Top 25 Disney World Insider Tips and Tricks from a Mickey expert living in Northwest Arkansas

Hi all! If you heard about this Top 25 Disney World Insider Tips & Tricks post on our Magic 107.9 radio show this morning and stopped by for the first time, welcome! We’re glad you’re here! {We’re also glad to have our “regulars” here, too. Hello, lovely mamas!}

As promised, today a “Mickey expert”, as we’ve started calling her, is going to share some insider tips for visiting Disney World. Cheryl Daniel lives here in Northwest Arkansas and is a travel agent at Fairytale Journeys. She specializes in helping people plan Disney vacations and doesn’t charge for her services, which is very cool. She lived in Florida for 17 years — so she knows lots of great tips. Cheryl works with Disney clients on a part-time basis (because she loves it so much) and is a full-time 4th grade teacher in Rogers 🙂

Cheryl, take it away!

Guest post by Cheryl Daniel of Fairytale Journeys Travel

Thinking about planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Maybe you already have one scheduled and have questions. I personally know how overwhelming it can feel.

For background information, Disney is made up of four separate theme parks, two water parks, a wide selection of resort options, shopping, dining, and so much more. Here are my top 25 tips and tricks for making your trip more fun — and less overwhelming:

  1. Many visiting Orlando wonder what the weather will be like while they are there. Most of Florida has two seasons – sunshine or rain. On those sunny days, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and don’t forget to reapply that sunscreen. Even when it’s cloudy! It’s best on rainy days to be prepared by having a poncho packed. It will help keep you dry as you’re walking to your favorite rides.
  2. Speaking of rides, check out some of the most popular attractions at the different theme parks: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain,  Splash Mountain, Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, Test Track, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, Avatar Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, Na’vi River Journey, and more!  These and other rides can vary from mild to extreme. There may be height restrictions on some. Be sure to check out the requirements for each one that interests you.
  3. Hate standing in lines? While you can’t skip them all, you can avoid some if you book Fast Passes. Guests staying at one of the on-site Disney resorts will be able to book Fast Passes 60 days prior to the start of their trips. All off-site guests can book their Fast Passes 30 days in advance. Everyone who has Fast Passes reserved will agree, it’s a BIG timesaver!
  4. You might be wondering now, “How do I book Fast Passes?” Walt Disney World has made it relatively easy through the use of the My Disney Experience website. If you’re on the go, you can use the app, too. When you’re eligible to book your FastPass+ reservations, pick and choose from the times and rides available.
  5. My Disney Experience is also where you’re able to book dining reservations. Did you know that many guests book these 180 days in advance? That’s right, and some, like Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table may be completely booked during busier times of the year.
  6. Make sure to download the My Disney Experience app to your cell phone. While you are waiting in line, you can check out what the wait times are at other attractions. After you scan your third Fast Pass for the park you’re in, you will be able to book a fourth one from the available options. It’s really convenient and helps you make the most out of your day.
  7. Earlier, I mentioned something about staying on-site at a Disney resort. There are definitely perks that go along with a stay right in the middle of the magic! Some of these bonuses include: transportation, MagicBands, Extra Magic Hours, having the option to add a dining plan, and more. The experience is unparalleled.
  8. Many guests like to add a dining plan to their on-site stay. This helps them feel like the trip is more all-inclusive. Depending on the plan you choose, you will be given a specified allotment of credits to use at quick service locations and some plans include table service options also. You will also receive snack credits and a refillable, souvenir beverage mug that you can use daily at your resort.
  9. Some of the best seats in the house can be booked with dining for no additional charge. Many overlook the Fantasmic or Rivers of Light dining packages because they think it costs more. The truth is, you pay the same amount, but you’re given a voucher for seating during the nighttime shows (and don’t have to use up a Fast Pass). You will be grateful because the seats are highly sought after by other guests, but they can only be reserved with the dining packages. One thing you should know though, these dining options are sometimes unavailable when regular dining is released 180 days in advance. Check back a week or two later, and you’ll see the options are open to book.
  10. One of the best uses of dining snack credits is during the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. If you’re going to Walt Disney World during this event, instead of grabbing the typical breakfast foods like donuts, croissants, and a banana or favorites like a Dole Whip or Mickey ice cream bar, you might want to save your credits to use at this event. During the festival, several kiosks are opened up for guests to try foods from around the world.  A favorite use for a snack includes getting a Le Cellier filet mignon from the Canada booth (which is delicious to boot)! While there are many other tasty treats, you should make your way toward the Hops & Barley booth (America kiosk) and try the New England Lobster Roll, too…mmmmm!
