Vacationing at Walt Disney World Resort
First-time visitors and Disney veterans alike want to make the most out of their time at Walt Disney World Resort.
Curated by the couple, these tips are intended to help Guests maximize fun and minimize stress during their stay.
Select a topic from the options below to jump directly to that section.
Walt Disney World Resort is home to four theme parks situated across 27,000 acres of property in Central Florida. All Parks offer a host of family-friendly attractions, entertainment, and other experiences, and each offers its own unique theme and storyline in which Guests will become immersed during their visit.
Magic Kingdom is Walt Disney World's original theme park where fantasy becomes reality.
Here, you leave the world of today and enter the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy with classic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, "it's a small world", Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, and more. Meet your favorite characters in personal Meet-and-Greet interactions and dine at the Park's many quick-service options or signature locations like Be Our Guest Restaurant.
Each night, Happily Ever After brings stories of adventure, faith, and romance to life as Cinderella Castle emerges to life with a fantastic projection display with fireworks adorning the skies above.
Epcot is Walt Disney World's second theme park where reality becomes fantastic.
Journey into imaginative, futuristic settings throughout Future World or travel around the globe in a single day around World Showcase. In Future World, attractions like Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, Soarin', and Test Track teach educational and inspiring stories about our world and the prospect of a brighter tomorrow in authentic Disney fashion. World Showcase is home to eleven nation pavilions – Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, and United Kingdom – where Guests can delight in authentic international cuisine and enjoy unique entertainment experiences.
Each night, World Showcase Lagoon explodes in a mesmerizing pyrotechnic show that teaches us about the importance of harmony in our journey throughout time. And during November 2020, the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will be ongoing. This festival offers small plates from countries around the world, the Eat to the Beat concert series featuring celebrity artists, live culinary demonstrations, and more.
Hollywood Studios is Walt Disney World's third theme park where Guests can step into the middle of their favorite cinematic stories like Toy Story and Star Wars.
This Park is home to Toy Story Land, where Guests shrink down to toy-scale and venture through Andy's backyard. Or you can travel to a galaxy far, far away while visiting Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu throughout the Park's newest land, Galaxy's Edge. Other popular attractions include The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Muppet Vision 3-D, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and more.
Each night, Fantasmic! brings silver-screen Disney classics to life in an incredible live performance featuring water, laser, and pyrotechnic effects.
Animal Kingdom is Walt Disney World's fourth and newest theme park.
Here, Guests become one with nature while going on safari in Africa, trekking through forbidden mountain terrain in Asia, or discovering incredible new flora and fauna throughout Pandora. This Park is home to the iconic Tree of Life and some of Disney's most popular attractions like Avatar: Flight of Passage, Na'vi River Journey,
Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest, and more.
Conclude your day's trek by celebrating the magic of nature at Rivers of Light, a nightly water and laser display situated on the Asia lagoon across from Mount Everest. Then watch the Tree of Life explode into life to tell the story of humanity's indelible bond with the natural world.
Water Parks are also available in addition to the four theme parks. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are accessible for separate, but lesser admission cost. Typically, one of the two water parks closes seasonally for refurbishment and may be unavailable during this time of year. Check online or use the My Disney Experience mobile app for the latest operating hours.
Parking at the theme parks is complimentary for Guests staying at a Disney resort hotel and available for a flat daily rate for all other Guests. A paid parking permit is valid at every theme park for the entire day purchased. Alternatively, all Disney resort hotels offer bus transportation at no cost.
Some resorts have alternative transportation methods for accessing the parks. You can use select resort's access to the Parks rather than pay the standard parking fee to park at the theme park.
Resorts with access to Magic Kingdom include Disney's Contemporary Resort (walking path/ferry boat/monorail), Wilderness Lodge (ferry boat), Fort Wilderness (ferry boat), Grand Floridian (ferry boat/monorail), and Polynesian Village (ferry boat/monorail).
Resorts with access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios include Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts (walking path/ferry boat) and Boardwalk Resort (walking path/ferry boat). Epcot and Hollywood Studios are also accessible from Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Art of Animation Resort, Pop Century Resort, and Riviera Resort via Disney Skyliner.
Animal Kingdom is only accessible by bus from all resorts; no other complimentary transportation options are available.
Things To Do
Aside from the four theme parks, Walt Disney World Resort offers countless other options to keep the whole family entertained. From dining to recreation and shopping, there's no shortage of things to do on property.
Outside the theme parks, Walt Disney World offers both free and paid recreational options.
Among the paid experiences are two miniature golf courses (Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland), fishing excursions, boat rentals, bike rentals, horseback riding, Surrey bike rentals, and more.
Free-of-charge options are primarily found at resort hotels and include sports courts, fitness centers, walking/jogging trails, supervised children's activities, campfires, arcades, community halls, Movies Under the Stars, playgrounds, swimming pools, and more.
Guests arriving in time to enjoy the eeriest time of year at the happiest place on Earth have a few options to make the holiday extra spook-tacular!
On select nights this time of year, Magic Kingdom hosts a separately ticketed event called Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. This kid-friendly party features the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular stage show hosted by the infamous Sanderson sisters, trick-or-treating around the park, special character Meet-and-Greets, Mickey's "Boo-to-You" Halloween Parade, and a dazzling holiday fireworks display to wrap up the evening. Guests are encouraged to come dressed in their halloween costumes for a frightfully delightful time. Learn more and purchase your tickets here. Note, if you plan to attend the party on Halloween night, purchase your tickets as soon as 2020 event dates open for sale, as this date always sells out quickly.
Just outside of Disney, the town of Celebration is a local hotspot for trick-or-treating and Halloween events. Many homes throughout the neighborhood are meticulously decorated for the holiday, and the town encourages residents and visitors alike to join in on the festivities. Because of its popularity, traffic throughout the town can become heavily congested beginning around 5PM. If you plan to visit, consult the couple in advance for suggestions on parking options.
This downtown district is home to both family-favorite restaurants and signature dining experiences, and it's the hub of activity outside the Parks. Aside from entertainment, Disney Springs is also the go-to spot for all your shopping needs. From the world's largest Disney retail store, World of Disney, to well-known brands like Coach, Tommy Bahama, Sephora, and more, Disney Springs has something to satisfy the shopaholic and casual browser alike. Three parking garages – Grapefruit, Lime, and Orange – provide Guests access to Disney Springs, free of charge.
Dining: The BOATHOUSE, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin', Chicken Guy, D-LUXE Burgers, House of Blues,
Maria & Enzo's, Morimoto Asia, Paddlefish, Paradiso 37, Planet Hollywood, Rainforest Café, STK, T-Rex,
Terralina, Wolfgang Puck, and more!
Shopping: Art of Shaving, Basin, Coach, Coca-Cola, Columbia, Harley Davidson, Johnston & Murphy, Kate Spade, L'Occitane, Lacoste, LEGO, Levi, Lily Pulitzer, PANDORA, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sephora, SuperDry, Tommy Bahama, Tumi, UGG, Under Armour, Volcom, World of Disney, and more!
Entertainment: AMC Theaters, Amphicar Cruises at The BOATHOUSE, Characters of Flight, House of Blues, NBA Experience, Splitsville Luxury Lanes, face painting, live music performances, and more!
Florida weather is inherently unpredictable, so Guests should come prepared for varying conditions.
On average, November is the driest month of the year in Central Florida, and temperatures are typically comfortable, averaging in the high 70's during the day and upper 50's at night with little humidity. Recommended attire for this time of year includes shorts or pants and short-sleeve shirts. Ideally, you should pack a well-balanced combination of outfits suitable for both warmer and cooler days.
Learn more about packing appropriately here.
First-timers should familiarize themselves with the below topics and lingo used throughout Walt Disney World.
My Disney Experience (often abbreviated MDE) is an app for iOS or Android that allows Guests to manage all aspects of their upcoming Disney vacation. The app includes features like dining reservations, FastPass selection, live attraction wait times, virtual Park maps, digital resort hotel room keys, Disney PhotoPass, and more. To access certain features like FastPass selection, valid theme park admission must be linked to your My Disney Experience account for all Guests in your party. You can link your Disney resort reservation to your account by providing your MDE email address at the time of resort booking or entering your resort reservation confirmation number afterwards.
