Make sure you check out the first two parts here:
To recap, D and I just returned from our 4th trip to Disney World. I realized during this trip that I’ve picked up quite a large amount of information over the years, and I really enjoy the intricacies of planning trips like these. Why not pass on what I’ve learned?
In all the times I’ve been to Disney World, I’ve never rented a car. If you’re staying on Disney property, there’s really no need for it, though some do enjoy renting a car to have control of their own transportation. These tips are specifically for the situation where you do not rent a car.
First of all, when you arrive at Orlando International Airport, Disney provides a service called the Magic Express, which is a bus that not only picks you up directly from the airport, but the service will also pick up your checked luggage and deliver it to your hotel room! If you’ve signed up for this, they’ll send you specific luggage tags ahead of time, and that means when you get off the plane, you don’t have to wait for your luggage. Even nicer – you don’t have to wrangle giant suitcases from the airport to the hotel.
IMPORTANT TIP: If you do have the Magic Express take care of your luggage, make sure you pack everything you’re going to want to use that day in your checked bag. Usually for me this means anything that I would want to be using at the park that day (a jacket, sunscreen, etc.). Your checked luggage will be delivered directly to your room, but it’s often not until later in the afternoon and you don’t want to have to wait around for it.
The other nice thing about the Magic Express is that the Disney atmosphere starts immediately. On the bus, they show Disney parks informational video,s and you just start getting excited!
Each Disney hotel has its own buses to take you to and from the parks. They go to all 4 of the main parks, plus the water parks and Downtown Disney. Also, some of the deluxe hotels are connected to Magic Kingdom and Epcot by the monorail. And if you’re at one park and you want to park hop to another, there’s always either a bus or monorail to take you from one to another. The transportation system can be a little slow, and there are sometimes long lines if you’re going at peak hours, however, you can’t beat the convenience.
When you’re ready to go back to the airport at the end of the trip, most hotels offer airport check in at your resort. This means that you’re able to get your boarding passes AND check your luggage right at the hotel. This is a free service, and again I can’t tell you how nice it is not to have to wrangle suitcases back and forth. Then, if you’ve reserved it, the Magic Express picks you up for your return trip.
PHOTO PASS/MEMORY MAKER
While in the parks, there will be professional Disney photographers scattered around waiting to take your picture if you so choose. They have professional cameras and will often be at iconic locations such as right in front of Cinderella Castle, in front of the Epcot ball, etc. Also, if you’re interested in getting any pictures with characters, they will be there as well. If you want the option to have these pictures, it’s a good idea to sign up for Photo Pass/Memory Maker.
Now that everything is synced using the Magic Band, your account will have these picture on them instantly. If you go on any rides that take your picture, those pics will also be synced automatically, and I’ve even heard that some of the rides will include a video of your particular ride, though I haven’t experienced this myself yet.
At the end of your trip you can download all of these pictures and do what you want with them!
D and I are big shoppers when we’re on vacation. For that reason, we always try to pack pretty light on our way to a destination so that we can have room to bring back a lot of things. (This was especially important when we went to Japan because we knew we were going to shop a TON there, and we certainly did). Each hotel will have a gift shop, there’s tons of shops in every park, and of course there’s the shopping destination of Downtown Disney. Plenty of opportunities to spend money!
One nice service offered at Disney is when shopping at a park, if you buy some things and don’t feel like carrying them around with you all day, you can either have the purchases delivered to your resort (they usually arrive the next day, so you can’t do this on your last day of the trip), or you can have the bags sent to the customer service area at the entrance of the park to pick up on your way out.
GENERAL PLANNING TIPS
The parks have slightly different hours every day, so make sure to check the official site or the My Disney Experience app to see which ones might be open slightly earlier or later on any given day. Also, if you’re staying on site, you get to take advantage of extra magic hours, which are hours when only on site guests are allowed at the park and are usually either really early in the morning or late at night.
Make sure you budget time for some of the evening entertainment, such as the Wishes fireworks show at Magic Kingdom, Illuminations at Epcot, Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios and any other seasonal special events that might be happening at the time of your trip.
If you have the room in your budget, I definitely recommend the park hopper tickets. This will allow you to go between the parks as many times as you want in any given day. This is important if you want to hang out in more than one park in a day, even if it’s just to hop somewhere else for dinner (we always end up having MANY dinners in Epcot).
A Disney trip is a big expense, but it’s a magical trip, even if you don’t have any children. D and I plan to go back many times in the future, as it’s a special place for the two of us.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of posts, and if you’re planning a trip, I hope this has given you some valuable information. If you have any questions I haven’t covered, feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll try to point you in the right direction. Happy planning!
What is your dream vacation destination?