With four theme parks, six golf courses and more than 58,000 employees, the Walt Disney World Resort sits on a 47-square-mile plot of land.
Disney World is known as the “happiest place on earth,” but it can also be confusing and a bit overwhelming. To the rescue are two experts who have made traveling to Disney their job. They are sharing their best tips and tactics for making the most of your trip to the Mouse House.
Liliane Opsomer literally wrote the book on Disney travel as the co-author of the “Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.” Jenn Hart of Guru Travel has traveled to Disney more than 70 (!) times herself and as a Disney Authorized Travel Agent, she has made Disney dreams a reality for hundreds of families.
Packages and room-only reservations for Walt Disney World Resorts are now open for online booking all 2015 dates (the dates opened online July 30).
If you don’t have much lead time, Opsomer said it is still worth making the trek. “There are plenty of hotels and restaurants available and when it comes to the attractions, there is simply so much to see that a visitor will have a good time no matter what.”
“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to arrive early at the parks,” Opsomer says. “We recommend guests get to the park at least 30 minutes prior to official opening time. Get those ‘must-ride/see’ attractions out of the way in the first two hours!”
Bring Your Appetite
With more than 100 restaurants, deciding where to eat is not easy. Guests can make dining reservations 180 days in advance and the most popular restaurants book up quickly.
Hart recommends selecting unique restaurants. “I look for something I can’t find around home. How many times can you go to a Chicagoland restaurant and Mickey Mouse greets you? How often do you eat peanut-butter rice like you can get at Boma Flavors of Africa in the Animal Kingdom Lodge?”
In Epcot, she recommends the table service restaurant in Morocco, Restaurant Marrakesh, which has items for both adventurous eaters and those with blander palates.
Hit the Pool
All resorts on the Disney property have pools, and some are quite elaborate. Stormalong Bay at the Beach Club Resort covers three acres and features a sand bottom and 230-foot slide.
“Our research shows that what kids remember most from their vacation is the fun they had at the pool of their hotel!” Opsomer says.
With so much to do, it is impossible to see everything in one trip and prioritizing is required. Hart says her job is to educate families so that they can make informed decisions about how best to spend their time while on vacation at Disney.
“If you have to meet Anna and Elsa, that’s what you do,” Hart says. If that is the case, Opsomer suggests using FastPass+ to cut down on the wait time to see them at the Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom.
Figure Out FastPass+
FastPass+ is a system that permits Disney World guests to make reservations for rides, attractions and entertainment at the parks. In addition to Elsa and Anna, Opsomer says the best uses of FastPass+ in the Magic Kingdom are The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (which opened in May), Peter Pan’s Flight, and Enchanted Tales with Belle, as well as the ever-popular Splash Mountain and Space Mountain. FastPass+ reservations can be made on your smartphone, which also has real time information about what’s going on in all the parks.
Hart is a big fan of the FastPass+ system. “The new technology makes it easier to keep everyone together and to make the best use of your time,” she says. “You can look on your phone to see what a wait time for a ride is before you walk all the way across the park.”
“Anything you want to do that isn’t related to snow, you can do at Disney World,” says Hart, who explained that the breadth of activities is often why clients use her free services.
She notes that the approach applies not only to different activities, but also to making one activity appeal to all ages. “Disney has captured the family atmosphere. They get that there can be attractions, films and experiences that the entire family can enjoy. They make sure there is something for everyone.”
When at Disney World, cast members (the Disney term for employees) will wish you a magical day. These tips will help you do just that.
Top right photo by Kent Phillips, Disney