There are tons of great sites to get a plethora of fantastic tips for visiting Disney… not to mention shelves and shelves of books on the matter.
However, my first trip (as an adult) there was filled with questions and this mama felt a little under-prepared.
Truth be told, it is really easy to spend a fortune at these types of places and spend half your time just getting yourself oriented… just sayin’
So, this time around, I armed myself with information… and my knowledge from my our first trip…
And this time around, I felt like– while not perfect– we at least had a better game plan.
Now, Disney pros will find a lot of this info very amateurish, I am sure.
However, I decided to write the post I wish I would have read before my first trip. While it may leave a lot out, these are some of the things I wish I had known.
1. Know the Park and the Schedule
I can’t tell you how lost I was the first park we ever visited.
So much going on and unknowingly, much of it on a set schedule…
From the park-stopping parades, to the amazing shows, to appearances by your kiddo’s favorite characters to the time the park opens and closes–all are on a schedule that changes daily and subject to change every week.
You may have heard about Fantasmic, the must-see fireworks and character show at Hollywood Studios, or your little one is dying to meet Snow White…
If you don’t know which day, which park and what time these magical encounters are occurring, you could waste your money by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Maps and schedules are available at the entrance of each park, however, if you want to plan a little further ahead, you can check out all of the Theme Park Resources that Disney keeps updated online.
They also have a fun way for you to create your family’s own customized maps of each park and will mail you these high quality keepsake maps for free.
What they don’t tell you is how difficult or easy it will be to see those characters… or how long you will have to wait.
My girlfriends swear by the Character meals… where you pay to eat with the characters and get all your hugs, kisses and photos in during that time. However, we were not able to get a reservation, so we met our Characters the old fashioned way.
If your little princess has her heart set on meeting a wide range of characters, Animal Kingdom is the perfect place. There are so many characters throughout the part and specifically in and around Camp Minnie-Mickey, that even the most popular characters have short lines… if lines at all.
If you want one stop to meet the “biggies” then get on with your day, it is really hard to beat Epcot’s Character Spot. The day we were there, we waited 30 minutes, but in the end we saw Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy… which meant we technically waited 5 minutes for each character– in air conditioning no less.
However, the rest of the characters throughout Epcot were a different story that day. The day we were there they had funky schedules that had them taking 20 minute breaks every hour on the hour, which meant you’d get in a short line and end up waiting far longer than you had planned (and promised) for even minor characters.
If your princess is looking to meet other princesses, the Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom has a similar to Epcot’s Character Spot, except you get to meet 3 different princesses (Cinderella, Belle and Aurora) and it also has a fast pass option if you want to use it. (This area also has a line to meet Minnie and Mickey if you’d rather)
Truth be told, I am not a big “show” person, but Walt Disney World shows are like no other on earth… don’t be fooled by the label. So again, that schedule becomes important… it may look like they are all playing all the time, but if you don’t plan it right, you could find yourself having to choose between Little Einsteins and Belle and I try to make it a habit to never have to make tough decisions like that while on vacation… just sayin;
Some of our favorites are: Disney Junior at Hollywood Studios, Beauty and the Beast at Hollywood Studios, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Hollywood Studios, Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios, Finding Nemo at Animal Kingdom and The Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom.
Oh, and Puddie would say hands down the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios is definitely a MUST-SEE for all the dads out there.
The parades are literal show-stoppers at Disney World.
The parks have different parades thorough-out the day and during that time, it gets pretty difficult to get where you want to go in a timely fashion. Check out the schedule and the planned parade route ahead of time so you can either get a great seat or steer clear depending on your plans.
The parades are some of the most magnificent you will ever see, however, after seeing a couple, you might want to take advantage of that time when everyone is watching the parade and get in line for a popular attraction that should be less crowded in theory 🙂
Oh, and our favorite parade was the Boo To You Parade during the Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom.
That schedule is very important when it comes to the fireworks shows… specifically Fantasmic, which does not show every night, yet is one of the best of the firework shows in my opinion. Although, technically, I would call it more a show extravaganza than fireworks.
