Over my years of going to Disney World starting at the age of 7, I learned quite a bit of tips, lessons and helpful information through watching my mother freak out, experience, books, planning friends/family vacations and listening to people complain. It's not just about what goes on in the parks, either. All the important planning needs to include from the moment you leave your house, airport, car and all the way up until you walk back into your house when you return from your Disney World vacation. In order to enjoy yourself as much as possible while at Disney World, you have to put a lot of planning into it ahead of time. If you're a planner, great! If not, see if someone in your vacation party is a planner or if someone can help you. Read through the pages on this site. It's growing every day with more and more new information, but the site already has the basics to start planning your vacation to the Happiest Place On Earth. If that doesn't work, hire someone. You don't want to go on a Disney World vacation without, at least, knowing about theme park passes, what a park hopper is, extra magic hours, dining reservations, fastpasses, magic bands, buses, monorails.....OOOOH....THE LIST CAN GO ON! Can you imagine not having any idea about any of the above when you arrive in Orlando?
Walking--There is a lot of walking! There's a lot of walking around your resort, to get to transportation, to get to the front gates of the theme parks and then the walking in the theme parks just boggles your mind. Start walking before your vacation to make your excessive walking at Disney World easier on yourself. No exaggeration!! Walking in advance with the sneakers you will be wearing at the park will allow you to determine if there are places you need extra cushion to avoid blisters. Sneakers and socks are best, of course. Don't be alarmed if you start to see a red rash above your sock line on your legs. It will get worse the more you walk, too. That's what A LOT of walking and standing on your feet does to you. It goes away after a couple of weeks.
Expensive--Sometimes, I'm surprised to hear people complain about it being so expensive. Of course it's expensive! It's the cleanest, largest, Happiest Place On Earth with the best attractions for ALL ages. You don't have the control to save on theme park tickets, flights or the resort stay, but you can save quite a bit of money on food if you're on a budget. Look into the dining plan (Disney Dining Plan Tips is on this site). Bring snacks in a backpack; have groceries delivered to your resort, drive to a store outside of Disney or rent a car. Keep in mind that you could use the rental car money for lunches in the parks knowing the Magical Coach brings you to your Disney resort for free. Eat at quick service restaurants for all meals. They're less expensive than table service restaurants. You are permitted to bring food and beverages into the park, but no glass containers or alcohol. You can have a small cooler with ice, too. Bottom line is that Disney is a company that has stockholders. They have to make money to exist. You get what you pay for. You want good, clean, quality and fun entertainment for all ages? You got it! Just be prepared to pay top notch for it.
Weather consideration--Just because Walt Disney World is the Happiest Place on Earth and located in central Florida does not mean that Mother Nature signed into contract with Walt Disney when he bought all of that land. In the Spring and Summer it gets incredibly hot, which it is actually the humidity that makes it feel worse than it really is. If you encountered the same temperatures at Disneyland, it's not as oppressive, because they don't have the humidity like the East has. Afternoon rainstorms are very common, too. It can get downright cold in February. It can get cold in November, too, but a sweatshirt usually takes care of that and it tends to get warmer as the day goes on, but it's more consistently cool in February. Bring long pants and a coat/sweatshirt. While we tend to get excited weeks in advance and start packing, it's best to check the forecast a couple days before you leave and then pack clothes accordingly.
Guide Map--Study your Guide Map and learn the lay of the land before you arrive. This will be beneficial when scheduling fastpasses before your vacation, too. They have plenty of maps as you enter the parks every day. Keep one on you at all times so you can locate a bathroom as soon as someone needs one. The maps also give you information on park operating hours, restaurant hours, show times along with times and locations of the Disney characters. Tip: you can schedule a fastpass before your vacation to see your favorite Disney character and be sure to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours for Disney Resort Guests ONLY.
Maintenance/Refurbishment Schedule--Be sure to view what could be closed when planning your vacation. Click here to see the most recent refurbishment schedule. It may still be warm to you in January in Florida, but they tend to close down the waterparks for annual maintenance in January and February. It may be swimming weather to you, like us Mainers, but it's not swimming weather to most of the southern population. Our pool at our resort was closed for refurbishment in October. No swimming for us, but we could've planned in advance to go to a water park, if we wanted to. Or, it would be a HUGE disappointment if you learned, only once you arrived, that Space Mountain is closed for refurbishment. It's good to know in advance so you can make alternative arrangements or so you and your vacation party won't be disappointed. There's nothing we can do if rides break down, though. I was just about to step into my seat for Space Mountain when they closed the ride and sent a few hundred people down the ramp disappointed, but it is what it is. Things happen.
Water--stay hydrated!! The number one reason guests get fatigued, sick or light-headed in the park is usually because of dehydration. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Walt Disney World has drink carts and drinking fountains everywhere you are walking so it is easy to buy a drink. You can carry a water bottle in with you. Disney does allow you to walk up to every quick service restaurant and ask for water for free. The kids may say they're fine, but keep a close eye on their water intake and reinforce drinking water. Depending on the temperatures and activity, they will need more water than other normal times.
Lots of People--Just because you chose a time to go to Disney World that is considered to be slow does not mean there are no crowds. It just means there are less sardines in the can. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. There are tons of people everywhere. There is a line for everything. There's only a handful of times we went on a ride with no wait. That's just because Disney is that good at keeping things moving. Lines at Disney can be like the grocery store. No one at the checkout counter and then BAM! You have long lines all at once and they don't die down for hours or at all, because there's more and more people coming into the parks and making their rounds at their favorite rides. If it gets too hectic with too many people, leave that park and go to another park (if you have park hopper passes). Above all, patience is key. Like I said earlier, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. You will be relieved and pleasantly surprised when you see a wait time of 15-30 minutes at a ride. You will come to realize that those wait times are short!!