For guests that have always called the Disneyland Resort home in their hearts, heading to Walt Disney World for the first time can be a bit intimidating. Walt Disney World, with it's vast size and many differences, is an all new learning curve for seasoned Disneyland guests.
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But never fear! Mickey Visit is here to help you plan your first trip to Walt Disney World! In our guide, we breakdown the major differences between the two resorts and what Disneyland fans need to know before their visit.
Walt Disney World's Theme Park Options
One of the main differences between Disneyland and Walt Disney World is that Disneyland is only a fraction of the size of Walt Disney World. For first time Walt Disney World guests, this is an essential piece to understand. Walt Disney World has four full theme parks and two water parks. In addition, Walt Disney world has their own version of Downtown Disney called Disney Springs.
Walt Disney World's Four Theme Parks
Magic Kingdom is where you will find all the classic Disney rides including many of the same rides you find in the Disneyland parks. If you're looking for a similar experience to Disneyland, this is the park for you. Check out our extensive attraction guide to Magic Kingdom here.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park is where you can find the iconic world of Pandora, the Rivers of Light show, and animal safaris. Think of this theme park as a combination of Disney zoo and animal themed attractions. Check out our extensive attraction guide to Animal Kingdom here.
Epcot is known for it's World Showcase of over 11 countries featuring authentic food, character meet and greets, and attractions. This theme park also features Future World which has a variety of futuristic themed attractions. You can find Disneyland familiar attractions here like Soarin' Around the World and Turtle Talk with Crush. Check out our extensive attraction guide to Epcot here.
Hollywood Studios is where you can find the newly opened Toy Story Land along with iconic attractions such as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania!, Star Tours, and the Rock ‘n' Roller Coaster. This is also the park to find all things Star Wars including Galaxy's Edge when it opens in 2019. Check out our extensive attraction guide to Hollywood Studios here.
Walt Disney World's Two Water Parks
This Disney water park as a traditional water park theme with water slides, a sandy beach, and a lazy river to float down. You can add any of the water parks to your park hopper tickets. Check out our Walt Disney World discount ticket guide to get the best prices.
This Disney water park has a ski resort/winter theme with water slides shaped like ski slopes and a full variety of options for kids too little for the water slide attractions. You can add any of the water parks to your park hopper tickets. Check out our Walt Disney World discount ticket guide to get the best prices.
So when it comes to planning your Walt Disney World vacation, there is plenty to chose from. You will need to spend more days at Walt Disney World than you would at Disneyland if you want to cover more ground. The theme parks, unlike Disneyland, are also not within walking distance to each other so plan on figuring out transportation between each park. Our transportation guide has you covered on all the Walt Disney World transportation options.
FastPass+ and Magic Bands
Aside from the difference in size, this is the other biggest difference Walt Disney World has from Disneyland.
The way the FastPass system works is completely different. Forget everything you thought you knew about FastPass. Well, maybe not everything. But read up on this change in advance so you don't miss out!
According to Disney's website, this is how FastPass+ works:
Disney FastPass+ service allows you to reserve access to select Walt Disney World theme park attractions, entertainment and Character Greetings in advance. There is no additional cost to use FastPass+ service―it is included with your theme park admission.
You can begin making your FastPass+ selections at 7:00 AM Eastern Time up to 30 days in advance of your visit. If you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can make your FastPass+ selections up to 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of your stay.
So make note of this! You make your FastPass reservations up to 30 days (or 60 if you're staying at a Disney Resort hotel) in advance at Walt Disney World. This is entirely different from Disneyland. Be sure you're prepared and you know which attractions, shows, and Character Greeting you want to select because they go fast!
Once you've used up your FastPass+ options for the day you then have the option of reserving more in the parks either using the Walt Disney World app or by visiting a FastPass+ kiosk.
Is your head spinning yet? Don't worry, check out our ultimate guide to using FastPass+ at Walt Disney World to help you plan!
Magic Bands are available to any Walt Disney World annual passholder or anyone staying at any of the Walt Disney World resort hotels. Your Magic Band is essentially like a digital key to everything you need at Walt Disney World. Keep in mind that these are purchased separately and not included with your hotel stay. The cheapest options run around $12.99 per wristband. You can use the Magic Band to unlock your hotel room, buy food/souvenirs, unlock special surprises around the theme parks, and to use your FastPass+ options linked to your account.
