- You do not need to have kids or be a kid to enjoy Disney! All ages are welcome and have a magical time!
- Stay at a resort on property - you get more perks and inclusions! (Magical Express transfers to/from the Orlando airport, Magic Bands, dining plan, Extra Magic Hours, and more!)
- Stock up on Disney gift cards at Target with your Red Card - get 5% off!
- Combine your Disney gift card balances at disneygiftcard.com (up to $1000 per card) so you aren't carrying a stack of cards with you - also your travel agent or Disney agent will greatly appreciate your efforts when you call in to make a payment
- Book dining reservations 180 days prior to your travel dates (or as soon as you book the trip if it's less than 6 months out) - then sit back for 6 months and don't worry about getting into the best places! Especially if you want dinner at Ohana, breakfast at Chef Mickey's, anything at Cinderella's Royal Table and Be Our Guest, or any type of character dining. Do NOT use one of those paid services that sets up reservations - contact Disney directly (Call 407-WDW-DINE to get the reservations all set up for your visit at one time... I can personally vouch for the evening team Wed-Sun - they rock!)
- Plan which park(s) you are going to on which days, based on the number of theme park tickets you get and if they are 1 park per day or Park Hopper tickets. Check the park hours for each day to see which ones are open the most hours (based on Extra Magic Hours or possible closings for special events). This will cut down on time spent on transportation if you spend all day in one park but if you do park hop, you can have an idea of what you want to do at each park for the day and plan time for going between parks.
- You can set up FastPass+ (FP) reservations - basically a FREE and easy way to "cut to the front of the line" included with your theme park tickets - 30 days prior to your trip (60 days if you're staying at a Disney resort) You must have a theme park ticket purchased and linked in your My Disney Experience account or app to set up FP ... you can set up 3 per person per day (in 1 park). There is no charge to set them up and you are not penalized if you miss or don't use the FP. You can modify them at any point. I personally set up my FP for early in the day - morning and early afternoon - because once you use up the 3 FP for the day, you can go to the FP kiosks in the theme parks and set up another FP, one at a time, every time you use one up (based on what is available for later in the day). If you have Park Hopper tickets, you will need to use up your 3 FP in the first park before you go to the next park. Once you get to the next park, you will need to go to their FP kiosks to see what is available for the day there.
- The Disney theme parks are popular and open 365 days a year - it's the same price every day, whether you order tickets online, at the gate or over the phone (Call 407-W-DISNEY and a friendly Disney agent will help you!)
- Leave your selfie stick at home (they're just going to confiscate it).... BUY A MEMORY MAKER - especially if it's your first visit or you're taking a large group/family. TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! Set it up at least 3 days prior to your trip to get the discount rate.
- If you don't have park tickets for your entire stay, spend your partial days at Downtown Disney - you don't need a ticket for this outdoor shopping mall with lots of shops, restaurants, and fun things to do! There are also fun things like carriage rides at some of the resorts, parasailing and other water sports at Sammy Duvall (Contemporary Resort's Boat Nook Marina), and a number of tours that you can book 3-6 months in advance!
- Universal Studios and Sea World are NOT owned by Disney and no, Disney doesn't sell the tickets for them. Disney only offers tickets for Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM), Animal Kingdom, and Epcot!
- If it's your first visit, birthday, anniversary, or any other type of celebration, stop by the Guest Relations desk and get your free button! :)
If you are planning a Walt Disney World trip and would like some tips, here is some of my "expert" advice!
It's been a little over a month since I drove across the country and moved to Florida for a new job. You will be seeing me post a lot about the most magical place on earth, as I have a new pass that allows me entrance anytime I want... and I will admit I've been going just to eat some of the wonderful gluten-free food sometimes!
Today I visited the Magic Kingdom, despite the forecast calling for a rainy day. Yes, it rained. It's Florida in the middle of summer - it happens. EVERYDAY.
But I know there are many families who save up - sometimes for years! - to go to Walt Disney World and no one wants the weather to spoil their plans. So I'm here to help reassure you that there are a lot of fun things you can do here on a rainy day!
It's a Small World
Yes, the song plays the entire ride... however I was more mesmerized by the colorful representations of countries from around the world that I tuned it out after a few continents! It was my first time getting to take in this iconic Disney experience! The mellow boat ride takes you across the globe and gives you some time to dry off. Be sure to get a FastPass+ set up for this ride to avoid the long wait line (some of it is under cover but not the very end... and it can get to be a long wait!) The FastPass+ line will get you indoors for shelter from the rain quicker.
The Liberty Belle
All aboard for a relaxing ride along the riverway, passing the route of the Festival of Fantasy parade, Big Thunder Mountain's rollercoaster ride, as well as some other hidden gems along the way - things you wouldn't otherwise see walking through the park. There's plenty of shelter on this lovely old steamboat - mostly standing room, but there are several areas where you can sit down as well. The only parts that aren't really covered are the back of the top deck and the front of the bottom deck.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Take a winding ride with Pooh and pals on a blustery day - there will be a lot of twists and turns, bumps and twirls, just so you are warned! (I was expecting a calm ride and it definitely was not relaxing!) There is a refreshing blast of air here and there on the ride to dry you off too!
I'll admit that going on this ride was a first for me because I typically don't like anything creepy, scary, or dark. But I am slowly conquering some fears that had given me anxiety over the years - including large crowds and traveling on my own - which I've also been able to calm my nerves with these trips to Walt Disney World so far. I wandered the dark hallways of the mansion with the group of mortals in the FastPass+ line (also highly recommended to avoid the wait, even though the majority of this standby line waits under awnings) and was almost ready to grab the arm of a nearby dad when they put you in a room and all the doors close and the lights go out... but I restrained myself... and lived to tell about the experience at the end of the ride! Yes it's dark and creepy so I am not sure I would take small children on it (though there were plenty on my ride and no one screamed!) but that's just my personal opinion - you can base it on your child's personality and perceptions! Again, this is a longer ride so you can abandon the rainfall and enjoy the dry indoors on a stormy day!
