Keeping the “Magic” in Magic Kingdom (aka Disney Tips & Tricks)

Read more for some tips + tricks on how to keep the “magic” in “Magic Kingdom”! (aka how to do Disney without getting too burnt-out!)


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To the untrained eye, Walt Disney World is a magical place, but as magical as it may be, it can also be extremely stressful.

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*cue suspenseful music*

Having been to Disney quite a few times and as a DVC member, I’ve accumulated some knowledge in the subject.  I thought it would be helpful to share some tips & tricks so you don’t end up looking like me in the photo below:

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Actual picture of me in EPCOT, circa 2013 high school band trip

PRE-DEPARTURE TIPS

These tips are for before you even get to the parks! Future planners, rejoice!

Food Tips

First things first: you gotta secure your dinner (or “Table Service”) reservations EARLY, and I mean early.  People may laugh when we (and by we, I mean my dad) book our dining in advance (another shout out to my dad for keeping a countdown), but they’re the ones who are always sorry when they can’t get a reservation for Le Cellier.

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To prevent this upset, you can actually book reservations 180 days in advance (sometimes you can even book 189 days in advance).  This is helpful if you want to secure a reservation at an extremely popular restaurant, such as Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey’s, Le Cellier, etc. (more information about reservations here), ESPECIALLY at a peak time, which can include 4th of July, “Jersey Week” (this is when most schools in NJ have off), Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the like (for more in-depth information about peak seasons, this website has some pretty cool calendars and predictions for 2016-2017).

Some of my personal dinner favorites are (in no particular order):

  • EPCOT
    • Le Cellier (Canada)
    • Tutto Italia (Italy)
    • Via Napoli (Italy)
    • Chefs de France (France)
    • Teppan Edo (Japan)
  • Hollywood Studios RIP MGM
    • Sci-Fi Dine In
  • Magic Kingdom
    • Be Our Guest (Fantasyland)
    • Cinderella’s Royal Table (Fantasyland)
    • Tony’s Town Square (Main Street, USA)
  • Animal Kingdom
    • Haven’t eaten here for dinner yet!

For lunch, we tend to go to “Quick Service” places – these are places that don’t require a reservation and you can just walk into.  Basically, they’re the Disney equivalents of fast food.

Some of my quick service favorites (again, no particular order):

  • EPCOT
    • Electric Umbrella (Future World)
    • Katsura Grill (Japan)
    • Lotus Blossom Cafe (China)
    • Sunshine Seasons (The Land Pavilion)
  • Hollywood Studios
    • Toy Story Pizza Planet (Streets of America)
    • Studio Catering Company (Streets of America)
  • Magic Kingdom
    • Casey’s Corner (Main Street, USA)
    • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (Tomorrowland)
    • Main Street Bakery/Starbucks (Main Street, USA)
    • Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant (Tomorrowland)
  • Animal Kingdom
    • Harambe Market – Africa
    • Pizzafari – Discovery Island
    • Yak & Yeti Quickservice – Asia

Other Food Tips:

  • Make sure to bring extra cash for table service!
    • It’s customary to tip 18%-20% at these restaurants
  • Even though quick service places might not require reservations, prepare to wait!
    • This is especially true during lunch time food rushes
  • For more in-depth information on food, this website can be really helpful too!

Ride Tips

Now that you’ve got your food out of the way, it’s time to book rides! Disney recently got fancy and rolled out something called FastPass+, which is included with park admission and allows guests to actually reserve rides.  Guests can reserve up to 30 days in advance, but if you have a reservation at a Walt Disney World Resort like me (holler @ The Beach Club), you can reserve up to 60 days in advance.

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It can be helpful to book rides with dinner reservations in mind (or vice versa) in order to plan out your day.  Booking FastPasses in advance is great for rides that almost always have a super long wait (I’m talking like 100+ minutes here).