  11. In Walt Disney World, there are lots of resorts to choose from. The value resorts are brightly colored, a lot of fun, and can help you save if you’re on a budget. At moderate resorts, you’ll quickly notice the beautiful theming, that they tend to be a little quieter, and that they have some table service dining options for you to enjoy while you’re away from the park. Deluxe resort guests find the service here goes above and beyond their expectations. Some of the resorts are even located on the monorail loop, while others may be within walking distance of a park. In addition to quick service and table service dining, you’ll also find an upscale experience to meet your needs at deluxe locations. {Most of my clients in NWA choose deluxe resorts, especially when I’m able to help save them money.}
  12. Walt Disney World is a popular destination for families year-round. In Spring, the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival is breathtaking with colorful character topiaries and other flowers that fill the air with wonderful fragrances. In Fall, the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is an excellent option to try different foods from around the world. Holiday lights fill the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs in November and December. If your family goes during this time, you may enjoy visiting some of the resorts as they each create special displays in their lobbies. Throughout the year, there are always exciting things to see and try.
  13. The tickets for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and A Very Merry Christmas Party are required to attend these extra events at the Magic Kingdom on select nights. The park closes early for all guests on those days because the events are scheduled from 7 until midnight, but any guest with a valid ticket can actually arrive at 4! This gives you three extra hours at the park, in addition to the ones you’ll be enjoying with your party ticket. You’ll also be able to book Fast Passes during those hours, so it will help you get the most out of your time there.
  14. If you’re looking for an experience that’s fitness related to add onto your vacation, try one of the RunDisney races! You get to run through the parks, hear your fans (okay, random strangers) cheering you on, and at the end, you’re rewarded with Disney bling!! Seriously though, if you like running (or even walking) and love Disney, you MUST try one of these races out.
  15. Looking for the perfect spot to watch the Magic Kingdom parade where you’re not surrounded by a crowd? Every time I sit in the location I found years ago, people stop by to say, “You found the best seat in the house!” If your back is facing the Crystal Palace (one of my favorite character buffets, by the way), off to the left, there is a short path that leads you into Adventureland (if you turn left). However, there is an iron fence surrounding a grassy area slightly off to the right and in front of you, and if you look across, you will see a wooden bridge.  The parade crosses right over this bridge, and nobody is in the way. It really gives you a great, unobstructed view of everything as it passes by, and the best part? You and your child are not being pushed out of the way. In fact, some families who have joined me have allowed their little ones to sit in the grassy area or dance nearby. You definitely need to check it out!
  16. Rider Switch is something that many don’t know about or use. If you have little ones who don’t meet the height restrictions for an attraction or other guests in your party don’t want to ride, this is something you should try! It’s available at select attractions, so when you arrive at a ride, ask if it has the Rider Switch option. You’ll be given a pass to use. The group who is not riding waits outside, while the other group enters. When the first group finishes, they will give the Rider Switch pass to the adult who waited outside. That person can then take one other guest (sometimes they allow 2) with him/her to ride it too! This way, nobody misses out! I recommend using your Fast Pass with this option because you can sometimes double the number of attractions you’ll be able to experience this way.
  17. Do you have a child who is a Star Wars fan in your group? If so, sign him/her up first thing in the morning for the Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios.  This hands-on show will teach your child how to use the force and a light saber while defending himself/herself against the Dark Side. You can register children ages 4-12 at the Indiana Jones Outpost. While registration begins when the park opens, you can get ahead of the crowd by booking a breakfast reservation that will get you into the park early. This experience is limited to a first-come, first-served basis, and it does fill up, so get a jump on it with this tip!
  18. °0° I found a Hidden Mickey! If you’re looking for a fun way to distract your little ones while waiting in line, play Find the Hidden Mickeys with them. All over Walt Disney World, you will find Mickey heads hidden in everyday objects. Look up and you might find one on a light pole. Look down and a manhole cover will have one staring up at you. It’s a great distraction and it’s fun to find them. It also helps the time pass quickly.
