Is there anything better than an up close and personal meeting with characters from your favorite Disney movies, televisions shows and stories?! This is usually one of the highlights from a Walt Disney World vacation! I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that there aren’t many things sweeter than seeing my youngest son give Minnie a big ol’ kiss on the nose or my oldest hanging out with his hero, Buzz Lightyear! And even as an adult posing for a picture with Cinderella is a dream come true!
There’s always the potential of a long wait, or even the unknown of how your child will react to seeing their favorite character life-size and not on a screen. With that in mind, I’ve come up with several tips to help alleviate any stress and anxiety that may damper your magical meet and greets!
1. If there are young children in your party set realistic expectations. Just because they love watching Doc McStuffins fix boo boo’s every morning on Disney Junior’s Doc Toy Hospital does not mean they will immediately run up to her at Hollywood Studios and offer to help fix Lambie! Now, they might and that would be awesome (and why Memory Maker is great for character meet and greets) but they may also be a little taken aback that this Doc is SO much bigger than what they are used to seeing on their television screen. So just take it slow and follow the little one’s lead – you can get lots of cute pictures even if you’re holding your kiddo’s hand! And then you’re in your vacation pictures too!
2. Plan ahead. Decide what characters you really want to meet and those you aren’t as interested in. Make sure you’re checking the My Disney Experience app or even the Times Guide when you get to the park so you know where the characters you want to meet will be and at what time. That makes it easier to get to the front of the line!
3. This goes along with setting realistic expectations of younger guests in your party. Don’t force them to interact with the characters. In my experience Cast Members that are “friends with” our favorite Disney characters are great at reading children and interacting with them on a level that’s comfortable for everyone. That’s how some of our favorite memories have been made actually!
4. Have your autograph book (or pillowcase or photo mat) ready while you’re in line. Not all characters sign items (King Louie hasn’t learned to write yet!) but for those that will, having everything ready to go means you will spend less time fumbling around in your bag and more time enjoying your time with your favorite characters. And if Mom, Dad or Grandma don’t plan on being in the photo make them the designated autograph item wrangler – you’ll get into a good rhythm and things will go so much smoother!
5. Book a character meal (or several!). Character dining is the best! It’s a great way to meet several of your favorite characters in a more relaxed environment – and enjoy some amazing food at the same time! Chef Mickey’s is a great option with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy all in attendance. And Cinderella’s Royal Table or Akershus have some of your favorite Disney Princesses all in one place! And dinner at 1900 Park Fare is probably one of my top 3 favorite character meals in all of Walt Disney World. Take advantage of as many character meals as your budget will allow! And remember, kids 2 and under eat “free” at buffets so that’s something to consider as well.
6. If there is a character you really want to meet at the park and they offer a FastPass, take advantage of it. Mickey and friends at the Epcot Character Spot, Ariel in her Grotto at Magic Kingdom and Tinker Bell at Town Square Theater are some of my favorite FP+ character meet and greets to schedule. There is nothing worse than waiting in long line with a little (or big!) kid who can’t wait to meet their favorite mouse or princess. This is especially helpful if you’re traveling with small children who don’t meet the height requirements for some of the popular E-ticket attractions!
And here is one last little tip if you’re traveling with especially young toddlers.
7. Take advantage of videos of character interactions and shows on video sharing sites such as You Tube. It’s worked really well with both of my kids in the past. Letting your child see what they may experience may take away some of the fright. I can’t promise this will work but it’s worth a shot!
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