Disney World tips

Just keep in mid that there’s no booze at the Magic Kingdom, but booze aplenty everywhere else.

This is a very nice restaurant. When we went, someone screwed up explaining to us how it worked with relation to the meal plan stuff, and after complaining about it, they comped us the whole thing, meal, drinks and tip.

Le Cellier was my favorite place to go until we tried the Yachtsman at the Yacht Club Resort. Best food on property if you ignore the ridiculously expensive and divine Victoria and Alberts. But Le Cellier has great atmosphere and the service there has always been awesome. I am utterly addicted to the pretzel breadsticks and the cheddar cheese soup. So delicious.

But man, that is some luck being comped that meal!

We went a few years ago, me, my wife our two kids and her cousins and their kids all around the ages of 8 to 14. Being from SoCal we were all versed in Disneyland but none had been to DW before. I was prepared to be all snobby about it but Disneyworld really won me over in every way possible.

We went in the vaunted twixt-Thanksgiving-and-Christmas timeslot where crowds are said to be at their lowest and the parks are getting their Christmas decorations going and that worked out wonderfully well. We had been prepared for some crazy long lines but found very few. FastPasses were a complete afterthought for all but the most popular rides and even those were often just to assure a second ride later in the day sort of thing.

If you are going to be there for several days the Park Hopper would be a must. I don’t know that any single park would require a second visit unless you or the kids are really taken by one and miss some good stuff.

Make use of the guides mentioned already, lots of specific advice to be had so take it for what it’s worth.

In my opinion, I think your big problem may be between the desires of the two older boys and your young girl. Unless she really, really, really has a thing about meet-and-greeting with the characters, getting a signature book signed, and all of that silly stuff you might want to avoid it altogether. Huge time sink and the boys will probably be bored stiff.

Epcot is more for adults, not much for thrills and adventure, more a leisurely place to take in some sights, buy some souvenirs and get a bite. The aquarium there is awesome and riding Spaceship Earth (slow mover inside the iconic Epcot globe) plus Soarin are the must-haves here.

We liked the Animal Kingdom park very much; your mileage may vary. This might be the best place for both your young and old kids to find amusement together. It’s the toughest one to cover as I recall because it is so large and spread out.

{Kismet - I just found out after typing this that we are planning on driving up to Disneyland tomorrow. Yay happiest-place-on-earth!}

Next week is going to be pretty crazy. We are about 3 hours away and the kids have off, but decided to skip it because of the crowds. Good advice here, just be mentally prepared for crowds and heat. Stay hydrated and learn how to use fast pass.

You have quite the age spread, so you may want to split up so the older kids can get some older rides in. BTW, the Dumbo ride is NOT worth the wait.

My top tip is don’t stand in line. We went last year and managed to do almost the entiure Magic Kingdom in a single, relaxed day and it was because we did not spend our time standing in lines. We fast passed anything that had a line (with a priority towards the more popular attractions that might run out of fast passes) and the other rides we played by ear. If the line was under 15 minutes, we’d do it, other wise we would check back later. I can’t imagine paying for the parks and then spending two hours in line for a single ride. That’s like a quarter of your day right there.

The other really good thing we did was to bring two way radios so we never had to worry about splitting up. I would leave the girls and run off to get fast passes and then we would slowly work our way to that attraction as the time for our ride approached.

At Epcot, the fast pases for Soaring go fast so be sure to hit up the fast pass line early in the morning.

Maximizing fun tips:

Magic Hours. Are you Disney resort guest? Make sure you have the schedule for Magic Hours. You get into the parks early on some days, and you get to stay really late on some nights. I’ve been at the Magic Kingdom at 1am, and it’s awesome.

Dining. If you haven’t already, buy into the Dining or the Deluxe Dining plan. We’ve priced it out, and the Dining plans generally charge you about 12.50 per person, per meal. The plans can come with snacks and quick service meals as well (depending on which one you get). This is as compared to spending, on average, 25.00 per person, per meal (which we also figured. You can get some menu prices off of allears.net). The only catch here is that you must be a resort guest to sign up for the dining plan.

Also, if you haven’t yet, make all of your dining reservations. If you haven’t reserved a spot at a Princess character dinner, do so now. There are 3 places where you can find princesses: Norway (at Epcot), Cinderella’s royal table (next week? Yeah, good luck with that), and the Grand Floridian hotel. My god, man, you have a 4 year old girl in your party!

Finally, if anyone in the family has any issues with general food (allergies, dietary restrictions, etc) don’t worry about anything. Any table service restaurant at Disney will be happy to make you something off-menu. There’s typically a Chef on premises that will come out and talk to the family and see what kinds of things they like, and just whip it up. Except for me, my family is a big group of vegetarians: At the Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom, the chef made up lettuce bowls for them that they really liked. I, of course, had the Kobe Beef burger, and I still cry a little thinking about how good it was.

