Are you an avid Disney fan? Do you start planning your next Disney trip while on a Disney trip? (This might resemble me.) Maybe you’ve never been and you are excited to begin planning your very first Disney trip. You have questions I’m sure…should we go to the park or take a Disney cruise…when is the best time to visit the park…is the dining package worth it…stay on property or off? This article is a compilation of Disney tips and suggestions from real life people who travel there (a lot). Some are travel agents, some are travel writers and bloggers, and some are just good ole Disney fans who go all the time. Let’s see what they have to say.
Best Autograph Book
Caroline Knowles of Magical DIStractions is a Disney Travel Agent with a practical tip about autograph books to capture and preserve those precious character signatures.
When visiting a Disney Park one of the most important items to purchase if you have children, or if you are a child at heart like me, is an autograph book. You can purchase standard autograph books from any Disney Park for approximately $8.00 – $20.00. The standard books come with 20-30 pages of blank pages for the characters’ autograph.
Disney Junior Encyclopedia of Animated Characters is, in my opinion, the best autograph book you can buy! You can purchase this on Amazon for just under $10.00. This book can not be purchased inside Disney Parks, so order before you go. The hardcover book contains 144 glossy colored pages with over 150 Disney/Pixar characters. Weighing in at 1 pound, the book can easily be transported in a backpack or stroller.
The characters absolutely love signing this book. Each character has their own page with a photograph and description. The interaction you will have with the characters when they see their photo is priceless!
I recommend using a Sharpie marker so that the autographs will stand out on the pages. This is also helpful to those characters with extra large hands and the inability to grip a pen. I carry Sharpie Retractable Markers as they are easy to access and come in a large variety of colors. You can purchase a package of 12 for under $15.00.
Katie Smith is a travel agent, but also writes a lot of website copy and press information for her company. You can find out more about Katie on her travel agent site and see her great photo tip below as well!
Take advantage of the Disney PhotoPass photographers stationed all around the park!!! Not only do they take your picture in front of the main “landmarks,” they are also scattered throughout the resort to take shots with characters and at dining locations. Each one is also equipped to do Magic Shots which put special characters in the pictures with you depending on the location. Be prepared for Sebastian to pop up in a picture at the Little Mermaid attraction or ghostly dancers at the Haunted Mansion photo location.
You can purchase the Memory Maker ahead of time which includes all of your photos and ride videos for one flat price, but you can also hand them your own device where they will happily snap a picture with your iPhone. This service means that you come home with more than selfies in your photo albums and that everyone in the family gets in the group shots. Plus, these photographers take great “extra” shots for sweet candid moments with your favorite characters that you might not get otherwise.
Disney Dining – Worth It or Not?
Frequent Disney-goer Amanda Medlin offers her take on the popular Disney Dining plan.
My recommendation may sound a little bit controversial, but I’m going to put it out there: Disney dining plan is not worth your time in my opinion.
There, I said it. This is coming from a self-proclaimed, ear-wearing, starry-eyed, (yes, even tattooed) Mouse Devotee. It really isn’t. You aren’t saving time or money in the bargain, and the headache of scrambling to arrive on time for all those table service meals will eat at your soul (not to mention your precious park time!). On the last day of our most recent family trip, we had so many snack credits leftover, we had to raid the candy counter at Expedition Everest as we dumped tons of Rice Krispy Mickey heads into a bag. So sad. We left two counter service credits on our account to perish unceremoniously. Just book your character meals/table experiences in advance and take the rest of your dining as it comes. You might even come out cheaper.
Also, invest in Memory Maker. You won’t be sorry.
How to Make the Most of your Day at Magic Kingdom
Amy Torbert is an avid Disney fan who adores Magic Kingdom! She shares some wisdom for getting the most out of your time in this particular Disney park.
While I have visited Disney World as a child and adult, I fell in love with Disney as an adult. It has now become at least a yearly trip for me. My favorite park is Magic Kingdom. While I love all of Disney, there is just something TRULY magical about Magic Kingdom. It is like being transported to a place where all things are happy and innocent.
My best tip I can share is how to make the most out of your day at Magic Kingdom timewise without having to stand in line. Take advantage of fast passes and extra magic hours. I have also made reservations at The Crystal Palace and had a character breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends to get into the park earlier. It was a win-win for me with a delicious breakfast, pictures and then heading off to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride where I just walked on – no line no waiting. This day I was able to ride the majority of my ‘must do’ rides before 11 a.m.
Just remember you are at the happiest place on earth…spread the pixie dust around and it will come back to you. I hope you have a magical time!
Disney Party Time
Kevin Peters loves Disney and taking his family there year after year never gets old for him. One of his best Disney tips involves special ticket events.
