Planning for Walt Disney World: WM Reader Tips

Last month I posted a plea for some tips on how to plan for a trip to Walt Disney World. The last time I was there was 1986 and my friend wore her headgear the entire time (something my sister and I still haven’t let her live down). Things have changed a bit since the mid-80s.

I knew I’d get some good tidbits but I never expected the extent of it….which is silly because of course WM readers are fabulous and savvy and strategic…and pretty, of course. So, naturally, I need to share everything here because there’s no way I’m the only one planning a trip – if not this year – then at some point in the future. Also, as luck would have it, instead of going to Disney in November as we were originally planning, I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference in May – so I’ll have some of my own tips for you after that amazing experience.

Gearing up to meet them in Magic Kingdom

And so, without further delay, I offer you the wisdom, tips and insights from the WM Community – get great tips on buying Disney clothes in advance, where to stay, whether or not to buy the Disney Meal Plans, which meals to reserve in advance and more:

  •  Just went in January. No lines! My kids are 3 & 5. Stayed at the new art of animation – SO fun! If staying on site plan a day at your hotel; we didn’t but wish we did.
  • Purchase or get from the library “Walt Disney World with Kids” by Kim Wright Wiley. Invaluable – lists rides by age.
  • Pre-purchase Disney clothing on sale online to take with us and saved a ton of $ by not buying in parks.
  • Make dinner reservations early! We did do the dining plan and found it to be a good deal if you can get reservations for character meals. We also buy Disney souvenirs (light up toys) at Disney outlet at Potomac Mills before we go.
  • Chef mickeys was fun but food was so-so. Animal kingdom breakfast was fantastic and, if you book it right, gets you into the park before it opens. Winnie the Pooh lunch at crystal palace also had great food.
  • I would definitely order some “411 Wristbands” from Mabel’s Labels for piece of mind.
  • The most amazing resource…she planned our entire trip n/c and it was not only flawless but truly magical for our 4 boys!
  • Younger kids LOVE Magic Kingdom. Epcot for older crowd. Animal Kingdom animal safari very cool as are shows…save for low-key day. Eat huge bfast before u head out, u all will last longer before stopping to eat. Bring water bottles and snacks bc u walk your bum 6yo HAD to get pic taken w all Disney character which took 3million yrs of waiting but their little autograph/memory book is worth it. Light show/fireworks at Magic Kingdom run late so bring blankets that night and camp out. Bring sweatshirt…gets cold after sun goes down. I hated it but my husband and kids could’ve done tea cups all four days.
  • Oh, FastPass is worth it too. Scope out rides/shows you really want before hand and work around them. FastPass allows u to purchase tickets early and come back later without standing in line.
  • There is an app for wait times. When I went two years ago I had to pay for the app but looks like they have free ones. It was very helpful in trying to map out the day. Buy your tickets ahead of time! We spent over 30 minutes in line to just buy the tickets.
  • Make most of your meal reservations ahead and stay on property, so much easier.
  • Park times vary by date so be sure to look at that first. We spent about 6 hours at AK and saw everything we wanted to. Kids were happy to go back to the hotel pool by then. But it was January so it doesn’t factor in wait times for rides since there weren’t any. I know some weeks in November can be slow as well. Perhaps you’ve already researched some of these sites that rank busiest times by week?
  • Pack snacks to eat in line while you wait. Best to never get hungry.
  • The apps are key they tell you all of the wait times etc! Animal kingdom was amazing also and they have beer! Tell them it is you first time there and or you are celebrating a birthday and you get a special button.
  • Get there early, take lots of food and keep feeding the kids. Head for the sit-down shows to take a break.
  • One more tip that I found in the Disney with Kids book I recommended on your Facebook post. About 15 minutes before park opening at the Magic Kingdom the train comes in with the characters. The mayor welcomes everyone to the park, and performers do a very cute welcome song and dance. Then they open the park gates. The store keepers all wear Mickey Mouse gloves and stand outside their shops waving as you enter the park while Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah plays over the speaker system. Really worth the effort to see! Leave extra time because you have to walk from the bus drop off point and then get through the turnstiles and bag check.
  • You asked today about Disney!  What a great place!  I’ve attached my TripAdvisor review from a trip in Oct….quick recommendations:
    (1). If you or anyone in your party has food allergies or sensitivities, Disney is amazing!  I’d be happy to offer any suggestions on that topic if food allergies are a concern.
    (2). We got the “whole hog” dining plan (my name for it, not Disney’s!).  What this means is we got breakfast, lunch and dinner on the dining plan instead of the standard one meal covered, with a quick service that most Disney travelers take advantage of….I’d highly recommend going the extra mile and getting the better dining plan.  You’ll spend a LOT less out of pocket, you can easily eat at places like Cinderella’s Royal Table (which takes 2 dining credits) without concern and even go to some really swank dining places that take 2 credits without sweating your credit balance.  I am all about pinching pennies when you can (we stayed at the Pop Century), but I hate lining up for fried food in the heat when I have to pee and haven’t washed my hands.  With dining credits, you can sit down at the meal, if you want, you can wash your hands, you can order dessert and not feel bad because you will have the credits and you will be walking ALL DAY and you will be tired and hungry!  You can also use dining credits in unlikely places, like nearly every bakery/restaurant at Downtown Disney!  We used the few extra snack credits we had left to buy cute wrapped Disney candies and cookies for friends back home.
    (3). Stay on property!!!!  This is a strong recommendation since you will be able to take advantage of Disney transportation everywhere you turn and they provide such great service!  You cannot use the dining plan if you stay off property.
    (4). Schedule every meal….I know this sounds crazy, but I think you know this since you mentioned the 180 days.  I recommend Crystal Plaza for Magic Kingdom, Akershus at Epcot for getting your Norwegian cuisine fix on (and it is really good and sooo fun for the kids!!), Sanaa and any dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge (little known secret, you do not have to be staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge to eat at AKL) — you can eat close enough to touch a a zebra with your fork without the crowds, heat and walking of Animal Kingdom Lodge if you eat at Sanaa.  Sanaa even has cultural representatives from regions in Africa and some of the best food we’d all ever eaten!!
    For Animal Kingdom, we liked Yak and Yeti, dining options are a little limited at Animal Kingdom.
    (5). Not sure your daughter’s ages, but I definitely recommend the Bibbibi Bobbidi Boutique for a great experience getting dolled up like a princess.  The Disney Store at Tyson’s helped me pick out a dress so we’d be ready…the princess dress prices at Bippity are much higher.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who took the time to share their favorite tips – I am certain I’m not the only one who appreciates it. I already sent one email I received from a reader to a friend and her response was “Wow, she planned my whole trip for me.” Obviously, if you have any more tips, please feel free to post them here or on the WM FB page! Most of these were previously posted on the WM FB page, which you should totally like if you haven’t already. I will be tweeting from Disney World during the Social Media Moms Conference in early May and will definitely write up a whole post about our trip and my own tips once we’re back!

One Response to Planning for Walt Disney World: WM Reader Tips
  1. Ashley
    May 7, 2013 | 12:24 am

    Disney has their own advice panel too! All of the information is broken up into catagories and you can even submit your own questions for answers!! Check out the disney moms panel

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