Parades: In Magic Kingdom, for the night-time parade, situate yourself in between the castle and the nearest bend of street. You’ll get a good view of the parade, and then, when the show is done, you just turn 180 degrees and get ready for the fireworks show of your freaking life. Make sure to look at the top of the tower, and more importantly, that your daughter is looking at the top of the tower. She’s in for a treat.

Alternatively, there’s a small water fountain pavilion in between the main hub and Liberty Square, right before the bridge. It gives you shelter in case of rain, and you get a pretty unobstructed view of the fireworks. The kids can sit on the railing and watch everything.

Birthdays: According to Mickey Mouse, if your Birthday or Anniversary or general celebration for something special is anytime around your stay, you can celebrate it at the park. Mickey doesn’t care too much if you lie. If it’s any time near your little girl’s birthday, Oh my god is she in for a treat. She just wears a special “It’s my birthday!” button, and she’s suddenly the most important person in the theme park. My little girl went on her last birthday, and she got (1) free meals, (2) free treats, (3) every character that saw her interacted with her, (4) Many of them remembered her from meeting to meeting, (5) characters would pull her aside for special photo opportunities and gave her special, rare pins to wear.

General Park Information: Did you know that as a parent, you can walk around EPCOT, and if your feet hurt, you can buy some fine French or Italian wine to sip (do not apply directly to feet)? Did you know that the Tusker House at Animal Kingdom is a buffet the likes of which you will never experience again? Did you know that you can get preferred seating at the Hollywood Studios Fantasmic! fireworks show if you purchase a show-and-a-dinner package? And, finally, did you know that Pirates of the Caribbean can best be enjoyed thoroughly if, as a father, you sing along with the pirates at the top of your voice and try to get your teenagers to join in (the more embarrassed they are the more the fun!)?

I counter this with: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead, we’re at Disney, dammit!” Last time we went there, I took my allergy medicine and some serious pain killers that were left over from an operation I had earlier in the year. I’d throw back a bunch of pills before bed time, and slept like a freaking log. I think I slept a total of 4 hours per day while we were there.

Mission: Space will knock your socks off, if you’re not careful. I would suggest taking the risk, and doing the “excessively dangerous and potentially fatal” version of the ride, the first time you experience it (yes, you have a choice, after some woman had a heart attack the first few months after the ride opened).

I think I’m personally done with that ride, though – the last time we did it, I got off and had to say, out loud, “don’tthrowupdon’tthrowup” repeatedly until we got out of the building.

Hook tried the same with my then 4-year old and scared her shitless. She was wailing like a banshee… perhaps it was because it was a French Hook?

Love this thread. Wish we could go next year, but I don’t think I have my leave coming just yet.

Went to Disney over Thanksgiving last year. I’m ambivalent/hostile to Disney at this point. I’ve been there five times and every time it gets more annoying. We definitely had fun at times, but I despise the way they enforce their own specific brand of fun that involves doing everything their way or the highway. It feels so forced and phony and basically I just want to leave most of the time.

Being at Disney is really when I come the closest to being a misanthrope.

The only thing I think is a can’t miss is the log flume/Bre’r Rabbit in Magic Kingdom. Animal Zone sucks. Pretty funny article on Slate recently about Disney that included a quote about Animal Zone (I’m paraphrasing a bit): “they’ve recreated Africa almost perfectly, except that Africa has a lot more flies and a lot more black people.”

Disney, as far as I’m concerned, is “advanced fun substitute.” Almost, but not quite, entirely unlike fun (to paraphrase Douglas Adams.)


We always pronounce the word “Space” in that thing’s name like we’re throwing up. Disney spent $100 million on that abomination. The first time I went on it, I was with my youngest daughter, seven at the time. We knew nothing about the ride, but we’re the family daredevils, so when offered the green/orange choice we took the orange version since it is “more intense.” Go big or go home, right?

When you get on, every seat has a supply of barf bags in a permanent mount. That’s your first clue to abandon ship. It’s a simulator ride, so if those disorient you, there’s another clue to get out immediately. The car you ride in completely encloses you (some find it claustrophobia-inducing), and it is on the end of a spinning arm that is capable of moving the car on all three axes. They should use this thing to screen for astronaut candidates. I was begging for it to end about 3/4 of the way through. We all staggered off, and there’s a little grassy area just outside the exit. There’s usually several people sitting or lying there, trying to recover & not heave. It took me about 20 minutes before I was ready to move on.

Now, since we must possess some baseline stupidity, we went on the green version later in the day. For simulator disorientation, that one was slightly worse than Star Tours. Still not something I enjoy. We now avoid Mission: Spaaaaaace completely. Just stand in line for Test Track again instead.

Star Tours is down right now in both Disney World and Disneyland because they are redoing it to add in prequel garbage. http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2011/04/star-tours-where-in-the-galaxy-are-we-going/

Another piece of my childhood just died.

