Prior to leaving for your trip, there is some planning involved. 180 days ahead of time, your window will open to make dining reservations. I strongly suggest making these as close to the 180 day mark as possible – popular restaurants fill up extremely quickly. I’ve heard many people turned away at Disney restaurants for trying to walk up and get a table on the day of.
If you are staying in a Disney owned hotel, your Fastpass window will open at 60 days out. You will be able to select 3 rides for each day that you wish to by-pass the regular stand-by line and get onto quicker. All 3 rides you choose for Fastpass MUST be in the same theme park. On the day of, you are able to get a 4th, 5th, etc once you’ve used up your initial 3 choices.
If staying offsite, your Fastpass window does not open until 30 days out. There will be some rides that have zero FP availability by this date – one of the many perks of staying onsite.
If staying onsite at a Disney-owned hotel, you should receive bright yellow baggage tags in the mail a few weeks before you leave. They look like the normal white baggage tags the airline attaches to your checked baggage. Attach these yellow tags to your checked bag, and say goodbye to it – you won’t see it again until you get to your hotel. If you choose not to use the yellow tags, you will need to collect your own bags upon arrival at the airport in Orlando.
Upon arriving at Orlando International Airport (MCO), make your way to the mini-monorail to get to the main terminal. From there, head to the Disney Magical Express check-in area (located on Level One B of the airport – it’s very well signed). After checking in with a cast member, they will direct you to enter a row based on which resort you will be travelling to. Another cast member will then direct you onto the proper bus. These are large, Greyhound-style buses clearly marked with Disney images. There are TV screens on each one, and they will play classic Disney cartoons while you wait. Once you leave, the bus driver will turn on the Welcome video.
About 25-30 minutes later, you will enter Disney property! Depending on which resort you are staying at, your bus might make a few stops before letting you off (Old Key West was sharing a DME bus with Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans on our last trip, but we lucked out and OKW was the first stop). Collect your bags from under the bus if need be, tip your driver and go check in to your hotel! If you used the yellow tags, your bags will be delivered directly to your room within a few hours by bell services.
US citizens can opt into receiving their room # in a text message, and can skip the normal check-in line. However, Disney is unable to mail out Magicbands to Canadian addresses, so you will need to go to the main lobby. You will receive your Magicband – put it on and don’t take it off. It is a silicon bracelet with an RFID chip in it – it will be used as your room key, your entrance ticket to the parks, your FP+, your dining confirmations, etc. You can link up a credit card to it as well, and avoid carrying a wallet with you – you just need to scan your Magicband and enter your personal pin code (which you set yourself) to make purchases from Disney.
If you are in Disney Springs or one of the theme parks and purchase some souvenirs, you do not need to carry them with you all day! You simply let the cast member ringing you through know that you are staying in a Disney hotel, they will give you a small form to fill out (basically just name, hotel, room number) and it will be delivered to your resort! You will just need to pick it up in the main gift shop of your resort – much easier than trying to figure out what to do with your purchases while riding roller coasters 🙂