Planning on Visiting Walt Disney World Resort?

Are you planning a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando? Get ready for the most unique and unforgettable experience ever. For many visitors, these vacations become an annual tradition because they quickly realize they cannot see and do everything in one visit. People discover that each Disney vacation becomes a unique vacation because of the constantly evolving experiences, annual Special Events drawing in returning Guests, offering a stay at differently themed and priced Disney Resort hotels, which by the way, can be a vacation destination all on their own without even setting foot in a Walt Disney World Resort Theme Park. Factor in Disney Resort hotel Guest amenities and people are hooked for life, many of which have become Disney Vacation Club owners.

That’s not all. The Disney Vacation Planning tools far exceed anything that’s out there compared to other travel destinations. The level of control through Walt Disney World Resort’s website and My Disney Experience mobile application affords complete customization and control down to the last minute, including during one’s vacation through complimentary Resort-wide WiFi access for all Guests. If online planning is not desirable, official Disney Vacation Planners are available to help Guests plan over the telephone by calling (407) 939-5277.

Begin by visiting Disney Parks Vacation Planning Videos to watch free videos, helping you decide where to stay and how to tour. You have full control over every aspect of your vacation. If you have any questions, please head over to the official Disney Parks Moms Panel for free planning tips and advice from Disney experts who are frequent visitors and dedicated enthusiasts.

The conveniences and benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel begin the moment you book, with easy to use, step by step online prompts and fun email reminders along the way making sure you optimize all there is to benefit from, before, during and even after your vacation.

May I offer my suggestions in planning your Walt Disney World Resort vacation.

  1. Check for Special Offers and consider booking a Magic Your Way Vacation Package which will include important details such as your Disney Resort hotel, Disney Theme Park Tickets and if you wish, the added option of purchasing an incredible Disney Dining Plan package. Disney Resort hotel Guests have the added amenity of being able to book select attractions and experiences in advance, 60-days before check-in through Disney’s FastPass+ Service, over those visiting Guests who are not staying at a Disney Resort hotel, which is 30 days before their scheduled visit.
  2. Once booked, raise the level of your control of planning through MyMagic+ which will include guidance for Advanced Dining Reservations, securing FastPass+ experiences, and complete customization through My Disney Experience online and My Disney Experience mobile app. Customization and planning is fun, through the easy, step by step process, in the comfort of your own home, taking care of such details as your travel style, your budgetary considerations, and preferences.
  3. Make Advanced Dining Reservations up to 180 days before your arrival at popular Disney Character Restaurants, Table-Service Restaurtants, Signature Dining Restaurants and Special Event Dining Restaurants.
  4. Personalize your complimentary MagicBand through My Disney Experience which will store your Disney Resort hotel room entry, Disney Theme Park Ticket information, Disney Dining Reservations, Disney Dining Plan Meal and Snack Entitlements if purchased, FastPass+ selections, Disney PhotoPass Service information including Memory Maker if purchased, and your Walt Disney World Resort charging priviledges during your reservation package stay. All in one little RFID wristband so you can be free to enjoy your day without carrying a single item. Not only that, your MagicBand unlocks little surprises and personalized experiences!
  5. If staying at a Disney Resort hotel and flying into Orlando International Airport, consider reserving Disney’s Magical Express complimentary transportation to your Disney Resort hotel and back at the end of your vacation. A few weeks before your arrival, you’ll receive labelled luggage tags with your resort information. Tag your bags before you leave home and you’ll find your luggage in your Disney Resort hotel room a few hours after you check-in. All you have to do upon landing at Orlando International is head over to the Disney Magical Express Welcome Center, walk up to the Cast Member manned kiosk, place your MagicBand against the Mickey Touch Point for entry into the proper Disney Resort hotel motor coach queue. If you’re an International traveller, you’ll need to have your Disney’s Magical Express Transportation Voucher with the Bar-Code Scan containing your transportation information.
  6. Complete your Resort Online Check-In to make sure your room requests and credit card on file is accurate and complete, enabling you a speedier check-in at your Disney Resort hotel on arrival day where you’ll receive your Welcome Package.
  7. Upon your arrival, Cast Members are available at the entrance to assist with Check-In, as well, in the lobby of your Disney Resort hotel there’s a special “Online Check-In Counter” for those Guests who took care of their Resort Online Check-In before they left home. International Guests will receive their new, complimentary MagicBands during check-in at the Front Desk.
  8. Now it’s time to make Unforgettable Happens Here memories at the place where Magic Is Endless!

