As I see some of the search terms used by people to get to my blog here, I’m more inspired to write a little FAQ type post on some Disney World basics to help people out with some of these things.
First and foremost, Disney World is really really big. Actually, it’s HUGE. There are FOUR full-size theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM Studios.) There are two very large water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. There is a totally separate shopping and dining area called Downtown Disney. Not to mention all the various on-property resorts, golf courses, Wide World of Sports, etc. Put it all together and it’s over 40 square miles large! (I find conflicting info as to whether it is 43 or 47 square miles. Regardless – that’s just really big.)
Let’s talk some helpful info in easy-to-read bullet points….
•First, let’s get something straight – Disney World and Universal Studios are two completely separate parks that have nothing to do with each other. There is no transportation between them. You either have to have a car, rent a car, or hire a cab or go through a transportation company to set up a transfer. (Mears is one of the most popular transfer companies in the area.)
•You cannot walk from one park to another. The exception is between Epcot and Hollywood Studios. There is a walking path between the resorts, but you’re going to be probably walking about a half hour. There is also a boat that will take you between the resorts – that is my preferred mode of transport between those two parks.
•To get between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, you have to take the monorail.
On that note, let’s talk monorails. You’ve essentially got three monorail options out there. There is one totally separate monorail that runs between Epcot and the TTC (Transportation and Ticket Center across the lake from Magic Kingdom.) This is your only option as far as getting between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, unless you have your own car on site.
When you are at the TTC, you have two monorail options to get to Magic Kingdom. Both monorails run the same route around the lagoon, but one is the “Resort Monorail” (that stops at Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary Resorts in addition to Magic Kingdom and TTC), and you have the direct route monorail that just stops at TTC and Magic Kingdom without the resorts in between. (I usually prefer the resort monorail – the line is SO much shorter.) You can also take the ferry boat across the lake from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom.
•There are only THREE resorts on the monorail around the lagoon: Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary/Bay Lake Tower. That’s it. No others. There are only three monorail resorts!
•You can walk to Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary Resort/Bay Lake Tower.
•A boat connects the Wilderness Lodge with the Magic Kingdom. There are also boats connecting MK with the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian, since you can’t walk to MK from them. (In case those staying at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian don’t feel like taking the monorail.)
•As I mentioned in another post, there are some resorts located behind Epcot that give you the convenience of being able to walk into Epcot through its back entrance – called The International Gateway. Those resorts are: Yacht and Beach Clubs, and Boardwalk Inn and Villas. (The Swan and Dolphin are also located in this area, but they are not full-out Disney resorts.) These resorts also have boats connecting them to each other and Epcot and Hollywood Studios.)
•You can walk to Hollywood Studios easiest from the Boardwalk Inn and Villas. You can also walk there from Yacht and Beach Clubs, but it’s a longer walk. I would take the boat.
•There are also boats connecting resorts that are near Downtown Disney: Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Port Orleans. For all these resorts, you can hop on the boat and take a leisurely ride to Downtown Disney. If you’re staying at Saratoga Springs, you can walk to Downtown Disney.
•All other transportation is via Disney’s bus system.
•There is no resort to resort transportation, except for those monorail and boat options mentioned above. So if you have a dinner reservation at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but you’re staying at Port Orleans Riverside, you’ll have to take a bus to a park and then transfer to another bus to get to the Lodge. For obvious reasons, you’ll want your transfer park to be one that is close by either you or your destination. If you are staying at a non-monorail resort, but want to get to the Contemporary for a character breakfast, you can take your bus to the Magic Kingdom, then hop on the resort monorail. The point is, you will have to have a brief “layover” to get from resort to resort. This is why Disney always recommends to allow lots of time for getting to your dinner reservations – you never know how long it will take you to wait for the transportation.
•If you’re not sure what you’re doing while you’re in WDW, just ask a CM! (CM = Cast Member. Everyone who works at Disney is a “Cast Member.”) Something went wrong? Talk to a CM! Problem with your room? Talk to a CM! (See a pattern? 🙂 )
•FAST PASS! I see more misunderstandings about Fast Pass than almost anything else. Now, let me first say that Disney has been in the testing stages of a new system called FastPass+ (“Fast Pass Plus”.) There’s still LOTS of speculation as to how this will all work. (But it has to do with pre-booking various headline attractions 60 days out. There is still not enough definitive info out there for me to pass along to you, but I will update this section when more info becomes available.) HOWEVER, currently as it stands, FastPasses are FREE and are first come-first serve. If you want to avoid potential long regular stand-by lines, you get your FastPasses at popular attractions so you can come back later at a designated time and enter at the special FastPass entrance to avoid the regular line. FastPasses that run out the fastest are Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios and Soarin’ in Epcot. I also recommend FastPasses for Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, Space Mountain and Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom, and Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Rollercoaster in Hollywood Studios.
For help with using the current FastPass system, just check out the How-To video I posted awhile back on my Destination Mouse Facebook page: How To Use Fastpass.
Note that this system is very different from Universal’s “Front of the Line” pass, which is available for free to those staying on Universal property, OR is available to BUY for non-Universal resort guests.
•Now on to dining reservations. You might have read my previous post about this very subject, but if not, you need to know that dining reservations open at 180 days. That’s right – six months out. So if you have a little princess who absolutely must have lunch with the rest of the Disney princesses at Cinderella’s Castle (aka, “Cinderella’s Royal Table,” or CRT for short), you need to be ready to make that reservation six months out. (Or have your handy dandy travel agent take care of it for you!) Overall, it’s very difficult to get walk up seating at a Table Service (sit-down) restaurant during busy seasons. Besides character meals, other popular restaurants that book up early are: Le Cellier, Coral Reef, O’Hana, and dinner at the new Be Our Guest Restaurant. Signature restaurants, dinner shows, character meals, and some of the popular restaurants do require a credit card hold. They don’t charge your card unless you are a no-show. ($10 per person no-show fee for most.) CRT requires pre-payment UNLESS you are on the Disney Dining Plan – in that case you will still have to do a credit card hold.
•Can I save money by going into the parks for six days vs. seven days?
No. Disney puts the per day price high on the first few days of a ticket, then it’s literally less than $10 a day more to add extra days on your ticket. So if you are a family of three traveling, you’ll save less than $30 by dropping a day off of your week long ticket. My advice: get the extra day on your ticket, even if you only go into a park for three hours on your last day – it lets you enjoy an extra meal or ride before leaving for hardly any extra money. Just do it.
•A few other points: I always advocate staying on-site. Always. I also get the Dining Plan every time I go. It saves a little bit of money (not tons), but think of it as pre-paying for your meals and then having the freedom to order any meal off of the menu without looking at the price. Also – many don’t know that having a travel agent book your Disney trip for you is the same exact price as doing it yourself through Disney – except you get lots of help all along the way! (That’s right – the same exact price!) So you can go ahead and spend hours a week researching for your own trip, or have someone like me (who knows all this stuff already) take care of everything for you – and it doesn’t cost a penny extra!
Let me know if you have any other questions – feel free to share them in the comments section, and I will answer them there as well!