15 Walt Disney World Tips
From a Frequent WDW Visitor
I have visited Disney many, many times and I remember my first few times when things were pretty frustrating. We didn't have the internet to plan ahead like they do now, but even with that, the tips, like Walt Disney World itself is timeless, so I thought I'd share some of my own personal observations to make your vacation far more enchanting.
Let's get started.
Castle Forecourt Show
Or the magic was stolen by the flood and flicker!
Credit: WDW MemoriesIf you plan to see the Castle Forecourt stage show at the Magic Kingdom, do so before noon if possible. The reason for this is because once the stage gets wet, they stop doing it and almost every day, especially in the summer, there are afternoon thundershowers that wind up canceling the rest of the show times. Besides, morning is cooler.
See Kilimanjaro Safari Early
Lions and Zebras and Elephants, Oh My!
Credit: WDW MemoriesJourney through Animal Kingdom's Kilimanjaro Safari in the early morning. Unlike Jungle Cruise, these animals are actually alive and real, and they don't like to be out in the sun and heat any more than you do. They will hide or be far less visible as the morning and afternoon wear on, so your best bet is to see them when they are awake and more active.
Incidentally, we were once looking for the otters in one of their displays, but were told they didn't come out when it was hot. I told the cast member I was otterly disappointed and that they otter be out here. He didn't appreciate the pun.
Disney Books With Great Tips
Don't Buy That Soda in Cups
Saving money, one bottle at a time...
Save Money on Pizza at Disney Resorts
Hello, Papa Johns?
EPCOT's Club Cool
Avoid the Beverley! You've been warned!
Credit: WDW MemoriesOn that same subject, EPCOT has a place called Club Cool in Future World, where Coke showcases some of it's many products from around the world and the drinks are free. Yes, I said free. They have little cups that you can sample the various flavors like watermelon from China and the infamous Beverley from Italy (which is an acquired taste, which many don't acquire). My personal favorite is the one from Japan. I wish they sold that in the United States. Anyway, I have seen people refill bottles in there, but I am going to stop short of recommending it. Still, it's a great place if you are thirsty from the heat. All the parks should have one. I have to say though I kind of miss the frozen caveman that was there when it was Ice Station Cool, but an awesome place to visit.
Lines: Got to Hate Them
Or how to be glad you're single!
Credit: WDW MemoriesLines, we all hate them. But if you are a single person, or you don't mind riding by yourself instead of with your family or friends, you can actually get into rides quicker than with Fast Pass. How? Well, chances are when ride vehicles are loaded there is an odd seat. Disney has realized that they can fill these with individuals and so have created in some popular rides, a single guest lane. Right now, only three attractions have them, but they are three of the busiest. Expedition Everest, Rock'N'Roller Coaster and Test Track.
And we ain't talking Lightning McQueen
Credit: WDW MemoriesBy all means, use Fast Pass to it's fullest. It's best to plan your strategy in advance via the online options or through the maps or brochures available. Once you have chosen your first one, pick it up as early as possible on the morning that you arrive in the park. You see, if you get the ticket at 9:00am and it says come back at 11:30-11:45, you won't be able to get another Fast Pass for a different ride until then (whether you actually return or not or you decide to wait the standby or single guest line). Thus the system is designed that you may only get two or three, maybe four Fast Passes a day if you are lucky and there are more attractions than that. So how do you get on the other ones quicker? See below.
Wake up before the crowd does!
Credit: WDW MemoriesOne way to not only insure the most Fast Pass experiences, but even more importantly to avoid lines for those you can't get a Fast Pass to, is to get to the park as early as possible. Even though they officially open at 9:00am, they will start letting people through the gates at 8:30am, at which time the main part of the park is still roped off. This gives you an advantage of being able to get down Main Street, for example, and be right at the hub when the rope drops, thus being first to go into the other lands. Do not take the train for this purpose, or you will be delayed more than you would like. For the Magic Kingdom, if you have kids, I would suggest hitting Fantasyland. The rides are very short and you can probably hit all of them before 10:00am, when the crowd starts to build. If you are looking for more mature adventures, we've actually been able to do Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain (in standby) in that same hour, with Jungle Cruise taking a bit longer. Oh and only do the rides and save the shows for later, because shows are easier to get into quickly then rides are.
There is one exception. Disney has what they call Extra Magic Hours some mornings at different parks (one per day) and they let resort guests in an hour early to enjoy certain rides exclusively before the general crowd is admitted. If you are not staying at a Disney resort, avoid these parks like the plague on the scheduled days or they will be prefilled. Of course, if you are, then use this to your advantage definitely. It's an awesome perk.
But what if you can't get there early? Well when I was a kid, my father was notorious for getting us there at 12:00n or so. He cared little about park strategy, etc. And we waited in some horrific lines, but we did learn that sometimes the best strategy was to come back later and not follow the crowd. If it was really packed, we'd just ignore it and come back. This is especially true in Spaceship Earth. In the morning, you will wait forever, but in the afternoon, you can walk right in. Also if you aren't hung up on special nightly spectaculars or catch them early, a lot of times the rides will be far less crowded because many people leave at that point or are waiting for the show to start somewhere. Do not do this with shows though, as some do not run as late as the park is open, especially live ones like Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Playhouse Disney, etc.
Do you plan ahead or just wing it?
Mickey means moocho money!
Much Cheaper Mickeys!
And other souvenirs too!