 

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Why Stay at Walt Disney World Resort!

Orlando is home to more than 140,000 hotel rooms of varying themes and budgets including over twenty Disney owned and operated resorts on Walt Disney World Resort, in the Lake Buena Vista area. Having stayed both on and off Walt Disney World Resort I can personally attest to experiences comparing both. There is no doubt that the majority of hotels in the Orlando area may have lower nightly rates and also offer  amenities (free breakfasts for example), but where you might think you’re saving money, you’re actually not, when you factor in the conveniences and amenities offered to guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort.

I’m going to discuss why, but let me back up and explain our situation. We own a Hilton timeshare, with our home resort in Orlando, yet we still opt to book Walt Disney World Resort packages. And if I can’t get in on a Magic Your Way Vacation Package then I book a Disney Vacation villa through my timeshares RCI Exchange resort program. The reason? Magic Your Way Vacation Packages save us a lot of money and secondly, the amenities and conveniences are unparalleled. Our family also includes a special needs teenaged son afflicted with Autism, so we also consider his needs for opting to stay on Disney property as well. We are going become Disney Vacation Club members in the near future, which will make our future vacations with Disney or anywhere around the World for that matter much easier. Here’s more on that: Disney Vacation Club

Where you think you might be saving by staying off property, you’ll be paying for the extras such as car rentals, daily theme park parking fees and your dining. We’ve stayed off Disney property on a few occasions, just a mere minutes away from the ‘main Disney gates’, yet our vacation ended up costing us significantly more money and we were exhausted at the end of the day. When you stay at a hotel off property, you’re more inclined to try to pull those ten plus hour days at the Disney theme parks and it can be exhausting. If staying at a Disney resort hotel, you can easily head back to your resort mid-day to rest, swim or just hang out. Then, in the evening, you can return to the theme parks for more fun all rested and ready to go. Besides, there are too many logistics to consider and plan for when staying off Disney property, we prefer to let Disney take care of us.

Here’s the Disney difference.

Firstly, from the moment your luggage tags arrive at home, two-three weeks before your departure, you don’t have to worry about baggage claim at Orlando International Airport, because Disney’s Magical Express is a complimentary motor coach shuttle service to and from the airport and Walt Disney World Resort. Simply get off your plane and head straight to the Disney Magical Express Check In area and you’ll be whisked off to your Disney resort, where your luggage will appear in your room a few hours later. A car rental is not needed now, unless you opt for one. Even if you bring a car to Walt Disney World property and you’re a Disney resort guest, your parking is complimentary at all four theme parks. How great is that!

Speaking of being a Disney resort guest, transportation to all four theme parks, two water parks and Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) is complimentary. You don’t have to worry about getting around when staying on Disney property or paying for parking and that’s a big money saver right there.

Booking a Walt Disney World Resort package, called the ‘Magic Your Way Package’ is the best way to stretch and optimize your dollar. The packages include your Disney resort hotel, Disney Dining and theme park tickets. Best of all, historically, there have been and currently are offers for discounted Disney resort hotel rooms, free Disney Dining Plans through the Magic Your Way Vacation Packages affording you the option of eating at Walt Disney World Resort’s spectacular dining establishments, which total over 150! What’s more, is that these package vacations always have Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Package Special Offers with seasonal discounts, discounts for Disney theme park ticket Passholders, discounts for members of the U.S. Military and discounts for Disney Visa cardholders. So as you can see, there are savings to be absorbed.

Furthermore, Walt Disney World Resort hotels fit every taste and budget, from the lower priced ‘value resorts’ to the ultra posh ‘deluxe resorts’, click here for more info: Walt Disney World Resort Hotels They even have accommodations for larger families with suite-like rooms, villa style rooms and cabins. Why, you can even camp at Walt Disney World! There is something for everyone, not to mention the incredible theming…unbelievable! Staying at a Disney resort hotel is like a vacation itself!

Once you book, you’ll be guided to link all your vacation details through My Disney Experience which is an amazing planning site allowing you to customize your vacation through  My Magic+ and have full control over every aspect of your vacation. Here, you’ll be able to reserve those favourite, sought after attractions, book your Disney Dining reservations, view reservations, customize your day to day plans, create a family and friends list, and the list goes on and on.

