any place you must eat because reservations do fill up fast at the popular dining locations. Not sure where to eat during your stay? Then check out our article on Top 10 Advanced Dining Reservations to Make.
If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member you have access to a secret lounge inside the Imagination pavilion at Epcot. Inside you have access to charging stations, printers and lots of comfy seating.
Free wi-fi is available through all of the Walt Disney World Resorts as well as their Theme and Water Parks.
Download the My Disney Experience app to book dining reservations and fastpasses. Using this app you can also change and cancel these reservations. While you’re at it, you should also check out the best budget cellphone plan with unlimited internet and plan start as $5.
If you’re a Disney resort guest be sure to book your fastpasses 60 days in advance of your arrival. This is 30 days before everyone else can book their Fastpasses.
Miss out on a Fastpass+ you really wanted to get? Check My Disney Experience at 7 a.m. the day of, because Disney releases a small amount of day of Fastpasses for guests who decided to come last-minute.
Need to quench your thirst? Club Cool inside of Epcot offers a free sampling of various Coca-Cola flavors from around the world. Watch out for Beverly, it has a unique taste, to say the least. Thinking about the various freebies? We’ve got an article!
Want to save time waiting for Test Track? If you and your family don’t mind getting split up, take the single rider line. We find it takes a fraction of the regular line’s posted wait.
Want to avoid the craziness of watching the fireworks from in front of the castle in the Magic Kingdom? The next best spot is from inside New Fantasyland by Beast’s Castle.
Have a food allergy? Disney dining locations go above and beyond to accommodate whatever your food restrictions may be. If you want to read more on Disney with food allergies check out our friends at Dairy Free & Gluten Free WDW.
Don’t have a big appetite or looking to save some money on food? Adults are always allowed to order off the kid’s menu.
Chances are it will rain at least once during your trip to Walt Disney World. Ponchos are going for around $10, yikes!?! Instead of getting stuck buying them at the resort grab some in advance at or local dollar store or Amazon.com
When you are on the Disney Dining Plan you can order a large soda instead of a regular at no additional charge.
Hidden Mickey’s are real! Add a game element to your vacation and see who can find the most.
Open up a Disney Chase Visa and get a free exclusive photo experience at Epcot. Visit their location next to Journey into your Imagination with Figment, between 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. to receive your special photo opportunity.
If you are a Disney Chase Visa card member there is also a special Star Wars photo opportunity inside Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Save money by buying pin packs off of Amazon or eBay for about a $1 a pin. This compares to the $10-$18 you will find inside the theme parks.
Just about all of the exclusive entertainment during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party you can enjoy for free with admission the week of Christmas.
Did you know there is a working Barber shop inside the Magic Kingdom on Main Street? They offer special packages for a baby’s first haircut as well as other services.
When staying at a Disney World Resort you can have your packages sent back to the hotel FREE of charge.
You can request a free wake up call from a Disney character in the morning. I think this is a much better alternative to the normal alarm clock.
Dole Whip is the quintessential Disney treat. It’s pineapple soft serve ice cream and it has become an iconic feature of the Disney fandom.
Enjoy a free campfire sing along with Chip and Dale over at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. You can even purchase a small kit to make your own s’mores over the campfire.
The free dining plan isn’t always worth it. This is because they give it to you with no discount on your room. Rooms often go on sale for up to 30% off, be sure to compare the savings before booking.
Book your vacation with a travel agent and they will watch the sales for you. If the price of your room drops at all they will re-book for your and you won’t have to do a thing except save some money.
The price of soda and bottled water has climbed quite high. Save some money and ask for cups of water at a quick service location, Starbucks location, or bring your own water bottle which you can refill at various water fountains throughout the parks.
Split meals and save some money! My husband and I find that some of the quick service meal portions are giant, like the fajitas at Pecos Bill. Split a meal and then you can each get your own snacks later if you get hungry before dinner. You will save a ton!
Disney offers Rider Swap to parents with young children. You will have to ride the attraction alone but it allows both mom and dad a chance to ride some coasters!
After you have used up your first three fast passes you can book more! They only allow one more at a time after that and the picking is usually slim since it’s typically later in the day when you finish them but it’s better that none.
If there are two parades the second parade viewing will always be less crowded. A tip if you are there in the rainy season. Be sure to check the weather because Disney will cancel their parades due to rain. Don’t be like us and skip the first one only to have the second one canceled due to a storm.
