Monday, February 22, 2010

My Top 10 Disney World Tips

We had a WONDERFULLY "magical" Disney World vacation!
Thanks so much to all of you who left tips for us here, they were a huge help!

Now that we've "done Disney" I thought I'd share what our family considered our
Top 10 Disney World Tips:

1. Do your homework before you go.

If you want your vacation to go as smoothly as possible, then Plan, Plan, Plan! Not only was the Disney site a helpful place, there are many other books and web sites that you can check out for free. Your local public library is a good place for the latest books, and there are several free websites too (our favorite is -- free and it saved us a TON of money on our hotel with a special discount code they offered).

The Disney website also describes each of the rides and shows, and lets you know height requirements, whether it's good for kids, if it's scary (...and yes, Snow White's Scary Adventures DID in fact scare the bejangles out of my kids...), if it could cause motion sickness, and just generally cool information about each attraction. Use this to plan which rides your family would like to see & which ones to skip. This will save tons of time at the parks, as you won't be scratching your head & arguing what to see/do next.

Make dining reservations WAY in advance. I believe the window for Advanced Dining Reservations begins 180 days in advance. Trust me, if you want a special Character Dining meal, you'd better make those reservations ahead of time!

2. Celebrating something? Let Disney know!

If you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, 1st visit, or family reunion, then make sure Disney knows! They'll make sure it's extra special for you! Go to the front information desk area and let them know that "It's little Billy's birthday!" and you'll be given a free button to wear, sure to bring some special attention your way. Also, if you let them know when you make dining reservations too, you just may get a little surprise!

We were celebrating our oldest daughter's birthday while we were there, and she really loved the attention! Not only did tons of Cast Members (Disney employees) and Guests wish her, "Happy Birthday, Princess!", but at our meals they decorated the table with confetti and gave her a free cupcake/or small cake with a candle to make a wish upon!

3. Characters, Characters!!!

Whether you have kids or not, it's just plain fun to see and visit with the Disney Characters! There are tons of chances to see so many characters at each of the parks, but we especially enjoyed these 3 tips:

1. Go to at least 1 Character meal. We did a couple of them, and had to agree that the breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table in the Castle was our favorite! You'll get a little more time to chat with the characters (but don't expect them to stay for tooo long...they do have many other guests to greet!) and get autographs, as well as pose for pictures. Our kids loved it, and so did their grandparents, it was really fun! Talk about making memories!
{above the girls are "wishing on a star" with Ariel, The Little Mermaid}

2. Camp Minnie Mickey Greeting Trails at Animal Kingdom. We got SO many pictures and autographs there, and didn't have to wait for too long at all.

3. Let your older kids get Character autographs. Honestly, I didn't think they'd care much for an autograph book, but since so many people said "You've GOTTA get autographs!", I came up with a solution -- an autographed photo mat! We LOVED this idea, and so many others thought it was clever, too! This way I can frame & display a photo of each kid at Disney on their playroom wall, where they'll look at it often and remember the fun!

4. Don't be a Fuddy-Duddy!

If you are a royal stick-in-the-mud party pooper, then this vacation is not for you. Be silly! Have fun! Join in & be a carefree goofball! Get in some pictures & ham it up! You'll have a much better time & your family will love it.

{And if the dancers & singers from High School Musical 3 come drag your husband into the act for a minute or two....just laugh & take lots of pictures :) !!}

Chances are that everyone else is too busy having fun with their own family to notice how silly yours is being! :)

5. Beat the crowds.

Ok, this is a big one, people! Plan your vacation so that you aren't there over spring break or holiday weeks like everyone else is, and you'll be SO glad that you did!

We went the 1st weekend in February this year, and hardly had to wait in line for rides or shows longer than 15 minutes at the most! {we pretty much walked right onto the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Animal Kingdom...see above pic}

Also, I cannot stress enough how important it is to arrive 15-30 minutes early at the parks before they open. If you do you also get to see a parade or little show, too! Most people sleep in and arrive later in the morning/early afternoon. You'll have ridden all the cool rides and be ready for some ice cream by the time everyone else straggles in and waits in line for much longer than you had to!

6. Wear super-comfortable walking shoes -- You're gonna need 'em!

What else can I say? This pretty much sums it up. Just trust me. And bribe someone in your family to give you a foot massage every night.

7. Let Disney know if you have Dietary Restrictions/Allergies.

This was so amazing! Just shoot them an e-mail & they'll e-mail you back a form to send in with all of your allergy info, & where and when you have dining reservations so that the chefs can make sure you will have a safe meal.

Eating counter-service meals or snacks? Disney also e-mailed me a complete list of what I could eat where at each of the 4 parks. Fabulous!