But here’s the biggest convenience. You’re staying and visiting theme parks within the same parameters, so, if you’re tired mid-day, for example, or simply want to head back and swim, you can easily do that and then return in the evening for more fun. I reiterate this amenity because it’s a biggie and I am willing to bet that any dedicated Disney Parks fan will gladly attest to this as well. Also, as a Walt Disney World Resort guest you can have all your purchases sent back to your Disney resort, no lugging stuff around. People who stay off property are pretty tuckered out after a long, break-less day at the parks, because the inclination is to stay at the park all day instead of driving back and forth to their off property resort. Plus, you’re surrounded by Disney magic, twenty-four hours a day and that’s a lot of fun, believe me!

Best of all, because you’re a Disney resort guest, and have booked a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package, you’ll be able to book your FastPass+ sixty days in advance, which is thirty days in advance of those not staying on property. This amenity is complimentary with a Walt Disney World Resort vacation package. Wait, there’s more, as a Disney resort guest you’ll have extended hours at all four theme parks, called Extra Magic Hours allowing you even more fun at the theme parks over those not staying at a Disney resort hotel.

Disney resort guests also receive complimentary MagicBands which are secure, devices that store all your Disney resort hotel information, your Disney Dining Plan, Disney theme park tickets, FastPass+ information and check in at attractions, it connects to Disney’s PhotoPass Service and you can charge food and souvenir charges to your account. All through this little wristband which you can customize and have a lot of fun wearing. Finally, Disney offers resort hotel guests complimentary Wi-Fi access at their hotels and anywhere on Disney property.

How great is that!

So what are you waiting for, click here Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Packages to get started!

The Memory Maker Package and MagicBands at Walt Disney World Resort

Vacationing at Walt Disney World Resort is one of the best places to experience an inclusive trip, creating some of the most memorable times. For families with special needs children it becomes even easier with all the free planning tools and advice online offered by My Disney Experience. Once registered, your planning takes on a new dimension giving you full control over everything, right down to selecting which attractions to experience and even where to stand to have the best view of theme park fireworks. My Disney Experience allows us to maintain our strict schedules while on vacation, which is important for our special needs children and best of all it affords us the control over the entire vacation. That, coupled with Disney Cast Members offering insightful tips, advice and who always perceive our needs, makes for an incredible vacation experience.

Did you know that you don’t even have to worry about photography while vacationing at Walt Disney World Resort?

They have an amazing digital photography system called Disney PhotoPass® available on select attractions, dining locations, resort hotel lobbies and theme park locations for character greets a special Disney PhotoPass Photographer and/or camera system readily snaps your photograph as you’re enjoying that prime, memorable moment, that you might otherwise find challenging to take on your own.

How convenient is that! Now, no lugging around video cameras or cameras and worrying about capturing that ‘smile’. Instead, that sincere smile, moment of excitement and thrill will be captured for you. Your ‘in the moment’ will be captured. I love that!

You can easily hook into Disney PhotoPass® upon your arrival by simply approaching one of the clearly visible Disney PhotoPass Photographers who will offer you a free Disney PhotoPass Card® that needs to be scanned by every Disney PhotoPass Photographer and/or at every Disney PhotoPass® station at each offered attraction. When you get home, you simply head over to their website at: https://mydisneyphotopass.disney.go.com/keepsakes/index/notlogged/

to get started (online registration is required) with selecting and downloading your favourite photos and creating digital albums, scrapbook albums all kinds of photo memorabilia of your vacation.

Best of all they offer this incredible add-on package called the Memory Maker® which for a fee, will include all downloads of your Disney PhotoPass® attraction, character greet and dining photos as well as Magic Shots® (placement of Disney characters in special and unique poses in your photograph) and Attraction Videos. You can link all photos and attraction videos to your Disney account using your MagicBand®, park admission ticket, Memory Maker Card® or Disney PhotoPass Card®. It’s your choice.

How to get started with your Memory Maker® package:

  • register a Disney account at: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/login/
  • link the Memory Maker®to your Disney account if you haven’t purchased it online; if you have purchased it online then it ‘may’ have been automatically linked, double check
  • link your family and friends so that you can look and and download their photos
  • when at Walt Disney World Resort make sure to link each photo to your account by the use of your MagicBand® or Memory Maker Card® (Disney PhotoPass Photographers have them), or through your theme park admission ticket card or with your Disney PhotoPass Card® (Disney PhotoPass Photographers have them)
  • view your captured/linked photos online and begin your customization, but remember, one you view the first picture, you have 30 days to store more photos because the photos stay in your account for 45 days after they are taken

Here are some important things to keep in mind: https://mydisneyphotopass.disney.go.com/help-and-support

We love the convenience of using the MagicBand® when at Walt Disney World Resort because, once linked to your Disney account:

