What to Know Before You Go to Walt Disney World

Magic Kingdom Riverboat

Official WDW Policies Preparing and ArrivingVisiting the Parks Dining at Walt Disney World

Whether you a Lifetime Guest of the theme parks or you are planning your first trip, there are new things that every traveler should be aware of – the things you need to “know before you go”.  The Parks and Resorts main goal is the safety and well being of not only their cherished guests, but also of their irreplaceable employees.  Being informed and prepared is the best way to insure a great vacation and positive memories for a lifetime.

This page is designed to give you the best start at that magical trip! As more information is released, this page will be updated to reflect the most current information.  Don’t want to go it alone? The agents at the Magic for Less Travel would love to be of assistance, and at no additional cost to you!

Also, if you are just getting started, also be sure to check out our Walt Disney World Vacation Planning page for more tips, tricks and advice.

Know Before You Go – Official Walt Disney World Policies

For the official policies and procedures straight from Disney, visit the Disney World Policies  & Procedures page.

Preparing and Arriving

As you get ready for your trip, here are a few things to keep in mind

My Disney Experience App and Linking Reservations

Link Tickets

More and more, a trip to Walt Disney World means spending some time on the My Disney Experience app. Make sure you download the app in advance, and then check that all of your tickets, packages, and reservations and properly linked.

My Disney Experience App Menu

Linking these is really easy in the app. you just click the three lines in the bottom corner, and then select either “Tickets and Passes” or “Resort Hotel.” Choosing either of those will bring you to a page where you can link anything you would like, and it also gives you a few options to do so, using either the camera on your phone, tapping (for Magic Bands) or typing in the confirmation numbers.

Link Reservations

Many of the reservations you make will automatically appear in your account, but it is always best to double check in advance, so you can either link them or fix other issues before your vacation.

Getting To Walt Disney World

Whether by plane, car, train, or bus, there are many ways to arrive at the Walt Disney World Resort. As you prepare for your vacation, visit our transportation section to explore these options and help make your decision.

Checking in to your Hotel

If you are staying at one of the on site Disney Resort Hotels, check-in time is 3:00pm for most resorts, and 4:00pm for Deluxe Villas (i.e. DVC resorts). If you have your resort reservation linked in My Disney Experience, you can start the check in process up to 60 days before you arrive. This includes opting into the “Direct-to-Room” service, which allows you to get notification of when your room is ready, and even go there without having to go to the front desk at all.

Whether you check in via the app or the desk, you are able to enjoy your resort hotel, including pool areas, as soon as you arrive. You are also able to store any luggage with Bell Services. This is usually located in the main lobby near the check-in desk. Bell Services can deliver your luggage to your room after it is ready, and they can also hold your luggage on your check-out day, so you can keep enjoying the resort after you leave your room.

Visiting The Parks

To visit the theme parks, there are a few things you need to know before you go.

Park Reservations

To enter any of the parks, Guests with date-based tickets no longer need to make a theme park reservation. So, all you need to do is just purchase tickets and then go!

Those who do not have date-based tickets, such as Annual Passholders, will still need to make theme park reservations – IF they plan to visit the parks before 2:00 p.m. The exception to this for Annual Passholders will be on Saturdays and Sundays and only if wanting to visit the Magic Kingdom. In that instance, you will still need to make a park reservation for the Magic Kingdom, no matter what time you are planning on visiting the park.

Park Hours

Park hours at the Walt Disney World theme parks are usually initially set a few months in advance of the day, but are often adjusted for a variety of reasons, such as an earlier opening time for anticipated large crowds. For the most up to date hours, be sure to check your My Disney Experience app leading up to your trip.

In general, this is a guide to how the theme park hours:

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom usually is the first to open and the first to close each day. In the summer these hours might look like 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. In the winter opening might shift to 9:00 am.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios is often the second park to open each day, usually 30 minutes after Animal Kingdom. Each day, the park officially closes at the listed start time of the final Fantasmic show. This means that if you see that particular show you get to stay in the park even later! A representative day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be 8:30 am to 9:00 pm, with a Fantasmic showing at 9:00 pm.
  • EPCOT is often has the most predictable hours of the four theme parks. It usually has a pretty standard operation of 9:00 am to 9:00 pm each day. An important note is that while some of the World Showcase restaurants and attractions are available right at park opening (such as Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure), the bulk of that area, including any festival booths, usually do not open until 11:00 am.
  • Magic Kingdom has the highest variability of all the theme parks. It often will open as early as 8:00 am and can sometimes not close until midnight. A representative day at the Magic Kingdom might be a 9:00 am opening and a 10:00 pm closing. A few important notes though:

Early and Extended Hours

Magic Kingdom in the Morning

Guests staying in certain hotels have the opportunity to take advantage of extra time in the parks, in two specific ways.

