PB&J Travels: Walt Disney World

The Happiest Place in the WORLD
Disneyland may be the happiest place on Earth, but today I'm talking all about our adventures at the happiest place in the world: Walt Disney World!

A Disneyland Girl in Walt Disney World
I will openly admit to being a Disneyland geek.nerd/expert. I know the Disneyland Resort like the back of my hand. Walt Disney World on the other hand is like a puzzle. I've visited many times before during childhood and most recently a few visits in my adult years... but Disney "East" was still very much a mystery until this trip.
What's funny is that before I ever held a Disneyland Annual Pass, my family and I were actually Walt Disney World (WDW) Annual Passholders. We'd make the trip each year and spend two weeks at a time enjoying all that Orlando and WDW would have to offer. Back in 1997 my parents even invested in a still relatively new Disney venture at the time: The Disney Vacation  Club. As time passed and my sister and I grew older, our schedules had us traveling less to Florida and more to Disneyland. It wasn't until 2010 that I'd be able to visit WDW again with my "butter half" then visit twice more in 2015 and 2016.

Although PB and I had visited 3 times in the past 9 or so years, WDW is such a behemoth of a park that things would change so much in-between each visit. Each visit, even though close in years would always feel so new (hello magic bands!).

This brings us to our most recent trip in 2019. My family was scheduled to be on the East Coast for a wedding in Pennsylvania and we all decided to make the most of our East coast travels by heading south after to Florida. We'd finally all be back together for a crazy WDW trip that would include Ben's 1st visit to WDW, my parent's return to Florida in over 20 years and about 10 yeas for my sister. This was going to be one special trip and spoiler alert: It truly was epic!

My WDW Experience
Okay, now onto the nitty gritty of WDW from this Disneyland girl's point of view. One of the top requests and message topics I received from my followers on Instagram was to share my tips, tricks and experience at WDW, so here it is! Just a little disclaimer, this post is from our own personal experiences and point of view. We're by no means anywhere close to WDW experts, this is all from our own personal opinions, thoughts, etc. I'll be sharing what worked, what didn't work, what we loved, what we wish we did and what we're glad we did below!

The Basics
The biggest way Walt Disney World differs from Disneyland is its sheer size. Disneyland is comprised of two parks pretty much located right across from each other, along with 3 attached on property hotels in Anaheim, California. Walt Disney World on the other hand is like a literal Disney city. Located on the East Coast in Orlando, Florida. It features four standalone parks, 2 water parks, a gigantic shopping area called Disney Springs, dozens of hotel accommodations,  golf courses, a sports complex and more! it's MASSIVE. When a Disney park has it's own road system you know you're playing in a different ballgame.

Getting to WDW
Unless you're from the East Coast or keen on a cross country road trip, you'll be flying into the Orlando Airport (MCO). I actually have the fondest memories of this airport because there's so much Disney magic already present the moment you step off the plane. Getting to/from your terminal you have to take the APM, a type of air tram that will make any child giddy because it's like your first ride of the trip! Plus once you get to the main section of the airport there's a Disney Store for any of those first or last minute Disney Parks merchandise and goodies you may want to browse!
A big thumbs up to all the Disney signage around the Orlando International Airport!

Okay, so WDW is an ace when it comes to transportation in Orlando. If you're staying at one of their numerous Disney resorts you get to utilize the WDW transportation system. They've literally got you covered from start to finish transport wise on your trip. Heck, you can even check your luggage straight through so after you check in from your airport you won't have to worry about it until you arrive at your resort or vice versa home! It's FREE and so easy to get to/from the airport to the WDW area. Once you're at your resort, there are smaller busses that can take you virtually anywhere within the WDW area, hotels to parks, resorts to other resorts, etc.

On the flip side, on our most recent trip we had a rental car. As convenient as it is to use the WDW transportation system, wait times for buses can vary. Since the buses are on a schedule, if you're on a time crunch to get to a particular park for a reservation or for something specific it may take a while. When you're heading to or leaving a park during peak times you may find yourself squashed on the bus with too many people. Or even find yourself waiting longer than if you had driven a car.

