Growing up in Southern California I am no stranger to Disneyland. I’m actually a bit of a fanatic and have been known to go 4-5 times a month, sometime even all by my lonesome. I’ve been going ever since I first learned to drive, and my obsession has just gotten worse and worse over the years. Based on these countless trips, I’ve come up with a pretty foolproof routine to do just about everything. (You can check out my normal itinerary HERE). So, when it finally came time to plan my family’s first ever Disney World vacation everyone looked at me – I mean I’m the Disney expert after all.
As soon as I got the green light that this vacation was happening, I hopped online to plan it all out. You see, my father has said since I was a very little girl that we would go to Disney World – it’s probably what started my Disney obsession in the first place. It took a little bit longer than expected but we were finally going, and I was over the moon. Holy crap balls Batman. Disney World is literally an entire little world and beyond comparison to Disneyland. I was utterly overwhelmed and lost. It took a while but after some research was able to wrap my head around the enormous differences between the 2 proprieties.
Disney World is Not a Theme Park
If you’re a WDW regular you’re probably looking at the screen thinking “well, no. Of course it’s not.” But if you’re a Disneyland native you’re probably confused. You see, Disneyland is a theme park adjacent to Disneyland is California Adventures. Most of the people I know actually refer to them as Disneyland and California Adventure. Disney World however is much, much more. First off there are FOUR theme parks and TWO water parks – I’m so jealous! On top of that there are 32 Disney owned hotels and resorts on the WDW property, plus multiple time shares. Oh ya, and there’s Disney Springs which is Flordia’s version of Downtown Disney. Did I mentioned this is all spread out over 40 acres? Basically it’s heaven on earth for us Disney nerds.
In CA our 2 parks are right across from each other, you can be out of one and in the next within 5 minutes usually. But it’s a little bit different. The parks are not a hop, skip, and a jump away. You will need to account for about 30 minutes in transit time between parks and hotels. Disney gets it though and have several options available to make getting around as easy as possible. (They’re so smart). Buses are available at all resorts and parks at no cost. The monorail runs between EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, and several hotels in between. There are also boats that will take you between select resorts and certain parks. Lastly there is VIP transportation; Express transportation is a paid program that runs buses exclusively between parks every 30 minutes. Express is a great option which I absolutely recommend.
Disney World is made up of 4 parks; Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Each of these parks has their own distinctive style and unique offerings. Many of the rides outside of the Magic Kingdom are exclusive to WDW, so be sure to check them all out. Similar to the Disneyland Resort here in SoCal, there is a park hopper option. However, given the amount of time it takes to hop around it’s not always worth it.
The hotels at Disney are amazing. You do of course have the option to stay off property, but I wholeheartedly recommend staying on site as there are some bonuses (details below, stay tuned!). But even if you’re not staying at a Disney resort you should make time to tour some of them, as they’re beautiful. My favorite hotel hands down is the Beach Club. It’s located right next to EPCOT, so no excuses not to check it out friends!
Disney Dining Plan
Remember those bonuses I mentioned? DDP is one, well some people see it that way. The Disney Dining Plan is essentially pre-paying for your meals so you can have a carefree vacation. You can read about my real life opinions on the option HERE, but in brief – pass. If you are booking your trip for the magical (and brief) portion of the year when free dining is available, then yes absolutely snag that deal. But I wouldn’t recommend paying for the package.
You are most likely familiar with a Disney fastpass, but WDW does it a little differently and it’s so much better. See, in Florida you can pre-book 60 days out from your vacation date – 90 days if you stay on property. This makes it so much easier to see and do everything you want. Pre-booking means you know exactly what time you are going to ride Space Mountain – 3 months before you even get on a plane. #Winning. It’s such a great system that Disneyland is making a move in that direction with the new FastPass Max system, it’s just a baby step though. Since you’re new to the world of FP+ you should probably read about all the do’s and dont’s HERE.
I love Disney World, it’s like Disneyland on steroids – and I cannot get enough. What’s the first culture shock you experienced between Disney Resort locations?