Do you speak Disney? Yes, this is a real thing. Walt Disney World has a language all its own. Is an “Extra Magic Hour” something Cinderella wished for after the ball? Does “rope drop” mean doing something to Aladdin’s magic carpet? The terms can be bewildering. Let’s break them down together in this Essential Disney World Dictionary.
Rope drop, FastPass, MagicBands, oh my! Guests practically need a dictionary to figure out all the Disney World lingo. Everything you need to know about Walt Disney World before you go starts with WHAT these words really mean. So let’s talk Disney vernacular: think of this as your essential Disney World Dictionary. We’ll walk through the terms, give tips and tricks, and share our best TravelingMom links.
The Essential Disney World Dictionary
When the parks first open for the day. Cast Members have a rope that gets removed once the park officially opens for the day. Being in the parks for rope drop is a surefire way to get to all the busiest attractions early in the day when they are typically the least crowded.
To find out when rope drop happens at a particular park, check park opening hours on the Walt Disney World website.
Rope drop at Magic Kingdom now occurs in front of Cinderella Castle at the new hub area with a new show called “Let the Magic Begin.” Then ropes are lowered to allow access to the various Lands in Magic Kingdom.
TravelingMom Tip: Rope drop at Hollywood Studios is vital if your Jedi wants to participate in the Jedi Training Academy at Star Tours attraction. Use the Force and head straight to the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost (located between the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the ‘50’s Prime Time Café) to register while time slots are still available. Registration begins before rope drop, so the earlier, the better!
My Disney Experience (MDE)
Disney’s app that allows guests to manage their vacation both online and on a mobile phone. I call it my magic wand to keep track of my Disney plans like FastPass+, Advance Dining Reservations, wait times, and park hours.
I used to have a purse full of maps, parade and special event times, and a spreadsheet of my dining reservations. Now I have all that information available in the app PLUS the ability to make changes without having to make phone calls. Thank goodness times have changed!
Learn more from TravelingMom about the My Disney Experience app.
FastPass+ is a reservation system for some of the most popular attractions. Guests can reserve a time to return and use the FastPass+ queue which will be shorter than the standby line.
Guests staying at a Disney Resort with theme park tickets can make FastPass+ selections up to 60 days in advance, and 30 days in advance is the window for those who’ve purchased theme park tickets.
My family’s favorite selections for FastPass+:
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain.
- EPCOT: Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, and Test Track.
- Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Rivers of Light.
- Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster; Star Tours; and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Read our in-depth post, The Ultimate Guide to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World for tips and tricks.
Traveling Mom Tip: Use the My Disney Experience app while you are in the park. Once your first three FastPass+ selections have been used for the day, add more either using this app or the available kiosks. You might be pleasantly surprised to score a reservation and save time in line.
No, I said SWITCH, not Stitch as in Lilo and Stitch. Rider Switch gives groups who may have a smaller child not meeting the height requirement or a member who doesn’t wish to ride an opportunity to still experience the attraction by taking turns.
Here’s how Disney describes it: “With Rider Switch, one adult can wait with the non-rider (or riders) while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, they can supervise the non-riding Guests, and the waiting adult can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again!”
Caveat: Must be two adults in the party. Rider switch can be used anytime during the day. Although Disney’s website says only 2 guests can return using the Rider Switch pass, word in the parks is that many have been able to get 3 in using the pass.
Here’s a list of what attractions currently offer rider switch:
- Magic Kingdom: The Barnstormer, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Splash Mountain, Stitch’s Great Escape, and Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.
- Epcot: Frozen Ever After, Mission: SPACE, Soarin’ and Test Track.
- Hollywood Studios: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
- Animal Kingdom: DINOSAUR, Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and Primeval Whirl.
TravelingMom Tip: Use Rider Switch with FastPass+ for the first group riding. The advantage to this approach is not having to get as many FastPasses when employing the rider switch since the second group will not need FastPasses–the rider switch pass accomplishes that.
