Sunday, July 17, 2011

Walt Disney World for Beginners - Basic Information You Should Know Before Your First Disney World Vacation


by Nikki Bonfanti Glinski on Sunday, July 17, 2011 at 3:01pm

So, you’re thinking about taking a trip to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida! Have no idea where to begin? Planning a Disney trip can be very confusing and overwhelming. The following provides some helpful information to get you started!

First of all, congratulations! You’re going to Walt Disney World! I hope that you find the following information helpful. It may seem overwhelming, but there is so much that goes into planning a Disney vacation and we want you to have a magical, memorable vacation!

Where are you going to stay?
There are over 20 resorts on Disney property and they all vary according to price and theme! They are split into 4 categories: Value, Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villas. There are 4 Value resorts that are all relatively the same price and there are 4 Moderate resorts that are all relatively the same price. The rest are Deluxe and there is a wide range of prices among all of them, with the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge being the most affordable. It is also important to note that the prices also vary depending on time of year and what promotional discounts are available.

Package vs. Room Only
There are two ways to book a Disney vacation. You can get a package, which includes your resort, tickets and, if you choose, the dining plan. The other way is to book a “room only” reservation and purchase your tickets separately. There are pros and cons to both.

If you book a package, you have the option of getting the dining plan (more on this later!) and your tickets are given to you upon check-in. For a package, there is a $200 deposit at the time of booking and the balance is due 45 days in advance.
If you book a “room only” reservation, there is a one-night deposit due at the time of booking, but the balance is not due until you check-in.

There are often discounts released separately…sometimes for booking a package and sometimes for a “room only.” For example, there have been a 25%-45% off discount code for “room only” reservations or an offer for the Disney Dining Plan FREE if you book a package. You really never know what the best option will be until it is released. Sometimes, it’s months before your trip, sometimes just a few weeks.

Once you decide where you want to stay, and if you want a package or not, BOOK! Then, if and when a discount is released for your travel dates, the agents at Mouse World Travel will be sure to have your rate adjusted, and send you an email with your new rate!

There are a few different types of tickets options for your vacation. First is just a base ticket that will get you into one park per day, for the amount of days you want. You then have the option to add on “Park Hoppers” which will allow you to go from park to park on the same day. (NOTE: You CAN NOT get a base ticket for 7 days and use two of your “days” to get into two separate parks. You pay for the number of days, not number of park admissions.) Another add-on is the “Water Park Fun and More” option, which grants you admission to either of the two water parks on property, DisneyQuest, Oak Trail Golf Course or Wide World of Sports. Number of admission to the water parks and more depends on the number of days on your ticket. The final add-on, is the "No Expiration" option.

An adult one-day base ticket is $85. Depending on the number of days you want, the price for each additional day goes down. For example, a 5-day pass is $251 and a 6-day pass is $259, only a few dollars more. If you are still confused, here is a chart of current ticket costs.

Getting There, Getting Around and Getting Back
Once you get on the plane to Orlando, you don’t have to worry about arranging any further transportation! Once you have your fight information, let your Mouse World Travel agent sign you up for the free Magical Express service. Once you are signed up for this service, you will get your voucher and luggage tags in the mail with the rest of your vacation information. When you land in Orlando, the bus will take you from the airport to your resort and even get your tagged luggage for you, which will be delivered to your room later in the day.

Once at your resort, there are buses that will take you to any of the 4 parks, 2 water parks and Downtown Disney area. You can even take buses from park to park or from a park to a different resort for dinner or just exploring. There are also boats and, of course, the monorail, as other ways to get around WDW!

Then on your last night, you will get information on the Magical Express bus that will take you back to the airport on your last day. You are even able to check your luggage and get your airline tickets from your resort that morning so you do not have to worry about transporting your luggage back to the airport.

Fast Pass
Even in the middle of Summer, I never wait for a ride with more than a 20 minute posted wait time. The reason for this is Fast Pass! When you enter a park, your ticket is activated to be able to get Fast Pass tickets. Basically what that means is, if the attraction you want to ride has a line longer than you want to wait, you can put your park admission ticket into a machine just outside of the attraction and get a Fast Pass. On that ticket, there will be a time frame for you to return to the attraction. There is a separate Fast Pass line to get on, hand in your ticket, and ride with little to no wait!

