The magic of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., is all around. There are three things you need to make your trip special – time, patience and money. You need plenty of all three, but it will be worth it. Here are a few dos and don’ts to make that experience even more special:
Do plan on staying at least a week – and that’s just for the Disney attractions. Between the four on-site theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, MGM Studios and Epcot), Downtown Disney and two unbelievable water parks, days will end quickly. Plan for one day for each of the parks, and at least one water park.
Don’t try and hop from park to park more than once a day. While the on-site transportation is easy and convenient to use, it is time-consuming. Two parks in one day is easy and fun, but not much more.
Do stay at one of the many Walt Disney World properties. They come in all price ranges – from high-end resorts like the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contemporary Resort and the Grand Floridian (all from $205 per night) to the moderately priced All-Star Resorts ($79) and the Port Orleans Resorts ($139) – and are worth their weight in convenience. Along with location, WDW properties offer extra park hours and other perks that make up for the difference in price.
Don’t pay extra for certain views. While staying on-site has its definite advantages, what you see out your window isn’t important. You will spend little time in your room, anyway.
Do take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express shuttle service. This is available to guests staying on the property through most major airlines. Disney sends you bag tags for your luggage in advance and takes it from there. After you check your bags at the airport, the next time you will see them will be in your room. And when you arrive in Orlando, you are greeted at a special welcome center and bused to your hotel. The return trip is just as nice, since you can obtain your plane boarding passes in your hotel lobby.
Don’t get frustrated with the crowds. Surrender yourself to the fact that there are thousands of people who want to experience the magic of Disney at the same time you do. Get over it, be polite and smile. Disney is supposed to be fun.
Do budget wisely. Disney is not a right, it’s a privilege – and an expensive one at that. There are great travel deals on the Internet, but not many breaks once you get to WDW. Hopper passes (theme park tickets), food and lodging don’t come cheap, but this isn’t a trip you take every weekend, either. Stay within your means, of course, but don’t count pennies or you will go crazy.
Don’t spend money on breakfasts. They are the most overpriced meals in WDW and they slow up your day. Most hotels have rooms with refrigerators, so it’s a good idea to make a quick trip to a convenience store and eat breakfast before you leave. This way you can have a nice meal for lunch or dinner.
Do try and avoid Orlando in June, July and August, otherwise known as hurricane season. Yes, that is summer vacation and your kids are out of school. So, too, is every other kid in America. And England. And Brazil. Offseason deals are usually available, and the lines are shorter than in the summer months. Plus, the weather on the Fourth of July in Orlando is flat gross.
Don’t try and see everything. First of all, that’s impossible. Second, it’s much better to enjoy what you see than to try and get to everything. This, of course, is easier said than done.
Do grab a daily schedule at the main entrance of the parks. Some attractions are closed or have special hours, and these schedules provide up-to-date times for shows and character hunting. Character availability, from Mickey Mouse to Mary Poppins, is more frequent than ever, just be patient. Disney does a great job of getting one-on-one time for kids and adults alike.
Don’t go into the day without at least some sort of personal itinerary. While you don’t need to plan activities down to the minute, having an idea of what you want to see will help you make the most of your time.
Do take in shows and attractions that aren’t necessarily thrill rides. The magic is everywhere; you just have to look around.
Don’t be afraid to enjoy a bit of down time. All hotels have great pools, and naps are a must – for kids and adults. Once you hit a wall and have had your fill, don’t feel guilty taking some time off.
Do resist the urge to buy a funny hat. This is mostly for adults, but it may be applied to every member of the family. The giant sombrero with goofy ears, make that Goofy ears, is really funny while you’re on vacation. But try and get it on the plane. And then watch it gather dust with all the other bad-idea purchases through the years once you get home.
– Joe E. Cervi