If you’ve been following along with my most recent blog posts as well as my social media accounts (P.S. send me a follow if you don’t follow me already! I’d love to connect with you on social media!) you’d know that I just took a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida (and I’m still wishing I was there.)
If you’re an avid reader of my blog (which thank you, thank you, thank you!!!) you’d know that this wasn’t my first rodeo. The last time I visited Disney was 2 years ago and the time before that was 8 years ago so I’ve been there a few times as a teenager/young adult (along with many, many times as a kid).
If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World let me give you a quick overview. The truth is, it can be a bit overwhelming. There’s tons to do, tons to see, and several different parks to visit, so you may not want to just wing it.
On the flip side though, it honestly is one of the most magical places on earth, even as an adult! Walt Disney World never gets old – there are always new things to explore and things to see that you may have never noticed on your previous trips.
There’s just something about being surrounded by the sunshine and palm trees (and cute little lizards you can find running around almost everywhere!) that lifts your mood, brightens your spirits, and makes you never want to leave – and that’s exactly what happened to me.
In order to make the most of your trip and experience everything Disney has to offer, it’s definitely a good idea to come up with an itinerary and do your research. There are some ins and outs of Disney that you may not learn by just talking to a Disney representative – so you must ask around to people who have gone before and dig deeper!
If you find yourself booking a trip to the most magical place on earth here’s your ultimate guide to making the most of your trip. From secret tips, to what to do in each park, to where to eat, let this guide make your trip to Walt Disney World one you’ll be missing long after you return home (like I sadly am!)
General Disney Tips
Now when it comes to taking a trip to Walt Disney World, there are a few things you’re going to want to take care of and a few tips you’ll definitely want to take into consideration. Here are a few major things to take into consideration:
- Park hopper passes are the way to go
The difference between a park hopper pass and a regular park pass is that with a regular pass you can only go to one park per day, whereas with a park hopper pass you can jump around between different parks in the same day.
The great thing about being able to go to multiple parks is that if you finish one park early you can head over to another. Also sometimes you may want to start your day at one park, go back to your hotel to freshen up for dinner, and then eat and end the night in a different park.
There are several reasons why you may want to go to more than one park a day, so I highly suggest purchasing a park hopper pass. (P.S. when I went to Disney in February ’18 it was only $70 more for a 5-day park hopper pass as opposed to a 5-day regular park pass, so it’s definitely worth it.)
- Make food reservations and fast passes beforehand
The last thing you’re going to want to do when you have soo much park to explore is spend 2 hours+ waiting to sit down and eat or waiting on a line for a ride. This is why I highly suggest you make all food reservations and fast passes beforehand!
This can be done super easily either on Disney’s website or on the My Disney Experience phone app (more on this app next.) Don’t underestimate wait times, especially if you’re going during a busy time of the year (like a school vacation.)
You can make 3 fast pass reservations per park (plus a secret 4th one in Magic Kingdom which I talk about in a bit) so definitely take advantage of this! Simply choose what ride you want to fast pass and what time you’d like to go on it and enjoy the luxury of not having to wait on possibly 4-hour long lines to enjoy the ride. And yes, some Disney rides absolutely do have 4-hour waits!
- Download the My Disney Experience app
The My Disney Experience phone app is one of the best apps ever made – seriously. On this app you can make and modify food reservations and fast passes, check wait times for every ride in the park, view maps of the park, choose what character you’d like your profile to be, and so much more!
This app saved us during our recent trip, and the great thing about it is since you can modify fast passes as well as check wait times, we discovered that sometimes rides we had fast passes for only had 20 minute waits. Whenever that happened we would go to that ride right away, wait the short 20 minutes (which always wound up being shorter than what the wait time said anyway), and cancel the fast pass for that ride so we could use it for a different one.
Seriously this app will make your trip so much easier, so definitely make sure you have it downloaded and ready to go.