Glad we took the long line to see the original last year then.
(I assume the one in Europe is the original too, it certainly looked dated… in a good way)

Mystery is right about the birthdays. When you get to the Magic Kingdom, go to the courthouse right at the entrance to Main St. USA. There is a counter there where they answer questions and give out maps and such. If you tell them it is your birthday, or you tell them it is little Bobby’s first time in the park, or if you tell them Cindy’s in remission from her cancer and this is her special treat visit, they will give you/your kid a button and a balloon. This button, and especially the balloon marks you, and you will be singled out by cast members all day for special handling.

You can also ask there about imagineer tours, where they will assign you an imagineer to take you around the park and tell you all sorts of cool things. This is for the Disney geek rather than family with kids.

Also, a general tip-- the Magic Kingdom is laid out to funnel people clockwise around the park. Most people start with Adventureland and work their way around to Tomorrowland. If you intentionally start at Tomorrowland and work counter clockwise, at least for the morning you will experience smaller crowds and shorter lines.

I actually have more experience with Disneyland than Disney World, despite being on the east coast. I know nothing at all about Epcot because the last time I was to WDW it hadn’t been built yet.

One thing I forgot to mention: The new “Magic, Memories and You!” show at Magic Kingdom is amazing and should not be missed. It’s right before the fireworks and the project stuff onto the entire castle at MK to make it look animated with all sorts of crazy stuff. I was flabbergasted by the awesome technology of it.

Check it out

You can also get the buttons and balloons from your concierge or hotel personnel. The last day of our stay, this last trip, I was checking out and settling the bill early in the morning. We still had some time in the parks, but I needed to schedule our luggage to get onto the Magical Express buses back to the airport in time for our afternoon flight.

During checkout, the cast member asked me if we’d done and seen everything we wanted while we were here, and I shared with her that the odd thing about our trip this time around was that we hadn’t gotten to meet Mickey Mouse. Of all the characters to not meet. She shook her head and smiled and said: “Yep, it sometimes works out like that.”

I went back to the room, and spent the next hour getting kids ready and putting things into suitcases. We got a call in our room: It was the same cast member from the front desk that had helped me with checkout. “Can you please give a message to Eilish (my daughter, who had just turned 8)? Can you tell her that she has a special guest waiting for her in the lobby?”

I suspected what was up, but we took the family down anyway, and, lo and behold, there was Mickey, dressed up in a Santa suit. He was meeting and greeting everyone in the lobby, but as soon as Eilish approached, he hugged her, and spent some serious time making sure she felt special.

Which goes back to the #1 rule of Disney: if you ask nicely, they will do anything for you.

Did you bring the soda over to your kid, who immediately dropped it on the ground, and now you’re out the $3 soda and the kids is still thirsty? Go back where you got it, explain what happened (nicely), and they will not only give you another soda, but they’ll dispatch someone to cleanup the mess.

Bottom line at Disney, ask nicely and they will make things happen.

Tons of good advice uptopic. My son and I go every year, so I’ll just share the bullet points of our “maximize Disney” routine:

[li]Arrive at opening every day, with your route pre-plotted and the most popular rides among the first you hit. The crowds double between opening and about 1 pm.
[/li][li]Make a restaurant reservation (may be too late for this) an hour to an hour-and-a-half before the park opens. My son and I always hit the buffet at Crystal Palace, and then when park opens, we head straight over to Adventureland ahead of the front-gate crowd. We once did Pirates of the Caribbean four times in a row, and Haunted Mansion twice in a row, with zero wait on either with this routine.
[/li][li]Park Hopper is a waste of money. The only park where you can’t spend a full day is Animal Kingdom. So on that day, head over to Downtown Disney after AK closes.
[/li][li]Extra Magic Hours are a mixed bag. The evening ones are useless if you have a four-year-old; she’ll be a wreck that late. The morning ones are nice, but the parks are more crowded on Extra Magic days, so sometimes it pays to go to one of the other parks that day.

We’ve actually found the opposite to be true. With dinner reservations typically at the whims of what’s available at any given time, you may not find yourself in the park where you’re planning to eat.

Also, particularly during really busy times, like Spring Break, you’ll find that you might be “locked out” of your park of choice, simply because of the crowds. We’ve actually experienced that twice, both at peak times of the year: Once at Hollywood Studios, right after the Toy Story ride opened; and once at Magic Kingdom, on the even of the Millennium (although the next day, for the first 6 hours or so, was like Magic Hours…every ride was OURS).

Test track is 100% awesome thrill ride. Epcot restaurants are pretty good, except for their Chinese restaurant. Dreadful, but I’m Chinese so perhaps I’m holding it to some different standard. The other places I’ve tried were pricey but good. The Japanese Teppanyaki place was nice.