Diswithkids Disney Blog

Disney Tips

[fa icon="calendar"] Thu, Dec 03, 2015 @ 09:46 AM / by Sally Black

Sally Black



Like most things in life, it's the little things that can make ALL the difference. This is especially true when it comes to really enjoying a family vacation at Disney.

The GREAT thing about a Disney Vacation is that there are SO many choices, something to please everyone. The not so great thing about Disney is with so many choices, there is a lot to learn.

I gathered our team of Vacationkids Disney Experts together and asked them to come to the rescue with a few of their best Disney tricks, tips and secrets. We love it when we can make your Disney Vacations (and life) just a little more magical.....

  1. Disney Resort rates are usually available about 1 year in advance and require a $250 deposit. Take advantage of this and save with Free Vacation Layaway
  2. If you need more time to save for your Disney Trip sign up for a Disney Saving Account to get a jump on free layaway.
  3. Even if you LOVE planning all your own Disney Vacations and have visited a million times, its important to understand all the ways an experienced Disney Travel Agent can help you time, money and hassles.
  4. If you're worried about planning ahead and missing out on a fantastic sale or deal, please know Disney will allow your Travel Agent to apply any announced discounts, freebies or price drops to any "qualified" reservations (by Qualified I mean you have to read the fine print rules and see if it applies to your reservation)
  5. To get the best "deals" plan your vacation when the park is the least busy- September when kids are heading back to school and between Easter/Spring Break and when school gets out in May/June
  6. Disney will often offer "Free Dining" during these "deal" times (Generally in the Fall Months). Again, existing Disney reservations can be adjusted but changing any "non refundable flights" may cost more than it's worth. Disney usually announces Free dining promotions about 3-4 months in advance of qualified travel dates. You can book your flights and buy "Cancel for any Reason" insurance or take the "wait and see" approach. 
  7. If you plan to "Wait and see" when it comes to making flight reservations, calculate how much you'll be saving with free dining for your family. Then keep an eye on www.kayak.com. Search your particular flights and kayak will predict if the prices on your flights will rise. If you see flight prices will cost you more than what you'll save on dining, you'll know it's time to pull the trigger.
  8. Do your travel math homework...often Disney's 30% room discount puts more money back in your pocket than their Free Dining deals.
  9. When it comes to getting a super discount deal on Disney Tickets, don't believe "that" Dude your friend knows!
  10. If you're visiting with young kids under the age of 4 it's all about location, location, location! Definitely upgrade to stay at one of the Deluxe resorts close to the Magic Kingdom - Contemporary, Polynesian, Wilderness lodge or Grand Floridian. If you don't yet need to worry about school calendars visit in September and take advantage of those 30% room discounts. You'll kiss yourself after a long day with a cranky toddler.
  11. Many people LOVE to collect Disney pins to trade and collect. Often you can buy them cheaper on Ebay and Amazon than you can in the parks
  12. If you're planning a Disney Trip during summer vacation, pack air conditioners that you can wear
  13. No matter where you live, any flights to Orlando MCO airport will be packed with families all wanting to sit together on the plane. If possible, make seat assignments early, pay for specific seats or preferred boarding if family togetherness is important to you.
  14. Having a Disney Day Plan (Daily Itinerary) will save you an average of 4 hours of waiting around per day (A free perk when you work with a Vacationkids Travel Agent)
  15. Download the  My Disney Experience app, Touring plans, Tripit and any other app that will help organize everything at your fingertips
  16. Download apps like Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive so that you have cloud storage for all of your vacation photos
  17. Splurge on a portable phone charger so you'll always be powered up (even when YOU are tired)
  18. Pack a power strip. Disney rooms are light on outlets, especially if you need to charge several phones.
  19. You MUST make dining reservations 180 days in advance of your arrival. Use a date calculator to get it right
  20. Online Dining reservations open at 6am on the 180th day. The phone lines at (407-WDW-DINE) open at 7am (Vacationkids agents can do all your dining reservations for you - this saves HOURS)
  21. Make sure you set up your Disney account BEFORE trying to make dining reservations and please know you will need to use your credit card to hold dining reservations
  22. Use everything you got to get what you need- log on using every device you have phone, tablet and laptop. This will give you a better chance of getting the reservations you want.
  23. Plan, Prioritize and book your most important dining experiences FIRST. Don't worry about booking dining reservations in date order
  24. Not all Disney Restaurants are owned by Disney but do require reservations. Some of the most popular ones are located in Downtown Disney and the Swan & Dolphin. Check the Lake Buena Vista area on OpenTable to see what’s available.