  • it is your Disney resort room door unlocking device
  • it stores your Disney Dining Plan, theme and water park admission ticket information (for the Disney Dining Plan, you must be a Guest at a Disney resort)
  • it connects your Disney PhotoPass® photos to your Disney account
  • it allows you to check in at FastPass+® entrances
  • if you are a Disney Resort  hotel Guest you will be allowed to charge food and merchandise to your Disney Resort hotel room
  • it allows customization of all your Disney account information
  • Walt Disney World Passholders can link their Annual Pass information onto their MagicBand®
  • it will store Disney’s Magical Express® (your complimentary motor coach transportation from Orlando International Airport to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel); simply have your MagicBand® on hand when you check in at Disney’s Magical Express® at Orlando International Airport
  • it allows you as a Disney Resort Theme Park Guest to link your ticket and dining reservation information to your MagicBand® even if you’re staying at a non-Disney Resort hotel.

How great is this!

After all, capturing those spontaneous, precious moments truly is the best memory!

Disney Parks are Autism Friendly

Upon hearing of our son’s diagnosis of moderate-severe autism back in 2003, we thought our world would be isolated to staying home. Our son Andrew, had full-blown tantrums and melt-downs and it just wasn’t worth the effort, aggravation to us and others, or to Andrew. As far as we were concerned, that was it.

Until we decided to take the plunge and go to Walt Disney World Resort.

Our life changed forever.

Disney Parks Resources

The resources available in preparation are helpful, such as:

  • Register for free at “My Disney Experience” which is a user-friendly, highly interactive planning website
  • Order a free “Planning CD” from the “My Disney Experience” website detailing everything you need to know about Walt Disney World Resort hotels, experiences, dining and theme parks
  • Follow the Disney Parks Blog Posts and Disney Parks Blog on YouTube featuring the latest, most up to date information that awaits at: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/Some of the best guide books for travel to the Disney Parks are available at all major bookstores
  • Many active podcasts, forums and blog detail every aspect of travel to the Disney Parks are available through many social media outlets
  • The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a great resource comprised of a group of avid, Disney enthusiasts with first hand experience at the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, runDisney, ESPN Wide World of Sports who are ready to answer any Guest questions. They can be found at: http://disneyparksmomspanel.disney.go.com

The My Disney Experience Website:

The “My Disney+” available through the “My Disney Experience” allows Guests to:

  • reserve and link FastPass+ experiences
  • personalize and link all Walt Disney World Resort hotel, theme park tickets, dining reservations and special experiences on each Guests MagicBand (for Guests staying on Walt Disney World Resort property)

My Disney Experience Mobile App Features:

  • the GPS-enabled map allows Guests to interactively explore Walt Disney World Resort
  • modify and/or chose FastPass+ experiences
  • displays attraction wait times and location and times of special events, parades and fireworks
  • allows Guests to purchase theme park tickets
  • displays times and locations for character meet and greets
  • displays all dining reservations, FastPass+ experiences, hotel reservations
  • manages all hotel reservations, theme park ticket reservations and MagicBand personalization
  • allows Guests the convenience of sharing plans with others through the “Family and Friends” link
  • displays all Walt Disney World Resort restaurant locations, reservation availability and menus
  • keeps everything accurate, up to date and organized in the “My Plans” link
  • Guests receive email notification for upcoming dining reservations

Personal Schedules/Boards:

Guests on the Autism Spectrum can create personal schedules using the “My Disney Experience”, especially using the mobile App. My son loves the interactive theme park maps which keep him interested, engaged and prepared for what is to come next.

I created a “first and then” activity schedule board on my tablet, showing which FastPass+ experiences were on the list and in which order. In between those experiences I would allow my son to select what he wanted to do next (from a list of non-attraction selections), this way my son would feel included because I consulted him. Doing so, allowed us to take a break, have a snack, browse in the cool comfort of a gift shop or just sit and people watch.

Twice, throughout the day, in between those non FastPass+ experiences, I would utilize Disney’s Disability Access Service Card, to enjoy those popular, long-wait attractions.

Disney’s Disability Access Service Card

Disney makes every effort to provide an inclusive, positive experience for all Guests and has devised a system to do just that.

Guests can request a DAS Card from any Guest Services at any theme park. The person with the disability must be present when attempting to obtain the card because a photograph will be taken of that Guest, who will be presented with a time card displaying their photo.

