If it is your first visit to Disney World – Orlando, you will need to do some planning before you go. Walt Disney World covers almost 25,000 acres of land – approximately the size of San Francisco. The 4 main parks are the Magic Kingdom; EPCOT; Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. In addition, there are 2 water parks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon) and an indoor park/arcade (Quest). In addition, there is Downtown Disney, Disney’s Boardwalk and 23 hotels – all connected with shuttles, monorail, boats and walking paths.
Your first choice will be to decide the type of park tickets you want. Ticket prices get cheaper per day the more days you add on and can be added to your hotel package or purchased online before you go. There are also some ticket options, like park hopper (where you can visit more than one park on the same day); water parks and more option (for entrance to the 2 water parks and Quest) and the no-expiration date ticket (which can be very pricey).
In our opinion, the park hopper option is only good if you have very limited time and unlimited energy. For visits of 4 or 5 days, this could be a good option for you – as the Animal Kingdom closes early (usually by 6 pm) but Epcot and the Magic Kingdom are open much later – often with a fireworks display after 10 pm. However, most people find visiting one park a day draining enough. In fact, we would recommend getting to the park early to beat the crowds (especially if you are a hotel guest and can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. In the hottest hours of the afternoon, plan a break and go back to your hotel for a swim or rest. Return to the same park later in the day and stay till the end – when crowds start to thin out again.
Unless you are going when the weather is too cold to swim (if there is such a thing for Canadians), we highly recommend the water park option. When you add the water park option – it is like adding extra days. For instance, if you are going 10 days, you could buy a 5 day ticket with water park option – so you would get 5 days of main parks and an additional 5 days of water parks/Quest. You can opt for extra days and enjoy the water parks (they are not open at night) then venture over to EPCOT for some great dining options and fireworks at night. Conversely, you could do Animal Kingdom in the Day and visit the Quest indoor arcade park and dine at Downtown Disney in the evening.
There are also several ways to beat the lines at the parks and maximize your time. One is to take advantage of the Fast Pass for the most popular rides. Another is to plan to visit those rides when the parade is on – and everyone else is watching it. All Disney hotel lobbies have maps of the parks, opening hours, show schedules, etc. Get the information online or from your hotel ahead of time and plan a rough schedule or a ‘must do’ list. Try to hit the most popular attractions early or late in the day. Lunch spots can also get very crowded, so plan to hit the restaurants before 11:30 or after 2:00.
Bring a backpack with sunscreen, a sweater for cool evenings, camera, water bottle and autograph book and pen(if the kids want character autographs). Wear your most comfortable running shoes and loose, comfy clothes – and enjoy the magic!