Travel
October 14, 2014 posted by Lindsay Ferrier

60 Best Disney World Tips to Know Before You Go

60 Best Disney World Tips to Know Before You Go

We’ve just returned from our annual trip to Walt Disney World and I have to say that the more we’ve learned about the resort, the better time we’ve had as a family. It has taken us years to perfect our trip- Now, I’m passing on all my best Disney World tips in one handy dandy post. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be a Disney World EXPERT.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP

1. Do your research. Many people come to Disney without doing any pre-planning whatsoever, and this makes for a very “meh” experience compared to what it could have been if they’d done a little legwork ahead of time. There are all kinds of things you can do to get the most out of your trip- and the key is to do your research at least six months before you go. Get started with The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2015, which is like the Bible for Disney-goers. There are also a TON of other books, blogs and articles on the Internet containing advice on every aspect of the Disney experience.

2. Take advantage of the Disney help line. My husband is a planner- and the first time he called the hotline for help, he discovered that the operators are incredibly knowledgeable about everything you could possibly want to know about your vacation, from the most popular restaurants in the parks to their best estimates on when Disney will offer its Free Dining Plan (the operator even pulled up all of the weeks the discount was offered in prior years in order to make an educated guess). He now calls the hotline every time he has a question about anything Disney resort-related. The number: (407) 939-5277 .

3. Schedule your Disney trip during the off season. It makes a big difference.  The best months to visit Disney are September, October and November. We went during Spring Break our first year, and we’ve gone in late September/early October since then. It really does make a difference! The weather is nice, it’s still warm enough for swimming, and lines are very manageable- During Spring Break, the crowds at Magic Kingdom in particular were so large that it definitely affected our experience.

 

Disney World Tips

 

4. Plan for a recovery day (or two! or three!) during your trip.  My husband and I joke about families who are clearly doing the “Disney Death March”- visiting a park every single day of their vacation, from open until close. They. Look. Miserable. We have been satisfied with the two days on, one day off model for our Disney vacations. We spend our off days recovering by sleeping in, swimming at the elaborate resort pool, having great meals at other resorts, and exploring Downtown Disney, which is really a lot of fun. Don’t miss the Lego Imagination Center while you’re there- Your kids will LOVE it.

5. Make all of your reservations six months in advance.   If you’ve never done Disney before, you’re probably like “WHAT?!” But it’s true- Restaurant and Fast Pass+ reservations open up six months ahead of time- and the best restaurants and rides fill up FAST. So figure out when you want to do while you’re there and when you want to do it- then make those reservations as soon as you possibly can.

 

Best Disney World Tips

 

6. Plan to stay at the resort.  I never thought I would stay inside Walt Disney World but once I tried it as an adult, I became a convert. We’ve stayed in the “Disney bubble” ever since. When you stay in the resort (and meticulously plan out your visit,) your entire vacation experience is filled with Disney magic 24/7 and with kids, this is just awesome. Read on and you’ll see why. We stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort each year- You can read more about that and the other WDW resorts we’ve visited here.

 

Disney+BoardWalk+Restaurant

 

7. Do the Disney Dining Plan. It can seriously take your vacation to the next level. Part of our strategy is to plan our trip to coincide with one of the weeks that Disney offers its Dining Plan for free- This takes some guesswork (Disney doesn’t announce the dates ahead of time and there are only a limited number of Free Dining Plan reservations offered)- but we’ve gotten it right every year so far.

Why is the Dining Plan so great? If you plan it right and make reservations ahead of time, you can turn many of your meals into interactive dining experiences that offer far more than food.

 

Boma+Meal+Disney

 

Plus, if it’s free you won’t care that your daughter’s buffet meal technically cost $40, even though all she ate was bread and mashed potatoes!

8. Best Walt Disney World Resort dining bets  with kids (outside the park):

T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney is so popular that we STILL haven’t managed to book a reservation there! We can’t wait to try it… eventually.

Disney+BoardWalk

Disney’s BoardWalk has a number of restaurants- Booking a meal there gives you the chance to stroll down the entertaining and picturesque BoardWalk either before or after your meal. Kouzzina by Cat Cora, my absolute favorite restaurant at Disney, just closed, unfortunately, but Big River Grille is also on the BoardWalk and I’m told an Italian-themed restaurant will take Kouzzina’s place in the next few months. You also have to check out the beautiful BoardWalk hotel- It’s my favorite in the resort and decorated with elegant 1900s circus-themed whimsy. Don’t miss the pool!

