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Disney World

Tips & Tricks

Quick Links: Accommodations, Inside the Parks, Character Meet & Greets, Fast Passes & Rider Swap, Souvenirs, Dining, Special Attractions and Parades/Shows, and Miscellaneous.

Visit our Resources page for places to get information and products for travel.

Getting Ready to Go

Start a countdown calendar for your trip about 30 days before. Consider making a paper chain the kids can rip a piece off each day, and take a picture of the last loop on the day you leave!

Confirm all ADRs before leaving and either bring confirmation numbers with you written down or program them into your phone. My Disney Experience App can keep all reservation numbers with your reservation if staying on property.

In case of medical emergency, locate the nearest Urgent Care and pharmacy to where you are staying so you know where to go. If you prepare for an emergency, it won’t happen! For medical information for parks, visit our blog post on being prepared for medical issues.

If you would like to pack lighter and ship some of your items to your room before you arrive, contact your hotel for proper mailing address.

Start collecting new, clean pennies for the pressed penny machines. Also, don’t forget the quarters needed to go with them. We like to pack a few sets for each day at the park rather than carrying them all with us each day. Or if you want to press quarters, start collecting shiny quarters! A pressed quarter costs $1.25.

Ears Tip It can be very hot at Disney World, so pick up a couple fan spray bottles at WalMart or Target before you leave and bring them with you. The ones in the park are very cute but they run about $16 each.

Accommodations

All Disney World Hotels come with a Pack N Play if you need one for little ones to sleep. We recommend bringing your own sheets because they aren't provided.

If you need extra fridge space for milk and snacks, just request an additional refrigerator when you check in. Some resorts have them but some don't.

In your hotel room, if you leave your kiddos stuffies on the bed, housekeeping will arrange them in a cute way on the made bed. My kids looked forward to that every night!

Stuffies on bed

Groceries can be delivered to your hotel room in the resort. The two options for delivery are WeGoShop and Garden Grocer. You can order from both online. Notify the bellhop service that groceries are being delivered in case they are coming when you won’t be at the hotel. Certain items you must be present at delivery time.

Ears Tip For a special treat, pack a Disney pillowcase and new Disney pajamas in your child's suitcase for them to open and use at the hotel.

When you check in, make sure to locate the bus stop for the parks so you don’t waste time trying to find it in the morning.

Quick Links: Get Ready to Go, Accommodations, Inside the Parks, Character Meet & Greets, Fast Passes & Rider Swap, Souvenirs, Dining, Special Attractions and Parades/Shows, and Miscellaneous.

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Inside the Parks

There are three options for strollers:
1) Bring your own
2) Rent a stroller at the park
3) Rent a stroller from an outside company
Disney World has single and double strollers available. If you rent a stroller for your entire stay, there is a discount. Reviews from parents on the strollers are that they aren’t very comfortable and they get really hot in the sun. We don't recommend the park strollers.

Strollers at Disney Park

Bringing your own stroller or renting an offsite stroller allows you to bring sleeping kiddos back to your room easily without waking them up at stroller return. Bringing your own stroller can save a lot of money and it can be simply gate checked if you are flying. Airlines will also let you check strollers as baggage without any additional charges. We recommend getting a heavy duty stroller bag to protect your stroller.

Ears Tip

Popular Question: At what age will my child not need a stroller at WDW? Disney World is a very large resort and requires not only a lot of walking but also standing. Even the most fit child will lose steam with all the walking especially in the heat. It is not unheard of for kids as old as 9 to take a rest in a stroller at the parks.

Whether you bring your own or rent a stroller, it is very important to mark your stroller with a bright tag or scarf, preferably with your name on it. We love the tags at YourBagTag. Check out their site from our Resources page.

Need to change a diaper? Pack a quick-change bag with only diapers, wipes, changing cover (and maybe ointment) to grab and run into the bathroom easily, and ditch the big diaper bag. Restrooms are only equipt with one changing station which means there might be a wait.

The best places to change a diaper are the Baby Care Centers – one is located at each park, usually near the front entrance but not always. They have large changing tables and supplies, as well as a toddler size potty. They are private and quiet. Check out our post on diaper duty at the parks.

Feel free to pack snacks and drinks for your kiddos, as the snacks in the park don’t always appeal to little ones and can take a bite out of your wallet. Disney World will allow you to bring a small cooler inside but does not allow glass bottles (unless it is baby food). The cooler can't be a hard-sided cooler.