- Figure out what the weather is going to be like and pack accordingly
Depending on what time of the year you go, the weather at Florida will be different – it’s not always hot temperatures and sun!
When I went to Disney about 8 years ago it was some time around December/January and I was comfortable in leggings, sneakers, and T-shirts each day.
Two years ago I went in August and it was so disgustingly hot that I was sweating in shorts and tank tops. It was super humid so it rained every single day (not the entire day though, thank goodness) and the air was so heavy and hard to breathe. It wasn’t too enjoyable so I recommend not going to Disney during the summer months.
The trip I just took, which was in February of course, was absolutely gorgeous. Apparently it was record temperatures for Florida in February; it was in the low 80s every day, but it was so gorgeous. It was hot but not unbearable, I was comfortable in shorts and tank tops during the day with the addition of throwing on either a light zip up or leggings some nights, and we experienced pure sunshine the entire trip – not one drop of rain.
Moral of the story: definitely make sure you check out what the weather is going to be like so you know what sort of clothing you should pack (and whether or not you’ll need a poncho, which, pro tip: purchase your poncho outside of the park if you don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money to throw a plastic bag over yourself!)
- The main parks you’ll want to see are Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios.
When it comes to park size, Hollywood Studios is the smallest park of the four, so you may not even need a full day there – we didn’t. Animal Kingdom is the biggest park size wise, but Magic Kingdom has the most to do, so make sure you give yourself at least one full day in Magic Kingdom.
One other park you may want to check out is Downtown Disney, though it’s not necessary, I didn’t go there this trip but I did go there last time. Downtown Disney is all shops, no rides, so unless you’re looking to do some major souvenir shopping, Downtown Disney isn’t a must see. If you do head over though you most likely are not going to need a full day.
- Stay in a Disney hotel
In order to get the full experience, it’s best to stay in a Disney hotel. Two hotels I’ve stayed in that I absolutely loved were the Polynesian and the Beach Club Villas, and I also went to the Contemporary hotel because that’s where my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew were staying and that hotel was gorgeous as well.
The reason I urge you to stay in a Disney hotel is because it’s so much more magical. You’re much more immersed in the experience if you stay in a Disney hotel and you also have access to monorails, ferries, and buses that easily take you to each park and back to your hotel.
This past trip I stayed in a timeshare about 15 minutes from the parks, and while the Timeshare was beautiful and had a great pool, it’s just much more exciting to actually be on Disney property.
Plus, when you stay in a Disney hotel you get a bracelet that they call a Magic Band. You get to choose the color and pick your character and this serves as your park pass to get into each park. It’s also great because you can connect your bankcard to it and anytime you’re paying for something all you have to do is scan your magic band. It makes life much easier.
Now I know what you’ve all been waiting for – a journey through each park! My itinerary looked something like this:
- Friday: left New York around 6pm to drive to Florida.
- Saturday: arrived in Orlando around 2pm after several stops, including a stop to get breakfast and a stop to change our tire (our luck). We had lunch, headed over to our timeshare to unpack, and spent the rest of the day at the pool.
- Sunday: Magic Kingdom
- Monday: Universal Studios (since this isn’t a Disney Park I’ll be publishing a separate post on this park)
- Tuesday: Animal Kingdom > Epcot
- Wednesday: Pool > Magic Kingdom
- Thursday: Epcot > Hollywood Studios
- Friday: Hollywood Studios and car ride home
- Saturday: Made it back to New York around 1:30pm.
My boyfriend and I drove to Florida with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, and my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew flew there (lucky them) so we spent some time with my aunt and them (who didn’t have park hopper passes), and the rest of the time with my sister and them.
We started off some days at one park and then ended up at another park later in the day for dinner, so, like I mentioned earlier, park hopper passes definitely are a smart choice.
Magic Kingdom is the most magical Disney Park for one main reason – Cinderella’s Castle is here. The castle is absolutely stunning, especially set against a pure blue, sunny sky (which you can check out in my Travel Photo Diary: Walt Disney World), and at night it even lights up and becomes the focal point for Magic Kingdom’s daily nighttime fireworks show. It really is so beautiful to watch.
