Travel, Teach, Live in the USA and Canada
A vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, requires careful planning and organization for individuals wanting to experience multiple parks, shows and attractions within a specific budget range and time frame. Families with children of various ages should consider visiting parks that accommodate all.
Doing research on theme parks beforehand gives families an idea of which age group and area of interest each park generally caters to, which allows families to make the most of their time at Walt Disney World.
The Magic Kingdom offers a variety of rides and characters for toddlers and younger children, with fewer attractions for teenagers and adults; however, this park remains a favorite among most age groups.
Disney's Hollywood Studios has a little something for everyone. The park hosts fast-paced and exciting rides such as the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Star Tours simulator ride featuring Star Wars. Shows such as Beauty and the Beast--Live on Stage and the Voyage of the Little Mermaid accommodate younger children, while the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show provides entertainment for older children and adults.
Epcot offers a less active environment with fewer rides and more exhibit-based, learning attractions, including World Showcase, a pavilion of areas representing countries from around the world. Disney's Animal Kingdom has a mix of rides, shows and zoo-like walking tours and safari rides. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach offer an array of water rides for various ages.
Disney offers different types of park passes to accommodate length of stay and budget. Families should choose wisely to purchase tickets that will be the best deal for their money.
Ticket prices vary for residents and non-residents of Florida. Single-day to 10-day passes are available, with options for access to one park or multiple parks each day. Additional add-on pass options permit ticket holders into Disney water parks, Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island and the Wide World of Sports Complex.
Annual passes may make sense for families able to visit often throughout the year. These passes provide 365 days of entrance to the four main Disney Orlando parks, with premium annual passes including access to Pleasure Island, the Wide World of Sports Complex and the two water parks.
Disney theme parks are vast, crowded and offer a plethora of activities. Families should consider prioritizing which attractions they want to visit within each park prior to getting there. Park maps and show times are available at the entrance of each park and on Walt Disney World's website, allowing families to plan out the day beforehand to ensure that they get the most out of their visit.
In each park, ride lines are typically a 30- to 40-minute wait, but the most popular rides in each park offer a Fast Pass feature, which affords people the opportunity to experience other activities rather than waiting in line. After a Fast Pass is acquired for a particular ride, Fast Pass holders simply return to the ride later at a designated time with little to no wait time in line.
Families should plan for the weather by checking weather reports and scheduling accordingly. For example, a water park such as Typhoon Lagoon is an option to cool the troops down on an extra hot day; a park with an array of indoor activities such as Disney's Hollywood Studios is a rainy-day option. Carrying rain gear, umbrellas, suntan lotion and hats as needed can help prepare for the elements.
Families wanting to get a jump start on the day may consider arriving when the parks open. Groups with young children should bring strollers or rent them at the entrance gates, as the parks require lots of walking. Families can break up the day by retreating back to their hotel for lunch and a nap; however, this may mean missing the midday parades and characters. Another option is to take in a show at one of the parks while little ones are resting, which allows for down time in the shade or air conditioning without having to leave and re-enter. The parks tend to get busiest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., with crowds dwindling around 6 p.m., depending on the time of year.
Dining in the theme parks is pricey. Families may consider eating breakfast at a restaurant that is not within the park prior to entering and bringing snacks for young children. Meal options are varied and include snack stands with selections such as hot dogs, pizza and burgers; cafés; buffets; diners; and sit-down restaurants. Establishing meal times, type of dining experience and an appropriate budget ahead of time assists in organizing the day. Families considering a sit-down meal within the parks should call at least a day in advance to make a reservation. To get a reservation at some of the more popular restaurants or character meals, you may have to reserve your spot months ahead.