The DAS Card will be time stamped  one attraction at a time, by a Cast Member at the attraction queue. You cannot pre-stamp multiple attractions ahead of time, the system allows only for one attraction at a time. Upon the completion of a particular attraction, Guests may proceed to another attraction and seek a new time stamp. This convenience affords Guests who are unable to wait in a conventional queue the opportunity to return at a pre-selected time frame later on with a shorter wait-time. The DAS Card may be used in conjunction with the FastPass+ experience and FASTPASS Service.

More detailed information on Disney’s Disability Access System Card provided here: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/disney-parks-disability-access-service-card-fact-sheet/ 

The Benefits of Staying on Walt Disney World Resort Property

  • Guests are offered “Complimentary Airport Service”-luggage tags with hotel information is sent, tag all luggage and when you arrive at Orlando International Airport skip Baggage Claim and head directly to Disney’s Magical Express motor coach check-in area to be taken directly to your Disney resort. Luggage will follow and it’s best to pack a day bag with first afternoon essentials until you have access to your luggage
  • Disney magic is all around 24/7
  • Guests have the convenience of complimentary bus transportation to all Walt Disney World theme parks and Downtown Disney
  • Guests have complimentary parking throughout Walt Disney World Resort
  • Guests have the benefit of the convenience of the use of MagicBands which when linked through the My Disney Experience -My Magic+ will have all theme park ticket, FastPass+ experiences, dining reservations, special experiences, charging privileges, purchases and will serve as the device to unlock your hotel room door
  • Walt Disney World Resort purchases can be sent to your Disney resort hotel
  • Guests will have the flexibility to reserve all FastPass+ experiences 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of stay (non-Disney resort guests can only reserve FastPass+experiences 30 days in advance)
  • Disney resort Guests have the benefit of Extended Theme Park Hours before the general public early morning and/or late evening depending on the theme park
  • The Disney Dining Plan is available to Disney resort Guests
  • All Disney hotels offer Guests complimentary Wi-Fi, which is also complimentary at all theme parks and Downtown Disney
  • Walt Disney World offers Guest rooms which are themed
  • Some Guest rooms can accommodate five or more, Family Suites are also available
  • All Disney resort hotels offer Accessible Rooms for Guests with physical disabilities and include services for the hearing impaired and visually impaired

Cast Member Interaction

Perhaps the single-most important experience, unique to all Guests is the interactions with Disney’s Cast Members. On each of our twenty-six trips there has been a memorable interaction adding to our positive memories. Best of all, Cast Members are present everywhere, they are approachable, friendly and very accommodating.

But it’s not only that. On our most recent trip over the Christmas break, we were lined up for the Monorail at the Ticket and Transportation Center on our way to Magic Kingdom Park. It was crowded and I was concerned about my son.

While waiting, a Cast Member approached us, politely introduced herself and discreetly told us how her nephew has an invisible disability and how she identified with our situation. She then proceeded to hand out paper FastPasses for our day. That very moment, that very interaction set the tone for our day, making it one of the most positive and memorable yet!

Cast Members are so accommodating and anticipate all needs everywhere on property.

You see this kind of unique interaction all around with all Guests. You just never know what will happen next.

Vacationing with Disney sets the tone, prepares Guests by providing the foundation, for vacations anywhere in the world.

Andrews DAS

Visiting Walt Disney World Resort for Special Needs Guests

Upon receiving the diagnosis for my son we thought our world completely shut down. He was, at the time unable to go anywhere in public without a full blown tantrum. It took only one visit to a restaurant to determine it being our last because all he wanted to do was sit under the table and poke around.

Our doors were closed, our world in a box.

Andrew loved his Disney movie videos, he was captivated watching Buzz Lightyear and Woody in Toy Story. He was amused by the Little Mermaid who had no feet and got a chuckle out of Ursula. Winnie the Pooh as a stuffed toy on Andrew’s bed was a source of comfort during those times spent in his room whenever we tried fruitlessly to have company over.

Andrew and Winnie 2011

Andrew, happy to be with Winnie the Pooh at the Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom.

All that kept me going were my thoughts and feelings about Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts, my happy places. Ordering the planning guides, waiting for their arrival and thinking that our most recent visit at the time back in 2000 would be our last time. For me, it was heart wrenching to think that all of that had to stop.

Until Andrew saw a Walt Disney World Resort commercial on the T.V. He went right up to the screen and was touching Mickey’s face, he began to jump up and down and run around the room, not from self-stimulatory behaviour, but from glee and excitement. It was then that I decided to take the plunge, so I called Disney’s Central Reservations and went ahead and booked our trip. We were to stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and I couldn’t believe it or contain my excitement.

Andrew Rex Andy's Room DCL

Andrew in the Toy Story playroom aboard the Disney Dream. The story came alive for him.

