“Hiya, pal!!”

 I would like to pass on some of my top tips for families visiting Disney parks for the first time. Here are this weeks top five tips:  

Tip # 1: Plan in advance

There are so many variables that go into planning your Disney trip. You could choose to be one of the infamous NDM {Neurotic Disney Moms} like myself who have daily excel sheets with planned bathroom breaks, or you can choose a more relaxed approach. However you choose to go about planning you need to know that a minimum of a basic itinerary should be prepared beforehand so as to not be disappointed in the end. I suggest that you and your family make a list of the top attractions, restaurants, characters, and entertainment that you don’t want to miss and plan around those must do’s. Be sure to book your Advanced Dining Reservations and your FastPass+ selections well before your vacation starts so as to cut down on potential disappointments. 

Tip #2: Advance Dining Reservations  {ADR’s}

After you choose your hotel and book your trip this will be the next big step in planning your vacation. You will be able to book your dining reservations starting 180 days out from the day you arrive and book through ten days after you arrive. Some reservations are harder to book than others. If you are looking to book some of the more popular restaurants such as Be Our Guest you will want to wake up early and book this online at 6am ET. Character meals such as Cinderella Castle require you to call in to reserve. The phone lines open at 7am ET call {407}.939.3463 to book. These reservations are known to sell out within minutes every day, even during the “slow” season. If you don’t end up getting the reservations you really wanted don’t fret. Check back often, these reservations do open back up as more cancellations occur. The best opportunity to snag one of these hard to get reservations is within the week of travel, as people change their plans they tend to cancel reservations 48 hours or earlier to avoid late cancellation penalties.
Here are the top 5 reservations to wake up early to book:

  1. Be Our Guest
  2. Cinderella’s Royal Table
  3. Chef Mickey’s
  4. ‘Ohana {breakfast and dinner}
  5. California Grill

Tip #3: Character Meals

One of the most time-consuming waits in the parks are the lines to meet characters. It has been over two years since Anna and Elsa have arrived at the Magic Kingdom, yet these two princesses have a typical wait of 90-120 minutes. To meet Mickey Mouse at the Town Theater the average wait is 50 minutes during off-peak times. Of course, you have the option to FastPass+ these character experiences and I highly recommend doing so if there is any available. In my opinion, the best option for meeting characters is reserving a character meal experience. Now these are pricey meals, yet our family truly feels they are worth every penny. You realize pretty quickly after arriving at Disney that food is expensive wherever you go. You will pay far more for a hot dog or cheeseburgers for your family than you would like to. We feel having the option to sit down relax and be waited on and have a delicious menu or a buffet to choose from while interacting with characters is priceless. Not to mention a welcomed break from the heat and commotion too.  

Tip #4: Snacks

While visiting Disney parks you are allowed to bring in outside food and drinks in soft coolers. I recommend bringing snacks if you choose to get to the park at park open. The only options for snacks early in the morning are the Main Street bakery {Starbucks} and Gaston’s Tavern in Fantasyland. The Main Street bakery will have insanely long lines at any time of the day so expect to wait at least 25-30 minutes for a coffee and danish. We visited the Magic Kingdom on an Extra Magic Hours day and for some reason, Gaston’s Tavern was not open and we were starving. The snack carts and quick service restaurants typically open at 11am. In the evening the snack places close one hour before the park closes,  so be sure to plan accordingly.  

If you or someone in your party have dietary restrictions each snack cart and quick service restaurant should have a menu with an ingredient list for you to check out. I visited Disneyland recently with my friend who has celiac disease and most of the snack carts only offer popcorn, and fruit for those who are gluten free. So I do suggest especially if you have a dietary restriction to pack plenty of snacks. All table service and quick service restaurants offer special diet menus. You can also contact Disney in advance to discuss your dietary needs before you arrive.  

Tip #5: FastPass+

Disney offers a FastPass+ service where you can book one to three experiences in advance for each day you have a park ticket. If you are staying on Disney property, you can reserve your FastPasses up to 60 days before you arrive and, up to 30 days in advance for all other guests. You are able to choose three FastPasses for one park each day. After you use your three FastPasses, or the timeframe expires, you are then able to book more FastPasses based on availability using your MyDisneyExperience app right from your phone. You can reserve a FastPass, use it during the time window it gives you and, choose another one immediately after.

I hope you found these tips to be helpful. Stay tuned next week for the second installment of Super Essential Tips for Your First Trip to Disney World.

“See ya real soon!”