I’ve now taken 7 trips to Walt Disney World over the last 10 years. This has amounted to over 110 days spent in one of the places I love the most! As i begin to plan our next Disney trip, I’ve been reflecting back on my 100 Days in Disney. I’ve learned a lot from these trips, and a lot of my past Disney experiences shape how I plan my future trips. Of all the things I’ve taken away from my past trips, these are the few nuggets of wisdom I feel have stuck with me the most.
Everyone does it differently – and that’s ok!
Everyone who travels to Orlando plans and executes their holiday differently. Some do it on a budget. Some splash out. No two people will typically have the same opinion on where to stay, how to get there, where to eat etc..And all of that is completley ok. One of the things I love about Walt Disney World is how it caters to varying tastes and budgets.This allows everyone to choose how to holiday there in a way that best suits them.
Similarly, one of the things I’ve learned through my 100 Days in Disney is that a lot of experienced travellers tend to push their opinion of the ‘right’ way to holiday onto first time Disney holidaymakers. It’s important to remember that while your way suits you, it may not work for everyone. First Timers should also consider taking information and opinions from a wide range of sources. This will help you work out what may or may not work for you. Our Disney Philosophy article here explains more on how we try to approach the differing opinions on Disney Holidays.
One piece of advice I would give to everyone is not to judge those who choose to experince Walt Disney World differently to how you do. You may feel that they are wasting money, missing out or wasting time. However, if it works for them and they are enjoying their Disney experience, then they are doing something right, even if they are doing it differently to how you would!
You won’t get everything done
Even if you are able to take a 3 week Disney Holiday, you probably won’t be able to see and experience everything. Disney World itself is roughly the size of San Francisco, and that’s before you start to consider venturing to experiences off-property. It’s impoartant to try and be realistic and priortise the things you want to see and do. A little bit of planning before your holiday will help you ensure you don’t waste precious time on things that aren’t to your taste.
If you know you will be back, not being able to get everything done isn’t a big deal. You can priortise what you want to do. This allows you to relax and enjoy your holiday, instead of exhausting yourself by trying to cram too much in. However, if you know this is a Once in a Lifetime trip, you may feel differently. You can feel pressured trying to fit in everything you want to see and do if you know you won’t be back. But it is important to remember that this is your holiday and you should try and enjoy everything you do get the chance to see!
Some things aren’t worth it
One big tip I’ve learned through my 100 Days in Disney is that there are some things that just aren’t worth it. Be it time, cost or stress levels, there are many things throughout Disney that just aren’t worth it. Don’t waste 45 minutes on a busy day queueing for Its A Small World when you can come back and only wait 10 minutes. Don’t pay out for a Fireworks Dessert Party if you don’t have a sweet tooth. And don’t book a trip over Christmas if crowds stress you out, regardless of how wonderful Disney at Christmas may be!
As I said earlier, everyone does Disney differently and therefore everyone will have a different opinion on what is and isn’t worth it. It is important to weigh up the time/cost/stress of something against how much you actually want to see it or may enjoy it. Personally, I hate wasting precious time queueing for something if I know the wait time will be less at another stage. Therefore I keenly watch wait times for attractions to be able to guage just how much time I’m willing to queue for each attraction.
Similarly, weigh up the cost of each premium purchase to make sure it works for you and your budget. Will you get most use out of a cabana at the water parks? If no, then this cost isn’t worth it for you. We feel the cabanas are worth it, however think the Dessert parties aren’t worth the money! Everyone has different tastes, so it does ultimately come down to personal preference. But it is ok to say ‘that wasn’t worth my time/money’!
Don’t take anything for granted
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through my 100 days in Disney is not to take anything for granted. Back on our 2016 trip, we forewent Wishes one evening because we knew we’d be back to see it again. You can just imagine my reaction a few months later when Wishes was replaced by Happily Ever After! This was prehaps my most costly lesson in not taking anything in Walt Disney World for granted. Attractions, Shows, Restaurants, even Resorts can and will change. While most of these changes are for the better and will add excteiment to future trips, sometimes something popular is replaced or removed.
If you have favourite attractions, go and do them just one more time before your holiday ends. Just in case you don’t get a chance to do them again. And I now always watch each Fireworks display and Parade as if it were its last outing. You just never know what will be changed next. My 100 Days in Disney have seen many changes. Toontown Fair was closed to make way for New Fantasyland. Spectromagic was replaced by Main Street Electrical Parade, and we have since said fairwell to that too. Pandora has repalced Camp Minnie Mickey and Magic Kingdom has an entirely new fireworks display. And that’s all before looking at the many changes happening at Hollywood Studios. If there is something you love, don’t take for granted that it will still be there for your next trip.
Your Holiday Changes
As Walt Disney World changes, and you age and change, your holiday will also change. My 100 Days in Disney have spanned 10 years, and has seen a couples trip evolve into a family one. Each holiday is different so don’t make the mistake of treating each trip the same. Be prepared to evolve with your changing circumstances, and the changes in Disney. For me, age has played a huge factor in how our holiday has changed as I’ve become a mother. The difference between a ‘grown-up’ Disney holiday and one with 2 young children in tow is incredible! Similarly, I can imagine older travellers will notice the difference each passing year makes on their energy levels or mobility.
It is imporant to try and roll with these changes in order to get the most out of your visit. Try to adapt how you do things to compensate for these changes. Most importantly, remmeber to enjoy your holiday, regardless of how different it may now be comapred to your first trip. Not all change is necessarily a bad thing, however. You’ll notice that the experience you gain from return trips will make you more efficient around the parks, and ultimately save you time. You’ll also have a better idea of your likes and dislikes and will therefore have a holiday more tailored to your tastes.
Make the Most of ADRs
ADRs are one of the most important things that can impact your Disney trip, especially if you’re on a Dining Plan. Advance Dining Reservations are bookings for any table service restaurant within Walt Disney World and they open 180 days in advance. One thing I have learend in my 100 Days in Disney is that planning these reservations properly can add a huge amount of enjoyment to your holdiay. From booking certain restaurants at the right time to be able to watch the fireworks from your table, to making sure you get to experince the most popular restaurants, booking early is key.
When making your ADRs its important to consider a number of factors. Making sure your dining fits around Park Hours is key, as well as making sure you don’t book to many restaurants and leave yourself rigidly scheduled. It can also be worthwhile to ensure you mix up cuisine and dining type so you don’t feel you’re eating the same thing each and every day. And, of course, make sure you book a few character dining experiences!
Along with Dining Reservations, bookings for other experinces also open 180 days in advance. My 100 Days in Disney has taught me that booking a few of these special experiences as a holiday treat can really add some extra magic to your trip. Pirates League and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique are amazing experiences for kids. Other options include water park Cabanas, Fishing excursions, Special event tickets, Backstage Tours and Dessert parties. There is something to suit every taste!
It’s ok to be disappointed
This has been a big lesson for me. My 100 Days in Disney have been amazing, but there have been some let downs along the way. As much as I love Disney, I’m a realist and understand that not everything will be perfect all of the time. And that’s ok. However, I have seen many people become particuarly upset when aspects of their holiday don’t live up to their expectations. I have learned that it’s important not to let these disappointments ruin your entire trip. From the occasional bad service to rides breaking down, things can and do go wrong in Walt Disney World. Try to find the silver lining around the cloud and don’t let the occasional let down impact your entire day. Or worse, your whole trip!
Another thing my 100 Days in Disney has taught me, however, is that when things do go wrong, Disney are wonderful at trying to fix it! on our 2016 trip, we had some issues getting the correct room type, and guest services really did do everything possible to ensure we were not only accomodated, but happy. This included a special Fastpass+ for Magic Kingdom for the next day to make up for the time it took to rectify things. This customer service standard means that I am reassured that even when things do go wrong, everything possible will be done to ensure you are looked after.
Don’t forget to try new things
It can be very easy to get stuck in the same routine trip after trip. You’ve found things you enjoy and a schedule that works for you, so why change it? However, with so much to see and do, you will find sticking to the same things means you could be missing out on some amazing experiences. I have tried hard throughout my 100 Days in Dsney to make sure I experience something new regularly. Whether its a restaurant we haven’t tried, or a show we haven’t seen, I am mindful of the fact that I may not have experienced my favourite thing yet!
Simiarly, it is also important not to neglect your old favourites! Holiday traditions and nostalgia are built on these favourites you want to experince time and again. A little planning will help you get the right balance of old experiences against new ones. The best holidays include a little of each. Old favourites keep a bit of fun and tradition, while new ones add a little excitement. A simple way to add in some new experinces is to pick a few restaurants you haven’t been to. I love trying different cuisines, and Disney is the perfect place to do this.
With new restaurants and attractions opening all the time, you will never be stuck for new experiences. Each and every trip we have taken has seen a new development within Disney. New Fantasyland, Disney Springs and Pandora are the largest of these projects. And with rennovations at Epcot, along with Toy Story and Star Wars areas due to open at Hollywood Studios, our next trips will also see plenty of new experinces.
You really won’t stay anywhere else after staying On-Property!
You probably won’t believe me until you experince a Disney Resort. But once you have stayed on-property it is very diffuclt to consider staying elsewhere! Walt Disney World Resort hotels are magical. Good service, well themed and a host of amenties and Guest Benefits, they really are outsnding places to stay. If you can avail of a Free Dining offer, they also become very good value! With over 20 Walt Disney World Resorts, you will never be stuck for choice.
I must admit, I was sceptical of others who stated this at the beginning. But after our 2008/2009 trip when we were lucky enough to stay in a Disney Resort I just can’t consider staying elsewhere. I now have a goal of trying to stay in every single Disney World Hotel! Each Resort is so amazingly themed that you get a different experience in every single one. I would highly recommend taking some time out to visit the Resorts, even for a meal. Being able to look around them and soak up the different atmosphere is a great way to help you decide which one is right for you!
My next 100 Days in Disney
Im now 11 days into my next 100 Days in Disney. And I must admit, I’m just as exctied about Walt Disney World now as I was on my first trip. The experience I have gained has only added to my holiday enjoyment. And with Disney constantly changing, there is always something new to look forward to seeing. My next 100 Days in Disney will be full of excitement. I’ll get to experience the new Toy Story and Star Wars Lands at Hollywood Studios. I can’t wait to try out the new cable car transport either! I’ll get to see Magic Kingdom celebrate 50 years. And I will also enjoy all the rumours surrounding the changes happening at Epcot.
Most of all, I can’t wait to have another 100 Days of magical memories. Watching my boys grow up and love these holidays as much as I do is priceless to me. Im exctied to experience my next 100 Days in Disney with them.