From that day forward our world changed forever and our son began to blossom. He was immersed in his stories as they came alive while walking around the theme parks, he was awestruck and couldn’t believe Winnie the Pooh was real and cuddly and all. Tigger bounced around the Crystal Palace making Andrew squeal with delight while he tried to pull off Eeyore’s tale to everyone’s surprise.

Andrew was in our world!

Andrew and Buzz CA

Andrew above, with Buzz Lightyear at Disney California Adventure Park.

There was no stopping us now, this was the tool we would use to bring Andrew into our world and bring us into his world. We had to vacation at a place where families could have fun together, that place was at the Disney Parks.

The Disney Parks, our tool and our means to achieve our goal. Best of all Disney helps special needs people, Disney provides inclusive experiences for special needs people because no one gets left behind there.

To help you understand and possibly relate and hopefully decide to begin your vacations there with your special needs family member,  I’ll elaborate and help make the connections for you.

What to Expect at Walt Disney World Resort

Before I say anything else, I highly recommend that you register with ‘My Disney Experience’  and participate in My Magic + a Disney booking and planning site which will greatly assist with all aspects of your vacation.

As well, download the free My Disney Experience App for your mobile device which will be at your fingertips when at Walt Disney World Resort. The mobile App is of great assistance when at the parks because it stores all your travel information including dining reservations, FastPass+ reservations which can be changed on the spot, you’ll have charging privileges if you’re staying on property, as well, all theme park information will be available to you.

Selecting a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel

Walt Disney World has a vast array of resorts available to guests, each with a different theme and budgetary consideration. Ranging from value, moderate and deluxe resorts to condo style villas, campgrounds for tents and motor homes to cabins, there is something for everyone. You’re looking at twenty-six  Disney owned resorts and nine not owned by Disney, offering 26,000 rooms as well as 3,000 two-bedroom Disney Vacation Club villas.

Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel affords guests the convenience of complimentary Disney’s Magical Express from Orlando International Airport to their hotel and back, with the added benefit of luggage transport from the airplane to  resort (no baggage claim for guests). Guests are sent luggage tags with hotel information to attach to suitcases prior to leaving home.

Guests experience the Disney magic 24 hours a day, they have special early entrance times and extended park hour times called ‘Extra Magic Hours’. Guests have the ability to charge using their MagicBand and all purchases can be sent directly to their Disney resort.

Staying on property affords guests the opportunity to head back and relax in the afternoon charging up for the evening ahead.

Guests can arrange fun wake up calls to their resort room from Disney characters.

Special needs guests may even consider to stay at a Disney resort hotel nearest their favourite theme park adding the convenience of being extra close to their hotel in times of needed respite and relaxation.

All transportation allowing accommodations for wheelchairs and ECV’s, from Disney resort hotels to theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney is provided. If guests decide to rent a car while staying on property, parking is complimentary at all theme parks, otherwise as of December 2014 parking fees were $18 per day for non-resort hotel guests.

Resort hotels are sprinkled through the forty square miles tucked near the theme parks. All have incredible, and unique themes and are under the magic of Disney.

Considerations for selecting an appropriate resort hotel for special needs guests should begin with budget and then factor in which theme park would be visited the most and stay at a Disney resort hotel nearby. When selecting hotels through My Disney Experience, every hotel lists which theme park area it is located in and the type of transportation to the theme parks available.

Register at My Disney Experience  MyMagic+ Website

-every guest is assigned a MagicBand which they can personalize on My Disney Experience at home when planning (U.S. citizens have their MagicBands sent to them at home prior to leaving; all other countries pick up their MagicBands when checking into their Disney resort)

-book your resort and arrange for complimentary Disney’s Magical Express to and from Orlando International Airport (luggage tags will be sent to you to place on your suitcase prior leaving home; Disney’s Magical Express will transport your luggage to your Disney resort for you)

-purchase your theme park tickets

-book dining reservations

-see available dining according to your location or a location of your choice (if using the mobile app.

-select FastPass+ attractions

-find Character meet and greet times and locations

-check attraction wait times

-navigation assistance for every theme park, water park and Downtown Disney

-share plans with friends and family travelling with you

The Convenience of Disney’s MagicBand System

All guests whether or not they are staying at the Walt Disney World Resort can utilize Disney’s MagicBand system, but non-Disney resort guests have fewer amenities. MagicBands for non-Disney resort guests only allow accommodations for theme park tickets and dining reservations.

