This year, the biggest gift for all of us was a family vacation to Walt Disney World (WDW). When the day came, we were all too excited to even worry about the long 25 hours flight to Orlando, FL.
To say I was nervous about the trip was an understatement – I had visions of “60 minutes queue everywhere”, “whiny & hungry kids” lashing through my mind every single minute.
The reality was not bad at all. Oh yeah, I did experience some of those visions but as our first trip to WDW, I would say that the 9 months planning has made this vacation the Best and Happiest vacation ever. I’m not claiming to be a Disney expert here but I wanted to share the experience I went through with you so you can make that happen on your first visit to WDW too!
(Warning: I had to split this into 3 parts as there are just so much details to share … sorry!)
10. Have a plan
It sounds unreal but if you plan to go WDW, please have a plan before setting foot in the park. We were in Orlando for twelve days and got a seven-day pass allowing us to visit four parks and return to the same parks three more times. As a first timer, forget about “park hopper” option – that will cost more and isn’t necessary unless you plan to hop from one park to another on the same day.
Know which days to go which parks. Check the parks’ website to know what time they open and close, as well as showtimes for fireworks, parades, floats etc. We went during the Thanksgiving weekend as the parks don’t get too over crowded during this period and we can also start to experience the Christmas events. I had a daily park touring plan to guide me which park I’ll visit each day and the attractions I will visit.
As part of Disney’s “Extra Magic Hours”, a park will open an hour earlier and close a few hours later each day. But we didn’t use that because those parks with EMH tend to get very crowded.
Over the course of planning, I realised that I couldn’t do this by myself due to my lack of experience with WDW. So, I engaged a “fairy godmother” Magical Mouse Holidays – a Disney Holiday Travel Specialist based in Australia who provided me a lot of good advise, booked my accommodation and dining reservations and even provided a daily itinerary for me. The team was very professional, helpful and prompt. Best part was I don’t even need to pay anything!
9. Disney Resort & Transportation
Once you’ve secured the dates and book your air tickets, the next thing to worry about is the accommodation and transportation. I have to say that this was the hardest decision to make. There are 26 resorts in WDW and many more hotels nearby. Of course, we considered all the pros and cons of staying in the park versus out of the park as well as the affordability and convenience.
Finally we opted for the low-capacity Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter. With that, we get to enjoy Disney’s bus transfer to and from the airport and between parks and the resort.
The free Disney bus shuttle was very efficient from resort to parks and back. I was so glad I didn’t rent a car. I can imagine myself driving on the wrong side of the road and THAT will not be a happy scene. The bus shuttle wait averaged around 20 minutes and because French Quarter is a low-capacity resort, we don’t have to wait long to get on the bus too. If you want to go to Downtown Disney, they have free boat transfer too.
8. FastPass+ – Use it, Flaunt it!
*Grin* This is the key to minimise your stress level. FastPass+ basically allows you to jump queue towards the front of the line for the park’s most popular attractions. Anybody with valid park tickets can FastPass+. It got even better when we’re there because we managed all our selections and changes through My Disney Experience iPhone App anytime, anywhere.
Firstly, select the attractions that you want to FastPass+. Then it will assign a 1-hour window return time to the attraction, where you enter through a “very” special entrance that allows you to speed walk directly to the front of the line.
For example, Toy Story Midway Mania in Disney’s Hollywood Studio is the most popular ride. Either you get to the standby entrance when the ropes drop or FastPass+ to come back later after which you can just breeze past the queue to the first in line.
However, limited FastPass+ are given out daily. Therefore, plan your rides and use this wisely and everybody will be happy 🙂 Other attractions to FastPass+ are : Space Mountain, Mickey Mouse/Princess Character Meet & Greet, Peter Pan, Expedition Everest and Soarin’.
Exciting right? I’m sure it is for you and your family. That adrenaline-rush is just the beginning. Continue reading part II and part III. And if you have any other wonderful tips to share, I would love to hear from you 🙂