Walt Disney Resort For Beginners: A Complete Guide To Plan A Disney Vacation

Recently, a friend of mine told me she was “terrified” to plan a trip to Disney because she was a “beginner!” “Say what?” I asked. “Disney? It's the Happiest Place On Earth! What could be scary about that?”  She said she had no idea HOW to plan a Disney vacation because it is so overwhelming! She said she needed a “Disney for dummies” or Disney World 101 guide for beginners.”

“Never fear,” I said. As a former Cast Member and someone who has been a guest to Walt Disney World Resort more times than I can count (likely more than 50, maybe close to 100), as well as traveled to Disneyland Resort in California, Disneyland Paris, on Disney's cruise ships, traveled to Disney's Aulani Resort and Spa, and am a member of the Disney Vacation Club, I am the right Mousketeer to help plan a magical trip to Disney.

So, I created this complete guide for Disney for beginners. Whether you call it that or “Disney World 101” or even a less appealing “Disney for Dummies” guide, this is the ultimate guide for planning a trip to Disney World.  Even if you have been there before, you will love this complete guide with helpful and useful tips for planning your Disney World vacation.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclaimer

How To Plan A Vacation To Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World Resort VS Disneyland Resort – What's The Difference?

Okay, let's start by making sure we are talking about the same place. Wearing my Cast Member ears for a minute – when you say you want to plan a “Disney” vacation, technically, you aren't really talking about one place.  There are a lot of Disney properties around the world, and you want to get to the right one, right? So, let's clarify this.

Walt Disney World Resort is in Orlando, Florida. It is the second of the famed theme parks, the original being Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

There are several properties around the world, but for now, let's stick to the two main resorts in the United States. Sometimes people say they are going to “Disney” or “Disneyland Florida”. But there is no such thing as Disneyland Florida. There is only Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort.

Disneyland Resort

The biggest difference between Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort – aside from their locations and some of the attractions – is their size.

Disneyland Resort in California has:

  • Two main theme parks:  Disneyland (where you will find Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Land) and Disney California Adventure Park
  • Three on-property Disney Resort Hotels
  • Disneyland Monorail
  • Downtown Disney District
  • Lots of entertainment

All of it is close together and walkable.

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Both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts are great destinations but there are several differences. Walt Disney World has four theme parks, including Epcot.

 

Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World Resort is huge! It has:

  • Four major theme parks
  • More than 30 Disney Resort Hotels on-property
  • Two water parks
  • A comprehensive transportation system including:
    • buses
    • watercraft
    • a Monorail system
    • a new Skyliner
    • the “Minnie Van” (Disney's version of ride service)
  • A large dining and entertainment area called Disney Springs
  • A campground
  • Two mini-golf courses
  • Loads of additional activities and entertainment, including Disney's BoardWalk
  • Lots to do at Disney World outside of the theme parks

It is not walkable to get in between the theme parks (except for Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot), which is why the transportation system is so handy. You could easily spend two weeks at Walt Disney World Resort and not see everything.

Both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort are wonderful for different reasons. But this post will focus on helping you plan a Disney vacation to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, because it can be tricky to navigate.

Why Plan A Vacation To Walt Disney World Resort

  1. Your kids will love it.
  2. Disney is VERY family-friendly.
  3. Disney thinks of almost everything.
  4. Your kids will love it.
  5. Disney is fairly “easy”:
    • transportation is convenient if you stay on property
    • payment systems are streamlined
    • restaurants and snacks are plentiful
    • don't have to leave the “bubble” for most things
  6. You are never too old or too young for Disney.
  7. Disney is magical.
  8. Cast Member customer service is legendary.
  9. Did I mention your kids will love it?

Get Over It and Do It – For the Kids!

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Kids love seeing their favorite characters at Walt Disney World Resort.

I can't tell you how many adults I know who won't take their kids to Walt Disney World Resort because THEY don't want to go. They say their kids are too young. Their kids won't remember it or they won't like it.  HOGWASH!  It's DISNEY.

Most kids would have a hard time being miserable at Walt Disney World Resort.  I'm sure there are some out there somewhere, but the vast majority will LOVE it.

And, quite honestly, you – the adults – will feel like a kid again. Nothing wrong with that! What I love when I plan a Disney vacation is enjoying things through the eyes of my kids, and being reminded of my own childhood.

The Perfect Age To Take Kids To Walt Disney World Resort

Ok, so you are ready to plan a Disney vacation.  Guess when is THE BEST AGE to take your kids to Walt Disney World Resort? EVERY AGE!

Why? Because there is something for every age and stage at Walt Disney World Resort. Don't believe me? Read on!

Our First Trip To Disney With Kids

Ok, I'm biased. I took my oldest son to Walt Disney World Resort for the first time when he was three-months-old.  My twins were five-months-old on their first trip to see Mickey and the gang, and all three had their first haircuts on Main Street USA at the barbershop.

Not only are there attractions for every age, including more than 90 with no height restrictions, the kids literally grow up with Disney.