First there is Early Theme Park Entry. This allows guests staying in Disney hotels, and certain partner hotels, to get into every park 30 minutes early every day. 30 minutes might not sound like a lot, but if you see all the people waiting to enter right before official park opening, you will know just how much time you can save by utilizing those 30 minutes. Check out all the details on our guide.

Next there are Evening Extended Hours. These are only open to Disney Deluxe, Deluxe Villa, and a few other select partner hotels. They allow eligible guests to stay up to 2 additional hours after park closing. They are more limited than the Early Entry as they only happen at select parks a few times a week. Currently, that usually looks like one night at the Magic Kingdom and one night at Epcot.

Park Hopping

Guests with a “Park Hopper” benefit included with their tickets can visit any other park at any time. To see if the park you wish to hop to has availability, you can call (407) 560-5000. The Walt Disney World app will also show current park hopping hours at each park.

Water Parks

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park is currently closed for refurbishment. Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park is currently open at this time.

Face coverings are not permitted while experiencing water slides or for guests who are in the water.

Currently, park reservations are not required to visit a water park.

Dining at Walt Disney World

Mobile Ordering, Check-In and More

Mobile ordering is available at many locations across Walt Disney World, but in and out of the Theme Parks. Using the My Disney Experience app, guests can order ahead at many locations and then simply pick their food up. The fastest way to start a Mobile Order is to hit the big “plus” sign on the bottom of the app. You’ll then want to click “order food.” You can sort by what is available instantly, what is near your location, or you can find a specific location.

Please note, due to the volume of guests using mobile order, those wishing to utilize this service might need to place their order well in advance. (For example, you may need to make a 1PM lunch order at 10 AM). It can be helpful to keep an eye on the available pick-up time for your restaurant of choice.

Additionally, guests can check in for reservations, join a “walk up” list for table service locations, and view restaurant menus, all through the app.

Dining Reservations

Currently, guests can make reservations for dining up to 60 days in advance. Guests with a Disney Resort hotel reservation can also make reservations for up the length of their stay (up to 10 days) 60 days in advance of their first day.

For harder to get or more specific reservations, it is recommended to make those as soon as possible. If staying on site, start toward the end of your trip with those difficult reservations. However, you can keep checking leading up to your vacation, as many locations will have availability change even day of.

Dining Plans

When Guests book a Disney Vacation Package, they can add one of Disney’s Dining Packages. These packages offer guests the opportunity to save on the cost of dining. Also, it gives guests the chance to pay for their dining in advance and experience a more “all-inclusive” vacation.

Disney Dining Plans are available only as part of a package including a Walt Disney World Vacation Package. “It is necessary to purchase in advance.” Minimum requirements are at least a 3-night stay at a Disney-owned resort.  All guests on the package reservation must purchase The Dining Plan.

Two Disney Dining Plans are available. Choose the perfect one for your touring style!

2024 Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan

Enjoy a fast and easy meal plan option for those on the go all day. Guests are able to dine at a variety of Quick-Service locations and enjoy a casual meal. You can do this when ready to grab a bite to eat. Just order at a counter or register and enjoy—no dining reservations required! This option includes 2 Quick Service meals, 1 snack/nonalcoholic drink per person per night of the package stay, plus 1 Resort Refillable Drink Mug per person, per package.

2024 Disney Dining Plan

Want to slow down a little and enjoy sit-down meals, including Character dining experiences? The Disney Dining Plan is the perfect choice. It will allow Guests to experience classic dining options at both Quick-Service and Table-Service restaurants. This option includes 1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service Meal and 1 snack/nonalcoholic drink per person per night of the package stay, plus 1 Resort Refillable Drink Mug per person, per package.


Guests are able to choose the plan that works for them and choose how to use their dining credits. Guests can use their meal and snack credits in any combination until they use all entitlements. Take a look at the participating restaurants in our helpful guide.


On Site Transportation

Buses, monorails, boats, and the Disney Skyliner are all currently operational. Check the “transportation” section of the My Disney Experience app to find specific locations. Or you can view the “resort hotel” section to see estimated pickup times from your hotel.

Park to park transportation is also available, beginning each day between the theme parks beginning at 10:00 am each day.


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