At the end of September I flew out to Florida for my dream holiday at Walt Disney World. My boyfriend was an absolute trooper and joined me on the trip, queuing for endless character meets, becoming my personal photographer and also posing for a MILLION photo pass photos.
It was my first time there and I know we won’t be going back anytime soon so I planned it down to the last hour. Of course, plans changed whilst we were there but I thought I’d share my tips if you haven’t been before and are looking for some guidance.
- PLAN. I can’t even explain how important it is to at least have a rough idea of what parks you are going to be at each day, know when you are going to have rest days and where you are likely to eat etc.
- WHEN TO GO. Look at when you want to go. If you are able to take holiday whenever you like, its probably best to avoid UK and US School holidays as it’s absolutely rammed. As I said we went at the end of September so enjoyed small wait times and a generally less chaos. You also need to think about whether you want to be there for any celebrations – for example Halloween was in full swing at the parks whilst we were there and it was amazing! We went to Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party which was so much fun but we also caught the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot too.
- WHERE TO STAY. We booked a package holiday with Thomson as I had my heart set on staying in a Disney hotel. We stayed at Carribean Beach and it was a dream, especially as you can hop onto the shuttle bus to get around. I know that a lot of people rent a villa near by and drive in though – definitely worth doing your research, and it will depend on your budget too as staying at Disney is eye-wateringly expensive!
- CAR HIRE. Whilst we stayed in a Disney hotel we found having a car super useful. It did cost a fair bit as we had to pay an extra tax for being under 25 but we had so much freedom and meant we could drive to International Drive for food and Universal when we fancied. We also benefited from free parking at the parks as we were staying at a Disney hotel so for those extra lazy days we drove to the park.
- MYDISNEYEXPERIENCE APP. Everyone is glued to this app whilst at Walt Disney World as it has everything you need to have the best trip. Opening times, all of your dining reservations, fast passes and if you have a photo pass you will be able to view all of your photos. As soon as you’ve booked your holiday link your trip to your MDE account and start planning.
- MAGIC BAND. If you are staying on Disney property, you’ll get a magic band which literally opens up a whole host of opportunities. You can link your bank card to your bands which means you can pay for anything in the parks. I’m talking food, drinks and all the souvenirs! It is also your room key, entry to the park and your fast passes.
- FAST PASSES. It broke my heart seeing children being dragged to rides with a 60 minute wait time, when all their parents needed to have done was book their fast passes in advance and they’d have pretty much walked on. If you are in a Disney hotel you can book these up to 60 days in advance and I’d 100% recommend it, especially for rides such as Frozen Ever After which doesn’t seem to have wait times under an hour. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a similar story and whilst we were there we saw a wait of over 2 hours for it. Also, you can book 3 fast passes a day and after you use the 3rd it usually lets you book another one.
- DINING RESERVATIONS. Again another hugely important one and if you’ve booked your holiday really far in advance probably you will benefit more. This is because 180 days before your holiday you can make reservations at those restaurants you really want to eat at. I was stupid enough to miss the 180 days (don’t make that mistake!) so we didn’t manage to get a reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table – but lets not talk about that, it still hurts.
In terms of places to dine, I’d recommend Ohanas for Breakfast, Be Our Guest for Lunch and Caseys Corner half an hour after Wishes has finished for tea! If you are at Animal Kingdom get to Rainforest Cafe too.
- WAL MART. We didn’t bother with the dining plan whilst we were there, mainly because it was so expensive and we knew we weren’t going to be in a park or the hotel for every meal. So on our first night we took ourselves to Wal Mart for supplies. This included things to make sandwiches to take into the parks, crisps, drinks, sweets… you know, the necessities? I think we spent around $70 and didn’t need to go back again. I had a list of places I wanted to eat for lunch at the parks (quick service) so we did this too, was the best of both worlds for sure – especially as the food at Disney can get a bit boring (sorry but it’s true).