 There are only a certain amount of Fast Passes available for the day, so some of the more popular attractions will have Fast Passes with time frames much later in the day, or even run out of Fast Passes by the afternoon. Pick which attractions are most important to you and make sure you either ride them first thing in the morning, or get a Fast Pass right away.
NOTE: Fast Pass is FREE to all park guests. Not all rides have Fast Pass.

The Dining Plan
If you decide to get a package, you have the option of getting the dining plan. I personally have only gotten the dining plan once and found it wasn’t worth it for us BUT other people wouldn't think of going to WDW without it! It all depends on if it's worth it for you and your family. (See Brook’s blog on the Mouse World Travel website for more information and to figure out if the dining plan is right for you!) There are three options for the dining plan: counter service, basic, and deluxe. Most people go for the basic dining plan, which consists of 1 counter-service meal, 1 table-service meal and 1 snack per guest per night. When you check in, your dining credits are put on your Key to the World card (along with your room key and park tickets ;) ) and you are free to use them as you choose throughout your trip.

It is important to remember that you are paying for these meals in advance, so be sure to make the best use out of your credits. Talk to your agent about choosing restaurants so you can make the most out of your table-service credits. For example, you can use a table-service credit for an filet mignon at an authentic Japanese hibachi restaurant in Epcot OR to eat a hamburger at the Sci-Fi Dine In in Hollywood Studios. Obviously, the second option doesn’t make the most sense. (Although I think the Sci-Fi is a can’t miss, but then again, we pay out of pocket. WHICH you can also do on top of the dining plan.) Same with your snack option: you can get a bottle of water with a snack credit OR you could get an ice cream sandwich from the Main Street Bakery with a giant scoop of ice cream squeezed between 2 warm, fresh baked cookies. I’d pay for the water out of pocket! If you use your credits wisely, you really can end up saving money!

(What’s included in the Dining Plans can change from year to year so be sure to ask your agent for the most updated information.)

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs)
You might want to think about making some dining reservations in advance. They can be made up to 180 days before check-in. I know it’s hard to know where you’re going to be on what days so far in advance, but if you want to eat at some of the better restaurants or dining experiences, you really should think about making a few. There are certain places that book up fast, such as breakfast with the princesses in the castle, so talk to your agent about what options you might be interested in and we would be happy to make your dining reservations for you and even help you create an itinerary to fit everything in!

It makes me cringe when people come back from Walt Disney World saying the food was all hamburgers and chicken fingers when there really are tons of fantastic restaurants on property.

NOTE: Anyone can make ADRs, regardless of if you are on the Disney Dining Plan or not.

Park Hours and Events
Park hours vary depending on the park and the time of year. Hours are usually posted around 6 months in advance. The best place to get this information is directly from the Walt Disney World website, as they are subject to change.

For resort guests only, there is also a benefit called “Extra Magic Hours.” That means that each day, one of the 4 major theme parks will either open an hour early or close up to 3 hours later.

There are also occasionally special “hard-ticket” events in the Magic Kingdom. The only two now are the Halloween party, in September and October and the Christmas party, in November and December. If you want to attend the party, you have to buy a ticket for the event. If not, plan to be in a different park that day, as the Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm for guests without the ticket.

There are also a variety of special things happening around the parks at various times of the year, like the Flower and Garden Festival in the Spring and the Food and Wine Festival in the Fall, both in Epcot. (On one trip, I saw a Starship as part of the Food and Wine Festival concert series!) Talk to your agent about the special events going on in Walt Disney World during your vacation!

Like I said before, there are various discount released throughout the year. Some are for the general public, some are for Disney Visa holders, Annual Passholders and some individual Pin Codes. If you want to increase your chances of getting a “pin code,” Disney needs to have your address or e-mail address. So, go to the official website and create an account. Make sure you check the box that says you would like to receive additional information and promotions from Disney. Order a planning video, too. I heard that helps! Pin codes are random and you might not get a pin code at all but there have been some GOOD discounts sent this way.

There is so much to see and do in Disney World and it is impossible to see it all in one trip. Pick the things that you definitely want to accomplish and don’t expect to do it all! That’s what the second trip is for!

Take it one step at a time and let me know if you have any questions or need clarification! All the agents at Mouse World Travel will be more than happy to assist you with any questions you may have and look forward to planning a magical vacation for your family!

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1 comment:

  1. This is it! No more buses from this point on." I desperately asked the people around me if this was the cut-off point and only a lady ventured to tell me "I guess". Disney World Tips and Secrets