Blog Article Contents
- 1 The International Travellers Guide to the Walt Disney World Resort
- 2 How Big is Walt Disney World and Why Do We Need to Plan?
- 3 When Is the Best Time For International Travellers to Travel to Walt Disney World?
- 4 Where to Stay at Walt Disney World?
- 5 How long should you spend in Walt Disney World
- 6 Best Walt Disney World tickets for International Travellers
- 7 Dining at Walt Disney World
- 8 Using Walt Disney World Fastpass+
- 9 Final Thoughts & Recommendations When Planning the Perfect Trip to Walt Disney World
The International Travellers Guide
to the Walt Disney World Resort
Our comprehensive Walt Disney World travel planning guide and video overview for international travellers.
As many of our Aeonian Nomads followers know, we try to visit Walt Disney World at least once a year, and the Resort has definitely become one of our most favourite travel destinations in the world.
We are constantly asked however, why we love travelling to Disney World as often as we do, and if Disney World vacations are just for kids.
We appreciate these questions, as we understand that many of our readers have never visited the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and may not understand all it has to offer to international travellers.
So, with these questions in mind, we wanted to take the opportunity during our most recent trip to Walt Disney World to show our viewers around Disney World, and to highlight some of our most favourite attractions, entertainment offerings and of course dining opportunities.
The International Travellers guide to Walt Disney World YouTube video embedded in this post, primarily focuses on the attractions, entertainment and dining options that we recommend to first time visitors to Walt Disney World.
However, as mentioned in the video we also wanted to post an “International Travellers Guide to Walt Disney World” blog article that would cover all you need to know, to plan and execute the perfect vacation to Walt Disney World.
As “international travellers to Walt Disney World, we are at a huge disadvantage when planning our Disney World Vacations.
We understand that travelling to Walt Disney World is very expensive and planning this type of trip is daunting to many international travellers.
We have met so many travellers over the past 20 years that have saved hard for their Walt Disney World vacation and had a terrible time during their vacation due to waiting hours in line for the attractions, not being able to cope with the extreme Florida weather and not knowing “what the locals” know in regards to leveraging all the tips and tricks that nobody ever tells you about as a non-domestic Disney traveller.
Many local travel agents outside of the United States (and quite a few in the United States) have a very limited understanding of how to fully exploit every opportunity available to guests to make their Walt Disney World vacation an outstanding success.
This is not the fault of the agent as they require broad knowledge of thousands of destinations world-wide, but there are many tips and tricks that are essential for an international traveller to fully understand, to ensure that they have the best value, most efficient and enjoyable trip to the Walt Disney World Resort.
The following “International Travellers Guide to Walt Disney World” is a culmination of the lessons we have learnt since we first visited Disneyworld over 20 years ago and our many, many subsequent visits as a family, as a couple and as solo travellers.
These “tips and tricks” have helped so many of our family, friends and readers to have amazing visits to Walt Disney World and many of them have become regular Disney Park travellers.
Read this International Travellers Guide to Walt Disney World thoroughly and we promise that you will save time, money and more than a few tears, when you book your visit to the Walt Disney World Resort.
