When planning my family’s trip to Disney World I read a ton of useful information online.
But even after wading through all those tips, we experienced a few trials, that are really quite avoidable if you keep reading. Let our pain be your prevention!
P.S. This is a bit off-topic for a nutrition website, but this means you get the bonus of some dietitian tips for feeding your family at Disney too!
Save this map of the parking lot at the Disney Transportation Center
When you park your car in the MASSIVE lot at the Disney Transportation Center, you’ll find each section marked as a Disney character. This is supposed to help you remember where to find your car, which is great, as long as you can find your section at the end of the day.
Sure, you’d think you could just retrace your steps, but it’s not always that easy. We found our path blocked at night by gates and fences, so we couldn’t actually walk back the way we came in that morning.
It’s also easy to get mixed up. You arrived early in the morning, excited and anxious to get going, and you’re leaving late at night, exhausted from a full day of fun. You can easily end up in a different section of the parking lot, with nothing to help you find your way. Standing in Ursula and knowing you need to get to Mulan doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know which way Mulan is!
We got lost more than once. The worst part was that we couldn’t find a map of the parking lot. Not on the Disney mobile app, not even anywhere online. Finally, on our last day there, we came across this sign at the far edges of the transportation center. That sign doesn’t do you much good when you’re hopelessly lost in a sea of cars and concrete. So we snapped a picture of it, for your benefit.
Save this to your phone. It could save you a headache when the only thing you want to do is get your crabby kids to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
Think twice before taking the Disney parking lot tram
These trams are very popular, because nobody wants to walk more than they have to. So, there’s often a big line up to get on them. You will be doing enough waiting in line! We found that walking usually got us to the park faster than taking the tram. Even if there’s a tram sitting there, just waiting for you to get on it, you will probably have to sit there and wait for it to fill up before it will move.
Also, if you have a stroller, you will have to fold it up to get on the tram. That can be an unnecessary hassle, especially getting your kids out of the stroller and then back in again. You’ll be doing enough of that at Disney too.
And finally, my health professional hat comes on, the extra walking is great for your health! It’s a fun way to start your day, and the mornings are beautiful in Orlando. If you have a phone that’s counting your steps (every iPhone does this by default), it’s fun to look back and see how much you walked.
Pick up a times guide for Hollywood Studios in advance
When we were at Disney, the Hollywood Studios park stayed open until 9, but the last show time for a lot of the shows was 5:00 or 6:30. So, we ended up missing out on a few shows that we wanted to see. You may be able to avoid this with careful planning.
You can get the times guide for any of the parks at the guest services area in each park. Most of the attractions in Hollywood Studios are shows, with set times. Save yourself the headache of trying to figure out on the spot how to schedule your day. Plan ahead which shows you want to see (and when) before you arrive at the park.
Epcot has the best fireworks show
While all the fireworks we saw at Disney World were outstanding, our favourite place to watch them was at Epcot.
I don’t know of anywhere else where you can observe a fireworks show in a setting like this. The World Showcase forms a circle around the lake, and the fireworks come shooting out from the surrounding buildings into a colourful canopy above the water. For good measure there’s a magical globe that hovers over the water.
Pretty much any spot around the World Showcase is great for viewing.
Adults don’t need Disney’s magic bands
If you want to save some money, skip the Magic Bands.
If you don’t know how Disney passes work… each person will receive a credit card sized card. This will store all the info about your pass/fast passes/restaurant reservations, etc. You can transfer all this info to a bracelet that Disney calls a magic band, but it’ll cost you.
It might seem like a hassle to get your card out when you need it, but it’s really not that often. The only times you’ll need the card/band is to enter a park and to access a fast pass. My husband kept our cards in his wallet so they were easily accessible. I can see the Magic Band coming in handy for children, particularly children old enough to go off on their own.
Also, note that the dining plan is tied to your card as well. So, if you’re on the dining plan you might need to access the card more often.
Heed the warnings about “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” (Animal Kingdom)
“It’s Tough To Be A Bug” is a 3-D show designed to give you the creepy crawlies and freak you out! Of course, you probably don’t know that when you walk in there. There is a sign with a mild warning that the show may frighten young children, but they should really give a stronger advisory!
