Hi Everyone. I’m Fran. When I need tips or information fast, I’m just like you. I'm looking for the same answers. But sometimes these things don’t always pop up, say, on your search engine of choice…I hear you. Looking for everyday tips for everyday life? Let's figure out how, together.
I watch a lot of TV and have noticed that the channels are always playing a commercial for Walt Disney World, where OneRepublic sings "Good Life" in the background. Like the original video for the song, the commercial has similar cool effects. And, like with "It's A Small World", you might be whistling parts of their song soon after.
Not to mention that from time to time, there are some nice incentives offered like free dining or up to 30 percent off your room stay.
This got me to thinking. I do lots of travel to Walt Disney World and other parts of Central Florida. It's safe to say that few people know where to start planning if they haven't gone before or if there have been many years since a last trip. I'd like to put my Disney Parks knowledge to work for all of you. So, here are my "Practically Perfect" tips to make the most out of your Disney stay:
- Lately, my husband and I have been using Disney Gift Cards of various denominations. They are good at any Disney Park, the Disney Cruise Line and at Disney Store locations and disneystore.com.
- You can stay at resorts on Disney property or timeshares if you have them. Book through Walt Disney World directly, or through AAA. You can also use what's called a Disney PIN (which is a unique code sent by Disney through the mail), or if you find a particular discount, through the method in which it is offered.
- Staying at Walt Disney World Resort (see above): You will be able to take advantage of complimentary transportation from the Orlando International Airport (via Disney’s Magical Express) and the Disney Transportation System. You can book reservations on Disney’s Magical Express by calling 407/827-6777. Complimentary Disney Transportation System Buses are the only means to get to/from the four parks and your resort. So, travel time to your park of choice can vary between five and 45 minutes.
- Buses can be standing room only as the parks open and close, with strollers and scooters, even off-season.
- Most bus routes share other nearby resorts stops along the way.
- Disney Transportation System buses do travel to/from resort to/from Parks.
- Disney Transportation System buses do not travel from resort to resort.
- Weather in Orlando: Please check weather stations/sites and pack what you think you'll need to be comfortable.
- Themed Resort Rooms: Want to give yourself some more Imagining magic? Book the Pirate Themed Rooms at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Princess/Royal Guest Rooms at Port Orleans Resort, or anything at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. It can be worth it. Now, if there only were Haunted Mansion Rooms or Disney Cruise Line's Magic Portholes...or the Donald Duck Rooms brought over from Tokyo Disney Resort...
- Issues with rooms upon check-in or during length of stay: Disney has written the book on customer service. So, if dealing with a Disney room issue, I try to think of these two things...Can you imagine dealing with the sheer volume of people day-in and day-out?...And we all have bad days. Regardless of the matter, take a breath and work with them. Usually this is all you need to do. If you do need to speak to the manager on duty, being fair to the situation gets the best possible outcome.
- Key to the World Card and Disney Dining Plan (DDP) Credits explained: Disney charges all Authorized Room Charges and DDP Meals to the name of the reservation holder, regardless of how many are in the room. Upon check-in and check-out, definitely specify and verify where different adults authorize separate credit card numbers to their Keys to the World cards.
- Advanced Dining Reservations: utilize the 180-day ADR booking window for dining. Take a tally at who in your group likes what and make suggestions that way. Some people may not be interested in the typical Disney fare fans all love, but treats and memorable eats are to be found everywhere. Switching it up can also remind you of your first visits. To book dining, click here or call 407/WDW-DINE. If you find you need to cancel, visit your Resort's Concierge Desk or by calling 407-WDW-CNCL.
- Some guests also opt for special dining experiences like Character Breakfasts, Chef's Tables or Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian.
- Avoid the Dining Rush: Dine before 11 a.m. or after 2 p.m. for lunch or around 5 p.m. for dinner.
- Eat/Drink Around The World at Epcot: Partake in the cuisine and the libations of the countries in the World Showcase. Margaritas and tortillas in Mexico, bratwurst and beer in Germany, Vino and salamis in Italy, sake and sushi in Japan, Champagne and croque monsieur in France, Harp and fish and chips in the UK...
- Must DOs: Disney's PhotoPass; FASTPASS; Single Rider Line for long ride queues; Rider Swap/Rider Switch if you have small children, special needs etc.
- Disney's PhotoPass: Try to get your hands on one of these cards while you are visiting. Often times, the PhotoPass photographers will also take a picture using your camera as long as you take the card, too. Some people take a quick photo of the unique code on the back of it in case they misplace the card.
- Rider Swap/Rider Switch: If you have small children, or special needs etc., you won't have to wait twice if one of you needs to watch them while others in your group enjoy an attraction. There is no age limit for guests who use rider swap. You will need to ask for this FASTPASS-like ticket when you enter the ride queue.
- Try not to over plan and it is OK to separate. Disney can be overwhelming. We play hard at Disney, but even we know when to take a breather.
- Taking Boats and/or the Monorail is relaxing and peaceful, Even though it takes longer than it may seem, it's so worth it. Plan to add on additional time especially if you have dining reservations.
- In theory, Extra Magic Hours is an awesome benefit. In practice, the evening Extra Magic Hours can sometimes be even more crowded on the days offered than Disney advertises. Stick with the morning Extra Magic Hours.
- Other Guests: You are in the Happiest Place on Earth. As hard as this can be, try not to let the actions of other guests get to you. Many of them are from other countries who have different customs and they honestly don't realize what they are doing..same goes for frantic parents with strollers wanting to give their kids the same Disney Magic as you..or people on scooters...or guests stopping in front of you snapping a picture of something random without realizing you are behind them.
- Hidden Mickeys: Be on the lookout for the silhouette of Mickey, a large circle with two smaller circles atop (for Mickey’s ears). They are everywhere, but are sometimes challenging to spot.
- More Planning for the Mouse: I happen to love AAA's resources for Walt Disney World. Click the link, then click the tab for Places, then click the "i" next to Orlando on the map you see. If you have never been to WDW before here are some other good guides: Birnbaum's and Birnbaum's Walt Disney World Without Kids: The Official Guide for Fun-Loving Adults, Frommer's or the even the Zagat guides from a few years ago
- Downtown Disney
- Spa Treatments
- Special Tours like Disney's Keys to the Kingdom Tour
- Richard Petty Driving Experience at the Walt Disney World Speedway
- Golf Courses
- Watercraft Rental
Orlando also has SO much to offer those of you who happen to stay off of Disney Property or in your Timeshare. Some resorts/timeshares offer transportation to WDW and some do not, so you may have to rent a car or take a taxi, especially if you are staying many miles away.
Quick, in-Orlando tip: If you aim for International Drive, you can avoid the traffic on I-4, and head into Disney on Epcot Center Drive.
It's amazing to think of all the things there are to do in Orlando, Central Florida and the Atlantic Coast. Venture off to places like Universal for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Kennedy Space Center, Daytona International Speedway, The incredible beaches, St. Augustine. And don't forget the excellent Outlet Shopping nearby.
I hope you find these ideas come in handy if arranging a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.