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 not 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 that busy 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 do like that type of thing, I’ve got some tips for you. If you have a character that you or someone that you are with must see, 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.
Now on to our last topic, staying until park close. Basically, just do this. Do 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. Wow. 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.”