Disney World Tips by Cale Gillan

Please welcome my son Cale for his first guest post here at Disney for Five:

If you know certain tips, you can get a lot out of your Walt Disney World vacation. These tips include staying in a hotel on Walt Disney World property, making advanced dining reservations, utilizing FastPass Plus, “rope drop”, what to do during busy parts of the day, good quick service restaurants, meet & greet tips, and staying at the park until it closes.

First of all, stay at one of Disney’s on-­property hotels. There are many advantages to staying in one of these over staying outside of Disney World. For one, they are very close to the four parks. There is also free transportation to and from the parks at these resort hotels. It is also worth noting that staying on­-property is just part of the Disney experience, largely due to the theming and customer service.

Another thing to keep in mind is ADRs. This stands for advanced dining reservations. If you stay in a Walt Disney World resort hotel, you can make advanced dining reservations one hundred eighty days before your vacation. This can be used to get a reservation at a very popular restaurant that you would not be able to eat at any other way. You should base your ADRs on your park schedule. Book dining for restaurants that are in the park you go to that day, if you don’t want to park hop. Park hopping costs extra money. Character dining is when characters come around to the table and greet you as you eat. Character dining books up very fast, so use ADRs to get these reservations. Also, make a note of food allergies when you make the ADR, and the cast members there will do the same.

Next up is a system called FastPass Plus. You use these to reserve spots in line for very popular attractions. Except, that basically means rides and meet & greets because nobody uses FastPasses for shows. If you stay on property, you can make FastPass Plus reservations sixty days before your trip. Use them wisely, because you only get to reserve three per day ahead of time. After you use all three of those, you can make more, but only with what hasn’t been reserved by others already. During busy seasons, that won’t be anything good. Some attractions I would recommend using FastPass Plus on are Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Soarin’, Test Track, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Midway Mania. There is one ride that stands out in my mind as something that you should n​ot use a fastpass on, and that would be Mad Tea Party. Ok? Ok.

Rope drop is something that you should definitely think about if you want to make the most of Disney World. This is when you get to the park you are visiting that day before it even opens. Then once the park does open, it is awesome. The popular rides have very short waits, because the crowds are so low. Plus, it just feels satisfying to know how productive you are. Go get ‘em.

Next up is what to do during busy hours of the day. During these times, it isn’t pretty. Rides like Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight can have very ugly wait times. Like, Seven-Dwarfs-at-any-time ugly. To avoid all of this, choose a couple of these activities: have an ice cream break, find a nice shady spot to just rest and enjoy the scenery, browse the stores, ride the Peoplemover (my personal favorite), go to the Hall of Presidents, ride the Carousel of Progress, go to the Writer’s Stop Café, or walk some of the trails at Animal Kingdom. But let’s be honest, it’s never t​hat b​usy at Animal Kingdom.

Our next topic is quick service restaurant do’s and don’ts. Quick service is basically the McDonald’s of Disney World. What does that say about Disney? First up is the do’s. Use quick service in general. You don’t want all of your meals to be ADRs. Half of your trip will be waiting for food. Another do is Casey’s Corner, specifically as your first meal. It is a great way to get excited about what’s to come. Another good quick service place is Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Ray himself is scary and extremely unsettling, but the food is very good with lots of variety. Some other good places are just around Epcot’s World Showcase in general. My personal favorite there is the place outside at the Mexico pavilion. Last but not least is Harambe Market at Animal Kingdom. The food there is very good. Now onto the don’ts: ordering gluten free from Casey’s Corner. Moving on.

Ah, my favorite. Character meet & greets. If you don’t do these right, you’re gonna have a bad time. Sounds like it’s not worth the effort, right? You’d be right if you don’t like talking to some girl that’s being paid to act like a character that you’ve known all your life. But if you d​o l​ike that type of thing, I’ve got some tips for you. If you have a character that you or someone that you are with m​ust s​ee, use a FastPass reservation on it. If not, I’ll cover what you should do later on. Also, don’t be shy. I learned after doing exactly that for about two years. It becomes a lot more fun to meet Ariel when you stop blushing and actually communicate. Another thing to keep in mind is that the best times to see characters is during parades or firework shows. Everyone is busy watching those, and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to talk with your favorite character for like five minutes straight. It’s happened to me more than once.