Some of my favorite long-liners are:

  • EPCOT
    • Mission: SPACE
    • Test Track
    • Soarin’
  • Hollywood Studios
    • Rock ‘n’ Roll Rollercoaster
    • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
    • Star Tours
  • Magic Kingdom
    • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    • Space Mountain
    • Splash Mountain
    • Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
    • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Animal Kingdom
    • Expedition Everest
    • Kali River Rapids
    • Kilimanjaro Safaris

There are also some rides that don’t usually have long waits (Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean that they NEVER have long waits!).  Some of my favorites are:

  • EPCOT
    • Living With the Land
    • Ellen’s Energy Adventure
    • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
    • The American Adventure
    • Circle Visions:
      • O’ Canada!
      • Reflections of China
      • Impressions de France
  • Hollywood Studios
    • Great Movie Ride
    • Muppet Vision 3D
    • Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage (Note: This has specific show times)
  • Magic Kingdom
    • Hall of Presidents
    • Carousel of Progress
    • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
    • Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover
  • Animal Kingdom
    • The rides we do here are usually the long wait ones!

Other Ride Tips:

  • Before booking your FastPasses, be sure to check out height requirements!
    • This website has some information on height requirements for rides
  • Be prepared to wait
    • This seems like common sense, but make sure you mentally prepare yourself.  Some rides that have indoor lines (like Soarin’ and Space Mountain) have activities to keep people occupied in queue, but others that are outside usually don’t
  • Be prepared for ride closure
    • A lot of rides actually close due to inclement weather – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain are ones that I’ve narrowly missed having the ride close while still waiting.  Check the weather – if you’re willing to wait, stay in line, otherwise if you choose to abandon ship, you might have to come back another day

IN-PARK TIPS

These tips are for when you are actually going to the parks – hurrah!

Packing Tips

I guess this should have gone in the pre-departure section, but oh well.  I’ve put together some packing tips for the park (not for the entire vacation) to try and make being in the park itself a little bit easier.  Days at Disney can be long – this is both a good and a bad thing when you’re dealing with Florida weather!

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My Vessel of Choice to bring everything in is a tiny backpack (pictured below).  I got this particular one at TJ Maxx (I’m a Maxxinista) I prefer something on the smaller side with zipper closures to prevent things from falling out!

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Here’s what I usually bring:

  • Sunglasses
    • Protect your eyes from that bright sun!
  • Sunscreen
    • Again, skin protection is really important when it’s sunny basically all the time (save that obligatory 15-30 minute storm that Orlando seems to get every day).  I like to bring both body spray and a face sunscreen to prevent burning
  • A reusable water bottle
    • I’m guilty of forgetting this myself – water bottles in Disney can cost you upwards of $3.50 per bottle, which is hefty considering how hot it can get.  There are plenty of fountains around the park, so bringing a reusable water bottle can save you a ton of money
  • Snacks
    • Disney actually allows outside food and drink as long as you inform a security person. Snacks are great if you don’t want to stop for anything before a meal or if you’re just like me and eat 24/7.
  • Rain jacket/poncho
    • As mentioned earlier, it pours just about every day in Orlando.  I have a lightweight rain jacket that I like to bring, but you can also buy a poncho in about every park for around $10.  The downside to buying a poncho is that people usually only remember to do so when it’s already pouring – lines in the gift shops can get extremely long for this, so if you’re going to buy a poncho, do it right when you enter the park!
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Big Red: In Memoriam
  • Umbrella
    • Again, rain.  Umbrellas are available at just about every gift shop in every park, but they can be a little pricey. Same story with the lines too – if you’re gonna buy an umbrella, do it early!
  • Portable Phone Charger
    • If you’re guilty of Snapchatting everything like I am, chances are,  your phone battery will drain pretty fast.  A portable phone charger is handy in these situations – especially if you want to charge up before recording the fireworks!
  • Camera & Extra Memory Card
    • I like taking a lot of pictures, which is why I like to have a camera on hand, as well as an extra memory card in case I take too many pictures!
  • Deodorant
    • Orlando is hot and humid and hot and humid usually doesn’t smell nice.  Extra deodorant is always a good idea, for obvious reasons.
  • Hair Ties
    • Again, humidity isn’t kind to hair.  I like to bring hair ties in case I give up on looking cute and have to pull my hair back.
  • Bandaids
    • A lot of walking can mean a lot of blisters – I like to have bandaids on me at all times just in case!
  • Hand Sanitizer
    • Lots of people = lots of germs.  If you’re a germaphobe like me, hand sanitizer is holy grail.
  • Contact Lenses
    • Nothing kills the extra magic like having a contact lens popping out and realizing you don’t have any spares to pop in.
  • Towel
    • Taken from the hotel room – this can be useful to wipe off wet seats or sit on after the rain or when waiting for the fireworks or a parade to start