- PHOTO PASS. This was included in our package and costs around $150 I believe but I would 100% recommend this to anyone taking a trip to Walt Disney World. This gives you access to all ride photos and anything taken by the lovely photo pass folk. We got some really cool photos taken and ones we’ll definitely treasure forever. They beat my iPhone selfies for sure!
- ITINERY. Similar to planning but create yourself a sexy spreadsheet that will detail everything you need to know. Look online for the opening times of each park and whether they have extra magic hours (if you stay at Disney you can take advantage of these). You can then build this out by booking fast passes, dining reservations and slotting in time spent for parades or fireworks.
- WATER PARKS. We only visited Typhoon Lagoon, but we went twice. The first time we spent the morning there from opening and due to it being off peak we easily got ourselves a couple of beds and walked on to each slide. The wave pool is definitely the highlight, so much so we spent a second afternoon there after not planning to go at all (see what I mean about your plan changing).
- MINI GOLF. Yes, Mini golf. From my knowledge, WDW has two mini golf locations on Disney property. We went to both as before 4pm it was included free in our ticket (14 day ultimate ticket). It was such a nice relief from the parks and I’d definitely recommend it. I had no idea until we were there that it was included and both times we went there was barely anyone else there.
- UNIVERSAL. Believe it or not we didn’t spend our whole time at Disney. As much as I wanted to, my boyfriend was craving some thrill rides so we spent two days at Universal. I’d recommend Universal to anyone as we had two really amazing days. We also went to their Halloween Horror Night which was bloody terrifying but my boyfriend enjoyed it and it was his request!
- SHOPPING. Orlando is known for it’s good shopping so I’m sure you can imagine my boyfriends delight when our ‘rest’ days (Saturdays as the parks were busy) were spent at malls. I’d really recommend the outlet malls, as you’d expect they are pretty hit and miss but on our second visit we bagged some really good bargains. Mostly my beloved Kate Spade bag and purse which had a saving of around $350.
- DISNEY OUTLET. I feel like this needed a point all of its own as if I was to visit Florida again I wouldn’t leave without having a snoop around the Disney Outlet. I came out with nothing on our first visit, but the second time was a gold mine. We managed to get so much stuff including a Cruela De Vil ‘babies’ teddy for 99 cent, a Starbucks Disney christmas tree decoration for $2 and the famous Chip mug for $7. I had actually spent $23 on a Chip mug in the Belle shop at Magic Kingdom but after seeing them in the outlet I took that one back! $7 – what a bargain!?
- SPECIAL EVENTS. If you go in October you’ll be able to book a ticket for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Before we left for Florida we booked these tickets and I closed my eyes as I typed in my card details. They were expensive and there is no other way to describe it. It was however so worth it. Not only do you get a bag of sweets and go Trick or Treating (dream) there are special characters out (we met the Queen of Hearts which was so exciting!) and the queues are typically a bit shorter. There is just something about being at Disney really late at night that is so exciting! You can dress up too which is just a bonus.
- PHOTO OPPS. The photo pass was great but there is just something about taking your own photos. We didn’t focus too much on this throughout our trip but we spent our last day at Magic Kingdom and spent a good few hours soaking it all in for one last time and photographing everything. We found the purple wall (WDW fans will know what I’m talking about), took photos in front of the castle, bought a crispy treat to get the perfect shot down Main Street… you name it, we did it. I took my Instax Mini camera which meant we were able to snap some unforgettable memories. You can ask any staff member and they’ll be more than happy to snap away for you, they get especially excited to use the Instax too!
- BUY IT. My last pearl of wisdom is that if you see something you want, buy it. I spent $18 on a flashing goblet in Be Our Guest just because I wanted it. Yes, some people judged me but a woman around 50 was very jealous.. I won. I also really regret not buying more chip mugs from the outlet as well as a tie dye t-shirt I saw in every shop that had 2016 splattered on the front. Not exactly glamorous or tasteful things, but don’t deprive yourself of anything!
Let me know if you have any other tips… I plan to go back at Christmas some day!