The moment you walk through the gates of Disney World, you are overwhelmed with nothing but pure euphoria. Disney World is truly a place like no other. The sweet smell of popcorn, cotton candy, and freshly baked cookies fills the air as you catch a glimpse of Cinderella's castle in the distance. The iconic music from Disney movies can be heard, creating an atmosphere of pure magic. There's no doubt that Disney World is the most magical place in the world.
In January 2023, my husband Matt and I journeyed to Disney World in Florida with our 3 children (Penelope 8, Duke 6, Daisy 4). It was a truly an amazing experience to make so many incredible memories with our children.
If you and your family are looking to visit Disney World but don't know where to begin, this guide is for you! Here I have put together a list of helpful tips and tricks to ensure your Disney World experience is a magical one.
About Disney World
Disney World, located in Florida, USA, is incredibly huge - approximately 25,000 acres, the same size as San Francisco! It has four theme parks (Magical Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom) and two water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach). In addition, Disney World contains over 30 Disney hotels and resorts, plus a variety of non-Disney hotels and Disney Springs, a downtown shopping district.
We highly recommend staying at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn if it is in your budget.Our family of five had a wonderful stay at Disney's BoardWalk Inn, located in the Epcot Resort Area. This Deluxe waterfront hotel provided us with the perfect accommodations, including two queen beds, a pullout sofa, and a balcony with views of the BoardWalk ( great way to relax on the balcony once the kids are asleep). The early 1900s Atlantic City and Coney Island theming gave the stay a unique touch, and the convenience of being within walking distance to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios made the stay even more enjoyable.
We loved the roller coaster water slides at the pool, the helpful club concierge, the luxurious Club lounge, the friendly staff, the beautiful boardwalk, and the convenience of having transportation right outside the hotel. The best part was the incredibly comfortable bed after a long day of exploring! We really loved everything about it!
The Club Lounge is truly a game-changer for guests staying in the Club Level rooms. Every morning, we would visit for breakfast, enjoying coffee and taking some fruit with us for the day. After a long day, we would return to the lounge to have a beer or glass of wine (or 5), while the kids indulged in cerea (yes cereal for a second dinner cos why not?)l and sweet desserts. The lounge offers a variety of drinks and food during four designated times. The staff are always available to ensure an outstanding experience and they love kids. Overall, we highly recommend the Disney Boardwalk Inn and we will be back
Hot Tip- Be sure to pack those walking shoes, as you'll need them!
Accommodation- List all Disney hotels
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
It’s recommended that you aim to do a day per park, because again, they are HUGE. You can purchase a park hopper ticket to revisit a previous park if you LOVED it or didn't get to do everything you wanted. Keep in mind that for most people, don't focus on trying to do everything because you may leave disappointed. The parks are so big that it's best to cross off your ‘Must Dos’ and anything extra is a bonus. Planning is key but I will touch on that later.
Okay, Magical Kingdom was my favourite- just puting it out there. This park is your classic Disneyland- like what you would see in LA and is perfect for younger children. The unanimous favourite ride among the kids was "Dumbo the Flying Elephant," while our older two had a difficult time picking just one, since they had such a great time on them all. Well, that's not entirely true; Mr 6 didn't seem to enjoy the Little Mermaid ride, claiming it was "too slow," "boring," and "for girls."
Among the most loved attractions at Magic Kingdom are Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan's Flight, the now-closed Splash Mountain (which Matt and Duke were privileged to experience before it’s closure), the Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
A must do is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where your little ones can become knights and princesses. We recommend booking in advance - we tried to book a month ahead and still couldn't get a slot! Prices start at $79.95 (plus tax) and go up to $229.95 (plus tax) for the Deluxe Package.
Animal Kingdoms is the largest theme park in the world, with over 500 acres of land filled with lush vegetation, animals, and rides. The main areas include Discovery Island, Asia, Africa, and DinoLand USA. Discovery Island is the hub of the park, featuring an iconic Tree of Life, which is home to hundreds of animal carvings. Asia is home to Expedition Everest (this one is a real hear drops into a stomach moment) as well as Kali River Rapids and Maharajah Jungle Trek. Africa is home to Kilimanjaro Safari where you can see animals in their natural environment- this was super cool. We saw Elephants, lions, giraffes etc. Finally, DinoLand USA is home to the thrilling Dinosaur ride and this is where you can meet the elusive Donald Duck (yes he was the most difficult character to find).
No matter what you're looking for, Animal Kingdom has something for everyone. The top rides at Animal Kingdom are Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Avatar Flight of Passage (this was cool- like really cool) which is a thrilling 3D ride that takes you on a journey through the world of Pandora. Finally, Dinosaur is an intense ride through time and space as guests attempt to escape a fierce dinosaur. This was a really cool park and pefect for a more chilled out day.
It is filled with the magic of Hollywood with amazing attractions, shows, and rides. Whether you want to take a spin on the Toy Story Midway Mania, fly on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, explore the Tower of Terror, or enjoy the live entertainment, there is something for everyone. The park also features a variety of restaurants, shops, and interactive experiences that will delight and entertain. With the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Hollywood Studios has become one of the most popular parks at Disney World. There is something for everyone, so come and experience the magic of Hollywood Studios!
Our Favourite rides were The Slinky dog dash rollercoaster (this was one of themost popular rides), Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (this one blew our minds- really cool, and thats coming form someone who has never seen Star wars). Our son Duke celebrated his 6th birthday here and as a surprise we took him to Savi's Workshop which is in the Star Wars ara. Here he was able to handcraft his very own lightsaber. This was an extraordinary authentic experience for him and he now has the best souvenir .The live entertainment at Hollywood stupdios is great. I took the girls to see the beauty and the beast live performance and they were in awe. A must do at the end of the day is to see the Fantasmic light show! This brought out so much emotion and was spectacular to watch.
