Get tricks on everything from beating the lines to meeting the A-list princesses.
Look for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, an agent who is an expert at helping you customize your Mickey-centered vacation.
Disney takes care of the agent’s commission, and he or she can suggest itineraries, make all meal reservations, and keep up
with special promotions that might save you money.
When Snow White graced our cover in April 1972, admission to the park was just $3.50.
...six months before the trip. Advanced planning is especially crucial for meals. “You can make dining reservations 180 days in advance,” says Erin Shaw Street, a Southern Living Associate Editor and lifelong Disney visitor. “The hottest tickets, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, fill up instantly during peak times.” How do you score a seat? Go online. While the phones open at 7 a.m. EST (407/939-3463), the Web site accepts reservations starting at 6 a.m. (disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining)
—get “Extra Magic Hours.” Every day, one of the parks opens early or closes late. If you’re staying at a WDW Resort, you get a pass for these hours. Day-trippers leave; you ride Space Mountain at 10 p.m.
Don’t stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge if little Sally wants to ride Dumbo every single day. Here’s a guide to Disney’s resorts,
based on your needs:
The average park visitor walks 8 to 10 miles a day. “I don’t leave the room without a few blister bandages,” says Bob Sehlinger, author of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Grab a poncho too. June and July are Orlando’s rainiest months.
Parks usually open at 9 a.m. Crowds tend to arrive around 10 or 10:30, says Chuck Lionberger, founder of the blog Disney Daddy (disneydaddy.blogspot.com). Show up 30 minutes early to the Magic Kingdom and you can see characters like Mickey and Goofy arrive on a train. You’ll also enjoy the rides with minimal waiting time.
FASTPASS tickets, which you get from park kiosks, give you a scheduled window of time to visit a popular attraction. Show
up and you bypass the regular (standby) line. Here, some pointers:
Disney has worked hard to make standing in line fun for parents and kids, with interactive games and animatronics greeting
you at every roped turn. Our experts agree that these three attractions give you the coolest in-line experiences:
Disney plants mouse-ear outlines all over the park. (Hint: a manhole cover with two horseshoes as ears is outside the Haunted Mansion.) There are Hidden Mickeys in Disney movies too, so you can practice spotting them before your trip.
Of the many Disney apps out there, this one, which tells you the current wait times for every attraction in the park (and predicts them for the next day!), is worth the $10.95 price. (touringplans.com)
This forum (disneyworldforum.disney.go.com), now in its fourth year, consists of Disney-savvy parents or grandparents. And we mean savvy: About 43 were chosen from a whopping 20,000 applicants in 2010. They’re committed to answering any and all of your questions. Need a gluten-free personalized birthday cake? Call Disney’s Cake Ordering Hotline (who knew!) with 48 hours notice (407/827-2253).
Belle, Ariel, and the rest of their pals don’t just wander the parks willy-nilly. There are meet and greets, which are packed,
and princess meals can be expensive. That said, try the Princess Storybook breakfast at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in
the Norway Pavilion at Epcot.
“It’s wonderful, and not as crowded as other meals,” says Lou Mongello, producer and host of WDW Radio. No Cinderella (she dines in her castle or the Grand Floridian Resort), but the other princesses will visit individual tables, which isn’t always the case elsewhere.
You’ll see gigantic smoked turkey legs sold all over. (Disney peddles some 1.6 million a year.) “They’re really good, and
they’re relatively inexpensive,” says Bob. One leg ($8) will feed two people, and you can wash it down with
a free soda from Club Cool in Epcot, which offers fountains of soft drinks from all over the world, such as Smart Watermelon from China.
And when it’s 95 degrees, head to Epcot.
Bad weather can be good luck. Crowds tend to scatter. “And in Florida, we get a shower for 20 minutes, then it’s over,” says Lou. Duck into a coffee shop, then take advantage of shorter lines. When it comes to the Florida heat, remember that most Epcot attractions are indoors. Plus, it’s the most spread out of the parks, so even if you’re walking more, it feels less congested.
Watching Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, the fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom, is the perfect way to wrap up a vacation. The best (less crowded) spots to catch the show include the Polynesian Resort (you don’t have to be staying there), the California Grill on top of the Contemporary Resort (the view is incredible) or from the private Grand 1 Yacht as you sip Champagne. (Call 407/824-2682 for reservations; accommodates 18.)