 

Disney+Ohana

-Ohana at the Polynesian Resort offers an enormous Hawaiian family-style meal, along with hula dancing lessons. Save time to explore the famous Polynesian and its grounds before or after your meal.

-The Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge offers a western-themed, rollicking good time for kids. Periodically throughout the evening, kids are given hobby horses and encouraged to ride them in a long line throughout the restaurant. And while you’re there, be sure and ask for ketchup. Trust me on this. While you’re at the Wilderness Lodge, head outside to see the elaborate man-made geyser.

 

Animal+Kingdom+Resort

-Boma offers a huge South African buffet with lots of tasty options, as well as African drummers providing entertainment. We allow at least thirty minutes to tour the beautiful hotel and enjoy the balcony views of the Animal Kingdom’s exotic menagerie outside. Thanks to our dinner here, I once got to witness a giraffe chasing a zebra at top speed. I shit you not.

-Downtown Disney has a number of great restaurants on the Dining Plan. The Earl of Sandwich has one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, Wolfgang Puck’s Cafe is always good, and kids love Rainforest Cafe. We’ve also heard great things about Raglan Road Irish Pub, built in Ireland and shipped to Orlando, which is said to have great food and Irish step dancing!

 

Polynesian+Resort+Beach

 

9. Plan your meals to coincide with special events. Certain resorts offer spectacular views of the nearby parks’ fireworks or the Electrical Water Pageant. Plan your dinner so that you can catch the show afterward. One of our most magical nights was spent on the beach of the Polynesian Resort after dinner, watching the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks explode right over our heads. We’ve also enjoyed watching the Electrical Water Pageant from outside the Wilderness Lodge after dinner.

Another longtime resort favorite is the Campfire Sing-Along with Chip & Dale, a free campfire show at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground every night at 7pm or 8pm, depending on the season. Afterward, a Disney movie is shown. This could be a fun after-dinner event for your family. There’s also a 45-minute wagon ride around Fort Wilderness Campground- Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 per child and they leave from Pioneer Hall at 7:00pm and 9:30 pm. No reservations are accepted and you have to pay cash.

 

Walt+Disney+World

 

10. Don’t ditch your car. Even if you fly to Orlando, it’s worth it to rent a car for your stay at Walt Disney World. Yes, I know there are shuttle buses that technically make driving unnecessary- but those buses are often crowded, have multiple stops, and force you to do a lot of waiting around/standing in line. Plus, it’s really not convenient to take a shuttle bus to dinner at another resort- and trust me- You will want to have meals at some of the other Disney resorts. Finally, if you’re staying at the resort, you can park for free at any of the parks. We often took the bus to a park in the morning, came back for a swim and a few hours of rest in the early afternoon, and drove back to the park for late afternoon/evening hours, when we could always find a vacated spot right up front near the gate.

11. Regulars at the resort decorate their hotel room windows with pictures, posters and stuffed animals. Let your kids create the decorations ahead of time and bring them with you to make your arrival more exciting.

Imagineering+Field+Guide

12. Enhance your older children’s Disney experience by bringing along books with great insider info on the parks. You’ll see a ton of people at the parks toting the Hidden Mickeys book, while the The Imagineering Field Guide to Magic Kingdom gives you all kinds of background information and fascinating tidbits on the park and its attractions. These books can also be a great way to make those waits in line less boring.

ONCE YOU ARRIVE

13. Publix is your new BFF. Remember that car you brought with you? You’re definitely going to want to use it when you arrive to make a pit stop at the local Publix. (Address: 4870 S. Apopka-Vineland Road‎) There, you can get waters and snacks to store in your room’s refrigerator, along with beer and wine (It’s ridiculously expensive at the resort) and- best of all- SOUVENIRS.

Yes, friends, this Publix has nearly an entire aisle of Disney dolls, plushes, magnets, pens, autograph books, keychains, water toys for the pool, and other memorabilia- all at a fraction of the price you’d pay at the resort. Best of all, this Publix has Disney ponchos for a couple of dollars apiece. Get caught in a rainstorm at one of the parks and you’ll spend more than $8 per poncho. BUZZ KILL.

