Disney World, Know Before You Go—Essential Tips from Veteran Travelers

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Thanks to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, there is a whole new list of things to know before you go to Disney World. While the old adages certainly still apply, many have taken on new meaning and other tips for managing a successful trip have emerged.

If you’re visiting Disney World in 2023 and beyond, here are the critical things you should know before you leave home.

Know Before You Go: Timing Is Everything

EPCOT during a Walt Disney World Christmas
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Timing your trip to the right season has always been an important part of Disney World vacation planning. If you can’t stand heat and humidity, then a summer trip isn’t for you. Likewise, if your bones get chilled at the thought of standing in line for Expedition Everest on a 40 degree day, you might want to avoid January or February when a cold snap could easily send temperatures plummeting.

Crowds are another thing to consider. The parks see their highest crowds around Christmas and Easter and lower numbers of guests throughout the rest of the year.

If you have concerns about large crowds or just prefer to visit the parks with fewer fellow guests, you’ll want to plan your vacation for the months where fewer people visit. Currently, the lowest ticket and resort prices tend to occur in August and September, indicating less demand for Disney World vacations. January and February week days also see lower crowds. However, there are drawbacks to each of these times that you’ll also want to consider.

For more advice on selecting your travel dates, you can read our article about when to plan your trip.

Where to Stay, So Many Choices

Exterior of Disney World Beach and Yacht Club at night
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I have a friend who once drove up to the Polynesian Resort at Disney World and inquired about a room at the front desk. She was given a suite at a last-minute magical price that she’s never forgotten.

Unfortunately, those days are long behind us, and one thing you need to know before you go to Disney World is where you will stay.

When selecting accommodations, you have two choices. Onsite hotels are located somewhere on the nearly 13,000 acres owned by Disney Parks. These resorts come in three different categories known as Value, Moderate and Deluxe.

Value room feature the lowest price tag and the slimmest set of amenities. Think budget motel, several steps above a Super 8, thanks to always clean accommodations and extensive theming geared toward the young at heart.

Moderate resorts, such as Port Orleans Riverside or Caribbean Beach Resort, blend some of the budget-friendly aspects of the Value resorts with a slightly elevated feel. Rooms still open directly onto exterior walkways as you would expect from a wallet-friendly motel, but you can expect more space and a slightly more upgraded touch to the furnishings and in-room amenities. Grounds are usually expansive and beautifully manicured, providing a respite from the rest of the world.

Inhabiting the top-tier of the Disney hotel experience are Deluxe Resorts. Hotels in this category include the flagship Grand Floridian and the African-themed Animal Kingdom Lodge.

All Deluxe Resorts feature upscale theming, larger rooms, and a true hotel experience. Unfortunately, they have the price tag to match the extended amenity set, with rack rates averaging around $500 a night.

To save money, Disney World travelers have been known to take accommodations offsite at a nearby hotel or rented residence. While the nightly rate may come in under those charged by Disney resorts, there are additional costs to consider.

DW newsletter call out
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For one thing, if the hotel does not provide transportation to the parks, you’ll need a car or to order a rideshare. Both add extra cost to your vacation bill. You’ll also be charged a parking fee each day when you drive to the parks, an expense that adds up quickly. Some resorts also assess a resort fee to cover things like hotel wi-fi, as well as nightly charges to park a car. If staying offsite, be sure to understand all additional fees the hotel will assess you at checkout before booking.

For a detailed account of the pros and cons of the various Disney World hotel options, you can read our blog covering the differences between onsite and offsite resort stays. To find the best offsite options, read our article on Good Neighbor Hotels. This selection of properties has been hand picked by Disney and must meet exacting standards. Best of all, you can book a Good Neighbor hotel and still purchase a vacation package, including the cost of your tickets.

Disney World Know Before You Go: A Vacation Package Is Your Best Bet

If you choose to stay at a Disney World resort, reserving your room as part of a vacation package is really the way to go. With a vacation package, you’ll bundle the cost of your room reservation and theme park tickets together.

Packages allow you to make a low deposit, just $200, to hold your trip, and balances aren’t due until 30 days before arrival. A vacation package also offers more flexible cancelation options.

Compare that to booking your resort and tickets separately, where you’ll need to drop the equivalent of one night’s stay for your hotel at booking and pay the full price of your tickets when you purchase them.

For more information on the advantages of package bookings, be sure to read our article on Disney World vacation packages.

Know Your Deadlines Before You Go to Disney World

Advanced preparation is necessary—that’s what you need to know before you go to Disney World. Genie+ reservations, allow you to skip the regular queue, but if rumored changes take effect in 2024, you’ll need to book your ride time in advance. Likewise, those always-popular character meals will likely require an advanced dining reservation.