One the most memorable and satisfying trips to Walt Disney World is a special ticket event. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is one that quickly comes to mind. Tickets are limited in number so crowds are smaller for the event. Listings for the event shows times of 7 p.m. until midnight. You can add an additional three hours to your experience because you can enter the park at 4 p.m. with the special event ticket. This will allow you to enjoy almost an entire day for a reduced price and it will not deplete your multi-day ticket for access. With smaller wait times, the extra benefits are amazing.
Apple juice, cookies and other treats handed out at designated locations make the night special. A unique show at the castle and a fireworks display just for Christmas party attendees makes the evening one to remember, and to share and reminisce about for years to come. Give the kids a long, early nap and then head to the park for the experience of a lifetime.
Contemporary Resort Dining and Magical Sunsets
Jennifer Brady is a Disney specialist travel agent with Journeys By Jennifer. She always has great Disney tips to share and I love this memory she recalls from a special trip.
Our family has been blessed to get to go on more Walt Disney World trips than I can count, and it is certainly my favorite vacation destination. I have so many magical memories from over the years, but one of my favorites is probably getting to dine at California Grill at the Contemporary Resort.
My first meal there was on my birthday, and I am excited to be going again for my birthday this year. The food is outstanding, but the best part to me is the view of Magic Kingdom. We were able to watch a beautiful sunset over the park right from our table. As if that wasn’t enough, to top off the night, we got to watch the fireworks from up there. Even if you have an earlier dining reservation that evening, you are allowed to come back when it’s time, to view the fireworks from their special viewing area on top of the Contemporary Resort. Seeing my three kids watching them from there brought tears to my eyes!
When is the Best Time to Visit Disney
I love visiting Disney World any time of the year, but some folks prefer one time over another. Travel blogger and Disney lover Sarah Gilliland (Sarah in the Suburbs) shares her take on why fall is simply the best!
My favorite Disney tip involves what time of year to go. In this new age of advanced planning and more and more people being willing to take their families at all times of the year, there is no longer a “best” time or “lowest” crowd time to visit. However, my absolute favorite time of year to visit is fall.
Why is fall the best time of year? Well, to begin with, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is going on. With the 2017 festival being 65 days long, there were lots of days to choose from and that will probably continue to be the case each year. Additionally, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has several dates throughout the fall season, and my family LOVES this party! It’s one of the only times that adults are allowed to dress up in the parks AND trick-or-treat. Yes, candy for everyone! Besides all of the amazing activities, the weather is still usually good enough to hit the water parks too. We’ve been to both Disney water parks for the last few summers, and now they are always on our “must-do” list. If you can manage it, a trip to Walt Disney World in the fall won’t disappoint.
Doing Disney with a Teen
Connie Nolen is a newspaper columnist and chair of the English Department at an Alabama high school. Having raised three children, she knows a little about travel with teens. . .and where to stay with them at Disney World. This is also one of my favorite Disney properties so I’m excited she shared this as part of our Disney tips blog post.
A Walt Disney World trip is the ultimate parents’ gift to celebrate high school graduation. For teens, having a friend come along adds to the fun while alleviating single rider blues. For parents, finding on-property accommodations that maximize convenience while allowing for needed privacy can prove challenging. Free bus travel and extra hours for official Disney Resort guests make the search worthwhile. Few Disney properties offer two full bathrooms and separate sleeping accommodations.
The more spacious of the two Animal Kingdom Villas, Kidani Village provides those 2 bathrooms, separate sleeping areas, a stacked washer/dryer combo, living area and a full kitchen. The property’s workout facility and large pool are popular with young adults. The pool’s slide accommodates all ages because everyone is a kid at Disney.
Animal Kingdom Villas have their own buses so transportation to the parks is easy with Kidani Village as the first stop after park excursions. The many cultural elements of the Village, along with viewing patios with rockers, and daily animal feedings visible from guest rooms add to an ambience of relaxed intrigue and entertainment. Kidani Village is the perfect Disney Resort.
Family Traditions are Good Disney Tips
Desiree Miller is a news producer, writer, blogger (at Stress Free, Baby!) and videographer. And, she loves Disney! She shares a practical tip on creating family traditions at Disney.
A trip to Disney is one of those things in life your children will never forget, and odds are after they’ve been once, they’re going to want to return, again and again. That’s certainly the case with my family and we’ve made one particular thing part of our visits ever since the fourth child came into the picture.
We always, and I mean always, stop at the Goofy statue at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom for our family photo. The tradition started on accident the first time. But once we started, we realized what fun it would be to measure their growth against Goofy. So, we put the kiddos in the same spots they were in on the first trip. It’s become a fun way to compare them through the years, especially with the youngest still having to sit on her oldest brother’s lap.