You cannot buy gum anywhere on Disney property, plan accordingly if this a must have for you.
If you want to catch the Magic Kingdom Welcome show be sure to arrive at the at least 15 minutes before park open. The show now happens on the stage in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
Want to create a magical moment for your family? Be first in line when the Flame Tree Barbeque when it opens. You get to help the cast members open the restaurant for the day. We received a special certificate and a free cookie!
If you wear character ears or backpack and then go visit the corresponding character they will spend extra time and have a little bit of extra fun with you!
Disney caramel candy apples are somewhat legendary. Did you know if you visit Goofy’s kitchen in Disney Springs you can create your own custom one?
If you would like food and snacks for your hotel room order from Garden Grocer or Prime Pantry and you will save tons compared to buying from Disney’s mini-marts.
If you’re a chicken like I am you can still experience attractions like Tower of Terror. Just join the line as usual and experience the queue just before you enter the ride, say you want to use the chicken exit and they will let you out without plunging 13 stories.
Disney offers backstage and tours for an additional fee. Take the Keys to the Kingdom tour if you want to walk the utilidor underneath the Magic Kingdom.
If you are Disney Vacation Club member be sure to head over to the Contemporary’s Bay Lake Tower for the Top of the World Lounge. It’s one of the best places to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Want to avoid heavy crowds but still see the Magic Kingdom fireworks? Opt to watch them at the Polynesian instead. This is also a great idea if you don’t have a park ticket.
Kids often find World Showcase in Epcot boring but great for adults. So, Disney offers Kidcot Fun Stops with crafts for the kids. If that is your kid’s thing, there is also an Agent P (https://agentpwsa.com) challenge that takes you through all the countries in Epcot.
Want to enter the parks before everyone else? Book an extra early character breakfast inside the park to enter early.
Disney Springs is not something to overlook on your vacation. With the recent renovations, it is back bigger and better than ever. Disney Springs is packed with shops like the Lego Store and features unique experiences like amphicars and Characters in Flight.
Looking for an inexpensive keepsake to bring back home with you? You can find pressed penny kiosks throughout each of the parks all with different Disney designs you can press your pennies with.
There is a grace period for your Fastpasses. You can arrive up to 5 minutes early and 15 minutes late and you will still be able to enter the attraction with no issues.
Keep in mind you can get into line for an attraction all the way until a park closes. We also find that this is a way to wait in a shorter line for the really popular attractions.
We have noticed that Disney will inflate their wait times at popular attractions close to park close. So if you are dying to ride a major attraction again but don’t want a long wait we recommend going right before park close.
If you are traveling with young children, head over to the dollar store and pick up some cheap toys to surprise them with each morning. Gives some entertainment and excitement to the trip and cuts back on the need to buy the expensive in park souvenirs.
When watching Illuminations keep the direction of the wind in mind. Pick spot downwind and you will be in a giant cloud of smoke. Use the flag atop the United States pavilion as a guide for the wind direction.
Don’t want to go overboard on buying souvenirs while on your trip? Load up a set amount on a gift card ahead of time to restrict yourself from overspending. Want to save money? Get your gift card at Target and use your Target RedCard to save 5%!
If you are a die-hard Pepsi drinker be warned that the entire Disney resort is Coca-Cola products only. If you must have your Pepsi be sure to pick some up on your way in or have it delivered to your resort.
Decide to stay longer or want to upgrade your ticket to an annual pass? No problem! Just visit a ticket counter and they can upgrade your ticket, be sure to do it before you use up the last day of your ticket, though.
Did you know characters will sign just about anything? Make your own autograph book at home or have them sign a button, pillowcase, shirt...
Ever buy something at the park just to have it break before you left? No worries, Disney will replace it free of charge. This also goes for spilling food, ice cream, and treats before you can eat them.
All Disney hotel rooms have a mini fridge in them. So if you want to save money we recommend bringing food for you to eat breakfast in your room each morning.
Bring a power strip with you so you have plenty of space to plug-in all those electronics. We have found that outlets are a scarce commodity in Disney hotel rooms.
If you want to save some money at a table service location go at lunchtime when the prices are a bit cheaper and you can often find similar menu items.
You will be able to ride the most rides if you rope drop a park. This means you show up before park open and get to be one the first in the parks for the day. We normally can do double the attractions in an hour versus later in the day.