Now the park is big, but as long as you grab a map on your walk in you should have no problem maneuvering your way around it. And your walk in is going to be so amazing as you immediately enter onto Magic Kingdom’s Main Street. This is where you can find tons of shops, bakeries and places to grab a quick bite, and you can also check out some parades and shows.
Now for the fun part: the rides. The Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor is definitely one you won’t want to miss. It’s a comedy show put on by some of the Monster’s Inc. characters but what makes it so cool is that they’re interactive with the audience. You’ll definitely be laughing through the entire show – my boyfriend and I definitely were.
If you like roller coasters, Space Mountain is definitely the ride for you! It’s pitch black and all you see is stars all around you, and what makes that so great is that you don’t know what to expect since you can’t see the track. Don’t worry though; there are no flips or corkscrews on this ride.
Buzz Lightyear is a great ride if you like a bit of competition. You basically sit in a car that takes you through the ride and surrounding you are tons of targets that you have to shoot at with the laser gun attached to your car. You sit with one other person and your scores pop up in front of you, so make sure you put your game face on!
Last but not least, you’re going to want to check out It’s a Small World. This is another ride where you sit in the car and it takes you through the ride, but it’s as if you’re instantly transported into another world. You’re surrounded by tons of little animatronics signing Disney’s staple song It’s a Small World and it’s just so colorful and there’s so much to look at. Sure, it may be a kid ride but it’s definitely fun for adults too!
When it comes to the food in this park, my boyfriend and I didn’t do any sit down reservation meals, but my aunt and them did. Like I mentioned earlier this park is so big and there’s so much to see that we didn’t even want to take time out of our day to sit down and be waited on.
Instead we went to this quick service place, which I’ll admit did not have the best options for vegetarians – I had a falafel burger and it was a bit dry – but at least it was food to eat to hold me over.
What I do recommend are the chocolate covered bananas! I’m pretty sure you can find them in every park so if you don’t get one here you will have other opportunities to, but it’s just so tasty so definitely try it out if you can eat chocolate and peanuts.
I’m a huge lover of chocolate covered frozen bananas and it was the perfect way to have something small to munch on and cool down a bit without getting sick and feeling super gross from something heavy like ice cream or something of that sort.
Another exciting and magical part of being in Magic Kingdom is that every single night they end the day with a firework show over Cinderella’s Castle. Now I know you may be thinking so what, it’s just fireworks, but I promise you you’ll never see a firework show like the one they put on. Definitely check it out if you find yourself at the park at night!
Overall Magic Kingdom is a must-see when visiting Walt Disney World. No other park is like this one and there’s tons to see, so make sure you set aside at least one full day for this park.
Rides you won’t want to miss:
- Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
- Space Mountain
- Buzz Lightyear
- It’s a Small World
Where & what to eat:
- Chocolate covered banana with peanuts
- Quick service places/food stands throughout the park (you probably won’t want to spend a lot of time sitting down to eat and being waited on when the park is so big)
What to see:
- Firework show at the end of the night
- Cinderella’s Castle
- After using your first 3 fast passes you get a secret 4th fast pass in this park only, so make sure you check the Disney app once you’re done using your 3rd fast pass to take advantage of the last one!
- Rides you’ll definitely want to fast pass include: It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain (you do get wet on this ride, so if it’s not warm outside maybe think about wearing a poncho!), and Big Thunder Mountain.
- Find a spot early if you plan on watching the fireworks show – the area fills up very quickly and the staff doesn’t allow you to sit in certain areas.
- Use the app check wait times throughout the day; they do change depending on what time it is so you may find that you can cancel a fast pass and use it for another ride if one of the rides you fast passed happens to have a short wait at some point during the day.
Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite parks for a very obvious reason – I love animals, and there’s tons of them to see in this park.
