After our trip to Paris, I have this goal of visiting all the Disney castles. The next castle on our list was Cinderella’s castle in Florida. With Disneyland being my home park, I will be the first one to inform you… Disney World is overwhelming. It is an amazing location but I was not prepared for the amount of planning we should have done! I did my online research but I don’t think there is enough tips out there for the rookies. This post is dedicated to all those first timers going to Disney World that feel a little lost!
I am starting with the app because each of the next categories mentions using the app. When planning the trip I used the Disney World website to book everything from home. I did read somewhere on the website that it recommended downloading the Disney World app. I use the Disneyland app in Disneyland a lot and we even used the Disney Paris app in Paris. This app connects you to your whole vacation. Disney worlds app isn’t just for checking wait times. The app allows you to manage your fast passes and dining reservations. It is also very interactive. Once you link your magic bands you will be able to access pictures from rides and manage linked credit cards. If you are planning a trip to Disney World, I recommend you download the app before leaving for your vacation.
From the moment we stepped off the plane the disney magic started. I was a little nervous because right before we boarded the plane I realized we needed to make reservations for the shuttle to the hotel. Luckily my mom offered to help and while we were in flight she contacted reservation system and booked the shuttle for us. The shuttle from the airport to your disney resort is free. Just don’t forget to book it! If I had booked the shuttle early enough, Disney would have collected our luggage for us!
Once we arrived in the airport we followed the signs to collect our luggage. After grabbing our bags we followed the signs for “Disney World Shuttles." We found the lobby where all the disney shuttles pick up. There was a large signs that said “Grab your magic bands!” I pulled out the magic bands that we received close to a month before the trip and everything was already linked. The cast member scanned my band and directed us to one of 13 lines. Our shuttle only visited the All Star Resorts, which was nice because there was only three stops. The shuttle was nice and air conditioned and there were tv’s playing with trivia and disney shorts. The ride itself was pretty quick. Overall, the airport shuttles were super easy to navigate.
Each hotel has shuttles running to each of the theme parks. You can find shuttle arrival times through the Disney World app. These shuttle stations were great because it connects you to everything. The lines were never too long because there always seemed to be enough shuttles running. When a park closed the shuttle lines would back up pretty bad but it was never longer than a 30 minute wait. This does make park hopping extremely different than park hopping in Disneyland. In Disneyland, park hopping a short walk from one park to another. In Disney World, park hopping involves waiting for a shuttle and then riding the shuttle for 15-30 minutes to the next park. While it was easy to navigate, it did make park hopping a longer process. There are other transportation options such as water taxis and the monorail; but we used the shuttles the most.
There is a wide range of Disney and neighbor properties to pick from. We chose to stay on a Disney property because of all the amenities that come with staying on property. There was also a hotel to fit every budget. We (three just above minimum wage retail employees) could afford to stay at one of the value Disney resorts. The hotels are categorized as cabins/campgrounds, value, moderate, and deluxe.
We stayed at the All Star Music Resort. The price of the hotel was reasonable and had all the amenities we had hoped for. When we stepped off the shuttle we were told we could go straight to our rooms without checking in. The Disney World App came up on my phone and directed me to my room. We walked past the lobby and found the hotel’s dining options. There was even a bar! We walked through the lobby building, into a courtyard that led to a pool. This hotel was MASSIVE. There were at least eight music themed buildings that led to different room numbers. Our room was pretty far down… We walked for what felt like 20 minutes with all of our luggage to the country building. We were greeted by a two story statue of boots. Once we found our room, the Disney App directed us to hold up a magic band to the door. We followed the directions and the door opened!
When we got inside, there were two full sized beds and a tv. The room itself felt pretty small. The three of us and three suitcases felt like we were tripping over each other the whole time. This didn’t bother us because we planned on spending more time in the park than in the room. The bathroom was also small, but it was manageable. I was also surprised when I didn’t see a the little bottles of soap. Instead, they had three bottles in the shower that the cleaning people refilled! I thought this was an effort to become more sustainable! Overall, this hotel felt very much like a college campus. The different buildings felt like dormitory halls and even the dining area felt like a dining commons. I definitely can’t complain because we did enjoy the bar and the overall connivance of staying on property.
I also got a chance to surprise Nate and Steph with a one night stay at another disney property. I had saved a free night on Hotels.com and decided to use it for a one night stay at one of the deluxe hotels. After waiting for sales, I managed to book the Animal Kingdom Lodge for one night. The day we went to check into our new hotel for the night, we packed a overnight bag and took a lyft to the property. When we arrived to the hotel, a gate keeper took our name and then let the lyft onto the property. We pulled up to the entrance and walked into the lobby. This hotel was… MAGNIFICENT. There was a HUGE window overlooking the savannah. You could see so many animals right from the lobby! We did have to wait in a small checkin line because I booked through hotels.com and it wasn’t linked to our magic bands.
