Guest Post: Anita Staley, ATS Disney Expert
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
1. Sleeping In
With the exception of a break day, Disney World is not a “sleeping in” kind of vacation. The first two hours will have some of the shortest lines of the day. In fact, parks will often open before the scheduled time giving you an additional advantage. Magic Kingdom has a nice opening show that is more accessible to guests who arrive early.
If using Disney bus transportation, leave plenty of time to walk to the bus stop from your room and wait for the next bus. It can be extremely frustrating to wake up early and still not arrive to a park until a half hour past opening.
Some families will plan to eat a quick breakfast in the room, so that some can be getting ready while others are eating. Eating breakfast in your room (and avoiding the busy food court) can facilitate getting out of the room early.
2. Not Planning Breaks and Down Time
You are spending a lot of money to have a good time. Trying to see everything does not usually equal a great vacation. It is impossible to experience everything at Disney World in one trip, and trying to see everything will often ruin your vacation. In addition to park tickets, you are paying to enjoy your Disney resort, including the pool. Kids will often have some of their favorite moments in the wonderfully themed pools at your Disney resort. All of the resorts schedule kids’ activities during the day and at night. If you feel tired during the day, go back and swim or take a nap.
If your trip is longer than 4 days, consider scheduling an entire day to relax at the resort. In the evening, you can travel to a different resort for dinner (don’t forget to make reservations well in advance). Having time to eat dinner in another resort allows you to experience the beauty and themes at other locations. The lobbies at Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge are amazing and both resorts have great restaurants.
Another alternative is to play all day at your resort and travel to a park for dinner and fireworks.
3. Not Planning Which Days to Be in Certain Parks
Crowd levels can vary greatly at each Disney park. Extra Magic Hours, holidays, and entertainment schedules can greatly affect crowd levels even in lower seasons. Spending the same day at Magic Kingdom as the bulk of other guests can make a day unnecessarily frustrating. For instance, a morning Extra Magic Hour can be extremely popular, attracting enough resort guests to make that particular park very crowded later in the day. A Travel Consultant experienced in planning Disney World trips can offer advice on which parks to choose during your vacation.
4. Not Making Advanced Reservations
Disney World allows guests to make dining reservations starting at 6 a.m. 180 days before the first day of your resort reservation. Some of the more popular restaurants will book up within that first hour. There are some days where every table service restaurant in some of the parks will be completely booked several weeks before your trip. If you have your heart set on certain types of dining experiences, it is crucial to plan ahead and be ready to make those reservations!
5. Not Making Fastpass Reservations
You will be able to make Fastpass reservations for your entire trip starting at 7 a.m. exactly 60 days prior to the first day of your trip. A few selections will potentially book up within minutes of 7 a.m. If it is important to you to obtain a Fastpass for certain attractions, you should be ready for that moment when you need to make those Fastpass selections.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
6. Forgetting to Be Spontaneous and Missing the Little Things
It is hard to believe that after all this planning, you can be spontaneous, but the little moments will be the ones you most remember. If your child wants to play hop scotch in the England pavilion in Epcot, let her. If a cast member wants to talk with your son about his pin collection, let it happen. One of my favorite family Disney moments is the hot summer day that my boys begged us to let them “just put our feet in” the kids splash area at Epcot. Against my better judgment, we agreed. Within 5 minutes, both boys were soaked and laughing and having the time of their lives. Hundreds of kids passed by gazing longingly at the two boys having more fun than any other person at Epcot that day. We would have missed out on one of the happiest moments of the trip if we had “tried to stay on track” and hurried them along into World Showcase to get to the “next thing.”
The little details at Disney World are what set it apart from a typical theme park. Look for Hidden Mickeys. Count the lanterns in the Liberty Tree at Magic Kingdom. Search the train garden in Germany for little gems that most people miss. Take note of the music played in various areas of the parks and resorts. Walk a trail in Animal Kingdom and spend some time watching the animals. Disney Imagineers are masters at delighting guests with hidden details.
7. Not Using Snack Credits
If you have purchased the Disney Dining Plan, you will receive one snack credit per person per night of your trip. If you forget to use them, you will end up with a lot of unused snack credits at the end of your vacation!
Use your credits for Mickey bars, breakfast pastries, dole whips, Starbucks, egg rolls, etc. Almost anything with a cost of $5 or less is considered a snack. At Starbucks, any size drink is a snack.
8. Not Using your My Disney Experience Account
Download the app to your Smart Phone. Learn how to use your account and your app before your trip. If you need to make a change to a dining reservation or a Fastpass, it is generally easy to change it right on your app. Making a fourth Fastpass selection from your phone is much easier than finding a kiosk and waiting in line!
9. Not Using a Travel Agent
A knowledgeable Travel Consultant can advise you on dining options that fit your tastes, resorts that will meet your family’s needs, best touring itineraries, best use of snack credits, strategies for Fastpass selections, and much more! Even an experienced Disney traveler can benefit from having a partner to help with the intense planning. Having somebody in your corner who can watch for discounts, provide regular updates, give assistance with hard to get dining reservations, and generally “look out for you” is a nice way to plan your next trip.
10. Not Being Involved in the Planning
Even with the help of a great travel agent, it is crucial to look at a few things before you travel. View a few photos of your resort to make sure it matches your expectations. Read an article about a new attraction. Make sure you understand how to get to your dinner reservation venue. Become familiar with the basic layout of the parks. Your trip will go so much more smoothly with a little preparation!
I hope you enjoy your Walt Disney World vacation!