You've been planning this trip for a long time. Flying internationally is a big deal and much more involved than just jumping in the car and heading off after school on a Friday. So how do you avoid the unfortunate surprises that trip-up foreigners in the Disney Parks? You keep reading this article.
We're about to explore tipping, wifi, and weather for international visitors to Disney Parks around the world.
If you are coming from places like Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Switzerland, (and many others) you may not be familiar with tipping. Let's look at what to expect with tipping in each of the Disney Parks locations around the world.
In Disneyland and Walt Disney World: When traveling in the USA to visit Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida, tipping will be expected at almost every turn. It is expected that you tip servers between 15 - 20% of the PRE-TAX bill. This is something that you need to factor into your planning, as it can significantly increase the amount of money you spend in a day. Once you have tipped your taxi driver, your bellhop, your server, your bartender and now in some cases, your maid service, this can put a substantial strain on your budget. Check beforehand what might be suitable in each place you are visiting. In restaurants, gratuity guides are usually listed at the bottom of the bill as an indication of what to leave. If this guide is not provided for you, remember your calculation should be based on the PRE-TAX amount. If you have used the old "double the tax" rule previously, keep in mind that doesn't work in Orlando where the combined tax rate is only 6.5%. Anaheim in California has a combined tax rate of 7.75% which will get you a little closer to where you are expected to be. Feel free to tip more if your service is exceptional; and by the same token, don't feel obligated to leave a full 15 - 20% if your service is abysmal. I'm not suggesting you halve your tip if the wrong drink arrives, but if you encounter rude service or have a particularly horrible experience, it is okay to let your tip reflect that. Just be prepared to let someone in management know so they can be aware of what is happening in their establishment. If you are traveling in a group of 6 or more, be prepared for an 18% tip to be added to your bill automatically.
In Disneyland Hong Kong: Tipping is not generally considered part of the culture in Hong Kong so if you try to leave a tip, it could be accepted graciously or it may even be refused. In some of the more expensive restaurants throughout the city, you may find that a 10% service charge is included in the bill; however, throughout Disneyland Hong Kong, you probably won't need to worry about adding anything additional to your bill. But — and yes, there is a but — tipping is expected when you're in a hotel, so to avoid the expected gratuity, look after your own baggage and get it to, and from, the room without assistance.
In Disneyland Paris: In Paris, tipping is appreciated, but unlike in the USA, it is not considered an obligation. A service charge is usually included in the pricing of your meal without you even knowing. Rewarding exemplary service in more upmarket areas will mostly be appreciated, although it is not expected of you. Within the Disney Parks in Paris, you won't need to worry about tipping. If you do decide to tip in Paris, make sure you have cash as tips are not able to be added to your credit card bill.
In Disneyland Tokyo: This is where things start to get complicated. Try to tip in Japan and not only will you look like a tourist, but you may even offend the person assisting you. Having a respectful and polite attitude is always expected as part of Japanese culture, so if you want to thank someone for their assistance don't be surprised if your tip is refused, politely of course. In most situations, a simple "Arigatou!" will do. That means thank you in Japanese.
In Disneyland Shanghai: Give your wallet a rest in Shanghai as there is no tipping throughout China. There may be some internationally run tour companies that expect gratuity; however, that is where it ends. You won't see locals tipping servers or taxi drivers, so this won't be something to factor into your Disney Shanghai budget.
Apps and WiFi Access
Most Disney Parks have their own apps which come with varying levels of versatility. Some apps like the My Disney Experience app for Walt Disney World allow you to control everything from your reservations and FastPasses, to shopping, to call-ahead food ordering. Others can be very limited.
Getting the app in advance is always a good idea, but be wary of services you are planning to use in the parks that require access to it (and the internet to run it). Don't run into trouble using your global roaming and racking up a massive bill in overseas data charges. Know what to expect in advance.
WiFi In Walt Disney World: Free WiFi is available through the parks and most resorts on WDW property. It can be a little patchy, but if you persist, it is doable without chewing through hundreds of dollars in international data charges. This allows you to access all those reservations you spent the better part of a year making.
WiFi In Disneyland California: Until recently, there was no free WiFi to be had at the Disneyland parks. Now you can find it in specific areas in both parks and the space in-between the two. There is a map on the Disneyland website that will help you find and make the most of services like MaxPass, which is designed to let you acquire FASTPASSes from your mobile device rather than having to visit each FASTPASS distribution terminal. You can find that beautiful WiFi finder map HERE.
WiFi In Disneyland Paris: Sorry my technologically savvy friends, free WiFI is not available in Disneyland Paris. Be prepared to say goodbye to the internet while on site or be ready to pay off that mobile data bill when you get home. Make reservations before you leave and screen cap the reservations on your phone. That way if you can't access an app that you booked it through, you have a copy sitting in your photos.
WiFi In Disneyland Hong Kong: Good news — WiFi is newly available in HongKong Disneyland! Coverage is a little iffy in some places, but the intention is there so we are hoping it can only get better as time goes on.
WiFi In Disneyland Tokyo: Sadly, publicly-free WiFi is surprisingly uncommon in Japan and not available in Disneyland Tokyo. Keep your reservations on hand by screen capping them on your mobile device, and if you need additional access, consider renting a pocket WiFi device that will allow you to connect to the internet. If you are questioning if this is worth using as opposed to your mobile data, the answer is most likely yes. Talk to your mobile carrier before you leave home to find out what their rates are for international data.
WiFi In Disneyland Shanghai: WiFi is technically available through the Disney park and resort; however, most people report it being near impossible to connect to. Have a backup plan or consider renting a device to allow you to connect to the internet when needed.
