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Your first trip to Disney World is finally here! Packing up your loved ones and heading down to Orlando might be a bit of a daunting task, especially if it’s your first theme-park experience. If you don’t do a bit of research first, the trip could wind up being less-than magical.
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Arrive to the Park Before It Opens
It cannot be stressed enough how important this is! This is one of the best tips you can get for hacking Disney World. Not only is it much more financially smart to get the most out of your day (You already paid for admission, why not give yourself enough time to soak in all the magic you can stand) but it’s also better to get in early before the crowds arrive, rather than stay at the park later. Remember, it takes a while to actually get through the parking lot, and into each park, so plan ahead!
In case you aren’t staying in a Disney Resort, and you can’t just be shuttled straight to the park from the hotel lobby via one of Disney’s transportation systems, you’ll have to deal with parking. The biggest advice we can lend in this category, is absolutely get there early. In addition to this, don’t think you’re going to just pull into the parking lot and boom there’s the entrance.
Disney World is a massive establishment, in fact you can fit all of California’s Disneyland park into Disney World’s Magic Kingdom parking lot alone. After you park, there’s at least forty five minutes before you’re screaming for joy on Space Mountain.
Don’t worry, there are trams to get you from place to place but be sure to remember where you parked! Use your camera phone to take a picture of the section in which you parked.
Monorails, Ferrys & Transportation
You’ll want to familiarize yourself with these forms of transit, they are your only means to navigate between parks. Don’t forget, these will have wait times too, so if you’re in a rush to make a reservation, give yourself plenty of time.
Beat The Heat
You are going to be really hot, it’s Orlando after all. The average temperature during tourist season is in the high 80’s, with the humidity sitting at a moist 74% on average. To make matters worse, those lines that sometimes go on for an hour or more, aren’t always in air conditioning.
In fact, you will almost always be standing (possibly in direct sunlight), and carrying something heavy (a child, a turkey leg, your trusty book bag).
So, expect it and prepare: Dress for the heat, put on sunscreen, wear a hat, wear comfy shoes, do whatever you have to do. Being comfortable is the key to having the best Disney experience possible.
Download The Wait Times App
Nothing will make you feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth like looking back at your day and realizing half of it was spent in line. Disney’s Wait Times app is a lifesaver that will help you plan out what rides to hit next. Also, one tip is to eat your meals at odd times. Wait times slow down between noon and one o’clock, because people are eating. The same goes for dinner.
Rest, Relax & Rally
A day at Disney is best spent when you’re happy, comfortable and well rested. So, if you made it to the park early, and tackled most of your magic kingdom list, consider heading back to the room for a power nap, a swim, or a lunch you packed yourself. Then return to the park when you’re ready for more action.
Best part about this? People will start to get tired and leave the park with angry tots of their own.
Extra tip: It would also be really handy to time this break with your trip to another one of Disney’s park. For instance you can grab the monorail back to your room before hopping the bus to Hollywood Studios for a creepy trip on the Tower Of Terror.
If you’re staying off site, and can’t make a quick trip back to the room, you can still grab a break! If you’re traveling with kids, chances are you’re going to have to get a little creative when it comes to sneaking in breaks.
Below is a list of restful and air conditioned attractions you can visit without having to do much persuading to the little ones that want to stand in line to meet Ariel a second time.
Rides/Attractions Where You Can Rest
- Magic Kingdom’s People Mover
- Ellen’s Energy Adventure
- Living With the Land Boat Ride
- Disney’s Jungle Cruise
- The Country Bear Jamboree
- The Indiana Jones Experience
- Many More
Hacking “Extra Magic Hours”
You might get to Disney and discover that certain amusement goers have scored access to something called “Extra Magic Hours,” and you’re feeling a little left out. There are two things here to keep in mind:
- Magic hours get really crowded, everyone that is staying in the resorts has access to magic hours, on top of those who paid extra for the privilege, and it’s often a favorite time for cast members who are off work to go play around in the park.
- The park does not operate at full force during EMH, much of the staff goes home, so some rides, attractions, restaurants and shops will be closed.
Long story short? Extra magic hours are great in some cases, but they don’t always live up to the hype.
You Can Ride Any Ride You Want, Even if Your Kids are Too Young
Disney has a fantastic service called Rider Switch, or Child Swap. It allows small children to wait in a special area while one guardian rides the ride, and the other guardian stays with the child, then they swap! Height requirements for all rides can be found online. When you approach the line, tell the cast member you would like to use rider switch.
They will give your group a pass and part of your group will go through the line, similar to a fast pass, while someone from your group waits with the child, then you swap. Since fast passes are limited, and these don’t count towards that quota, it could be used as a way to double the amount of fast passes you get in a day!
Try the One of A Kind Snacks
There are famous delights at Disney World that are only available in the park. So when choosing a snack, consider something that is one of a kind, and unique to Disney World. Sure, cotton candy and popcorn are good, but they are probably as good everywhere else.
Go for the Pineapple Dole Whip from Adventureland instead of cotton candy, or get the Cinnamon Almonds from Frontier Land instead of popcorn.
While the Ice Cream tastes like regular ice cream, it simply wouldn’t be a good old fashioned trip to Disney World without an iconic Mickey Ice Cream bar from Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar, available all over the park. You could have a regular burger and fries, or you could go into Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom and get a waffle sandwich (With fruit and Nutella options for dessert).
Paying a visit to Epcot? Oh. Goodness. Get ready.
With all the delicious things at Epcot, you really can’t go wrong. Whatever you do, you must visit Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie and get a Napoleon, Chocolate Croissant, Macaroons or all of the above. In new Fantasyland? Try The Grey Stuff (it’s delicious) and only available at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom.
Embrace The Little Things
- Go into City Hall and get your “First Time Visitor” button. You can also get a “It’s My Birthday” button, an anniversary button and more! Every cast member in the park will acknowledge the button.
- Pick up an autograph book and collect autographs from your favorite characters!
- Get your photo taken. Let the cast members take photos for you. You don’t have to pay them to take a picture, they snap a photo of you and give you a card, and at the end of the day all your photos are available in one place online. They cost a fortune to print, but one or two might be worth it. Regardless, looking through them at the end of the day is a blast.
- If your child dresses up like a princess, every cast member will greet them as the princess they are dressed like–most of the time, or it just comes out “Hello, Princess.” It’s adorable.
- Get yourself a pair of Mickey Ears. If there are more than a couple of you, maybe bring your own because they can cost between $13 and $20 in the park.