However, our favorite fireworks show of the trip was the Happy HalloWishes fireworks at the Not So Scary Halloween at the Magic Kingdom.
I have never seen anything like it in my life.
At times it appeared like it was daylight inside the park.
2. Take the Stroller
I can’t tell you how much a stroller is a lifesaver in the parks. Even with an older child ( I saw several 6-7 yr olds in strollers) a stroller makes a lot of sense.
Here is why I will always take my stroller to Disney in the foreseeable future:
- It is the perfect tool to pack around a small collapsible cooler full of water, juice and Gatorade along with snacks.
- Even older kiddos get less tired and less grumpy (which leads to less tired and less grumpy parents) with the occasional aid of a stroller– believe me, I was wishing I had a stroller by day 3! We would take the stroller, park it, walk around part of the day and use it the rest of the day.
- Disney has fantastic stroller parking options throughout all their parks and you don’t need to worry about someone stealing it (Note: Your stroller will be moved often by Disney cast members to keep all of them in a neat row, but it isn’t that big of deal).
- Jogging strollers (the ones with the big wheel in front) make navigation with an older child a snap.
- Strollers are free to check at the gate at airports. Why rent one when you can use it to help cart your luggage?
- When in a crowd, strollers keep your preschooler completely contained.
- When at an event– like a parade– a stroller often gives your kiddo a better “seat” to see over others in front of them.
- Strollers make for great make shift tables and drink holders when needed.
3. Switch Your Shoes
Start out in your tennies or crocs and switch to some sandals half-way through the day….
Switching things up keeps your feet from hurting as bad.
After pounding the pavement all day, your tootsies will thank me 🙂
Where should you keep those spare shoes you ask? See #2, the stroller storage of course 🙂
4. Backpack Baby
Take a backpack. Fill it with a spare set of clothes for the kiddos, snacks, napkins, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera, etc. Our backpack serves as our valuables holder as well. We keep it with us at all times.
5. Princess Dresses
You don’t have to pay the prices of the Bippity Boppity Boo Boutique to garner the royal treatment for your little princess.
While that service is definitely special, we opted to go the Walmart route. Before our trip, I went to Wally World and purchased several dresses (for the price of one dress at the mouse’s house) and Miss Add spent the week dressing up as her favorite princesses while Disney cast members treated her as royalty– bowing to her, asking for her autograph and greeting her as princess on every encounter.
Now I do have to say the Walmart costumes are of lesser quality than those from the Disney store, but I liked the fact that I didn’t care what happened to the dress during the day… which would have been a different case if I had spent $70 on dress to wear in an amusement park… just sayin’
6. Photo Pass and/or Passing on the Pass
If you want to use Disney’s Photo Pass, Disney’s professional photo service, make sure to order your photo cd credit before you go on your trip. Ordering the credit ahead of time will knock $50 off the cd price– dropping it to $100. The photo cd will not only give you all the awesome photos your family asks to be taken throughout your trip, but we also got several professional shots of characters and activities we participated in as bonus photos.
The photo pass was worth it to me because:
- Even as a photo enthusiast, I would often get so caught up in the magic that I would forget to snap the pics
- Letting go of having to get the perfect shot allowed me to be more present during our trip
- It was nice to be in some of the photos vs. always behind the camera
- Professional photographers that take photographs day in and day out of all the magic have an eye for what works, what doesn’t and how to get the perfect shot fast
- It is so awesome to have so many GOODe family photos with everyone in them
- I LOVE the bonus shots of the things I could never get a good shot of… like the fireworks. I will remember that night forever, but didn’t get a decent shot.
- I really love the Disney borders and add-ons you can add to your photos.
- The magic shots that the photographers take are just precious
Note: If you decide to Pass on the pass, still approach those professional photographers and ask them to take a pic of your whole family. They will happily snap a few pics with your camera in addition to giving you their photo pass cards… which you have the option to discard if you so choose.
Whew! Well if you are still with me, I’d love to hear your Super Mommy Secrets to Disney…