Weather and Seasons
Weather can be a significant factor when it comes to how prepared you are for your activities. Around the world, different seasons can mean utterly different weather to what you have at home. Even though it is always good to consult a weather report before leaving, here is a quick rundown of what you can usually expect year-round in each Disney Park location.
Weather in Walt Disney World: Florida weather can be very unpredictable, so even when you think you know what you're in for, always be prepared for a sudden heat wave, cold snap or bout of rain.
Summer (June - August) brings high temperatures to the parks, teamed with the highest rainfall of the year and the subsequent humidity that comes with it. These months will also be responsible for the first three months of hurricane season.
Fall (September - November) begins with September, which is known as the worst month for the Caribbean hurricane season. The temperatures begin to ease-off towards October and November, making these months a great time to visit with the lower rainfall and lower temperatures.
Winter (December - February) can be one of the best times to visit the parks. Not only is the Christmas season in full swing, but the lower temperatures can make all the rushing around more bearable. Unfortunately, it can also bring heavier crowds closer to Christmas and around the local winter break. Water park season is going to be uncomfortable at this time of year, so don't plan on too much pool time to take up your days. That said, be prepared for Mother Nature to throw you a few scorching-hot days here and there, just to keep you on your toes.
Spring (March - May) sees rainfall increasing from April through May, so make the most of the drier weather in Spring while you can. Temperatures start to climb again here, so if you're looking for water park fun or just warmer temperatures in the parks, it will be increasing towards the end of this season.
Weather In Disneyland California: Known for its low rainfall and warm days, California weather can be beautiful year round. Anaheim is no exception.
Summer (June - August) is peak tourist season in the Golden State, so be prepared for the warm weather with a side of crowds. Unlike its eastern counterpart, Anaheim summers are hot and usually dry.
Fall / Autumn (September - November) is a beautiful time to visit this region as the cooler temperatures, and spectacular plant life, are dramatic to take in.
Winter (December - February) is the proud owner of the wettest month of the year — January. Most of the year's rainfall will occur from November through February. While this might not be good news for the parks, it is fantastic if you are looking to take a day off to go to the nearby snowfields and spend a day or two in the snow.
Spring (March - May) has rising temperatures, cool nights, beautiful spring flowers and easing rain conditions. What could be better? This time of year it is all about layers, so dress for a little of everything.
Weather In Disneyland Paris: There is a decent amount of rain to be had year-round in Paris. Rainfall tends to be much less seasonal than in other Disney Park locations, so consider waterproof shoes and jackets Disneyland Paris staples when packing.
Summer (June - August) in Paris can be short with mild temperatures and the occasional muggy thunderstorm. In general, summer there is much more controlled than in the USA.
Fall / Autumn (September - November) can still bring more of the wet season with it in general; temperatures start to slowly come down until a drastic change around October / November. Bring enough clothing to stay warm as the nights begin to cool.
Winter (December - February) can bring snow to Disneyland Paris! This can be a magical experience, or it can wreak havoc on the parks and start shutting down the happiest place in Paris. Bring warm clothing that is waterproof to combat any rain/snow you might encounter.
Spring (March - May) is still going to have unpredictable rain and wind at times; so again, layers are always the key in Paris. Be prepared to dress up or down without having to trek back to your hotel.
Weather In Disneyland Hong Kong: Cooler temperatures dominate more than half the year in Hong Kong with mostly dry winters and hot, muggy summers.
Summer (June - August) holds June, said to be the worst month to visit Hong Kong. The weather is hot, excessively humid and to top it all off, its rainy season. Though typhoon season extends through July, the rain does ease slightly heading into the rest of summer.
Fall / Autumn (September - November) marks the end of summer. But is it really? The humidity may ease-off, but the temperatures are still high enough to keep you hot. Closer to November the rain has decreased and typhoon season is in the rear view mirror, so trade your umbrella for sunscreen and insect repellent.
Winter (December - February) brings the least amount of rain to the calendar. Cooler temperatures for the locals doesn't mean snow and hot cocoa for visitors. Top temperatures stay at a lovely 15C / 59F during the coolest month of January.
Spring (March - May) marks the last month where you can avoid the humidity in March. From here it is a rising combination of temperatures, humidity, and rain all the way into summer.
Weather In Disneyland Tokyo: Weather in Japan can change dramatically through the seasons.
Summer (June - August) bring the rainy season with the majority of tsuyu (rainy season) running through June and into the first half of July. While the rain might let up there, the humidity won't so be ready for a hot and humid August heading into typhoon season.
Fall / Autumn(September - November) shows signs of relief from the humidity around October and into November with the cooler temperatures starting to settle in.
Winter (December - February) is home of one of the biggest tourist seasons in Japan — New Year — so while the weather might be cool and dry, perfect for theme park activities, be mindful of crowds during this time. February has the highest snowfall in the mountain areas.
Spring (March - May) is when Japanese children are on school holidays, and many people come from around the world to see the cherry blossom trees which are in full bloom around mid-April. One thing to keep in mind if planning a trip in 2020, expect increasing crowds and prices headed into the Tokyo Olympics.
Weather In Disneyland Shanghai: Summer (June - August / September) is long in Shanghai. The weather in summer is sweltering and wet while temperatures can hold above 35C /95F for more than 10 days at a time. Typhoon season is also August - September, so damp weather precautions are a must.
Fall / Autumn (October - November) is the shortest season. There is consistent rain though temperatures are much more manageable.
Winter (December - February) is a lot cooler. While it rarely ever snows, you can expect a cold, but still humid, wind to keep you on your toes.
Spring (March - May) is said to be the best season for traveling within Shanghai due to light rainfall and comfortable temperatures.
If you are coming from overseas, particularly the Southern Hemisphere where you are in opposite seasons, be aware that this time of year is when most Northern Hemisphere countries have their long school summer breaks, making it a busy time to be in the parks.
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