So, you’re a big time Disneyland fan and now you’re visiting Walt Disney World? How exciting!! You already know about getting to the Park early for rope drop, gathering FastPasses and height requirements for attractions from your dozens of trips to Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth, right? What more could there be to know about visiting Walt Disney World? Turns out, there are hundreds of differences, many of which are extremely important towards having a magical day in Orlando! Assume that the Parks are the same and you’ll be in for a big surprise.
1. My Disney Experience – Your Walt Disney World vacation starts at home, months ahead of time with My Disney Experience. Sign in and create an account, and then add your vacation details here. You can schedule FastPass+. make dining reservations. link your Park tickets and add your Disney resort hotel room information here (even if you didn’t book the room through the Disney site).
2. Magical Express Bus – If you’ve ever flown in to California, you know that there isn’t any special transportation available for Disneyland Resort guests. Fortunately The Magical Express Bus in Orlando will bus you (for free!) from Orlando International Airport to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel if you are a resort guest. They will also deliver your luggage, handling it from baggage claim straight to your room! There are a few WDW-area hotels that do not participate in this program (namely the Swan & Dolphin and Shades of Green) so make sure to check first. And make sure to read all the details about returning to the airport via the Magical Express Bus at the end of your vacation. I got a bit wrapped up in the Disney magic and totally messed this up on my vacation there (read about it on Traveling Mom, Walt Disney World Magical Express Bus – What I Loved (and my $80 Mistake).
3. Disney Resort Hotels – Unlike Disneyland’s three resort hotels, Walt Disney World has 27 Resort Hotels to choose from. In Anaheim, it’s very convenient to book a non-Disney room and walk to the front gates within minutes. Not so at WDW. You’ll either need to use a shuttle service, taxi or rental car if you book off-site because it will take much longer to get to the Park gates and walking is out of the question.
4. Size to Consider – Everything at Walt Disney World is…BIG! The sheer size of the resort compared to Disneyland can be overwhelming. While the Disneyland Resort is compact and the hotels, Parks and Downtown Disney District are all right there, not so at Walt Disney World. Everything is spread out over vast miles with water parks, golf courses, resorts (and lots of greenscapes and trees) in between the Parks. It’s going to take you longer than you’d expect traveling, both inside and outside the Parks.
5. Park Hopping – While Park Hopping at Disneyland requires a quick walk across the esplanade between the Parks, Park Hopping at the Walt Disney World resort requires longer transportation. You’ll be taking a bus, boat or monorail to get from park to park. Keep in mind that the transportation between Parks will eat into your day and plan accordingly. If you are able to stay long enough to visit each of the Parks on a single day, I’d do so and skip buying a Park Hopper at Walt Disney World.
6. MagicBands – While Disneyland still uses paper tickets, Walt Disney World has moved into the high-tech world of MagicBands. A MagicBand is a rubberized bracelet that you wear. Inside is RF (radio frequency) technology, which holds your park ticket, room key, FastPass+ and dining reservations. After scheduling all these in on My Disney Experience, you’ll be able to choose the color and name that is printed on the inside of the band. The box with your bands will arrive at your house before the trip (don’t forget to take them with you!) You can even decorate them beforehand (see this thread from the Magical Blogorail about decorating your MagicBand). You should probably put them on before boarding the plane because you’ll need your band before you get on the Magical Express Bus. If you book your trip last minute, your bands will be waiting for you at the front desk when you check in and everyone in your party will receive a gray band.
7. FastPass+ – Paper FastPass? Nope! FastPass+ at Walt Disney World is now linked to your Magic Band so you’ll just flash the band and receive access to the special line. If you’re accustomed to booking your Disneyland FastPasses on a whim while once inside the Park, the FastPass+ system at Walt Disney World is a big change. 30 days out you’ll “reserve” your FastPass+ for certain rides (or 60 days out if you book a WDW Vacation Package). Show up without booking your FastPass+ and you’ll be standing in long queues the entire day. You can only reserve three FastPass+ in advance but you can book more as you go through the day at kiosks throughout the Parks.
8. Morning Fanfare – If going to The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, make sure to arrive a bit early to catch the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show. No such thing exists at Disneyland, where they simply open the gates and let you in about 30 minutes before the actual Park opens so you can mill around and shop on Main St. U.S.A. Such a wonderful fanfare at the Magic Kingdom and we highly enjoyed the singing, dancing and plethora of characters that arrive via Disneyland Railroad to welcome you through the gates! The show starts about 20 minutes before gate opening but you should allow a little extra time because a crowd does gather.
9. Advanced Dining Reservations – Most Disneyland-ers don’t worry about such things, either winging it when it comes to meals or only making a ADR for certain coveted meals (like Goofy’s Kitchen or the Blue Bayou) or for popular times (dinner at 5:00 pm). However dining at Walt Disney World can be much of the adventure and anything above quick service dining will require an Advanced Dining Reservation. Those can be made in My Disney Experience months in advance. If there is a special restaurant you must eat at, keep trying throughout the time leading up to your trip. Many guests cancel (so as not to be charged if they don’t show up), so don’t be deterred if you are still trying in the few days before your vacation. I was able to score lunch at Be Our Guest and dinner at the Prime Time 50’s Cafe the day before we left for our trip!
As you can see, there are LOTS of differences between Disneyland and Walt Disney World. However there are a considerable amount of similarity too (which I discovered via my trip photographs and documented in my article, Similarities Between Disneyland & Walt Disney World). If you’re a Walt Disney World-er going to experience Disneyland for the first time, be sure to read this article on Traveling Mom, 14 Disneyland Tips Every Walt Disney Regular Needs to Know.
Are you a Disneyland fan who also visits Walt Disney World? What other things should Disneyland-ers know before making the trip to Orlando? Share below in the comments!