Here are some deadlines you should know before you go to Disney World:

  • Advanced dining reservations: The booking window for Disney World resort guests opens 60 days before the start of your trip (previously 180) and can be made for the length of your stay. If you’re staying offsite, you can begin booking 60 days before each day of your trip.
  • Disney World resort package final payment: Final package payments are due 30 days prior to arrival.
  • Genie+ Reservations: In 2023, Genie+ reservations can be made one at a time, beginning at 7:00 am on the day you plan to visit the parks. However, Disney has announced that it will be changing the program for 2024 to better meet guest requests to pre-book their Genie+ ride windows before leaving home. This was standard with the former FastPass+ program. If changes align to FastPass+, you could be able to book your Genie+ ride times 60 days before arrival. For more information on Disney’s expedited queue, including updates to booking terms as they become available, be sure to read our complete guide to Genie+.

You Might Just Need an Itinerary

If you like to go with the flow, you might not need a step by step timed itinerary, but even the freest traveler will benefit from having some idea of what they want to see on a Disney World vacation and when they want to see it. At a minimum, that means reviewing the list of rides and attractions available at each park and deciding which you must experience.

If you’re traveling during peak times, lines can be long, so identifying your must-dos and penciling them in first will help you ensure you experience the most important rides, shows and events.

Having at least a loose itinerary is essential if you’re using Genie+. An itinerary can help you keep track of eligible attractions, so you don’t miss any ride-skipping fun.

It’s the same for dining reservations. If you hope to dine at some of Disney’s popular table-service restaurants, particularly those featuring character meals, advanced dining reservations (ADRs) are critical. Recording these in your itinerary will put you on a time schedule for making your ADRs.

For the more detailed minded, or for anyone who wants to spend as little time as possible in line, it could even mean planning out more popular attractions for earlier in the day and planning others for later. You can find complete guidelines on planning your park visit in our Disney World Itinerary planning blog.

Afraid You’ll Forget Something in Your Disney World Planning? Here’s the Answer!

It’s Easy to Forget the list of things you need to know when planning a trip to Disney, but there is one thing you can do to stay on the right track. Work with a travel agent. Travel agents who specialize in Disney World deliver experienced guidance when booking your trip.

Get the benefit of our travel planning insights and wisdom by booking with us. As an agent with Mickey World Travel, we can help you find the right resorts and tickets, book your trip, and provide continuing guidance throughout the planning process.

You’ll never pay more when booking with us than you would if you booked directly with Disney. We’ll help you find the best days, resorts and discounts for a memorable trip that doesn’t break the bank.

Request a no-obligation quote today.

Disney World Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride behind text.

Need to Know Before You Go to Disney World: Decide How You Will Get Around

Disney World transportations
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When visiting Disney World, you have a number of options for traveling between resorts, the parks and other locations across the vast property. The easiest is Disney World’s complimentary transportation system. The network includes buses, boats, a monorail and even a new Skyliner.

Ride sharing is also available across Disney World, either through Uber or Lyft.

However, with the exception of buses and ride sharing, you won’t find every type of transportation available at every location. To make things easier and your Disney World vacation more enjoyable, you may want to know what options are available for you before you go.

The handy list below makes a great cheat sheet. You can also read our blog for complete details on the Disney World transportation system, including a comparison between each transportation type.

Disney World Rules to Know Before You Go

Other things you need to know before you go to Disney World, involve rules. As with anything in life, rules are put into place to keep people safe and create a more enjoyable atmosphere for everyone. This is as true for Disney World as it is anywhere else, particularly as more people visit the parks.

Here are some of the top rules at Disney World to know before you go:

Line cutting—don’t even think about it: It should go without saying that line cutting is not tolerated at Disney World. However, many guests like to shade this rule with a generous portion of gray, allowing a lot of latitude. We’ve seen large groups push their way through queues to meet up with a single individual who entered the line an hour before. Make no doubt about it, this is considered line cutting and can get you kicked out of the park.

Drones are a no-no: If you’ve ever considered taking an overhead drone footage of your family as you enter Magic Kingdom for the first time, you’ll need to rethink your strategy for creating your fabulous memento. Drones are not allowed anywhere at Disney World.

Leave your Snapple and all other glass bottles at home: Glass bottles are prohibited at Disney parks and around resort pools.

Age restrictions in effect: While Disney World welcomes guests of all ages, only those who are 14 or above can enter the parks without an adult.

Fido has a place of his own: While some resorts do welcome your well-behaved dog, animals are not allowed within the parks, unless they are fulfilling a role as a service dog. However, the Best Friend’s Pet Care Center will show your dog a good time, offering supervised play groups, air-conditioned accommodations and a caring place to rest while you’re enjoying a day at Disney World.