Other nearby options:

Albertsons: 8801 Conroy-Windermere Road

Walgreens: 12100 S Apopka-Vineland Road

Walmart (open 24 hours): 1471 E. Osceola Parkway

14. Sign up for a wake-up call and let Mickey or Stitch wake the kids each morning. This is an especially good idea on those mornings that you’re getting up extra-early for Magic Hours or a marathon day at the park.

 

Disney+Discount+Souvenirs

Source: Meredith P./Flickr Creative Commons

15. Orlando has TWO Disney outlets with discounted/discontinued merchandise from the parks. This could be a great way to find souvenirs on a rainy day.

Character Warehouse: 4951 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819 (Bonus: This is in Orlando Premium Outlets, one of the best outlet malls I’ve ever seen, with Neiman Marcus Last Call, Off 5th, Coach, Kate Spade, The North Face, J.Crew, and basically any other outlet shop you can think of!)

Character Warehouse: 8200 Vineland Avenue, Orlando, FL 32821 (This location is smaller, but closer to Walt Disney World)

Theme Park Connection: 2160 Premier Row, Orlando, FL 32809 (Not exactly an outlet, but sounds like fun nonetheless. This store features tons of collectibles from Disney and other theme parks. The shop will also buy your used Disney memorabilia for cash.)

 

Mickey+Mouse

 

GENERAL PARK TIPS

16. Not on the dining plan? Adults can order kids’ meals at Disney. They’re actually pretty filling for adults with a moderate appetite.

17. Get a button to show you’re celebrating a special event. Disney Cast Members will give you a birthday (or other special occasion) button- and you may receive special treatment from other cast members throughout your stay, ranging from birthday singalongs at restaurants to balloons!

18. Staying in the resort? You can have your souvenirs delivered right to your room free of charge, so that you don’t have to carry them around all day. Of course, I didn’t figure this out until AFTER I had been carrying around souvenirs all day! I will definitely use this option the next time we visit.

 

Pecos+Bills+Magic+Kingdom

Source: Michael Gray/Flickr Creative Commons

 

19. Walt Disney World counter service restaurants will give you a free cup of water if you ask for it. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but we used several snack credits for bottled water during our park visits, which we could have saved if we’d realized we could get water from counter service restaurants. D’oh!

20. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you qualify for either a regular OR large fountain drink at counter service restaurants. You will get a regular drink UNLESS you specifically ask for large. This is another detail I didn’t learn until after our visit!

 

Magic+Kingdom

 

21. PhotoPass Cast Members will take a free photo of your family with your camera or phone. ANOTHER detail I wish I’d known when we visited. PhotoPass Cast Members are stationed at all the best photo op locations in the parks and they are great photographers, so now Mommy can FINALLY be in the picture, too!

22. As long as you are in line by the time the park closes, you will get to ride it, no matter how long you have to wait. So consider getting in line for one of the more popular rides ten minutes before closing- That way you won’t waste valuable park time standing in a long line for that particular ride. GENIUS.

 

Disney+Baby+Care+Center

Source: Peter Dutton/Flickr Creative Commons

23. Don’t panic if you’ve forgotten diapers/formula/baby aspirin. Each Disney park has a Baby Care Center– I got to tour the one at Magic Kingdom and it is amazing! Staffed by women in 1900s costumes, it included cool, quiet comfortable rooms for nursing and where toddlers can have some quiet time. There’s also a shop containing everything a baby or small child could possibly need, from baby food, clothing and diapers to children’s medicines. The Baby Care Center is also where lost children are taken.

24. Know your apps.

There are lots of invaluable apps that can vastly improve your Disney experience.

-We downloaded the My Disney World Experience app for the first time this year and used it quite a bit. The wait times, surprisingly, aren’t all that accurate, but you can also use it to quickly and easily change your Fast Pass+ selections and restaurant reservations- This is invaluable, because while you do need to reserve things six months ahead of time, we’ve found that often there are openings (even with “full” Fast Pass+ rides) at the very last minute. I also loved the interactive maps- Markers on the app’s maps showed me where I was and where I wanted to go. Lastly, I used it to figure out where various characters were giving autographs at any given time- The app lists their whereabouts in real time! BOOM.

