A Little More Disney in My Life

March 15th Title ImageSo, since I love Disney, and love writing about it, I thought it was time to write another Disney post. And I feel like the fact that my last Disney posts was one of my most popular so far kind of justifies another post. 🙂
So, here we go with 5 more tips on getting the best out of your Disney vacation.

1. Start from the back of the park- When you walk into and Disney park, it can be easy to instantly get caught up in the magic of your surrounding, and it can be tempting to go to the first interesting thing you see, but I encourage you to head towards the back end of the park instead. This tip applies mostly to those who are getting to the park in the morning soon after it opens, but it applies for several hours after opening. You’re not the only one tempted to visit the first attraction you see, many people will start at attractions near the front of the park, leading to congestion and long lines. If you head to the back first, you will find shorter lines and smaller crowds while everyone is still gathered near the front. Enjoy some attractions, shops, restaurants  etc. in the back of the park and then work your way forward. By the time you make it back to the front, the crowd will have spread more evenly through the park and you can enjoy yourself without having to deal with the beginning-of-the-day crowds.

2. Head to the left- While many attractions have only one line to get in, there are several that have two or more lines. When you find yourself at one of these attractions, choose the line to your left. For reasons I do not know (but are probably explained somewhere out there by some statistic genius) people tend to gravitate towards lines on the right, so if you head to the line on the left, your wait can be shorter. This is not always true, sometimes you may run into a group of savvy disneygoers who also know this tip, or sometimes people may just be more aware of what’s going on and realize that the left line is shorter, but typically you can save a bit of a wait if you head to the left. From what I have heard, this tip applies most when the crowds are higher.

3. Try some of Disney’s signature treats- There are some treats that are famous among Disney Resort fans that you often can’t easily find at home, make sure not to miss out on these. If you’re in Disney World, one of their most famous treats is the turkey leg. You can find them at many food kiosk throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, and if you enjoy some nice juicy turkey (dark meat, of course) then this is a tasty, and quirky, treat to help keep you fueled. Another treat famous at both Disneyland and Disney World is the Dole Whip. The Disney Parks are some of only a few places in the world that serve the Dole Whip, so make sure you try one while you have the chance. Dole Whips are a lactose-free pineapple soft-serve dessert (although there are other flavors available depending on where you get it, the Disney Parks serve pineapple and vanilla). This chilly treat is great when you need a cool, refreshing snack. If you’re adventurous enough, don’t forget to try my favorite way of eating a Dole Whip, the Dole Whip Float! A Dole Whip Float is made by pouring pineapple juice over the Dole Whip. It’s a fantastic tropical treat that really helps you get into the Disney mood. Another treat to try if you’re visiting Disneyland is the Mint Julep. Mint Julep is traditionally a minty cocktail famous in the Southern United States, but many years ago, Disneyland came up with their own non-alcoholic version which they serve in several locations in New Orleans Square. Mint Julep is a wonderfully cool, refreshing drink that goes wonderfully with the ambiance of New Orleans Square. Lastly, One of the most famous can’t-miss treats is the Disney Parks is really more than one treat. I’m talking about Mickey-shaped treats! Disney loves to honor the lovable mouse that started it all, ond one of the ways they do that is by making mickey-shaped snacks of all sorts. Some favorites to try are pretzels, waffles, ice cream bars, and beignets (a fluffy doughnut-like treat popular in the South-Disney’s version can be found in New Orleans Square in Disneyland).

4. Try your hand at Pin Trading- One of my favorite things to do at the Disney Parks isn’t a ride, show, attraction, or restaurant, it’s Pin Trading! Pin Trading is a popular Disney pastime, and can be a fun way to get an especially memorable souvenir. Collectible pins are available at pretty much any gift shop throughout the Disney Parks (many shops have special exclusive pins, so be sure to check for new pins in every shop you visit). You can collect your pins on a lanyard (also available at most gift shops) and display them as you walk through the parks. You may notice as you explore, that cast members have their own collections of pins. If you see a pin you like, feel free to walk up to a cast member and offer one of your own pins up for trade, there’s no need to fear rejection, cast members are required to trade with guests (and don’t worry about possibly taking their favorite pin from them, the cast members’ collections are supplied by the parks and are not the cast members’ own pins). Sometimes you can find rare pins from other Disney parks around the world, or rare limited edition pins no longer sold in the parks. It may feel awkward at first to ask a cast member to trade, but before long you’ll be eyeing every lanyard you walk by and trading left and right. You may even come across fellow park visitors willing to trade, just don’t get pushy. Guests are under no obligation to accept your offer, so if someone says “no” to a trade let it go and let them enjoy their day at the park. Pin Trading is one of my favorite things to do at Disney because not only are you collecting souvenirs, you’re collecting memories and stories that help you to look back fondly on your trip for years to come.

5. Don’t feel rushed to leave at closing- Something I was not aware of until a year or two ago was that the Disney Parks do not actually close completely at “closing time.” The official closing times for the parks apply to rides and attractions, but the shops stay open for about an hour after closing. If you’re not ready to leave right away, feel free to linger and check out the shops while the rest of the guests make their way out. This is also a great way to avoid the mad rush to leave at closing time, and if you’re staying on Disney Property, this is a great way to avoid the big crowds at the monorails and busses. And if you’re still not ready to go back to your hotel after the parks close completely, head over to Downtown Disney (known officially as “Downtown Disney District” in the WDW Resort and “Downtown Disney Area” in the Disneyland Resort) these locations are open late into the night and offer many fun activities to keep the magic going.

