Summer’s here, and that means families all over the world will be embarking on an adventure to the happiest place on Earth. Brought to you by a previous Disney cast member and former Mickey Mouse, learn some tips and tricks to take full advantage of your Disney vacation.
All of Disney World property estimates to be bigger than the city of Manhattan, which means no matter how you get there you’ll be spending a fair amount of time getting to and from parks. The suggested route, of course, is taking Disney’s public transportation system. Unlike your city’s system, Disney has a clean and efficiently scheduled line of busses and monorails to take you to whichever park your heart desires.
Do: take the monorail when you can
It’s a part of Disney culture, and a great way to get around and see the sights. These trains will also save you gas money getting from park to park, as you can take them between Epcot and Magic Kingdom. If you choose to stay at a resort near Magic Kingdom or Epcot, the monorail will go directly to you! There are also express rails that skip the resorts if you don’t wish to make those pit stops. Whatever you do when you take the monorail remember, “Please stay clear from the doors.”
Don’t: wait until park close to leave
One of the worst things about leaving a Disney park when it’s closing is fighting the crowds; especially when you’re with friends and family. Either leave before or during the firework shows and special events (if you’ve already seen them) or stay afterwards in the cafes and sitting areas for the crowd to thin out. The wait for the monorail line can get intensely heavy at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, so stick around a bit longer after closing. We’ve found that enjoying an ice cream cone from the parlor or a treat from Goofy’s Kitchen is a great way to relax and end the day.
Animal Kingdom is the only park not connected by monorail or boat from resorts and the beach boardwalk, so you’d have to rely on the Disney buses if you plan on saving your gas. Fear not, they run on a timely schedule and are air conditioned for your traveling comfort.
Disney World consists of four main theme parks and two water parks, and if you want to see all of them, ensure that you plan ahead. We’re not talking about meticulously planning your day hour by hour, but when it comes to park hopping it’s important to know which parks you can finish in a day and which you can’t. If you have the time, spend at least one day all day in each park so you can see all it has to offer. However, we understand that sometimes you just can’t spend an entire week at Disney World, and if it comes down to that then take a look at the tip below.
Do: plan on spending entire days at certain parks
With Magic Kingdom and Epcot being the two most popular parks, they take a lot more time to get through everything. You might even consider spending a couple of days at each, just because there’s so much to do and see. Epcot has an entire world showcase with different countries (each with its own restaurants, shops, shows and/or rides) as well as a Future World for the adrenaline lovers, while Magic Kingdom has six whole lands with rides and shops to occupy your time. On a full day, it’s absolutely possible to wait in line for all the big/most popular rides and not get a chance to do the lesser known ones like Peter Pan’s Flight or Maelstrom at Norway in Epcot.
Don’t: forget to bring water bottles and comfortable shoes
No matter which park your day is planned around, you can count on it being hot, humid, and full of walking. Water bottles are a bit pricy at the park, and you can always ask for a free cup at a quick service restaurant, but bringing your own bottle is cheaper and healthier for the environment. For the girls, don’t make that packing decision to bring your heels or wedges because at the end of the day you’ll buy Minnie Mouse slippers and your family will have to carry your heels.
Try going to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in the same day. Start off at Animal Kingdom, as there are way less attractions and the park closes roughly around 6 p.m. every night. Then make your way to Hollywood Studios for Tower of Terror and Fantasmic! Reason being that Animal Kingdom is more a place to walk around, look at the animals, and enjoy the scenery than to spend all day riding rides. Unless you’re like us and love to ride Everest over ten times in a row.
Attractions and Shows
Rides and fireworks are always the first things that pop up when we think of Disney World, and it’s no secret that Disney has some pretty amazing ones. When it comes to seeing it all, you need some great planning and good judgement skills about what to spend your time on. At Hollywood Studios the lines for Toy Story Mania can get ridiculously long while The Great Movie Ride will have little to none, but you won’t want to be waiting in either while Fantasmic is showing!
Do: take advantage of the Fastpass system
Select rides have the ability to give you a return ticket so you can come back at a later time through an alternate line. This can cut your wait time down by hours and allows you to spend that time seeing shows and waiting for other less popular rides. And always, always get the Fastpass early. Later in the evenings the systems run out of passes and you’ll be stuck in long lines if you didn’t snag one. Be mindful, however, that not all rides have the Fastpass system for their lines. It’s good idea to check out the rides you want to cover all day and find out which use the Fastpass system, so you know what to spend your time waiting in line for.
