Maybe you’ve never considered yourself a Disney person. But now you’ve got kids who are itching to go to Disney World for the first time. And well, you want to make that happen.
A few weeks ago I realized I was going to have a window of free time while visiting Florida. So I hastily decided to book a trip to Orlando because who knows when the chance will come again? The kids are just going to get older.
Anyhow I had a ton of basic questions about visiting the park(s). But most of the online guides that I read were too comprehensive. They assumed we were die-hard Disney enthusiasts. They also assumed what felt like a higher level of Disney expertise.*
This guide is a simple run-down of my most basic questions about visiting Disney World for the first time. I’m writing this guide less than 24 hours after my visit. So the answers that follow are from my own newbie experience. Links to more comprehensive guides to Disney World are listed below where applicable.
How Do You Book Tickets?
Book your tickets online, either on the Disney website or via the My Disney Experience app. Tickets are expensive — Good God, they’re expensive. But this is probably going to be once-in-a-lifetime thing.
Should You Get a Park Hopper Ticket?
Yes. You’ll get bored if you stick to one park per day.
How Do You Get to the Parks and Around?
We took an Uber to Disney. The round-trip from our non-Disney hotel was comparable to the price for parking. But I can imagine taking your car in is useful if you want to use it to store stuff like fresh clothing or extra snacks. There are free trams that help you get to and from the parking lots.
As far as getting around the parks, there are various free transportation options for all visitors. Disney has buses, ferries, and the monorail to get you from one park to another.
Can You Do All Four Disney World Parks In One Day?
Yes. It’s an ambitious plan, but it’s doable. The four parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. But there are other parks, including water parks, that are part of the Disney ecosystem.
I used the advice from Travel Pockets to plan a one-day Disney itinerary. But I had to modify my schedule a bit given my lack of knowledge on the FastPass+ system, the wait time in the standby line, and the desires of my kids.
But I still mostly recommend the order in which Travel Pockets recommend doing the day:
- Animal Kingdom. Animals are up and active for the safari.
- Hollywood Studios. From here you can take the free ferry to
- Epcot. It’s ideal to plan a late lunch, snack, or early dinner at Epcot, since there’s a greater variety of food. Then take the monorail to
- Magic Kingdom. Here you can finish out the day with fireworks.
Can You Bring Bags Into the Park?
Yes. It’s no problem at all to bring in bags stocked with the essentials you might need, e.g., sunscreen, refillable water bottle (plastic or metal, no glass), chapstick, phone charger pack, etc. You can bring your bags on all the rides without a problem.
What’s A FastPass+ and How Do You Use It?
Due to informational overload, I only figured out the FastPass+ system about halfway through the day of my visit. But it is essential. Waits for (the good) rides are impossibly long for standby and some are even booked up with Fast Pass before you even arrive. Disney lets every guest book three rides in advance with FastPass+. The caveat is that all three rides have to be at one park. I hate this rule because each park only seemed to have one, maybe two, must-ride rides. But I can understand that it keeps the FastPass+ system working.
The good news is that you can also book FastPass+ on-the-fly on the day of the visit using either the Disney app or the FastPass+ kiosks located around the parks. So, some of those rides you’re dying to go on will open up as the day goes along. You’ve just got to keep checking. You can only book one FastPass+ ride at a time. Per Disney, you can “use that one, then get one more (based on availability)?and repeat!”
What Are the Food & Drink Options at Disney?
I wasn’t super impressed with the food and drink options at Disney, but then I didn’t bother exploring or making reservations at any of the fancier restaurants within the Disney World complex. Prices were high at the regular food kiosks, but not as high as I anticipated. There were also water stations at all the fast service restaurants, so you could stay hydrated and not have to buy bottles of water.
Can You Get Adult Beverages at Disney?
You can get beer and a few mixed alcoholic beverages (margaritas, frozen daiquiris, etc.) at three out of the four parks. Magic Kingdom is a dry park (alcohol-free), except at restaurants with table service.
Should You Stay For the Fireworks?
Yes. If this is your one shot at Disney, then you have to stay for the fireworks. Getting out of the Magic Kingdom after the fireworks show is exhausting after such an action-packed day. Of course, if you’re doing more than one day during your Disney trip, then you can skip the show on subsequent evenings.
But if you’re going to put in all the work of visiting Disney, then you will want to stay for the grand finale. “Happily Ever After” is a fireworks show synchronized with inspirational Disney songs and animations projected onto the facade of Cinderella’s castle, is a satisfying, colorful reward after a long day. And, I must admit, it did feel like a bit of magic, even for this increasingly hard to impress travel writer.