Before You Book:
The Disney website will automatically charge you regular price unless you go through their special offers page. You can book regular price now and when specials come out, you can call and ask them to apply the special to your vacation. They will not do it automatically.
Best Times to Visit:
The best dates to visit Magic Kingdom are: mid-November through mid-December (except the week of Thanksgiving) the third week of January through mid-February the first three weeks of May (except Memorial Day weekend) the first 2 weeks of September
Donʼt visit the Magic Kingdom on a Monday. Save it for the middle of the week when crowds are lower. If rain is in the forecast, Hollywood Studios is definitely the best park to avoid the rain. Almost every single attraction and queue are indoors.
Staying at a Disney Property:
Bell Services at Disney hotels will store your luggage, meaning you can enjoy the parks if you arrive before check-in day or have a late flight out on checkout day.
If youʼre staying at a Disney-owned hotel, you can have merchandise you purchase in the park sent to your hotel so you donʼt have to carry it around all day.
Request a free wake-up call each morning from Mickey or Stitch on the resort hotel phone. Itʼs better than a buzzing alarm, and itʼs a cool way to wake up (it might even get your kids excited to start the day!).
If you decline turndown service at a Disney resort, theyʼll email you a gift card for $10 each night of your stay.
Getting Around the Parks:
Bus wait times are now available in the My Disney Experience app. Consult the app and wait until your bus is 5-7 minutes away before leaving your room for minimal waits at the bus stop.
Did you know that there is a secret entrance to the Animal Kingdom? If you go through the Rain Forest Cafeʼs gift shop and out the doors at the back, there is a fun garden type area with oversized vegetation. There is also a working turnstyle with a CM that you can use to get into the park! A lot of people donʼt know about this and thus it isnʼt very busy.
Itʼs ALL in the Details:
The second story windows along Main Street U.S.A. have names and titles on each. The names are in honor of Imagineers and prominent Disney folks including Walt Disney. Youʼll see his name at the beginning and end of the street- just like in the opening and closing credits of a movie.
Food & Drinks:
If youʼre watching your spending, packing at least some snacks and/or bottles of water can save you quite a bit. Some favorites of mine are granola bars and fruit – theyʼre yummy, filling, and donʼt take up much room in your bag or stroller.
In the parks, Sunshine Seasons and Electric Umbrella at Epcot, Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Backlot Express in Disneyʼs Hollywood Studios, and Restaurantosaurus & Satuʼli Canteen in Disneyʼs Animal Kingdom all have drink refill stations for free refills.
Get a free caffeine fix at Epcotʼs Club Cool, where there are eight flavors of Coke products from around the world. Make sure to try the Beverly. Itʼs a rite of passage!
Adults can always order from the kidʼs menu, which is a great way to save money while still getting a meal that will satiate smaller/moderate appetites.
If youʼre on the Disney Dining Plan, you can order a regular OR large fountain drink at counter service restaurants. The default is regular, so make sure to specify large if thatʼs what you want.
If there are animal lovers in your family, eat at Sanaa and ask for a window view. Not only are the views great, but itʼs one of the most underrated restaurants at Walt Disney World.
If you plan on eating at Coral Reef in Epcot, book the earliest lunch or dinner reservation possible, show up slightly early to your reservation, and request a tank view for the most spectacular view of the marine life. Your request will usually be accommodated.
Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom is open for breakfast an hour before the park opens (so is Cinderellaʼs Royal Table). This is not just a great opportunity for an early breakfast, but also for empty photos of the Magic Kingdom
If youʼre “Drinking Around the World” in Epcot, stop at La Cava del Tequila in Mexico; some of the highest quality drinks in World Showcase.
Cosmic Rayʼs Starlight Cafe and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe both have similar toppings bars with items such as pickles, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc., allowing you to pile on the toppings to your food to get more bang for your buck.
If the Magic Kingdom is especially busy, take the monorail to Contempo Cafe in Disneyʼs Contemporary Resort, Gasparilla Island Grill in Disneyʼs Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, or Captain Cookʼs in Disneyʼs Polynesian Resort for a counter service meal. These are three of the best counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World.
Kimonos at the Swan Hotel is a great place for karaoke, and it also has a solid drink menu.
