So if you bought the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and cracked open the pages, you should be totally overwhelmed right about now.
Break it down.
- If you already have your trip scheduled don't bother to look at the section that talks about planning your trip
- If you have a hotel, then don't bother looking at the hotels section right now.
- If you aren't going to visit Universal or SeaWorld, skip those sections
- Only read the sections that pertain to you and your family
Again, I'll reiterate, if you stay on WDW property, you will have access to their transportation: Bus, boats, or monorails. Or a car if you rented or drove one.
If you are staying off site, you will have to drive to each park.
For the most part, there are advantages/disadvantages with each hotel in relation to the various parks.
Just to clarify, WDW has FOUR parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot, while Universal has TWO: Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.
Universal is simple in the fact that if you drive to the park, you must park in their parking garage and walk through City Walk to the entrances of both parks, roughly 1/2 mile or more, depending where you parked. IMO: Islands of Adventure is slightly closer to the car park than the Studios. BUT if you are staying onsite at one of their hotels, you must travel by boat, rickshaw, or foot to the parks. The boats run on a schedule, which means if you missed one, you might have a 10-15 minute wait for the next boat.
The two Universal parks are very close to each other, only a 5-10 minute walk. Yes, we've park hopped many, many times.
In WDW, the parks are quite a distance from the other parks--with the exception of Magic Kingdom and Epcot. You can go back and forth, provided you have a park hopper pass, simply by climbing on the Monorail.
This is where the location of your onsite hotel plays a big role. A few examples:
- If you stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can walk to the Animal Kingdom park.
- If you stay at Wilderness Lodge, you can take a boat across Bay Lake to the park . . . or ride a bus
- If you stay at the Yacht and Beach Club, you can walk to the back entrance of Epcot, AND you can take a boat to Hollywood Studios.
- If you miss the boat or bus, or whatever, you might have to wait 10-20 minutes for the next one.
- Depending on your hotel, the transportation might have to stop one or more times to pick up visitors from other hotels. The same is true when you return from a park.
- The boats are slow. Yes, it's fun, but be aware that these are not speed boats, and must go slowly to their destinations.
- If you decide to 'beat the rush' after the fireworks and hurry to catch the bus, realize that many times they STOP transporting visitors and will wait until AFTER the show to even board the buses. Yes, you can see them waiting across the parking lot, while you are hot, sweaty and cranky and would kill for a little AC.
- Bay Lake has a little electric light show almost nightly. If you happen to take your boat home at that time, be prepared to wait.
It all depends on your particular vacation agenda.
There are a few things that you should prepare for, and I've already mentioned them at the beginning of this blog:
- It's hot and humid-- if you are in Florida in the summer, plan to be hot and sweaty. If you come from a cooler climate, then you need to start sitting in a sauna to get used to the heat.
- It's crowded -- it used to be less crowded during the offseason, or shoulder season, but too many visitors are taking advantage of Disney deals to fill up their hotels during the slow months. Anymore, there aren't any slow months. Just be aware that you will be up close and personal with people who aren't your immediate family. Wear your deodorant.
- Walking -- you will be walking miles and miles . . . and miles! One day we park hopped three parks and walked close to 20 miles! Do yourself and your family a favor and start walking at home. One--you need to get used to the exercise, two--you need to break your shoes in. I will never understand people who wear flip-flops to an amusement park, but some people have to after they wore brand new sneakers to a park and ended up with feet covered in blisters. Make the little ones walk, too. Strollers must be parked, and the kids need to learn to walk to get on the particular ride. Unless you enjoy carting a 30 pounds of a hot, sweaty and wiggly child, then make them walk!
- Keep hydrated -- again, it's hot and humid, drink plenty of water.
- Bring lots of $$ -- drinks and snacks are expensive in the parks. It's a fact. Get used to the idea. If you decide to do their meal deals, it's up to you to calculate whether or not it is advantageous for your family's needs.
- Go early to the parks -- I know you're on vacation and want to sleep in, but going early will beat the heat and some of the crowds. After the first wave of crowds hit the turnstiles, it will calm down until late morning when the rest of the hotel guests will roll out of bed to join you.
And yes, I did make a spreadsheet of the various rides for when the kidlet was little. The spreadsheet had the height requirements, and whether or not it was a dark ride, or a rollercoaster, and if water was involved (for me. I don't like getting wet.).
Planning and an awareness of the rides helps you to decide if it is something you want to do or not.