Walt Disney World Resort MagicBand  guests’ amenities include:

-theme park ticket storage information and entry access

-entry access into a Disney resort room

-allow charging privileges at all Disney resorts, theme parks, water parks and dining

-stores FastPass+ reservations previously made for theme park attractions

-stores all Disney PhotoPass pictures to your account

MagicBands can be customized online at home through My Disney Experience for each person in the travel party. Everyone can select the name displayed and colour. Fun MagicBand adornments are available at all theme parks and Downtown Disney.

Non-Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Guests also have access to MagicBands and can purchase them through the online Disney Store or right at the theme parks in the gift shops and then they can link their specific dining and theme park ticket information on them.

Deciding When to Visit the Walt Disney World Resort

Visiting Walt Disney World is exciting at any time of the year. Keeping crowd considerations in mind, quite typically the busiest are when children are on break from school, making May through September, Christmas break in December and Spring Break peak times.

The weather is humid and hottest from May through mid-September, comfortably warm from October through January (although there have been visits in December and January requiring light parkas) and on the cool side January through beginning of March.

Special events and experiences occur consistently throughout the year such as:

-Christmas events-Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (Magic Kingdom), Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights (Disney’s Hollywood Studios), Candlelight Processional (Epcot)

-Halloween- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (Magic Kingdom)

-Fall Season-Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival

-Spring Season-Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival

runDisney marathon events throughout the year

Disney Dining Reservations

All theme parks and resorts offer themed sit down dining which is coined ‘table service’ as well as the walk up and order your meal, coined ‘quick service’ eateries. Disney caters to every palate and dietary need and requests may be made ahead of time by contacting Disney Dining or by stating your requests when seated at your table.

Walt Disney Resort guests have the option of selecting the Disney Dining Plan in conjunction with their hotel stay and ticket purchases, non-Disney resort guests do not, but are able to dine anywhere on Disney property. The popularity of the Disney Dining Plan makes it virtually impossible to find an open reservation during peak vacation periods, therefore it is highly recommended for ALL guests to make their dining reservations through My Disney Experience to avoid any disappointment.

Reserving through My Disney Experience or by calling Disney Dining is the method of reservation. I recommend booking through My Disney Experience because there guests can look at the menu and prices for each restaurant.

Booking begins 180 days prior to arrival and Disney resort guests have ten extra days beyond that for making Disney Dining reservations. A credit card is required to secure the reservation and in the event of cancellation without proper notification a fee of ten dollars per guest on the reservation will be charged. If cancelling, it is best to cancel at least two to three days in advance to avoid credit card charges.

Select FastPass+

Disney’s new FastPass+ program is a great convenience, allowing guests little wait time for their favourite attractions by pre-selecting a time frame to ride, ahead of time. Guests can select up to three FastPass+, each with a one hour window and once those are used up a fourth may be selected.

Non-Disney resort guests may book 30 days in advance of their visit while Disney resort guests can reserve 60 days in advance.

Tip: check the typical ride wait times for the attractions, the ones with the longest typical wait times are the most popular and those are the ones the FastPass+ should be secured for.

Disney’s Disability Access System

Commonly referred to as the DAS, Disney’s Disability Access Card program makes allowances for guests who have a visible and/or non-visible disability. It gives those guests the opportunity to be offered a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. This system can be used in conjunction with Disney’s FastPass System and in my opinion worked very well for our visit during the busiest time of the year, Christmas break. In fact, we were at Magic Kingdom on Christmas Eve and experienced over seven attractions, with some replicated.

The DAS is available at all Guest Services in all the theme parks and at Downtown Disney. The guest in need of the DAS needs to be present initially when requesting the DAS, because a photo will be taken and placed on the card that is to be carried around and which will be time stamped by Cast Members at the attraction queues.

Some Basics About Walt Disney World Resort Theme Parks

Magic Kingdom, the first theme park at Walt Disney World boasting the iconic, 189 foot, fibre-glass structure known as Cinderella Castle reached by passing through the turn of the century, nostalgic Main Street U.S.A. and encompassed by six exciting, differently themed lands named Adventureland, New Fantasyland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Frontierland. Disney characters to be found throughout during well-organized and timed character greets. Guests will see daily themed parades and nightly fireworks shows and will greatly enjoy the unique attractions designed to please everyone.

