Alright mouseketeers, we are fresh off the plane, back from our Disney trip and I’m ready to share some tips with you. These are things I already knew, but being back in the parks I remembered how important they are for having a successful vacation. So here are a few things I relearned during this trip to Disney:
1. Disney dining was created for giants
The portion size for one adult meal at Disney World is huge. Most of the time I had to force myself to finish my lunch. You can easily save money by splitting meals, or knock a few dollars off your total by telling your cashier you don’t want any sides. You can also order off the kids menu! That’s right, Disney doesn’t care if you’re a 30 year old woman with a preschooler – you’re still a child at heart. So order those chicken nuggets with no remorse and pay half the price of an adult meal.
2. Location, location, location
I know I mentioned we were staying at the Polynesian Village Resort for the first time this trip. Well, through a series of unfortunate events I ended up staying offsite at a Marriott resort. However, I still got to use all the amenities of the Polynesian from my reservation and I did spend one night in the room I had booked.
Honestly, I wasn’t overly impressed with the room. For the price we had paid, it was really just a one bedroom hotel with a microwave and mini fridge. What you are paying for when you book the Polynesian Resort is the location. Every morning you can wake up and the monorail to Magic Kingdom and Epcot is just a quick two minute walk away. The transportation to Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Downtown Disney are about the same distance, and we never had to wait longer than ten minutes for the next bus. If you took a plane, Disney will pick you up at the airport and shuttle you to your resort. They even take care of your checked bags so once you drop them off at your initial airport they magically appear in your room later that day. You won’t need a car the entire trip. Each night, you have a clear view of the fireworks across the lake from your room without being caught in the crowds at Magic Kingdom. You can’t beat the convenience.
I will say that the fireworks, although spectacular, can make it difficult to sleep if you’re trying to get to bed early to ensure you’re ready in the morning to get to the parks when they open. The ferry for Magic Kingdom also blows its horn every once in a while until the park closes, which can be pretty late on a day with magic hours.
3. Florida is hot
We have always gone to Disney World between December and February, so temperatures are usually pretty mild. This time, before we left temperatures in Maryland were almost 70 degrees (I know – it’s February, what the heck is going on?). Needless to say, when we got to Florida it was hot. Almost every day was in the mid to upper 80s. When you’re walking around all day, that’s hot.
One of our favorite places to cool down was Casey Jr. Soak ‘N’ Splash Station in Magic Kingdom. Located in Storybook Circus, this basically consists of stationary electronic circus animals squirting water every couple seconds onto dozens of kids running around in circles giggling their faces off. Perfect on a hot…winter’s day.
4. Make fast pass reservations for the afternoon
The best way to maximize your fast passes is definitely to book them for the afternoon. When the park first opens most of the rides won’t be crowded and you can have your pick without needing to waste a fast pass. We like to get to the park as soon as it opens, hit up one or two rides I know will be insane later on like Peter Pan’s Flight or maybe a character meet and greet, and then get to our fast passes. Even if you did book your first pass for the morning, remember you have an hour window before it expires – still plenty of time to get a ride in before using it.
5. Get free water at any Quick Service Restaurant
Don’t weigh down your backpack or purse with multiple water bottles. You can order a cup of water at any Quick Service Restaurant and even refill your personal water bottle if it’s a self-serve drink station. Again, on a hot day, this was a life saver.
6. Watch your child’s – and your – magic band like a hawk
Those things are slippery devils! At the beginning of our vacation, my daughter’s magic band would fall off periodically throughout the day and luckily we would notice it and pick it up before it was gone forever. I noticed mine had come undone a few times as well. My daughter even picked up one on the ground and returned it to a lady who had dropped hers during the Festival of the Lion King show. Remember, this band contains all your fast passes, your room key, possibly your charge card – just don’t lose it. I began keeping my daughter’s band (and sometimes my band) in my backpack and only taking it out when we got in a fast pass line.
7. Sometimes it’s nice to wing it
I am a planner. For this Disney trip I had multiple lists and spreadsheets, I linked everything to My Disney Experience App so it was right on my phone, I booked my fast passes 30-60 days in advance as soon as I could…I am a planner. The day of my RunDisney race after the event I had initially planned on resting up and relaxing at the resort, but last minute decided to take my daughter to Magic Kingdom for another day instead. Totally out of character for me. Honestly, I’ve never been an Annual Pass holder before so deciding a few days ahead of time to add another day at the parks usually costs more money – which means I never do it. But now it’s free! So I made a few fast pass reservations on my phone last minute with whatever spots were still available, I didn’t get to the park until after 10:30am (which I also never do), we ate some cotton candy, and we just wandered around the park seeing whatever we could. It was relaxed, spontaneous, and awesome! Usually I’m rushing around trying to make sure we see everything in one day, but this would be our third day at Magic Kingdom so I didn’t stress. We went on a few rides, ate lunch, did our fast passes, and headed home. It was great!
8. Magic Kingdom is huge
We usually take at least two days on a trip to do Magic Kingdom. Like I said, this time we spent three days there and didn’t even get to do some of our favorite rides like the Jungle Cruise. If you really push yourself you can do Magic Kingdom in a day, but I think especially with young kids it’s easier to split it up into two days.
9. Rides malfunction – a lot
I’m pretty sure we had at least four or five rides malfunction while we were on them for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Plus, each day a few of the rides in the park were down for maintenance. This may seem like an inconvenience, but honestly, you won’t care. Even people who are impatient and easily irritated in the real world can happily spend fifteen minutes sitting on a log flume waiting for their ride to start because it’s Disney. I’m telling you, it’s magical.
10. Screenshot the My Disney Experience App Fast Pass Screen
The My Disney Experience App is amazing. You can check and change your fast pass selections, look at your Photo Pass photos, make and change dining reservations, and view wait times for rides at all the parks. However, checking these things repeatedly like I tend to do can drain your phone battery. To this end, this trip I took a screenshot of my fast pass reservations on the app and saved it as the lock screen on my phone. Now to view my passes I can simply look at my lock screen instead of having to unlock my phone and open the app each time.
11. Bring a Rechargeable Battery Pack for your Phone
My phone always dies by the end of the day when we go to Disney. Between photos and the My Disney Experience App, it really didn’t have a chance. Not this time! I bought a battery pack on Amazon, kept it in my backpack, and charged my phone when the battery was low or I wasn’t using it throughout the day and voila! This was so valuable as I spent more time separated from the rest of my party than I ever have before at a Disney park. I always needed to be able to use my phone to reach them, and the battery pack kept my vacation stress free.
Bonus: Everyone is nicer at Disney
Again, it’s magical. I don’t care what kind of problems or stresses you are having at home, when you go to Disney they are gone. Everyone is happy, and as a result, you are happy. The characters, the shows, the rides, even your most cynical adults are somehow transported back to the innocence of their childhood at Disney. No one is making fun or being sarcastic about the parks, everyone loves them. Young, old, rebellious teen, man, woman, punk rocker or fairy princess, everyone gets swept away by the magic that is Disney.