How Big is Walt Disney World and Why Do We Need to Plan?Before we start, we want to ensure that our readers understand just how big Walt Disney World really is… The Walt Disney World Resort is spread over 100-square-kilometers (Twice the size of Manhattan Island in New York), and is a world-class entertainment and recreation destination, featuring four theme parks (the Magic Kingdom, Epcot,Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and two water parks (Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon). The Resort area offers 41 Resort hotels to its guests, in which 31 are owned and operated by Walt Disney World and the resort boasts more than 56,000 square metres of convention space. In addition, Walt Disney World provides travellers with three 18-hole championship golf courses, a nine-hole family-play walking course and the themed Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland, mini-golf courses. If golf is not your sport, Walt Disney World Resort also offers tennis courts; basketball courts; swimming pools, boating, parasailing, water skiing, fishing excursions, jogging paths; horseback riding; biking and Segway tours. The Resort is also home to the 230-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex that is designed to accommodate professional-calibre training and competition, festival and tournament events and vacation-fitness activities in more than 30 individual and team sports. The complex includes a 7,500 seat baseball stadium and 5,500 seat event centre. For many, entertainment and shopping will be their favourite pastimes, if this sounds like you, Walt Disney World has a whole lot in stall for you as well. The newly completed Disney Springs is a stunning 120-acre Shopping, Dining and Entertainment precinct that offers over 100 shopping locations, 60 dining venues and 20 entertainment experiences. However, Karen and I love coming to Disney World for the dining. There are more than 200 places to get food within Walt Disney World, including over 90 full service restaurants that are operated by some of best chefs from across the globe. To keep guests moving between the parks, hotels, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and sporting offerings, Disney World has developed its own transportation network that includes monorails, ferryboats, launches, motor coach shuttle service and the new Disney Skyliner gondola system. With all that’s on offer, it’s no wonder that close to 60 million guests visited the Walt Disney World Resort over the last calendar year, making Disney World one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth.
When Is the Best Time For International Travellers to Travel to Walt Disney World?We believe that the dates you choose to travel to Walt Disney World, is the number one determinant, that will ultimately determine the first-time international visitors overall experience and satisfaction when vacationing at Walt Disney World. There are two main considerations when choosing your dates, “CROWDS” & “WEATHER”.
Crowds at Walt Disney WorldRemember, earlier in this article that we mentioned that close to 60 million guests visited Walt Disney World over the last calendar year, making the Walt Disney World Resort one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth! Well that’s a hell of a lot of people and when you break down those numbers it can get quite scary. For instance, if we average out those annual attendance numbers, close to 165,000 PEOPLE, PER DAY visit Walt Disney World on average. As the 4 main theme parks see most of the foot traffic, that is over 40,000 people, per day on average that visit each of the theme parks. Although these numbers can be terrifying, I am pleased to advise that averages often misrepresent the true situation, and averages at Walt Disney World are definitely not a true indication of what to expect on any day you visit a Walt Disney World park. Like any major tourist destination there are peak times and quieter times to visit Walt Disney World. To avoid the busiest times of year, try to arrange your vacation to avoid holiday periods (including Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and the Christmas – New Year’s period), major US school breaks and most of the US Summer Vacation Periods (Mid-June – Late -August). During these peak times, the parks will be extraordinarily crowded, there will be massive waits for all attractions, hotel rates will be at their highest and restaurants will be booked up months in advance and over the past few years Disney has even raised meal prices at a number of its popular restaurants during these busy times of year! By contrast, if you go during a non-peak period, the parks will be far less crowded, you will wait less in line, room rates will substantially lower and there will be greater availability to secure much sought after dining reservations. We highly recommend visiting Walt Disney World during the least-crowded times of year that are during January and early February and in early September through mid-November. Our personal favourite time of year to travel to Walt Disney World is late September through to mid-November. This travel period enjoys lower crowds, cooler temperatures and coincides with two of our favourite Walt Disney World events, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and Walt Disney World’s spectacular Halloween celebrations. For detailed, day-by-day crowd predictions, we recommend subscribing to TouringPlans.com to get access to their very reliable Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World. We will talk more about their amazing services later in this blog post.
Weather at Walt Disney WorldThe 2nd challenge in choosing the best time to visit Walt Disney World is the Florida Weather. On average, Walt Disney World’s coolest month is January while its warmest month is July. August sees the highest average rainfall for the year and April is usually the driest. However, the differences between temperatures in July and January are extreme. For example, July’s average highs are 33 degrees Celsius with very high humidity levels, while January enjoys average highs of just 15 degrees Celsius. Also, it’s worth noting if you are planning to visit Walt Disney World during the months of June through November, that this is hurricane season in Florida. Although Walt Disney World is not usually impacted by Hurricanes that hit Florida, occasionally the parks will close if the resort is in the projected path of the Hurricane. If you decide to travel during this time (We usually travel in the Hurrine period between October or November), you should be aware of Disney’s hurricane policy, which includes safety instructions for Resort guests as well as refund information. Our strong recommendation is to avoid travelling during the peak periods noted above and try to avoid the hottest times of the year in July and August.
