Looking to head to “the happiest place on Earth” for a family vacation?
Well, you’re in luck. One of my friends is an avid Disney-goer.
She may even like it more than her kids.
She grew up spending many family vacations there as a child and now brings her family regularly.
She tries to get back there ever chance she gets. She’s even guilty of going without kids.
I sent her a message via Facebook asking for suggestions. Here’s the unedited version of her input.
Here are some Disney tips to get your money’s worth at the park.
Disney is a pricey trip. Planning is key to see as much as you can while you’re at the park to maximize your time. If you plot your trip out carefully or at least know your options prior to going, it will help prevent overspending on food and other expenses too.
Here’s our Facebook conversation. I sectioned it off by different park areas. I made bullet points to separate her precious insight.
Me: Hi, I know you mentioned you love Disney. Could you recommend any restaurants or shows for me?
Friend: Okay … here is what we like for restaurants and shows. We tend to book a lot of character meals because it saves us for waiting in line in the parks.
In Magic Kingdom Area:
- CRYSTAL PALACE: Winnie the Pooh & Friends are here. It’s a buffet-style meal. I have had breakfast there.
- CINDERELLA’S CASTLE: Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, & Ariel are there. This is a sit-down meal where you have your choice of a few items. I ate lunch here. It was good. This counts as 2 meals on the meal plan.
- CHEF MICKEY’S at the Contemporary Resort: This is Mickey Mouse & Friends. This is also a buffet-style meal. I have had both breakfast & dinner here.
- OHANA’S at the Polynesian: This is the BEST for breakfast (in my opinion). It features Mickey, Pluto, Lillo & Stitch. This is served Family Style. There is a set menu and they bring it to your table. You can eat until your full … they keep bringing it.
- GREAT KONA: Great coffee for the adults and a very tasty tropical juice for all. This is our new “go-to” place for breakfast. Also … next door o Ohana’s in the KONA CAFE. It is NOT a character meal, but it will count on your meal plan. We always visit here for breakfast on our last day. We go there specifically to get something called “TONGA TOAST” which is basically a banana stuffed french toast. It is AMAZING!!
- HOOP DE DO REVUE: This is a fun night out. I think it is in the campground or Fort Wilderness Area. It is a good ol’ fashion southern meal of fried chicken, biscuits, beans, strawberry shortcake, etc. It is a dinner show. They perform, sing, & dance. They take volunteers from the audience. I remember this STILL from when I was a little girl. It will count as 2 meals on the meal plan.
In the EPCOT area:
- I like a lot of the restaurants in the countries. Mexico has a quick service counter and also an AMAZING sit-down restaurant.
- I also recommend ALFREDO’S in ITALY. Yumm-o italian food.
- My friend always eats in Japan and tells everyone to go there. I do not like Japanese food, so I have not been, There is always a line, so I assume it must be good.
- The steak house in Canada is also great.
- As far as attractions … do not forget to hit “Soarin’” , “Honey I shrunk the Audience”, and “Test Track.”
- Try to see their night show, ILLUMINATIONS, if you can. It is set to music and there is a laser light show with fireworks, and all the countries light up too. It is really neat. They do it every night of the week @ 9 (I think …. maybe later in the summer).
In the HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS area:
- Hollywood Studios has a fun place called the 50′S PRIMETIME CAFE. Really neat place.
PLAY & DINE AT THE HOLLYWOOD & VINE
- This is another buffet-style character meal. . The characters change based on who is popular on Playhouse Disney at the time. (In the past it was JoJo’s circus, Little Einstein’s etc …. Your girls may be too old for this.)
- FANTASMIC SHOW: This is one of my absolute favorites. It is a water, laser light show. It has videos played on a water screen, and characters. I JUST LOVE IT! It is very popular & there is limited seating. I do always wait in line.
- Now, this is where you would want a wheelchair. With limited seating your pass is not good here. However, with a wheelchair you do have guaranteed seating. It is a very LONG walk too, so I would rent a wheelchair for the day/night if you go here. The show is SOOOOO worth it.
- Another way to get good seats is to book the dinner/show combination. There are a couple of decent restaurants in Hollywood Studios and you can book a meal at them and get special guaranteed seating. The reservations do fill up quick though. Mama Rosa’s is a pretty good Italian place that is part of the show/meal deal.
- Great ice cream shop on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. You can also book a “dessert reservation” for the ice cream shop and if you get the right time, you have AMAZING seats for the fireworks/parade at Cinderella’s Castle.
- There is the Bippidi-Boppidi-Boutique for making the girls into Princesses. There is one at the Magic Kingdom and another location at Downtown Disney. This location is less busy.
- Speaking of Downtown Disney …. Good Places to eat are Earl of Sandwich, Fulton’s Crab House (fancy, 2 meals from meal plan), Raglan Road Irish Pub, Rainforest Cafe.
- They also have Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop. SOOOOO YUMMY for ice cream treats.
- Then, on the other side from Downtown Disney is a place called the Candy Cauldron. My favorite from this place is an Apple, dipped in chocolate, & rolled into your favorite Candy. I select Reese PB Cups. OMG … so good & big enough for the whole family to share. They will cut it into pieces for you.
- In Animal Kingdom, if you want to go on the Safari Ride, get there when the park opens. Go IMMEDIATELY to the back of the park where the Safari Ride is. The animals get too hot & go into shaded areas. If you do not take the safari ride first thing in the morning you may not see a lot of animals. Especially in July … super hot for them!! You can then work your way forward to the front of the park & then leave, This park is not something that ever takes us a full day to do.
- We always arrive for when they open, do what we like and leave. Usually, we then head over to Hollywood Studios for the 2nd part of the day/night and catch Fantasmic. This would require you to have the “park hopper” option on your ticket.
These tips were extremely handy. It made planning much easier. Food is a big expense on this trip. If you plan it out in advance, it will help.
I also purchased a Disney mug at my hotel’s cafeteria. It allowed us to have unlimited fountain drinks, we would refill it every day before heading out. That saved us a bundle of money.
We would sometimes eat at the hotel before we left so we could go on as many rides as possible while at the park. My kids didn’t have interest in meeting the characters, so I didn’t book any of those character meals.
We drove into the park every day versus taking the shuttles. It was just a personal preference. We always had extra snacks and water in the car that we purchased at grocery stores. There was a Walmart close to the Disney property.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was the luau at the Polynesian. Many people like other attractions but I chose this one because it was the closest I was going to get to a Hawaiian experience while having young children. Also, it’s a nice break from the sun. There’s seating in the shade and you get to sit and eat while being entertained for a long period of time. As a tired parent, that was priceless. The show was great too.
Here are more Disney tips and Universal Studios information.
Do you have any Disney tips you’d like to share. Comment below.