Monday, June 10, 2013

40 Tips for Enhancing your Walt Disney World Vacation

There are plenty of ways to save you time and money or improve the quality of a Walt Disney World vacation. Many people who visit for the first time go in to the vacation with minimal or no planning – only with the idea to ‘play it by ear’ once they arrive. I do not recommend this. Here are some tips that I have learned either by first-hand experience, through Disney training for travel agents, or from the countless hours I had scourged the internet looking for any and all Disney related planning ideas and tips.

These may not apply to everyone for every visit, but there are a variety of tips that should be something for some visits. It doesn't matter if you are a first-timer or a grizzled veteran of Disney park touring – there may be something for you here. And this is definitely not an all-encompassing list – these are just some tips I could rattle off within a specific time frame. Feel free to add in your own tips in the comments!

1.       Chewing gum is not sold anywhere within Walt Disney World property. If you need it, pack it.  I imagine this is one of the contributing reasons why the Disney parks are so clean.
2.       The weather in Orlando is very unpredictable in the late-fall / early-winter. If you are going to The World sometime between November and February, be sure to pack everything from a light jacket and pants to shorts and t-shirts.
3.       To minimize waits, Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom is best experienced at park opening or late at night just before closing.
4.       Adults can order from the kid’s menus. This is a simple way to save money if you are not overly hungry.
5.       All counter service restaurants and any kiosks that serve fountain drinks will give you a free cup of ice water (be sure to ask for a large cup.)
6.       Do not stand in the standby line for Peter Pan’s Flight attraction in Magic Kingdom unless you are there within the first 30 minutes of park opening – use a Fast Pass.
7.       There are free refills at drink stations at counter service restaurants Tortuga Tavern and Be Our Guest (lunch) in Magic Kingdom, Sunshine Seasons and Electric Umbrella at Epcot, Backlot Express at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Restaurantosaurus at Animal Kingdom. Of course, you can only refill your drink that you purchased there during that visit.
8.       If you arrive at the Magic Kingdom 15 minutes prior to official opening time, you can see the Train Station Welcome Show.
9.       The shops on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom are open until an hour after park closing. You can shop ‘after hours’ to avoid missing ride time.
10.   If you eat at Whispering Canyon CafĂ©, be sure to ask for ketchup. J
11.   Take an afternoon break back at your resort during the hottest part of the summer days : 1pm – 5pm.
12.   If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can leave your bags with bell services if your room is not ready at check-in so you can go enjoy the parks while you wait for your room to be available. Also, the morning that you check out, you can leave your luggage with bell services while you make a final visit to the parks.
13.   There is a free campfire show at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground – Campfire Sing-a-long with Chip & Dale – every night. Check the times, as it changes in different seasons.
14.   A great view of the Wishes! Fireworks show at Magic Kingdom that is not overly crowded is the area between Crystal Palace and Casey’s Corner, just past the end of Main Street.
15.   As long as you are in a line for an attraction when the park closes, you can still experience that attraction. The rides don’t close right when the park closes.
16.   Free WiFi is now available at the Disney Parks and all of their resorts.
17.   A great way to stay cool in the parks is the Frogg Togg Chilly Pads. Many people swear by them.
18. If there are animal lovers in your family, eat at Sanaa (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) and ask for a window view. Not only are the views great, but it’s one of the most underrated restaurants at Walt Disney World.
19.   Be sure to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Expedition Everest at night for an even better experience.
20.   Some attractions have a single rider line that can save you a lot of time if you don’t mind splitting up your group. Test Track is one of the best rides to do this on – it can save you an hour or more of standby time. Others are Rock n Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Mission: Space.
21.   If you are planning on seeing Enchanted Tales with Belle at Magic Kingdom, be sure to do that first thing when you enter the park.
22.   There are a few in-park restaurants that are open an hour before the park opens. This is a great way to get breakfast without ‘wasting’ touring time. Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom, Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, Akershus in Epcot, and Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood Studios are all open for early ADRs.
23.   If there are two showings of Fantasmic! At Hollywood Studios on your day there, go to the second showing. The lines will be much shorter and you can get better seats.
24.   If you purchase merchandise in the parks and are staying at a Disney resort, you can have your purchases sent directly to your resort for you to pick up later.
25.   The chances of at least a small sprinkle of rain at least once during your trip are very high. Be sure to pick up some cheap disposable ponchos to pack (less than a dollar each.) If you have to buy one in the parks, they run about $10 each.
26.   If you’ve never visited Walt Disney World, you should go in with at least a rough plan of attack, if not a full-blown touring plan. Failing that, prioritize the following as the first attractions to do each morning when you arrive: Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Test Track & Soarin’ at Epcot, Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Fantasyland or the “mountain” attractions in the Magic Kingdom.
27.   You can order groceries in advance from to be delivered to your resort. Disney will hold the packages for you if you have not yet checked in or at a park when they are delivered. This is a great way to save some money during your vacation – especially for purchasing bottled water.
28.   When getting your photo taken by a PhotoPass Cast Member, be sure to hand them your camera – they will take a picture with your camera also!
29.   “Celebrate the Magic,” the projection show on Cinderella’s Castle before the Wishes! fireworks is not to be missed. It’s more endearing than the fireworks.
30.   If you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion on your trip, be sure to wear a button (free from at hotel check-in or Guest Services at the parks.) You can sometimes receive special treatment if wearing a button.
31.   At Epcot, be sure to stop in Club Cool for free samples of various Coke products sold around the world. Be sure to try the Beverly!
32.   Freeze juice boxes, grapes, and water bottles. Pack them in your daily park bag. Later in the day you will have a nice cold drink and snack.
33.   Book your trip at least 6 months in advance, if possible. This helps with getting dining reservations – which open 180 days in advance of the requested reservation.
34.   As stated in the previous tip, make your dining reservations 6 months in advance. This is (usually) required if you want to eat at a popular restaurant at a decent hour. And no, this is NOT crazy. A Disney specialized travel agent can help you decide which places you would like and what days during your vacation would be good days to go to each restaurant. They can even make the reservations for you.
35.   Get a Fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania as soon as you arrive at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The attraction is very popular and can run out of Fastpasses by 12pm.
36.   Buy a few packages of the light-up necklaces and bracelets from the dollar store before you go. Hand them out to other kids at night before Fantasmic!, Wishes!, or Illuminations fireworks shows. Spread some magic!
37.   Are your children afraid of the loud fireworks or have sensitive hearing? Before you leave for your trip, purchase some silicon earplugs to use during the nighttime spectaculars.
38.   Take along a plastic baggie each day. Place your mobile phone or any other small items you wish not to get wet on the water rides.
39.   Bring a backpack to use as a ‘day bag’ for your park days. Pack items like sunscreen, wet wipes, a small towel (for wiping off a wet bench seat), camera, your frozen bottled water or juice boxes (from my earlier tip), ponchos, and any other items you may need for the day.
40.   If you are planning on getting character autographs, get a retractable Sharpie® - no worrying about losing the lid to the pen.

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