Park Admission can be purchased in advance of your stay and is priced variably. Prices depend on season, demand, and how far in advance admission is purchased. For an additional fee, Guests can choose to add a Park Hopper option to their tickets, which allows a ticket to be used for entry into as many Parks that day as the Guest chooses. Non-Park Hopper tickets permit entry into only one, pre-specified Park per day. Guests may enter and leave the same Park as many times as they wish with either option. Park admission can be linked to your My Disney Experience account and is required for certain services like FastPass. Wedding Guests may enjoy discounted admission; learn more here.
FastPasses are advance reservations to attractions of your choice in the theme parks. They are booked using the My Disney Experience app and allow Guests to avoid standby queues by gaining priority entrance to attractions during chosen one-hour windows. There is no limit on the number of FastPasses that can be reserved per day per Guest, but only three FastPasses can be booked in advance for a single Park. Once the initial three FastPasses are used, additional FastPasses can be reserved and used, one at a time. With valid Park admission linked for all Guests in your party, FastPasses can be booked 30 or 60 days in advance for Guests staying off property or at a Disney resort hotel, respectively. FastPasses are issued on a "first come, first served" basis and distribution is limited per day. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to book immediately and prioritize selection of popular attractions. FastPass service is entirely free – there are no fees to reserve, modify, or cancel FastPass reservations.
Dining around property is classified into one of two categories. Quick Service Restaurants (QSR's) are convenient grab-and-go options, whereas Table Service Restaurants (TSR's) offer personal table service in formal, seated environments. QSR's are typically cheaper and more accessible when visiting the Parks. TSR's are available throughout the theme parks and at most resort hotels. Dining reservations are strongly recommended for TSR's and are available up to 180 days in advance. All TSR reservations require a credit card guarantee and are subject to a cancellation policy of $10/person if canceled within 24 hours of the reservation time.
Disney PhotoPass is a paid service that allows Guests to have their memories captured at all theme parks using Disney photographers. PhotoPass photographers are stationed at all character Meet-and-Greet locations as well as at various photo opportunities throughout each Park; current locations can be found using the My Disney Experience app. Photos are linked using your Park admission ticket or MagicBand and can be downloaded through the PhotoPass website or within the My Disney Experience app. Guests may purchase Memory Maker for unlimited PhotoPass downloads.
MagicBands are customizable bracelets that act as your key to the world, allowing you to tap into the Parks (with valid admission linked to your account), unlock your resort hotel room, charge purchases across property, link your Disney PhotoPass photos, and more. Disney resort Guests receive complimentary MagicBands for each member of their party and can customize their order online after booking their stay.
What To Pack
On average, November is the driest month in Florida, and temperatures are typically moderate with low humidity. This time of year in Florida is similar to late Spring/early Summer in Pennsylvania, with average highs in the upper 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s.
You should pack as if you’re taking a trip to the beach (shorts, polos, t-shirts, bathing suits, etc.) with a few options for cooler days and nights (jeans, long-sleeve shirts, light jackets, etc.). Bring comfortable shoes to enjoy the Parks (tennis shoes, sandals, etc.) and close-toed shoes for less casual settings like restaurants. Disney resort hotels have community laundry facilities, so there’s no need to over-pack. Despite temperate November weather, Florida heat and sunshine can always become intense, so also bring protective items like sunglasses, hats, bug repellent, and sunscreen.
It’s also a good idea to bring a backpack to store all these items when you visit the Parks. Keep in mind that you’re allowed to bring outside food and beverages (except alcohol) into all theme parks. All bags are subject to security screening before Guests may enter the Parks; review this list of prohibited personal items prior to your visit. Those traveling with younger companions may also wish to bring their own strollers, which should be easily transportable (e.g., foldable and lightweight). Single and double strollers are also available for rent at all theme parks.
Guests traveling by plane should consult the TSA mobile app to verify the permissibility of items they plan to pack.
Traveling By Plane
Flights from Pennsylvania to Florida last approximately two hours. The nearest arrival airport in Central Florida is Orlando International Airport (MCO. Sanford International Airport (SFB) is another nearby option. Most airlines only offer direct service to MCO from another major airport, like Philadelphia International Airport (PHL).
Guests choosing to depart PHL have several options for parking. The airport offers both economy and premium parking options, starting at $11 per day. Economy parking requires you to park in a disconnected lot and shuttle to the airport. Premium parking allows you to park in a covered parking garage connected to the airport. Alternatively, some nearby hotels offer guests with a paid reservation to stay parked for free (or at a minimal charge) during their trip and use the hotel's shuttle service to/from PHL. Regardless of your choice, you should arrive at PHL at least two and a half hours prior to your scheduled departure to allow time for parking, transport, security screening, etc.
