In Part 1 of our Disney Dream Vacation series, Which Disney Destination is Right for You? we met our fabulous Frisco travel experts, Annemarie Bohn and Lisa Turner.
Both of these Disney-loving Frisco residents provide FREE planning services for Disney travelers offering deals, advice, and big-picture perspective to make your vacation investment all that you dreamed it would be.
In Part 2, Annemarie and Lisa will give us the details about the big one… The ultimate Disney Destination, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
Disney World is the largest and most popular of all the Disney concepts – and easily the most overwhelming. Whether you’re a first time visitor or have visited many times, our experts can help you make the most of your trip to the Happiest Place on Earth!
Lifestyle Frisco: Why would a traveler choose Walt Disney World Resort over the other Disney concepts?
Lisa Turner: Disney World has more parks, more on-site accommodations (for all budgets), more dining options, and offers amazing experiences outside of the park – golfing, boating, horseback riding, you name it. Plus, with Disney transportation and meal plan options, you can create an all-inclusive experience.
Annemarie Bohn: If you’re a foodie and you’re into the magic, I would say Walt Disney World is your place!
LsF: Walt Disney World has four major parks – what makes each one special?
AB: What I love most about the Magic Kingdom is being transported back to a more simple time and just letting go and having fun!
LT: Like a visit to an old friend, the Magic Kingdom stands the test of time. Memories are made in every generation as families see the iconic Cinderella’s castle and enjoy original rides, designed and inspired by Walt Disney himself. I also love that Magic Kingdom’s “Main Street” is a portrait of Walt’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri.
LT: I love all of the festivals, special events, and opportunities to learn about nations around the world. The music and fountains are wonderful.
AB: For me, what makes Epcot so special is science and learning. You can travel the world and get a glimpse into real attractions around the world.
AB: I love the uniqueness of Animal Kingdom. It’s so different from any other park; you feel like you’re in a different country!
LT: I love Animal Kingdom because it’s something different. It’s a truly immersive experience – the whole park is the attraction and it all centers around the Circle of Life.
AB: With the Star Wars’ March of the Order throughout the day, and the comedic skits in the streets…it’s like you’re in the movies!
LsF: Tell us about entertainment options (outside of traditional theme park rides).
LT: Entertainment at Walt Disney world goes well beyond the rides. You can experience everything from Broadway quality shows to the most spectacular and dramatic fireworks shows ever. There’s something for everyone. Walt Disney World offers fine dining, world-class spas, and active options such as golf and guided fishing. If you can dream it, you can do it on a Disney vacation.
The parades that occur throughout the day are beyond amazing and complimentary. For the fireworks shows, each park has a unique offering that will be the best thing you’ve ever experienced! And if that isn’t enough you can sign up for a paid behind-the-scenes tour and see how it’s all done!
LsF: Tell us about staying on-site vs. off-site at Disney World?
LT: I honestly only recommend on-site Walt Disney World stays. Walt Disney World resort guests have access to so many benefits unavailable to off-site guests – free airport transportation and luggage delivery, use of Disney on-site transportation (no traffic to deal with). On-site guests can make FastPass plans 30 days ahead of off-site guests and get access to special park hours reserved exclusively for resort guests. Disney has properties for every budget.
With great service, cast members, Disney-themed activities and pools, it’s hard to find an off-site option at a better value with the same perks and convenience. When you stay at Disney resort, you truly feel as if you are in the Disney bubble. No traffic, no tools, no dealing with limited hotel shuttles to the parks…
AB: I highly recommend staying on site at Disney, especially at Walt Disney World. If you want to prepay for your food and have more perks, on-site is the way to go. When I’ve compared off-site and on-site with clients, it has never actually been cheaper to be off-site.
There are almost always promotions and ways to make it work. There are some off-site resorts that have a lot of perks, but if you’re going to do a lot of character meals or sit down meals, your best bet is to have a dining plan…and you can only participate in the dining plan if you stay on-site.
LsF: What are FastPasses and how do you get them?
AB: Having a Fast Pass for a given attraction will make your wait in line significantly shorter! You can select up to 3 FastPasses per day at one park (with some parks having tiers and limits per tier of how many can be reserved ahead of time).
On the day of your park visit, after you scan your third Fast Pass, you can add another one using an app on your phone that’s linked to your mydisneyexperience.com account.
LT: Disney FastPass+ service lets you reserve access to select attractions, entertainment, and more. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of your stay (30 days if you’re not staying on site).
LSF: What about Disney Dining Plans?
LT: Disney dining plans allow you to make your Disney vacation “all-inclusive.” Dining plans are only available to on-site guests and can save you money. I don’t recommend the dining plan to everyone, but for those that want to know that their vacation is completely paid for before they arrive, it’s a great option.
The dining plans are very generous and provide plenty of food for all. For families with kids under 10 years old that want to eat with the characters, it can be a really great value versus paying a la carte.
AB: Walt Disney World offers three different dining plans to those staying on-site.