Plan A Walt Disney World Resort Vacation By Age

I am a believer that Walt Disney World Resort is not a destination, but an entire experience. Some may even say it is a state of mind.

One of the reasons I have loved taking my kids to Walt Disney World Resort at each age and stage is that each vacation is entirely different. But each vacation has been both magical and special, with lasting memories for our family.

 

 

Plan A Disney Vacation With Infants & Toddlers

Experience:

  • Infants and toddlers will experience Disney through the eyes of little ones who are meeting their heroes – be it Mickey, Buzz Lightyear, or the myriad of Disney Princesses.
  • There are plenty of attractions suitable for the toddler age in all the theme parks, but especially in Magic Kingdom Park.
  • Some of the attraction lines also have toddler-size entertainment while waiting in line. Two to check out are Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which has an entire indoor play space, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
  • Infants can ride on laps on the non-height restricted rides.
  • Don't underestimate the fun in a Monorail ride, boat ride, or bus ride for this age!
  • Staying at a Disney Resort Hotel when the kids are this age makes it easier, especially for simple, onsite entertainment and for quickly getting back for the mid-day naps.
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Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a great attraction for young guests.

Amenities:

  • Stroller parking areas (note new stroller restrictions in the theme parks of less than 31″ wide and less than 52″ long)
  • Strollers for rent in single and double size
  • Baby Care Centers in each theme park
  • Changing tables in restrooms
  • Pack ‘n Plays in guest rooms
  • High chairs in guest rooms and restaurants
  • Laundry and kitchenettes in Disney Vacation Club hotels

Here is a list of attractions suitable for kids preschool age kids and younger at Walt Disney World Resort.

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While waiting for a turn to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant, little ones can enjoy this indoor play area.


 

Plan A Disney Vacation With School-Age Kids

Experience:

  • School-age kids are tall enough to ride new attractions.
  • They can embrace the educational experiences at Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and even some of the Disney Resort Hotels.
  • In Epcot, the World Showcase is a great place to expose your kids to other cultures. My first taste of French, Chinese, Moroccan, and Japanese foods took place in Epcot. My kids love to go “around the world” and meet the Cast Members from other countries and learn about them.
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My kids love learning about other cultures and countries in Epcot's World Showcase.
  • School-aged kids can enjoy much of the same attractions as toddlers, but they also may be ready for a bit more like some of the starter roller coasters.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios has now opened Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, popular with this age and older.
  • Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks are good for this age.
  • Remember mini-golf, Disney Resort Hotel on-site activities, and even horseback riding at Disney's Fort Wilderness for this age group!
plan-a-disney-vacation-walt-disney-world-epcot-phineaus-and-ferb
The Agent P's World Showcase Adventure is great for school-aged kids.

 

Interactive Activities:

  • School-aged kids will love the Phineas and Ferb Agent P's World Showcase interactive experience through Epcot.
  • You can also download the Play Disney Parks app to your phone that brings to life experiences in the park.

Here is a list of attractions school-aged kids will enjoy at Walt Disney World Resort.

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School-aged kids can try starter roller coasters like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

 

Plan A Disney Vacation With Teens And Adults

Experience:

  • Teens and adults will enjoy most of what the younger kids enjoy, plus more thrill ride adventures and longer shows.
  • With more stamina, teens and adults can enjoy a longer day from morning to night, staying from the morning to closing.
  • Teens and adults can enjoy Extra Magic Hours in the morning and late at night.
  • Park Hopper passes would work well with this age group because they can manage a long day and be flexible.
  • Disney Springs has many activities teens and adults alike would enjoy. This age group may be good for enjoying free time.
  • Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon are popular with this age group.
  • And as adults, you enjoy it all!
plan-a-disney-vacation-walt-disney-world-disney-hollywood-studios-tower-of-terror
Older kids, teens, and adults will enjoy the thrill rides like the Twilight Zone's Tower of Terror in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

 

Amenities:

  • Because teens and adults are the most likely age group to need a phone while at Walt Disney World Resort, chances are they will need to charge them.  Walt Disney World Resort has several portable phone charging system kiosks on property.

Here is a list of attractions tweens, teens, and adults may enjoy at Walt Disney World Resort.

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Thrill rides like Mission: SPACE are fun for teens. There is a choice between a green (calmer) and orange (more spin) mission, depending on the level of thrill you seek.


The Best Time To Plan A Disney Vacation

Decide When To Go

When to plan a Disney vacation at Walt Disney World Resort is important because certain times of year are much busier than others. In some cases, it can be insanely busy. And, you want to do some planning in advance.

Florida's weather can factor into your experience.  In the middle of summer, it can be dangerously hot, and thunderstorms are a regular occurrence.  In the winter, it can actually get chilly at night!  

Times to Avoid If You Don't Like Crowds or Heat

  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
  • Spring Break
  • Easter
  • Summer (July/August)

If you are crazy crowd averse, I would avoid Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though Disney and Christmas go hand in hand, and there is a lot of very merry Christmas at Walt Disney World Resort, you have to balance if it is worth it to weather the crowds.  It is a special time of year, so perhaps you are content with just taking in the magic.

