Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World can be hectic. There is much to consider, like where to find the perfect resort for your family and how many days you will spend in each park. However, the complications of Disney vacation planning aside, there is another aspect to remember when traveling internationally: the differences between your country and the United States of America.
You might think it’s basically the same, especially if you come from an English-speaking country; after all, how different could it be? Well, there are a few differences you will want to be aware of before visiting to ensure you don’t have any nasty surprises when you arrive.
Tax Is Not Included
Some countries like to include their Tax or GST in the pricing noted on a menu or an item, making it easier to know what your total spend will be. In the USA, tax is calculated separately at the time of purchase, meaning that anything you order or buy will be a bit more expensive at the cash register than it first appears. Know the tax rate where you will be. In Walt Disney World, expect to pay roughly 6.5% on top of the ticketed price.
Currency Exchange Rate Can Sneak Up On You
Knowing your current conversion rates can be the difference between a calculated spend and coming home to an out-of-control credit card bill. Before you leave, check out the latest exchange rates and give yourself a few reference points. When visiting a country that has a different conversion to what I am familiar with, I like to make a note of what $10, $50, and $100 are in that currency, which then helps me break down the conversion on the spot.
Beware of International Credit Card Fees
Foreign Currency Credit Card Fee, is a phrase that no international traveler likes to hear. Unfortunately, it’s a lovely surprise that your credit company will likely add when making transactions overseas. In my experience, it comes in at around 3% on top of your total. So when you are eyeing that Mickey Mouse Plush to take home, first convert the currency, then add your sales tax, and then your credit card fee to better understand what it will cost you. A great way to avoid this extra fee is to get yourself a global currency card, which many banks now offer. You can pre-load it with the currency of your choice and avoid those fees.
Consider Your Mobile Network Options
Not all WiFi is created equal. Bringing your phone from overseas into the USA can leave you returning to an extraordinarily large bill for calls and data. Know your options before you go. Often, your carrier will have packages available where you can pay a certain amount per day and be covered for enough data to function. I know what you are thinking. Yes, most of Walt Disney World has free WiFi; however, it can be patchy, and you can bet that the moment you need it most to book that previous Genie+ reservation, it will drop out. See what is available before you leave, and don’t rely on your international roaming data unless you know you are covered.
Tipping / Gratuity Adds Up
Ahh tipping. It’s the age-old argument that those of us who come from countries where our service providers are adequately paid will never fully understand. Even so, it is essential to know that when you are visiting the USA, there is a standard that you will need to be aware of. Expectations will vary depending on who you speak to, though most bills will have a very convenient table at the bottom to make the calculation easier. Be aware that some areas (outside of Disney) will offer unreasonable suggestions as well. For example, a few years ago, I was in a small (very casual) Florida restaurant in a touristy location that kindly offered me a 38% gratuity calculation.
Know Your Weather
There are two systems in place for everything from measurements to temperatures: Metric and Imperial. If you are traveling from a country that uses the metric system, you are likely more familiar with Celcius temperatures than Fahrenheit. It pays to know the environment you will be in so that you can pack accordingly. Ensure you understand the conversion between the two temperature systems so you aren’t caught off guard. Walt Disney World is known for being temperamental with weather and not necessarily predictable according to the season.
Allow For Jetlag
You might be disappointed if you plan on jumping off the plane after 16 hours and getting into the action while feeling fresh as a daisy. Long-haul flights can be brutal, and if you haven’t done one before, you might be surprised at the toll it can take on you. Give yourself time to land and settle in before starting your Disney days. Park tickets are too expensive to assume you will be ready to go as soon as you arrive. Unless you are pushed for time, I always like to start my Disney park time the day after arriving.
If you have any tips for international travelers visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, add them to the comments below!
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.