Along with the activities above, there are plenty of other rides, character meet & greets, shops, and restaurants that will allow you to duck inside and stay out of the elements. Enjoy your Disney vacation - rain or shine - and stay dry! Have a magical day!
It's been a whirlwind few months and I apologize for my blog getting put on the back burner.
I literally just got home from an AMAZING trip to Disneyworld - my very first trip to Disney EVER! I did shed some tears when it was time to go home... it truly was magical and I can't wait to go back! There was still so much left to do and see, food to eat, and places to stay. I will greatly miss the warm Florida sunshine too!
Here is my Top 10 list of things EVERYONE should do at Walt Disney World - please be sure to add your favorites in the comments below!
The Loch Ness monster in Lake Buena Vista at Downtown Disney - made entirely of LEGO blocks!
8. Shop at Downtown Disney, check out the LEGO creations around, and take an Amphicar boat ride at The Boathouse or a hot air balloon ride! Try some great food too - I would also highly recommend getting a Disney Dining Plan (I did NOT on this trip and the prices of some meals made my credit card cringe!) I will have another list with my favorite gluten-free findings posted shortly!
Sing along as you "swim" past the brilliant colors of "Under the Sea"!
7. Go "underwater" without getting your hair wet for the "Under the Sea" ride with Ariel's crew in Magic Kingdom... as well as "Turtle Talk with Crush" at Epcot (I am still trying to figure out how they do it, dude!)
5. Explore "Living with the Land" at Epcot and see some awesome techniques they are experimenting with to grow food in some crazy ways - many are harvested to be served in the Disney restaurants around the parks!
4. Eat and drink your way around the World Showcase at Epcot. (We had a fabulous "dinner & show" at the Teppan Edo hibachi restaurant - so fun and delicious!) !The park was beautifully adorned with the flowers and topiaries of the International Flower & Garden Festival during my visit (early May 2015), which added some extra vibrant pixie dust and fragrance. Be sure to stop by The Kunstarbeit In Kristall in Germany for your sparkly crystal tiaras and beer stein souvenirs - they'll even ship your fragile items home for a very reasonable flat fee.
3. See "Finding Nemo - The Musical" at Animal Kingdom - this colorful performance is entertaining and breath-taking for the whole family!
1. Get to Magic Kingdom before 8:30pm and park yourself in front of Cinderella Castle to get a prime seat along the parade route edges (score a FastPass+ preferred seating area if you can!) for the evening's Mickey's Electrical Parade and Wishes fireworks show!
Not a night owl? During the day, around mid-afternoon, you can also find a spot along the "Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It! Street Party" parade route through Adventureland and Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. The "Fantasmic" show at Hollywood Studios is also a great lights, water, and fireworks show for later evening entertainment!)
Again, this was my very first visit and there are still many things on my list for the next time... open to suggestions from others on what they love too! (Also note that my stomach doesn't handle rollercoaster style rides, so I did only the "Any Height" rides!)
Austin greeted us with a warm, sunny, 70-degree January weekend - quite different from the cold and snow that we left at home in Milwaukee. It's amazing what some sunshine can do to transform a person's mood and soul!
FULL DISCLOSURE: Admittedly, I have always had a "thing" for Capitol buildings. I grew up in Madison WI, which boasts a beautiful replica of the nation's Capitol in DC. (Fun fact: It is ALMOST as large, with each wing just 1" shorter than the original!) As an impressionable 3rd grader, touring that grandiose building hits you straight in the heart, as you gaze up at the dome in awe. My love only grew when I came back to Madison for college a decade later, where the campus is nestled in the shadow of the Capitol Square. I even took a shortcut through the gorgeous building every day when my senior internship and apartment were on direct opposite corners of the Square.
Texas is one of the more impressive Capitol buildings I have visited - I would rank it in my Top 5 (I've seen a lot!) Wandering the grounds, you will find gorgeous sculptures, including a miniature Statue of Liberty, a below-ground plaza, as well as dedications to the Pioneer Woman and Pearl Harbor survivors.
Inside, Texas dresses to impress. From doorknobs to hinges, from the mosaic tile floors to the star in the top of the dome, there are so many great details to admire as you wander the halls.
Austin offers a laid-back buzz of energy for locals and tourists alike. On the glorious Sunday afternoon we spent in town, everyone and their dogs hit the park - Zilker Park, to be exact. Trails meander between the large open green space and the Colorado River, welcoming walkers, runners, dogs, bikes, and more. Kayaks float alongside ducks and turtles, while heron and double-crested cormorants watch from the shores. The Zilker Zephyr, a miniature green train transports excited families around the park's perimeter, slowing down as it goes under the Barton Springs bridge. Kids of all ages played games, while some couples relaxed on blankets with their books. Dogs ran around and happily played fetch. All with a fantastic view of the downtown Austin skyline.
Another spot for a little workout and great views is Covert Park at Mount Bonnell. Take advantage of the natural stairs from the lower entrance and climb up to the summit. From the edge of the path, there are many open spots to look out over the Colorado River and the expensive homes with manicured lawns along its banks below. Just stay behind the barriers - it's a long way down!
There's a platform at the top where you can see the skyline of downtown Austin to the left and the river to the right. Take the stairs down from this end of the trail to the parking area below, a quicker route than the way up.
K, World Traveler