As I’ve mentioned once or twice we’ve recently returned from an amazing holiday to Orlando!
I’ve had quite a few people say they’re planning on going soon so thought a few posts with some tips might be helpful. I know I certainly did a lot of research before we booked our holiday.
I’ll start with Walt Disney World as let’s face it is the bit that everyone goes to Florida for! So here’s some Walt Disney World tips & advice from me…
Disney World Tickets
We bought our tickets from Floridatix. I hunted around for the best deals and these were the cheapest at the time. We got 14 days for the price of 7 which I think is an offer that’s on a lot – it’s definitely worth waiting for if you can. Our tickets included Park Hopper which means you can go to more than one Disney park in a day – a good idea to have if you want to head to a different park in the evening for the fireworks. If you can we’d definitely recommend getting tickets that also include Fast Pass (I think they all do now) and Memory Maker.
With Fast Pass, you book a time slot for a ride so when you turn up you don’t have to queue. We used this a lot! All Disney parks have free WiFi so you can book fast passes there and then. We saw a few long queues and fast passed them for later that day. You only get 3 fast passes per person per day so use them wisely!
Our tickets also included Memory Maker which I think is $149 otherwise – worth every single penny. Each time you meet a character, and at certain points around all Disney parks, there are professional photographers who will take your photo. They scan your park ticket and if you have linked your ticket to an account the photos magically appear. You can then download these photos for free when you get home. Memory Maker also includes those photos at the end of rides that they used to charge you ridiculous prices for.
Walt Disney World App
My most important tip is to register on the Walt Disney World website and download the My Disney Experience app before you go. You can make dining reservations and book fast passes for rides either before you go or while you’re away. It also has a great map of the parks and you can view your Memory Maker photos instantly.
Before we left England we pre-booked a few character dining experiences. The first one was breakfast at Chef Mickey’s which is located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This was a fab way to start our holiday with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy & Pluto coming to the table while you eat.
We also had breakfast with Lilo & Stitch at Disney’s Polynesian Resort which was great fun and ended with the kids joining in Stitch’s parade around the restaurant with musical instruments.
The third breakfast was on our last morning where we dined with the Disney Jnr characters at Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood Studios. This one’s fab for small children, Little H is mad about Doc McStuffin’, Princess Sofia and Jake & The Neverland Pirates so really enjoyed this.
The most special meal we had was at Cinderella’s Royal Table which is inside Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom. This is pretty pricey but was really good fun. As you wait you’re greeted by Cinderella herself and have a photo with her. You’re then taken up a windy spiral staircase to the dining room with its big windows overlooking Fantasy Land. Dinner is a 3-course meal with the added bonus of being visited by Disney Princesses as you eat – every little (& big) girl’s dream! All of the girls are given a wand and a wishing star, and I think the boys were given a shield. It was great fun and is ideal if you have a princess mad child.
Disney Hotel vs Villa
We spent a long time deciding where to stay and ended up choosing a villa as felt it would be more flexible – having one hotel room for a family can get stressful. We’re actually still undecided about which would have been the best option as both have their pros and cons.
In hindsight, a Disney hotel may have been better for us as you don’t have to drive, park or pay for parking. You can just jump on the monorail and you’re there. It also means that you can pop back to the hotel for a nap if the heat or walking gets too much.
A villa, however, means you have your own pool and more room to yourselves. You don’t have to eat in the hotels every night and you can escape the whole Disney thing for a bit.
As I say I’m still undecided but would definitely recommend considering both options. I think we’d try a Disney hotel if we went again – the Polynesian Resort looked really nice.
I personally wouldn’t choose a hotel outside of Disney as you need a car, are confined to one room and have none of the Disney perks.
Parking at all Disney parks is $20 per day for standard parking and you pay this on entry into Disney World. This really racks up if you’re going to the various parks most days. You don’t have to pay again if you leave and come back later though which is handy if you want to go home for a rest before the nighttime fireworks.
It’s not publicised but if you eat at a restaurant in one of the hotels you can claim your parking back, just ask at the hotel reception and you’ll get back your $20. It’s a good idea to go for breakfast so you can leave your car at the hotel all day and use the hotel’s transport into the park.
Go to Epcot to meet Princesses
Little H’s top priority was meeting all of her favourite characters – mainly princesses! A few years ago we queued for over 2 hours to meet a princess (they didn’t tell you which one) at Disneyland Paris and when we got to the front Little H cried because it was Snow White, not Rapunzel. We weren’t going to make that mistake again so fast passed Cinderella and Aurora for the first day at Magic Kingdom!
On the second day of our holiday, we went to Epcot and realised this is the place to meet the princesses who aren’t available to meet at Magic Kingdom.
The World Showcase is set around the lake and is made up of 11 countries. At most of these countries, you can meet a different Disney Princess – Elsa & Anna in Norway, Snow White in Germany, Belle in France and so on. The princesses are there all day and we didn’t have to queue for any of them for more than 10 minutes – much shorter than in Magic Kingdom.
Seeing Little H’s face every time she met a princess made the whole holiday worthwhile. She was totally star struck, it was so cute! Obviously, all of the characters are well trained to make kids feel special and they really do, commenting on their hair, clothes etc to single them out.
Star Wars fans go to Hollywood Studios
I am not at all interested in Star Wars, but my husband is and after all the princessy things we thought it only fair to indulge him in his geekiness.
Hollywood Studios has a lot of great rides and shows for the whole family, but most of it seems to be focused on Star Wars now. There’s a couple of rides, a show, a Jedi training program for kids which sadly was booked up, and a meet & greet with Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. There’s also an outdoor Star Wars show during the day and a Star Wars light show at night.
Be warned – you may lose your children (or husband) for a few hours in the Star Wars store!
Other Disney tips include:
- If you do lots of shopping in any of the parks you can ask to collect your purchases on the way out to save carrying them around all day.
- Ask any of the shop attendants for “pixie dust” and you’ll be sprinkled with it.
- You need to get a spot for the parade and fireworks at least an hour before they start. The best place is right in front of the castle.
- Use the app to locate characters nearby to you.