As you begin planning your Disney vacation, the first thing you’ll discover is that Disney has a language all its own – and we aren’t just talking about Zippidee Doo Da and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Before you can even consider where to stay or what to see, you’ll need to translate all the terminology that is unique to Disney. Learning to “speak Disney” before your next family vacation will help you feel informed, prepared, and more confident as you head for the parks.
This easy to follow guide breaks down the most common Disney planning terms to help make your Disney vacation as stress-free and as magical as possible. From Disney Basics to Disney Resorts, Disney Park Tickets, Disney Vacation Planning and Disney Dining , here are the top terms you need to know in order to “speak Disney” like a pro.
Disney 101: Learning the Disney Travel Basics
That’s you! At Disney World you are not a customer or a client, you are a guest of Mr. Walt Disney himself – just the way Walt wanted it.
Those who work at Disney are not employees, they are members of a show, a production being put on just for you each day. Anyone working for Disney World is a Cast Member.
While the Cast members are busy doing their daily routines, they are not simply working in the park; they are “on stage”.
While you are enjoying the productions and attractions that make Disney great, Disney cast members are completing endless tasks you can’t see to make the magic happen. This is “backstage”.
Where Should I Stay? Decoding the Disney Resorts
This refers to Disney owned and operated resorts at Disney World. While many other hotels operate in the area, they are not a part of the Disney World package and do not offer the same benefits or experience.
Good Neighbor Hotels
These hotels work in conjunction with Disney World, but are not owned and operated by Disney. Some will allow guests access to early Fast Pass selections and Extra Magic Hours, but not all will.
Disney categorizes its hotels as Value, Moderate, or Deluxe. Here’s what that means for you.
Value Level Resorts
These Disney resorts have smaller rooms, a large pool area, and one main food court for dining. Most rooms sleep 4, with the exception of family suites that can sleep up to 6 guests.
Moderate Level Resorts
These include a mid-size room with split layout bathrooms. The property will have a large pool with a water slide and hot tub. Food options include both a food court and table service options. Some rooms will sleep 5 guests.
Deluxe Level Resorts
These resorts have the largest rooms with higher end finishes. The resort will offer multiple dining options on site, including signature and character meals, and a large pool with a water slide and hot tub. Many of these rooms will sleep 5 guests or offer 1 -3-bedroom villa units as well.
Buying Disney Park Tickets: Understanding Your Options
Base Park Ticket
This ticket will allow you to visit one Disney park each day. You can choose from any of the 4 parks each day with the option to leave that park and return to it later that same day, but you cannot move between parks.
Base Park Ticket with Water Park and Sports option
This add on the option allows you to visit a water park or the NBA experience with your base park ticket.
Park Hopper ticket
This ticket allows you the flexibility to move from park to park. You can visit any and all of the 4 parks each day, switching between parks as you choose, for every day of your ticket.
Park Hopper Plus this ticket
This ticket has the benefits of the Park Hopper ticket, along with the option to visit one of the two Disney water parks on property.
Disney Travel Essentials: How to Prep like a Pro
My Disney Experience (MDE)
This is a vital tool for your time in the park. You’ll use the app or website to plan and manage all aspects of your Disney vacation. Simple and easy to use, it will store your hotel accommodations, daily itinerary, dining reservations, and Fastpass selections. In addition, this is where you can find ride wait times, maps of all the parks, show times, character interactions, event hours, mobile food ordering and much more!
Fast Pass+ (FP)
This system is essentially a ride reservation service. Each Fast Pass you select gives you a set time for your ride on a chosen attraction. Simply show up to the ride during the 1-hour window you select, and you can bypass the standby line and enjoy a much shorter wait time. Each guest will get 3 fast pass selections per day prior to arrival. If you are staying in a Disney Resort you can make your fast pass selections 60 days before check-in starting at 7 am EST (if you are off site, you can make your selections 30 days in advance). Making your FP selections for some of the more popular rides will save you countless hours waiting in line. Each day, after you use your 3 pre-planned fast passes, you can continue to make another, one at a time, all day long. You will make and manage all your FP selections using your MDE app.
The official opening of the park. Each morning the park will allow guests to either enter the main street area of the park or to line up at the gates prior to the officially opening time. As soon as the opening time approaches, cast members will open the ropes and guests are then allowed to enter. It’s this opening time that can allow guests to walk onto rides that would usually have long wait times. Additionally, Magic Kingdom will do an opening number each morning on the castle stage with Mickey and all his friends. You don’t want to miss that!
Extra Magic Hours (EMH)
As an added benefit of staying at a Walt Disney Resort, resort guests are allowed early entrance or late exist to a specific park each day. This one-hour time frame is only open to resort guests only so you will likely see lower crowds and shorter wait times for rides. Park hours and EMH can be found online and on your MDE app.