Let me just say, that I had appetizers, meals, desserts, & snacks everywhere I went, and it was flavorful and yummy-good! A chef or manager came to speak with me at each restaurant and would either walk me through the buffet or prepare my meal & serve it himself to ensure that it would not be contaminated and would be safe for me to eat. I was thoroughly impressed with each chef's knowledge about my gluten "allergy", and felt completely at ease.

This will definitely be worth your while!

8. Pack smart!

In your suitcase: Layers, layers, layers. {My kids above are wearing 4 layers on top due to temps in the 40's we didn't see coming. Good thing I packed lots of things to layer!} You never know what the weather is going to be!

In your backpack (for taking to the parks): A couple travel-size umbrellas or cheapo plastic ponchos from the dollar store for when it rains (It WILL rain, and if you're not prepared you'll be shelling out the big bucks to pay for a Disney us. Don't go by the weather for the day...just bring the ponchos. Thank me later!), snacks snacks snacks and some bottled water, camera, autograph item & sharpie, medicines, a printed "itinerary" for the day including meal reservation #'s, a plastic bag for any "messies" or to protect items from getting wet, Purell or wipes, cell phone, sunscreen, etc. Leave some room for jackets coming off and for souveniers.

9. Go with the Flow.

You're not gonna be able to do it all, and THAT'S OK!!! Recognize when people in your party are getting tired and take a break. Get a snack & sit down for a bit, or go back to your hotel for a couple of hours till it's time for dinner & fireworks. Otherwise you'll fall asleep while waiting for a table at meal-time or your small kids (& then you) will have a meltdown.

Just relax & enjoy it moment-by-moment!

10. Best spot to see the Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom: (Probably our favorite tip!!!)

On the bridge between Main Street and Tomorrowland! Just almost under the Tomorrowland sign there is a big bench. Go EARLY & stake your claim! A popcorn vendor was close by & we had popcorn & watched an amazing fireworks show that was directly in front of us! If you want to see Tink fly, you're in luck, cause she'll fly practically overhead. We wouldn't watch the fireworks from anywhere else!

The Castle was lit up with changing colors known as "The Kiss Goodnight"!
Main Street at nighttime was incredible!

Bonus Tip: Keep your camera at the ready!

We were looking at one of the beautiful gardens at the Magic Kingdom, snapping a few pics, when a kind cast member came up to us and told the kids to watch the Castle, cause in 5 more seconds something neat was going to happen....

....What a cool shot of some "Disney Magic"!!! You never know what surprises are around the next corner, or what precious faces your kids may make, so keep the camera ready to go!

Hope you enjoyed seeing some pics of our vacation!


Stacey said...

It looks like y'all had a wonderful time. I'm so glad! You got some great pictures.

My husband was in Orlando two weeks ago and said it was unseasonably cold. The other people who were attending the convention brought their families and everyone complained because it was cooler than expected. Better than melting though. :)

Judy@cutest-little-things said...

Your photos are amazing! It looks like you all had an incredibly fun time! Thanks for the tips! I've never gone and we're thinking of taking our son one of these days - I'm sure I'll be emailing you with tons of questions!!


Patricia said...

looks like a magical trip!
the pictures are just gorgeous!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

I won't say "I told you so" about the ponchos. ;) ;)

Your photos are gorgeous!!! You have such pretty girls too...I just love their matching outfits. I am taking notes!!!

I've been to Disneyworld two times (once as a teen and once as an adult) and I just know that I'll enjoy it even more when I can see my girls interacting with all the characters and riding the rides. I'll have to have a chat with my husband about the whole "stick in the mud" attitude--he fits that description! ;)

Great post!

Jessica said...

It looks like you had a great time...your pictures were so sweet :-) You got me in the mood to visit Disney World again!

Brittany said...

Wow!! So happy to hear/see you had a great time!! Ponchos are a life saver!! If I had to pick one thing to carry around all day (besides a camera) it would be a ponchos!!

Shady Lady! said...

Glad you had a great trip. We are going in ...100 days!

LuLu said...

WOW what a great trip you had! Thank you for all the tips... i hope to get there with my chickadees soon,

Bette said...

Great tips and I agree whole heartedly on all your points. I just did a post on our trip to Disney last week too. We probably passed each other at some point!:-)

Adrienne said...

Thanks for the tips. We are going next month. Your pictures are adorable and I love your girls matching Disney shirts!

The Practical Mom's Disney Vacation Companion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crafty Niche said...

Wow, I can't wait to take my kids! They are 18 months and 4 so I may wait a couple of years. :)

ALVN of WhisperWood Cottage and Junkologie said...

Is it just me or do have a certain resemblance to the princess in the aqua dress? I always knew you were royalty!!

Anonymous said...

Looks like y'all had a GREAT time and I LOVE that you do the matching thing too! We went to Disney last year and I had a lil bit of a challenge matching boy n girl BUT still did it...makes for fab pics (and easy to find kids). Where'd you get the CUTE leopard mickey head t's?