Special needs guests at Magic Kingdom have access to the First Aid Station next to the Baby Care Center, both beside the Crystal Palace, just behind Casey’s Corner. When my son was a toddler, the Baby Care Center was a welcome respite for him to relax and/or have a quick meal in a peaceful, comforting environment. As an older teen, we often take my son to relax and unwind in the First Aid Station, which has some comfortable seating in an air-conditioned room. Cast Members at the First Aid Station are accommodating, helpful and perceptive of one’s needs.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios transports guests back into the Golden Age of Hollywood with Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as the new focal point. It offers The Great Movie Ride which is a magnificent attraction transporting guests in a massive tram immersing them right into some of the most popular movie moments in history.

Action and adventure await all guests as they progress through eight themed sections: Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Echo Lake, Streets of America, Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Animation Courtyard and Mickey Avenue.

Special needs guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can take comfort at either Guest Services, the First Aid Station and Baby Care Centre located just inside the theme park, on the left as soon as they enter through the turnstiles.

Epcot

Epcot, Walt Disney World’s second largest theme park, offers guests two separate experiences: Future World featuring technologies latest in the most captivating and thrilling ride experiences and interactions, and World Showcase which immerses guests in the most authentically replicated pavilions from around the world totalling eleven. Countries in pavilions in the Showcase Plaze are: the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Italy, Germany, Japan, Morocco, France and the United Kingdom.

Special needs guests have easy access to the First Aid Station and Baby Care Center at Epcot, mid-way through the theme park in the Odyssey Center directly between Test Track and Showcase Plaza.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is one of the world’s largest animal theme parks, while at Walt Disney World Resort it is the largest theme park of the four, boasting over 500 acres. More than 1,700 animals through over 250 species reside at Disney’s Animal Kingdom all nestled in six perfectly re-created habitats: Oasis, Africa, Discovery Island, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and DinoLand, U.S.A.

It is wise to visit this theme park early in the day as it usually has an early closing time (late afternoon), to accommodate the needs of the animals.

Special needs guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park have access to the Baby Care Center and First Aid Station located to the left of the Tree of Life in the building just before you cross the bridge into Africa.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park have a Guest Services area with Cast Members who can assist with information on services for Guests with Disabilities. They do not have a designated Baby Care Center yet do offer baby change areas in the restrooms.

Blizzard Beach First Aid Station and Companion Restroom is located between the Beach Haus shop and Lottawatta Lodge. As well, most restrooms throughout the park accommodate guests requiring wheelchairs.

Typhoon Lagoon First Aid and Companion Restroom are together and are located at Guest Services near the park entrance. As well, most restrooms throughout the park accommodate guests requiring wheelchairs.

Guests with Disabilities

Disney strives to accommodate all guests and here is an example of just some of the amenities offered to guests with mobility, visual and hearing disabilities.

-accommodations for service animals (allowed in all theme parks but not on the attraction, another guest must wait with the animal while the first guest rides)

-rental wheelchairs

-rental of electric conveyance vehicles (ECV’s)

-reflective captioning

-assistive listening systems

-sign language interpretation

-TTY (text typewriter telephones)

-handheld captioning

-video captioning

-digital audio tours

-Braille guidebooks

-Disney transportation accommodates guests in wheelchairs and ECV’s

-Disney resort hotels have accessible guest rooms and offer guest rooms for guests accompanied by service animals and even rooms for the hearing impaired guest

Step By Step What to Do

-register at My Disney Experience

-look for ‘Special Offers’ Disney offers seasonal package discounts, resort room discounts, Military discounts  and Florida Resident discounts

-once your Disney resort is booked, make sure you select complimentary motor coach transportation to and from Orlando International Airport called Disney’s Magical Express (later on they’ll want to know your airline number and arrival time, but you can always plug that in once your plans are concrete)

-if you select a package which includes resort hotel, theme park ticket and dining then you will be able to see when your dining booking window opens up. If it’s already open then go ahead and make your dining reservations based on where you’ll be, it’s more convenient that way.

-selecting FastPass+ attractions begins 60 days from arrival for Disney Resort guests and 30 days from arrival for non-resort guests

-customize your travel party’s MagicBands, if you are a U.S. citizen then your MagicBands will be sent to your home; all other non U.S. guests will receive their MagicBands upon check-in at their Disney resort hotel

-select any special tours, events or experiences through My Disney Experience

-pre-order Disney’s PhotoPass service which can be linked to your account and information stored on your MagicBand

-tag luggage before you go to the airport

-upon arrival at Orlando International Airport follow your information guidebook (sent with luggage tags ahead of time) to the Disney Magical Express Check-In Area to board your resort hotel motor coach, your luggage will follow a few hours later (best to carry a day bag with essentials, this way you’re free to do what you like-head to the theme parks or swim)

-have fun!