Stream of consciousness Walt Disney World tips and tricks

Fresh off a six-night trip to Florida’s Walt Disney World with the family (photos here, here and here), here are a few things I wish I knew before I went:

  • Everybody there is also a tourist and everybody - from cast members to fellow park goers - is going to be super friendly and super nice (your mileage may vary).
  • The MagicBands can be resized for little kids. The gray part of it can be ripped off so they’re much, much smaller and fit around their little wrists way better (otherwise, they overlap more than a little bit).
  • The green bin/garbage can in your resort room (if you stay on property) is not a garbage can … it’s for recycling.
  • The front desk of your resort will tell you that buses to the parks start running an hour before the parks open. They’re lying to you - I don’t know the exact time, but they start running well before then generally.
  • Speaking of opening: Rope. Drop. Every. Day. Be there at park open because lines are never going to be lower than they are then (and lines suck).
  • Know that you’re not going to get to everything you want to get to.
  • Know that you’re going to do far, far less than you had planned (and be OK with this)
  • The fireworks crowds in Magic Kingdom especially are insane - from the castle all the way back to the end of Main Street. Some good viewing spots we stumbled into there:
    • From the train station platform at the end of Main Street (just don’t plan to get back into the rest of the park easily after the fireworks … you’ll be fighting traffic).
    • Off to the side a bit in Tomorrowland (near Tomorrowland Terrace, where you pay $ for the spot … the crowd’s also fairly thin in that area, or was on our night)
  • Your significant other and/or kids will want to meet college students cosplaying as their favorite Disney characters. Be OK with this … and know that their lines will sometimes be longer than the rides you want to go on.
  • If you’re OK with it, going on rides during parades or fireworks can result in lower wait times. We managed to get a second trip through Haunted Mansion this way thanks to the 3 o’clock parade.
  • DoleWhip (pineapple ice cream) is awesome (and available in MK only at a shop in Adventureland next to Aladdin’s Magic Carpets as far as I could find)
  • If you’re on the dining plan, treat your snack credits as breakfast (there are some huge cinnamon rolls to be found all over the place)
  • For MK, most folks are heading to the right of the park at the open - to Space Mountain and/or Seven Dwarves Mine Train (side note: 7DMT is a very disappointing ride). If you want to make the most of the light early crowds, I’d suggest going left - toward Jungle Cruise, Adventureland, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Frontierland.
  • Once you’ve used your three FastPasses for the day, refresh the MyDisneyExperience app like crazy … even for fairly popular rides (we snagged seconds of Space Mountain, Everest and others this way) passes will pop up.
  • Even on very busy days (we went during the tail end of the holidays plus Marathon Weekend), as long as you’ve planned well, use your FastPasses and be flexible, you shouldn’t be in a line of more than 20 minutes or so …

Unless your significant other or children decides they want to meet Joy and Sadness at Epcot.

Other tips & tricks thought of or suggested later

PS: Ask for things! If you or your family has a request, even if it seems odd, ask someone about it and see what shakes out. There are lots of cool “secrets” that you can only see if you show interest to a cast member. (via Alex Martin)

The new Pandora/Avatar area of Animal Kingdom is amazing but super-crowded. The headlining attraction, “Flight of Passage” is especially awe-inspiring but gets an hour-plus wait right at rope drop (translation: it’s where everybody goes at rope drop) and can break three-plus hour waits shortly thereafter. Getting a FastPass to it is your highest possible priority and then you can rope drop the other attraction while everybody’s in line for that. Tips on managing FastPasses and longer-term trip planning coming in a later post. (Ed.)

Chris Vannoy @v