-Many people swear by the Touring Plans Lines app, which is free to download but requires a $9.99 annual subscription and also includes apps for wait times at the Universal parks. Not only does it give you accurate wait times (according to what I’ve read and heard from park goers), you can tell it which rides you want experience and it will give you an itinerary showing you which ride to go on at what time- It changes throughout the day based on wait times. Gold!

-The Undercover Tourist app is also very popular- It analyzes which days are best days to visit each park, gives you attraction wait times, and includes full menus for every Disney restaurant.

 

Magic+Kingdom

MAGIC KINGDOM

25. The Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom? WORTH IT. I’ll admit it- I’ve always bypassed the Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom because… BORING. But over the years, I’ve heard so many people rave about it that I became curious. Last week during a rainstorm at Magic Kingdom, I convinced my family to head for the Hall of Presidents to kill time and stay dry.

It was great! Seriously. Even my 7-year-old was riveted. Although the material is fairly dry, it is fast paced, the robots’ movements have GREATLY improved since we were kids, and when the curtains part and all of the presidents are standing there looking so creepily REAL, it’s awesome! I swear James Madison would not stop staring at me…

 

Anna+Elsa+Magic+Kingdom

Source: Ricky Brigante/Flickr Creative Commons

 

26. If you want pictures with Anna and Elsa from Frozen, be sure to reserve a Fast Pass+ to meet them in Magic Kingdom.  This is literally the hottest ticket in Magic Kingdom right now, with wait times ranging from 80 minutes (on a very, very good day) to six hours! Fortunately, you can reserve a Fast Pass+ time for this attraction, but do it as soon as you possibly can- I have a feeling these Fast Pass times go fast.

 

Disney+Electric+Light+Parade

 

27. If you’re in Magic Kingdom when it has two Main Street Electrical Parades, make plans to see the second one. We went one year when this was a case and during the first parade, the sidewalks were packed– It was a great time to ride rides, because the lines were shorter considerably. During the second parade, the sidewalks were a ghost town. We sat down and enjoyed the show- and we were one of only about five families watching the parade on our street!

28. Look for one of the six paintbrushes hidden on Tom Sawyer’s Island each day. If you find one, give it to a Cast Member and you’ll get free Fast Passes for your family for one ride! My kids can’t wait to search for those paint brushes the next time we visit. EDIT: A reader has informed me that this has been discontinued. 🙁

Tinker+Bell+Magic+Kingdom

 

29. The first person to visit Tinker Bell each day at Magic Kingdom gets to wake her up. So if that’s your thing, go for it- Her meet and greet is inside the Town Square Theater, right beside the park entrance. (And when we went to visit recently, the wait was only 5 minutes, so she may be a great alternative to the longer princess lines in the park.)

30. Make sure your little princess is dressed accordingly when you visit Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is filled with little girls who’ve gotten expensive princess makeovers at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique- so if you have a little princess, consider dressing her in her favorite princess dress and doing her hair and “makeup” when you visit Magic Kingdom so that she won’t think she’s missing out on something.

 

Columbia+House+Magic+Kingdom

 

31. Cool down and beat the crowds by eating at Columbia Harbour House in Magic Kingdom. This is our go-to spot for a little R&R at the park midday. The food is nothing special, but it’s nice and cool and most people don’t know that upstairs is an enormous second dining room where you can ALWAYS find a table.

32. Bring plastic jewels for Mickey’s Philharmagic. There’s a scene in this can’t-miss attraction in which The Little Mermaid’s gemstones appear to fly out into the audience. Secretly bring some along and pretend to catch them with this happens! You can also do this at Soarin’ at Epcot with a golf ball- When Michael Eisner hits the golf ball (Did you know that was Michael Eisner?!), pretend to catch it. Your kids will be amazed! We can’t wait to try it.

33. Best Magic Kingdom dining options: I have to be honest- The food in Magic Kingdom is not great. Fortunately, there’s so much to do here that you don’t really care. We typically make a quick stop at Columbia House and/or Pecos Bill’s for a standard meal- and then move on. However, if you’re looking for something a little more, here are your best options…

Be Our Guest- This is a brand new restaurant inside the Beauty and the Beast castle in Fantasyland and it is gorgeous. It is also very, very popular. We tried to go there for the more casual lunch menu and they were at capacity and not accepting any more guests. Dinner is more formal and will require reservations well in advance. However, it looks delicious and the restaurant is getting great reviews- for Magic Kingdom, anyway!