If you can sneak up to the Orlando Premium Outlets just outside the Disney Resort and head to the Character Warehouse. There they have all deeply discount Disney World merchandise we even often times from Disney Cruise line merchandise as well.
If you have a large family you aren’t restricted to just the option of booking two adjoining rooms. Disney now offers family suites at select hotels.
Bring your swimsuits even if you are traveling in the winter. Disney keeps their pools toasty warm year round.
If you are staying at the Art of Animation hotel be sure to drive underwater in the pool. Underwater you can hear some special sounds from familiar friends.
Have a conversation with Mickey over at the Town Square Theater in the front of the Magic Kingdom. This is the only place on property where Mickey isn’t so shy and will share a conversation with you and the rest of your family.
The best time to visit Kilimanjaro Safari is at sunset. We have found this is when the animals are the most active. They are up and roaming and ready for their dinner. Once, we even got to hear the lions roar!
When booking your sit down meals, do keep in mind parade and firework times. You won’t want to miss fireworks on your trip just because you were finishing dinner.
Don’t try to power through a whole day at Disney, especially if traveling with kids. Take a break after lunch from around 1-3 p.m. this is the typically the hottest and most crowded time of the day. We like to go back to the hotel and take a nap or go for a swim in the pool.
If you are a chocolate chip muffin connoisseur like myself be sure to head over to the Boardwalk Bakery for some of the best muffins you have ever feasted on. This was a childhood favorite for me.
If you like to drink a lot of coffee or soda consider getting a length of stay refillable mug. They are a bit pricey around $18 so calculate if you can make it pay off during your visit. Best of all you get to keep the cup as a souvenir.
When you are ordering at quick service location the cashiers take orders from both sides of the podium. People tend to just line up on one side and not use both, it’s a great way to get your food a little faster.
Tonga Toast is a must eat Disney treat. It’s banana stuffed french toast and it’s served over at Kona Cafe inside the Polynesian. It’s a treat we always try to squeeze in when we are visiting the resort.
If a little princess is joining you on your trip be sure to pick up their attire prior to your trip and save some cash. Disney Store frequently puts their costumes on sale.
Drinking your way around the world at Epcot? Be sure to stop into La Cava del Tequila for an Avocado Margarita, it’s a must get every trip!
Even after the parks close the main stores will continue to stay open at least an hour after park close. So, save your shopping until the end of the day and get in the rides while you can.
I consider Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party Disney’s best event of the year. If you are going during the Halloween season I recommend skipping a park day in favor of attending the event in the evening. We go every year and the event has yet to disappoint.
If you need a stroller during your trip we recommend renting one from an offsite vendor or ordering an inexpensive on off Amazon and having it shipped. The miles you walk at Disney puts a lot of wear and tear on your strollers and it’s best to leave your nice one at home.
You can store your luggage with Bell Service at your hotel all day if you arrived at your resort early and your room isn’t ready or if you are checking out but your flight isn’t until the evening. This gives you time to enjoy the parks a bit longer and know your belongings are safe.
Looking to meet a specific character you can find all the character locations and times in My Disney Experience or the time’s guide. If all else fails you can always ask a cast member and they will point you in the right direction. Check out our guide to Character Meet and Greets
Weather-wise the best time to visit Walt Disney World is the late fall through early spring.
Don’t forget about Disney’s Water parks. They are a fantastic way to spend a day and have more than enough entertainment. Typhoon Lagoon features a water coaster and Blizzard Beach will send you plummeting down a 120-foot drop on Summit Plummet.
Hang around 30 minutes after park close at the Magic Kingdom and experience what is dubbed as Disney’s Kiss Goodnight.
If it’s rainy and they cancel the daytime parade at the Magic Kingdom they will send out the Rainy Day Cavalcade. The conditions can’t be too extreme though or they won’t safely be able to let the characters come out and say hi.
The Electric Water pageant makes its way around the Seven Seas Lagoon in front of the Magic Kingdom. It isn’t heavily advertised and not that many people know about it but it is a true treat to watch.
Not sure what to tip housekeeping at your resort? The general rule of thumb is $2-$3 a night. For more on tipping read Cash Needed for Tipping at Disney World.
Wondering what special offers might be happening at Disney? You can always check out their special offer by visiting this page.
