[Updated April 2017]
If you’re headed to Disney World, it’s easy to get caught up in a frenzy of booking hotels, buying park tickets, making dining reservations, and picking your FastPass+ ride selections. So we understand if you’re overlooking a few details. In fact, we’re pretty sure park policies are far from your mind during the booking process. Here are a few things you should know before you sprint through the park gates.
1. No smoking... with some exceptions.
For the most part, the Walt Disney World Resort is a smoke-free environment. There are, however, specific designated smoking areas throughout the resort. Check the park maps to find them. As for the hotels, they can show you those locations at check-in. Smoking is not allowed in the rooms or on balconies and patios. A $200-500 fee to cover the cost of cleaning the room will be imposed on those who light up.
2. No straws, lids, or balloons in Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Heading to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a balloon or cup with a plastic straw and lid from another park? Those items are a no-no in order to protect the safety of the animals. Your best bet is to buy the balloon after visiting the park, or drop it off at your hotel. Quench your thirst by bringing a refillable mug. If you’re buying a drink at any quick-service dining location in this park, you might notice something different about the cups: they don’t come with lids, and the straws are made of paper, not plastic.
3. When hurricanes strike...
Unfortunately even “The Most Magical Place on Earth” isn’t immune to hurricanes. If Mother Nature threatens your vacation, there’s hope. Should a hurricane warning be issued by the National Hurricane Center for the Orlando area, or your place of residence, within seven days of your scheduled arrival date, you can call in advance to reschedule or cancel your vacation package and most room-only reservations booked directly with Disney. Doing this won’t result in any additional fees.
4. Silly rabbit, costumes are for kids.
Think twice before you pack your Minnie or Mickey costumes, grownups. While it’s okay for little ones to dress up like their favorite characters, guests ages 14 and older cannot wear costumes or clothing that are seen as representing a Disney character aren’t allowed in the parks. However, guests of all ages are welcome to wear costumes during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.
5. The Magic Kingdom is (mostly) alcohol-free.
Walt Disney wanted the Magic Kingdom to be an alcohol-free zone. Until 2012, the only spirits you could find in this park were in the Haunted Mansion -- then Disney added a wine and beer menu to Be Our Guest Restaurant. This sent Disney purists into a tizzy, even though there are some restrictions. You can only order vino during dinner hours, and it cannot leave the confines of the restaurant. In 2016, the park began serving wine and beer at four more table-service eateries: Tony's Town Square Restaurant, Liberty Tree Tavern, Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, and Cinderella's Royal Table. Alcohol is sold in the other parks.
6. Don't go into the water.
Venturing into any of the lakes on property is prohibited due to the threat of alligators, snakes, and bacteria. Following a deadly attack on a toddler in 2016, signs now warn guests to stay away from the water and to not feed alligators. Disney beaches open an hour after sunrise and close an hour before sunset.
7. Kids must be accompanied.
Children under 14 years old must be accompanied by a guest that is 14 or older when visiting the theme parks, and water parks.
8. Canceling a dinner reservation could have penalties.
When making reservations at a number of table-service restaurants, you’ll be asked to provide a credit card number. No-shows, and those who cancel after 11:59 p.m. on the day before their arrival, will be charged. Make sure to check the cancellation policies of each of the restaurants where you plan to dine.
9. Gum's the word.
You can find almost anything in the souvenir shops throughout the resort, but there is an exception: chewing gum. To keep the parks and resorts clean, chewing gum isn’t sold anywhere on property. So if you need to chew, make sure you bring your own gum. And always remember to dispose of it in a trash receptacle.
10. Once your ticket, always your ticket.
You overbought the number of days for your park ticket, so the best thing is to give your ticket to a family member or friend, right? Wrong. Once a guest uses their ticket to enter a park, all subsequent admissions are specific to that person and cannot be transferred to anyone else. Guests must do a biometric finger scan the first time they enter the park. This allows Disney to keep track of its tickets, and who’s using them.
11. Leave the selfie sticks at home.
Want to whip out a selfie stick and catch the perfect shot of yourself zipping down Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? Well, you can't. The resort bans the use of selfie sticks in any of its theme parks or water parks due to concerns over safety. The devices aren't allowed past the security checkpoints, and if you're found with one, you have the option of turning them in to pick up as you exit the park or bringing them back to your car or hotel.
12. The Mouse ramps up security.
Effective April 2017, you'll have to go through security before you even hit the park: the main security checkpoint to the Magic Kingdom was moved from the front gate to the nearby Transportation and Ticket Center. There, guests will have to go through metal detectors before boarding the monorail or ferry to the theme park. Checkpoints have also been implemented at the monorail stations at Disney's Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian Village resorts. This comes after the park stepped up security in December 2015 in response to terror attacks and mass shootings, requiring guests visiting the parks on both the East and West coasts to pass through metal detectors; some are randomly chosen to undergo a secondary screening. You’ll also find additional local uniformed officers around property, as well as K9 units.
13. So long, toy guns.
Disney has halted the sale of toy guns at its stores, and guests are no longer permitted to bring toy guns, squirt guns, or toy blasters into the parks.