Another time that can be extremely busy is during the “spring break” season and Easter week. As a general rule, the times when most kids are out of school is when everyone has the same great idea: to travel to Walt Disney World Resort!

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With the recent openings of Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, there are a lot of new things to see so plan ahead.

DO Set Expectations If You Are Traveling During Busy Times

CROWDS:

When I was a Cast Member, I worked in the park the day after Christmas.  I can't tell you how disappointed so many people were that they were shoulder to shoulder everywhere they went. When I say this time of year is crowded, I mean they often close the theme parks.  Now, that's crowded!

And trying to enjoy any attractions or dining without Advance Dining Reservation during this time will result in pure disappointment.

PLAN AHEAD:

If you chose to travel to Walt Disney World Resort during the busier times, keep these tips in mind:

  • Reserve your Disney Resort Hotel as soon as you decide to go.
  • Plan Disney Genie+  experiences in advance.
  • Book Advance Dining Reservations.
  • Resign yourself to experience less than you might at other times of the year. But agree to be happy with whatever you experience.
  • Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and get to the theme parks early.
  • Ask – you never know when you might get a walk-up seating at a restaurant just by asking!
  • Put on your patience ears, and go with it. At least you are at Disney!
ENJOYING CHRISTMAS AND OTHER HOLIDAYS:
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Disney does do holidays magically, and Easter is a great one to celebrate at Walt Disney World Resort.

If you want to just go and enjoy the special holiday activities during Christmas or any other holiday, Walt Disney World does a fantastic job.  It's one of the BEST places in the USA to enjoy Christmas!  Be sure to check out:

WEATHER:

If you travel to Walt Disney World Resort in the summer, just know that it will be extremely hot and thunderstorms happen often, sometimes daily.  You may want to plan your park days for the morning.

In the winter, it can get chilly. Pack pants and sweatshirts for this time of year!

Speaking of which, do you need a packing list? Download my FREE travel planner and packing list.


 

Best Times To Visit Walt Disney World Resort

If you want the least crowded visit and have flexibility in your schedule, traveling to Walt Disney World Resort in “off times” may result in lesser crowds. By lesser, I mean there will still be crowds, but they are more manageable than the really busy times.

Times reported to be less crowded include:

  • September (once kids are back in school)
  • First two weeks of December (when kids are still in school before holiday breaks)
  • January (once kids have returned from their holiday breaks)
  • June (before many kids are out of school)

You may find more “pardon our appearance” signs during these times, as this is the time when Disney utilizes for refurbishments. But, you will have more success with shorter wait times for attractions and an easier time finding Disney Genie+  and Advance Dining Reservations.

 

Tips For Planning A Successful Walt Disney World Resort Vacation

1.  Stay On Property

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Complimentary transportation is just one of the many benefits of staying at a Disney Resort Hotel.

You won't regret this.  If you stay on-property of a Disney Resort Hotel, you stay in the magic of the “bubble.” Disney is an EXPERIENCE, not just a destination, and the Disney Resort Hotels offer as much magic as the theme parks. You also get perks, including:

  • Disney's Magical Express: This FREE shuttle transports you and your luggage from the airport to your Disney Resort Hotel and back.
  • Access to Magic Bands (Though they used to be free, guests will now have to pay an extra fee for them).
  • Complimentary on-site transportation: The on-site buses, Monorail, and watercraft are complimentary and will get you anywhere you need to go between your Disney Resort Hotel any on-property destination.  You can use the Minnie Van service for a fee if you want private transportation.
  • Option to book Advance Dining Reservation 60 days in advance of your trip (not just your dining date)
  • Extra Magic Hours: Exclusive to Disney Resort Hotel guests, you get an extra hour(s) in the theme parks on certain days and times.
  • Extras:
    • On-site activities that are fun and sometimes educational
    • Character experiences
    • Amazing pools with scheduled events
    • Rooms to accommodate larger groups
    • Game rooms and community rooms with activities
    • Pin trading
    • Consistent Cast Member magic
    • Purchases from theme parks delivered to your room
    • Uniquely themed Disney Resort Hotels that are carried into the rooms themselves, transporting you to another place or experience.
plan-a-disney-vacation-walt-disney-world-resort-disney-animal-kingdom-lodge-kidani-village
Each Disney Resort Hotel is uniquely themed and an experience unto itself!

2. Book Your Advance Dining Reservations

plan-a-disney-vacation-walt-disney-world-resort-my-disney-experience-app
Download the My Disney Experience app to your phone.

As soon as you book your Disney Resort Hotel and are within 60 days of your dates, book your Advance Dining Reservations. Dining fills up quickly, especially character meals and more popular restaurants like Ohana, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Cinderella's Royal Table, to name a few.