We called this one the Adults Disneyland. Travel around the world at EPCOT. This was a really cool park and you were really transported into each of the countries as you walked around the park. It’s is divided into two distinct sections: Future World and World Showcase. Future World is a journey of discovery, with attractions that explore the wonders of the natural world, global cultures, and space. World Showcase is a collection of pavilions that represent 11 countries from around the world, including Mexico, Norway, Canada, and more. Every pavilion has its own unique attractions, entertainment, and food that immerses you in the culture of the country. When you walked through England you could literally smell the Fish and Chips.Hot Tip: Epcot sells alcohol so after a few days at Disney you will need something a little stronger. You can explore the streets of Paris or take a ride on the gondolas of Italy, all without leaving the park. There are also plenty of entertainment options, from live music to shows, and fireworks to light up the night.
Epcot was amazing. Our favourite was the Ratatouille ride in Paris where they incorporated all the senses into their ride. You could literally smell the food cooking in the kitchen and the heat of the oven- blew our minds. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was one of the most popular roller oyster rides. You can fly high on ‘Soarin', journey around the world on ‘Spaceship Earth’, and take a thrilling spin on Test Track. Other popular rides include Mission: SPACE and Journey Into Imagination with Figment.
At night, Epcot comes alive with the nighttime spectacular, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. This amazing show features fireworks, lasers, and music, telling the story of how the Earth has been impacted by human society.
Park Tickets, Reservation and Apps
Disney World tickets can be quite expensive, but they are well worth it for the experiences that you get from visiting the park. Depending on which park you plan on visiting, there are several options for purchasing tickets and you can purchase these on the Disney website.
When you purchase a ticket, you can add additional days and experiences, such as the Disney FastPass+ service, which allows you to skip the lines at some of the popular attractions (because who wants to wait in 200 minute lines). In addition, you can also purchase tickets for special events, such as the fireworks shows, parades, and character meet and greets.
It is important to make park reservations for the days that you plan to visit Disney World. Imagine coming all the way to Disney and you didn't reserve your days and the park is sold out. Reservations for certain attractions, such as the Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, are highly recommended as these attractions can have long wait times. You can also make reservations for character meals, special events, and shows. With park reservations, you can ensure that you get the most out of your visit to Disney World.
The My Disney Experience app is a must. You can view estimated wait times for rides, restaurants, and other experiences. The app allows you to use the Disney Genie service, which helps you create customised plans for your Disney trip, view the Map and purchase your Fast Pass to skip the line for rides. We used the app so often during our time at Disney and honestly we would be lost (quite literally) without it.
How to Get there
For us, we flew Qantas Melbourne direct to Dallas (16 hours) and then another flight to Florida (2.5 hours). We found the long direct flight was easiest with the kids to kind of “just get it over and done with”. On the way home we flew via Hawaii and spent a few days at Disney's Aulani Resort (highly recommend btw) which broke up our trip home.
There are so many ways to get to Disney World so it is best to speak to the experts at Melbourne Travel Project to find the best options for you.
Disney has an amazing transit system and it’s free. There are several ways to get around Disney property. The bus is the most common means of transportation and they come to and from the hotels and parks frequently. We found the bus to be the easiest form of transport and they really have the system figured out- which takes the stress away at the end of the evening when everyone is exhausted.
Other ways to get around are boats, the monorail, and the Skyliner are also available for certain destinations. However, remember that travelling between any of the parks by foot can take up to 30 minutes, so it may be beneficial to use a ride-sharing service such as Uber if you have time constraints
Tips and Tricks
So here are some of our tips we picked up along the way.
Hire a Stroller for the kids. We brought our Bugaboo Butterfly for our youngest but we found our older 2 were exhausted ( we were doing 25,000 steps a day). All of the Disney parks offer single and double stroller rentals for the duration of your visit. Stroller Rentals start at $13 - 31 depending on your needs - the cost is nothing to save you hearing whiny kids all day.
Popcorn buckets- this will keep the kids quiet for a while. No one has fun when you're Hangry. You can buy a bucket and refills are only $2. We definitely frequented the popcorn stands to fill the little gremlins up (and mum and dad).
Merch- different parks have different merch, if you love something buy it because you may not get it at another park! Example- Disney dresses are sold at magical kingdom but not at the other parks (I learnt this the hard way and had 2 disappointed girls).
Autograph Books- All of the disney stores sell them and it's a really special souvenir for the kids. Every time they meet a character they can get their autograph and there is space to put the photo too.
Rider swap- Disney really understands families. This allows parents with small children to take turns riding the attractions without having to wait in line twice.
Genie Plus - We recommended purchasing this Fast Pass daily from 7am and early as they sell out. The $15pp you spend on the fast pass will save you hours in lines which will allow you to go on more rides (and avoid lots of bored meltdowns).
PLAN PLAN PLAN- plan your day, your rides, the character schedules ane your must dos, so you can get the most out of each park. Find the most popular rides at each park and book that ride on the app using your genie first thing every morning or you may find yourself waiting in longlines or missing out on a show you really wanted to see.
Disney World is full of attractions and activities that will keep you entertained for days. From the parks to the resorts, to the shops and restaurants, there is something for everyone. Overall, Disney World is a magical place. It’s a place for making memories that will last a lifetime and we will really cherish our memories of our trip (i promise you will forget all the meltdowns). From the rides and attractions, to the food and entertainment, you want to keep going back to experience the magic. We cannot wait to take our family again.
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