5 Things You Should Know Before Your First Walt Disney World Vacation

5 Things You Should Know Before Your First Disney Vacation

Five Things You Should Know Before Your First Trip to Walt Disney World

If you are considering a Walt Disney World vacation, but don’t really know a whole lot about it, here are five things that you should know as you begin your planning process.

1. Walt Disney World is big. Really big.

With an area covering 43 square miles (roughly 111 square kilometres) Walt Disney World covers an area larger than many Canadian and U.S. cities.

In fact, Walt Disney World is roughly the same size as these cities:

  • the City of Vancouver, B.C. (115 sq km);
  • Cambridge, Ontario (113 sq km);
  • Red Deer, Alberta (105 sq km) or
  • Bangor, Maine (110 sq km).

…and Walt Disney World is bigger than cities including

  • St. Catharines, Ontario (96 sq km);
  • Burnaby, BC (91 sq km);
  • Barrie, Ontario (77 sq km) and
  • Boulder, Colorado (84.1 sq km).

So it’s important to understand that Walt Disney World is not a small and intimate destination where you will be able to stroll from park to park.

Fortunately, Disney has a transportation system (free to Onsite Disney guests) that rivals those in each of these cities. This makes it easier to make your way around the “World” without the need for a car.

Disney Transportation Sign, Walt Disney World

2. Walt Disney World is more than any one thing

With great size comes great variety. While many travelers who have never visited Walt Disney World may picture Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park (the original Walt Disney World theme park) when they think of Walt Disney World, it has actually grown to become much more than this.

Walt Disney World is

  • four theme parks (Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park),
  • two full-size water parks (Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach),
  • one large shopping and entertainment district (Disney Springs) and
  • several top tier golf courses (including Disney’s Magnolia and Palm courses).

And even this list does not include everything.

There is much more to do here than any guest could possibly cover in a typical week’s vacation, which is why it is one destination where the services and expertise of an experienced Travel Advisor are truly beneficial.

3. Walt Disney World has an impressive range of onsite resorts and accommodations

A Walt Disney World vacation very much deserves an entire week’s stay. To get the most of this large and magical place you really do benefit from staying onsite at one of Disney’s many Walt Disney World Resort hotels.

Walt Disney World offers guests a choice of well over 25 different hotels and resorts located onsite at Walt Disney World. Properties are available in three categories: Value, Moderate and Deluxe.

All Disney onsite Resorts will give you access to several benefits not available to guests who stay offsite. Those who choose to stay in one of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts or Villas will find themselves closer to the Magic and in a more immersive state of the optimal Disney experience.

There is much to be said about the finer side of Disney travel.

Boat on Disney's Seven Seas Lagoon

4. Walt Disney World is not a budget destination

You may find a lot of articles, posts, books and advice on how to pinch pennies at Walt Disney World, but I’ll be frank in telling you right up front that Walt Disney World is not a budget destination.

Nor was it ever meant to be.

You get excellent value here for the prices that you pay. The Disney magic and attention to detail are what separate Disney Parks and Resorts from everything else. It is always important to ensure that you are getting value for what you spend, or taking advantage of special offers from the Disney Travel Company. However, my advice is that it is worth saving up for another year or two for the hotel and experience that you really want, rather than trying to treat Walt Disney World as a budget destination.

Crowds at Disney's Magic Kingdom Park.

5. Walt Disney World can get very busy, so a certain level of planning is beneficial

Back in the 1970s, Walt Disney World was a much more casual and somewhat carefree place. However, with the volume of guests who visit this magical place nowadays, a certain level of advance planning is required. Just how much planning you want to do is up to your Disney travel style (are you a detail oriented traveler or do you like to have more free time?). At the very least, however, there are few things that you should prepare for when it comes to advance planning.

  • Hotel Rooms: It’s important to book your Walt Disney World hotel room as early as possible. This will help to ensure that you get the resort and room category you desire.
  • Dining Reservations: The most popular restaurants can sell out months in advance, so guests are advised to make their dining reservations at the 180 day mark before your vacation — at least for the most popular restaurants. 180 days before your trip is when you are allowed to start making dining reservations.
  • FastPass+ Reservations: Guests who stay onsite at Walt Disney World Resort hotels are allowed to start making their FastPass+ reservations 60 days before their arrival. Similar to dining reservations, the most popular rides and attractions can fill quickly, so keep an eye on this date and be sure to have your schedule ready for booking.

Are You Considering Your First Walt Disney World Vacation?

Be sure to read my Guide to Planning A Walt Disney World Vacation and my post on the Five Golden Rules of Walt Disney World Vacation Planning.

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Mike Belobradic: The Finer Side of Disney Travel
Luxury Travel Blogger – Deluxe Disney Travel Specialist
The Finer Side of Travel