All airlines typically allow the carriage of one carry-on bag (approximately 10” X 16” X 24”) and one personal item (backpack, purse, etc.) per person into the cabin of the plane, with all other luggage needing to be checked with the airline. Consult your airline to learn specific restrictions on the measurements and weight of your luggage. All luggage must be screened prior to boarding. The TSA offers a mobile app and website that allow you to search for common items and determine what is allowed in carry-on baggage, checked baggage, both, or neither.
For first-time flyers or those without a preferred airline, the couple recommends Southwest Airlines for its flexible booking options, family seating accommodations, and low-cost fare. Flights booked with Southwest may be modified or canceled up to ten minutes prior to boarding without penalty. Unlike other airlines, Southwest allows each passenger to transport two checked bags for free, in addition to their carry-on and personal items.
Southwest also offers a unique group-based boarding system, where passengers are assigned to Group A, B, or C to board the plane, and passengers line up according to their assigned position outside the gate and board sequentially (Group A boards first, followed by Group B, then C). "Family Boarding" allows up to two adults traveling with at least one child 6 years old or younger to board together after Group A and before Group B. Non-family travelers may opt to purchase EarlyBird, which automatically checks you in for a boarding position assignment 36 hours prior to departure, improving your position. Otherwise, passengers must manually check in everyone in their party when check-in opens 24 hours prior to boarding (the sooner you do, the better your position number). You can learn more about Southwest’s boarding policies here.
After arriving in Florida, you have several options to make the trip from your destination airport to Walt Disney World Resort. Those flying into MCO and staying at a Disney resort hotel may take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express, a complimentary bus service that shuttles Disney resort hotel Guests directly from MCO to their hotel (and back at the end of their stay). Provide your flight details online or by calling (407) 827-6777 to book this service. You may also use a traditional or on-demand taxi service like Uber or Lyft, or rent a vehicle at the airport. National and Alamo have rental locations at Walt Disney World Resort, so it may be worth considering either of these agencies to make vehicle pick-up/return easier.
Traveling By Train
Amtrak is another great option for those not fond of flying or driving. This direct-to-destination train service will get you to Florida in just under a day, traveling non-stop. Service runs directly from Philadelphia to Orlando, with connecting bus routes from Scranton to Philadelphia provided by Amtrak. You can find out more about this alternative here.
Traveling By Automobile
Guests choosing to drive to Florida should prepare for a ride lasting 16-24 hours, depending on traffic conditions and frequency of rest stops.
There are two common routes:
Option 1: I-81 to I-77 to I-26 to I-95 to I-4
Routes through Pennsylvania (3 hrs), Maryland (0.5 hrs), West Virginia (0.5 hrs), Virginia (4 hrs), North Carolina (2 hrs), South Carolina (3 hrs), Georgia (2 hrs), and Florida (3 hrs)
Option 2: I-81 to I-95 to I-4
Routes through Pennsylvania (3 hrs), Maryland (1 hr), Virginia (3 hrs), North Carolina (3 hrs), South Carolina (3 hrs), Georgia (2 hrs), and Florida (3 hrs)
The total length of either route is approximately 1,100 miles. For purposes of evaluating costs between driving and other means of travel, assume you'll need to re-fuel your vehicle approximately 3 or 4 times each way; toll roads, if taken, may be an additional expense.
To reduce traffic along your route, it is generally best to avoid traveling on weekends and aim to depart overnight (e.g., 2AM). This way, the majority of your drive will be completed during off-times and you'll be able to schedule your rest stops during periods of heavy traffic like morning and evening rush hours. For those traveling with younger companions, this will also help ensure children rest for a good portion of the trip.
Pack a cooler filled with snacks and refreshments as well as an emergency kit and essential toiletries in case a rest stop is unavailable when needed. Remember to bring cash for vending machines and tolls, just in case. An excellent resource to have on-hand is The Next Exit, which is a popular travel directory that provides a comprehensive list of all exits and points of interests (food, hotels, gas stations, etc.) along any interstate route.