We usually book a handful of Advance Dining Reservations just to have them. If you plan to dine inside one of the theme parks, you will need to have a park ticket to enter. You also need to hold the reservation with a credit card and have up to 24 hours in advance to release them without charge.

3. Download My Disney Experience App To Your Phone

This is critical. For one thing, downloading your My Disney Experience App will give you access to the newly launched Disney Genie and Disney Genie+ services while also keeping your Advance Dining Reservations in one place. You can also check wait times and utilize the Mobile Ordering feature from this app. My Disney Experience also includes maps of the parks and is searchable.

4. Buy Your Theme Park Tickets and Purchase Your Disney Genie+ Attractions 

plan-a-disney-vacation-walt-disney-world-my-disney-experience
Book your Fast Pass+ experiences once you buy your theme park tickets.

You can book your theme park tickets as early as possible, and if you want to purchase the Genie+ in advance too, this comes as an add-on to the ticket for the duration of your visit. You can also book your Disney Genie + attractions on the day of your park visit starting from 7 am and only one at a time.

Once you buy your theme park tickets, you can link your My Disney Experience account to your tickets (if they aren't already linked.)  From there, your theme pack tickets will pair with the Disney Genie Service.

And if you opt for the Genie+, you'll be able to choose the next available arrival time to some attractions and skip long lines with the Lightning Lane.

BVWK Tip: Book Disney Genie + Experiences In the Morning

Book your Genie + experiences in the morning or as early in the day as possible starting from 7:00 AM. Once you use your first Genie experience (or the arrival window passes), you can book another arrival window and the cycle continues until the end of the day.

On a recent trip during the very busy week, we did this repeatedly and ultimately enjoyed six Disney Genie+ experiences on one of the busiest days of the year. You can then enjoy other attractions by waiting in line or enjoy dining or shows – like the parades – in between your Disney Genie+  experiences.

5. Arrive At The Theme Park At Opening And Take Advantage of Extra Magic Hours

For your best chance of maximizing your day, DO take advantage of Extra Magic hours if available, as the theme parks are less crowded then.  If you arrive at opening, you will also find the theme parks less crowded and can often get on the more popular attractions this way.

6.  Know Your Theme Park Strategy

Ok, it seems strange to say you need a strategy to enjoy Disney.  You do need to have some sort of plan, but you also have to remain flexible. And, remember, this is YOUR VACATION. What you define as a successful vacation will differ from your friends' or family's definitions.  So, decide what YOU want to get out of your Disney experience.

Our Strategy:

We like to enjoy the attractions in the front of the theme parks first (depending on the park) and then start moving toward the back.  Our other strategy is to enter the park and hit the more popular rides, and then circle back for ones the lines move fast or the wait time isn't as long.

If our goal is to maximize the attractions we ride, we will even zig-zag through the park, using our My Disney Experience app, based on which attractions have the shortest wait times. Other times, we aren't in the mood for rushing, so we just take breaks, enjoy long meals, and enjoy the magic as we go.

Be Flexible:

You DEFINITELY need to be flexible if you have toddlers or younger kids with you, as you never know when the Disney magic will fizzle out and a break from all of the walking is what they need.

But being flexible can have benefits. From just walking up and asking, we have gotten seated at popular restaurants, found attractions with low wait times, and have had days at the Magic Kingdom that wouldn't have gone as well if we had not remained flexible.

7. Remember The Non-Theme Park Activities

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We love Disney's Typhoon Lagoon for our “off park” days to relax and have fun.

There is so much more to Disney than just the theme parks. Remember, Disney is an EXPERIENCE,  not just a destination.

You can enjoy horseback riding, mini-golf, water parks, shopping, and the myriad of activities at Disney Resort Hotels, all on Disney property. And, because you are on Disney property, you feel every bit of magic enjoying these experiences as you do in the theme parks.

8. Take Off Days

The truth is that Disney is wonderful, magical, and….let's be honest, exhausting. You can easily send your Fit Bit in a tizzy from all of the steps from walking around the park.  And, do we need to even talk about the excitement and over stimulation of the sights, sounds, and people?

To truly enjoy Disney, we like to plan off days in between. We use these days to do one of the non-theme park activities mentioned above.

A day to sit by the Disney Resort Hotel pool or visit Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, hotel hop on the Monorail or just stroll through Disney Springs, really helps make sure we return from our Disney vacation still loving Disney.  After all, you are supposed to return to life and school recharged after a vacation!

9. Plan Your Trip Better With Disney Genie and Genie+ Services

I hinted a little bit about the Disney Genie and Genie+ services earlier but let's get to know more bout them in detail.

In October 2021, Disney introduced Genie and Genie+ and Lightning Lane service to make visitors' experiences even much more magical.

In brief, these services can help you create a custom Disney itinerary depending on the attractions or entertainment you and your party are interested in!

On top of that, they'll show you the best time to go to those particular attractions to avoid long queues! Think of them as your “genie-p-s” that will help you navigate the parks seamlessly!

Now let's see how each service works in detail.