Don’t expect to walk up to a sit-down restaurant and be able to get a table. Especially for larger parties you almost always need a reservation to eat at a sit-down restaurant.
Head over to Star Wars Launch Bay at Hollywood studios and look out for the Jawas. If you’re a Star Wars fan you may already know that Jawas are scavengers they will trade with you. They do NOT accept money but will trade pins, maps, and other trinkets you may have on you. You never know what you will receive back but we have gotten items like pins and build your own droid parts back.
There is a hidden Mickey that can only be seen one day out of the year. It is located inside of the queue of Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. Mickey’s Birthday November 18th at noon is when you will be able to spot it, happy hunting if your trip falls during this day!
Look closely at the trees inside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you may just spot DiVine. This a walking vine that hides among the trees along the walkway between Asia and Africa and area of Oasis (Ask cast member if she is traveling today). She makes a wonderful photo opportunity as well!
It is possible to have lunch with an Imagineer (the people who design and build Disney rides)! It’s really hard to get into but if you call early enough you may just be lucky enough to get a spot.
If you forgot to pack the kitchen sink with you don’t worry you can head over to Beaches and Cream on the Boardwalk and eat out of one! This is one giant sundae crammed packed with ice cream and sugary sweets.
Ever wanted to see Tinkerbell fly? Be sure to wait in front of the castle to spot her in the middle of the firework spectacular at the Magic Kingdom.
Make sure to slow down between running from attraction to attraction to stop and enjoy the street performers inside the theme parks. Two of our favorites the barbershop singers on Main Street U.S.A. and the stars of Hollywood over at Hollywood Studios.
Looking to make it on Frozen Ever After without a Fastpass+? Rope drop Epcot get straight in line before Fastpass+ riders can even start to wait in the shortest line. Fastpass+ really slows this ride down for standby riders. Looking for more tips read our article all about it over here.
Looking to defeat the evil emperor Zurg inside of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and become a Galactic Hero? In the first room, find the left arm of the left robot and hit it for 100,000 points. Then when you see Zurg, aim for the target at the bottom of his spacecraft for another 100,000 points.
Disney World for Grow-ups:
1) Explore the Mountains: Magic Kingdom has a figurative mountain range made up of four thrill rides. All four attractions are the most popular rides in the Magic Kingdom and should be added to your Disney Must-Do List. Due to their popularity, be sure to book FastPasses for any and all of these rides. After scaling Magic Kingdom’s mountains, head over to Animal Kingdom for the largest one, Expedition Everest.
Magic Kingdom Mountain Range
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Big Thunder Mountain
2) Stay Late for the Perfect Castle Picture: After the park officially closes, the Emporium (Main Street’s largest souvenir shop) remains open for about an hour. This gives you a chance to do some shopping with fewer crowds. This also means you can capture Cinderella Castle without as many people in the background.
3) Monorail Bar Crawl: Three Deluxe Resorts surround Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Seven Seas Lagoon. All three resorts are connected to the Magic Kingdom via monorail, which gives non-resort guests a chance to check them out without staying there. This has created a trend called “monorail bar crawl” where guests disembark the monorail at each resort to grab a quick drink from one of the many lounges located at each hotel. This way you can experience each resort without spending too much on a hotel stay.
Best Lounges at Every Monorail Resort
Mizner’s Lounge – The Grand Floridian
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto – Polynesian Village Resort
California Grill or Outer Rim Lounge – The Contemporary Resort
4) Drink Around the World: Noticing a trend here? Each country in Epcot’s World Showcase is represented by different countries and each of those countries features drinks and snacks inspired by the origin and culture. Many guests have challenged themselves to indulge in a cocktail or beer from each place. Some have succeeded and those are the people you see reluctantly dragging themselves onto a Disney bus after park closing. You don’t have to drink alcohol to experience the best beverages at Disney though! There are plenty of unique drinks featured at each pavilion including milkshakes, bubble tea, coffee, and more. Not to mention all the glorious food!
5) Befriend a Manatee: The most overlooked attraction in Epcot is SeaBase, located at the end of The Seas with Nemo & Friends attraction. The marine life exhibit has been around since 1986 when the former attraction, The Living Seas, was built. The large aquarium is tucked away in the back of the building and without boarding Finding Nemo, you’d hardly know it was there. Inside, you’ll find enormous tanks filled with sea life and a small manatee tank where Marine Biologist’s talk about the sea cows and conservation. Once in a while, you’ll see a Biologist hop inside the tanks to conduct research on the animals! This exhibit is a very cool piece of Epcot history and a relaxing way to wind down from the park’s hustle and bustle.
