Disney World 101

Disney World can be a confusing place if you have never been there before, or if it has been many years since your last visit. I’m here to help you make sense of it all. So let’s get down to business and talk about what you’ll find at Walt Disney World…and maybe defeat some Huns. 😉 

What is on the Walt Disney World Property?

You will hear the term “on property” used to describe places that are within the bounds of the Disney World property. 

So what will you find on property?

4 Theme Parks:

Magic Kingdom: This is the picture you have in your head when you think of Disney World. Here you will find Cinderella’s Castle, Fantasyland, Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Epcot: Home to the World Showcase which features pavilions from many countries around the world. Plus thrill-rides like Soarin’, Test Track, and Mission Space.

Hollywood Studios: The golden age of Hollywood that never-was, crossed with the worlds of some of your favorite films, including Star Wars and Toy Story.

Animal Kingdom: An African and Asian inspired zoo meets a theme park, plus Pandora (aka Avatar-land), and dinosaurs. 

If you are wondering to yourself “where is Harry Potter”? Harry is not at Disney World and you will actually have to head over to Universal Orlando Resort’s theme parks to visit Hogwarts.

2 Water Parks:

Blizzard Beach: Themed to a ski resort that has experienced a heat wave that offers great water slides for all ages. 

Typhoon Lagoon: Themed to a storm-ravaged tropical bay. Enjoy the large wave pool. 

Disney Springs:

Disney’s shopping district filled with retail stores, both Disney and non-Disney themed, including some high end stores. Home to tons of restaurants of all price points and styles of food. Plus, a movie theatre, a bowling alley, and a cupcake ATM at Sprinkles. No ticket is necessary to enter Disney Springs. 

Many Many Hotels / Resorts:

All of the resorts on Disney property are meticulously themed and include transportation to and from the parks. As well as special benefits given only to guests of Disney hotels

** See my other posts for resort specific reviews and guides. **

Value Resorts: These resorts have a main building housing the lobby, food court, gift shop, etc. Then multiple other garden style buildings that house the hotel rooms. There are also multiple pools at each resort. The theming at these resorts is larger than life Disney characters with bold colors.

Moderate Resorts: With the same garden style of value resorts, the moderates feature table service restaurants in addition to food courts. The pools here also feature water slides. Most of the moderate resorts are larger than the value resorts. They are themed to different environments such as New Orleans, the Southwest, or the Caribbean. 

Deluxe Resorts: These are the top of the line resorts featuring multiple restaurants that include elegant options. Many include grand lobbies and elegant theming. Many are located very close to the parks and offer a second form of transportation in addition to buses. Some are even walking distance to a park. These resorts also include larger rooms and villa accommodations for large parties wishing to stay together in one room. 

Fort Wilderness: Disney’s campgrounds that offer RV hook-ups and cabin accommodations. 

Good Neighbor Hotels: These hotels enjoy some of the benefits of staying at Disney owned hotels while offering the amenities of some of your favorite well-know hotel brands like Hilton and Marriott. Many of these hotels are located on property or very close by. 

And More:

  • Golf Courses
  • Mini-Golf Courses
  • Spas 
  • Horseback Riding 
  • Disney’s Boardwalk 
  • NBA Experience 


If you are flying into Orlando’s MCO airport and staying at a Disney resort then you can ride the Magical Express to your hotel. This is Disney’s bus service which is included in your hotel reservation price. (Starting in 2022 Magical Express is being discontinued)

Once at your hotel Disney has buses to and from all the parks, and attractions. Some hotels will have additional transportation like ferry boats, the Monorail, or the gondola Skyliner system. 

Disney also offers their own Lyft service called Minnie Van’s. 

If you drove to Orlando or chose to rent a car, you can pay to park at all of the theme parks or hotels.

For more details on transportation at Disney Wold see my in depth post.

Getting Around Disney World


There are two types of tickets. Single park tickets and park hopper tickets. Single park tickets allow you to visit one park per day for the number of days you chose to purchase. For example: a 2 day one park per day ticket can be used to visit Magic Kingdom on day 1 and EPCOT on day 2. While a park hopper ticket will allow you to visit as many parks as you want for the number of days of the ticket. For example: a 2 day park hopper ticket you can visit Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios on day 1 and EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom again on day 2. Water parks require additional ticketing add ons.

Disney World has implemented a Park Reservation system . This means that in order to enter a theme park you must have both a valid park ticket and a reservation. These can be made through your My Disney Experience account online on in the app. Book these are early as possible as they can book up on busy days.

How to Park Hop: You have to visit your first park of the day for which you had a park reservation. Then at 2:00pm you can start park hopping to as many additional parks as you want.

Magic Bands

My Disney Experience, Genie+, Lightning Lanes, and MagicBands

My Disney Experience is the phone app and website that will allow you to make and see all your Disney World plans after booking. You can also use it to view park maps, make dinging reservations, see your photos and more.