According to Disney,
Your MagicBand enables you to travel lighter throughout your vacation. Use it to enter the parks, unlock your Disney Resort hotel room and buy food and merchandise. Plus, your MagicBand gives you FastPass+ access to all the experiences you’ve selected online, so you can simply concentrate on enjoying the fun with the people you care about.
MagicBands add a touch of magic to your vacation by unlocking special surprises, personalized just for you, throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Once you’ve linked your MagicBand, you don’t need to do anything different. Your MagicBand and My Disney Experience profile will do the rest, creating unexpected Disney moments–just like magic.
So in terms of FastPass+, instead of using your theme park admission ticket to redeem your FastPass at the attraction scanner- you use the Magic Band instead!
For the convenience alone, these might be worth the cost for your family if you're planning on a long visit and staying at any of the Walt Disney World hotels!
Walt Disney World Dining Plans
Just like with FastPass+, this is another feature of the Walt Disney World resort that is vastly different than Disneyland. It also is another feature that requires a little advance planning ahead in order to get the most out of your vacation.
Walt Disney World offers the option of purchasing a dining plan in advance of your visit to help you save money on food at the parks. Whether or not this actually saves you money is debatable. It really depends on how much you plan on eating in the parks, how many days you are staying, and how many family members you have. It might be worth doing the math to make sure this is the right choice for you. You have a choice between purchasing a Quick-Service Dining Plan or a Table Service Dining plan. These plans include a certain amount of meals, drinks, and snacks in terms of ‘vouchers' to be used at the qualifying restaurants that match up with your plan option. This can be extremely confusing, especially for us Disneyland veterans, so check out our full guide to Walt Disney World's dining plan here to see if this is the best choice for your family.
Another big difference at Walt Disney World is the way dining reservations work. At Disneyland, you have up to 60 days prior to the date to book your dining reservations. At Walt Disney World, you have up to 180 days prior to the date to book your dining reservations. Make sure you're on the ball if you want to snag those popular dining options or character meals.
Characters: No Free Roaming Here
Another key difference between Disneyland and Walt Disney World is the way that character meet and greets take place. At Disneyland, characters typically roam around the parks at random (or at slightly scheduled times) so guests can meet them literally all over the place!
That's not always the case at Walt Disney World where the characters are consistently grounded in certain locations with specific times. It's not as common for characters at Walt Disney World to wander around at random without a handler like they do at Disneyland.
Another big difference is the option of using a FastPass+ for character meet and greets. If you have must see characters, make sure to reserve a FastPass+ for them in advance to avoid those long standby lines!
Check out our ultimate guide to Walt Disney World characters here.
Disney Hotels: An Abundance of Disney Resort Choices
Walt Disney purchased most of the land surrounding the Walt Disney World resort before its creation which is why you see such a lack of ‘good neighbor hotels' that Disneyland vets are most familiar with. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing because the value priced Walt Disney World hotels are way more affordable than the Disney owned hotels at Disneyland!
It is highly recommended, if your family can afford it, to stay at a Walt Disney World hotel. Not just because of the hotel perks but because of the ability to be close to the parks and on location!
The amount of hotels offered at Walt Disney World can be overwhelming. Disney breaks down their price range for hotels in categories to help guests pick the hotel right for them based on what they are willing to spend.
Here are all the Walt Disney World Hotels listed by category:
- Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney's All-Star Music Resort
- Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney's Art of Animation Resort
- Disney's Pop Century Resort
- The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney's Beach Club Resort
- Disney's BoardWalk Inn
- Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Yacht Club Resort
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney's Beach Club Villas
- Disney's BoardWalk Villas
- Disney's Old Key West Resort
- Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
As you can imagine, the price range for this varies and increases the closer you get to those deluxe options. Here's Disney's average starting cost per night based on category:
As you can see, the campgrounds and value hotels are pretty reasonable. We do recommend checking out our recommended travel sponsor for your hotel package so you can make sure you're getting the best prices. And the best thing about booking with Get Away Today is the option of purchasing a layaway plan! This a great way to make a Walt Disney World vacation affordable for families.
Don't forget to check out our massive review guide to the Walt Disney World resort hotels here!
Plan Your Walt Disney World Vacation
Ready to plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort? Be sure to subscribe to our Disney deals newsletter for all the latest information on deals and saving tips to help you save money and experience more! Sign up here.
You can discover more about planning your trip from these links:
- Walt Disney World Cheap Food Guide
- Discount Walt Disney World Tickets
- Walt Disney World Character Guide
- Guide to Epcot Food and Wine Festival
- Guide to Walt Disney World Transportation