Captain Cook’s, Contempo Cafe, Roaring Fork- Magic Kingdom regulars often leave the park and take a short monorail ride to nearby resorts for one of these 3 restaurants, considered to be the best counter-service restaurants in Walt Disney World. It’s not a bad idea, particularly midday when everyone needs to cool down and rest.

Sleepy Hollow Inn– I’m determined to try this counter-service restaurant in Liberty Square- People rave about its waffle sandwiches.

 

Epcot

EPCOT

34. Save Spaceship Earth for later in the day. Every time we visit Epcot, we see long lines for Spaceship Earth in the morning- It is, after all, the first ride you encounter at Epcot. Those poor suckers. By late afternoon, the lines are non-existent.

Epcot+Morocco

 

35. Want your kids to be as enthusiastic about visiting the countries in Epcot as you are? Buy them World Showcase Passports at an Epcot gift shop (or help them make their own ahead of time) and challenge them to get stamps on their passports, available at the Kidcot Stations in 11 different countries. Some of the stations are harder to find than others, which makes for a fun scavenger hunt.

 

Epcot+Norway

 

36. Frozen fans will enjoy the new film exhibit in one of the houses in Norway. My kids were fascinated by the Viking artifacts Disney has on loan right now for this tiny museum, and my daughter read all of the historical background on Norway that influenced the movie. They loved it so much that they agreed to a delicious (though not all that kid-friendly) counter service lunch at the Kringla Bakery og Cafe, and they watched the entire Norway movie that plays at the end of the (now sadly closed) Maelstrom ride! I think we may be the first people ever to have watched that entire film!

37. Sample international sodas for free at Flavors of Club Cool, a Coke-sponsored exhibit. This is a great way to cool down, rehydrate, and taste some unusual beverages. The list includes:

  • Fanta
  • VegitaBeta – A Japanese beverage that combines apricot and passion fruit flavors.
  • Fanta (Melon Frosty) – A melon-flavored soda that’s number one in Thailand.
  • Bibo – A fruit-flavored juice drink from South Africa.
  • Sparberry – A raspberry cream-flavored soda that’s been around since the 1950s and is a favorite in Africa.
  • Guarana Kuat – Flavored from the guarana berry, this drink is popular in Brazil.
  • Inca Kola – A Peruvian drink with a bubblegum-like taste.

 

Disney+Princess+Storybook+Dining

 

38. The best way to meet most of the princesses is to make Princess Storybook Dining reservations at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway at Epcot. Many families make reservations to meet the Disney princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom, but insiders know that the easier/cheaper way to get those autographs and photos is to make reservations for princess character dining in Epcot. The atmosphere is more relaxed, the food is Norwegian and delicious, and if you’re on the Dining Plan, it’s only one table service credit, as opposed to two credits for the Magic Kingdom experience.

39. Save your spending money for Mitsukoshi Department Store in Japan at Epcot. Y’all. This place is AMAZING. Founded in Japan in 1673, the Epcot version is your one-stop shop for literally thousands of awesome Japanese imports, from silk kimonos to candy to hard-to-find Pokemon and Hello Kitty collectibles. Our kids now save their souvenir money specifically for Mitsukoshi (this year, most of their funds went to Pokemon!)- It’s a great place to shop because it really does have something cool for any budget.

By far, the most popular spot at Mitsukoshi is the Pick-a-Pearl station, where you choose an oyster from a water tank and a cast member opens it in front of you. You get to keep the pearl inside and can have it set in a ring or other jewelry if you want. The Mitsukoshi employees have turned this experience into a fun show that always draws a sizable crowd.

Epcot+Character+Spot

 

40. Epcot is the best spot to get autographs and photos from Mickey and his friends. I love Epcot’s Character Spot. Love. It. You wait in one fairly brisk line to get autographs with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. Do this and Princess Dining and Voila! Your kids’ autograph books are well on their way to being filled.

41. Best Dining Bets:

Kringla Bakery Og Cafe- We happened upon this bakery/cafe in Norway at Epcot and loved it. Not only were the sandwiches and Norwegian baked goods heavenly (be sure and try one of the school house rolls), but there was no line whatsoever. Be warned- The kids’ menu consists of an Uncrustables sandwich meal- and that’s it- but our 7 year old was perfectly content with that option.