Animal Kingdom has its own rules: When visiting Animal Kingdom, you’ll soon realize that plastic straws are not available. You won’t find balloons either. This is for the health and safety of the animals. Guests arriving with these items will be asked to leave them outside the gates.

Turn your flash off: Flash photography is strictly prohibited at indoor attractions, including rides, so turn your camera flash to off before entering.

Strollers subject to specific guidelines: While Disney World rents strollers, many families prefer to bring their own. Without knowing Disney World’s guidelines before you go, this strategy could result in a fair degree of frustration.

For one thing, strollers that measure greater that 31” in width and 52” in length are prohibited. Stroller wagons are also not allowed. You may not use strollers on escalators and on some ramps and elevators.

No smoking of any kind at Disney World resorts:  There’s no faster way to rack up a $250-$500 room recovery fee than by smoking in your hotel room, and that includes cigarettes or marijuana. While recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in many U.S. states, Florida has not jumped on the bandwagon, so you’ll be breaking the law as well if you decide to light up in your room.

Tickets are non-transferrable: Once you use a ticket to enter a Disney park, that ticket becomes assigned to the individual who first used it.

This is important to understand, because Disney World theme park tickets get cheaper per day the longer you stay. As a result, guests who have 2 or more individuals in their party who are arriving and departing at different times, may be tempted to get one ticket, expecting to pass it on to a later arrival once the first individual leaves. This money-saving tactic is prohibited at Disney World. To enforce this rule, tickets are bound to individuals using biometric screenings.

Disney World Know Before You Go Special Tips

When visiting Disney World, there are a number of things to know before you go, but the following tips could save you some serious frustration.

Bring a portable phone charger: The My Disney Experience app is the key to your Disney World vacation. This is where you view wait times, make Genie+ reservations, book dining, mobile order quick service food, and for some guests, pull up tickets to enter the parks. As a result, you’ll be using your phone a lot. A portable charger can keep you moving and enjoying your vacation.

Ship purchases to your room: Rather than carrying around that stuffed toy or fragile ornament, ask the store to ship it to your Disney World resort room, if available. THIS SERVICE WAS SUSPENDED FOLLOWING THE COVID-19 REOPENING AND AS OF 2023, HAS NOT YET RETURNED. WE HOPE TO SEE THIS SERVICE RETURN SOON.

Celebrate a special event: Disney wants to celebrate your life moments with you and issues buttons for many commemorative occasions. You can obtain one at the Town Hall in the Magic Kingdom or Guest Relations in other parks.

Pack your own water: Florida water is not known for its palatable taste, so picking up some water bottles from the grocery store and packing them into the park can save you big time over the cost of purchasing from a restaurant or snack cart. Just remember, the water you bring must be contained in plastic or reusable bottles – now glass containers.

Consider a Memory Maker purchase before you go: Disney Photopass photographers are positioned at most of the key spots for capturing iconic photos, but you don’t need to pay for these. Photographers will gladly snap your pic with your own camera. However, if you think you’ll want to purchase more than 2 or 3 ride photos in addition to photos taken at keepsake memory spots, consider opting in for Memory Maker. The cost of the package will be cheaper than buying this number of photos individually, and if you buy before you arrive at Disney World, you’ll save even more. Just remember to purchase more than three days before the start of your trip to ensure that it is activated when you arrive.

Ride queue closings: Ride queues close when the park does, but the ride doesn’t stop running until the queue empties out. That means you can get in line any time before the official park close and still get on the ride.

Don’t fret forgotten items: If you forget something, such as toiletries, always check with the hotel front desk before buying replacements. If you’re in the park and realize you forgot diapers, formula or even if you need an OTC medication, such as Advil, don’t run back to the room. Got to the Baby Care Center. In most cases, they’ll be able to assist.

Set up your My Disney Experience account before leaving home. As mentioned previously, this is command central during your trip, allowing you to make advanced dining reservations, look up show times and even get into your room or the parks. However, it’s also a critical planning tool while you’re still at home.

When it comes to visiting Disney World, there are many things to know before you go, and a little bit of preparation can go a long way in creating a more enjoyable visit.

Continue Your Disney World Travel Planning

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Mother daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S.

We're Kat and Ali, a pair of mother-daughter travel bloggers exploring the U.S. We're sharing our experiences, tips and insights to help you more easily get out and explore the beautiful landscapes and places of this nation.


Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughters. Kathleen has been a professional writer for more than a decade, helping businesses craft compelling content to advance organizational goals.

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