Early Morning Magic (EMM)
Is a special ticket event that allows access into select areas of the park prior to the parks opening times. This additional ticket purchase usually includes a breakfast as well. While similar in name to EMH, Early Morning Magic is a separate event.
Disney’s Magical Express
With every Disney Resort stay, you receive free shuttle service to and from the Orlando International Airport on Disney’s own Magical Express Bus Service. These Greyhound style buses have a bathroom, tv’s that play a “Welcome to Disney” video and will take you and your luggage to your resort at no extra charge. Small children will NOT need car seats or booster seats for this bus ride. Additionally, this service comes with the option to have Disney pick up your luggage from the airplane and deliver it directly to your resort. The yellow luggage tags you receive by mail will be used for this service (if desired).
Everyone at Disney has the change to buy this photo package that includes downloads and printing rights to every photo taken of them or their family members while in Disney World. This also includes special “magical enhancements” that can be added into pictures. Price for the package is lower if you buy it before you arrive.
Think of a magic band as your Disney smart bracelet! This band will operate as your room key, your park ticket, your memory maker pass, your fast pass reservation, and even you credit card (if you want it to) Disney resort guests will each receive one free solid color band of their choice. Your color selections can be made on the MDE account. For an extra fee you can choose to upgrade your band to a special design. Each band will also have your name printed on the back for easy identification.
No parts of the park have been left without that special Disney magic! The engineers, designers, gardeners, and other cast members have found ways to incorporate small mickey shapes into the everyday design of the park. It may be a pattern on the rug, a stamp on the concrete, a grouping of flowers in the landscape… who knows! But you can find these hidden mickeys all over the parks and resorts. Finding hidden Mickeys is a great scavenger hunt for young (and older) kids to do while waiting in lines.
If you have a young child too small to ride an attraction that you and your family all want to ride, don’t worry you still can. Rider swap will allow one family member to stay behind while the rest of your party rides. When they are done, they can come take over the childcare while you get to move to the expedited line. No need to wait in line twice, and no need to miss out on a great attraction!
Ticket and Transportation Center
Navigating Disney World properties and parks is easy and free of charge. Guests can use any mode of transport they like, regardless of where they stay. To move from resort to resort, you may need to transfer from one bus to another. You do this at the Ticket and Transportation Center located just outside the Magic Kingdom. Here you can pick up other resort buses, the monorail or boats depending on your destination.
Special Ticket Events
Throughout the year, Disney World hosts several special events and parties in the park. These events include Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNNSHP), Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP), Villain’s After Hours and more. To participate in these events a separate ticket is required as access is limited. During these events, the park is closed early and only those guests with event tickets may enter. Dates and hours for these parties are seasonal and change annually.
The Complete Disney Dining Dictionary
Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR’s)
These are reservation made for all Disney restaurants prior to your vacation. Reservations will open to you 180 days before your check in date. Many of the popular locations will require a reservation be made very early on in the planning process. Restaurants requiring a reservation will almost always require you to do so well before the day of your meal.
Disney Dining Plans
Disney offers guest the change to add on a pre-paid meal plan of their choice. Plans are done using a point system. All meal and snack points are given to you upon check in for the length of your stay and for everyone in your party. The points may be used when you want, how you want and by whom you want over the length of your stay. All dining plans include a resort refillable beverage mug as well.
Quick Service Dining Plan
Each guest may enjoy 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks per day.
The Disney Dining Plan
Each guest may enjoy 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal and 2 snacks per day
- Disney Dining Plan Plus (NEW) – Will give each guest any 2 meals per day (your choice of quick service or table service) with 2 snacks per person per day
- Deluxe Dining Plan Each guest may enjoy 3 meals of any type each day, and 2 snacks per person. Many find this last option to be too much food for their stay.
- Quick Service (QS) These are counter ordering locations. You order your meal (either on the MDE app or in line) pick it up at the counter and find an open table. No reservations are necessary. (With the exception of Be Our Guest.)
- Table Service (TS) These locations operate like a traditional restaurant. The hostess will seat you and you will be served by a waitress. Reservations are almost always necessary.
You Did It! Next Stop: The Magic Kingdom
Learning to speak Disney like a pro is key to becoming a successful Disney traveler. The more you understand the planning process, the more relaxing your time in the parks will be. As always, enjoying a stress-free Disney family vacation starts with knowing the basics, and having a plan that’s right for your family’s vision and budget.
If you find this a bit overwhelming, don’t worry – we have you covered! Here at The Vacationeer we specialize in planning Disney family vacations. Besides being fluent in Disney, our services are always free of charge . We’ll handle every detail from travel to dining so you can provide your family with its dream Disney vacation – without the nightmare of planning!
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Bookmark this page and when you are ready to start dreaming of your Disney vacation, let us do the work while you sit back and enjoy the magic. It’s as easy as Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.