  19. Are you looking to get into the parks a little early? As I mentioned previously, you can book some dining reservations prior to the park’s opening hours. Cast Members at the gates will allow you into the park for your scheduled dining time. This is a GREAT opportunity to also snap some pictures with your family without tons of other people around. The Magic Kingdom also opens an hour earlier than the posted time. You will be allowed to walk down Main Street and check out the shops, and when the park opens, there will be a show on stage in front of Cinderella’s Castle to start the day!
  20. Avid photographers looking for a location to shoot great fireworks photos over Cinderella’s Castle will love this next tip. At the Ticket and Transportation Center, there is an area where the ferry takes guests over to the Magic Kingdom.  Right before the fireworks go off, the cast members will allow guests to come into the exit area. Be sure to keep the pathway clear so you’re not blocking others from exiting, but with your tripod set up, you will grab some of the best pictures with reflections in the lake. You also won’t have thousands of people surrounding you or blocking your view.
  21. If you don’t like driving, let Disney take care of that for you. Guests who are staying onsite are able to use the Magical Express. This bus will pick up your luggage and transport you and your items from Orlando International Airport (MCO) directly to Walt Disney World. Enjoy your relaxing ride and then get ready for fun! You can hop on another bus (or other mode of transportation offered from your resort) to the parks. No worrying about where you parked or how to get somewhere. Disney has it covered.Just announced last week: In addition to the regular bus transportation available, Walt Disney World is rolling out a brand-new mode of transportation: Minnie Vans. These red and white polka dotted minivans will give guests the ability to pay for a quicker trip to a desired destination on property.
  22. One of my favorite locations in Walt Disney World is Fort Wilderness. In addition to popular shows like Hoop-De-Doo Musical Review and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, did you know you could make s’mores with Chip and Dale? That’s right, snuggle up around the campfire to roast some marshmallows and make these tasty treats while watching a Disney movie on the big screen. The area is surrounded by trails and trees, so it’s more secluded, and therefore, it’s very peaceful (a nice calm environment away from the mayhem of the parks). You can go on wagon rides, visit the horses at the stables, go horseback riding, and so much more. Add in the cabins for a larger family at a friendly cost, a kitchen that can save you money by eating in, and the atmosphere is top notch. Honestly, it’s just perfect to me.
  23. Have you ever noticed those Disney buttons people wear? “I’m celebrating ____ .” or “Today is my birthday.” Be sure to let guest services know why you are here. Whether it’s your first trip or your 100th vacation, Disney wants to help you celebrate.  Wearing these pins might also bring some extra magic your way. Cast Members will often comment on your pin and sometimes, they like to bring you something special to help make your experience extra meaningful. This is not the same thing as pin trading which is another popular thing guests do at the parks. Wear the pins you’re willing to trade (not your button…that’s special and only for you), and you can approach Cast Members and other guests who will often trade with you. It’s a lot of fun and something you should try if you’ve never done it before.
  24. If you have a little one who wants to be a princess when she grows up, why not treat her to a special experience at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Magic Kingdom? This special encounter can be booked 180 days in advance (just like dining) and often fills up. The location inside Cinderella’s Castle is the most popular, but you can also visit the one at Disney Springs. You’ll have several different options to choose from and some even include a dress. Afterwards, if you’ve secured a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table, you can enjoy a meal dining with other princesses too. There’s also a Knight package. If these options don’t appeal to your children, they may want to be a pirate or mermaid instead. Pirate League offers this, and it’s also located inside of the Magic Kingdom. These princesses, knights, pirates, and mermaids sure do look cute when done!
  25. While you may have heard that Animal Kingdom opened a new area called Pandora: World of Avatar, did you know Walt Disney World is working on a few other new themed lands? Toy Story Land will be a place where you can visit Woody, Buzz, and all of your favorites. It’s sure to be a rootin’ tootin’ good time! For now, check out Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios or Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom to see your favorite Toy Story characters. Additionally, Star Wars Land is being created and is expected to bring in a lot of fans! While we’re waiting though, you can visit Star Wars attractions in Hollywood Studios. Many don’t know this, but if you head to the Launch Bay, you might bump into the Jawas. Yes, you can take pictures with them, but you can also TRADE items with them. They don’t like everyday objects, but if you have something shiny (no money) and unique, they might give you a DROID part!!

A little planning goes a long way, so if you need assistance, or have questions, I would love to help. Talking about Disney is a favorite subject of mine.  Above all else, enjoy your time with your family…making memories is priceless!

Visit Cheryl’s website here or give her a call at 479-313-5901 if you have any questions.