For the size of our group and for our traveling needs, it made sense to have a rental car. We were staying in a Disney Vacation Club Villa and needed to get groceries and items for our stay. That in combination with just wanting the freedom of having a car, we took this option over the busses and it worked well for us. I will note that there is a parking fee when staying at a Disney hotel on property, but parking at the theme parks is free with an on property hotel stay!

There's also Uber and Lyft services at the resort to help you get around as well. Lyft and Disney teamed up to have a fleet of "Minnie" vans which are literal Lyft cars that look like Minnie! A cool little touch of magic if you want to experience riding in style between destinations for a fee.

There's also additional modes of transport you can take between resorts and parks. One is the monorail. It's connected to a series of hotels along the route to the Magic Kingdom and also connect to Epcot. Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot have recently been connected by the newly opened Skyliner gondolas *At the time of posting, the Skyliners were closed due to a malfunction incident*. There's also water transport between certain resorts and locations. We stayed the Disney's Old Key West and we had a ferry that could take us straight to Disney Springs. For more information, check with your resort for what types of transportation they offer!

Transportation will come down to your personal preference and needs for your party you're traveling with but I hope this overview helps a little!

Hotel Stay/Disney Vacation Club
WDW definitely has the upper hand in hotel and resort stay options over Disneyland. WDW offers SO MANY options when it comes to accommodations. There's something for every budget as well. WDW breaks down their hotels and resorts into VALUE, MODERATE and DELUXE. You can view all the different options HERE on the official DisneyWorld.com site.

I will definitely say choosing to stay on property at WDW is absolutely worth it and should be the way to go if you're visiting! There's just so many resorts featuring different kinds of themes and amenities for families of all sizes. No matter what type of resort you choose to stay in from value to deluxe, you will always get the same amazing service and all those magical perks that Disney is known for. We tend to stay off property at Disneyland since on property hotel pricing is usually expensive, but DisneyWorld makes it easy and affordable to stay close to the magic!
Our 2 Bedroom Villa at Disney's Old Key West. This is our "home" Disney Vacation Club Resort and we love it!
On top of that, as I mentioned above we're actually Disney Vacation Club members! My family bought into the Vacation Club over 20 years ago in 1997 because they had an inkling that one of their daughters would be a little Disney crazy. Let me tell you... its been completely worth it! I won't go into specifics about the buy in and what comes with it, but you can read all about the DVC membership HERE on the official Disney Vacation Club site.

For our most recent stay we checked back into our "home" resort, the property you originally buy into with DVC and that was Disney's Old Key West. It's a gorgeous property with newly updated rooms and villas. We loved having the comforts of home for our weeklong stay with a full kitchen, laundry in the villa, plus comfy and spacious rooms. After an exhausting day at the parks, it was nice to come home to this little slice of magic.

**Discount Tip** 
If you're a DVC member always ask at shops, dining, etc at the parks and resort if they take a DVC discount. We got 20% off merchandise at select stores and between 10-15% off dining at places too! I had no clue until this trip! There's also a DVC members lounge in Epcot (more on the Epcot section later).

Know Before You Go: Reservations
One MAJOR difference between Disneyland and DisneyWorld is the amount of advanced planning that needs to go into a WDW trip. We've been able to "wing it" most trips to Disneyland in regards to reservations, Fast Passes, etc. But at DisneyWorld you really need to plan out what you want to do in advance, it makes a world of difference.

You can book dining reservations 180 days in advance. 180?!? Yes you read that right.... You'll need to know exactly where you want to eat about 6 months prior to arrival. Most of the popular restaurants book up right when the booking windows open, so if you have your heart set on dining somewhere popular like Chef Mickey's or Be Our Guest, make sure you book at 7am EST 180 days from your trip.

If you're a WDW hotel resort guest you can also book your Fast Passes (free "passes" that let you skip the line) 60 days in advance or 30 days in advance for non-hotel guests beginning at 7am EST. I HIGHLY recommend this too because wait times are definitely longer at Walt Disney World due to the volume of guests they have there.

And if you're doing the time math you may be thinking... wait, if I'm a west coaster (like us) I have to wake up at 4am to make these reservations!?! Yes, its a pain in the you know what, but will be worth it!

