This tips and tricks is really addressed to the first time or first time in a long time Disney-goer who is near adult or adult in maturity.  Some of these tips do not apply to young children, nor will expert Disney visitors who attend yearly or several times a year likely find this helpful.

First the Basics – tickets

  • Park Entrance – this cost allows you to attend one park on one day from opening of park until closing of park
  • Park Hopper – this allows you to enter more than one park in a day for this cost. Keep in mind there is travel time in between parks.  Monorail between Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but you would need a monorail to main transportation hub, then a bus to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
    • The more days you buy, the more the ticket is discounted.
    • You usually have to use the tickets within a two week period of first day you redeem one unless you pay an additional option for that to be extended. (for example, if you buy tickets October 1, 2016 but use your first park hopper June 1, 2017, you have two weeks to use up the rest of the park hoppers – June 14)
  • Magic Band – you will get one with a resort reservation and can link your park tickets, resort keys to the room, dining plan, fast passes and other things to this band.
    • You may buy at an additional cost decorative magic bands at the Disney store online Disneyworld.disney.go and have the option of having your name on them or stores on property
    • Some energetic pinterest individuals have decorative ideas for magic bands as well
    • Buttons to place in the extra band holes are also an option that can be purchased

Dining at Disney

  • Dining will occur in the park, there is likely not avoiding that
  • Packing healthy and filling snacks in a bag will help reduce the amount of money spent in the park
  • Dining packages are available, which can be checked out on the web, but quite frankly, a snack in my bag while waiting in line was much more useful. I liked the Sargento Balanced Breaks.  When it’s hot and you’re walking around a lot, I don’t tend to get hungry and want a full meal at a time and find snacks are less likely to cause an upset stomach.
  • Everyone eats lunch from 12-3, so plan to eat at off times
  • You will be hard pressed to find meals for less than $10 per person, so be sure your budget reflects that. If you have a teenage boy that orders double of everything, ummm, yeah, you’ll want to take that into account too
  • Some of the evening fireworks, Fantasmic and Illuminations have dining packages you can purchase where if you dine at a certain reservations only restaurant, you may sit in a reserved section of the viewing area for those shows. It is unlikely you would ever be able to get those on the day you enter the park and will need to decide that well in advance
  • Disney has fast dining options and reservation options for food
    • The website can tell you which is which
    • Be sure your reservations are in place well ahead of time
  • The popular character or show meal places provide a unique experience but need to be booked 180 days out
    • Character experiences are generally quite fun, but do range more pricey as do shows
    • Decide now where you want to go and set a reminder on your phone for 180 days prior to that day and CALL, not try to book online in the morning
    • Smaller parties will be easier to book, so if many friends want to go to be our guest or 1900 park faire, etc it would be easier to attempt to book separately for the same time and accept that you may not be able to eat together unless you are bringing your own food or going off property
  • Everyone who goes to Disney has their “must try” favorite snack, such as Dole Pineapple Whip or Nutella Waffles, so be sure you are checking out Pinterest and friends for suggestions!

Staying Hydrated

  • Florida is hot, hot, hot. Disney goers should be sure to pre-hydrate fully and bring a water bottle to fill
  • There are limited places to sit in the shade and in some areas limited shade so keep that in mind when you are planning your day
  • You can easily refill your water bottle at the water fountains or ask a fast service place for a cup of water – you do not need to spend money on water
  • Disney water is filtered and tastes fine
  • If you experience some signs of overheating, move to the shade and sit down on the ground if you have to. A member of your party can get ice from a fast service place to put on your forehead and neck.  Don’t tough it out or push through it.
  • Now for the middle age women who have had children, it is always a balance between hydration and stopping at every restroom to potty. Stop!  Hydration is  more important, your family can wait, and no, they don’t need to make fun of you either, it’s their fault your pelvic floor is so weak anyway
  • Coke, sugar drinks – BAD – they will make you thirsty. Water, water, water

Activities

  • This tips and tricks will break down activities more specifically below, but you will not be able to do everything, so pre-plan what you REALLY want to do before you go
  • The key to a good Disney trip is planning – you can add the app MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE now and using the app and computer put in notes on what you and your family thing sounds fun.
  • The website above has maps of the parks- have your family members list what they really want to do, what they would like to do, what they think sounds ok and what they do not think sounds appealing
  • You can have attractions, character meets, and shows/Parades as options
  • Parks have lighter numbers for the first hour, so opening the park is a good strategy
  • When you go with a group, its great fun to do things together, but quite difficult to navigate the crowds in large numbers. Consider planning some things together and some apart and pre-arrange where to meet
  • Be sure you pick up a times guide for the shows as you enter the park on that day as it may be slightly different than the computer times
  • Do not think you have seen fireworks before so you can miss the Disney display, goodness no, very worth it

What to Bring into the Park- (in a drawstring bag or small backpack was helpful)

  • Magic band with all of your information loaded on it
  • Your ID
  • Some extra money
  • Phone with a backup charger – you want pictures and to follow your my Disney experience app
  • Check weather each morning to see if you need rain prep
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • If you are meeting characters and having them sign, what you will have them sign
  • Each person with their own made it so Mom or Dad was not a pack mule with a sore back at the end of the day

Navigating around the Park

  • Initially, as you approach the park, your bags will be check. It is quicker if you have them open and ready for a quick inspection
  • You will move through a metal detector at magic kingdom; the other parks “randomly select” individuals to go through the metal detector – it was interesting that Greg was “randomly selected” everyday
  • At the entrance you place your magic band on the round Mickey pole (touching Mickey to Mickey) and finger or thumb lightly on the detector. Use the same finger/thumb every time.  If you are worried about the first time, arrange a buddy family to come in at the same time who is familiar.  This process is very quick and efficient so it can be a little overwhelming
  • On your first visit, you will be very overwhelmed when you enter your first park as lots of people will be around you and reading maps is cumbersome. It is helpful to have all members of your party aware of the basic set up of the park you are in
  • Have a getting separated from each other plan. I suggest that includes being sure that “find my phone” is turned on. “Share my location” is turned on as well as the individuals in your party with the worst sense of direction are instructed to stay put near a significant landmark (e.g., Walt and Mickey statue), while others retrieve them.  The worst thing is when everyone keeps moving looking for each other.
  • You will be standing or walking for most of the day. While the side benefit is lots of calories burned, it also means sore feet and back if you do not be sure that your feet are outfitted comfortably
  • If you decide to travel with someone with reduced mobility, consider renting a wheelchair, even if for the parades and fireworks, where the only option for sitting is the ground, it is useful to give them a seat they can actually reach, but they are difficult to navigate through the crowds
  • Like I mentioned before, it is HOT, so clothing should be cool. Microfiber clothes designed to wick the sweat from you are really the best choice, even for the unmentionables.  Yes, they will stink at the end of the day, but honey, everyone is going to stink, so consider having a clear trash bag in your suitcase.  Once you lay your clothes out to fully dry, plop those stinky things in that trash bag that holds a dryer sheet to reduce the stink in your hotel room
  • When you are moving through big crowds, such as exiting Fantasmic, you may need to break into groups of 2-3 (one adult to 1-2 kids) and hold hands so you don’t lose each other, have a family or group meeting place well outside of the area to meet back up
  • For teens through adults, where you are fairly independent, it can be frustrating moving around the park when you encounter large masses of people who randomly stop in front of you or take up an entire walkway. Its gonna happen, so don’t sweat the small stuff.  Smile!  You’re in the happiest place on earth, remember to be polite and do your best.  Teens, and young adults, yes you are experts at zigging through that mass of people, but be sure the rest of your party didn’t zag and get lost!
  • Sometimes it is helpful to send advanced parties to enter a line or get a place for a show if some people move slower than others. Just be sure its reasonable!  If you have a party of 4 and 2 need to potty, its ok for 2 to save some seats at the parade.  It’s not ok for 2 people to save 20 spots, not to mention its downright impossible
  • If you are not interested in parades or big shows, that is a good time to check out the wait times on your rides, the lines may be shorter

Fast Pass

  • A fast pass is a feature where you may select what rides and when you want to go on in the “quick” line
  • You get three fast passes each day that will be loaded on your magic band by selecting them through my Disney experience on the computer
  • Once you use your three fast passes, you may go to a fast pass kiosk and select one more if there are any available, you may not do that on your app

Epcot and Hollywood studios have two levels – where you may have one fast pass+ and two fast pass for each day. The others are all the same level

    • Fast pass may be reserved 60 days in advance with resort reservations (Pop Century) and 30 days in advance with ticket only purchase
    • I recommend again family telling the planner (Mom or Dad) what they want and the planner setting a reminder on their calendar 60 days prior to the trip to reserve the passes. The reservations will show up on your app
    • Keep in mind, since this is tips and tricks for older, that high schoolers can split off together, so if they want to drop down the tower of terror and you want to sip a margarita, that is an option (just not at Magic Kingdom), but its better to reserve more people for the fast pass than not enough
    • One person can manage all of the magic bands/fast passes on the app, which I recommend or each person can manage their own by downloading the app
    • In demand rides right now are the Mine train at Magic Kingdom and Frozen ride at Epcot
    • One technique families with older kids and smaller numbers can do is the quick walk to the preferred ride first. Get your three fast passes for other rides, then choose the ride/character you want first and beeline to that ride, which will result in a shorter line

    Photo Pass

    • Disney has photographers scattered about the park; take advantage of them
    • They will be happy to take picture using your phone too
    • They scan your magic band and you can see the pictures on the Disney app
    • You will also see pictures of you on the thrill rides if you do those as well
    • Memory maker can be purchased ahead of time $149.00 which gives you downloads of all pictures and videos for the time you are at Disney; I find it well worth it (it equals to about $0.33 per picture on this last trip because we stopped everywhere)
    • The pictures are professional quality and sometimes they photoshop in some cute animation
    • If you get memory maker, don’t link it to your app/computer until you arrive home so you have the maximum 30 days to download all of your pictures

    Parades

    • Magic Kingdom has some wonderful parade options to see
    • You can see the route on the map and select a place to view them along the route; however, there will be no seats, just concrete ground, and very little shade options
    • Please attend to the cast members instructions- if they say you can sit on the curb but don’t put your feet on the street, it means the performers will come right up to you and you might trip them so please respect that
    • Good photo opportunities to see performers and characters up close and you know my passion – REALLY COOL COSTUMING
    • You should pick a spot for a parade AT LEAST ONE HOUR before if you want to see well. Maybe even 1 ½ before, so that might be a good time to find a spot and have a family member bring some lunch for everyone
    • If you choose not to get a spot early, that is fine, but you will have to watch the parade from afar
    • Expect some parents to insert their small children in front of you as the parade starts. Generally that is not a problem if you are standing, if you are sitting, you may have to politely ask them not to do that.  The problem occurs when the parent inserts themselves too but remember, we are in the happiest place and we have on our happy faces right?

    Outside Shows

    • All the parks have lots of show options so be sure to check the times guide
    • Some of the smaller shows, such as the trolley show at Magic Kingdom, Dapper Dans, Hollywood players at Hollywood studios are very enjoyable and are worth sitting for if you want to check them out
    • Magic Kingdom has a welcome show a few minutes before opening where some characters and dancers arrive on the train at Main Street Station.
    • Magic Kingdom and Hollywood studios have raised stages that make watching their shows somewhat challenging. If you decide you want to see shows on that stage and get there early, the difficulty arises with the latecomers moving in front of you last minute and blocking.  There is no way to avoid that and you need to be prepared for that.  The bigger problem arises with the 6’ 4” Dad that plops his kid with the Mickey Sorcerer Hat on his shoulders right in front of you!  AAAGGGGGHHHH!  (If any Dad’s with younger kids are reading this – don’t do that – you are blocking short people’s view, do that in the back of the crowd not the front)  I find at Magic Kingdom, back away from that stage, it will help you see that show better.  For Hollywood studios, your choice is to get there very early and be in front; however, that stage is in full sun with no seating.
    • At Hollywood studios right now, who knows if it will be occurring in June, is the march of the first order every hour down Hollywood Blvd. A good spot to watch that was in front of the Starbucks because the troop stops there for a bit.  Now, will that remain the same?  Who knows
    • The fireworks at Magic Kingdom are a sight to see. Anyplace in that main area will give you a good view, just be cognizant of tree placement
    • Illuminations at Epcot is also quite beautiful. You can see it from around the Lake.  If you want a really good spot, again 1 ½ – 2 hours before is your key.  The fireworks get pretty high up, so you will want to pay attention to the tree spot.  Unfortunately, the best spots are with the fast pass or dinner packages
    • Fantasmic is a must see if you plan to go to Hollywood Studios. I highly recommend using a fast pass to guarantee entrance.  If you can coordinate with your group, this would be a fun option for a larger number of friends to attend together because they do occupy the crowd the hour and half before with the wave and singing, but the group must enter all at the same time in order to sit together as holding seats and finding each other in that large stadium is quite impossible.  At the end of the show, you are spit out of the park, so bye-bye day
    • Hollywood studios has Beauty and the Beast 25 minute version. This is a cute show and a nice break if you want to sit while someone rides the tower of terror you are not interested in!  Fun dancing and great costumes.  The show has an awning, so its shaded too
    • Hollywood studios has Launch Bay introduction of the Star Wars characters. If you are a Star Wars nut, like I am, best to try to see that on the center raised stage.  If Star Wars is not your thing, you can probably miss that
    • Indiana Jones stunt show is fun and gets into the behind the scene world of special effects and stunts
    • Magic kingdom has a new outside show in Liberty Square that involves the Muppets. You will be able to see them easily as they are above your head.  It is very enjoyable and different depending on the time of day, I recommend trying to catch that one
    • Epcot times guide will allow you to see when the different countries are having shows, such as the Italian clown juggler, the Chinese acrobats, the Japanese drums. Be sure you check some of those out if you can
    • Animal Kingdom also offers shows later in the day, such as African drums that are quite enjoyable
    • Animal Kingdom has the Flights of Wonder show, which showcases various birds. It is a funny show with benches under an awning.

