We recently took a trip to Walt Disney World with my entire family. Planning was nearly as much fun as going, and now that the trip is over, I want to share what we learned. Most of these tips were gleaned from the many links I have pinned to my Disney Dreaming board, but some are tips we figured out on our own. This is what worked for us, and things we think we might do differently when we go back. Everyone is different! Pick and choose what you think would work for you, but also be willing to adjust on the fly.
We did not stay at a resort, though I've heard it's a great experience. Some of these tips might change if we did stay at a resort. We rented a house with a pool and six bedrooms instead. It saved us a ton of money but we missed out on a few perks such as the Dining Plan and Extra Magic Hours.
- Photograph your tickets. Lost tickets can be replaced, but only with the ticket number.
- Photograph your PhotoPass cards if you elect to use PhotoPass. Lost cards can be replaced, but only with the card number. This goes for any event photo card you might receive as well (such as a card from Enchanted Tales with Belle, etc.)
- Photograph your child every day or multiple times a day if clothing is changed. In the event the child is lost or wanders off, the photo can be shown to security to help them locate the child.
- Scour the Disney site (note - it's usually pretty slow and not very user friendly at the time this entry was written) and decide on the attractions you want to hit.
- Watch average line times for rides throughout the day to see how long of a wait you might have.
- Install Disney apps on a mobile device and test them to see which is preferred.
- Don't uninstall any app until at the park. What you think you like might not be the one that works best!
- Squeeze in the viewing of some older Disney movies. Everyone knows the new movies, but it's frustrating to see characters you don't recognize...
- Research the PhotoPass and decide if it's something you want to do.
- Plenty of sunscreen. Use it throughout the day.
- Umbrella or parasol of some sort to block sun
- Gum - Disney doesn't sell gum.
- Autograph "book" - doesn't have to be a book with blank pages - the characters will sign nearly anything (ideas: pillow cases, t-shirts, story books, encyclopedia of characters, homemade autograph book, unfinished scrapbook or scrapbook pages, toys, etc. - bring your own permanent marker or fabric marker!)
- Extra batteries or charge packs for phones or cameras
- Backpack for water, snacks, souvenirs, sunscreen, etc.
- Hats to protect little ones' parts from getting burned.
Parking and Park Entrances -
- Parking is currently $14/day. The stub is good for all parks.
- Parking lots have trams to take you from your car and back to your car. Use them.
- Magic Kingdom must be entered by monorail or ferry from Tickets and Transportation.
- It is possible to park at Ticket and Transportation and get into Epcot by monorail as well. Do it, even if it's just to see Epcot from the monorail.
- Take the ferry to MK at least one way.
- Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom have their own lots (as does Epcot).
- Parking at Downtown Disney is free.
- Get Park Hopper passes. These allow you to come and go when you want.
- Get to the park before it opens. Yes, before.
- ALWAYS note where you parked.
- High volume attractions should be planned for early in the day.
- Get Fast Passes for any ride/attraction with a long wait time. Use the wait time to hit other attractions in that general area.
- Depending on several factors, the main one being heat, take naps! Go for a quick swim, eat some lunch, take a nap, and recharge for the rest of the day. This is especially helpful in avoiding the hottest part of the day as well as serious grumpiness issues.
- Take advantage of air conditioned shows when it's hot. Do not let yourself get overheated!
- Magic Kingdom has a train that will go to Frontierland and Fantasyland from Main Street (the park entrance). Use it.
- Character dining is a great way to meet characters. They will come right to the table!
- Character dining is also a great way to get into the park early.
- Character dining generally requires advance reservations, as in MONTHS. Plan accordingly.
- Other table service restaurants inside the parks will take reservations as well. Make them in advance if there's a place you really want to eat.
- Epcot is a great park for finding characters - the lines tend to be shorter.
- Look for Disney PhotoPass photographers, regardless if you're using PhotoPass or not. They will take photos with personal cameras as well!
- When having characters sign autographs, be prepared! Have the "book" open to where it should be signed and the pen at the ready.
- Ask for "magic shot" photos if using the PhotoPass.
- Watch for Extra Magic Hours - these are for resort guests and can be before the park opens or after it closes. If you're not staying at a resort, avoid the EMH park that night and go the next morning. It should be less crowded.
- If staying at a resort, research the Dining Plan.
- It is possible for adults to order from the children's menu.
- Interact with the characters. Talk to them, they'll talk back or play in character.
- There are secret places to find characters. If you're looking for a wide variety, hit the web. There are lots of tips on how to find them.
- It's possible to eat while waiting in line if you're trying to conserve time.
- It's also possible to pack food to take into the park.
- It is NOT possible to bring a cooler unless it is required for medication and even then it must be left at Guest Relations.
- Stop at Guest Relations if you're celebrating anything and they'll give you a button to wear (birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, first visit, etc.).
- The night shows all take quite a bit of time, but the night show at MK might be the longest since it's a parade, a show, and fireworks. While everyone is watching the parade/fireworks, the rest of the park is pretty quiet. Note close times of all the parks. It's possible to go back to MK after other parks close, but not always practical.
A bit about our trip:
- We drove. It took us two days each way, basically. I loved that extra time in the car, too. It made for a fun adventure.
- We rented a house with my parents and sisters and their families. 6 bedrooms. 4 bathrooms. 1 pool. 13 people. Absolute awesome.
- We had four-day Park Hoppers. We hopped a lot.
- We closed the parks twice, once on a day with a nap (perfect day) and once on a day without a nap (not as perfect, but not bad, either).
- We took three vehicles each day instead of the four that were all driven to Florida. No need to pay for extra parking when it wasn't necessary.
- We stopped in Clearwater on the way home to visit the Marine Aquarium and see Winter.
- We tried to find local restaurants.
- We asked for local or in season fish while near the Gulf.
- We found Publix to be the most satisfying grocery store.
- We loved MK, EPCOT, and HS. The Lion King show at AK was great, but otherwise was the park we spent the least amount of time in.
- Enchanted Tales with Belle (interactive story telling and pictures with Belle!)
- Meeting Merida
- Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor
- Breakfast at Cinderella's Table
- Electric Light Parade
- The Lion King show
- Disney Jr. (this was surprisingly cute and fun)
- Beauty and the Beast (best show in all the parks)
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids playground (we almost skipped this and I'm SO glad we didn't)
- Lights, Motors, Action! (the whole family loved this!)
- Dinner at 50's Prime Time Cafe
- Meeting Phineas and Ferb
- Turtle Talk with Crush (AWESOME!)
- Kidcot (get a Passport at the gift shop and get a stamp in every country)
- Shopping and foods, of course
- Duffy/Perry stick puppets - These can also be stamped at the Kidcot stations - also, they will add the flag for each country on the back
- Agent P's World Showcase Adventure - DO THIS in at least one country. We wanted to do it in every country but didn't have time to squeeze it all in.