Disney Genie Service

First of all, this service is totally free for all park guests which is amazing if you ask me!

You can access the Disney Genie Service in the My Disney Experience app! All you have to do is to choose the kinds of attractions you're interested in say Star Wars or a general theme like Disney Princesses! Genie will then create a custom itinerary for you.

It doesn't just stop there, it will also show you the average wait time for each attraction so that you know exactly when to go.

Disney Genie + Service

If you found Genie service amazing, then you'll be blown away by what Genie+ can do!

Besides the exciting features that Genie offers, with Genie +, you'll also be able to choose the next available arrival window at specific attractions and take advantage of the fast entry through the Lightning Lane service.

Additionally, the Genie+ will give you access to Disney PhotoPass Lenses and Audio Tales features. You'll be able to explore impressive augmented reality effects with the Photopass lenses while the Audio Tales will give you behind-the-scenes insights you can listen to on your phone throughout the entire visit! Disney can't get more magical than this!

However, you'll need to pay an extra $15 per person per day to take advantage of the Genie + service that can be purchased from the My Disney Experience app. The service is available at over 40 attractions through the Walt Disney World Resort.

An Overview of How Disney Genie+ Works

While all that is exciting, there is a catch! Unfortunately, you can't pre-book all the day's attractions at once! You can book one attraction at a time and that can only be done starting at 7 am on the day of your visit.

After visiting that attraction or if the pre-booked time slot expires, that's when you can book another arrival time for another attraction.

Lightning Lane Service

Disney is fun but wanna know what's not fun? Waiting in line for over an hour! It can get pretty tiring especially if you're visiting Disney with toddlers. But thankfully, Disney thought of everything and introduced the Lightning Lane Service.

With this service, you can get fast entry to 2 attractions total per day! Still, confused? Let me elaborate a bit more.

Lightning Lane is an ala carte additional service that can be used on specific attractions usually the most popular ones.

Most people usually confuse it with the Genie+ but these are 2 different services and the Lighting Lane add ons are not included in the Genie+.

Actually, even if you don't upgrade to the Genie+ service, you can still take advantage of the Lightning Lane service but only for the most popular attractions. Here is the list of the participating attractions.

And while Genie+ has a standard amount of $15 per person per day, there is no specific amount to pay for Lightning Lane rides. The amount varies according to the time of the year, the type of rides, and the theme park. For example, the rate of riding Space Mountain could be different in January compared to that in April.

Also, note that you can only book a Lightning Lane for a specific attraction once! If you wish to go to an attraction the second time in a day, you would need to queue normally.

And if you purchase the Genie+, you'll still need to purchase the Lightning Lane service separately.

10. Have a Meal in Space at the Newly Opened Epcot's Space 220 Restaurant

If you're visiting Disney for the first time, you've chosen the right time to visit because Disney has opened something new — never seen before Space 220 Restaurant!

Disney has taken its dining experience a notch higher by creating a Space restaurant that can be accessed via a special space elevator. This restaurant is all the rave among Disney and space fans and it's for good reason!

Besides the dreamy experience of dining in space, you'll be treated to stunning views of Epcot or “Planet Earth” in this case. You'll also be treated to a special space cuisine but don't forget to try out my favorite dessert from the Earth — Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Be sure to make your reservations early not to miss out on this out-of-the-world experience and you'll also need to have a theme park ticket to Epcot to access the restaurant.

And if you have a Disney annual pass, you're in luck because you get to enjoy a 10% discount on select items on the menu on some days.

11. Get Ready to Party at the 50th Anniversary Celebration

There is no better time to visit Disney than now when it's celebrating its 50th anniversary! With an 18-month long celebration, this has got to be the biggest celebration for Disney lovers.

With 50 years of being on top of their game, Disney has come up with new magical experiences, new faces for Mickey, Minnie, and Friends, impressive castings with cast members ready to put on outstanding shows for fans.

Regardless of which park you visit, you'll be able to enjoy the new experiences, attractions, nighttime specials, and outstanding fireworks.

Speaking of attractions, there are some new attractions, entertainment, and specials you should look out for during Disney's 50th Anniversary Celebration. Below are some of them.

  • Remy's Ratatouille Adventure: Based on Remy in Gusteau's kitchen in the city of lights, Paris, this ride is the newest attraction in Epcot. The ride follows Remy as he creates an amazing dish that becomes the critic's most beloved. Be sure to watch “Ratatouille” the movie to fully enjoy this concept.

  • Disney Enchantment: Just like the name suggests, you'll be enchanted by the amazing display of fireworks, fan-favorite Disney songs, and immersive projection effects that will make Magic Kingdom more magical than ever.

  • Disney Kite Tails: Disney sky will be adorned with impressive kite-themed characters and high-flying performances with Disney songs in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

  • Beacons of Magic: Watch each of the four theme parks' icons light up in the evenings as they send out “beacons of magic” inviting everyone to come celebrate the 50th anniversary. This is however available in specific parks every night.

