You could say that I’m a “Disney girl”. I grew up visiting Magic Kingdom fairly often, convinced my husband that Disney would be the perfect place to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, and have dreamed of taking our boys since they were in the womb. That dream finally came true this past summer. We took on Disney with my dad, step-mom, and two of my step-sisters (side note- we had several other family members that we missed a ton while we were there). Our boys were four and almost two. We went at the end of July/beginning of August, one of the busiest and hottest times. However, thanks to the magical FastPass+, we didn’t wait longer than about 30 minutes for any ride. I am NO Disney expert, but a couple of people have asked how we managed our trip, so I thought that I would share some tips here.
Food. Disney is awesome because they allow you to bring food and drinks into the park. We loaded up on snacks and drinks so that we wouldn’t have to purchase them inside the parks. We also packed our lunch each day. This helped us save so much money on food! Also, there were a few days where we left a park for a break and then came back later. We used these opportunities to grab fast food/pizza to save money on food as well. However, I do suggest a character meal, especially if you have kids with you! We did Chef Mickey’s on a day we didn’t go to a park, and oh my goodness, it was so worth it!
Check ticket prices. We were able to get cheaper tickets through the resort we stayed at, so if you’re staying off-property, definitely ask about that! We had originally planned on spending four days in the parks (one park per day), but we found that it was only about $15 more per person to add a fifth day. This allowed us to split Magic Kingdom up into two days, which was wonderful!
Open up the parks. Warning- a Disney vacation is not a restful one! We opened up every park (like, were there for their opening shows and watched them drop the rope!). However, it was totally worth it! We treated this like a fourth FastPass+. There was a ride at each park that we weren’t able to get a FastPass+ for, but we went straight for these rides at the opening of the park. We waited 30 minutes or less for these rides that normally have 1-2 hour waits. (Epcot- Frozen Ever After, Magic Kingdom- Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Hollywood Studios- Slinky Dog Dash, Animal Kingdom- Avatar Flight of Passage).
FastPass +/Rider Switch. If you’re staying on property, you can book your FP+ 60 days in advance. If you’re not, you can book them 30 days in advance (this was our situation, and we still got awesome FP+!). You can book up to 3 passes per park per day. I suggest booking them in the morning times (but leave the first hour or so in the park open for whichever ride you’re going to open up the park with). Once you use up your 3 FP+, you can book more from the app on your phone! Rider Switch is another awesome feature that Disney offers for those like us who have smaller children with them that aren’t quite tall enough for some of the bigger rides. The way it works is that you and your group find a cast member at the ride you want to ride, and tell them that you want to do rider switch. They will put a rider switch pass on your cards/Magic Bands for up to 3 people that you can use in the FastPass line as soon as your first group gets off of the ride. We even used this for some of us to ride a few rides twice! The best part is that you can use this in combination with FP+. For example, in Hollywood Studios, you can either choose a FP+ for Tower of Terror OR Rockin’ Rollercoaster. However, you can kind of work around this by combining FP+ and rider switch. I booked a FP+ for person A, B, and C in our group for Tower of Terror. The rest of us got a rider switch pass. Then, I booked a FP+ for everyone else for Rockin’ Rollercoaster, and those who had the FP+ for Tower of Terror were able to get a rider switch pass for Rockin’ Rollercoaster. I also read a suggestion to not use a FP+ on the show-type attractions because so many people could fit in a theater at once, and we found this to be true in our experience. We did not have FP+ for attractions like the Frozen sing along, Finding Nemo: The Musical, or Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, but had no trouble getting in these attractions. Here’s what we used our FP+ on:
- Magic Kingdom: Peter Pan’s Adventure, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Space Rangers, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion (Keep in mind that we spent 2 days at this park)
- Epcot: Soarin’, Test Track, and Mission: Space
- Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Rockin’ Rollercoaster, the Star Wars ride
- Animal Kingdom: Kilamanjaro Safari, Expedition Everest, and Kali River Rapids
Have a magical time! But seriously, Disney is so much fun, and honestly, some of it is just what you make of it. It is going to be hot and crowded, so just expect those things. Someone (hopefully one of the children & not the adults… haha) will probably have a meltdown at some point. Just go with the flow, make memories, and have fun!
And as a reminder, I’m not a Disney expert. This is just what we did that worked for us.