As any regular to Walt Disney World will tell you, with so many things to see do and explore, a visit to the Mouse is always a learning experience no matter how many times you’ve walked down Main Street U.S.A. One of my favorite things about being a contributor to Disney Addicts and a TA with MickeyTravels, is gathering up all the helpful tidbits I’ve learned with each Disney vacation and passing them on to help others coordinate their magical holidays. Just back from a fun-filled four days at Disney World, here’s my list of 10 helpful tidbits.
1. Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace is STILL worth doing for Happily Ever After. With the introduction of the absolutely stunning Happily Ever After nighttime fireworks spectacular, there has been much speculation as to whether the dessert party at Tomorrowland Terrace is still worth the cost. The reason for this dilemma is that unlike Wishes, Happily Ever After relies on Castle projections to tell the show’s narrative, with many guests fearing these couldn’t be seen from the Terrace. We attended the party last week and not only were the fireworks beautiful from where we sat but the food was wonderful, sight lines magnificent and Tinker Bell flying over our heads was an extra special treat. Granted you couldn’t see the projections with the absolute clarity of someone positioned in front of the forecourt stage but having a quiet, intimate evening at the Terrace made it well worth being slightly further back. The cost of the dessert party is $79 per adult and $49 per child. Tickets can be booked via My Disney Experience or by contacting your local travel agent.
2. Have those ponchos at the ready. The summer season at Walt Disney World may mean peak prices, heavy crowds and hot temperatures but it also means one other very important thing: Rain. As we are entering into Orlando’s rainy season which basically lasts through until October, it pays to be prepared in the very likely event of a rain storm. Pick up ponchos at your local dollar store or you can by Disney versions at most of the souvenir shops. Have a change of clothes, a pair of dry socks and any other rainy day essentials you may need. When it rains at Disney its more likely to be a deluge than a sprinkle so a prepared Disney traveler is happy Disney traveler.
3. Speaking of ponchos…. If your children are anything like mine, then having a Mickey Ice Cream Bar is an absolute Disney must-do. However don’t be fooled by these seemingly harmless and delicious looking concoctions. When these bad boys melt and the chocolate starts to fall what happens next is nothing short of a colossal mess which seems to multiply uncontrollably. I remember waiting for an afternoon parade with my 6 year old while she tucked in to her ice cream. Minutes later she was covered in chocolate, I (in my white shorts) was covered in chocolate and everywhere we looked (hair, elbows, bottoms of sneakers was covered in chocolate. It was to the point where no amount of baby wipes could save us. Its amazing how a tiny dribble can make such an extraordinary mess but it happens. This trip I decided to utilize those ponchos I was carrying around in my bag during ice cream bar time and what a difference. With the mess relegated solely to my daughter’s plastic parka, a quick rinse in the restroom and viola! no more mess. Trust me. This is a tip worth utilizing.
4. Lost luggage? Let your Disney resort know! – That last thing you want to happen when showing up for a magical week at Disney World is your luggage not arriving with you. With the advent of Magical Express, it also means that many Disney travelers don’t realize luggage is missing until hours into a hotel stay when your bags “magically” fail to show up at your resort room. Since dealing with the lost luggage department of your airline can involve hours of hold time and loads of frustration, as an initial step, let Guest Services at your hotel know. This happened to me on my last trip and not only did management also get in touch with my airline directly and file a claim on my behalf, they also treated us to essential toiletries and a few other must-have items while we hashed it out with the airlines. Most airlines will offer a daily stipend to purchase items if your bags are missing but setting this up can take time. Double up and talk to Disney and see what they’ll do for you in the meantime.
5. Make The Music of Pixar Live! a Summer must-do. One of the most common criticisms that I’ve heard about Hollywood Studios’ new stage show The Music of Pixar Live! is that coming in at around 45 minutes, it’s just too long for little visitors. We took advantage of the Pixar dinner package on a recent visit and all I can say is that the show is nothing short of amazing. The orchestra is incredible, there are giant screens that play key scenes from the movies featured and there’s a whole host of fantastic Pixar characters that show up to say hello. My daughter was absolutely enthralled from start to finish. Grown-ups be warned, they play the entire opening sequence from Up, so you may want to pack some tissues! Its a wonderful way to spend an hour at Hollywood Studios, just make sure you take a potty break beforehand. Visit disneworld.com for official info on the Pixar dining package – we combined our show with Minnie’s Seasonal Dine for a magical evening.