    Inside shows

    • Hollywood studios has a really fun show – Frozen Ever After a frozen sing along that would be great for a large group of friends to go. Very funny
    • Festival of the Lion King – YOU. CAN’T. MISS. THIS. Enough said

    Attractions

    • Each parks’ attractions are listed with descriptions on their website
    • I suggest family members check out the options and be sure they communicate what they really want to do
    • Attraction wait times can be monitored on the Disney app
    • Plotting to do things in the area will reduce the crossing the park 50 times and save time
    • Current projections are that Animal Kingdom’s Avatar themed area will be open for us in June, so here’s crossing fingers! Keep in mind that the newest things are always the most popular
    • For 16+ – there are some behind the scenes tours that are offered at additional costs that you may buy, such as seeing the utilidor, which may be of interest, but again those all take additional time and money

    Character Meet and Greets

    • Line waits for characters are also on the app
    • Some characters do have fast passes
    • The app will list times for the character appearances as well as locations
    • There are two types of character sets, the ones out all day and the “pop up” characters that have sets
    • “pop up” characters you will need to arrive 30 minutes before their set to guarantee seeing them before they close the line
    • Characters are “friends of” that character
    • Each character has an attendant and a photo pass person (except Mary Poppins and Tarzan – their authors did not give Disney the right to do that)
    • Feel free to engage with the character, and enjoy their interaction
    • Face characters (can see their face) and furs(can’t see their face)
    • Furs can’t talk, so they will pantomime so be sure to play off that too, wave back, blow kisses, respond verbally to their pantomime, dance with them if they are dancing to a song; they love that
    • Again, if you have a character you REALLY want to meet, check for a fast pass or prioritize getting in their line
    • Many characters do sign autographs, decide before arriving at Disney if you want your characters to sign and what they will sign; bring sharpies, though the character attendants will have some on hand
    • Characters that do not sign include some such as Baymax, King Louie, Olaf, etc
    • Take advantage of the pictures and give the character attendant or photographer your phone
    • Don’t be scared, play along!!!
    • For furs, uncap your sharpie and hand it to them ready to use the right way
    • Maximum character meet efficiency, take your bags to the other side of the photo pass individual, greet your character, have them sign, take a picture, scan your magic band, gather your things
    • One person in your party should always have their magic band scanned; if that person isn’t there, you may use other magic bands
    • Characters do need short breaks too, so don’t get worried when they leave, they will be back

    Souvenirs

    • Yup Mom and Dad, they will ask; bonus we are spending an entire day at Disney Springs
    • I recommend pre-planning and communicating to your teenager the money budget for souvenirs
    • Some can only be bought in a specific park and some can be bought also at the Disney store in Disney Springs. Be sure to ask a cast member if you are worried.  If you can get it at Disney Springs where you can put it in the car instead of lugging it around, that would be better
    • Some park-goers like to do the pin collecting where they get a lanyard and pins. They may ask cast members to switch pins with them

    You can use your MY DISNEY EXPERINCE on the computer (which I found easier) or app to book the first three

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