**Reservaton tip**
When booking while staying on property, you can book dining and FastPasses for up to 7 or so days of your stay starting the day of your check in. Say you're arriving to your Disney hotel on the 1st, so starting that day 180 day (dining) and 60 days (FastPasses) out from that date plus up to +7 days after that are what you can book so you only have to endure waking up at crazy early hours once for dining and another time for FastPasses.

Also if you don't get the times or experiences you want at first, KEEP CHECKING! People tend to grab up multiple times for things but cancel all the time, so just keep checking the app for openings.

Magic Bands!!!
Another major difference between Disney West vs Disney East are those stylish little bracelets everyone at WDW will be wearing: Magic Bands! If you're staying on property, everyone on your reservation will get a free Magic Band. These little bands contain a magical little technology that has your hotel room key, your charge card, and your park tickets all at the tap of your wrist. It's so amazingly handy and convenient.

Prepping for the Magic
Once you've you're set with your travel bookings and reservations you're almost ready for your trip! Packing for WDW is a little different than what we usually do for Disneyland. From personal experience, WDW is definitely more low key when it comes to style. Most guests are there in large family groups and you'll see a plethora of matching family tees and unique Disney designed tees!

Being a Disney style type of mama, I went all in with our outfits and kept the same crazy DisneyBound style I usually do at the parks back at Disneyland. Most people thought we were wearing costumes! LOL. It was just funny because the outfits were just my normal park wear.

Comfort seems to be key at WDW and my best tip for packing for the parks is the following:

  • Check the weather before you leave! We've been in Orlando in the winter and it was COLD and unexpected, but we've also been in the middle of August and we're melting with the heat and humidity. For this recent trip, we were met with HOT weather, humidity and surprisingly strong breezes.
  • Purchase and pack disposable ponchos. The periodic and random strong downpours are famous in Florida. To avoid buying the overpriced ponchos in the parks, get a 10 pack off Amazon before you go!
  • Comfy shoes. We walked more around WDW than we do at Disneyland.
  • Chances are that it'll be hot and humid when you go, so bring a stroller fan for your little, a personal fan for yourself or cooling towels.
  • Good sunscreen with SPF, a hat and sunglasses are a must.
  • Refillable water bottle. Stay hydrated folks, bringing your own will definitely save on having to buy bottles of water there.

The Parks
PHEW! Still with me? Okay, now we're down to the parks. To make it easier to break down this post I'll be doing sub posts for each park/experience we had at a later date and link them in the content below! Until then, I'll add a brief overview of each WDW park:

I LOVE EPCOT. It's my absolute favorite WDW park and holds so much childhood nostalgia for me. It's truly unique in the fact that the park merges two concepts, the future and the world into one amazing park. The first half of the park is Futureworld and features the most rides ranging from futuristic adventures to journeys into the imagination. The second half of the park is the World Showcase and features various countries around the world showcasing their food, entertainment, shopping and more. You can literally eat, drink and travel your way around the world here!

Click here to read all about our adventures around EPCOT!

Animal Kingdom
Another truly unique WDW park. Think of it as the most exotic Disney experience you'll have. Part nature zoo, part whimsy, part Disney magic. This park has animal trials, a full on African safari experience, amazing stage shows, thrilling rides and more. It's a gorgeous park and not to be missed! A huge highlight here besides the animals is Pandora: World of Avatrar. Its a surreal land that you have to see to believe. And the featured ride "Flight of Passage" was probably one of the most amazing Disney rides I've ever been on in any Disney park!

Click here to read all about our time at Disney's Animal Kingdom!

Hollywood Studios
This park merges old Hollywood, a galaxy far, far away, Toy Story and more. There's similar elements to Disney California Adventure Park here with familiar buildings and sights, but different at the same time. This park also features the original Tower of Terror and in my option, the best of all the versions out there. For my Disneyland-ers wondering, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is almost identical in every form here at WDW, it's a bit more compact when it comes to space, but the shops, food, and almost everything else is completely the same. One fun note though, they serve alcoholic Bluc/Green milk! Something not to miss here was Toy Story land. It's unique to this park and the rides are so cute.

Click here to read about our Hollywood Studios day!