Miznerʼs Lounge at Disneyʼs Grand Floridian Resort & Spa serves a mean Manhattan, and has a solid selection of good drinks beyond just whatʼs found on the resort-wide generic drinks menu.
The Hollywood Brown Derby serves exceptional mixed drinks. The Cobb Salad is also makes a nice, light meal if you donʼt just want a liquid lunch or dinner.
Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom isnʼt a “full” counter service restaurant, but their ice cream sandwiches and other snacks, plus views of Cinderella Castle, are to die for.
If you like a dish at a Walt Disney World restaurant, you can request the recipe.
The Mad Tea Party ride in Fantasyland has 18 teacups which all spin at different speeds. If you want a fast spinner jump in the orange teacup with diamonds or purple one. If speed is not your cup of tea then chill out in the two teacups with hearts for a slower ride.
Slinky Dog Dash is the hot new FastPass+, and itʼs incredibly difficult to score. Despite this, the roller coaster often has short waits at the end of the night. As of July 2018, you can jump into line after the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks before the park closes. Expect to wait 20-30 minutes, even when posted waits are 50-60 minutes.
Fantasyland attractions are best experienced first thing in the morning or last thing at night to minimize waits.
Attractions donʼt close when the parks close, meaning that you can get in a 90-minute line at 10m59 p.m. when the parks close at 11 p.m. and be in the park well past closing. This is a great way to experience rides with perpetually long lines, like Frozen Ever After, Avatar Flight of Passage, or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without wasting “valuable” time.
The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover is a great attraction for relaxing, and it rarely has much of a line.
If you have a kid who is really into trains, accompany them to ride with the train engineers up front as a special guest. Inquire at Main Street Station.
One of the best Disney World tips I can give those of you who arenʼt travelling with kids is to utilize the single rider lines. Not all rides have them, but the ones that do will make your line time minimal!
Freebies Magic & Souvenirs:
DONʼT think you have to spend every day in the parks. Be sure to take advantage of all the amazing FREE activities Walt Disney World has to offer.
Enjoy the Florida weather with some time by your hotelʼs pool.
Walk around the newly renovated Disney Springs. There are a ton of great shops that are fun to stroll through, even if you donʼt plan on spending any money there.
In the evening, many resorts offer free movies by the pool (or campfires at a select few), or you can visit one of my personal favorites – Disneyʼs Boardwalk. There are always fun entertainers around, and you can watch Epcotʼs fireworks from there.
PhotoPass Cast Members will take (free!) photos of you with your camera, so donʼt be afraid to ask! Make sure your settings are dialed in before handing them the camera, as they will not typically adjust settings. Family photos taken from the front, dead-center of Cinderella Castle are most popular, but the back of the Castle is arguably prettier and a much more unique location for that family photo.
A great (free!) activity during the Christmas season is touring the Deluxe resorts to see their beautiful Christmas decorations and displays.
When itʼs working, Old Faithful erupts on the half hour at Disneyʼs Wilderness Lodge.
Get a free dusting of pixie dust at the Barber Shop on Main Street USA or at the Bippidi Boppidi Boutique in Cinderella’s Castle. As long as they arenʼt too busy, just pop in the shops and request to be sprinkled with pixie dust.
If your kids pop their Disney Balloon, they will replace it for FREE. Just take the remains of the balloon with you.
If one of your souvenirs breaks while you are on vacation, Disney will replace it for FREE! Just take it to the nearest store that carries that product and let the Cast Member know the issue.
There is a working barber shop located on Main Street. At Harmony Barber shop, you can get your babyʼs first haircut. Your package will even come with a pair of commemorative ears. You can also get a gel style for just $5 complete with Mickey shaped confetti.
If you ask one of the Disney cast members if you can visit the wheelhouse they will lead you to a secret ladder on the second floor and introduce you to the captain. You will also get the opportunity to steer the riverboat, blow the whistle and ring the famous Mark Twain bell. You will also get a certificate to say you piloted the Mark Twain Riverboat.
Buying pins from Amazon or eBay to trade with Cast Members is the difference between spending ~$1 per pin and $8-10 per pin.
Frogg Togg Chilly Pads are a great way to keep cool in the parks. We swear by them. Theyʼre just one of the unorthodox things on our Unique Walt Disney World Packing List post.