When riding the Monorail, you don’t have to collapse your stroller which is great if you have a sleeping child. You will have to collapse strollers for busses, trains and ferries. Be ready for the bus with a collapsed stroller ready – some busses are equipt with a special spot for stroller storage but it is shared with everyone riding.

Ears Tip If you use your stroller for storage at the parks, make sure to bring a bag to throw everything into when getting on and off busses, trains and ferries. We keep a foldable bag with us that opens up to put everything into quickly. Trust me, there will be at least once you are running to get on a bus!

Extra Magic Hours (EMH) happen at a different park each day. Whichever park has EMH, it will open early or stay open later than normal hours. EMH are available for those staying on property only. If you decide to take advantage of this perk, crowds are usually higher at that park for the day. If you prefer less of a crowd, skip the EMH and pick a different park for that day.

Quick Links: Get Ready to Go, Accommodations, Inside the Parks, Character Meet & Greets, Fast Passes & Rider Swap, Souvenirs, Dining, Special Attractions and Parades/Shows, and Miscellaneous.

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Character Meet & Greets

Hollywood Studios Buzz Lightyear

If your child is nervous about meeting characters, getting an autograph book is a great way to “break the ice”. You can purchase one at the park or bring your own from home. Just remember that the characters have trouble grabbing normal size pens so buying one of Disney’s chubby pens is a good bet. Also, be sure to have the book open to a blank page before approaching the character.

Ears Tip Looking for a specific character for pictures? Sometimes location and times are printed in the Times Guide. Pick up a copy at the Main Entrance or Guest Services. If it doesn’t list the character you are looking for, start asking Cast Members because they may have the inside scoop. Each character has a handler that stays with them while out. Before getting in line for pictures, ask the handler how long they will be there so they don’t take a break while you are in line. Usual break times are from 15-30 minutes depending on character. Some characters "rotate" at break time so you don't have to wait.

Great places to see characters are: (Updated July 2013)

Magic Kingdom

Town Square Theater: Mickey; Princesses including Aurora, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White
Main Street Town Square: Marie from Aristocats (at flagpole), Mary Poppins, Pluto (at flagpole), Snow White
The Nook in Adventureland: Tinkerbell & Friends (different fairies vary each visit)
Peter Pan's Flight: Peter Pan & Wendy
Ariel's Grotto: Ariel
Enchanted Tales with Belle: Belle (in yellow dress)
Mad Tea Party: Alice, White Rabbit
Winnie the Pooh ride: Tigger and Pooh
Cinderella's Castle (on different sides): Fairy Godmother, Merida (in her own Meet & Greet area), Anastasia, Drisella and lady Tremaine
Pete's Silly Sideshow: Daisy, Donald, Goofy, Minnie
Gaston's Tavern: Gaston
Adventureland: Aladdin & Jasmine
Liberty Square/Christmas Store: Princess Tiana & Prince Naveen
Splash Mountain: Woody & Jessie
Tomorrowland: Buzz, Stitch
Frontierland: Chip and Dale

Epcot

Main Entrance/Legacy Plaza: Goofy
Innoventions West Character Greet Area: Chip and Dale
Character Spot: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto
Showcase Plaza: Duffy the Disney Bear
United Kingdom: Winnie the Pooh & Tigger, Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins
France: Princess Aurora (gazebo area), Belle (in blue dress)
Morrocco: Aladdin & Jasmine
Germany: Snow White
China: Mulan

Hollywood Studios

Magic of Disney Animation: Mr. Incredible & Frozone, Sorcerer Mickey, Ralph & Vanellope, Daisy & Donald, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy
Animation Courtyard: Jake, Handy Manny (Sofia the First to arrive in late summer)
Backlot Tour Exit: Mike Wazowski & Sully
MuppetVision Exit: Lightning McQueen and Mater, Phineas and Ferb
Sorcerer’s Hat: Goofy, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, Minnie, Chip & Dale, Stitch
Pixar Place: Woody, Buzz, Army Men
Indiana Jones Stunt Show: Indiana Jones & Marion
Streets of America: Character Palooza (mix of characters that come out - list unknown)

Animal Kingdom

Adventurers Outpost: Mickey and Minnie
Camp Minnie-Mickey: Pocahontas, Baloo & King Louie, Chip & Dale, Donald
Dinoland: Goofy & Pluto
Discovery Island: Dug and Russell from Up!, Winnie the Pooh & Tigger
Rafiki's Planet Watch: Rafiki

Character Dining is another great way to get pictures with characters. There are 12 character dining experiences at Disney World so there are plenty of opportunities to get pictures and autographs with your favorite characters.