6) Behind the Seeds Tour: Disney offers many tours that will give you a unique look at the parks and the history behind them. One of the most popular and least expensive is Behind the Seeds. This tour takes you backstage of the Living with the Land attraction and the rest of the Land Pavilion. For an hour, you get to experience Disney’s real greenhouses and learn about past, present, and future agriculture. This tour is only $25 per person and a very cool experience!
7) What’s On Tap? The best place to grab small bites and fantastic drinks in Hollywood Studios is the BaseLine Taphouse. This is a fairly new lounge that serves great brews and cocktails on tap! Inside the bar, you’ll find posters, renderings, and other Easter eggs that pay homage to Disney history and trivia. Outside, there is plenty of seating underneath the Edison bulbs and patio umbrellas.
8) Become a Toy: Toy Story Land opened in 2018 and is the most popular area in Hollywood Studios. This title will soon be replaced when Star Wars: Galaxy Edge opens later this year, but for now, Toy Story reigns supreme. Here, you’re shrunk down to the size of a toy to ride the Slinky Dog Dash coaster, take a spin on the Alien Swirling Saucers, and play a 4D game with Woody and friends. The land is filled with elements from Toy Story and some yummy snacks like the housemade Nutella Pop Tart from Woody’s Lunch Box. I suggest getting to this park right when it opens because lines for the attractions get long really fast.
9) Take in a Drive-In Movie: There’s a long-running debate about whether Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre or 50’s Prime Time Cafe is the best-themed restaurant in Hollywood Studios. As far as theming goes, Sci-Fi gets my vote. The restaurant emulates an old drive-in theatre where you eat fried pickles and watch Sci-Fi flicks in the backseat of a Chevy.
50’s Prime Time does strike a nostalgic chord with the mid-century decor, black and white televisions, and homemade classics like fried chicken with mashed potatoes. Although, the best food award would have to go to The Brown Derby with their famous Cobb salad and grapefruit cake. Restaurant options at Hollywood Studios vary greatly, so it all depends on what you’re in the mood for. You can’t go wrong with any of the three restaurants I mentioned above.
10) Take in a Show: Animal Kingdom is home to the best live shows in Disney World. Two live musicals play in designated theatres throughout the day. The first is Finding Nemo: the musical which features original music set to the Pixar movie. The show is complete with enormous puppets, ornate set pieces, and a talented Broadway-level cast. The second show is a rendition of Lion King with live singers, dancers, acrobatics, and audience participation. Both shows are a joy, especially to those who love Disney films.
11) Snack Your Way Through Pandora: Pandora is the newest and most popular land in Animal Kingdom. Much like Toy Story Land, if you want to ride either Flight of Passage or Na’vi River Journey, I highly advise getting to Animal Kingdom at least 30-45 minutes before the park opens. This area has incredible architecture and renderings of the land from Avatar the movie. More importantly, you can find some really delicious and unique snacks here.
Top 3 Snacks in Pandora
Pongu Lumpia made with pineapple and cream cheese – Pongu Pongu
Rum Blossom made with rum, apple and pear limeade, and passion fruit boba – Pongu Pongu
Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse with Passion Fruit curd – Satu’li Canteen
12) Drink in the Atmosphere: Tiffin’s is an upscale restaurant decorated in sketches and photos taken by Animal Kingdom’s Imagineers during their research trips to Africa and India. Attached to Tiffin’s is Nomad Lounge, a first come, first serve lounge with a full menu and fantastic drinks. The outdoor patio is quiet, remote, and wraps around the building with a view of Discovery River and the bridge connecting to Pandora. There are also large fluffy couches where you can lay back with a cocktail and take in the scenery.
If you’re a frequent Disney World guest, you may be looking for something new to do on your next vacation. Or, maybe you’re a first-timer wondering what you should spend your money on in the parks. Whatever your experience is with Disney, try making a loose blueprint of what you want your vacation to look like and don’t fret if you can’t cross everything off your list. This is your time to relax and enjoy your vacation. And always be sure to stop and smell the Disney popcorn!