Walt Disney World: Overview Guide
Last Updated January 2018
Hi-Ho! I’m SO excited to roll out my 6-part series all about Walt Disney World. I know I’m not the first blogger to do this, but I couldn’t help myself! Disney is hands-down my favorite place to be, and I’m so excited to share with you why.
Disney World offers up so many things for families and being a self-proclaimed Disney fanatic, I want to share my tips, tricks, and insights that I’ve gathered over the past few years from visiting.
To kick things off, part one is an overview of the basics to help you prepare for your next WDW vacation, or to help convince you that you need to make a trip to the “happiest place on earth.”
I will be sure to update these posts as needed yearly (or as I visit and notice new changes). I want to make sure to bring you information from my personal experiences, so please be patient if you do not see information about a new section of the park or new updates to Disney World. I just might not have experienced them yet!
My family has traveled to Disney World for 10 years now, which isn’t a big deal to some, but we love showing off our tenure! We make it an annual trip every January. We’ve been in every season, but from our years of going, we’ve learned what works best for our schedule to hopefully correspond with a “slow” week there. Traveling in January is actually a really fantastic time to visit, or at least at some point in the winter. The weather is perfect with temps reaching about 70-80 in the day, and dropping to around 60 at night. So, with that in mind, some of my tips might be biased towards the season we regularly visit. I’ve been in every season and celebrated each holiday, multiple times, and by-far winter is the best! If you’re willing to vacation earlier in the year, give it a try!
Each resort area corresponds with a near-by WDW park, or general location. For example- If you want to stay closer to the Magic Kingdom, try out the Contemporary or the Polynesian. However, be ready to dish out $$$ if you choose to stay in one of these. To stay near Epcot, you can choose the Yacht Club or Beach Club- both of which you can walk down the Boardwalk to the back entrance of Epcot. You get the point…
My family personal prefers to stay in the Disney Vacation Club Resorts because they are mid-range in price, have a quieter environment and are roomier. Our favorites so far are the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Kidani Village and Old Key West. We also love Saratoga Springs. However, if you’re going to go for one, go for Animal Kingdom Lodge. Honestly, you can’t beat waking up to giraffes or zebras outside of your hotel window.
If your family is on a budget, you can stay in Value Resorts such as All-Star Movies or All-Star Music, or for a little upgrade, the Art of Animation is an awesome resort! Your little kiddies would LOVE being able to stay right outside of The Little Mermaid or Cars Land. Each resort is unique in how they theme them, and you can’t go wrong! I’ve stayed in both Value Resorts and Vacation Club Resorts, and still felt the same magic.
Check out their website for more info, seasonal pricing and more.
My family spends the most money, aside from the room rate, on food. Food in Disney isn’t cheap- sorry! However, while it might not cheap, it’s ridiculously easy to find good food, fast. Each resort has restaurants and specialty bars. You can budget accordingly with Disney’s helpful guides. I won’t go into detail for what my favorite restaurants are in this post, but each park has its own post with details.
Disney offers a few options when it comes to dining. Offering the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is one of the best ways for your family to eat at a variety of places. It is extra money, however, you get tokens for each day and most restaurants only use one token to eat. You also get a variety of snack tokens, quick service tokens, and fine dining tokens. With that in mind, Disney helps you budget in that there are different levels to each style of eatery. Each type is found in the parks, Disney Springs, the Boardwalk and the resorts. I’m going to only give an overview here, so when you read each park’s post, you’ll already know what each dollar sign represents!
Let’s look at budget levels, quickly:
Fine dining is marked with $$$-$$$$. These are top-tier restaurants found all over with fine dining options and are typically character dining options.
Quick service is marked with $-$$. The most common and easiest to find, these are great restaurants at great prices!
Snacks and most kiosks are $-$$. Who doesn’t need a Mickey shaped ice cream or popcorn?! Find these and you’ll be happy, happy!
Each restaurant is fun and unique with great food! Be careful though- MOST fine dining, especially character dining requires a reservation. So be sure to make those at least 2-weeks prior to your trip. In fact, you might want to start making reservations for dining as soon as you can through Disney, about 60-days in advance. Just a word for the wise! The reservations are typically flexible, and the easiest way to make them and not over schedule yourself with Fast Passes and other activities is through the WDW App. Through the app, you can view menus, reservation times and more! It’s ridiculously easy and becomes your close friend during the length of your stay.
Magic bands are the key to your world, along with the app. You use magic bands for your room key, dining pay options, linking your debit card to pay for in-park purchases and meals, as well as Fast Passes. You can pick your colors upon making your reservation!
You’re not doing Disney right if you don’t make Fast Passes. In fact, you might just miss out on rides if you don’t make them well in advance (looking at you Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Rockin’ Roller Coaster). FPs are your key to jumping ahead of LONG lines! Trust me, it’s a good feeling walking ahead of a 109-minute wait for something. You can make Fast Pass reservations 60-days in advance. You can also make them the day-of and probably will a few times during your day. However, I recommend making some early. Like Peter Pan, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, Splash Mountain (in summer) and Toy Story Mania. You can pick 3 FP options at a time, and you’re given an hour to get to the ride. The FPs are ONLY good for one park at a time. Once your FP is used or the allotted time is up, then you can make more. Higher priority rides are only available one at a time, and then you choose two additional lower priority rides. Bulking the rides as close together is best, so you can ride higher priorities more during the day. It gets wordy, but just remember, the WDW app guides you through the process, or you can find in-park attendants to help make your FP reservations.
Admit it, the thing you want to prepare most for is packing. You have your hotel, dining and FP reservations set, but what are you going to wear?! Packing can be difficult the first few times, but lucky for you, I’ve taken my years of experience and made a helpful packing list for you! I’ve included pretty much everything I could think of across the seasons.
You can download my FREE infographic here: Walt Disney World Packing List
If you have questions, please ask! Disney is PACKED with things to do and getting bored isn’t an option there! You want to make the most of your visit, and honestly, the magic never dies no matter how many times I go!