By Tim Johnson
It can sometimes be a tiny bit bewildering for first-time visitors—but Canadian Family has been there. Travel editor and resident Disney expert Tim Johnson has consulted with numerous families and has visited WDW himself a total of ten times, collecting some invaluable insights along the way. Here are 10 great tips to help your family get the most of the Magic Kingdom.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead (long term). Before you go, make a list of can’t-miss priorities for your family to do and see. The Walt Disney World website offers tons of great information, and, even better, Disney offers a free DVD that allows you to preview attractions and rides, letting you pick and choose what to do, and plan on when to do it.
Tip #2: Plan ahead (short term). Your first stop at Disney should be just inside the park gates to pick up a park map and Times Guide (Disney hotels and even some off-site hotels also offer these at the front desk). Shows, parades and fireworks presentations operate on a slightly different schedule each day, and this guide, presenting a few days at a time, is a great resource for planning out the daily schedule.
Tip #3: Be cool. A trip to WDW involves a large investment of time—and cash—and, for some families, there’s a strong temptation to be overly ambitious, packing too much into each day. But the combination of heat and fatigue can foil the best-laid plans. So allow time each day to take a break, even returning to the hotel pool for a midday siesta, and be realistic about how long to stay at the parks in the evening.
Tip #4: Go deep. When a park opens at the beginning of the day, the rides and attractions near the front gate are typically much busier than those near the back of the park, as families rush willy-nilly to whichever thing they see first. Be smart and head first to the furthest reaches of the park, where things will be far less busy and lineups much shorter, then work your way back toward the front gate.
Tip #5: Cool down. All Disney parks include misting stations and small splash parks, so you may want to throw in some bathing suits and take some time to chill out during the heat of the day.
Tip #6: Weekends start on Thursday. Disney is a busy place, and it’s at its busiest during the weekend—which typically starts, judging by the crowds, on Thursday, not Friday. So if you want to avoid lineups, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are your best days to visit the parks.
Tip #7: Make a quick escape. Wishes, the spectacular fireworks presentation at the Magic Kingdom, is one of the most popular attractions in all of Walt Disney World—meaning that the rush to the parking lot at its conclusion can be a wee bit harried. Slide quickly past Main Street USA by walking through the shops on the right side of the street, which are all connected inside, and then take the resort monorail instead of the express monorail—you will have to make one extra (two-minute) stop en route to the parking lot, but these are typically much less crowded and have fewer people in line to get on board.
Tip #8: Bring snacks. While Disney definitely offers a wide variety of snacking and dining options, you can save a few bucks (and some time) by packing some of your family’s favourites into a little ice pack, which fits nicely into a stroller.
Tip #9: Take some time for EPCOT. On paper, with its mix of futuristic (often educational) rides and international pavilions, EPCOT (an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) doesn’t look like it would be a favourite for families with young kids—but many young families actually come back loving this park more than any other. It is typically the least crowded of the four theme parks, and includes a number of small, cute rides with short wait times, fascinating shows at the international pavilions, and lots of hands-on opportunities, especially at Innoventions.
Tip #10: Fast Pass First. Fast Passes are an ingenious Disney invention that allow you to skip to the front of the line at some of the most popular rides—you get these little tickets near the ride, wait a couple hours for your time slot to come around, then basically walk right onto the ride. So it pays to get the Fast Pass at your favourite attraction first, then enjoy the rest of the park while you wait for your Fast Pass return time to roll around.