There’s little as exciting for Disney fans as booking a vacation to Walt Disney World. What could be better? But a WDW trip isn’t without its complications and stresses, as anyone who’s ever been there knows. And if you’re a first-time guest to the most magical place on earth, navigating the myriad details of a WDW vacation can seem positively overwhelming. Here are a few of the issues that Disney guests often struggle with, along with hints on successfully overcoming them. With a bit of planning and some helpful tricks, you and your family can enjoy a complication-free vacation!
1. Avoiding Park Fatigue (and Meltdowns)
As amazing as Walt Disney World is, it can be exhausting for young children (and even for adults!). It’s important to work some downtime into your day, and Disney has plenty of ways for you to do this. There are lots of play areas and places to cool down throughout the parks, and there are even quiet areas for quests who need to get away from the constant stimulation. Just ask a cast member for the closest location. Families with young children may want to pick a resort within walking distance or a short monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom, so you can easily return to your room for a break.
2. Dinner Reservations
When and how to book a dining reservation? It can seem like an impossibly complicated process. Start by deciding which park you’ll visit which day, and then take a look at restaurants in the area you plan to be in. Keep in mind that you’ll need to allow for more time at table service restaurants, so on busy days, you may wish to use quick service locations instead. Explore menus online to get a sense of where you want to eat, and then make sure you book online 180 days in advance of your arrival date (for up to 10 days of your vacation). If you can’t get that coveted reservation for dinner, try another meal, or try checking back later in case of a cancellation.
3. Allergies and Dietary Restrictions
So, you’ve made your dining reservations – great start! But what to do if there are guests in your party with dietary restrictions? Thankfully, you’re in great hands. We’ve never experienced more sensitivity, competence and willingness to accommodate dietary restrictions than at Walt Disney World! Whether you have a guest with severe allergies to multiple foods, or a vegan guest, or even a picky eater, cast members will go above and beyond to make sure that meals are altered or even created from scratch in order to suit everyone’s needs. Often, you’ll even receive a table-side visit from a Disney chef!
4. Mobility Challenges and Disabilities
Walt Disney World tries to be as inclusive as possible, which means that even if you have a disability or mobility issue, you can still enjoy the parks. The Disability Access Service allows guests who can’t wait for long periods of time to schedule a return time (comparable to the existing line wait), when they can return and ride right away. There are strollers, wheelchairs and ECV/motorized scooters available for rent at the entrances to each park, and if you have a guest who needs to stay in a stroller while in line for a ride, you can see Guest Relations for an identifying tag. Many attractions are wheelchair-friendly, while some require guests to transfer, and this is clearly posted on each ride.
5. FastPasses+ and Extra Magic Hours
Each guest is entitled to 3 FastPasses+ a day as part of park admission (once you’ve used all of your FastPasses+, you can visit a kiosk or use your cell phone to make more selections, one at a time). They allow you to access a much shorter line for a given ride, during a specific window of time. You’ll want to use your limited FastPasses+ for rides that have the longest lines (info is available online). You can make your FastPass+ selections online 60 days before your vacation if you’re staying on property, or 30 days in advance if you’re staying off-site.
6. Tier System
But it’s a little more complicated than just securing your FastPasses+ at the 60 day mark! To make sure that all guests have a chance to experience the most popular theme park rides, Walt Disney World has a tier system in place at most of its parks (with the exception of the Magic Kingdom). Attractions are considered either “Tier 1” (“A”) or “Tier 2” (“B”), and you’ll only be able to pick one FastPass+ in the Tier 1 group per day, and the remainder of your FastPasses+ from the Tier 2 group. Remember, if you’re staying in a WDW resort, you can always take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (when lines are shorter), or just enjoy the wonderfully themed queues awaiting you!
7. Beating the Crowds
Even with FastPasses+, crowds are still a fact of life at Walt Disney World. But with some thoughtful planning, you can beat the worst of the crowds and enjoy a more stress-free vacation. Always arrive at a park before it opens, and then head to any popular attractions you don’t have FastPasses+ for, as lines will be lightest first thing in the morning. Take a break during midday, as this tends to be the busiest time for lines. Shortest line times are typically during parades or when it rains, so if you’ve seen the parade already, skip it, and bring a poncho so you can stay in line regardless of the weather.
8. Different Heights/Ride Interests
What if you have a child who wants to ride an attraction, but another who doesn’t, or who isn’t tall enough? Well, there’s a way that both parents can ride and not have to separate and meet back later in the day. Rider Switch lets one person ride while another person stays with the guest who isn’t riding; then, you can swap and let the other guest ride without having to wait in line all over again. You can also take advantage of the single rider line (although there aren’t many rides that have this option) for some thrill rides, so if one person wants to ride, he or she can get through the ride much more quickly while his or her party waits.