Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World Guide

Disneyland vs. Walt Disney World Guide

Navigating the differences between Disneyland and Walt Disney World like a pro By: Samantha Davis-Friedman
<p>One significant difference between Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World is how the Fastpass system works. // © 2014 Creative Commons user <a...

One significant difference between Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World is how the Fastpass system works. // © 2014 Creative Commons user expressmonorail

Feature image (above): Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., is smaller than its Orlando, Fla., counterpart and may be easier to navigate. // © 2014 Creative Commons user andycastro

The Details

Disneyland Resort

Walt Disney World

Minnie Memories Travel

Small World Vacations, Inc.

My family knows every corner of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., so when we visited Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., we thought we would have no trouble at the larger Magic Kingdom. After all, they’re the same, right?

Well, we could not have been more wrong. For anyone going to a Disney theme park for the first time, there’s a lot to figure out. Navigating the park, minimizing wait times and maximizing the number of attractions are things that travel agents can help first-time park-goers tackle. 

But, for Disneyland veterans visiting Disney World, or vice versa, travel agents need to go one step further and explain not only the similarities but, more importantly, the differences.

Regardless of whether clients are visiting Disneyland or Disney World, mastering the Fastpass system is the key to a successful Disney experience. However, the Fastpass system is completely different at each Disney park.

At Disneyland, guests go to kiosks located near an attraction and receive a Fastpass ticket for that attraction. They can only hold one fast pass at a time, but once they have used it or it expires, they are free to get another one. Meanwhile, at Disney World, guests collect Fastpasses for all attractions at a central kiosk, or they can obtain Fastpasses on their smart phone using the app customized for that park only. 

Another important difference is that Disneyland’s Fastpass system is “rolling,” so guests can get a new Fastpass as soon as their previous one is used. However, while the Disney World fast pass system allows guests to hold up to three Fastpasses at one time, no additional Fastpasses can be obtained until all three have been used or expired.  

Since guests are allowed to reserve Fastpasses 30 days in advance (60 days if staying in one of the resort’s hotels), travel agents can — and should — pre-book Fastpasses for their clients. Even with that additional help, explaining the Fastpass system beforehand will avoid unneeded frustration inside the park. 

“Walt Disney World has a learning curve,” said Meredith Olney Wallace of Minnie Memories Travel in in Bedford, N.Y. “You don't want to be learning the differences between Disneyland and Walt Disney World while you are on your dream vacation.”

In fact, identifying the differences between the two parks should happen during the vacation planning stage. 

“Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort are tied together by the common thread of Disney quality and compelling storytelling, but they can be different experiences,” said Lynn Clark, vice president of domestic travel industry and destination sales for Disney.

Therefore, Clark recommends that agents choose a Disney vacation destination that involves some discovery of clients’ lifestyles.

Find out whether clients want: the option of multiple themed hotels and golf courses, to experience the classic feel of Disney’s first theme park, to experience exclusive attractions to each location or some combination of the available options.

Whether a client is a “Disneyland” person or a “Disney World” person may come down one simple difference, observed by Mary Hoffman, a travel agent at Small World Vacations.

“I personally love all of the nostalgia at Disneyland, but I love the variety of Walt Disney World,” said Hoffman.

Either way, there is plenty of Disney magic at either park. 

No matter which destination is chosen, either is geared to deliver memories that last a lifetime, Clark said.


Quick Tips From Travel Agents Who Specialize in Disney

“Disneyland veterans are in for a bit of a surprise on their first visit to Walt Disney World,” said Sue Pisaturo, the owner and founder of Small World Vacations, Inc. “On the other hand, Walt Disney World veterans will be pleasantly surprised at how easy and magical it is to visit Disneyland.”  

Following are additional suggestions from Small World Vacations, Inc. travel agents.

- Clients used to visiting Disneyland where they can easily walk to hotels, Downtown Disney and between the two parks should be made aware that none of that is possible at Disney World. – Belle Myer

- Clients who are familiar with Disney World should be told that parking at Disneyland and transportation between parks and hotels is not complimentary like Disney’s Magical Express at Disney World, so they will need to consider transportation and parking costs.  – Carly Gonzales

- It’s important to explain that setting up dining in advance is necessary when visiting Disney World because there are many restaurants scattered over 42 square miles, and guests need to figure out beforehand how to get to dining locations, whereas restaurants at Disneyland are closer together. – Leigh McCarty