Planning a Walt Disney World vacation can be overwhelming to be sure, but with these definitions under your belt, you'll be planning like an expert right off the bat. CHECK THIS PAGE OFTEN AS DEFINITIONS WILL BE ADDED ON A REGULAR BASIS
- THEME PARK: When we talk about theme parks, we mean Disney World's four main parks for which you need tickets for entrance: Magic Kingdom (MK), Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios (this was formerly the Disney-MGM Studios and is now abbreviated as DHS), and Animal Kingdom (AK).
- CAST MEMBER: This is Disney's name for their employees. Walt Disney envisioned his theme parks as giant stage shows, so everyone who works there is a "cast member" working either "on stage,"(e.g. ride operators, guest services clerks, and restaurant waiters) or "backstage." (e.g. administrators, animal keepers, and costumers).
- RESORT: Disney World's full name is "Walt Disney World Resort," but usually, when we talk about "resorts," we're talking about the Value, Moderate, and Deluxe level hotels on Disney World property.
- ON- AND OFF-PROPERTY: If you're "on-property," that means you're somewhere within the 42 square miles owned by Disney World. Off-property refers to anything outside the gates of Disney World, e.g. greater Orlando and Kissimmee, etc. This terminology is most often used when folks talk about where their hotel is located; Disney has over 20 hotels on-property.
- BACKSTAGE: You'll remember from the "cast member" definition that Walt envisioned his theme parks as giant "shows." In these shows, any area of Disney World that isn't freely available to people who don't work for the Disney Company--e.g., any area beyond a "Cast Members Only" door--is known as "backstage." Disney offers several "backstage tours," during which a small number of paying guests are shown around at the inner workings of Disney parks.
- FASTPASS: Imagine that you've just joined the end of a 60 minute wait line for Splash Mountain. Now imagine you ask the person in front of you to hold your place in line for those 60 minutes while you go ride other rides and eat some lunch--and that person says yes! That's how Disney's Fastpass System works. Here are the specifics:
Go to a Fastpass ticket machine in front of any Fastpass ride, get a ticket, and go have fun elsewhere in the park. Return to the ride during the window shown on your Fastpass ticket, show your ticket to the Cast Member running the "Fastpass Return" line, and ride with little to no wait!
- WAIT TIME: Most Disney World rides have lines, and therefore, Disney has posted large signs displaying the projected wait time between "end of the line" and "when you'd be boarding the ride." Once in a while, a cast member at the end of the line will hand a red, plastic card to a guest getting in line and request that the guest hand the card to the cast member at the front of the line. The time it takes the guest to get to the front of the line and hand over the card becomes the new "wait time" on the sign at the front of the ride.
- PARK TOURING: This refers to how you spend your day in a theme park. E.g., if people want to fit in a lot of rides in a short period of time, they'll develop a "touring plan" listing out which ride they'll visit at which time of day (usually dependent on how long the lines are projected to be for each ride). They'll also work into their "touring plan" when to get a fastpass for certain rides so that they can head to rides with shorter waits while waiting for their fastpass return time to come up for a more popular ride.
- ADVANCED DINING RESERVATIONS (ADR): These used to be called "priority seating arrangements," or "PSs", and they're the core of Disney World's restaurant reservations system. Having an ADR will ensure that you're seated at the next available table for your party size once you check in at a table service (i.e. sit-down) restaurant podium.
Most of the time and at most table service restaurants, Walt Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations can be booked 90 days prior to your arrival at Walt Disney World. Scott Thomas' Priority Seating Calculator, which is also linked to on our Dining Planning Tools Page, is a great guide to help you determine when to call for your reservations. A quick call to 407-WDW-DINE will put you in touch with a reservations agent who will be able book your dining for you.
NOTE: Disney is updating its dining reservations systems; Advanced Dining Reservations for most restaurants can only be booked through January 25, 2009, at this time. See this Mousesavers link for specific and up-to-date information.
- EXTRA MAGIC HOURS (EMH): Walt Disney World's Extra Magic Hour system is one that has been put into place as a perk for guests of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, Shades of Green, and Downtown Disney's Hilton, ONLY. It is, in our opinion, a strong selling point for staying "on-site" at Walt Disney World.
The system works like this: Every day, a Walt Disney World Theme Park could be open either one hour prior to general park opening and/or three hours after general park closing. Two examples:
- If Magic Kingdom has Morning Extra Magic Hours and is scheduled to open to the public at 9:00am, then Magic Kingdom will open to guests of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, Shades of Green, and Downtown Disney's Hilton at 8:00am.
- If Animal Kingdom has Evening Extra Magic Hours and is scheduled to close to the public at 5:00pm, then Animal Kingdom will be open to guests of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, Shades of Green, and Downtown Disney's Hilton from 5:00pm-8:00pm.
- WATER PARK: Disney World has two huge water-based parks, which offer between them family and solo water slides, children's areas, a water coaster, surfing lessons, a wave pool, and a death-defying, nearly vertical splashdown waterslide. The parks are Typhoon Lagoon (TL) and Blizzard Beach (BB).
- DOWNTOWN DISNEY (DTD): This is the shopping and nightlife district in Disney World, and includes the Downtown Disney Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and West End. Marketplace and West End have never required a ticket for entry. Pleasure Island is going through a renovation process to revamp it from a nightlife hangout (requiring a ticket) to a more family friendly fun zone.
- CHARACTER MEAL: During this sit-down meal, Disney characters make their way around the restaurant to visit with guests, sign autographs, take pictures, etc. Several Disney World restaurants have character meals all day long (e.g. Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort, where you can find Mickey, Pluto, Minnie, and Goofy; Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom, where Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and Tigger will visit you; and Cinderella's Royal Table right there in Cinderella's Castle, where the Princess of Princesses and all of her friends will grace your meal), and several only have character meals for one meal of the day (e.g. 'Ohana in the Polynesian, where Lilo and Stitch hang out with you for breakfast; and Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club Resort, where Minnie, Goofy, Chip, and Dale say hello on their way to the beach)!
- MAGICAL EXPRESS: Magical Express is Disney's free Bus transportation from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to your Disney hotel. This is available to anyone staying in a Disney World Resort hotel, and can save you the cost of renting a car, paying for a taxi, booking a shuttlebus, or getting a car service. Disney World is about 30 miles from the Orlando International Airport.
- TABLE SERVICE DINING: A bit self-explanatory, this is a meal where your party is seated at a table and waited on. You usually want to make an ADR for a table service meal at Disney World.
- COUNTER SERVICE DINING: This is like a fast food meal, where you order your food at a counter and sit in a large seating area to eat. Most Disney World counter service dining includes choices like burgers, hot dogs, and french fries, but you can find some really great options at places like Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom and the country pavilions in Epcot.
- MONORAIL: Disney's elevated train transportation system. The main hub for the monorail is the Ticket and Transportation Center. From here, guests can get to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, and three deluxe resorts: Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian.
- DISNEY TRANSPORTATION:Disney transportation is Disney World's free transportation system throughout the Disney World resort. It's comprised of busses, monorails, trams, and boats that take guests anywhere on property...for free! These services are free to all ticket holders and resort guests. (However, there's no way to actually pay for them, so we're guessing that if you don't happen to have a park ticket or hotel key, you're still good to go.)
- ILLUMINATIONS: Epcot's nightly fireworks show. This is best seen from around the World Showcase area of Epcot.
- WISHES: Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks show. Watch this one from right in front of the castle, if you can!
- FANTASMIC: Disney Hollywood Studios' water and pyrotechnics show. This one used to be nightly, but has been cut back due to the economic situation. You can now see it twice weekly.