I’ve done a gazillion Disney posts over the last few years and thought I’d round them all up in one place for y’all.
NOW AVAILABLE IN MY ETSY STORE
Disney Activity Books
Park by Park – How we do it!
- Magic Kingdom
- in the park (here, here , here, here, here and here)
- favorite eats – Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, Peco’s Bills, Tortuga Cafe, Sleepy Hollow
- Christmas must do – Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
- Halloween must do – Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
- New Fantasyland (here and here)
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (2012 and 2013) – great for older kids when you have multiple days in park
- Hollywood Studios
- Typhoon Lagoon
- Other fun places at Disney World
Tips & Tricks – Things we learned
First, a disclaimer… this is in no way a comprehensive list as I have only been to Disney with littles a handful of times. I realize that there are loads of Disney sites and blogs devoted to offering helpful information. These are just a few things I wanted to share from our experience.
- There were tons of dining experiences and shows that we didn’t want to miss so we planned both of our trips almost a year in advance.
- Make your dining reservations 180 days in advance the minute the system opens. Have a plan as to what park you want to go to on which day so that you know where to book your meals/shows.
- The park time opening calendar will be posted sometime before that 180 day mark. Check the Disney website so that you will know which parks have Extra Magic Hours on which days. This will help with those dining reservations.
- You can create the most fantastically elaborate, personalized and customized maps detailing your own must see/ride/do attractions. Simply go to this site, choose your parks and your favorite attractions and in a couple of weeks your very own set of keepsake maps will arrive at your doorstep in all the splendor and wonder that only Disney can create. And it’s FREE!
- If you have a down day, consider going to Downtown Disney. It’s “free” and there are great places to eat (T-Rex Cafe and Rainforest Cafe were our favorites). There is also a Lego store and a movie theater!
- We stayed at the Polynesian last year and loved the easy monorail access. We stayed at the Hilton at Downtown Disney this year for “free” on hotel points. This resort gets all the extras like Extra Magic Hours, had great, reliable transportation (more so than the Disney buses we had at Polynesian), and has a character breakfast. Downtown Disney is literally across the street and we were VERY happy with our stay here.
- I packed inexpensive dollar store treats for my littles for each morning. “Mickey” left them a little note and a treat as a surprise when they woke up and it kept us from spending a DIME on souvenirs until the last day when we let them each pick something out. See more here.
- We splurged ($2.49) and had Mickey call our littles before our trip. It was cute and they are still talking about it! Look here for the details.
- Kids under the age of three are FREE! We made sure to squeeze in our first visit just a couple of months before the baby’s third birthday and had a grand time!!
In the Park
- We took one small backpack into the park each day. We tied a colorful bag tag on the top strap that had our cell phone contact information on the back. See more here.
- Go to the dollar store and buy cheap throw away ponchos for everyone in your party for every day of your visit. They come in packs of 2 for $1. We carried four in our backpack each day when we went out and we used them every.single.day. (We were there in September.) Best of all? We threw them away after the rain, rather than fighting to roll up wet plastic and fit it back into our pack.
- You can take a small 6-pack cooler into the park with sealed, non-alcoholic beverages and snacks. We didn’t take a cooler since we were on the dining plan, but we did bring water bottles for the littles. We found that most restaurants offered cups of ice cold tap water for free and we used that to fill their bottles at least a hundred times.
- We kept our camera in a large gallon sized zip top bag inside of the pack. We went on lots of water rides and it rained daily. This gave me peace of mind that it wouldn’t get damaged.
- We kept our signature/memory books and two large sharpie markers in the front pouch of our bag for easy access. You never know when someone famous might walk by :-) See more here.
- We also carted around a pack of hand wipes…these were used non stop!
- At ages 3 and 6, we took our own stroller and tied a second colorful tag onto the handle so that we could see it from a distance. You can rent strollers in the park but I thought they were expensive and you have to leave them at the gate when you leave. So, if you are park hopping you have to rent another stroller in the next park. At ages 4 and 7 we didn’t take as stroller and it was SO much easier without one all together!
- I downloaded the Disney Mobile Magic app to my iphone for free. Just search Disney Mobile Magic in the app store to find it. It let’s you see park hours, scheduled events like parades, wait times, character greeting locations and fast pass return times. I also used the WDW Waits app (the free version with a silhouette of the castle) for quick wait times.
- Learn how to use Extra Magic Hours and Fast Passes to make the most of your visit. We did both and found them very worthwhile.
- We also did the Rider Switch program numerous times. For example, on rides where Whit was too little, I would tell the attendant we wanted to ride switch. He’d hand me a pass and then I’d wait in line with John and ride the ride. As soon as we were done, Honey and John would go right back to the attendant with his pass and they’d get to go in the fast pass lane. So, John got to ride a lot of things twice!
- Go to the parades! Get a snack and stake out your place at least half hour before time. My littles adored them and Honey and I loved having a chance to sit on a curb and do nothing.
- We did use the Photo Pass card in all of the parks but didn’t end up purchasing any. We found that the staff was more than willing to take a picture for us on our camera after taking it on theirs.
- Magic Kingdom – the classic Mickey and a selection of princesses (Cinderella, Rapunzel and Aurora when we went) are located in the Town Square as soon as you enter the park, all the way to the right. You can also get your embroidered ears right there too! We visited him daily and had virtually no wait as we went during parades and when it was raining. Storybook Circus now has Minnie, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto, and Ariel is in the new Fantasyland.
- Epcot – find ALL the original characters in an air conditioned waiting area
- Animal Kingdom – Camp Minnie Micky has a variety of characters in safari gear.
- Hollywood Studios – Look in the art of animation for character greetings (we saw sorcerer Mickey, Wreck It Ralph and Incredibles) and at Pixar Place for Woody and Buzz (a terribly long line both years). The Cars are available for pics but are not animated and don’t sign books. Phineas and Ferb are right next to them and do a cute little show with the kids waiting in line.
- Chef Mickey’s – again, all the original characters are here but you will need reservations
- Cinderella’s Royal Table – find all the princesses here – you will need reservations
- There are other characters in various locations throughout all the parks.
- For our first trip, we bought a package that included our resort, park access and dining. We found that the dining plan was a little excessive and we could barely eat everything! I’d still do it again, but I’d be very smart about using the dining credits for very expensive places like Cinderella’s Royal Table and not on more affordable sit down dining. We didn’t have the dining plan this last trip and it was pretty painful to have to pull out the cash every time we ate or snacked. I think after doing both that I’d do the dining plan again for sure!
- If you end up with a bunch of snack credits left at the end of your trip, head into the Main Street Confectionary and get a bag of goodies to go!
- We had a few breakfast reservations and then we brought our own breakfast for the other days. I packed juice boxes and things like pop tarts and cereal bars for the kids. They would eat them while we were making our way to the park. See more here.
- Speaking of reservations, we found lunch reservations to be VERY hard to get to. We always seemed to be on the wrong side of the park racing to make it. We much preferred to start or end our day with a reservation. Consider how long it will take you to get to your dining place as it’s usually longer than you think!
- We did breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table at 8:30 AM on a day when the park didn’t open until 9. It was SO nice to go in the park early and be one of the only people there. We got tons of pictures in front of the castle without a million people in the background. See more here.
- If you can’t get a dinner reservation for Be Our Guest, get there between 10:30 and 10:45 for lunch. They open at 11 and it is SO worth it!
So that’s pretty much the unabridged version of every.single.thing I know about the most magical place on earth. We’re already planning our next Disney experience…more on that to come :-)