Where to Stay at Walt Disney World?We highly recommend staying at an official Disney World Resort hotel during your first visit to Walt Disney World, to enhance your overall Disney experience and to access the exclusive benefits only available to Disney onsite guests. These include:
- Free Disney Magical Express coach transfers between the airport and your Walt Disney World Resort
- Fastpass+ reservation access at 60 days prior to arrival
- Dining reservation access at 180 days prior to arrival
- Free magic bands to link park tickets, room key and charging privileges to a wearable wrist band
- Free parking at the Theme Parks
- Free bus, ferry, monorail and Skyliner transportation between the resorts and theme parks
- The ability to access Extra Magic Hours in the park that is exclusive to onsite guests
- Room charging privileges for any purchases made within the Walt Disney World Resort
- Resort package delivery of any item purchased in the resort
- The option of purchasing the Disney Dining Plan add-on
Which Walt Disney World Resort Hotel to Book?The Walt Disney Wold Resort area offers 31 Resort hotels that are owned and operated by Walt Disney World and they are split into various categories of accommodation:
- Deluxe Villas – Disney Beach Club Villa’s due to its location
- Deluxe Resort Hotels – Disney Polynesian Resort due to its dining and theming
- Moderate Resort Hotels – Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside due to its ambiance
- Value Resort Hotels – Disney’s Pop Century Resort due to its amazing value
How much should you spend on accommodation at Walt Disney WorldPrices for nightly accommodation at the Walt Disney World Resort varies from a standard room costing $112 per night during the first week of January at an All Star Value Resort to a whopping $5259 per night for a Polynesian Villa’s Bungalow, during the busy Christmas peak-period. Of course the more you want to pay, the grander the accommodation and offerings you’ll find but we want our readers to keep one thing in mind, please consider how much time you will actually spend in your hotel room. Although Karen and I would love to be able to afford the $37,000 weekly price tag to stay at the Polynesian Bungalow’s over Christmas, the fact is we would likely spend a very small portion in our room and enjoying the actual resort. On an average trip, we would we would spend less than an hour each day at our Resort, apart from the limited time (7 – 8 Hours) we are deep asleep in our bed. So, in conclusion our recommendation for your first trip to Walt Disney World is to stay in a Disney value of moderate resort. Both will offer the “Disney Magic” during your stay, but the additional savings will definitely help in offsetting any additional spending on dining and Disney souvenirs.
How long should you spend in Walt Disney WorldWe are asked all the time, “How long should we plan to stay in Walt Disney World?” and our answer usually is to “stay as long as you can!” To be more helpful though, we recommend at least 9 nights to get a “good taste” of what Walt Disney World offers. The following is an example 10-day itinerary to see the “Best of” Walt Disney World. Day 1: Arrival Day (You will usually arrive in the evening) Day 2: Magic Kingdom Day 1 Day 3: Epcot Day 4: Disney Hollywood Studios Day 5: Explore Resort Hotel (Morning) / Disney Springs (Evening) Day 6: Animal Kingdom Day 7: Magic Kingdom Day 2 (Morning) / Explore Monorail Resorts (Evening) Day 8: Disney Hollywood Studios & Star Wars Galaxy Edge Day 2 (Morning) / Explore the Boardwalk Area (Evening) Day 9: Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach Water Park (Morning) / Revisit favourite Theme Park (Afternoon) Day 10: Fly home In an ideal world however, a 14-day itinerary would be perfect as it would allow for more relaxation time and a few side trips to other popular Orlando attractions including Universal Studios, Seaworld and the very popular shopping outlets. An example of a 14-Day itinerary may look like this: Day 1: Arrival Day (You will usually arrive in the evening) Day 2: Magic Kingdom Day 1 Day 3: Epcot Day 4: Disney Hollywood Studios Day 5: Animal Kingdom Day 6: Rest Day at Resort Day 7: Universal Studios Day 8: Islands of Adventure Day 9: Shopping Outlets (Morning) / Disney Springs (Afternoon) Day 10: Seaworld Day 11: Magic Kingdom Day 2 (Morning) / Explore Monorail Resorts (Evening) Day 12: Disney Hollywood Studios & Star Wars Galaxy Edge Day 2 (Morning) / Explore the Boardwalk Area (Evening) Day 13: Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach Water Park (Morning) / Revisit favourite Theme Park (Afternoon) Day 14: Fly home
