This article has been updated with the latest — read: Disney World Tips and Tricks.
(Did you know that Pursuitist co-editor Christopher’s family was featured in Disney’s “Let the Memories Begin” TV ad campaign? Read about it here: “Family attracts Disney’s attention.” YouTube videos of his Disney vacations are a huge success, with over 400,000 combined views — check them out at the bottom of this article.
Are you planning a visit to Disneyland or Disney World? Do you want to discover the inside scoop on how to visit the Disney Parks like a pro? For the perfect trip to the Magic Kingdom, to hang with Mickey Mouse or your favorite Disney princess, discover our Top 10 Tips for Visiting Disney Parks :
1. Arrive at the parks early, and return to your resort mid-afternoon. We prefer to arrive at the parks when they open, to avoid the crowds and the Florida heat. After noon, we return to our hotel, have lunch, go swimming, and relax. With older kids, you could definitely spend an entire day at the parks — but it’s a good idea not to overdo it with children under 10.
2. When arriving to a park early, head straight to the attractions that, later in the day, have hour plus waits. When the Magic Kingdom opens, we head straight to the Jungle Cruise or Pirates of the Caribbean — and there’s usually no wait. At the Animal Kingdom, we do the same for the Kilimanjaro Safaris. After getting the rides out of the way, discover casual areas of the parks, like Main Street USA, or the Conservation Station at the Animal Kingdom.
3. Find accommodations on the Disney property. For ease of use, to exploring all the parks, resorts, water parks, golf courses, or Downtown Disney, stay at a Disney resort. It’s convenient, and you can find the right resort to fit your budget. We usually stay at the Grand Floridian, which is ever so magical.
4. Renting a car is not necessary. Complimentary for guests staying at Disney Resorts, you can catch Disney’s Magic Express bus to and from the Orlando airport — and they handle transferring your luggage. After arriving at your resort, there are frequent monorails and buses to the various parks and destinations.
5. At certain rides and attractions, make sure to pick up a “FastPass” — which could be best described as virtual queuing. It allows guests to avoid long lines at the attractions, freeing you to enjoy other attractions during the wait. The service is available at no additional charge to all guests.
6. Check with a travel agent for special offers. Depending on the season, there’s non-published offers, like “stay three nights, get two nights free.” Check around and do your homework before booking your reservation.
7. Make sure to pick up a “PhotoPass.” It’s easy. If you see a park photographer, ask them to take your photo. After clicking a few pictures, they will hand you a PhotoPass card. When you travel to a different destination or park, just show your card to the new photographer – and all of your photos from the different parks will be loaded up. You will be able to make prints at the parks, or online when you return home.
8. There are plenty of activities for your little princess or pirate. For girls, there’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a beauty salon where little girls are magically transformed into little princesses. Within Cinderella’s Castle, there’s character dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table – or visit the Norway showcase at Epcot to have lunch with all the princesses at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. For boys, there’s the Pirates League, an interactive experience that transforms boys into their favorite pirates. There’s also the Pirate Adventure boat ride, as young pirates scour the Disney resort waterways in search of pirate treasure.
9. Discover fun activities and dining at the various resorts. We always catch the Spirit of Aloha Luau at the Polynesian Resort; it’s a feast and an amazing show. Visit the Animal Kingdom Lodge to dine on African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine at the restaurant Jiko. If you want to take a break from the kids, there’s fine-dining at the Grand Floridian’s Victoria & Albert’s, a 10-year recipient of the prestigious AAA Five Diamond award.
10. Book your reservations, character dining, and travel very far in advance. A few weeks before your trip, call and re-confirm your itinerary. To plan a stress-free vacation, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Disney World 2011 Trip:
Disney World 2009 Trip:
Disney World, Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom 2007 Trip (Part 1):
Disney World 2007 (Part 2):
Disney World and Animal Kingdom Lodge 2006:
“Let the Memories Begin” TV ad: