It’s known worldwide as “the happiest place on Earth” but what should you really expect from Disney World? I love Disney just as much as the next millennial but after working at an Australian theme park for over two years I definitely wondered how magical I would really find the famed parks in Orlando, Florida.
Well, first of all – it’s busy.
You’re probably thinking: “Well obviously Katie, are you daft?” But don’t worry, I absolutely expected it to be busy. I just didn’t expect it to be THAT busy. There is a level of busy that one cannot understand until they experience it. That, my friends, is Disney Busy.
My top tip for surviving the hustle and bustle would be to book your breakfast, lunch, and dinner as soon as you possibly can. The group I travelled with didn’t wish to book any food times – and that’s fine, some people prefer to not be locked into any time constraints – but the one night we did book? We walked in, sat down, ate our food, walked out. That easy, that simple. I enjoyed that meal the most. Most other nights I didn’t eat very well nor did I eat very much. The days were spent lining up for 30 minutes to an hour or more for one waffle or hotdog. I have vowed that if I ever return to Disney I will book food times religiously. Katie has to eat well to be chirpy, I’ll tell you that much!
Another awesome tip: get there first! Even if it’s an hour before the park opens, I recommend you get there first. You will be able to do SO much more in those early hours than any other time and you will be grateful you did it.
You will gain a new talent: Queueing.
If you are not from the United States, let me tell you a thing: Americans are VERY good at lining up for stuff. You too will become very good at queueing once you have had your Disney adventure. Lines are meticulously crafted by the Disney gods to get you to the front of and back out of every character viewing, food stand, ride, show, and shop. This does not mean they are any faster… it just means you don’t need to constantly say “Oh sorry, we were actually next” to every person you see.
My top tip for getting through queues without ripping your hair out is go in a group so one of you can get food/hold your spot while you pee/talk to you to pass time. At the VERY least bring an external battery because if you are a solo traveller you may use every bar of your phone battery trying to pass the time. I make it sound terrible, I know, but it really is quite bearable. The only time I really truly noticed the wait was when we stood in line for TWO hours to meet Mickey Mouse for five minutes. But it is true that if someone can pop out and get food for you all no one will accuse them of jumping the line when they try to get back in. Everyone understands how hard it is to stand there for so long and they will let your friend join you again. We spent way too long worrying that people would think we were pushing in when we should’ve just realised that everyone was doing it and, to be perfectly honest, it really is a great time to eat.
Disney can’t be done in a day.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but just in case: it CANNOT be done in a day. You will probably find that even one park can’t be done in a day. Disney World is made up of four parks, two water parks, a bunch of resorts, Disney Springs and Downtown Disney. If you put Disney World on a map it would cover the entire city of San Francisco. Disney is GIANT. During our winter visit the water parks were closed so we only really had to worry about the four main parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. I can honestly say that I didn’t completely see all of any one park.
The best tip here would just be do your homework and make some plans. The reality is that you probably won’t get to see everything unless you’re planning to spend a couple of weeks at Disney. So just be prepared to miss out on a few things. Be extra-thoughtful about what attractions, characters and rides you really want to see and do and make sure you see and do them. Disney requires monumental levels of organisation and as long as you’re prepared you will feel fulfilled.
But with those points out of the way, let’s talk about 5 things I loved at Disney!
- Disney is okay with outside food and drink! So you don’t have to queue all day!
- FastPass+ is awesome! You get three FastPasses in advance for every day you’re at Disney. Use them to skip the queues on the most popular rides! Just be mindful to book them early as the spots can fill up up to three months in advance for the really popular rides (Avatar’s Flight of Passage…).
- Adults can still ride even if the kids can’t! Take advantage of the parent swap option so you don’t miss out on your favourite rides just because your little ones are a little too little.
- The characters are great. Disney has a superior standard of characters when it comes to theme parks. They know everything there is to know about the character they’re playing, so go ahead: ask Ariel how Flounder is doing, ask Alice about the cheshire cat, and ask Gaston how many times Belle has decline his marriage proposal. Just don’t tell Woody that Andy is coming… he knows he’s gone to college.
- World isn’t just the name – you are literally stepping into a Whole New World (pun intended). Disney World is full of incredible architecture and magical sceneries. You will realise exactly how big this Disney phenomenon is just by looking at everything that surrounds you. You will be blown away time and time again by the way you are transported to different countries and different times. That, to me, is by far the most awe inducing part of the Disney experience.