Have you ever wondered which wish the Make-a-Wish organization grants most often? Over 40% of wishes granted by Make-a-Wish are Disney related. Many of these, including my own son's wish, are to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
For kids like my son, Disney World has it all – Mickey Mouse, Star Wars, animals, and the undeniable Disney magic. My son's Disney World wish includes a week-long stay for our entire family at a special resort called Give Kids the World Village, transportation, spending money, and admission to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld.
Our trip was in 2013, and some things have changed since then. We returned to volunteer at Give Kids the World Village in 2017 and I do my best to keep this article up to date through the online Village Guide, Walt Disney World's website and my cancer moms Facebook group.
We had a lot of questions before our June 2013 Make-a-Wish trip. Here are a few of the things we wanted to know:
So many parks, so little time
You will receive passes to the four parks of Walt Disney World, the two parks of Universal Orlando and SeaWorld. That's seven parks in seven days, and you'll be traveling on two of those days.
We had never visited Orlando before, so we purchased The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. It gave us a lot of great information about both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando that helped us to decide which attractions were most important to our family. We also ordered the free vacation planning DVD from the Disney website.
Our strategy was to head for the parks early and return by dinner time each evening. This helped us beat the crowds and left us a few evening hours to enjoy the parties and amenities at Give Kids the World. However, Walt Disney World has great fireworks and nighttime shows. Check the Walt Disney World official calendar in advance to plan your visit.
You will receive 3-Day Park Hopper passes to Walt Disney World, meaning that you have three days to visit four parks. If you want to see all four Disney parks in three days, we decided that Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios were the easiest parks to visit on the same day.
You do not need to use your passes on consecutive days. You can spend one day at Disney and the next at Universal or SeaWorld. Get familiar with all three parks and their calendars and make a plan that works best for your family.
Do you need MagicBand?
MagicBand was introduced at Walt Disney World after our trip. Many visitors to Walt Disney World buy these watch-like bands because they are a convenient way to link your credit card, FASTPASSes, photos and Disney Resorts room key to a digital wristband. Basic MagicBands start at about $12.99 each.
Wish families will have a separate pass that will admit them to FASTPASS lines, as well as a separate photo card. You can link the photo card to a MagicBand, but you don't need to. Wish families who have used MagicBand tell me that they are convenient, but not essential. It's nice to link your photo account and credit card to all your family's bands, but you can obviously get by without them.
What your VIP pass includes
- Free 3-Day Park Hopper passes to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
The Park Hopper feature means that you can visit more than one park on the same day. You can use the passes on any of the days of your trip. Your passes do not include water parks like Blizzard Beach.
- Free parking
Show one of your park passes to the parking attendant as you enter the lot. If you plan to visit two separate parks on the same day, drive your car from one to the other. Each Disney park has a separate parking lot and they are not close to one another.
- Free stroller or wheelchair rental
Amy, another Make-a-Wish mom, recommends bringing your own stroller instead of using the rental. The rental strollers are made of hard plastic and don't have much storage space. She also points out that the trek from your car to the front gate of the park can be a long one without a stroller. Read more about Amy's Make-a-Wish tips at her blog: TysonsBraveBattalion.blogspot.com.
- Front-of-line passes for rides
This is the BEST, once-in-a-lifetime benefit of the trip. Your Genie Wishes pass allows you to use the FAST PASS line at every ride that has one and the Handicap entrance for rides that don't have FAST PASS. So, you may have to wait 10-15 minutes in the FAST PASS line for some rides.
We visited during peak season and our pass saved us hours of standing in line and chasing for FAST PASSES. On the Small World ride, the Handicap line was long too, and the ride attendant walked us to a different entrance and put us right on the ride.
Carry your Genie Wishes Pass in a lanyard. A lanyard will probably be provided by Give Kids the World. You'll need to show it to every ride attendant. Have your child wear his/her Give Kids the World button. You may want to dress him/her and your family in a Make-a-Wish t-shirts too, but it's not essential.
- Free Photo service
You'll receive a Memory Maker card with your passes at Give Kids the World. Give it to every photographer you see in the Disney parks to collect great family photos of your trip. Also use it after riding attractions that take photos.
Follow the instructions on the back of the card to download all of those photos for free.
- Entrance to VIP lounges
Wish families will receive passes and instructions to enter special lounges in Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. We visited the Wish Lounge in Magic Kingdom and it was a nice, quiet place to take a break for a few minutes. The lounges close early, so watch the time if you want to see them.
What your VIP pass DOES NOT include
- Front-of-line privileges for character greetings
That's the official policy, but we were told by another Wish family that their Genie pass helped them skip the character lines. We had other priorities and didn't try for ourselves.
Characters from Disney World, Universal, Nickelodeon or SeaWorld visit Give Kids the World nearly every weekday morning, and at other times as well. There was little or no line there to get our family photos with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Belle, Shrek, Scooby-Doo and others right before we left for the parks.
- Front-of-line privileges for meals
Disney is pretty efficient at moving people through long lines and finding them places to sit. However, avoid peak meal times if you don't want to wait in line for meals. You can also skip the lines by packing your own picnic lunch or snacks into the park. Walmart is located near Give Kids the World, and it's easy to stock up there.
- Meal expenses
It worked well for us to eat breakfast and dinner at Give Kids the World and pay for lunch and snacks in the park with our spending money. Character breakfasts and restaurants requiring reservations were not a priority for our family. Make reservations well before your trip if it is a priority for yours.
- Souvenir expenses
We enjoyed purchasing a few souvenirs in the parks. Disney World will hold your purchases and have them available for pick up near the exit at the end of the day.
Keep in mind that your children will also receive gifts at Give Kids the World, including the occasional Disney gift, each day. There is a large Disney souvenir section at Walmart near Give Kids the World too. In the end, we needed the largest suitcase we own to get all our souvenirs home, and I didn't feel like we bought much. Be sure to bring an extra suitcase.
Prepare for changing weather conditions
We experienced both scorching sun and soaking rain during our days in the Disney parks. Prepare for unpredictable weather. We packed sunscreen and rain ponchos every day, and were grateful for both. We also packed plenty of water, including some frozen water bottles.
Our family may visit Walt Disney World again someday, but it will never be as special as our Make-a-Wish trip. We are grateful to Disney, Give Kids the World, and Make-a-Wish who made this memorable trip possible for our family.
Would you like more information about a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World? Here are more articles about visiting Orlando through Make-A-Wish.
- Tips for making the most of your stay at Give Kids the World
- Tips for visiting SeaWorld Orlando through Make-A-Wish
- Disney World dining on a budget
- Budget tips for Walt Disney World
- A first-timer's guide to Walt Disney World
- Little Dress Up Shop for Disney costumes
You should receive spending money for food and souvenirs in the parks from Make-A-Wish. However, if you'd prefer to budget more of that money for character breakfasts, souvenirs, or to take home, we hope that the money-saving tips will be helpful.