Disney World: eleven random hints and tips

Before I begin I feel compelled to mention that you go to Disney World to have fun. Do not let yourself turn into one of those yelling stressed out parents that you see there. Just don’t do it. You don’t want to be the mother that other park attendees remember when they go home as the quintessential stressed out parent.

These are in no particular order other than how I thought them up:

I. Press pennies:

This is a cheap and fun souviener. Look on the park maps to find the penny press machines. My kids enjoyed hunting for these, like treasure hunters! Disney also sells little penny press booklets to keep your pennies in. While I personally didn’t buy these on our trip, I think it would have been a good idea as I still find these press pennies laying aroung the children’s roms. A booklet for them would have kept them all together better and would have been easier to store neatly once we got home.

II. Passports at Epcot:

Epcot prides itself on being educational, though I would call it edutainment. We really enjoyed Epcot, but we are a family of nerds. The passports were a great way for the children to have something to do after we visited the 11 different countries. They also have people in each of the pavillions who will stamp your child’s passport.

III. It will rain:

Yes it will. It will rain at least once while you are there. Suddenly the sky will open up and people everywhere will go scrambling for shelter. And you will pay for the overpriced hefty bags, yes, you will.

Go to wal-mart and spend $2.00 for cheapy rain ponchos for you and your children. Also bring a few large hefty lawn and leaf bags. Keep them folded and in your diaper bag. You will want these to cover your stroller, diaper bag, and any other personal items. Wear sandals, like tevas, that can get wet. If you decide to wear sneakers, like I did because I was pregnant and needed good support shoes, bring extra socks or you too will be forced to buy a $10 pair of socks with mickey mouse embroidered on them. Because NOTHING in Disney world is character free or inexpensive.

If being wet will bother your young children, bring a spare set of clothes. There are numerous opportunities to play in fountains. Even just a onesie or sundress which don’t take up alot of room. My children who older, say age 5 and up, just have to suck it up and deal with being a little wet. I know. I am mean.

IV. Character meals:

Kids love these and you may find yourself balancing between thriftiness and making memories. Breakfast is the least expensive and the one that children in general are most likely to actually eat. By dinner time the crankiness has set in and they may not be as enthusiastic about meeting the characters.

Do your kids care what characters they see at the meal? Mine didn’t really care. We ate at the Cape May Cafe, which has a fabulous breakfast buffet and the characters are dressed in 1920 style beach attire. It was not packed with people, the food was great, the character to guest ratio was high, and all the characters came over to our table.

The added benefit was that we were able to park our car at the resort for the day and walk in from there instead of going to the main parking lot. If you are goint to go to a character breakfast make sure it is located near the park you are going to be attending that day. Make your breakfast reservation for before the park opens for the day. The you will be finishing up your breakfast as the park opens and be ready to start your day.

V. Seeing your favorite characters:

One of the things that surprised me was how few characters are actually just wandering around the park. If you want to make sure to see a particular character check the parks daily entertainment schedule, which you will grab on your way into the park. There will be character showtimes listed and character wranglers who will make you form a line.

Be prepared for obnoxious parents of other children who will push, shove, and think their child is entitled to spend a half hour with the character, while your child stands there. But that is what the wrangler is for and most of the time the issues I saw were resolved quickly and peacefully.

VI. People, they suck:

I know this really isn’t a tip per se, but there is a HUGE segment of the population who does not think twice about doing things like standing in front of your child at a parade, being rude to your child and you, or just being loud and obnoxious. There is nothing that annoys me more than people who complain constantly. What did you think, people, that Mickey Mouse himself was going to hold your hand and escort you through the park?

I can think of so many examples of adults who were poorly behaved and how shocked I was at their behavior, and then in turn shocked that I was shocked. But one in particular stands out.

We were waiting in line for ice cream cones and there was a group of 4 adults with no children in front of us. The girl at the counter was having trouble with the ice cream machine and the icecream was too soft and drippy. She handed one of the men his ice cream cone and the icecream began sliding sideways. He went nuts. Threw the ice cream and cone down on the ground while shouting, “Didn’t you go to school to learn how to do this?” as well as several other expletive laden things.

Ice cream cone serving school? Seriously? Get a grip. Also, keep your crazy self away from me.

