10 Must-Knows About Disney World

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Planning a trip to Disney World, you lucky duck? There's plenty to know, so let's get started!

Your children are asking. The neighbors are going. It seems like a family’s rite of passage, but you can’t bring yourselves to take that first step. Disney World?! Oh, it’s all so overwhelming! Where do I begin? We want to go, but how do we wade through the websites, blogs, books, message boards, advice, posts and experiences coming at us from every angle? Everything changes all the time!
Relax. I’m going to set your mind at ease. My Top 10 tips for creating a great Disney experience for your family provides good reason to see what the “Imagineers” have recently brought to life:

1) Don’t go at it alone. Work with a professional. Utilize the free services of a travel agency that has been designated an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. You definitely want an agent with a high level of knowledge and experience.

2) Stay at a Disney-owned resort. Disney executives have made staying on site more and more attractive in recent years. If you want to make dining reservations for your entire stay at exactly 180 days from your arrival date, you must have a Disney resort reservation. Even more valuable is your pre-determined Fastpass selection timing. It’s so much easier to have your Magic Band if you’re staying on site because you can choose the rides to use your Fastpasses on 60 days in advance. Don’t worry, if you change your mind once you get to the park, kiosks are available for making switches —  if there are still available times. Free roundtrip ground transportation from the airport, Dining Plan eligibility and Extra Magic Hours are only available to on-site guests.

3) Speaking of Fastpass, master the system before you leave home. With additional Fastpass and Park Hopper Fastpass options changing all the time, you’ll want to be up-to-date on the current options and best use of Fastpass.

4) Good Planning = good dining. The Disney Dining Plan offers guests the ability to prepay for meals all over Disney World at a nice savings. An intangible but lovely benefit is avoiding sticker shock when looking at a menu: you are prepaid and may order what you like! The food has always ranked up there as my sons’ favorite part of Disney World.

5) Embrace the Bands. Magic Bands are Disney’s slick, RFID encoded, waterproof, super-cool wristbands every on-site resort guest receives via mail before a trip. They really are magic! Select your color. Add your name. Open your room door. Charge to your room. Enter the parks. Use Fastpass. Take care of dining credits.

6) Experience the app. My Disney Experience is home base for your vacation. Find all of your reservations, Fastpasses, online check-in, maps, menus and more right under your thumb! And bring a portable charger because you’ll become reliant on it!

7) Know your limits. You can’t do it all in one trip. Pace your vacation time to meet your children’s ages and interests now.

8) TAKE A BREAK. Very few people enjoy hot summer sun all day. Schedule breaks or take a day away from the parks mid-vacation to enjoy your resort.

9) STICK TO A PLAN — within reason. My husband veered from my daily plan once and still hears about it. This was his tip. Nothing, though, is more important than everyone’s peace and comfort.

10) Arrive early. I asked my family for a tip suggestion and this was their unanimous choice. Whip through the popular attractions!

I hope I’ve given you a glimpse into the magic your family will experience with a Disney Destination vacation. Let’s get started!

Jami Hill is co-owner of FTM Travel, an agency which has achieved the designation of Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. She has been booking Disney vacations for more than eight years and has written more than 500 personalized Disney World touring plans. Find her at jami@ftmtravel.com.

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