  • Fab 50 Color Collection: All four parks will be adorned with a total of 50 gold statues of cast characters to fully bring out the theme of celebrating 50 years.

  • Magic Kingdom 50th Fireworks Dessert Parties: Fireworks and pastries are a match made in Disney-heaven! Eat all the pastries you can as you enjoy the beautiful fireworks at Magic Kingdom.

  • Harmonious: Enjoy Disney songs and Stories while having fun with your loved ones at EPCOT.

  • Rose & Crown Fireworks Dining Package: This package will allow you to enjoy an amazing dinner at the lakefront patio in the English pavilion of the World Showcase while taking in stunning views of the Harmonious and fireworks.

  • Delicious Treats: Nothing says 50 years than new additions of delicious food and restaurants. You can grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Steakhouse 71, California Grill, Space 220 or La Crêperie de Paris. *Note: The Disney Dining Plan has not yet returned. But they are coming back at some form sometime soon, according to the Walt Disney World website.

12. Take Advantage of the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours

Just like the early morning magic hours we talked about earlier, extended evening theme park hours will allow you to enjoy Disney beyond the usual closing hours if you're staying at one of its resort hotels.

Some attractions can stay open until 11:00 PM and some as late as midnight so you get to enjoy Disney a bit more without the crowds.

But this only happens at select parks on select evenings so be sure to check the Disney Official website to plan ahead.

13. Enjoy New Attractions and Experiences

Disney is always brewing new ideas and even this year (2022), they've announced some new attractions and entertainment that will make your visit even more magical.

Some of these attractions are slated to open at the beginning of 2022 while the opening dates for the others will be communicated in due time. And indeed, some opened in 2022 and some were pushed to 2023.

Some of the new attractions and features that were added in 2022 include;

MagicBand+

We've already talked about the MagicBand+ and how it works earlier in the article but this is a new feature to look out for.

Moana — Journey of Water

You probably already know that  EPCOT is getting a new look and one of its new attractions will be Moana — Journey of Water.

The attraction is based on Disney's hit movie Moana and it will be part of the new World Nature neighborhood. Guests will be able to interact with water in exciting and unimaginable ways.

Update: This attraction was intended to open in 2022 but it was extended to late 2023.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

This is another addition that is coming to EPCOT. It is expected to be exciting, and thrilling but also family-friendly.

Update: This attraction opened in May 2022 and it indeed matches the anticipation it received.

Disney World Star Wars Hotel — Galactic Starcruiser

You read hotel, I say the experience of a lifetime! Actually, Disney refers to it as ” “This isn’t storytelling – it’s storyliving, where you’ll see, feel and live Star Wars in a whole new way.”

Disney World Star Wars Hotel opened its doors in March 2022

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I plan a Disney vacation on a budget?

  1. Check with Walt Disney World Resort for any special offers. Sometimes, they offer various packages such as a night free or a free meal plan.
  2. Plan your trip around “off-seasons”, such as right after the holidays or right when the kids go to school. You may find deals for this time.
  3. Check out the different Disney Resort Hotel options, which include Deluxe, Moderate and Value resorts, as well as campgrounds.
  4. Have groceries delivered to your room, and ask the front desk for a refrigerator if you don't have a kitchenette in your room.  This way, you could have breakfast in your room, bring your own snacks, and maybe plan for only one or two meals in the park.  Also, bring your own water bottle into the park as well.
  5. Buy tickets in advance, where you can get a package price, rather than an individual price.  Only buy the Park Hopper passes if you definitely plan to use it.
  6. Plan your meals and if you choose the Disney Dining Plan, choose the one that you will use and will provide your family the most value.
  7. Take advantage of free activities! There are so many fun activities at Disney Resort Hotels (yet another reason to stay on property), as well as Disney Springs.  Also, don't underestimate the fun of riding the Monorail around.
  8. Check for discounts you may be able to use (for example if you have a Disney Visa card or are with someone who is a Disney Vacation Club member.)
  9. Check sites like Mousesavers, who offer tips for saving money on your Walt Disney World Resort vacation.

If I don't have Genie+ reservations will I miss out?

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The My Disney Experience app can help you monitor Stand-By wait times of attractions.

Not at all. First, you can only book one Genie+ reservation at a time anyway. Once you use your first Genie+ reservation, or if your arrival window expires, you can add more one at a time.

Regardless, you will stand in line for several attractions outside the Genie+ experiences, if that is how you choose to spend your time in the theme parks. Your My Disney Experience app will help you navigate this as you can monitor wait times of other attractions.

BVWK Tip: Keep checking and refreshing the Genie+ service page on the My Disney Experience app. You may find more or different times for certain attractions.

You will find more Genie+ reservations even as your day goes on as other people release theirs (say if their plans change or they get a better time.) If you have one Genie+ reservation already, you have to either cancel it, let your time window expire, or use it before you can book another one.

If I don't have Advance Dining Reservations will I miss out?