Best Walt Disney World tickets for International TravellersWhen international travellers start planning their Walt Disney World trips, they’re often shocked at how expensive Disney World tickets are, especially if they’re looking at the one day park ticket price. However, as we are international travellers and are often travelling to Walt Disney World for a week or more, tickets become substantially cheaper the more days that you add on. For example, depending on which day you go to Walt Disney World, a daily “base” ticket may cost you $109 (without sales tax) for a single day entry. If you want to go to the Walt Disney World parks for 7 days however and you buy a 7-day ticket, the cost at the same time of year would be $406 (without sales tax) which works out to be $58 a day, which is pretty good value for 12+ hours in the parks inclusive of all rides, attractions and entertainment. A 10-day ticket pass works out to be $44 (without sales tax), which is really great value.
Park Hopper TicketsInternational travellers visiting Walt Disney World have the option of adding a Park Hopper add-on to their base ticket will allow visitors to “hop” to and from any of the four main Walt Disney World theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) on the same day. The Base Tickets allow visits to all four parks, but those visits have to take place on separate days. Adding the Park Hopper allows you to visit multiple parks on the same day.
Park Hopper Plus TicketsInternational travellers visiting Walt Disney World also have the option of adding a Park Hopper Plus add-on to their base ticket. The Park Hopper Plus option includes the “Park Hopper” inclusions noted above but also includes admission to Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks, a round of mini-golf at Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens Mini-Golf Courses (before 4:00 p.m.), admission to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (not including event tickets), or a round of golf at Oak Trail family walking course (advance reservations required, clubs not included for adults, pull cart not included). Our recommendation for a first time international travellers to Walt Disney World is to purchase a 7 – 10 day base ticket. Although it may be tempting to add on the additional ticket options, we know from first hand experience there is so much to see and experience in the parks, its so hard to see everything. With more than 120 attractions, 50 entertainment options and 140 dining destinations in Walt Disney World’s 4 theme parks, take your time in each park, enjoy everything that is on offer and save the additional money for your dining and souvenirs. Ticket types, their cost and the associated terms and conditions constantly change at Walt Disney World, so we highly recommend that you check out the Walt Disney World Official Ticket Centre for the latest ticket information.
Dining at Walt Disney WorldThere are more than 200 places to get great food within Walt Disney World, including over 90 full service restaurants that are operated by some of best chefs from across the globe. Karen and I have had some amazing meals at Walt Disney World and dining in the Resort defies any preconceptions about theme park food. To make life simple, Walt Disney World has categorised all of its dining opportunities into three main styles:
Counter Service DiningCounter service dining is the equivalent of fast food dining. However, there are some amazing counter service dining locations. Here are a few Walt Disney World counter service locations we enjoy and highly recommend:
- Columbia Harbour House (Magic Kingdom)
- Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal kingdom)
- La Cantina de San Angel (Epcot)
- Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo (Hollywood Studios)
- The Polite Pig (Disney Springs)
Table service DiningTable service dining at Walt Disney World is the equivalent of having nice dinner at a family restaurant back home. Most of Disney’s restaurants are very well themed and the quality of the service and food is normally very good. We always look forward to and highly recommend the following Walt Disney World table service dining locations:
- The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)
- Tusker House (Animal Kingdom)
- Biergarten Restaurant (Epcot)
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant (Hollywood Studios)
- Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ (Disney Springs)
- `Ohana (Disney’s Polynesian Resort)
Fine / Signature DiningAs the name implies, Walt Disney World’s Fine Dining & Signature dining venues are where you find quieter restaurants with more extravagant menu items and substantial wine lists. Here are a few of Karen and my most favourite fine dining restaurants in Walt Disney World.