Le Cellier Steak House:  Located in Canada, this signature restaurant is a resort favorite and requires reservations well in advance.

Teppan+Edo

Teppan Edo- Located right above Matsutoshi Department Store in Japan, this hibachi grill is a treat for the whole family. The kids had a blast watching the chef perform on the grill at our table and the food was very, very good! This is definitely going to become an annual tradition for us.

Bistro de Paris- Located in France, this replica of a Paris bistro serves French fare (obviously) and it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Epcot. I’ve eaten there several times- I’d call it good, but not great.

 

Disney+Hollywood+Studios 

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

42. Look for the key at Muppet Vision 3D. If you go to the muppet “ticket office” while you’re waiting for the show, it says that it’s closed–  but a sign says “Key Under the Mat.” Look under the mat and you’ll find a key!

43. On the dining plan? Definitely do the Mama Melrose Fantasmic package. Mama Melrose is one of our absolute favorite restaurants at the resort- and if you eat there (meals are one table service credit each), you’ll get tickets for priority seating at Fantasmic. This is the best show at the resort, and the priority seating allows you to sit in the main section of the ampitheater- and on the evening we went, the priority seating area was far less crowded than the rest of the seating sections, which meant that we could sit as close as we wanted.

Fantasmic

Source: Kevin Stanchfield/Flickr Creative Commons

 

44. Sit in the Splash Zone at Fantasmic. If you dare! Signs state that you will get wet if you sit in the first couple of rows, and they are accurate- You will get very, very wet! You will also feel the intense heat from the fire on the water. For us, sitting in the front row really heightened the whole experience. If you have kids, they will love the Splash Zone!

45. Pull on the rope over the well near the entrance of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. You’ll hear a voice from inside the well. You’ll also find crates hidden in the bushes that say “Do not open.” OPEN THEM.

46. Take a photo under the Singing in the Rain umbrella. It’s located in the Streets of America section across from the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt show. Pull on the umbrella’s handle and it will ‘rain’!

 

Rock+n+Roller+Coaster

Source: Loren Javier/Flickr Creative Commons

47. Try to make a funny face right when your limo takes off on the Rock n’ Roller Coaster- That’s when your picture will be taken!

48. Put a penny on your lap when you ride the Tower of Terror- Watch it float when you drop!

49. Best dining bets:

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano- We LOVE this place- It’s the kids’ favorite restaurant in the resort. The Chicken Campanelle is absolutely fantastic and is definitely one of the top meals  we’ve had at WDW. The minestrone is surprisingly delicious (and ordinarily, I don’t even like minestrone!), and the kids go crazy for the pizza. This restaurant is a required stop for our family. Advanced reservations are strongly encouraged.

Sci-Fi Dine-In- The food isn’t great, but the experience of sitting in a simulated drive-in, watching a 50s sci-fi movie, just might be worth it for your family.

The Brown Derby- This is by far the best restaurant at Hollywood Studios, but it is also expensive and requires reservations. If you are looking for an elaborate old Hollywood dining experience, this is it.

Disney+Animal+Kingdom

ANIMAL KINGDOM

50. Consider making breakfast reservations here before the park opens– This way, you can be first in line for the most popular rides.

51. Got little ones? Arrive early and head to the Tree of Life– That’s where 15 minutes before the park officially opens, Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy arrive, board a truck, and head into Harambe Village to start the day.

52. If the entrance is crowded, head to Rainforest Cafe. There’s another entrance to the park at the back of the gift shop!

 

Expedition+Everest

 

53. Get a Fast Pass+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest as soon as you can. You can typically reserve your Fast Passes 60 days before your visit- and the popular rides run out of Fast Passes quickly, well before the day of your visit.

54. Make advanced lunch reservations at Tusker house for between 1pm  and 4pm and you’ll receive priority seating for the 3:15 Nemo show.

 

Safari+Magic+Kingdom

 

55. More animals come out on the Animal Kingdom savannah when it’s raining.  This makes it a great time to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris.

56. If you can’t get a Fast Pass+ for a ride, save the ride for the last hour the park is open. Many people visit Animal Kingdom the first half of the day, then leave for another park, so the lines are typically much shorter just before closing.