Typically, there are always Advance Dining Reservations available, but you may need to be flexible on times.  If you have your heart set on a particular dining experience, you can keep checking the My Disney Experience app up to 24 hours in advance to see if someone releases their reservation and you can grab it.

You can also always try to walk up and ask if the restaurant if they take walk-ins. We were able to successfully secure seating at Be Our Guest restaurant and Ohana, during one of the busiest weeks of the year, just by walking up and asking if they could take us!  You also have the options of quick service and Mobile Ordering on the My Disney Experience app.

Should I stay at a Disney Resort Hotel?

You certainly don't have to, but I highly recommend it for the benefits (see above) and the convenience. It is so much easier to get around to the parks and get back for a mid-day rest.

You get the whole Disney experience from morning to night and really feel transported during the whole of your vacation.  There are also Budget, Moderate, and Deluxe resorts, as well as campgrounds, so there is a range of lodging options for every budget.

You also don't need a car if you stay at a Disney Resort Hotel. You can take advantage of the complimentary Disney's Magical Express to get you to and from the airport, as well as Disney's convenient and complimentary on-property transportation to get you anywhere you need to go on property.

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There are many benefits to staying on-property at a Disney Resort Hotel.

 

What are Magic Bands (Currently the Magicband+)?

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Magic Bands are your “key to the world” during your vacation.

Magic bands used to be the ultimate “key to Disney World ” offered to all guests at Walt Disney World resorts but that changed at the end of 2020. Now, Magic bands (currently known as Magicband+) come at an extra cost and non-resort residents can also buy them.

Though magic bands used to be the key to a guest's room, help with making purchases anywhere on the property, and give access to theme parks and water packs, Disney changed them a bit and introduced a new one now known as MagicBand+.

The new MagicBand+ can do everything the old magic bands used to and much more. Below are some of the new cool features MagicBand+ can do.

  • Find virtual bounties in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • Interact with color-changing lights
  • Interact with the Fab 50 golden character statues and more.

Basically, the MagicBand+ will create an even more exciting and interactive experience in Disney.

What are Park Hopper Tickets and do I need them?

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Disney's Minnie Van ride-share service is available for a fee if you need private transportation on property.

Park Hopper tickets allow you entry to multiple parks in one day.  For example, you can spend your first half of the day in Magic Kingdom Park and have dinner in Epcot.

This is a very personal choice. Park Hopper tickets are more expensive. However, if you are only allotting two park days, I recommend them.

The first time my husband ever went to Disney was when he was 25 years old on our honeymoon. We only had two days to see as much as possible, and boy did we ever. So, in this case, a Park Hopper was useful.

Nowadays, we usually pick two or three parks we want to visit with our kids and just plan to spend the whole day at one park.  So, I would say evaluate the amount of time you have, what are your “must-do” activities, and then decide from there if you think you will get the value out of the Park Hopper tickets.

Can I bring my own stroller to Walt Disney World Resort?

Yes, you can. However, beginning in 2019, Disney released new rules regarding stroller size.  Strollers must be less than 31″ wide and less than 52″ long.  Most strollers should fit within this range, but you should definitely double check before you go. You would not want a nasty surprise when entering the park.

We always found umbrella strollers worked best in the park. They made it easier for folding down if necessary and for parking. You will find stroller parking areas near most attractions.  We also found using our Ergo baby carrier a lifesaver when our son was an infant.

You can also rent one of Disney's strollers for the older kids. They have both a single and double stroller offering.

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Rider Switch is a great way for one adult to keep the kids busy while the other adult enjoys the attraction, and then switch.

If we have a baby, does that mean we have to miss out on enjoying the bigger attractions?

Not at all! Remember the Rider Switch option!  This is when one of your members can't ride an attraction, one adult stays with the non-rider while the other enjoys the attraction.  Then, when the adult returns, they can switch spots and the returning adult supervises the guest while the other one can enjoy the attraction without having to wait in the original line.

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There is no “law” for the perfect length of time at Disney.

Check with the Cast Member at the attraction to make sure Rider Switch is available and find out where to board the attraction.  Here is a complete list of attractions at Walt Disney World Resort that accommodate Rider Switch.

Check out this great guide to using Rider Switch.

How many days do I need at Walt Disney World Resort?

Well, this is a very personal decision. If you have a week or two to spare, then you could easily spread out your vacation and enjoy much of what Walt Disney World Resort has to offer.

I think a week is a great amount of time, but you can also do a lot in a couple of days.  It all depends on your party, ages of kids, and goals of your vacation. Luckily, Walt Disney World Resort has so much to offer, you can customize to your family's needs.

What's the Disney Dining Plan and do I need it?

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Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom is like dining in the Beast's castle and Lumiere is right – the gray stuff IS delicious!