VII.Take a break in the afternoon:

I heard this one so many times, but we never really did. We would find a quiet place in the park to sit. Maybe watch a show in the street or listen to some music and enjoy a Mickey Mouse icecream cone. If you are feeling like you want to sit and rest, check your entertainment schedule and see what is going on that might be relaxing and enjoyable. But we never left the park and came back later. It seemed like a big waste of time.

VIII. Use the Fastpass Wisely:

(Not to be confused with the Photopass)

Here’s how it works. You insert your Park entrance ticket into a Fastpass machine at the attraction that has a line. You then receive a designated ride time window to return to the ride., When your time rolls around, come back to the Fastpass entrance and bypass the line completely.

A word of caution about the fastpass. You can only have one on your ticket at a time. Be sure to check the return time on the machine before you put your card in. Otherwise you may end up with a return time 6 hours later in the day and not be able to use the Fastpass option for other attractions for the entire day. There is no way to undo your Fastpass.

Because we travelled off season we only used them once, to go on the Peter Pan ride in the Magic Kingdom. It was well worth it.

IX. Baby swap:

Probably the best thing EVER for families travelling with with a mixed age group where some of the children are too young for a given ride. Really this should be named parent swap. In a nutshell what happens is that you wait on line all together. When you get to the front of the line one parent goes on the ride with children who are big enough while the other parents stands off to the side with the too small children. Once the first parent child team is done on the ride, the parent gets off and the other parent gets on. The children get to ride it twice.

X. Use Priority Seating for restaurant meals.

It is not a reservation There is no commitment on your part. What it means is that when you arrive at the restaurant you will get to jump the line and be seated next. So call ahead and do this if you think there is even a remote possibility that you want to eat somewhere at a given time. If it works out, great. if it doesn’t, well that is fine too.

XI. Photo Pass:

How does the Photo Pass work?

There are official Disney photogfraphers all over the park. For every opportunity that there is a photographer take advantage of his/her services. The first time you have a photograph taken you will recieve a card from the photographer. From that point on you will hand over your card to every photographer who will scan it. At the end of your trip you go to the desiganted photo pick up locations where you can view your photographs.

This can be a good deal for some people.

The photos are expensive (VERY expensive) when purchased individually, but there is also a Photo Pass CD option, an unlimited amount of photographs on the CD for $99. And while that does sound like a lot of money, you should keep in mind that you can accumulate 100 photos in a weeks time. And if you are travelling with other relatives or grandparents you can split the price between all of you and have all of you in the photogrpahs if that is what you desire. The you can go home and print them out in the thousands for all your friends and relatives to admire. Or toss the CD in your drawer to collect dust.

Tomorrow I will be concluding the series with some final helpful links, tips, and small ideas to make sure the trip is fun and memorable (in a good way) for all of you.

20 Responses to “Disney World: eleven random hints and tips”

  1. Jennifer P Says:

    Just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying your series… we have hopes to take my three stepkids (7, 9 & 12) along with the bun currently in the oven in the next couple of years. I had the fortune of living close enough to Disney as a kid/teen/young adult to visit about 15 times, and it just never gets old. Can’t wait to go back as a mom!!

  2. Mimi Says:

    I have another tip for Epcot. We hit the gift shop in each country to find the hat section and we take a group picture wearing the hats. For example in France we wore berets, in Mexico we wore sambreros etc. The kids love this activity and it gives them something to look for in each country. We love Epcot too.

  3. Melessa Says:

    My family makes bi-annual trips to WDW and I couldn’t have said any of this better myself. And you’re right about the penny books making things easier, MUCH easier, once you’ve returned home.

  4. AmyBee Says:

    Wait, wait…! I have a question! Is the Baby/Parent Swap an official Disney thing or is this just another brilliant ChriStrategy? Meaning, is everyone doing it with the blessing of the Wranglers or when you did it did People They Suck glare at you when you did it? Fabulous postings, once again.

  5. Rebecca Says:

    Those are great. We are going to an itty-bitty theme park this weekend, and I’m planning on using a lot of your ideas - especially the one about packing in your own snacks.

  6. vickie Says:

    Wow, thanks for all this juicy info. If we ever decide to embark some of these tips will be forever enblazened on my mind.

  7. Susan Says:

    Why I love you: Suck It Up is my parenting motto. Especially when it comes to wet clothes.

  8. Ginny Says:

    A couple of helpful hints about Fastpass…You are able to get a new Fastpass several hours after getting your first one, even if you are not able to use it yet. It should say at the bottom when another one is available to you. In addition, you can use the Fastpass after the time it is given. I’ve used them at Disneyland many hours after they have “expired.” However, they do have to be used on the same day. I recommend going to Disney message boards for more tips and details, there are people there who really know their stuff and are very helpful!