6. Head over to Colors of Mo’ara for exclusive Na’vi Facepainting with FREE touch ups. For a fun Pandora-themed treat, visit Colors of Mo’ara facepainting. Guests can choose from a range of Na’vi inspired designs. The cast member working with my daughter advised that each of the designs was personally approved by James Cameron and that the artists went through two weeks of training to perfect these creations. You’ll be stunned at how lifelike they really are. The stand also sells Na’vi ears to complete the look. The cost for facepainting is around the $25 mark depending on the design but like the other locations across the four theme parks, they do offer FREE touch ups. My daughter had hers done early in the day and a few meal times later, and a ride on Kali River Rapids was looking a bit worse for wear. A quick visit later in the evening and she was as good as new.
7. Always wanted a caricature but don’t feel like sitting for ages? Those wanting to take a fun caricature home with them done by one of Disney’s amazing on-site artists, don’t need to give up their precious ride time for a sitting. When we visited the location just outside of Island Mercantile at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, all artists were giving clients the option of either sitting for the process or letting them take picture of you. You could then leave and enjoy some of your favorite attractions while they work away. Visitors can then pop-back later for their finished designs. The artists were also featuring some fun Pandora-themed options like the one above! Prices start around $25.
8. Keep checking for last minute dining reservations – I cannot stress enough how constantly changing the Disney dining system is. Even for those that made their Advanced Dining Reservations 180 days in advance, you may find that some of Disney’s most popular reservations are already sold out. However, all is not lost. With a bit of persistence, anxious Disney diners can usually find the reservations that you want. Check My Disney Experience regularly for new availability and for those with a bit of flexibility, keep checking while you are on your vacation. There are usually a ton of last minute cancellations. On this trip I managed to get an 8:00 am reservation at ‘Ohana and a dinner reservation at Be Our Guest all with under a days notice! Keep looking, you never know what you’ll find.
9. Amazon Prime Member? Have Items Delivered to your room in under 2 hrs with Prime Pantry Now – If you’re an Amazon prime member then you’ll definitely want to consider using their Prime Now Service. Perfect for those staying at Walt Disney World without a car, you can have groceries, toiletries and other theme park essential delivered directly to your room. We used the service on our recent trip and I can’t rave about it enough. Our order included waters, juice boxes, cans of sodas, breakfast items, toiletries, band aids and sunscreen. Using Amazon to order these items meant that we could travel light and still have everything we needed for our park bags. Items can be ordered up to 24hrs in advance right up until 2 hrs before delivery making it perfect for those that realize you left some essential items at home. Best of all, they deliver right to your resort. Our Prime Now bags were there waiting for us when we opened the door to our resort room! And because its Amazon you can also order a host of other items from a Fire Tablet to phone chargers, you’ll be amazed at what you can find. For more information visit Amazon’s website.
10. Mobile Order works like a charm – I’m a bit of a tech geek and couldn’t wait to try out Disney’s new Mobile Order system which allows guests to pre-order and pay for their quick service meals instead of having to wait in long lines. I used the service during a day at the jam-packed Pandora – The World of Avatar and found that it worked a dream. I made selections for my family at Satu’li Canteen while I was waiting in line for the Na’vi River journey and paid for my order. Once I finished the ride, I got back onto My Disney Experience, let the Canteen know I was ready for my food and by the time I walked over there, my order was completed and waiting for me at the pick-up window. The Canteen was pretty busy being the second weekend that Pandora was opened so I was pretty impressed at how smooth this service ran. Disney has extended the service to cover Pizzafari with more locations to follow suit this Summer. I definitely recommend it for those not on the Dining Plans as sadly the service is for Credit Card only orders.
Every trip holds something new and exciting and hopefully these tips will help add a bit of convenience and a sprinkle of Disney magic to your next visit to the Mouse!
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