- California Grill (Disney’s Contemporary Resort)
- Jiko – The Cooking Place (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
- Le Cellier Steakhouse (Epcot)
- The Hollywood Brown Derby Hollywood Studios)
- The Boathouse (Disney Springs)
- Flying Fish (Disney’s Boardwalk Inn & Villas)
Bars & LoungesAs we keep saying, Walt Disney World is not just for kids. In fact, we have found some of our most favourite bars and lounges at the Walt Disney World Resort. Here are a few of our all-time favourite places to have a drink (or two…):
- Jellyrolls Duelling Piano Bar (Disney’s Boardwalk)
- Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (Disney’s Polynesian Resort)
- La Cava del Tequila (Epcot)
- Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar (Disney Springs)
- Rose & Crown Pub (Epcot)
- Wine Bar George (Disney Springs)
Using Walt Disney World Fastpass+Throughout this article we have warned of the crowds and how planning is essential not to get caught up in the chaos caused by the 60 million guests that also visit Disney World. The good news is however, that Disney are experts in logistics and managing largecrowds. One of the ways they assist their Walt Disney World guests is by offering the Disney Fastpass+ service. The Disney FastPass+ service allows international guests to reserve access to select attractions and entertainment. With the purchase of a ticket or Annual Pass, international guests can make selections as early as 30 days before they arrive—starting at 7:00 AM United States Eastern Time. Most importantly, if you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, Disney Springs Area Hotels or other select nearby hotels (as we strongly recommend), you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in, for the entire length of your stay. There is no extra charge for this complimentary benefit, but Fastpass+ selections at each attraction are limited to a certain total number per day, so it is essential that you book your selected Fastpass+ selections as early as possible. Before you start reserving Fastpass + selections, be sure you link your park admission to your online Walt Disney World account and add the people you’re planning with to your Family & Friends list.
How Can International visiters to Walt Disney World Book Fastpass+ selections?International Walt Disney World visitors can secure up to 3 FastPass+ selections per day in advance by utilising Walt Disney World’s online Fastpass+ booking system or using the Walt Disney World Mobile App, or for the same day at an in-park FastPass+ kiosk. After you redeem your initial 3 FastPass+ selections when you are in your chosen Walt Disney World park, you’ll be able to make another selection either online of at an in-kiosk until all Fastpass+ allocations are exhausted for that day. In addition to attractions and entertainment, you can also make FastPass+ selections for “Disney Character Greetings” for characters such as, Mickey Mouse and Cinderella.
The Recommended Process for Making Fastpass+ Selections at Walt Disney WorldIt can be a complex task when international guests first make their Walt Disney World FastPass+ selections, so here is an easy to follow guide:
- Add people to your Family & Friends listto enable you (As the organiser) to reserve access to FastPass+ attractions and entertainment on behalf them.
- Link your vacation package, link your ticketsor link your annual pass to your online Disney account.
- Reserve access to three FastPass+ attractions and entertainment options for each day that you have a valid theme park ticket linked to your Disney account.
- Visit the Walt Disney World theme park on the day that you have FastPass+ selections.
- Go to the FastPass+ entrance for the selected attraction or show during the designated arrival window time.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations When Planning the Perfect Trip to Walt Disney World
Here are a few additional recommended Walt Disney World Resort travel resources we personally use and strongly recommend to all international travellers planning a visit to Disney World:
Use an Authorized Disney Planner
We always use an Authorised Disney Travel Planner to book our Walt Disney World travel arrangements. There are many outstanding Authorised Disney Travel Planner’s operating primarily from the United States, but the travel agency that we have used for over a decade is The Magic for Less Travel.
Their agents are College of Disney Knowledge graduates. The College of Disney Knowledge is an in-depth comprehensive course that allows agents to develop their expertise regarding Disney Destinations.
