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Daring to Disney: Things I wished I knew before I went to Disney

For someone who hadn’t been to Disney in a long time, the trip seemed daunting. So much has changed since I was a kid and of course I wasn’t planning the trips then. People fill literal books with all the things there are to know about Disney. Over the course of our week in Disney, I picked up some things that I thought might have been useful to know or better understand before I went. What better way to end this mega trip report than to share what you need to know before visiting Disney World? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s my list. I’d love to hear what others wished they had known before they went to Disney, so drop some tips in the comments if you have them!

1) If you’re not using magic bands, your ticket cards are linked to your name

When I received my ticket cards in the mail, they looked like this.

The letter we received had no easy way to figure out whose ticket was whose

So you’ll understand that I thought any card could be used for any person in my party. You assign tickets to people on My Disney Experience, but since there was no clear indication on the letter whose card was whose, I figured as long as I sorted out who got the 7 day and 6 day passes it wouldn’t matter.

Turns out it does matter. We found out towards the end of our trip that I had been using my wife’s ticket and vice versa the whole week. This caused us some hassle that isn’t worth going into, but this is something I wish I had known beforehand. I couldn’t find anything online about how to find whose ticket is whose but I think you can call Disney and give them the card numbers and they can tell you. Obviously if you have magic bands this won’t be a problem. That leads me to the second thing I had no idea about before I got to Disney.

2) Your ticket is matched with your fingerprint at park entrances

I did quite a bit of research before we went, so I’d say this is the one and only obvious thing that really caught me by surprise. Tickets are matched to people’s fingerprints! When you enter, you tap your ticket or magic band against an RFID reader and then you put your index finger in a fingerprint reader. This is double checked every time you enter the park so you can’t borrow your mom’s ticket to park hop one day or anything like that (not that I tried :P).

Disney says they aren’t storing your fingerprint information, apparently they convert your fingerprint into a unique digital number that is linked to your ticket. Which…sure sounds like they are storing your fingerprint information, at least for the duration of your visit! (If they can convert from your print => number how hard can it be to go the opposite direction, even if they don’t have the tech for it yet they could probably work that up really quickly if they wanted to I’m guessing).

Also, if you have a “bad” fingerprint, like my wife, be prepared to have your ID checked from time to time. She was ultimately taught the tip to rub her fingerprint on her jeans before the check, which worked out most of the time.

3) You can upgrade your ticket as long as you have at least one day left on the ticket

This ID stuff really matters because you can upgrade your ticket at any time you’d like, applying the value of the old ticket to the cost of the new one. That means if you have a day left on a three day ticket you can upgrade that to a seven day ticket with park hopper or even an annual pass as long as you haven’t swiped in on your last day. This can be very useful when you come to big realizations such as “Hmm an annual pass is better value than my 7 day park hopper.

Now I’m not sure how upgrading tickets will work if you bought a ticket under the old prices, but at the very least you can apply the cash value of your old ticket to any upgrades to new prices. Disney expert Haley said that traditionally Disney has honored old prices when upgrading old tickets but YMMV.

4) Baby Care Centers can be very useful

If you’re traveling with infants or toddlers, Disney’s dedicated Baby Care Centers can be a lifesaver. Whether you forgot supplies, need a place to change a diaper and nurse, or just need some peace and quiet, the Baby Care Centers are there for you. They are also conveniently located next to the First Aid Centers which I’ve also heard great things about. There is one Baby Care Center located in each park, so make sure you know where it is before you get there!

Make sure you know where the Baby Care Center in your park is

5) You can get a pin at Guest Relations for special occassions

If you’re celebrating anything: honeymoon, birthday, anniversary, first time visit, you name it, you can get a special pin at Guest Relations (the ticket booth). These pins cue cast members into the fact that you’re celebrating and they are generally nicer to you (and they’re already pretty nice). Plus, you get to take it home as a keepsake yada yada yada. Maybe not so special for a 30 year old, but you bet it’s something that a 3 year old would cherish.

6) If someone in your party has an annual pass you can skip the Memory Maker

I haven’t confirmed this, but I’m pretty sure this would work. If you have an annual pass you get free access to photopass photos linked to your account. The difference between that and Memory Maker (Disney’s ~$170 catch all photo service) is that Memory Maker allows you to add all your family and friends’ photos. As an aside, for a good debate on the merits of Memory Maker Leslie has a nice post.

You should be able to add these to anyone’s account

Anyway, if someone in your party has an annual pass, just make sure you grab the Photopass tickets from each photographer you get tickets from. Then you can add those Photopass IDs to the annual passholder’s account and you should be able to download all those photos. I didn’t find anything against this in the terms and conditions or anywhere so it should work just fine.