The show is pretty terrifying. Our toddler spent most of the show with his hands covering his eyes, and papa’s hands covering his ears. As we left, I looked around and saw a lot of tear-streaked toddler faces.
I recommend skipping this attraction altogether if you have a toddler! You’re not visiting Disney in order to traumatize them. Even if you’re not worried about that, there are more enjoyable things for them to be doing.
Pack your own lunch instead of paying Disney for it
There are a few reasons to do this…
- Save time waiting in line. When you go to Disney World you know you’re going to be spending time waiting in line for rides and shows. What I didn’t count on was the long lines to buy food! We always brought our own lunch into the park, except for one day. We went to “quick service,” which was a letdown. It took us over an hour to get our food and eat! This was precious time we could have spent elsewhere… like waiting in line for a ride instead!
- Save money. Maybe this one is obvious, and maybe I’m more frugal than most, but this is significant for us, especially at Disney where food costs are high. Apparently they make all their profit on food!
- You can picnic on Tom Sawyer’s Island. When you’re at the Magic Kingdom, take the ferry to Tom Sawyer’s Island for lunch. This island is like a little refuge. At Disney, the hot Florida sun never stops beating down on you, and the people never stop crowding you, until you escape onto this island. Make your way up the hill and through the trees. There you’ll find the most lovely picnic tables and benches, hidden in the shade and relative quiet of the forest! These are the only picnic tables we saw in all of Disney World! Of course, we hadn’t seen this tip anywhere, so we were disappointed that we had already eaten when we found this oasis.
Bring a Dietitian Approved Lunch That Everyone Will Love
Everyone will love this bag lunch, even the people around you! One day when we were eating our lunch in line, one man kept complimenting us on what a great idea it was to bring carrot chips and hummus. Like, he seemed truly amazed by this idea.
So, if you’re like him and just need some bag lunch inspiration, here’s what we brought for lunch:
- Carrot chips. Just regular carrots sliced flat into chip form. This makes it easy to dip them into…
- Hummus! We love hummus. Doesn’t everybody? I hope so.
- Crackers. Still great for dipping in hummus, but gives you a little variety.
- Granola bars. Obvious? Yeah. But as long as you’ve chosen the right type of granola bars, this is a a convenient option that’s very healthful.
- Fruit bars. You have to be careful with these because they tend to contain 3 servings of fruit in a tiny bar. This makes it easy to consume a lot of calories without processing how much you’ve eaten. They also don’t have the fiber or water found in fruit. Other than that they serve as a functional fruit replacement on special occasions. They’re also convenient to chow down on while standing in line.
- Actual fruit. More messy, but delicious. Especially those Florida nectarines. Yum.
Three bonus Disney tips that we found the most helpful
These are some bonus tips we found elsewhere before we went, and were extremely grateful that we did. Sorry, I can’t remember where I found all this great advice!
- Sneak your way into Animal Kingdom. The Animal Kingdom has an entrance through the RainForest café to the left of the main entrance. While everyone was waiting in long line ups to get into the park, we strolled through the café gift shop and right into the park!
- Research your Fast Pass Options. Even though they’re crowd favourites, some rides just don’t tend to have long wait times. You’ll want to get Fast Passes for the rides that tend to have the longest wait times, right? But how will you know which ones those are? Check out sites such as WDW Prep School or Touring Plans. I was surprised to learn that Peter Pan’s Flight was one of the rides that was most in need of a Fast Pass! The explanation is that it’s fun for all ages so everyone wants to ride it!
- Arrive at the parks before they open. I would have had no clue that you could arrive at Disney World before it opens… and that they actually let you inside! The “opening” time just means that’s when the rides and attractions open. Since it takes a while to park your car, get to the gates, go through the bag check, and scan your card, you may as well do that before opening time! I’m not sure when they start letting you inside but you don’t need to be there more than 15 minutes beforehand. We usually aimed to arrive at the parking gate 30 minutes before the official opening.
There’s no way to make your Disney trip perfect. Something will always go wrong. But keep these tips in mind, and a positive attitude, and you’ll most definitely have a magical time!
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