No need to burst out into Beyonce’s song “Single Ladies” because this line is for everyone and helps bypass the standby line. Simply follow the Single Rider line and wait to fill a spot for an odd numbered party. Considering it can save a great deal of time to be willing to ride with strangers, I’ve always been willing to give it a try EXCEPT when traveling with kids who cannot handle that concept.
PhotoPass and Memory Maker
PhotoPass is the complimentary photography service that enables every member of your party to get in the photos. Photographers are positioned throughout the parks so documenting a vacation was never easier. They can even do Magic Shots which add characters and other features into the photos.
Memory Maker allows the downloading of all Disney PhotoPass photos for digital use. This includes those additional photos taken at the restaurants and on many of the attractions.
TravelingMom Tip: Purchase Memory Maker at least 3 days in advance of vacation and save $20 off the regular Memory Maker price of $ 169.
Advance Dining Reservation (ADR)
Reservation system for table service locations at Walt Disney World.
TravelingMom Tip: The hardest to get reservations are breakfast and dinner at Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant and the 8 a.m. breakfast slots at Cinderella’s Royal Table. The secret: get online at 6AM exactly 180 days prior to your vacation instead of waiting until 7am for the phone lines to open. And don’t give up-something could open up! One of the best time to check for cancelled reservations is 1-2 days beforehand. Many will cancel an Advance Dining Reservation at this time to avoid the $ 10 per person charge.
Wrist bands that serve as room keys, park passes, FastPass+ check-in devices, PhotoPass image storers, and charge card for food and merchandise purchases. They are adjustable, customizable, waterproof bands made of plastic and embedded with an RFID chip.
MagicBands are only available to Disney resort guests, Annual Passholders, and those that purchase a MagicBand at one of the Disney retailers.
TravelingMom Tip: Read our post on the 12 Most Important Things to Know About Disney’s MagicBands. It even includes information on the new generation of MagicBands.
Extra Magic Hours (EMH)
Times where the parks open earlier or later for Walt Disney World resort guests. Morning extra magic hour runs from 8 -9 a.m. Evening extra magic hours are usually 2-3 additional hours.
Historically, it’s most beneficial to try Magic Kingdom for morning extra magic hour because the number of attractions open. However, I can see how Animal Kingdom may soon edge this out with the opening of Pandora–The World of Avatar. There are some who believe that avoiding the park that has Extra Magic Hours should be standard operating procedure. I’ve done it both ways. So whether my plan is to use the Extra Magic Hours or stay away from that park because of it, I always check to see which parks offer EMH and on which days and times.
TravelingMom Tip: Starting May 27, 2017, Extra Magic Hours will be available at Pandora – The World of Avatar to guests staying at select Walt Disney World resort hotels. From May 27 to July 4, 2017, limited-time evening Extra Magic Hours for Pandora area alone will be from 11:00 p.m to 1:00 a.m. Considering all the buzz surrounding this new area of Animal Kingdom, I would say early birds and night owls should check it out during extra magic hours.
Disney’s Magical Express (DME)
Disney’s complimentary bus service from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to its resorts. A major advantage: checked luggage using special Disney tags will be directly delivered to the Disney resort a few hours after arrival.
TravelingMom Tip: For departure flights, DME typically picks up 3 hours before scheduled departure times for domestic flights and 4 hours for international flights. Consider an Uber if maximizing Disney time is more important.
Park ticket that enables guests to access more than one theme park in a day. I must admit that it’s especially fun to do multiple parks in one day, but it’s also incredibly demanding and exhausting. Park hopper tickets cost a bit more (usually $60+) than one day tickets.
TravelingMom Tip: I just discovered that Disney has started a 4-Park Magic Ticket that gives one admission to each of the 4 theme parks for 4 days. This is a unique offer that gives substantial savings. A 4 day ticket currently costs $ 350; this 4-park Magic Ticket costs $ 316. Keep in mind that tickets may not be used to enter the same park more than once. Tickets are valid for admission beginning April 30, 2017 and must be used within 14 days of first use or by September 30, 2017. But perhaps this will become a more permanent option that Disney is trying out.