Credit: WDW MemoriesSpeaking of souvenirs, do you know that Disney actually has a factory outlet for their stuff? Actually there are three. There is the Character Warehouse at the Prime Outlets on International Drive, Disney's Character Premiere near Downtown Disney, and the Character Outlet at Lake Buena Vista. All of them have excellent prices (up to 90% in some cases) on merchandise that may not have sold at the parks well, but are offered here. They are great places to buy gifts to take home and feature costumes, books, stuffed animals, and all sorts of Disney goodness that you may find in your local Disney Store at closeout prices. Course, not all of them are gems. One time we were there they had hundreds of Quasimodo plush dolls. There's a shock that the kids didn't warm up to them. Anyway, there is also a privately owned shop of new and used Disney and theme park merchandise called the Theme Park Connection in Winter Garden. You can even sell your own stuff to the owner for cash there.
Which is your favorite water park at Walt Disney World?
Use the Lazy Rivers at Water Parks to your advantage.
We also recommend picking up a water wallet, the kind that looks a little like a cigarette case. You can keep money, change, keys, and your credit/debit card or room key in it, so that you don't have to go back to the locker to get money if you want to get something to eat or whatever. The water wallets are sealed so that no water can get in and have straps to go around your neck or your arm. They also come in cylinder form, but these are less convenient. You can pick them up at the towel rental place or probably in the gift shops as well.
Sweat the Details
Or stop and smell the roses!
Credit: WDW MemoriesTake the time to soak in the atmosphere. I know it's hard when you are running from place to place to see every attraction, but Disney World is so rich with detail unlike most other so called theme parks such as Six Flags, that visitors often miss so much. From the Hidden Mickeys, to the subtle artistry like the Mice from Cinderella on the pillars of the Castle to the big dinosaur footprint near Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction to the windows on Main Street and at the Disney Hollywood Studios, the amount of things to see, that you may take for granted, would warrant a whole day in itself, or perhaps even a life time.
Do you look for Hidden Mickeys?
Resort vs. Express Magic Kingdom Monorails
I didn't know that...
Credit: WDW MemoriesEveryone who has been to the Magic Kingdom and suffered through the mass exodus at night's end knows how many people are waiting to go back to their car by monorail. But what you may have noticed is that there is, of course, two tracks. According to the sign, one is for the resort monorail, which is transportation to the MK hotels, while the other goes to the Transportation and Ticket Center (IE Parking). But what the sign doesn't say is that the resort one also stops at the T&TC. This is not an oversight, but a purposely designed method of crowd control. In other words, they don't want people using the resort monorail to get to their car, because it fills up the coaches making it longer for their resort guests to get back. Understandable. The funny thing is that they did try this at one point, putting the T&TC on the sign, and it was pretty much a disaster, and it got changed back rather quickly as they surely got many complaints from their MK hotel guests, who pay top dollar for their stays.
If you do plan to take this route, however, to beat the crowd, you may be asked by a cast member to see a resort ID or they may at least ask you what your purpose is. Of course, dinner reservations at Ohana's at the Polynesian or Chef Mickey at the Magic Kingdom, for example, are a valid excuse, or just shopping.
But honestly, if you really want to save some time and not be packed in like sardines with a bunch of people whose been sweating all day and are already a bit grumpy, take the Ferryboat back. They are quicker than you think, give you a great view as you are leaving, and are much more open ended so that you have some personal space.
Or how not to get drenched!
(C) Disney Promotional ImageFantasmic at Disney Hollywood Studios is one of the best shows on the Disney property, but it is predominantly a water show and if you are seated in the wrong place, you could seriously get wet. The water screen on which elements are projected can create a spray mist (especially on windier days) that can float into the audience. There are three screens left, right and center. Keeping out of the wind can go along way towards keeping you out of the splash zone. If you are getting wet, there is a dry cycle (aka when the dragon lights the river on fire). That tends to heat up the proceedings for a little bit of comfort. If you are in the front row and the wind is right though, this could be a bit uncomfortable as well as the flames are pretty intense.
I prefer to actually be back 5-10 rows because it gives you a better view of the whole panoramic scene which, like a movie theater, allows you to see more (and it's a necessity for filming really). Handicapped rows are always in the far back, but even those are good seats.
Also something to note is that make sure that you are in front of one of the screens and not off to the side because it will be harder for you to see the animation if you are.
My suggestion is to get there early and stake out your seat. Many suggest at least an hour in advance. There is usually some entertainment, get to know your neighbor. We met some really cool people while waiting.
Clothing Choices in the Heat
Do not wear jeans. I can't stress this enough. Jeans will make your lower areas hot and give you a terrible case of chafe in the summer. If you do, make sure you have some Gold Bond powder with you. I would suggest light colored clothes and t-shirts. And wear comfortable shoes like worn in sneakers. You are going to be doing a ton of walking.
Some tips for the ladies:
It rains almost every day as we mentioned earlier in the summer, heavy torrential rain. And afterwards, it can look like a wet t-shirt contest. Many embarrassed women wind up showing a bit too much to the crowd when drenched. This is good to keep in mind, especially if it's white shirt. A bathing suit top underneath will help you avoid the ogling.
Now I'm not a fashion person, so perhaps I can't understand why women wear high heels to Disney World, but I've seen it time and time again. Maybe they are comfortable in them, I don't know. But I do know that there are a lot of places the heel can get stuck and possibly cause someone to fall. Most notably is the Magic Kingdom trolley track, which is only somewhat covered at night for the parade. So it's not really a good idea from a safety point of view.
A note for parents:
For the kids (and this tip might work for adults as well) is to bring a change of clothes with you for the young ones. Disney has cooling areas with fun fountains and sprayers for the children (and some adults) to get drenched and chill from the heat. But afterwards, walking around in damp clothes is no fun and so having an extra set is something I recommend a lot. Oh and remember that they do sell all manner of clothes at the parks, but they are way expensive versus just standard stores. But they do usually have characters on them, so they satisfy the souvenir requirement. :)
We are always eager to learn new tips, so feel free to share yours, ask questions, or just tell us what you think of these. Thanks for reading...