Other Packing Tips:

  • Be prepared to go through security! (Here is some more information on Park Rules)
    • If you bring a bag, you’re going to have to go through security.  This isn’t too painful of a process, but the lines can be long.  To speed up this process a little bit, unzipper all the pockets of your bag so the security guard can quickly go through your items.
  • Selfie Sticks are actually banned in Disney (take a look at the rules I linked above if you don’t believe me!), so you’re gonna have to take selfies the good ol’ fashioned way using the meat sticks called arms

In-Park Tips

Here are some more tips for your day in the park!

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The goal of this post is to avoid people being like this Clefairy^
  • If you haven’t booked FastPasses in advance, many people suggest immediately turning left to avoid big crowds
    • I’m not 100% sold on this one as I tend to just go to the rides I know are super popular right away if I don’t have a FastPass for it, but it’s worth a shot trying
  • When it pours, it might be worth it to wait out the rain
    • If you don’t have a FastPass or aren’t willing to commit to wait in line for one of the more popular rides, this can be done in any of the gift shops OR one of the rides I mentioned earlier that don’t usually have long waits
  • When it comes to fireworks, find a spot early and stick with it!
    • This way you won’t have to be scrambling last-minute for a seat.  My personal favorite firework-viewing places are:
      • Magic Kingdom: Above the train station on Mainstreet and right in front of the castle by the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor
      • Epcot: On the terrace of Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion
      • Hollywood Studios rolled out their Star Wars fireworks this year, and I haven’t had the chance to see them yet!
  • Know your bathrooms
    • This might be kind of weird, but if your bladder is microscopic like mine is, chances are you’re going to have to pee a lot – especially when you’re downing so much water.  This blog actually has an article about the best toilets.
  • Wear comfortable shoes
    • No surprise here, but you’re going to be doing a lot of walking.  As much as I admire (and fear, to some extent) the people who walk around in high heels (it has to be some kind of witchcraft, right?), I doubt they’re very functional. To try and hold off the need for the bandaids as long as possible, it helps to wear shoes that won’t kill your feet.  Make sure to also keep the always-present threat of rain in mind – I personally like to wear cushioned sandals with straps on the back because my feet dry a lot faster in them than they would in socks and sneakers, and the strap ensures that they won’t fall off my feet like normal flip-flops probably would (I’m not a creature of grace)
  • Smile for the camera!
    • If you’ve gone on the same ride multiple times like me, chances are you already know where the ride-photo cameras are.  If you don’t, they’re usually right after or before the big drops (i.e. right before the thorns on Splash Mountain, at the top when the doors open on the Tower of Terror).  This thread has some ride-camera tips if you’re interested! While it’s fun to see your completely authentic terror-filled expression, it’s also fun to make faces and watch people point at your picture on the screens after the ride (totally not embarrassing)
  • Get tech-savvy
    • My last tip is to actually browse the app store, which has some pretty cool apps.  My favorite app is called “My Disney Experience,” which is developed by Disney itself (it’s official).  It has a lot of useful information, such as attraction wait times, character spots, dining information, restroom information, and much, much more.  For somebody who doesn’t know their way around the parks by heart yet, all of this information is loaded on a digital map. If this is connected to your actual Disney account, you can also view your FastPass+ reservations and dining reservations on the app.  It’s a pretty sweet deal.
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Techy

And that’s about it! Enjoy yourself because Disney really is the most magical place on Earth (as long as you go about it the right way!)

Sidenote: Now that Pokemon Go has been released, catch me in the parks like:

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Me, ruining a family’s photo in front of the Castle to catch an Eevee, so I can level up my own Eevee, named Eevee Wonder.

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*Disclaimer: I purchased all above product(s) with my own money and am not affiliated with or compensated by any of the brands mentioned (I wish!).  As always, all thoughts & opinions are my own (unless stated otherwise)!

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