  25. Plan and prioritize your Disney Parks experience by making sure you are familiar with the height requirements, health limitations and accessibility of all Disney Attractions.
  26. Make sure you book your FastPass+ choices 60 days in advance (again use the calendar calculator). Each guest is allowed 3 per day and can save you hours in line. FastPass+ reservations open at midnight (Eastern Standard Time) so pour yourself a cup of coffee because night owls are the ones WHOoo get to meet Anna & Elsa.
  27. Not sure if a ride may be too scary for your child (or you)?...check Youtube for videos to help you decide
  28. Customize your Magic bands. Not only is it fun to show your "Disney Side" but it can help tell family member bands of the same color apart
  29. Order Bitbelts for both your Fitness and Magic Bands to avoid losing them in the park
  30. NEVER wear brand new shoes or high heels to the park!
  31. If you insist on wearing brand new shoes or high heels to the park, make sure to pack Blister Bandaides or Friction Rub.
  32. Any Disney Food venue (even kiosks) will give guests ice and or water. All you need to do it ask. You may need to wait in line but this saves schlepping heavy water bottles for everyone in the family.
  33. Avoid dehydration in the Florida sun. drink 8 to 10 ounces or a glass of water every HOUR whether they are thirsty or not (If you're thirsty, then there is already a problem). Avoid caffiene and sugary or salty drinks like soda when the temps are high.
  34. Bring a pocketfull of pennies. There are penny press machines all of the park. For .50 cents, it's a really cheap souvenir. When you get home they can be displayed in a case or crafted to make fun and memorable earrings and bracelets.
  35. Be and early bird.  Make sure you are AT the park about 45 minute prior to "rope drop". So arrive between 8-8:30am for a 9am park opening
  36. PLEASE pack as light as possible for the day. All guests will need their bags checked before entering the parks. Clear bags or back packs that can lay flat and unzip around for easy viewing work best.  The folks behind you in line will applaud you for it.
  37. The Cigar shop Indian on Main street is a fun photo op spot for Disney fans who frequently visit with  young families.There is a measuring stick to mark their height since the last visit - saves you marking doorways at home!
  38. If you arrive for your FastPass+ and see the regular stand by line is short,GET in the regular stand by line and then GET on your phone and adjust your FastPast+ and use it for another attraction
  39. If Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is not in the bibbidi bobbidi budget, shop Ebay, Amazon or locally around Halloween time and your princess can dress royally every day of your vacation
  40. If you don't want to iron pack Downy wrinkle release.
  41. Pack a collapsible hamper and laundry soap. Disney resorts offer laundrey facilities for guests. You can pack less and save yourself a mountain of stinky laundry while trying to adjust to post vacation reality.
  42. If you don't want to think about doing laundry on vacation, pack a few dryer sheets in a ziploc back to help stinky clothes from smelling up your suitcase
  43. Tide Pens &Ziploc bags - in any and every size,  are a travler's BEST friends.
  44. Pack a tiny bottle of dish soap to rinse out reuseable Disney Mugs
  45. Safety Tats give parents SOME peace of mind if your toddler happens to be a runner.
  46. The Imagineering Field guide and Hidden Mickey books are fun ways to enhance your visits. Some families turn this into trivia games and contests
  47. Designing family Tshirts to wear is a fun way to build excitement for your vacation. It makes packing a breeze and it's an easy way to spot kids and family members in the crowds. It also kicks Disney family photo ops up a knotch. Look to Pinterest for ideas and Michael's, Hobby Lobby and Amazon for craft supplies. If you're not a DIY-er - shop Etsy
  48. Disney Guests also love decorating their Disney Resort windows. (Same resources as listed above)
  49. Some parents like to leave little "magical surprises" each morning for the kids. Inexpensive and luggage friendly trinkets can be found in party supply shops, your local dollar store or ordered from Oriental Supply
  50. Don't want to waste time (and money) waiting for your Starbucks morning caffeine fix?...pack some Starbucks Via (or in my case Tazo Awake Tea) and with some free hot water and fixin's in your reusable mug at any Disney dining spot.
  51. If you insist on your Starbucks fix, when you place your order instead giving the Barista your normal name, use the name of your favorite Disney Character. Remember any Morning Maleficent can quickly turn into "Mary Poppins". All it takes is a spoonful of sugar while making others smile.
  52. Make sure to enjoy a delicious meal at the Whispering Canyon Cafe over at the Wilderness Lodge Resort and be sure to ask for some Ketchup (then see what happens!)
  53. The late show of Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios usually has much shorter lines
  54. Want the best seat in the house for Epcot's Illuminations? Make late reservations at La Hacienda Restaurant in Mexico that are at least 30 minutes before the fireworks
