Despite Walt Disney World being a mecca for kids and kids at heart, ‘Doing Disney’ is not child’s play. But with some planning, you can pull off a no-stress, fun-filled trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Here’s how:
First, make sure your booking site is in Canadian dollars or you’ll get a rude awakening when the exchange is applied on your credit card bill. Not a happy beginning! Expedia.ca is an online travel service provider that puts all Walt Disney World information including hotels, packages, and theme park tickets in one place (and yes, prices are in Canadian dollars). Expedia also has on-going deals for Disney. Keep an eye on them at Expedia.ca/Disney. Booking is recommended at least six months in advance.
Don’t underestimate the many benefits of staying at one of the more than 25 hotels on Disney property. There are accommodations to suit every budget and style. Disney Resort hotels are like an extension of the parks with their own activities and amenities, so it’s almost like you’re at another park. At the French Quarter of New Orleans, you’ll find a seaside boardwalk, opportunities to dine with your child’s favourite character, cool pools and championship golf courses. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can wake up to zebras outside your patio door, while ankole cattle and a giraffe or two wander in the distance. It’s a little slice of savannah at your doorstep.
Other perks include:
Create your interactive itinerary at MyDisneyExperience.com and its free mobile app, where, in advance, you can book up to three FastPass+ selections per day, skipping to the front of the line for rides that tend to have long waits. You can book the tickets 60 days ahead if you’re staying at a Disney property, 30 days if you’re not (additional FastPass+ selections are also available the day of your visit from in-park kiosks).
Tip: MyDisneyExperience automatically spaces your FastPasses throughout the day, but Jason Cochran, author of Frommer's EasyGuide to Walt Disney World and Orlando, recommends using the FastPasses in the morning, when kids tend to have more energy and before it gets too hot. Plus, after you use your three daily passes at the parks, you're eligible to get more from kiosks on-site.
Once you arrive on site, you’ll receive your MagicBand, a micro-chipped rubber bracelet that stores your MyDisneyExperience booking info, FastPasses, money for purchasing meals or merch, and even acts as your room key. MagicBands are free to Disney Resort hotel guests; non-Disney-resort guests can buy one for US$12.95.
Dining reservations can be made up to 180 days ahead through your account (and are a must for any kind of sit-down or special meal in the parks). A popular choice is the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Beast’s Castle in Magic Kingdom. This castle is the heart of the newly opened Fantasyland, and the restaurant is a feast for the eyes, too. Three meticulously designed dining areas make you feel like you’re sitting in the animated classic. For other great themed dining options, check out disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Get your dessert on at “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party,” of out-of-this-world desserts and specialty drinks (separate ticket required). This experience is one of many ways to experience Star Wars in the park, including Star Wars Launch Bay, which takes guests into the Star Wars saga with special exhibits and peeks behind-the-scenes and opportunities to encounter Chewbacca and Kylo Ren.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Find out if the lions really do sleep at night. Take a night-time safari through the Kilimanjaro amid the glow of the setting sun. Then stay for “Rivers of Light”, an innovative show featuring a waterway as its stage. Entertainers, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery bring the animal kingdom to life. Don’t forget to grab some grub at Tiffin’s, the parks newest restaurant, inspired by the travels of the park’s “imagineers”.
The new Frozen-inspired attraction, Frozen Ever After, is located in the Norway pavilion. Guests experience a “Summer Snow Day” as they travel by boat to Queen Elsa’s Ice Palace, the ice-blue world of the North Mountain, and the Bay of Arendelle. Guests can also meet the royal sisters Anna and Elsa at a new character greeting location in the Royal Sommerhus at the Norway pavilion. The popular Soarin’ attraction also gets a reboot, now flying to far-flung lands above some of the world’s most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom, September 2 to October 31, 2016. Your favourite Disney villains finally enjoy some time in the spotlight, including the ghoulish Headless Horseman. Trick or treat throughout the park, dress up in your goofiest costumes, enjoy the nightly “Boo-To-You” parade (on select nights) and more.
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, September 14 to November 14, 2016. This year the festival has added nine extra days of sipping and savouring, perfect for the parent who wants more than just rides.
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, November 7 to December 22, 2016. Christmas comes early to Disney World with a nightly oh-so-jolly parade on select evenings. Mickey is joined by special guest, Santa Claus.