After a long-haul journey, the last thing you feel like doing is deciphering Disney-speak. Questions like “Are you on a Disney Dining Plan?” and “Do you have your MagicBand?” are usually met with vacant expressions from those whose heads are swimming with equal parts jet-lag and adrenaline.
While Walt Disney World Resort staff or ‘cast members’ (there’s your first lesson) will happily explain their unique jargon, it’s worthwhile brushing up on these Disney-centric terms so you can breeze through lengthy lines and hitch a ride on the Magical Express faster than Cinderella lost her glass slipper.
IN THIS ARTICLE
Cast Members - Character Dining - Disney Dining Plans - Epcot - Extra Magic Hour - FastPass+ - MagicBand - Magical Express - Memory Maker & PhotoPass - My Disney Experience - Park Hopper - Pin Trading
All Disney staff are referred to as ‘cast members’, including resort housekeeping, waitstaff and attraction attendants.
There are more than 60,000 cast members at Walt Disney World Resort, easily identifiable by a name badge that also shows where they hail from.
It's doubly handy for non-English speakers as badges also note if the cast member speaks a foreign language.
Don't feel like waiting in line for the better part of an hour to snap a quick pic with Pooh? Book a table at a Character Dining restaurant and let Pooh come to you!
While Disney characters can be spotted around the parks, Character Dining is an easy way to guarantee a photo opp with your favourite stars.
There are 18 Character Dining restaurants throughout Walt Disney World Resort, including the highly popular Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom and Tusker House at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Reservations are essential.
Disney Dining Plans
More than 100 restaurants across Walt Disney World Resort are part of the Disney Dining Plan program. Dining Plans are only available if you have booked a 'Magic Your Way Vacation Package', which includes a resort stay and theme park tickets.
Here's where it gets a little more complicated: you've got your choice of a straight-up Dining Plan, Quick-Service Dining Plan, Deluxe Dining Plan, Premium Dining Plan and Platinum Dining Plan.
The dining plan you choose will dictate how many meals you can redeem per person per day, as well as the type of meal (e.g. snacks from food carts).
Special experiences like Character Dining usually require you to redeem two meals per guest. Your receipt will then show your Dining Plan balance.
Have you ever wondered what Epcot stands for? You're definitely not the only one! Epcot is one of Walt Disney World's four theme parks and is short for 'Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow'. Good thing they shortened it, right?
The late Walt Disney had a dream of re-thinking city living. While his utopian community never came to life, Epcot celebrates Walt's desire to showcase new technologies, ideas and ingenuity.
While the front half of Epcot focuses on space and discovery in 'Future World', the remainder is a permanent World Showcase where charming micro-towns honour 11 different countries including France, Morocco and Japan.
The nightly IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show set on the lake each night is well worth sticking around for.
Extra Magic Hour
Imagine having a whole theme park to yourself! Walt Disney World can't really go that far, but it does offer the chance to explore the parks in quiet pre-opening or post-closing time with its Extra Magic Hour.
Every day one of the four main Walt Disney World theme parks opens an hour early OR remains open one or two hours after closing for the exclusive use of Disney Resort guests.
Resorts provide guests with a schedule of each park's Magic Hours ahead of time, but you will need some kind of resort ID to access the parks during out of hours. Not all attractions are open during Extra Magic Hour, but the lines are DEFINITELY shorter!
Waiting is simply part of the Disney experience for most visitors. Wait times can be short (5–30 minutes) moderate (35–55 minutes) or long (65–80 minutes). How parents keep small children occupied during an 80-minute wait is a whole other kind of Disney magic!
The secret to avoiding playing the waiting game? FastPass+. It's your key to jumping the queue and, best of all, is complimentary for guests with valid theme park admission.
You can choose up to three attractions per day (including character meet-and-greets), select your arrival time and speed on through the FastPass+ entrance of up to 60 attractions.
It is highly advised to secure your FastPass+ for major attractions like Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Organisation is your best friend at Walt Disney World Resort. You can make FastPass+ selections as early as 30 days before your Disney holiday online, on the app or in-person at a FastPass+ kiosk.
Your MagicBand is your key to the Magic Kingdom and the literal key to your hotel room. Once you've booked your stay at a Disney Resort hotel, your MagicBand will be sent out to you a few weeks before travel. You can then link your band to your My Disney Experience account, but more on that later.
You also have the option to purchase a MagicBand online via My Disney Experience or in person at the theme parks and Downtown Disney (the shopping and dining precinct).
MagicBands can be used at countless dining locations, at the FastPass+ line for certain attractions and for the Disney PhotoPass service (again, more to come).
You will also use your MagicBand to enter the six Walt Disney World Resort theme parks and water parks, where you'll find plenty of colourful accessories to personalise your band.
All aboard Disney's Magical Express – the dedicated motorcoach service between Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
Reservations are required to use the Magical Express and can be made when you book your Disney Resort accommodation.
If you already have your MagicBands, keep them in your carry-on so you can check-in to the Magical Express. Alternatively, just present a printed Express voucher at the check-in desk, which is on the same level as baggage collection on Side B of the airport.
You'll then line up according to your accommodation (there is a huge network of buses servicing more than 20 different hotels) and make the 45-minute journey to Walt Disney World Resort.
Memory Maker & PhotoPass
Isn't it a shame when you flip back through your holiday photos only to realise dad isn't in any because he was always behind the lens? Disney's PhotoPass Service and Memory Maker aim to make sure the whole family is in the picture.
Keep an eye out for Nikon photographers stationed around the Walt Disney World parks, often in front of iconic attractions like Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Line up for the shot, get your MagicBand scanned, and presto – a new family portrait!
PhotoPass images are available for individual purchase on your My Disney Experience account, which you should have already linked to your MagicBand if you're following along.
The other option is to purchase Disney's 'Memory Maker' at least four days before your trip for a one-off cost, which allows you to download as many photos as you'd like at no extra charge.
My Disney Experience
This is where it all comes together. Available online at disneyworld.disney.go.com as well as on the app store, My Disney Experience is your online portal for a seamless Disney experience.
From hotel check-ins to making dinner reservations, booking FastPass+ selections, checking attractions wait times and accessing your PhotoPass snaps, My Disney Experience gathers it all into one, neat virtual package.
Creating a My Disney Experience account should be the first thing you do after securing your flights to Orlando and booking your Disney Resort accommodation.
You can also link your credit card for easy charging, invite your travel buddies to create shared wish-lists and choose a Disney character that best represents you. Just call me Snow White.
If you're short on time and high on energy, you might consider tackling more than one theme park in a day. If you do, you're going to need a Park Hopper pass.
The Park Hopper Option will set you back around $USD64 and allows you to jump from one park to another within a day. Standard tickets range from 1-Day to 5-Days and only allow you to visit one of the four main parks per day.
Another ticket add-on is the Water Parks Fun & More Option, which gives you access to the water parks as well as other Disney destinations that are not part of the parks, such as mini golf courses and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
You can add both the Park Hopper and Water Park Fun & More Options to your standards park tickets for a combined cost of $USD90.
Guests wearing lanyards adorned with Disney pins are about as common as guests wearing Mouse Ears (read: very). The pin trading trend took off at the Millennium Celebrations in 1999 and hasn't slowed down since.
From Pixar classics to famous rides, vintage Mickey, Star Wars, Avengers and even Disney villains, there are hundreds of pins to peruse. Like any kind of collecting, there are rare pins that serious pin-hunters are always on the look-out for.
You might even see people asking cast members if they can look at their pins. Cast members are required to trade pins with guests, EXCEPT when they already have the pin the guest is trying to trade off. Give it a go!