Magic Kingdom
Disneyland, but not. The Magic Kingdom will leave a Disneyland fan feeling like they're home, but in another Disney "world" (pun intended) at the same time. The Magic Kingdom is huge! The castle is bigger, Main Street is taller and the lands are all somewhat familiar but completely different at the same time. Here you'll find what we called the "retro" attractions like the original version of It's a Small World sans Disney characters, the original Autopia cars, and many people's favorite: The People Mover! You'll also find Liberty Square in place of our New Orleans Square and a few special takes on their own unique Fantasyland like nods to Beauty and the Beast with the amazing Be Our Guest restaurant and more.

Click HERE to read about the Magic Kingdom

Disney Springs
Walt Disney World's take on Disneyland's Downtown Disney is called Disney Springs. A completely revamped shopping and entertainment district! We LOVED Disney Springs. You could easily spend an entire day shopping and dining around here. It's basically a bigger and badder (in a good way) version of Anaheim's Downtown Disney. Disney Springs is an attraction in itself and not to be missed.

Overall thoughts
There were so many happy memories made with our latest WDW vacation. With this trip in the books a bit of reflection on our most recent stay:

I wish we had a few more days. We jam packed everything into 6 days and it still wasn't enough time. It would have been nice to have an extra day or two to space out our visit. We went pretty intense park wise visiting each park from morning until evening with no mid day breaks, which tired us out pretty bad. It was a struggle with the heat, the long days and trying to get everything done with one park per day. If I could redo things, I'd add in more cushion time to that each park wouldn't have to be seen in one single day. It would have been so amazing to take a break mid-day to head back to the resort to refresh and relax. Taking breaks is a little harder to do at WDW if your resort is farther out since most hotels aren't within walking distance to the parks. But if we had an extra day or two, we would have been able to take our time and be a little more relaxed.

Thankful for
I'm extremely thankful for not procrastinating and planning everything in advance. It helped so much to have all of our dining set.

Im also glad we pre-purchased the Disney Memory Maker. It's the complete photo package for all of your photos from DisneyPhotoPass for your entire trip! There's SO MANY PhotoPass photographers everywhere compared to at Disneyland and we took so many great family photos. You can also link your entire party on the Memory Maker account so you can get all of your family photo memories in one place.
The Memory Maker is the best way to capture all of your photo memories from your trip! There's even a fun little studio at Disney Springs where you can take free shots like this fun celebration shot!
I'm also happy with doing the "extra" experiences like the Happily ever after dessert party and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween party. WDW offers a ton of extra types of special events. They come at an extra fee but can be something fun and special for your trip!
Utilize the DisneyWorld app. It was our lifeline at the parks! It lists wait times, character meets, mobile ordering and pretty much all of your park day plans and more.

A True Disney Vacation
Walt Disney world is a true vacation destination. Unless you're a local or live closely, this park is mainly a tourist destination. You'll see multigenerational families here, you'll see every age from the youngest babies to the oldest of Mouseketeers. It's SO DIFFERENT from Disneyland where you tend to get a lot of locals or repeat visitors. We noticed Walt Disney World was packed with first time visitors. It was amazing to see the amount of families traveling together and listening to grandparents telling their grand babies about their own experiences at the park. It's a true family destination.

I've been asked about how much time is needed to see and do everything at WDW and the answer is: there's never enough time, lol! It honestly depends on what you're hoping to do in the specific time frame you have. My best tip is to prioritize your must do's and what your travel party would be into. A family of 4 with small children would definitely have a different type of WDW vacation than one of a couple going. There's so much to do here and by doing a little research beforehand about what your top rides, eats, etc are it can help plan out your day!
Because of the size of WDW, you could literally spent an entire week at the resort and not get to see, do, or eat everything. But that being said, with a little planning, some patience and a whole lot of fun, you'll be in store for the most magical vacation ever!

Oh mylanta!!! That was a long post, but THANK YOU if you've made it to the very end of this. We had the most magical trip at Walt Disney World and we're already dreaming of our return. Its not a goodbye, but a see ya real soon WDW!💜
** Check back for more updates as I'll be covering each individual park with it's own recap soon! **

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