It’s not something that costs any money and you really don’t have to wait long for people to clear a spot for you (especially if you explain to whoever might be resting next to Goofy that you just need them to hop up for one second while you snap your family photo). You don’t have to pick the Goofy bench for your photo, but wherever you do pose, make it the same spot each trip. Read more at: THE ONE THING YOU MUST DO AT DISNEY WITH YOUR KIDS!
Disney Tips and What to Expect on a Disney Cruise
Carol Muse Evans is a talented writer and the publisher of Birmingham Parent magazine. She has traveled with her family for years and offers much information regarding Disney cruises and what to expect. Read on.
For my family, the Disney Cruise Line is the Cadillac of cruises. We’ve been going since the kids were little, but on our last excursion, our kids were almost grown! However, no one is ever too old for anything Disney! And traveling Disney-style with your teens means you can act young again, too.
A few years back, we traveled on the Disney Dream for a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas. This cruise started at just $450 per person at that time. When you consider all your entertainment including movies, Broadway-caliber shows, first run movies, childcare and fun kids’ activities, lodging and incredible world-class food (alcohol is extra) is included in this price, I’d say it’s quite a bargain. Your only other cost would be for any particular excursion off the boat, though many fun options are free or almost free, and of course, those souvenirs.
“Magic” is the key word on the Disney Magic. Festival deck parties, great swimming pools, the AquaDuck Water Coaster, an all-adult pool, shows, parties, karaoke, games and deck parties and fireworks means the Disney Cruise offers something for everyone. Dedicated age-specific areas make sure children from ages 3 months up to 17 years old have something fun for their age group – and so parents don’t have to worry. It’s supervised by trained counselors and included in the price of your cruise.
Tweens, ages 11 to 14, can enjoy “Edge” on the Disney Dream, a tween pad filled with hi-tech entertainment including video and karaoke using green-screen technology. Teens ages 14-17 have their own exclusive club with “Vibe,” a trendy, 9,000-square foot club where they can socialize, play computer games, mix dance tracks and create videos. They also have a private outdoor area for the pool, water jets, sunbathing and deck games.
Then, teens 18 and up young adults can enjoy the adults-only areas if they prefer, with their parents, or without. My 21-year-old son enjoyed being an “adult” on the last cruise and found the adult-only pool area a peaceful retreat.
Of course, you cannot talk cruises without talking food. Most people joke they gain weight on a cruise, and it’s not hard to do. Disney Cruise Line offers rotational dining, which means you eat in a different world-class restaurant each evening. The wait staff follows you each evening, allowing you to build a rapport with them and allowing them to cater to you individually. And they cater to all types of special diets and even cultural differences – just ask.
Among the dining options on the Dream are Animator’s Palate, which brings the magic of Disney animation into the dining room; the Royal Palace, inspired by Disney princesses; and the Enchanted Garden, inspired by the gardens of Versailles and very “royal” in nature as well. There are also several cafes, coffee shops and a cafeteria-style restaurant available, as well as fast-food on board the pool deck with pizza, sandwiches, burgers, salads and more. And all ages can’t resist that self-serve soft-serve ice cream around the clock.
JUST FOR ADULTS
Along with the adult-only pool area, there is “The District,” a nighttime entertainment area with five unique venues offering an adult playground nightly. Don’t miss a chance to get pampered in Senses Spa & Salon, and for a true, world-class dining experience, you must try either Remy, a French-inspired gourmet restaurant, or Palo, a romantic escape. These two restaurants require reservations and a minimal additional charge per person, but it is worth it. We ate at Palo with our adult son, and it was truly the best meal I’ve ever had.
FUN OFF SHIP
For our 3-day cruise to the Bahamas, we had one day in Nassau, Bahamas, and we elected to sightsee, walk and shop the outdoor markets, have a Bahamian meal that was delicious and visit Atlantis, the mega-resort there on the island and just a short taxi ride over from the boat. There are special excursions you can book for an additional fee, but you can have a blast the way we did it, as well. In the Bahamas, 19-year-olds can imbibe and go into the casino at Atlantis, which impressed our son!
Our second day was spent at Disney’s own private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay (pronounced “key.”) Whether you simply get off the boat for a “free” day at a beautiful, private beach with a catered barbecue lunch by Disney, or you choose an added excursion while you are there, Castaway Cay may be the highlight of your trip.
Excursion activities available (at extra cost) include a Stingray Adventure, water cycles, paddleboats, kayaks, sailboats, stand-up paddle boards, snorkeling, bicycling and much more. Premium private cabanas next to the family beach are available for rent, and watercraft ski adventures give guests a change to drive a personal watercraft around the islands. There’s a play area for children that includes water balloons, buckets and water jets, and there’s even an all-adult beach, complete with bar.
It’s hard to say enough about how special Disney manages to make you feel on these cruises. It almost feels like they planned it just for you. For more information, visit Disney Cruise Line and your favorite travel agent.
What are your favorite Disney tips? Leave us a comment below!