Most importantly however, they have extensive first-hand knowledge of the Disney destinations as they have stayed at many of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts personally and travel to Disney destinations frequently to update their knowledge and to share the information with you.
The agents working with The Magic for Less Travel can help you save time and money on a Disney vacation as they are able to pass on current and future discounts that may not be advertised or promoted outside of the United States.
Please use this link to find out more in regards to using an Authorised Disney Travel Planner and working with The Magic for Less Travel to plan your next Disney vacation. Saving time and money by booking your next Walt Disney World vacation with an Authorised Disney Travel Planner.
If you would like to contact our personal travel planner directly, you can read more about him and make contact through this link: Meet Mike Rahlmann – The Magic For Less
Subscribe to TouringPlans.com
Would you like specific help with picking the best dates for your Walt Disney World Resort vacation and then avoiding lines once you arrive? When you purchase an annual subscription to TouringPlans.com for Walt Disney World, you’ll receive:
- Crowd Calendars showing you the expected crowd levels, best parks to visit and the parks to avoid, every day for the next 12 months.
- Personalized Touring Plans with step-by-step advice for visiting the attractions of your choice during the particular dates of your visit, while saving you up to four hours in line per day.
- Lines, a mobile phone application featuring actual current user-timed waits (for iPhone, Android, and web app).
- Attraction and Dining Reviews for every park, including ratings and a comprehensive restaurant menu section with search features.
Since 1985, they have helped more than 3 million families plan their vacations, including our extended family, close friends and long term readers of our site!
TouringPlans.com’s research has been featured in USAToday, the New York Times and dozens of national newspapers and magazines and they are also the people behind the massively popular Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, Unofficial Guide to Disneyland, and Unofficial Guide to The Disney Cruise Line guide books (That we personally own, recommend and refer to constantly when planning our Disney vacations).
We have used Touring Plans over the past decade and we can assure you that the $15:95 (USD) subscription price is worth every cent.
If you are looking for an online Disney site that has up to date reliable travel planning information, look no further than WDWINFO (also known as the DIS). This is a very professionally run website with hundreds of pages of valuable information, articles and Disney news.
The team responsible for the site also host a number of well-produced, popular Disney podcasts about the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland, Disney Dining and so much more. Their podcasts can be found at the Dis Unplugged
Listen to the Be Our Guest Podcast
To keep up to date with the latest trip planning advice, we really enjoy listening to the Be Our Guest Podcast. The Be Our Guest Podcast is fun, family friendly podcast, which features three different Disney planning episodes a week.
This award-winning podcast features Monday, Wednesday, and Friday shows that focus on Disney Resorts, theme parks, attractions, restaurants, dining, Run Disney, vacation tips and much more. Join our hosts on this fun and family-friendly dive into the world of Disney vacation planning.
Read the Disney Food Blog
Launched in March 2009, the Disney Food Blog has become one of our most favourite Disney blogs, and our “go to” for Disney related food and dining advice.
The Disney Food Blog offers in-depth news, reviews, and information about food and restaurants in Disney’s parks, Resorts, and cruise ships, along with reviews and photographs of and about anything food-related in Disney parks, Resorts, movies, and events.
Check their Disney food FAQs for up to date information about Disney dining discounts, Disney dining plans, dealing with special diets at Disney, restaurants at-a-glance, menus, and more.
Watch These YouTube Channels
Some of the best Disney vacation planning content can be found on YouTube. Here are a few of the Disney related YouTube stations we watch and recommend to international travellers:
Please note – that we have no financial arrangement with the above third party organisations, and they are not advertisers on our site. Our Disney travel planning resource recommendations as part of our International Travellers Guide to Walt Disney World are solely based on our own personal experience with these organisations, products and with their owners.
As you have already read, it’s really important to do quite a bit of planning to ensure that you have the best trip possible to Walt Disney World.
However, by following our “The International Travellers Guide to Walt Disney World” you will know more than the majority of people visiting Walt Disney World for the first time.
Just follow the advice above, use the links and resources provided and please let us know if you have any additional questions or require assistance in planning your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation.
John & Karen