7) Row #s in the parking lot are unique, regardless of lot name

This might only work for more number oriented people, but it saved me a ton of headaches once I figured it out. While each parking lot is divided up into sections (Scar, Hook, Aladdin, etc.), if you have trouble remembering the name of your section just remember the number of your row. All row numbers are unique and as long as you know that you can find your car.

This is probably one of those things that only applies to me, but once I figured that out I never had trouble figuring out my car. It also got Jess and I to stop arguing whether we were in Scar or Hook or wherever – the lot is so enormous I got easily confused. What can I say, I’m a simpleton. Regardless, Row # is all you need!

Bonus: Some rider switch tickets are good for longer than one day

If that’s the case (I didn’t get enough evidence but I feel like it is), you can store them up and have one magical day without your kids!

Final Thoughts

I learned a ton on the trip to Disney and had lots of fun. My daughter and I are ready to go back ASAP, just gotta wait for the right time to trick mom into going! πŸ™‚ Hopefully this series is helpful for anyone trying to prep a trip. If not, I hope it at least made you want to go to WDW!

Other Posts in this Series

Flights, Hotel, and Car

Making Disney Dining Reservations

Saving Money on Disney Tickets

Using Touring Plans (the non-touring plan parts)

Optimizing a visit using Touring Plans’ touring plans

Saving money by staying off site

When a Disney annual pass makes sense

Touring Epcot attractions with a toddler

Touring Animal Kingdom with a toddler

One perfect day at the Magic Kingdom

Dining Reviews

Tips for parents of toddlers and infants

Things I wished I knew before I went to Disney




Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

14 thoughts on “Daring to Disney: Things I wished I knew before I went to Disney

  1. If you’re curious about #2 and them “storing” fingerprints, you should read up on 1-way hashing in computer science. It’s the same thing most websites (the secure ones anyway…) use to store your password and it truly is impossible (with modern computer tech) to reverse the function.

    Basically when you create your password, they don’t store the actual plaintext anywhere but instead perform a complex algorithm on it involving some really big prime numbers and other magic.

    Simple example:
    On password creation: “password123” gets turned into “qwertyui123941tfgb789fnldas9” using formula X.
    When you login, they take whatever you type in as the password, run it through formula X, then see if it matches.
    If password attempt run through formula X = “qwertyui123941tfgb789fnldas9”, then they let you log in
    It’s secure because if anyone hacks their database, they will only be able to see “qwertyui123941tfgb789fnldas9”.
    Given the best super-computers available right now, it would take millenniums of brute-forcing to actually determine the original “password123” that was used even with the formula output.

    Probably too much detail, but rest assured that your guess was incorrect and your fingerprint data is probably safe (assuming you trust Disney to implement a proper hashing scheme!):
    “(If they can convert from your print => number how hard can it be to go the opposite direction, even if they don’t have the tech for it yet they could probably work that up really quickly if they wanted to I’m guessing)”

  2. I don’t see any problem with #6. That’s a great idea.
    We didn’t do memory maker, but I think if I was going to go back again for a long trip, especially if it involves more than just put immediate family, I’d get the memory maker (or the annual pass! πŸ˜‰ ).
    some on the best photos are the ones that they take on the rides, though. I’d have to be sure to scan the band with AP to get those.
    @Noah – love the 1-way hashing info. Very interesting. (Though your comment is another step down to road of losing our Latin plurals – millennia!! Not millenniums. )

    1. I’m glad you liked my explanation!

      According to dictionary.com either form is an acceptable plural of millennium, but you’re right in that it’s probably only in there because people have been messing it up for long enough to finally give in. πŸ™‚

      1. You’re absolutely right about the millennia/millenniums thing being technically correct either way now. πŸ™‚ It’s what my husband would call “old person doesn’t like new stuff”, which unfortunately makes me the “old person” in this case, but oh well.

  3. FYI, you can upgrade your tickets bought at the old price. Basically, the way it works is once you use your ticket 1 day (and as long as there is more than 1 day left) then you can bridge (Disney’s word for changing your ticket) your ticket to another ticket using the value of the first ticket as a credit.

    The great thing about it is that once you use the ticket, the value reverts to that of Disney’s gate price of that ticket. This means if you bought it before the price went up or you if you got a discount ticket from Undercover Tourist or something, you can still get a credit of the current Disney gate price for that ticket toward your new ticket.

    A lot of people will by the discount tickets with the best discount with a plan to bridge them to annual passes to save money.

    1. So what you’re saying is if my ticket value was $350 but the new price for that ticket is $400, if I upgrade that old ticket I get $400 of credit? Or I can upgrade at old prices?

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