Ears Tip Reservations are highly recommended for all character dining, especially Cinderella’s Royal Table which books up quickly. All meals at Cinderella's feature the princesses and of course, Cinderella. Check out our dining page to see which character dining is right for you.

Quick Links: Get Ready to Go, Accommodations, Inside the Parks, Character Meet & Greets, Fast Passes & Rider Swap, Souvenirs, Dining, Special Attractions and Parades/Shows, and Miscellaneous.

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Fast Passes & Rider Swap

Fast Passes are very important to get to ride your favorite rides. If there is more than a 30-minute wait, get a FastPass, which gives you an assigned time slot to return and ride without a long wait.

Some FastPasses run out early in the day so consider your plan for the day around your FastPasses. It is also a good idea to get a FP and then ride an attraction nearby so you can return quickly. For example, get a FP for Peter Pan’s Flight and while waiting for your time window, ride Small World or the Carousel.

Rider Swap is an option for families with young children who aren’t tall enough or old enough to ride, but the rest of the family would like to enjoy the attraction. As you are getting in line, go to the greeter Cast Member and, with the young child in tow, ask for a Rider Swap. The CM will give the parent sitting out a card and when the other parent finishes the ride, the first parent can use the pass to get on quickly. That parent can also take two children with them on that ride (not an adult). **You can also get a Rider Swap when you have a FastPass**

Ears Tip If you get a Rider Swap, and your kiddos need a break before you can take your turn riding (like a potty run), just save the pass and return later. Ride Swaps are usually good for the entire day.

Souvenirs

Preschoolears-WDW Penny Presses

Press pennies are one of our favorite souvenirs. The machines are all over the park and Guest Relations can give you a list of where they are all located. They also sell books to keep your pennies in. Each penny costs $.50 to press. You can also press quarters. Each quarter costs $1.00 to press. There are less quarter press machines but they are getting more common in the parks.

Pins are a wonderful souvenir and Disney makes amazing pins. There is a huge fan base of Pin Trading with Disney. Many Pin Traders wear pin lanyards throughout the park. A lanyard can be a great souvenir for kiddos as well to display their pins and buttons. Cast Members also trade pins, especially the ones in the stores. But you don't have to trade your pins. We buy different pins each trip and keep them as souvenirs.

Ears Tip If your kiddos would like to try some Pin Trading or simply would like to wear a Pin Lanyard at the park, consider buying a bundle of Disney pins on Ebay before your trip. They are discounted and you get a wide variety of pins that can fill a lanyard. There are also discounted lanyards on Ebay as well.

Disney gives away lots of free buttons for whatever special occasion you are celebrating. Simply stop in one of the shops or a concierge desk and let them know you are celebrating a birthday, anniversary, first visit or family reunion. There are also special buttons for special ceremonies and attractions.

The largest store for Disney merchandise is World of Disney in Downtown Disney District. It can be quite busy in the evenings but is quieter in the afternoons. Some of our other favorite shopping spots are:
Magic Kingdom: Frontier Trading Post, Ye Old Christmas Shop & Mickey’s Star Trader
Epcot: MouseGear, Mision Space: Cargo Bay, Der Teddybar Toyshop & House of Good Fortune
Animal Kingdom: Island Mercantile & Creature Comforts

Downtown Disney has some very unique shopping, including Once Upon a Toy, Disney’s Days of Christmas, LittleMissMatched, Lego Center, Basin, Disney’s Design-a-Tee, and RideMakerz.

The best souvenirs are photos! Want to make sure you get the perfect pictures? It is easy using the Disney PhotoPass photographers. Before your trip you can pre-order a CD of photos for a discounted price. During your trip, get a photopass card and have the photographers that are located all over the resort, take your family photos. They will load the pictures on the card and you can put them all on the CD when you get home. Pre-ordered CDs are discounted, and the new PhotoPass Plus includes photos taken at dining experiences as well as ride photos.

If you shop early in the day, consider sending your packages to Will Call where they will be at the front of the park when you leave at night. That way you don’t have to carry them all day and worry if you leave them in your stroller. If you shop early enough, you can also have them sent back to your WDW resort hotel, but there is a time cut-off. Ask for the time cut-off before sending it to your hotel so that you aren’t getting your package the next day.

Quick Links: Get Ready to Go, Accommodations, Inside the Parks, Character Meet & Greets, Fast Passes & Rider Swap, Souvenirs, Dining, Special Attractions and Parades/Shows, and Miscellaneous.