What’s super cool about this park is they have the Tree of Life, and that’s definitely something you won’t want to miss!
If you’ve never heard of the Tree of Life before it’s basically a humongous tree that has tons of different animals carved into it. You’re definitely going to want to walk up to it and just stare at it for a few minutes because there are soo many hidden animals carved into it that you won’t notice on first glance.
What’s also cool is that you can go inside the tree of life for one of their shows It’s Tough to be a Bug, so definitely don’t miss out on that!
One of my favorite things to do at this park is to go on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. It’s basically like driving through a zoo; you get to see tons of different animals up close and personal, so if you like animals definitely check this ride out (and definitely fast pass it, it can get up to a 2-hour wait!) Pro tip: if it’s hot out during your trip try saving this for a bit later in the day, the animals will be way more active once it gets a bit cooler out and the sun starts to set!
It’s Tough to be a Bug is also a cute show if you’d like to walk inside the Tree of Life, and The Lion King Show is an absolute must-see if you like the Lion King!
If you’re a fan of rollercoasters Expedition Everest is a pretty cool one, especially if you’d like to get up close and personal with a yeti! It does go backwards though, so if you’re not a fan of that you may want to skip this ride.
The Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage are 2 rides in Animal Kingdom’s new Pandora – a part of the park dedicated entirely to the movie Avatar. Sadly I didn’t get to try these 2 rides out as I wound up catching the flu during this trip and had to go to urgent care before heading over to this park.
You must fast pass the Na’vi River Journey if you don’t want to wait 4 hours for the ride, and you must fast pass it in advance! I waited too long and sadly no fast pass times were available once I tried to get one. But, unfortunately, you’re not allowed to fast pass the Flight of Passage ride, so if you want to check this ride out and avoid another 4 hour wait your best bet is to get to the park early and once it opens literally run to this ride. That’s what my aunt and them did and they still had to wait 2 hours to get on it (though they said it was worth every second of waiting.)
My boyfriend and I ate at the Rainforest Café for lunch, and though once again their menu isn’t the absolute greatest for vegetarians, I did find some nachos to munch on and just asked them not to add the beef.
I mainly wanted to eat here though because of the restaurant itself. If you’ve never been here before it’s literally like walking into an actual rainforest. There are leaves and trees everywhere, animatronic animals, and it even thunderstorms every once in a while! It’s a super cool place to eat so if you have some time in your day for a sit down meal I definitely suggest eating here!
Rides you won’t want to miss:
- It’s Tough to be a Bug
- The Lion King Show
- Expedition Everest
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Na’vi River Journey
- Avatar Flight of Passage
Where & what to eat:
- Rainforest Café
- Turkey leg (according to my boyfriend, if you’re a meat eater)
What to see:
- The Tree of Life
- Pandora (even if you don’t make it on the rides just walking around Pandora is super cool)
- Animal exhibits throughout the park
- Like I mentioned before, if you’re planning on going on any Avatar rides definitely make sure you fast pass Na’vi River Journey and arrive at the park before it opens so you can literally run to Flight of Passage before the line starts to get too long.
- Keep your eyes open; you never know what you’ll see! My boyfriend and I heard strange screeching noises at one point and looked up and saw 2 parrots flying overhead!
- Get up close and personal with the Tree of Life. There are tons of animals you won’t notice at first glance.
- If it’s hot out, dress accordingly! For some reason this park always feels like the hottest one.
Epcot is another one of my favorite parks because of the World Showcase. The World Showcase is an area of Epcot that lets you explore 11 different countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, USA, Japan, Morocco, France, UK, and Canada.
What’s super cool is that everyone you can find working in these countries is actually from that country! This makes it feel super authentic and also makes it pretty cool to hear the different accents.
Also you can find authentic food and drinks from each country, so I definitely suggest eating in one of these countries to get a break from Disney’s typical hot dogs and burgers.
My favorite restaurant here is the San Angel Inn Restaurante in Mexico. You walk through a cool shop to get to the restaurant and it looks like you’re outdoors inside the entire place. There’s a volcano in the background and a pretty cool gondola ride you can go on after eating. I’ve eaten here every time I’ve gone to Disney because I love it so much. (P.S. make sure you try their frozen strawberry daiquiris, they’re delicious!)
Another great restaurant is Teppan Edo in Japan if you’re a fan of hibachi! And there’s also a quick service spot you can eat at in France that has the absolute dreamiest French desserts. Definitely head over there if you have a sweet tooth.
When I go to Epcot I focus more on the World Showcase, but they do have a separate section of the park with a few rides. The most popular ride is Soarin’. You strap into this seat and they lift you up in the air in front of a huge TV that shows different landscapes and it feels like you’re flying through those actual places. It’s pretty cool and extremely popular, though in my opinion it’s not the greatest ride Disney has to offer so I normally skip it.
Rides you won’t want to miss:
Where & what to eat:
- San Angel Inn Restaurante
- Teppan Edo
- Quick stop restaurant in France
What to see:
- World Showcase
- Firework show
- If you plan on checking out Soarin’, definitely fast pass it! This ride usually has crazy wait times.
- If you like to drink, try drinking around the world in Epcot’s World Showcase! It’s super fun trying beers and cocktails from different countries (the dark beer in Germany is delicious!)
- Stick around to see the firework show at night! It goes off over the water in the World Showcase and is typically not as crowded as Magic Kingdom’s firework show.
Hollywood Studios is Disney’s smallest park so you most likely won’t need a full day here. This may be a good day to do a sit down meal if you haven’t already since you will have that extra time.
My two favorite rides here are the Tower of Terror and the Rockin’ Rollercoaster. What’s really cool about the Tower of Terror is that even walking into the ride is super cool. You’re transported into a creepy, haunted hotel with cobwebs everywhere and spooky decorations, and even the workers are in character. You see a quick little clip before heading into the Twilight Zone and making your way into an elevator that continuously drops and gives you the best feeling in your belly (if you like that feeling, of course!)
The Rockin’ Rollercoaster is also a really cool one. It’s Aerosmith themed so you hear their music and see a short clip of them before heading onto the ride. There are speakers behind you in the car where you hear them count down from 5 and then you shoot off immediately into a corkscrew and flip…it’s one of my favorite rollercoasters out there.
A great place to eat in Hollywood Studios is Mama Melrose’s Italian Restaurant. They have a bunch of different options and a pretty tasty chocolate mousse dessert, so make sure you leave room at the end to satisfy your sweet tooth!
Walking down Sunset Blvd. is one of my favorite parts about this park because the street is just lined with palm trees – it’s the perfect photo opportunity (which you can also check out in my Travel Photo Diary post) and is also lined with various shops where you can pick up some souvenirs and a few food stands if you get a bit hungry.
Rides you won’t want to miss:
- Tower of Terror
- Rockin’ Rollercoaster
Where & what to eat:
- Mama Melrose’s Italian Restaurant
What to see:
- Sunset Blvd.
- Since this is the smallest park, this is a good opportunity to make a reservation for a sit down meal since you won’t have to rush eating.
- If you want to go on the Tower of Terror or Rockin’ Rollercoaster make sure you fast pass it to avoid wait times that can be as long as 2 hours.
Have you ever been to Walt Disney World? If you have, let me know all about it! What were some of your favorite rides, restaurants, and secret insider tips? I’ll definitely be going back again in the future, and like I said, there’s always more to discover that you never noticed or knew about on previous trips!
For all the first timers heading here, have an amazing time! Disney is the most magical place on earth, and no matter what age you are you’re going to have a blast! There’s so much going on and so much to do, and I promise you you’ll miss it once you leave so do your best to make the most of your trip! I’m still dreaming about those sunny skies and pretty palm trees.