First time visitors to Walt Disney World Resort, and those who haven’t been recently, are often overwhelmed by the flood of details they uncover when they embark on an online search for the latest information. Not to mention that so much of the information available on Facebook groups and other public forums is outdated, or just plain wrong.
Among travel advisors there’s a semi-joke that these are the questions newcomers and/or overwhelmed guests ask us first:
1. What time is the 3 o’clock parade?
A: On a typical day, the Festival of Fantasy Parade is at 3 p.m. in the Magic Kingdom (on busier days it’s also at noon).
2. Which Disney park has the Harry Potter land?
A: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions are not at Disney World — they are at Universal Studios Orlando in both major theme parks. (Tip: make sure to have a park-to-park ticket when you visit Universal so you can ride Hogwarts Express!)
3. Is Animal Kingdom Park just a glorified zoo?
I’ve also found that some guests are reluctant to ask questions about basic information, and end up making incorrect assumptions that trip them up down the road. I hope that by answering some of these here it will be helpful:
Q: What’s a MagicBand? Do I have to get one?
A: MagicBands are bracelets with RFID technology that, when scanned, access your “My Disney Experience” account. They can be used at Walt Disney World Resort to unlock your resort room door, scan into the parks, tap into Genie+ attraction reservations, link PhotoPass photos to you, access dining reservations, and charge most food and merchandise purchases to your account. You do *not* have to purchase a MagicBand, but they do make most transactions both quicker and easier. If you purchase a MagicBand through your resort reservation in “My Disney Experience” in advance of your vacation, you can choose from a subset of band designs for a discount. They are also available for purchase from ShopDisney and at gift shops throughout the resort. There are currently two types of bands available, MagicBand2 and the newer MagicBand+ which lights up and interacts with various elements in the parks. MagicBand+ is double (or more) the cost of the MagicBand2, and requires charging for the light and vibration effects. An alternative to MagicBands is the free Magic Mobile service with a smart phone. On-ride photos will not be picked up by Magic Mobile, however. (Tip: Never buy a second-hand MagicBand as they can only be linked to an account once and are thus worthless.)
Q: My kids are young – should we skip EPCOT?
A: Maaaybe … but probably not. This one really depends on a few factors including the length of your vacation, the ages and interests of the kids, and what else you have planned before and after that park visit. (Tip! Moana: The Journey of Water is a don’t miss, walk-through attraction for all ages that opened in late 2023.)
Q: Should I buy Fuel Rods and switch them out while in the parks? I heard that Genie+ uses a lot of battery power.
A: I advise against it. While you should bring a battery pack to recharge your devices, it’s more efficient and economical to purchase medium or large rechargeable power blocks such as those made by Anker and bring them with you.
Q: Are park hopper tickets a must-have to really enjoy our vacation?
A: Generally speaking, no. And especially not for first time visitors with younger children in their group. There’s so much to take in on a first visit and transportation between parks inevitably takes time (and energy). I would recommend park hoppers for repeat visitors who visit fairly often, guests staying near EPCOT who would like to pop over there for dinner after visiting a different park earlier in the day, and adults-only parties or families with older teens who want the freedom to do different things.
Q: Should we buy the Disney Dining plan?
A: There’s no one answer fits all on this one! For most guests this is a luxury add-on rather than a money saver. Reach out to me or to your travel advisor for assistance in figuring out what would work best for you. Also, bare in mind that when there is a Free Dining promotion offered it’s likely a better cost savings to take the accompanying resort discount instead … but again, reach out for help.
Q: How many days should we visit Walt Disney World?
A: I recommend a minimum of a 3-night, 4 day visit with a preference for 5+ days if possible. WDW is the size of San Francisco with four theme parks, Disney Springs and highly themed resorts with many activities of their own.
Q: Should we visit Walt Disney World before or after our cruise vacation?
A: I don’t think you can go wrong either way … but my personal preference is to visit WDW first, which is a very active experience if you are going to parks, and then to take the cruise and enjoy a more relaxed second portion of your vacation.
Q: How early should I reach out to my travel advisor about booking my Walt Disney World vacation?
A: Generally your advisor can start reserving your vacation for the following year sometime in June the previous year. In a lot of cases, the earlier you reserve a vacation package the better prices you will receive on park tickets (which tend to raise in price once, often twice, a year) as well as have more options for the resort and room type you would like. Your advisor can apply discounts that may be announced later to your reservation if they apply to your dates and resort room type (or if you want to switch into a different resort/room that qualifies for the discount). Since a vacation package only requires a $200 refundable deposit I do encourage everyone to reach out as soon as they have specific dates in mind.
Q: I heard we should bring a stroller for our 6 year old – is that really a thing?
A: You know your child best, but yes, most children are not used to walking 8 to 10 miles a day for a few days in a row and would benefit from having a stroller. I recommend Kingdom Strollers (affiliate link), who have great reviews and are highly regarded by everyone I know. A major plus of a stroller is that it’s an awesome place to store your water bottles, sunblock, snacks, ponchos, etc. Bring a neon colored ribbon or bandana (or purchase a beautiful balloon in the park) to easily identify your stroller in the parking areas.
Q: What are the best souvenirs to buy?
A: Very subjective, of course — such a personal thing — but some fun, less pricey, souvenirs are: popcorn buckets, pressed pennies, personalized Christmas tree ornaments, Mickey ear hats or Minnie ears bands, resort magnets, mugs, tshirts, toy light sabers, plushies, artist posters, and home goods like spatulas, trivets, etc. Plus, you can mail yourself a postcard from Main Street U.S.A. for a fun reminder of your trip when you arrive home. On the pricier side you could purchase original art, unique jewelry, or high end clothing, or build a custom light saber at Savi’s Workshop, among many other options!
Q: What is a “Bounce Back” offer?
A: Disney often offers a fairly significant discount on a return trip to Walt Disney World if you reserve your next vacation within seven days of the last day of your current vacation. Dates and resorts available for the discount vary. Reach out to your travel advisor who can get the info and reserve this for you if you’re interested!
I hope these answers have helped a little bit! Fill out an interest form if you are curious to learn more about how I can help you have a magical vacation. Wishing you a wonderful adventure!