The Disney Dining Plans are great options if you are traveling on a budget, and would rather prepay for a certain number of meals, snacks, and beverages in advance.  There are three different plans to choose from, and pricing depends on the length of your stay. They are available for guests ages three and older:

  • The Quick-Service Dining Plan: Includes two Quick-Service meals and two snacks or non-alcoholic beverages per day per person.
  • The Disney Dining Plan: Includes one Quick-Service meal, one Table-Service meal, and two snacks or non-alcoholic beverages per day per person.
  • The Disney Deluxe Dining Plan: Includes one three meals and two snacks or non-alcoholic beverages per day per person.

We don't use the Disney Dining Plan, because we have found that we don't use the benefits of the plan.  Instead, we prefer to pay as we go and have the flexibility to change course with our dining as each day unfolds. We also like to order groceries to our room for breakfast and snacks.

But I will say, trying some of the best Disney snacks in the parks is part of the fun!

For our family, the Disney Dining Plan becomes more expensive because we don't use it all. But for many families, it is a great option because it is very convenient and they use it all, so it makes it a value add.  Just be sure and think through if it makes sense for your family.

What is the Disney PhotoPass and Memory Maker?

You worked hard to plan your Disney vacation, and you'd like to remember it right? This is where the Disney PhotoPass may come in handy. Cast Member photographers will capture your magical memories at various spots, during Character Dining, or during that frightful descent on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  Family memory gold!

By tapping your Magic Band+, your photos will be linked to your My Disney Experience account. From there, you either purchase Memory Maker (if you haven't already) to download unlimited access to your photos and videos for one price. You can purchase individual photos as prints or downloads.

You don't have to purchase any of them if you are just as happy capturing your Disney vacation with your own camera.

Is there a beach close to Disney World?

Disney World is ideally located in the center of the state and there are many beaches within one to two hours' driving distance. So you could definitely spend one of your off-park days at one of the best beaches close to Disney World.  Or, you could extend your vacation by adding a few days or a week at one of these great beaches.

The Last Thing You Need To Know To Plan A Walt Disney World Resort Vacation

A Walt Disney World Resort vacation is an amazing family experience. The most important thing is to plan a Disney vacation that works for YOUR family. Because after all, it's about spending time together.

You can't really do Walt Disney World “wrong.” Do plan ahead, but also remain flexible.  And, never fear.  You can have an amazing Walt Disney World Resort vacation, without planning it all out six months in advance, to the very minute.  Because some of our best Disney vacations have come from changing course during the trip.

Need more resources to plan your trip to Disney?

Interested in a Disney Cruise? Check out Is A Disney Cruise Worth It?

Check out my post on over 50 Things To Do With Kids in Orlando!

Wanting to head to the beach after your trip to Disney? Check out 25+ Best Things To Do On Anna Maria Island For Families

Want to experience the magic of Disney and the spirit of Aloha? Check out DVC Aulani: All You Need To Know About Disney's Hawaii Hotel

You might also like Disney’s Hotel On Vero Beach: All You Need To Know!

Flying into Walt Disney World? Check out my post on TravelingMom for your complete guide to Orlando International Airport (MCO.)

You will also love this post with tips from several travel bloggers on 14 Most Common Disney Mistakes (and how to avoid them!)

Here's even more Disney posts you'll love!

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Walt Disney Resort For Beginners: A Complete Guide To Plan A Disney Vacation

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The 17 Best Disney World Rides For Multigenerational Families

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50+ Awesome Things To Do In Orlando With Kids and Toddlers in 2023!

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Disney's Hotel On Vero Beach: All You Need To Know!

Is a Disney Cruise Worth It?

DVC Aulani: All You Need To Know About Disney's Hawaii Hotel

The Ultimate Lockers at Universal Studios Guide 

What are your favorite Disney planning tips? Comment below!

First time traveling or flying with kids?

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12 thoughts on “Walt Disney Resort For Beginners: A Complete Guide To Plan A Disney Vacation”

  1. Great post! I liked when you said every age is fine to bring your kids to Disney because we were worried about them being too young that they won’t remember it.

    Reply
  2. Thank you so much for putting all this information in one place! I’ve always shied away from Disney as a vacation option because it just seems so overwhelming. I would hate to go all that way and miss out on something!

    Reply
  3. I’m so glad that your friend shared their fear with you and you created this post. I feel the exact same way. I want to take my son, but am afraid of the planning and logistics. I never knew about magic bands.

    Reply
  4. Great information and this is a complete guide! It’s great to know that we cab plan a vacation with kids of any age. Thanks for such a great post!

    Reply
  5. I just love this! I am one of those people who has a ‘fear’ of booking Disney because I feel so overwhelmed by the choices!! I was at the stage of ‘What’s the difference between Orlando and California?’!! The way you have covered all the need to knows is perfect for people like me. And I love how you were a cast menber! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for your comment, Jacs. I am so glad you found this post helpful and hope your next trip to Disney is full of pixie dust and lots of magic.

      Reply
  6. So much detail. And you are right, kids of all ages love Disney and Disney Resorts (teens especially love the resorts). We always stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. So cool to wake up and have coffee with giraffes. Love that place.

    Reply

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