Hidden Mickey spotting is a fun game for kids. The books/apps have different point levels for the various Mickeys. Offer prizes to add to the fun. If Hidden Mickeys arenʼt your thing, bringing along an Imagineering Field Guide and hunting for hidden details is a great way to increase your appreciation for the design of the parks.
If you anticipate “needing” a princess dress or pirate costume while at Walt Disney World, buy it from your local Disney Store or DisneyStore.com in advance during a sale. Much cheaper that way.
Character meet & greet lines are typically shortest in Disneyʼs Animal Kingdom and typically longest in the Magic Kingdom.
Campfire Sing-Along with Chip & Dale is a (free!) campfire show at Disneyʼs Fort Wilderness Campground every night at 7 or 8 p.m., depending upon the season.
Blue Fairy Wish Book – Tucked away inside Pinocchioʼs Village Haus, you can find a wish book where you can write down your wishes for the Blue Fairy.
Walking around Cinderellaʼs Castle is a pastime for photographers and storytellers like me, so this gem is often forgotten and missed by folks who stay on the main paths. On the right-hand side of the castle is a path that leads to Fantasyland…but thereʼs a great photo opportunity with a Wishing Well! Take the time to stop…youʼll thank me later.
Next time that youʼre thinking about which horse to ride during your ride on the Carrousel, look for the stallion with a gold ribbon around the tail. Not only is it a cool detail…itʼs also Cinderellaʼs Horse!
Take the time to sit under the train station and youʼll hear a telegraph. The message is the opening speech given by Walt Disney on Disneylandʼs opening day.
If you love rope drop at Magic Kingdom, and arenʼt headed for one of the super popular attractions, try making Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland your first stop. Many mornings the first riders of the day receive cute, Jolly Roger flags to take on the ride and then take home Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Cards.
If you stop by the Firehouse (on left as you enter Main Street), you can show them your park ticket (or scan Magic Band) to get a set of FREE Sorcerers of Magic Kingdom cards.
Wilderness Explorer Field Journal. At Animal Kingdom, kids can take part in an adventure learning about Animals and their habitat through their Wilderness Explorer Program. Each guest can pick up a Field Journal at the Wilderness Explorer headquarters (located on the bridge between the Oasis and Discovery Island) and gather stickers as they complete various activities through the park.
Each park contains a First Aid center. Here you can get single dosages of select over the counter medicines. They can also help with blisters, heat exhaustion and loose teeth! If you need their services, use them.
Itʼs FREE The Animal Kingdom has a program for kids called Kids Discovery Club. As you tour Animal Kingdom, look for the Kidsʼ Discovery Stations. Each station has a different activity and your child will receive a special stamp in their free activity book (given to them at the first station they visit) when you complete the activity. When you have received all your stamps, you can turn it in for a special surprise
If you have the ability to take a picture with your phone and use it as your phones lock screen. Take a photo of your key to the World (room key). If you lose your phone, a cast member can see the photo with key information and have your phone returned to your resort.
Ah the Fireworks: The bridge connecting Disneyʼs Yacht and Beach Club to Disneyʼs BoardWalk Inn is a decent place to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth from outside Epcot.
If you are visiting when there are two showings of Fantasmic at Disneyʼs Hollywood Studios, always see the second showing. The line will be much shorter and youʼll get better seats.
A few restaurants in Epcotʼs World Showcase offer views of Illuminations. La Hacienda has the best view. Make late reservations that are at least 30 minutes before the fireworks, arrive early to them, and request a window table. Inform the server that youʼre willing to wait 20 minutes for the window seat. Not only will you have a great view of the show, but your meal will end after the park closes, giving you a tranquil walk out of the park.
The Magic Kingdom is not the only place you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks. You can watch the fireworks from the beach at the Polynesian Resort. You do not need to be a guest of that resort to enjoy the show.
Make an effort to hang around the Magic Kingdom for 30 minutes after it closes (Main Street stores are open an hour after closing). Youʼll be rewarded with The Kiss Goodnight. Shops on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom are open up to an hour after the park closes. Do your shopping once you canʼt do rides.
- Free ice water at restaurants
- Fast passes