  55. Above everything else, MAKE SURE you have a Dole Whip! (Sorry-Cast members now hand them out at the Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian Resort so no more refill freebies but good news is that they are now more venue spots available throughout the parks)
  56. Character meet & greet lines are usually shortest at Animal Kingdom
  57. Check in with Guest Services at each park for a daily list and schedule of Character Meet & Greet times and locations
  58. Making reservations for Character dining will save you a ton of time waiting to meet your favorites. (Again, reservations 180 days out people!)
  59. Make sure important items like glasses, phones and keys are properly secured when riding thrill rides
  60. Give your kids Disney Dollars for their souvenir shopping. It's a great way to teach them how to budget (and hopefully cut down on whining)
  61. Enjoy the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom early in the morning when the animals are the most active
  62. Politely ask a cast member for a seat positions 1 and 2 in the pre-boarding area of Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror for the biggest fright.
  63. DO be sure to play along and interact with the very talented street artists who walk along Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood Studios. (Thanks to one cheeky and talented actress my daughter was convinced for years that she had really met the real Madonna!)
  64. No chewing gum is sold in the parks for obvious reasons so come prepared
  65. The Chefs, restaurants and food service staff at Disney are very knowledgable and helpful when it comes to helping guests who suffer from food allergies or have other dietary restrictions and needs.
  66. Many people have no idea of the special tours and events that can add more magic to their Disney Vacation
  67. If you are trying to navigate Main Street during a crowded Magic Kingdom Parade, Head into the shops. They all connect. (although beware of souvenir and snack detours)
  68. Cinderella's Royal Table and the Crystal Palace open for breakfast 1 hour before the parks. This is an EXCELLENT way to save yourself some line waiting. After breakfast, head straight over to Fantasyland because those lines get long quickly.
  69. Think Uber or Lyft if you need a quick ride. It's usually cheaper than a cab and it will save you rental car and parking fees.
  70. Give your family 1- 1.5 hours to get from one park to another or Hotel to Hotel in order to arrive on time for dining reservations. If these some of your "priority" or important reservations, then go for a cab, Uber or Lyft
  71. If you want to adjust your Magic Express times to coordinate and meet up with friends or family who will be vacationing with you, Use THEIR flight itinerary details. Just remember you need to be AT the airport AT LEAST 1 hour prior to your flight's departure and security lines at Orlando MCO airport can be very long.
  72. If you do drive or rent a car at Disney World, use your phone and snap a couple quick pics of parking landmarks. (losing my car to one of the Seven Dwarfs is a recurring nightmare of mine!)
  73. Don't be part of the massive park exodus after evening fireworks. Instead take your time, get a snack or so some souvenir shopping. Park shops and venues stay open for about 30 minutes. This will save you waiting in line and you'll get back to your resort in about the same amount of time
  74. Take the backdoor out of Epcot. Exit over the bridge alongside France in the World showcase or take a boat from this same area over to Disney Boardwalk area
  75. Look to Boat Transportation whenever possible. It can often save you a lot of walking and it's fun!
  76. Consider watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the "back side" of Cinderella's Castle in Fantasyland. This area is usually less crowded.
  77. Every kid will need some glo-sticks to play while waiting for the fireworks. Save a ton, buy them at your local dollar store ahead a time and be the hero.
  78. If you do want a good Main Street view of the fireworks, head up the steps to the train platform for a bird's eye view and a quick escape after the show. You will need to park your clan here about 1-2 hours prior to showtime for a seat.
  79. If you want a good view of the fireworks and a quicker exit for the little ones grab a spot out at Ticket & Transportation Center, to the right of the ferry launch.
  80. If you want the best seat for Tinkerbell's flight during the fireworks, splurge pay for a seat at the "Wishes Fireworks Desert Party" on the Tomorrowland Terrace. (reservations required)
  81. Make sure you and your kids practice social media safety with vacation posts and pics while you're away from home
  82. Kids LOVE the character wake up calls offered free by Disney Resorts. It's a fun way to start your day.
  83. Pack your own ponchos and umbrellas for rain relief, water rides, instant shade, to spread out for impromptu naps, picnics and curb side parade seats
  84. Grab a towel from your room each day for all of the above reasons (just be sure to replace it ;-)
  85. While you're grabbing that towel, grab a change of clothes for the kids if you plan on any water rides or a stop at Casey Jr. Splash "N" Soak Station over in Fantasyland to cool off. (Note to parents - good rest spot for a cold refreshing drink while you let the kids have at it)
  86. Disney Turkey legs have the size and calorie count to feed a small family (if you don't mind eating like cave men)
