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Learning the Disney Basics!

I get a lot of emails from clients wanting help planning a wonderful family vacation to Disney World. I love my job and I love helping people take this great trip, but I end up getting a lot of the same questions. I occurred to me that I take a lot of knowledge for granted, and I should write a post covering the basics of Disney planning to help others who don\’t know. 

I\’m going to cover the very basics of Disney planning otherwise this post could go on forever and ever! If you have visited and stayed on property, then you probably know most of this. But, if you have never been, or gone and stayed off property then some of this might be new to you! Feel free to leave a comment of anything you think I may have missed!

Staying on Property VS Off Property

Staying on property refers to staying on a Disney owned resort within the property of Walt Disney World. Off property is staying elsewhere–outside of Walt Disney World property.

Theme Park Tickets

These allow you access to the park. If you are staying on property you may see them referred to as part of the \”Magic Your Way\” package. They allow you access to one of the four parks per day.

The 4 theme parks are:

  1. Magic Kingdom

  2. EPCOT

  3. Hollywood Studios {formally Disney MGM Studios}

  4. Animal Kingdom


ParkHopper is an add on to your theme park tickets and allow you to visit any of the 4 Disney theme parks in one day as much as you would like.

Please note: Sea World, Universal Studios (including Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and Lego Land ARE NOT part of Walt Disney World. They are in Orlando and you can visit them during your stay, but they are owned by different companies requiring different tickets. You cannot parkhop there, and Disney transportation will not take you there.


MagicBands are \”those wrist band things\” you see other guests wearing. They are free if you are staying on property, or $12.95 for off property guests (though they don\’t serve much good for these guests). For on property guests, they are your key to your resort room, your park tickets, hold your FastPass+ reservations, connect to your Disney Photopass pictures, hold your dining credits, and allow you to charge to your resort room. They also can be scanned in the case a child is lost to find the parents\’ cell phone number. 


FastPasses are reservations made for a window of time to ride a ride making the line you wait in significantly shorter. EVERY GUEST gets 3 a day at no charge that can be made ahead of time. Once you have used your 3 scheduled FastPasses, you can go to kiosks set up around the park and reserve more. On property guests can make the reservations 60 days before they arrive, off property is 30 days. If you are park-hopping, all 3 of your FastPasses must be at the same park. You CANNOT get more if you haven\’t used the 3 you were given to start the day.

Disney Dining Plan

Disney Dining Plans are only available for on property guests to add to their packages. I get the question \”Is it worth it?\” A LOT! The answer really depends on your family and their eating habits. My boys are big eaters and I\’ve done the math- it works out for us better to buy it. Plus I like knowing that it\’s taken care of ahead of time.

The dining plans include:

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Disney Quick Service Dining Plan-for each night of your package, each guest in your party (ages 3 and up) receives: 2 Quick Service Meals, 1 Snack, and 1 Refillable Resort Mug.

2015 Price: $39.43 Adult/Junior $15.05 Child

Disney Plus Dining Plan-for each night of your package, each guest in your party (ages 3 and up) receives:  1 Table-Service Meal OR 1 Full Buffet, 1 Quick Service Meal, 1 Snack, and 1 Refillable Resort Mug.

2015 Price: $56.94 Adult/Junior $18.06 Child

Deluxe Disney Dining Plan-for each night of your package, each Guest in your party (ages 3 and up) receives: 3 Meals (any combination of Quick Service, Table Service, or Buffet), 2 Snacks, and 1 Refillable Resort Mug. 

2015 Price: $102.85 Adult/Junior $28.04 Child

Table Service VS Quick Service Dining

A Quick Service meal is like fast food where you would order from a counter and wait for your food, then find your own table. Table Service dining would be more like a restaurant where you would be seated and have a server.

Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs)

ADR\’s are required for all Table Service meals. They include character meals. Reservations are released 180 prior to check in dates for on and off property guests. On property guests can make up to 10 days worth of reservations at that time allowing them to make a whole vacations worth of at one time, where off property will have to go day by day.

Age Matters

It is important to know the ages of children at the time of travel. Under 3 is free, over 10 pays adult prices for dining and park tickets.

Character Meals

These are wonderful opportunities to meet 3-5 characters while you are eating a meal effectively killing 2 birds with one stone. To see which character, meet please see this post. (And no, there isn\’t a Toy Story character meal. Believe me, I wish there was too!)

Memory Maker

Memory Maker allows you to enjoy  photos taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers including photos taken at select dining experiences and attractions. You get digital copies of them to download. The cost is less by about $30 if you purchase before your vacation.


This is where you plan your trip! You can make ADR\’s, FastPasses here as well as order your MagicBands! There is an app, too, which is handy in the park. It lets you know current wait times as well as the schedule for the day for things like parades and character interactions.

Disney Transportation

If you are staying on property, it is very possible to fly into Orlando and not need a car at all! Disney has you covered. Magical Express will take you from the airport to your Disney resort. Buses, boats, and, of course, the monorail will get you to any park, resort or Downtown Disney. When your trip is over, Magical Express will take you right back to the airport!

There is so much more that goes into planning a Disney vacation. This is really the tip of the iceberg! A great Disney planner can make sure all your details are handled and allow you to just enjoy your vacation!

Lauren Tanner is a Disney travel planner with Wishdrawals Travel. After planning her own family\’s magical vacations, she now plans magic for her own clients!  Contact her at

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