Six Before-You-Go Tips for Your Family Vacation at Walt Disney World

6 before you go to wdw tips BANNER

Today, we begin a series of reports about one family’s recent vacation to Walt Disney World, contributed by our colleague Ryan Jacobson. Here are six tips Ryan thinks you should know before you go!

With our oldest child set to graduate from high school in a few months, we let him choose our 2024 family trip. He chose wisely: Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida! We try to visit the Mouse every few years, and we always learn new tips and tricks while we’re there. So for the next few days, I’ll take you through our vacation and share with you a few things that might help you too.

Family Vacation

1. Book Through a Travel Agency that Specializes in Disney Vacations
We love to make things easy, and we love to save money. We’ve used Small World Vacations in the past, and we did so again. They guided us through every decision, helped us book exactly what we wanted, and sent us reminders when it was time to do things like make dinner reservations or pay a bill. Better yet, when new discounts became available, they automatically applied those discounts to our account!

2. Speaking of Dinner Reservations, Here’s a Neat Trick
Disney lets you make restaurant reservations 60 days before your visit. So if you want to make a reservation for July 1, you can do so beginning at about 6 a.m. EST on May 2. But here’s the trick: 60 days before the first day of your visit, you can make reservations for the entire duration of your stay at a Disney resort. If you check in on July 1 and are staying until July 7, get a head start on those hard-to-get reservations (like Cinderella’s Royal Table) by booking it on May 2 for a later date in your vacation, such as July 6 or 7.

3. Plan Ahead, but Know Your Plan Will Change
We are (well, I am) Type A vacationers. I spent hours watching food reviews, planning optimized touring routes of each park, and knowing how every minute of every day was going to be spent. Each day, the plan lasted exactly one ride. Your day is heavily influenced by sore feet, bathroom breaks, wait times, Lightning Lanes, closed attractions, and did I mention sore feet? So if you enjoy planning ahead, dive right in. There is a lot of value in having a plan. Just know that your plan needs to be adaptable.

4. Genie+ Is Worth Every Penny (At Least It Was for Us)
All the advice I heard ahead of our trip was that one only needs Genie+ (a way to pay extra for shorter “Lightning Lane” lines) on busy days at Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios and not at all at Animal Kingdom and EPCOT. We were expecting “average” crowd sizes all week, and I debated each morning whether to spend the $80–$100 for Genie+. I ended up buying it every day, and I never regretted it. For no other reason, you’re buying extra relief time for feet that are tired from all the standing and standing and standing. For us, that was worth the extra $15–$25 per person.

Pro Tip: If you opt to pass on Genie+ but love vacation photos, you can purchase Genie+ for one member of your group. That way, you still get “free” ride photos sent to your account.

5. Staying at a Disney Resort? Make Room Requests
At about the same time you make those dinner reservations, you can request specific rooms (or specific areas) within your resort. So if you have a favorite room from a previous visit or just want to be really close to the food court or to transportation, Disney will do its best to accommodate your requests. We learned this about a week before our stay, and I requested to be close to bus transportation. I have no idea whether it had any bearing on what happened next, but we were given a free upgrade from a standard room at the Art of Animation Resort’s Little Mermaid hotel to a Cars suite right next to the bus stop. What a wonderful surprise!

6. My Disney Experience App Is a Planning Tool
There’s a lot going on in the My Disney Experience App, and I won’t mention it all. But a surprising way I utilized the app was by studying it for a couple of weeks ahead of our trip. Each day, I went in as if to purchase Genie+, just to see how much it cost. (Of course, I couldn’t buy anything yet. You can only purchase Genie+ after midnight on the day of your visit.) The prices reveal how busy Disney expects each park to be. If Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are around $25, that’s going to be an average day. If Animal Kingdom and EPCOT are around $20, that seems like an average day for them. As prices drop toward the low of $15, the parks should be less busy. As prices rise toward the high of $39, they will be busier. Keeping track of this could help you decide which days to visit which parks.

Next, I casually watched the standby lines and—more importantly—the Genie+ times. For example, we planned to visit Magic Kingdom on a Saturday, so for two Saturdays before our trip, I set my Tip Board to that park and checked it every hour or so. This really did help in planning our days and prioritizing which Lightning Lanes to purchase and when. At Magic Kingdom, if you don’t get passes to Jungle Cruise at 7 a.m., you will usually have to get passes for an evening time—if you can get them at all. (But if you get to Jungle Cruise early enough, you can often skip the line without a Lightning Lane pass.)

In my next blog, I’ll take you through our day at Hollywood Studios and share a review of my family’s unanimous choice for the best restaurant in all of Walt Disney World.

Ryan Jacobson is the author of more than 60 books. His most popular titles include the Constellations Activity Book, Can You Survive the Call of the Wild?and Up Where the Stars Are.

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids

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1 Comment

  1. Abraham Sussman April 16, 2024Reply


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