Ariel casual

Now on to our last topic, staying until park close. Basically, just do this. D​o it,​ as Palpatine would say. If the park is open until two in the morning, around 1 AM is when crowds really start to die down. A lot. Space Mountain usually has no wait whatsoever at this time, compared to having an hour long wait earlier that day. Seven Dwarfs can go all the way down to 45 minutes. W​ow. Stores will stay open for a while after the park closes, and it’s fun to hang out in them late at night for no reason whatsoever. At Magic Kingdom, there is the Kiss Goodnight that happens 30 minutes after closing. I couldn’t even describe it if I tried, it’s just magical. A last little bonus to staying until park close is that depending on how late that is, sometimes the transportation lines will die down, and you’ll have less of a wait to get back to your resort.

In conclusion, if you follow those steps you are pretty much guaranteed to have an awesome Walt Disney World vacation. In the words of Han Solo probably: “Stick with me kid, and I’ll show ya’ the ropes.”

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About HFBrainerd

Published novelist and Disney World fanatic. Thanks for coming along on this wild ride!
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8 Responses to Disney World Tips by Cale Gillan

  1. Hello Cale. Great comprehensive post! I’ve never heard of the Kiss Goodnight, but then I’ve never stayed until closing at any of the parks. It would have been interesting to know. We’ve stayed for the fireworks, but that was about it.

    We went to WDW in March of this year and went to Epcot two days. I wish I had known how cool Soarin’ was. I would have gotten a FastPass for it both days. I should have researched the rides more.

    I’ve been following this blog for a while now and have always gotten good information. We have been talking about wanting to go to WDW again, perhaps even next year. I’ll be sure to keep everything mentioned here in mind. Thank you very much.

    • HFBrainerd says:

      Hi Susan! This is Cale. Thank you for the comment, and I hope you get to go to WDW again soon! If you happen to catch the Kiss Goodnight, you’ll know what I mean about it.

  2. Cale, is it possible to use the FastPass if you don’t stay at a WDW Resort? Thank you.

    • HFBrainerd says:

      Yes, you can use FastPass if you stay off WDW property. If you do this, you can make your FastPasses 30 days before your vacation, compared to 60 days beforehand staying on WDW property. – Cale

      • Thank you, Cale for the information about the Fast Passes. I called Disney World today and asked about buying tickets. We are staying at relatives while at Disney this time. They said they could put them on our previous wrist bands. I never knew this. Maybe it was mentioned here and I didn’t remember, but now I don’t know if we threw them away or not. I’m searching everywhere. I usually save things like that as souvenirs, so I’m hoping I didn’t. But had I known you could reuse them, I never would have thrown them out.

        If you haven’t ever mention that on this blog, it might be a good idea to do so. 🙂

        I’ll be sure to go online thirty days prior to our trip for the Fast Passes. Thanks again.

        Susan

  3. HFBrainerd says:

    Hi Susan! It’s Heather this time 🙂 Yes, you can reuse MagicBands, but they have a limited battery life, and the battery can’t be replaced. Since this is such a new program, no one knows for certain how long the batteries will last, but the estimate is two years. We get new bands for each trip since we don’t want to risk the batteries dying on us. You can always purchase MagicBands if you can’t find your old ones (and since you won’t be getting “free” new ones unless staying on-property or purchasing an Annual Pass). I think the basic bands cost $12.95, with prices going up from there on special designs.

  4. Thanks, Heather. That’s an excellent point about the battery possibly not lasting. I never thought of that. Also about the annual pass…this will be our second trip to Disney in less than one year. We never dreamed we would go again so soon. 🙂

    • HFBrainerd says:

      The rule of thumb is that if you go to the parks for a total of 10 days or more within one year, it may be more economical to purchase an annual pass. I just recently bought APs for Rich and me (we’ll be going in January, August, and possibly October next year). Depending on whether we actually do the October trip or not, I may get APs for the boys, as well. And…I’m glad you liked it enough to go back so soon 🙂

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