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Ask an Advisor: Disney 101

Cinderella poses in front of Cinderella Castle inside Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Matt Stroshane, Photographer)

Walt Disney World is one of the most popular vacation spots on Earth, but there are a lot of details and planning involved in visiting. Do you need a Disney 101 course?

We spoke to AAA travel advisor and Disney expert Cady DeBlois to learn the basics for making your next trip a dream come true.

Book your Disney trip with AAA Travel.

How much time should I devote to each park?

For your first visit, I always recommend dedicating one full day to each theme park and including one non-park day to enjoy the amenities at your resort or visit Disney Springs. After your first visit, you’ll find your favorite things to do and decide if there are any parks you would only like to spend a half day at using the Park Hopper option.

Do I have to arrange transportation from the airport or from my hotel to the parks?

There are a few different ways you can get from the airport to your resort that you should arrange in advance. Mears Connect is a shared shuttle service that services the Disney area resorts – this tends to be the most popular option. You can also book a private transfer service, rent a car or utilize a rideshare service upon arrival. To get from your resort to the theme parks, you do not need to make any arrangements in advance. The busses run every 15 minutes or so to all of the theme parks.

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Should I download the My Disney Experience app?

Yes! The My Disney Experience app is going to be the key to your success while visiting Walt Disney World. The app is how you will book your Genie+ selections, check wait times, view your plans such as dining reservations and more. Two of my favorite features of the app are the directions feature and the mobile food ordering feature. The directions feature tells you the most efficient way to get to a certain attraction from where you are in the parks. The mobile ordering feature will allow you to select a time slot and place an order at most quick-service restaurants, so you can skip the long lines during the lunchtime rush.

Should I stay on Disney property? What are the advantages?

I absolutely recommend staying on property. There’s nothing like fully immersing yourself in the Disney bubble. A few advantages include early park admission, extended evening hours for deluxe resort guests, complimentary transportation to the theme parks, early access to booking Individual Lightning Lane attractions and early access to dining reservations. When you stay on property and bundle your resort stay with your tickets, there are also flexible payment plans available.

Learn more about the perks of staying at a Disney hotel.

Should I get the help of a travel advisor to plan my vacation?

I definitely recommend booking with a travel advisor. We have specialists – we call them Magic Makers – who are experts in Disney destinations and theme park vacations. They are always up to date with the newest information and visit the parks often. Your travel advisor can assist you with anything from dining suggestions to itinerary planning to assisting you while you are traveling. We will also monitor your reservation for you after booking and if there are any additional discounts that become available, we will automatically apply them to your package for you.

Contact a AAA travel advisor today.

disney 101
Photo Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Is the dining plan worth it?

It depends on your individual travel party – there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all for dining. If you are planning to have a table service or character dining experience each day, I think it’s worth the cost. Most of your meals would be paid for in advance and you can get the best bang for your buck. However, travelers who may not want sit-down meals might prefer to split an entree at a quick-service restaurant or order groceries to their room instead. I recommend speaking with your travel advisor to weigh out the options for you.

Which nighttime experiences and fireworks shows should I make time for?

You should make time for Fantasmic (Hollywood Studios), Happily Ever After (Magic Kingdom) and Luminous (Epcot). Disney offers dining packages for Fantasmic and Luminous, which is a great perk. The dining packages allow you to make a dining reservation at select restaurants in that park and get preferred seating for the show. For Happily Ever After, there are some dessert parties with preferred seating locations that are available to book as well. If you’re visiting during Christmas or Halloween, the exclusive fireworks at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are a Walt Disney World must-do!

What are your favorite rides or experiences?

My favorite rides in each park are the Haunted Mansion (Magic Kingdom), Avatar: Flight of Passage (Animal Kingdom), Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Epcot) and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios). A few of my other favorite experiences include Fantasmic and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (Hollywood Studios), the food and drinks at Epcot’s seasonal festivals, the animal walking trails at Animal Kingdom and finishing up a long day at Magic Kingdom with a sweet treat from the Main Street Confectionary.

Check out more articles from our Ask an Advisor series.

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Featured image: Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort / Matt Stroshane

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