 

Tree+of+Life+Animal+Kingdom

 

57. Look for the “secret path.” This path is open to the public, despite appearances to the contrary! You can find it as you head for Harambe Village. Look for the last path on the right after the Tree of Life and before the bridge to Africa. It is surrounded by lots of plant life, so you might have to look hard, but once you’re on it, you’ll have some great up-close views of the Tree of Life.

58. Animal Kingdom is a great place for character meet and greets. There are generally lots of Disney characters here and the lines are considerably shorter than they are at other parks.

59. Don’t miss the Lion King show. It is awesome.

60. Best dining bets: 

Flame Tree Barbeque- Known as the best counter-service restaurant in Animal Kingdom, the food is solid but not extraordinary. The ribs are good and the barbeque salad was hearty and filling.

Tusker House- Called a ‘little Boma,’ this restaurant is an Animal Kingdom favorite and features a buffet of African specialties.

Magic+KingdomAre you excited about visiting Walt Disney World yet? I hope so! I’ve done a lot of the work for you!

Plan ahead– and have fun!

Oh, and I welcome your best tips in the comments– After all, THE MORE YOU KNOW…

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Comments

comments

  • T. Thomsen

    What a great blog!!! I love Disney World, my family and I used to go every year for at least a week each! I haven’t been back for nearly 10 years! I can’t wait to go again though!

    • suburbanturmoil

      You’ll love it- A lot has changed in ten years!

      • T. Thomsen

        That’s part of the appeal it’s always been evolving and changing! It sure is the most magical place on earth!

  • Kristen

    What perfect timing! We leave this Friday for Disney – first time for 8 yo daughter. Thanks so much!

    • suburbanturmoil

      I’m glad you can use this!

  • cheesehead4ever

    OMG. This entire article stressed me out. Free Fast Passes? They cost money now? Plus you have to reserve Fast Passes six months in advance? The thought of planning our ONE future trip there makes me ill. I went there when I was 13 and none of this stuff existed.

    We went to Disneyland last year. All the magic and none of the stress. Hotel outside Downtown Disney, less than fifteen minute walk from our room to the front gate. We ate one meal in a sit down restaurant (no reservations yesterday), one character meal and ate everything else in quick service restaurants. The only ride that was out of Fast Passes was the Cars Ride and we just got it the next morning before our breakfast with the Princesses.

    Fortunately, by the time we can save up for a trip to WDW (we are in Minnesota) both my kids will be teens and we will be able to skip all of the little kid stuff which will cut down a little bit on some of the sights to see.

    • suburbanturmoil

      To each her own! 🙂

      • cheesehead4ever

        Did this change in the last year? When you say buy your tickets in advance, do you mean park tickets? Those we had months in advance. When you reserve the three fast passes in advance are you assigned a particular time like you were under the old system or does it just mean you can just get in the Fast Pass line whenever you want?

        You also mentioned free Fast Passes. Does this mean you are charged now when you reserve them?

        • suburbanturmoil

          Yes, it just changed from “Fast Pass” to “Fast Pass+” If you are staying at a WDW resort, you can book up to 3 Fast Pass park rides up to 60 days before your visit. If you aren’t, you can book up to 3 Fast Passes up to 30 days before your visit once you’ve bought your tickets- so it would be a good idea for you to at least buy your park tickets 30 days in advance and go ahead and book your Fast Passes as soon as you can. You can always switch them around later- It’s really easy to do with the My Disney Experience app and we were constantly switching around our Fast Passes, even while we were at the park. Fast Pass+ is also free.

          Here’s the official info on Fast Pass+ from Disney: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/faq/fast-pass-plus/

  • Chris Miller

    Good list but I think you might have one mixed up – Goofy only appears as a voice in philharmagic – I have heard of bringing a golf ball to fake catch for soarin’ however. Another dining plan tip (a big one) while table service credits are split between adults and children, counter service credits are not! So they can get whatever they want, or have two kids split a meal to save one for breakfast.

    • suburbanturmoil

      You are right- I read it wrong, and should have realized it since I was just on Soarin last week! You bring gemstones for Philharmagic. Made the switch above. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    One of our favorite tips is to stop in Castle Couture gift shop (and sometimes Sir Mickey’s) to get pixie dusted for free! My daughters love doing this every trip!