- The first is a Quick Service plan that’s great for short trips, large groups that won’t necessarily all eat together, and families with teenagers that don’t plan to do any sit-downs. It includes 2 counter service meals and 2 snack credits per night of your stay (which includes Starbucks!) plus a resort mug for drinks. Currently $52.50 a night per adult. (If alcohol is available it’s often included)
- Disney Dining is one quick service, one sit down meal (including character meals) and two snacks, plus that resort mug for $75.49 per adult. Is it worth it? Well, most character buffet dinners are $60 and if you want to get a Mai Tai that’s $16 so your snacks and quick service are free that day.
- The last plan is the Deluxe Dining plan, which I recommend for those who want to do a lot of signature dining. Some of the nicer locations take two sit down credits (like Cinderella’s Royal Table, dinner shows like the Luau, etc). I recommend it to clients that mention those dining events because it allows up to sit down credits per night for $116.25 per adult.
LsF: Disney World seems to be a top choice for multi-generational family trips as well as those with special needs. Why is that?
LT: Disney has special services and accommodations for special needs of any kind – hearing, mobility, cognitive, and dietary. Disability Service Access Cards are available for those who can’t wait in line but wish to enjoy the parks. Again, these are reasons to work with a planner.
A planner can advise on the best options for guests of any age and with any particular needs. Disney also has services for families with very young children like baby care centers, in-room cribs, kid’s clubs… Many attractions at the parks don’t have height restrictions and can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.
Rider Switch is offered for the larger attractions (allowing one parent to stay with a child who isn’t tall enough to ride and pass their ride to the other parent). Some resorts are within walking distance (or a monorail ride) from the parks making naptime/breaks an easy option.
AB: The youngest child I’ve taken to Disney World was just shy of 4 months. The oldest is my parents who went last year at age 70. My oldest child is 13 now and I went a few times as an older teen. Disney is enjoyed by every age! Highlights for teens? The snacks, and the more intense rides like Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, or Aerosmith Rockin’ Roller Coaster.
For older couples? The food, the ambiance, the shows, the magic, and the educational aspects of Epcot. Younger kids? The characters, the rides, the food. (Have I mentioned the food yet? Ha ha. There’s literally something for every palate.) For parents? The fact that there’s no shortage of entertainment and many conveniences for families.
LsF: What are your top “can’t miss” experiences at Disney World?
- Happily Ever After, the new fireworks show that debuted at Magic Kingdom last year. The castle comes to life with animation and coordinated fireworks. Fireworks will never be the same once you’ve experienced them Disney style!
- The new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios/Walt Disney World. The new Slinky Dog Dash can’t be missed.
- Pandora-World of Avatar. Flight of Passage is one of the best rides ever! The whole world comes to life with special effects after dark.
- Festivals and Holidays at Disney. Including the Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT, Christmas at Walt Disney World (seeing the Castle draped in lights is magical!), Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and the Food and Wine festival.
- The snacks. Especially the Dole Whip, Peter Pan Float, and the amazing waffles with chocolate on them. YUM.
- Dining. Dining at WDW is the other half of the experience. There are so many amazing locations too. Don’t skip out on awesome character dining and other unique experiences.
- Be a kid again. Really. Wear the mouse ears. Wear the matching T-shirts. Let go of the social expectation of looking serious. Have FUN and join the magic!
- Character experiences. 1900 Park Fare is one of my favorite [character meals] for the fun and unexpected. Have a little boy? Bring a pretend ring and have him present it to one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters, and get your camera rolling! At Chef Mickey’s, tell Donald you prefer him over Mickey Mouse and see what he does… If you meet Buzz Light Year, ask if you can push his power button! So many fun experiences!
- Take the time to really explore the world showcase in Epcot. Take the time to go to various countries and see how meticulously designed the exhibits are… My favorite is the Temple of Heaven in China. I’ve been to the real one and they both share the same acoustical perfection! Ask a cast member when you’re there to demonstrate.
LsF: For people who have been to Disney before, what’s new at Disney or coming soon?
LT: Toy Story Land just opened with two new attractions – Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers. Toy Story Mania was also expanded to accommodate more guests. Star War’s Galaxy’s land is a new 14-acre expansion opening in Hollywood Studios. It will be an immersive experience with two new attractions.
Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is a great new show. It tells Lightning McQueen’s story and teaches guests about racing from his years of experience on the track.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad at Hollywood studios is opening this year as well. It will be the first ride-through attraction dedicated to Mickey and Minnie. The NBA experience at Disney Springs is also new, along with more restaurants and stores.
AB: This fall, I predict Star Wars Galaxy Edge will have an opening like no other! If you’re going at Christmas, you’ll get to experience it all. Also, there are new resorts coming soon. (The new Riveria resort is already taking reservations.) The new gondola system, the Disney Skyliner, is being tested and will open soon.
Whether you’ve been to Walt Disney World Resort before or will soon experience the magic for the first time, there’s something for everyone. We’ve only scratched the surface with Annemarie and Lisa. If you’re considering a Disney vacation, they can answer all of your questions and make sense of the planning process.
Be on the lookout for Part 3 of our series Frisco’s Disney Dream Vacations: Practical Travel Tips from Fellow Frisco Residents! We’ve heard from the professional planners; now get ready to hear advice from your friends and neighbors!