Part of My Disney Experience is the Disney Genie which will help you optimize your day in the park with real time updates. Disney Genie will look at wait times, ride locations, your schedule and your preferences and tell you what you should do next to optimize your time in the parks. It will also show you current wait times and forecast future wait times.

MagicBands are wristbands which you can purchase prior to or during your trip. They will act as your room key, park ticket, photopass and more. 

Genie +:

Genie+ is the optional paid system that allows you to skip the regular line on specific attractions. Genie+ gives you access to the Lightning Lanes, which are significantly shorter than the standard lines.

You can make your first selection starting at 7:00am from anywhere and then throughout the day as you use your selections you can make another, one at a time throughout the day. You can only make a Lightning Lane selection for each ride once. So no riding the same ride again and again through the Lightning Lane.

If you park hop you are able to make selections at the second park as well.

If you make a Lightning Lane reservation with Genie+ and the reservation time is more than 2 hours away then you are able to make an additional reservation that falls within those two hours.

Genie+ comes at a per person per day cost starting at $15 and fluctuates in price based on the day.

Genie+ is purchased day of and not in advance.

Which rides are included in Genie+ is subject to change.

All rides with Lighting Lanes will continue to also have either transitional stand-by lines or virtual queues.

Individual Attractions Lighting Lanes:

In addition to Genie+ the most popular rides in each park offer the purchase of individual Lighting Lanes. These rides are not included in Genie+ they are extra. Or you can choose not to get Genie+ and just purchase an individual attraction Lighting Lane.

You can make two individual Lightning Lane reservations per day. These are on top of any Genie+ reservations you may have made.

Reservations can not be canceled once they are purchased.

Disney hotel guests can make these reservations starting at 7:00am day of. All other guests have to wait until the park opening time. Reservations can be made from anywhere.

The cost of these will fluctuate based on the ride and the day but will range from $7 – $20 per person per ride.

All rides with Lighting Lanes will continue to also have either transitional stand-by lines or virtual queues.

Virtual Queues

Some extremely popular Star Wars attraction such as Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios uses a virtual queue system. With this system you sign up for a “boarding pass” which will give you access to the ride. When you get a boarding pass you will be given a group number and when you group is called you can proceed to the ride and enter a fairly short line to wait for the attraction.

You obtain a boarding group through the My Disney Experience app that day.

Getting a boarding pass does not guarantee you will ride that day. If you have a higher number your group may not be called. The ride has a lot of different aspect and is prone to “breakdowns” which can delay groups being called.


PhotoPass on Splash Mountain

Photopass & Memory Maker

PhotoPass is Disney’s photography service, which includes on-ride photos, character meet and greet photos, and photos in front of icons like Cinderella’s Castle. PhotoPass photographers located throughout the parks will take your photos for free. 

If you want to take your photos home, Memory Maker is the photo package that allows you a digital copy of all your photos at one price. If purchased prior to travel there is a discount. 

For more info see my in depth Disney photography post:

Disney Parks Vacation Photography

Early Park Entry

Guests staying at a Disney hotel, or select partner hotels can enter any of the four theme parks on any day 30 minutes prior to park opening. This can mean a half hour with much lower crowds so you can get in one of two of the most popular attractions first thing.

Character Dinning at the Crystal Palace

Dinning and Reservations 

Disney has three types of restaurants. 

Counter Service – These are food courts or locations where you order your food at a counter and pick it up. 

Table Service – Where you have a waiter and food is brought to you table, or there is a buffet. Some of these also include character dining options. 

Signature Restaurants  – These feature elegant food and higher prices. 

You can make dining reservations 60 days prior to your visit. Reservations and highly recommended for any table service restaurant. You will hear these called ADRs or Advanced Dinning Reservations. 

For more details see my intro to dinning.

The Basics of Dining at Disney World


EPCOT hosts several festivals throughout the year. These festivals include special food booths, merchandise, decor and activities. 

  • Festival of the Arts – Winter 
  • Flower and Garden Festival – Spring 
  • Food and Wine Festival – Fall 
  • Holidays Around the World – Winter 

There is so much more to Disney World but these are the highlights. You can now get ready to start planning your Disney World vacation and I am here to help. As a travel agent specializing in Disney travel, it is my job to help you plan the perfect trip for you and your travel party. 

Email me for a free no obligation quote today at katiev@themagicsyours.com

Happy Planning! 

Published by katiethemagicsyours

Hi, I’m Katie! I’m an independent travel agent with The Magic’s Yours Travel. I specialize in Disney vacations but I book all sorts of travel all over the world. I book Disney, Universal, cruise, resort, all-inclusive, hotel, and guided travel. All of my travel agent services are FREE of charge to the traveler. You pay no extra fees for using a travel agent, but you get an expert in your corner to offer you VIP planing services. Contact me for a free quote today. Email me at: katiev@themagicsyours.com

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