  9. Michelle Says:

    Ziplock bags are a must. I was there last October with my 4 kids (3.5yrs, 3.5 yrs, 2 yrs and 5 months) and it rained pretty much every day of the 8 we were there. After the first day I put everything in my backpack in separate ziplock bags. They were a life saver.

  10. Lilly Says:

    Prebought ponchos! Great idea. We got stuck in a monsoon at one of the Disney parks and spent about an hour in one of their stores getting Mickey ponchos. The lines at the checkouts were about as long as any ride line and no fast pass!

  11. lavs Says:

    what happened to your other blog? its appearing black

  12. Meg's Mom Says:

    Your tips are wonderful - I wonder if you roamed along behind us on our trips. I want to second the character breakfasts - they may seem expensive, but you won’t regret them. The other point that I think is important is the age factor. We felt that there are 3 “magic” age ranges - the first trip should be around 4-6, the second around 10 and the last around 15. At each age group, the kids will be interested in different things. And, taking a passel of different-aged kids just makes it better - the 15 year old doesn’t mind being in the Magic Kingdom if she’s with a 5 year old who is seeing all the magic and wonder for the first time!

    I’d vote for staying on the Disney property if you can possibly afford it. Just to sit down on the monorail and let someone else drive you home is great. And, we were at Disneyworld when Hurricane Charley came roaring through. Trust me, if you have to go through a hurricane, do it with Uncle Walt - we woke up the next morning and, with the excpetion of Animal Kingdom, all was pristine and ready for us to park hop (which we did for meals - we prefer to eat mostly in Epcot).

    We took each kid to Disney 3 times - and now we’re looking forward to taking grandkids (although 3 times might be beyond our stamina!).

  13. tonja Says:

    Hey, quick question… what month did you go in? We are thinking March 2007, but I’m not sure now… do you think that would be a busy month with spring breaks happening all over the place?

    Thanks so much for all your great advice!

  14. Kendra Says:

    I am loving this series of yours! Just wished I would have found it 6 months ago! Great that you addressed the photopass. I was incorrectly told by one of the photographers that I could copy the photopass pictures from the Disney website to another digital developer (ie snapfish, yahoo photos, etc). WRONG! We took photos at the same locations as the “professional” photographers. We ended up wish some of our own photos that were better than theirs reducing the actual number we bought. Pricey? Yep.

  15. JTS Says:

    all told, what is the final tab? We have several kids and would like to do this, but the hubs wants to know the bottom line.

  16. InterstellarLass Says:

    Ever thought of being an official travel planner for families? You’d be great at it! The photopass thing would be a real $ saver, and you wouldn’t have to be so worried about someone stealing your camera when you ask a stranger to take a family photo!

  17. Beth Says:

    I don’t know if this still works, as we haven’t been to Dland in 3 years (THANK GOODNESS). However, we were going every year for a while, so saved our Entrance tickets from the previous year. They still worked to get FastPasses the following year, effectively giving us twice the number of rides at once! Also, if you have toddlers or others who can’t or won’t ride certain rides, use their tickets to get other FastPasses. (sort of “laddering” the FastPasses, if that makes sense)

  18. Richard Says:

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  19. Brad Says:

    No matter how you slice it or dice it, Disneyworld stinks. Waiting on lines that are, at times, over an hour long in duration, for a 2 minute “thrill” ride, is ridiculous. I have always found better fun, better thrills and more bang for the buck over at Universal. If you have kids that are 48″ in height, it’s a better option. If you have kids that are 54″ in height, it is the only option to keep them sane during your stay in Orlando. Disney is a DUD.

  20. carol Says:

    looove this site. So helpful! I have been to Disney around 6 or 7 times myself, in fact my husband and I were engaged there. This will be our first trip with children as we have a 2 year old and a 7 month old. Everyone tells me that I’m crazy to take them but why not? The way I figure they are both free at this age and I have heard that Disney is going to hike the prices in November, we are going in October. What I want to know is what else did you pack to take into the trip? My daughter won’t eat anything so I hesitate to buy her food at the restaurants. I was thinking of bringing sandwiches or lunchables??? Should I bring the double stroller or the snuggly and the umbrella stoller what do you think? Do they sell ice any where in the park?

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