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Dining

For sit-down dining, reservations are very important. Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) are made by calling (407) 939-3463. Reservations can be made 180 days in advance (if staying on property, you can go ten days out from your arrival date).

Toddler meals are available at many counter serve locations. Although the portion size is great, the variety leaves much to be desired. Also, when you order a PB&J, it is simply a Smucker’s Uncrustable.

If ordering groceries to your room, consider bringing a packed lunch a couple days to save on money.

Special Attractions & Parades/Shows

Preschoolears-WDW Jammin Jungle Parade

For evening parades & shows, it is best to try to stake your spot about 30-45 minutes before it begins (during summer months, you may need to double that time for most popular parades). Bring a blanket to sit on and also save your place. Once you have your spot, have someone grab treats or snacks to munch on while you wait. Daytime parades are easier to find a spot and see the show so 15 minutes ahead of time should be fine (unless crowds are heavy, in which case 30 minutes would be best). Very popular parades that require finding a spot early are:

Fantasmic is a nighttime show that is usually only on select nights, except summer months which it is every night. It is performed in stadium seating. There are usually two shows. Lineup can begin 1-1.5 hours before beginning. There is stroller parking near the stadium which is a bit crazy to get to and slows down getting into the stadium to get a spot. It is best to send one person to get seats while another parks the stroller. Expect a long wait to see this show.

There are three restaurants in Hollywood Studios that offer Fantasmic Dinner packages. This package includes dinner and VIP seating at Fantasmic, which might be appealing if your kids don’t want to stand in line for an hour.

Fireworks at Magic Kingdom are best viewed on Main Street and around the Hub. The show is not as good from the back side of the castle so make sure you are near Main Street. There is a Fireworks Dessert Package at Tomorrowland Terrace that offers fantastic views of the fireworks. Another great location is up top at the Main Street Railroad depot, but it is first come first serve and is a popular spot.

This summer (2013) there is a new show before the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, called Celebrate the Magic. It is spectacular! The castle is transformed into a painters canvas and different Disney themes and movies are "painted" onto it. It starts about 15 minutes before the fireworks and is best viewed around the hub.

There are two special experiences for young kids that are very popular: Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Pirates Tutorial. There are two locations for BBB - Downtown Disney in World of Disney, and Magic Kingdom. Both require reservations and are for ages 3 and older. Pirates Tutorial takes place in Adventureland near Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack Sparrow teaches kids how to be a pirate. Only about 4-5 children are selected from the crowd. Check the Times Guide for show times.

Quick Links: Get Ready to Go, Accommodations, Inside the Parks, Character Meet & Greets, Fast Passes & Rider Swap, Souvenirs, Dining, Special Attractions and Parades/Shows, and Miscellaneous.

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Miscellaneous Tips

A great way to get money toward your Disney trip is to get a Disney Visa card. For every dollar you spend, you get 1% on everyday purchases that you can transfer to a Rewards card and use for anything at the Disney resorts including hotel, dining and merchandise. You also get shopping and dining discounts as well as tour discounts. There is also special Visa character Meet & Greets.

If you book your vacation through AAA, they offer special perks like free parking and special character meet and greets. Offers change and vary depending on time of year, so ask when you are booking.

Hidden Mickeys are a fun “game” people play at the parks that young children will enjoy. On our resources page, we have links to website with lists of where to find Hidden Mickeys throughout the park. There are also apps for your phone but the GPS can ping you a lot and drain your battery.

Some of the best shows are the ones on the streets of the resort! Don’t forget to stop and listen to the performers, especially in Epcot where countries have unique shows. A favorite is Voices of Liberty in American Adventure Pavilion, as well as the Jammitors in Epcot.

Check out our Resources Page for great apps for your phone or iPad to use in the park. All Disney World resorts and parks offer free Wi-Fi.

At the resort hotels, you can receive a Character wake-up call. Simply make the request when you check in and Mickey can call to wake you up!

Did your balloon pop? Bring your popped balloon or the balloon weight back to the balloon vendor and they will give you another.

If you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, let them know at check-in and they may be able to leave something special in your room. You can also order a special treat or gift basket to be delivered to your room. They are called In-Room Celebrations and they are ordered through Disney Floral & Gifts. For more information, contact them at (407) 939-4438.

Quick Links: Get Ready to Go, Accommodations, Inside the Parks, Character Meet & Greets, Fast Passes & Rider Swap, Souvenirs, Dining, Special Attractions and Parades/Shows, and Miscellaneous.

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