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The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Disney World Adventure

The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Disney World Adventure

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Disney World is every kids’ and, let’s face it, some adults’ dream vacation destination. For many, the “happiest place on Earth” is hard to resist, but planning a trip to Disney World can feel like a daunting task. With a little faith, trust, and pixie dust, it doesn’t have to be. Here is your ultimate guide to planning your Disney World Adventure.

Booking Your Trip

The first step in planning your Disney vacation is selecting your vacation package, which consists of your resort reservation and park tickets. There’s no obligation to stay at a Disney resort, but we highly recommend it for the full magical experience. You can select your packages by going to disneyworld.disney.go.com. Disney has a number of accommodations to choose from, ranging from value to deluxe resorts, and you’ll be able to choose a resort that fits within your budget. My favorite moderate resort is Port Orleans–Riverside, a beautiful, sprawling resort styled after the elegant white-column mansions and charming backwoods cottage of New Orleans. The resort also features Tiana-themed Royal Rooms. Another benefit of staying at a Disney resort is early access to the parks; you’ll be able to enter the parks a half hour earlier before the parks open.

Your next step is choosing your theme park tickets. If you’re looking for an action-packed weekend trip, we suggest upgrading your base ticket to park hoppers. That way you have the ability to explore each park within a limited number of days. You can begin your day at one park and hop to the next park after 2:00 p.m. If you’re looking at an extended stay, a base ticket of one park per day will be your best option.

During the pandemic, Disney implemented a theme park reservation system to limit crowds. This means that if you are traveling to the parks, you will also need to make a park reservation in addition to purchasing a ticket. If you are visiting the parks after January 9, 2024, park reservations will no longer be required. Once you book your Disney vacation package, you have the option of paying for your trip in full or making a $200 deposit. You can then split your remaining balance into installment payments up until 30 days before your visit.

My Disney My Experience App & Genie+

Essential to navigating the park is the My Disney Experience App. This app allows you to store your mobile ticket for your entire party, navigate the park attractions with an interactive map, make dining reservations, view standby line wait times, and manage your Lightning Lanes. Lightning Lanes are the best way to skip the line and thanks to Genie+ (an add-on attraction reservation service), you can book three Lighting Lanes at a time. 

Beginning at midnight of the day of your park visit, you can add Genie+ to your tickets. The cost ranges from $15 a person to $30 a person depending on park capacity. At 7:00 a.m, you can select your Lightning Lanes, but make sure you are quick because the popular rides are reserved within minutes. If your favorite ride is booked up, you can try again at 1:00 p.m. or pay for individual Lightning Lanes. You can scan your mobile ticket at the entrance to each Lightning Lane during your reserved time, or you can opt for a magic band, a convenient way to keep your mobile ticket on your wrist.

Dining

Disney’s Dining Plan returns after a three year-hiatus for the 2024 vacation calendar. The Dining Plan is a fantastic way to prepay for your meals and is highly recommended for large parties. There are two options: the Quick Service Plan or the rRegular Disney Dining Plan. 

Whether you’re looking for sumptuous beef tenderloin, delectable kabobs, or creamy mac and cheese tots, we recommend the following dining experiences:

Quick Service

·         The Friar’s Nook (Magic Kingdom)

·         Tangerine Café (EPCOT)

·         Flame Tree BBQ (Animal Kingdom)

·         Woody’s Lunchbox (Hollywood Studios)

Table Service

·         Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)

·         Space 220 (EPCOT)

·         Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)

·         Roundup Rodeo BBQ (Hollywood Studios)

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Theme Parks

Disney has four spectacular parks to choose from, and we insist you visit all of them.

Magic Kingdom is by far the most quintessential of the four Disney parks. It features Cinderella’s Castle as its centerpiece and is sure to fill guests with enchantment and wonder. If thrills are what you are seeking, Magic Kingdom has something for the entire family, whether it’s a mind-blowing 3D experience or an exhilarating coaster. We recommend the following experiences:

Rides

·         Seven Dwarf Mine Train

·         Pirates of the Caribbean

·         TRON Lightcyle/Run

·         Haunted Mansion

·         Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Shows

·         Mickey’s PhilharMagic Concert

·         Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor

Character Experiences

·         Meet Princess Tiana and a Visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall

·         Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater

·         Enchanted Tales with Belle

Fireworks

·         Happily Ever After

EPCOT is a park described as the place where your imagination comes alive. If you’re more into sci-fi or visiting exotic locations, this is the park for you. While EPCOT is kid-friendly, it’s definitely an adult playground where you can literally drink around the globe at the World Showcase. We recommend starting in Mexico for a margarita and finishing in Canada with a La Fin Du Monde beer. Our favorite drink is in China — make sure you try the Silk Road Hard Lemonade. We recommend the following experiences:

Rides

·         Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

·         Frozen Ever After

·         Soarin’ Around the World

·         Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

·         Mission: SPACE

Shows

·         Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival

·         Journey Into Imagination with Figment

Character Experiences

·         Meet Disney Pals Near EPCOT Main Entrance

·         Meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus

·         Meet Princess Jasmine in Morocco

Fireworks

·         EPCOT Forever

Animal Kingdom is a park where you can embrace your wild side. Whether you’re on a safari across the savannas, exploring the world of Avatar’s Pandora, or climbing Mount Everest, this park has it all. We recommend the following experiences:

Rides

·         Avatar Flight of Passage

·         Expedition Everest

·         Kilimanjaro Safaris

·         Kali River Rapids

·         DINOSAUR

Shows

·         It’s Tough to Be a Bug!

·         Festival of the Lion King

·         Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond!

Character Experiences

·         Meet Moana at Character Landing

·         Donald’s Dino-Bash

Light Shows

·         Tree of Life Awakenings (seasonally)

The smallest of the parks is Hollywood Studios but there’s no shortage of fun there. You can travel to Star Wars’ Galaxy’s Edge, find yourself on a studio backlot, or get lost in Toy Story Land. Hollywood Studios has something for everyone. We recommend the following experiences:

Rides

·         Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

·         Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

·         Slinky Dog Dash

·         Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

·         Mickey & Minne’s Runaway Railroad

Shows

·         Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

·         Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage

·         Disney Junior Play and Dance!

Character Experiences

·         Meet (Live Action) Ariel at Walt Disney Presents

Fireworks

·         Fantasmic!

Now that you know all the tips and tricks of navigating Disney World, be sure to grab your ears and your suitcase and have a magical vacation!


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