    • suburbanturmoil

      Great idea! Thanks for the tip. 🙂

  • Anne

    Wow, this is amazing!
    What do you think about Disney World for teenagers? We live in SoCal near Disneyland, so we’ve never made the trip to Florida
    — is it worth the extra effort with a 14 and 15 year old? They actually really like amusement parks and (for teenagers) are reasonably non-snarky and appreciative of new experiences.

    • suburbanturmoil

      I think the resort experience would make it WAY more fun for teenagers- but they will REALLY love the Universal parks. We do both now when we visit Orlando, but be sure and plan your Universal experience for the second half of your trip- Their parks blow the Disney parks out of the water. I’ll have a Universal post coming up very soon- Stay tuned!

  • aj

    #28 had been gone for a long while 🙁

    • suburbanturmoil

      Noted. 🙂

  • Willette

    Great info! Looking for a 2015 trip with my son. So you have this down pretty well. Would you plan my trip for a fee? Lol! So serious! Everything y’all have down.

    • suburbanturmoil

      Ha! I bet you could find a travel agent who’d be willing to help!

  • Erika

    WOW!!! I am planning my first trip to Disney for September. There is so much to plan…This is definitely going to help.

  • Karen

    Brilliant blog! Definitely some handy tipsfor us first timers to note down from here, thanks! ☺

  • Rhodisney

    Nice tips, most of which I knew already, but I enjoyed the way you explained them in detail not just a one sentence blurb. Even though I don’t have a baby I am going to check out #23, just to see the attendants in their Victorian garb. I love the costuming at WDW! I also liked how your kids were dressed in costumes of that country. I am determined to make my photos a little more interesting this trip and have my grandson in different hats and t shirts that depict that land, instead of the same old stock photos I take year after year. Good Job.

    • suburbanturmoil

      That was my kids’ idea! They wanted pictures everywhere. 😀

  • Robbyn

    I am taking my 7 year old niece to WDW. I am thinking we would go the second week in June. I am planning 2 (3 if that would be better) to spend there. I was originally thinking to stay at Animal Kingdom, but it is pricey. If there are only the two of us, what parks would you recommend along with what hotel would be the best to stay at? Do you feel SeaWorld would be worth taking a day for? Any advice for what would make this most beneficial for my niece and I, please let me know. I have never been there and don’t want to waste hours by not planning out my locations very well.

    Thank you so much!

  • Shelly

    #10 – How do you get free parking at the parks if you are staying at one of the on-site resorts? I’ve never heard of this option before.

    • suburbanturmoil

      Show them your resort parking pass at the gate. They will wave you right through. 🙂

  • I have read tons of these. I am going for a Disney the second week of February for first time with my family and I think this is a great guide for newbies. I am so grateful that you shared this blog.

  • I have read tons of these. I am going for a Disney the second week of February for first time with my family and I think this is a great guide for newbies. I am so grateful that you shared this blog.

  • reenigee

    Great blog. Do they still offer the free dining plan? Is it in a particular season? We;re going late August.

    • suburbanturmoil

      Call the Disney hotline and ask- They’ll have the latest dining plan information and can tell you which months they’ve offered the free dining in years past. 🙂 Have fun!

    • suburbanturmoil

      Call the Disney hotline and ask- They’ll have the latest dining plan information and can tell you which months they’ve offered the free dining in years past. 🙂 Have fun!

  • reenigee

    Great blog. Do they still offer the free dining plan? Is it in a particular season? We;re going late August.

  • Susan Sebastiani

    Hi, This is SO helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write this post! FYI, if you rent a car, you can only get free parking at the resorts. It’s twenty dollars a day (unlimited parks) for a car. Thank you again, this has definitely prepared me for my upcoming trip!

    • Susan Sebastiani

      I called my hotel and I guess there isn’t free parking for all the resorts. They only have free parking at resorts not at the parks if your staying at the All Star resorts.

    • Susan Sebastiani

      I called my hotel and I guess there isn’t free parking for all the resorts. They only have free parking at resorts not at the parks if your staying at the All Star resorts.

  • Susan Sebastiani

    Hi, This is SO helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write this post! FYI, if you rent a car, you can only get free parking at the resorts. It’s twenty dollars a day (unlimited parks) for a car. Thank you again, this has definitely prepared me for my upcoming trip!