The Cast Member was super friendly. I remember her saying “only staying one night!?” And I responded with “Yeah, we are actually staying at one of the all star resorts but we wanted to stay one night at a deluxe hotel for the experience.” She than asked if we wanted to wait a little longer to see if she could give us a room upgrade. We agreed, left our bags at the bellhop, and went to the parks. At 3:00, the Disney World App popped up on my phone letting me know the room was ready. Around 5:00 we decided to go back to the hotel to check out the room. As we started walking through the hotel we found multiple places where you can walk out onto a large balcony to look at the animals. Once we finally made it to the room, we were just as amazed with our room. Our window and balcony overlooked the Savannah. We saw zebra, giraffes, and so many other animals! The beds were also queen sized, which made sleeping more comfortable. When we walked into the bathroom, there were TONS of little bottles of soaps; but they weren’t all soaps. There were sunscreens, aloe, and even a sewing kit!
After taking in all of our room, Steph and I decided to explore the hotel. We followed the animal trail that led us through the savannah. We came across a fire pit and two Cast Members. They said “Welcome! Are we here to make s’mores?” Steph and I didn’t bring our wallets and asked how much it was. They said “Its free!” So we made s’mores next to some zebra and gazelles. It was truly magical. All the hotels have different activities on different days! Make sure to look at the calendar in the lobby to see what activities your hotel offers.
Overall, when it comes to Disney Word hotels you get what you pay for. While both had the park shuttle services and other Disney amenities; I would definitely spend the extra money to stay at a higher category resort. While the All Star Music Resort provided me with what I needed. The Animal Kingdom Lodge gave me a whole new experience and made me feel the disney magic.
For some reason the FastPass+ system was difficult for me to get used to. The first important thing to know is that you must book FastPasses 30 or 60 days in advance. If you are staying at a Disney resort you can book 60 days in advance. If you are staying off property; you can book 30 days in advance. Personally, when it comes to disney trips I am more spontaneous. So planning 2 months in advance for rides I had never been on was difficult for me. I definitely should have done a lot more research on the rides, wait times, and popularity before booking our FastPasses.
Okay! So basic rules when booking your FastPasses. First rule, book them as SOON as your window opens (30 days or 60 days). We had gotten pretty lucky and I was able to get us FastPasses for both Avatar rides. I didn’t realize how lucky we were until we were talking to a couple on the bus, they weren’t able to book either ride 60 days out!
Second rule. A max of three FastPasses can be booked on each day. These aren’t just for rides… they are also for shows and I believe characters. All your FastPasses must be scheduled for the same park. Many of the shows we visited didn’t really need FastPasses. While FastPasses may give you a better view; if you go early enough for the standby line then you have a pretty good chance at getting a good spot. The only show you absolutely need a FastPass for is Fantasmic. The stadium fills EARLY so get in line early!
Third rule, on the day of your FastPass use you can book more! BUT! You can only book them AFTER you have used your first three. TIP! It is really important that you spread your FastPasses out but they they are close enough together to allow yourself to get more later.
I cannot stress this enough… As my home park is Disneyland I severely underestimated how LARGE Disney World is. Park hopping is a PROCESS. If you plan on park hopping here are some tips! Each Disney Resort has multiple bus stops that will take guests to the different parks. We stayed at the All Star Music resort, which meant we were around 15-20 minutes from each of the lands. Buses also run around every 20 minuets. On average, it took us 35-45 minuets to get from one park to another. There are other options such as Lyft, Uber, or Minnie Van. While the Minnie Vans are very cute; they were also slightly out of our budget. The Minnie van was $38 while a regular Lyft ride was around $11. If I were traveling with my family, or children I would pick the Minnie Van over the regular Lyft. The Minnie Vans are operated by Disney Cast Members and are equipped with car seats. These vans can also accommodate guests in wheel chairs and scooters! Since our trip consisted of three adults, we decided to wait for the buses. Long story short, if you plan on park hopping I would recommend no more then two parks a day. Honestly, part of me wishes we hadn’t gotten the park hopper and saved our money for the dining!
Disney World is known for the dining options. We didn’t experience as many of these options as I would have liked but its mostly because of the cost that came with them. I had a friend that did the dining plan and was able to experience many of the options. We opted out of the dining plan because we thought it would be less expensive. While we did spend less then the dining plan we also missed out on a lot of the amazing restaurants! Speaking of these amazing restaurants… Like FastPasses, these experiences can be booked in advance (180 days to be exact). I recommend booking that far in advance for some of the restaurants. We were able to visit the Be Our Guest Restaurant for breakfast. While I would have preferred dinner, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to eat in this beautiful restaurant. We were able to walk around to the different rooms and see all of its beauty. According to one of the cast members she said breakfast is one of the best times to go because you can pick the room if you go early enough and its less expensive.
Overall this trip was absolutely amazing. Disney World surpassed all my expectations and now I have to plan a trip back. While I did enjoy Disney World, Disneyland will always be my home!