  87. Most people naturally will stay to the right. Left lines are usually shorter. If two lines are offered at an attraction.
  88. Attraction lines are usually much shorter when everyone else in the park is watching the parades.
  89. Free soda at Disney? - Yep! at Epcot’s Club Cool where you can try soda flavors from around the world (don't say we didn't warn you)
  90. Divide and conquer - Some attractions offer single rider lines. If this works for your family it can save you a TON of time
  91. For parents of younger children taking advantage of Disney's Rider Switch Service have some entertainment or distractions in your stroller bag of tricks or consider a nearby attraction to pass the time and make the wait more tolerable for all
  92. If your kid can walk 15 miles in a day then they don't need a stroller in the park. If you do rent a stroller make a customize Stroller sign so you know which one is yours. Once again, Pinterest is your friend.
  93. When Disney offers Special events like "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween" party - YES, the extra ticket prices are WELL worth the experience.
  94. Both monorails from the Magic Kingdom stop at the Ticket & Transportation Center. Take whichever monorail comes first or has a shorter line. 
  95. Have your kids write a fan letter to their favorite Disney Character about 6 weeks prior to your trip and they will receive a free autographed post card returned by mail. Address letters to: Walt Disney World Communications  P.O. Box 10040  Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040
  96.  Make dinner reservations at Ohana at the Polynesian Resort and stick around for the Electric Water  Pagent which kicks-off around 9pm nightly
  97. Have your child choose a light colored hat or baseball cap to wear to the parks and bring along a few sharpie markers. This is a fun and inexpensive way to collect character autographs (characters are not allowed to autograph any clothing while it's being worn)
  98. Celebrating a special occasion? If it's your birthday, honeymoon, anniversary or even your first time visiting Walt Disney World you can receive a free button to announce it to the world. These are usually obtained from either guest services or kiosk stands nearby. It's a fun way to connect with others guests and cast members (and sometimes be surprised with special park perks)
  99. Birthday cakes, flowers, mouse ears and other surprises can be ordered and paid in advance then delivered right to their room
  100. No need to turn into a pack mule...Take advantage of Disney's package delivery
  101. Disney Memory Maker photo pass is worth EVERY penny that you pinch everywhere else. Every family member will be visible in every picture and you won't need to worry about strangers dropping your camera or phone. Your future self will be ever so grateful twenty years from now!
  102. Lost? Whip out your phone and type your park into google maps
  103. When in doubt? - Ask a Cast member (aka Disney Employee)
  104. For an off beat fun family experience, skip dinner and order a legendary Kitchen Sink Sundae for $30 at Beaches and Cream at Disney's Beach Club...just make sure you have at least 4 or 5 people to share it! This is not just a dessert, it's an event!
  105. Rent a speed boat in Disney if your family loves the water. It's a great way to escape the midday heat.
  106. Maybe a Pirate Cruise or a water ride in an amphibicar is more your speed?
  107. Avoid the biggest mistake everyone makes - over packing your schedule. Remember this is not an endurance test, it's your family vacation!
  108. Pack power bars and Hand sanitizer (Because I said so! ;-)
  109. Planning a Disney Road trip?  Download some Disney Sing alongs for the ride.
  110. If budget allows, plan a 3 or 4 day Disney Cruise AFTER visiting the  parks to take a REAL vacation from your vacation (We know...and you're Welcome ;-)
  111. Want a front row seat to Disney Wishes Fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom?  Book a seat at the nightly desert party and watch Tinkerbell soar right over your head!
  112. Plan weekly Pizza, Popcorn & Disney Movie nights leading up to your vacation. Younger family members will need to be schooled in some of the Disney Classics and Grandparents can meet new friends.
  113. If your little Jedi wants to fight Darth Vader, both of you must be present to register for Jedi Training Academy as soon as Hollywood Studios opens. Check your daily park guide or guest services the day before but typically registration is located just outside ABC Sound Studios.
  114. Always look to the lamp that shines in the window about the firehouse.  In the original Disneyland park this is the spot where Walt Disney himself built an apartment so he and his family can stay in the park. The tradition is carried on in Walt Disney World too. I always get a little teary and like to thank old Walt for his vision, legacy and to remember...."it all started with a mouse"
  115. Make sure you use a qualified Travel Agent to help you plan your Disney Vacation. You'll pay the same price and do a LOT more work whether you use them or not. A good Disney agent will know even more tricks and tips than the ones listed here to help make your vacation even more wonderful.

I Need Help Planning A Disney Vacation

Topics: Disney Details

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Vacationkids.com Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.