Don’t: ignore the shows and entertainment
Parades and shows add onto the Disney experience. Going on vacation to Magic Kingdom without watching its firework show Wishes is just like ordering a sundae without the rainbow sprinkles! They’re not necessary but they add so much fun and are fun to look at. Magic Kingdom, in particular, has some of the best shows. During the day it has castle performances with characters that actually blink and talk, and at night you must stick around to see The Magic, The Memories, And You (done before the nightly fireworks) where they do projections on Cinderella’s castle and change it in ways you never thought you’d see.
Disney’s Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios is one of the best shows on property, but the line gets huge pretty early. If you want the center seats (and/or the splasher seats in front) then you may want to plan on being in line for an hour or two before the show. But fear not, if you happen to get near the end of the line, you’ll still get in. Fantasmic’s theater is huge, and everyone will be able to see the show.
If there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about at Disney World it’s finding a place to eat. Every park has a selection of quick and full-service restaurants, with a wide variety for everyone in the family. If you call ahead you can even get the vegetarian menu for those who prefer it. Every single restaurant on property is themed to fit the location, so whether you’re eating hot dogs on Main Street in Magic Kingdom or stuffing yourself full at the buffets in Epcot, you can rest assured that it’ll be unique.
Do: make reservations ahead of time
For at least one night on your trip, make a stop by the full-service, or dine-in, restaurants. Each park has great full-service restaurants with fun themes (and some characters as well!), but it’s important to get a reservation or else you’ll be standing in line waiting for a spot to open up. Of course sometimes there are openings, but save that valuable time so you can ride Space Mountain some more! If you’re looking for options then look no further than Epcot’s World Showcase, where almost every country there has a full-service buffet themed for its location. Beware: one of the popular – if not most popular – showcases is Canada for its excellent menus, so if you were thinking about dining there then plan now.
Don’t: worry if you have a budget
There are plenty, and we mean plenty, of quick-service restaurants with fun themes. It’s a great way to stick to your budget and still get fun experiences in the parks. If you go to Epcot you’ll also find that almost every country in the World Showcase has a quick-service restaurant, so you can still get the full cultural experience no matter where you dine. There are great quick-service restaurants in all the Disney parks, one of our favorites being Toy Story’s very own Pizza Planet located at Hollywood Studios.
If you want to eat at Cinderella’s Castle, plan now! Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Disney World and the wait list can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months. This restaurant not only includes spectacular views but also a meet and greet with princesses from a bunch of Disney movies including of course Cinderella, but also Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle!
Characters and Kids
Disney wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the characters it brought to life through its movies. Kids and adults alike love visiting the characters, and there are so many to see that you can spend whole days character greeting. Characters include Mickey and Minnie (and the rest of their gang), Mary Poppins, Tow Mater, Phineas and Ferb, and way more. Don’t forget to visit Magic Kingdom to meet with the newest Disney Princess of all, Merida from Brave.
Do: be prepared for meeting characters
Lines for Mickey Mouse or Princess Merida from Brave can get a little long, so take that time to get anything you want signed ready and have an idea of who wants photos. We can’t begin to tell you exactly how much easier it is on a character when your family isn’t organizing everything right at the meet ‘n’ greet, and you know what to do. Take the time to prepare your autograph books, comfort the weary children, and warn the rambunctious teenagers. The characters love to make you smile, so return the favor and help the meet ‘n’ greet process go smoothly.
Don’t: ruin the magic
Thousands of kids at Walt Disney World believe in the characters and love them will all their heart, so if you’re in line or you see a character while you’re walking past, then be kind to your fellow guests and refrain from talking about them as costumes or employees. We understand; you know it’s a fallacy and characters are on the same level as Santa Claus, but kids grow up so fast, so let them believe in the impossible for as long as they can.
Combine your character and dining experiences by going to one of the character dining restaurants for breakfast or dinner. You’ll get to meet multiple characters during your meal and get a few lines out of the way if you plan on spending the day hunting for autographs. Another great tip for rounding up your meet ‘n’ greets in one is heading over to the Character Spot in Epcot where you can meet all of the fab five; including Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy!
Walt Disney World in Florida is literally just that, a whole world of experiences and adventures. This was only a small taste of what there is to do at the theme parks, so if you’re going this summer then take your time and plan your trip for the maximum amount of fun you can have!
If you have any questions or want to find out more about the backstage experience at Disney World, then feel free to ask the former mouse on Tumblr.
What would you do if you went to Disney World?