Well, that’s all my tips for today, I hope you learned something useful for your next Disney trip. Do you have any tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments. Have a favorite Disney treat you absolutely must have every time you visit? Tell me about it! Have a favorite Pin Trading story? I’d love to hear about it. Until next time,

Happy Learning!

-Lizzie

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Let’s go to Disney!

Cinderella's Castle at ChristmastimeI’ve had Disney on the brain ever since hearing about New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World (WDW), so to combat my Disney withdrawals I thought I’d take Kelsey’s advice and make a Disney post! I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tips and tidbits about the Disney parks. Hopefully you’ll find a useful tip to make your next Disney trip even better, or maybe you’ll learn something fun you didn’t know before. Without further ado, here’s 5 tips for a magical vacation. 🙂

1. Hunt for Hidden Mickeys- Maybe you’ve already heard this one before, but I thought I’d include it anyway. You can find Mickey Mouse’s familiar silhouette hidden in many forms throughout the Disney parks. It can be fun to look around and see how many Mickeys you can find. You can learn more about Hidden Mickeys, and even find a book about them here!

2. Make good use of Fastpasses- Fastpasses are available at select rides and attractions throughout the Disney Parks and allow you to bypass the regular lines for a shorter wait. They come in the form of tickets that you can print out by inserting your park ticket into electronic kiosks near the ride queue. The Fastpass lists a time window in which you can come back and redeem it in order to enter the Fastpass line. You can get a lot of enjoyment out of using Fastpasses casually, just printing them out when you come across a ride you’re interested in, but you can get even more out of them if you plan ahead. Before you go to a park, plan out a few rides that you really want to go on. When you get to the park, go straight to the rides you want and print out your Fastpasses. Fastpasses come in limited quantities, so if you wait too long, you’ll end up with a longer wait to redeem your passes, and some of the more popular rides can even run out of passes. After getting your passes, you can wander around the park however you like, go on whatever rides you want, and then come back in your assigned time window to redeem your Fastpass. For the official explanations of Fastpasses, as well as lists of the rides and attractions that use them, click here and here.

3. Consider staying in a Disney hotel- Staying at a Disney hotel may sound like an extravagant waste of money, but it has its perks, and it may not be as pricey as you think. Disneyland and Disney World are a bit different from each other in terms of hotels. Mainly because Disney World, being much larger, has a lot more of them. This size difference allows for a greater range of styles as well as price ranges. Disneyland has three hotels, each with different prices ranges, but all costing about as much as a luxury hotel. Disneyland’s hotels are a bit pricey, but come with some perks that can make it worth it. All three hotels are located on Disneyland property, less than a mile from the entrance to both Disneyland and California Adventure (The Grand Californian Hotel even has a private entrance to California Adventure that can be used by guests of any of the three hotels). This proximity makes them a very convenient place to stay, and if you don’t plan on venturing outside of the Disney parks during your vacation, you can save money by not having to rent a car or use public transportation. Disneyland also offers free shuttles to and from the airport if you are staying at one of their hotels, this service can be scheduled when you book your trip on the Disneyland website, thus saving you the cost and hassle of finding your own transportation. Staying at a Disneyland hotel also offers some other convenient perks: You can charge your purchases to your room (I personally prefer paying in cash or gift cards, but some people find this feature more convenient), you can have your purchases sent back to your room so that you don’t have to bring them back yourself or carry them around the park all day, and you can purchase a Disney Dining Plan (which I will discuss more later). If these perks sound worth paying a little bit extra, then I encourage you to look into staying at a Disneyland hotel. Check out the Disneyland website to see their overviews of the hotels, and check out third-party reviews on sites such as Tripadvisor.com to decide which hotel may be right for you! Disney World has a much wider range of hotels than Disneyland, including several that are very affordable. Depending on the season, some Value hotels can be less than $100 a night. Like the parks, the Disney World hotels are spread out all over the resort, some are within walking distance of one or more parks, but all of the hotels offer convenient and free transportation to all of the Disney World parks. Some hotels even have their own monorail stops! Features vary from hotel to hotel at Disney World, so to check the features of a particular hotel, visit the Disney World website. Like the Disneyland hotels, all Disney World hotels offer free transport to and from the airport, and the option to purchase a Disney Dining Package. You are also allowed access to Disney hotels other than the one you are staying in. Feel free to visit the gift shops, restaurants, lobbies, pools, etc. at any of the other Disney hotels. For a list of pros and cons of each Disney World hotel, click here. Both Disney World and Disneyland also offer access to Extra Magic Hours for guests staying at a Disney Hotel. This means that guests are allowed an extra hour in the park (either before opening or after closing depending on the day) on specific days during the week.

4. Buy a Disney Dining Plan- The Disney Dining plan is offered to guests of Disney Resort Hotels. At Disneyland, there is one type of dining plan that can be purchased in 2-5 day packages. This dining plan provides vouchers for two meals and one snack per day. Details on the Disneyland Dining Plan can be found here. I have not used the Dining Plan at Disneyland, but from what I have heard from others, it is basically a way to prepay for some of your meals at Disneyland, it doesn’t really save you money on your meals (unlike Disney World’s dining plans), but allows you to budget for your meals ahead of time. Disney World’s Dining Plan is very different from Disneyland’s. First, there are multiple levels of dining plans for various price ranges. For details on the various packages, click here. Each plan saves you money on your meals, with the higher-level packages offering higher saving. The dining plans also allow you to order meals you probably wouldn’t have if you were paying for your meals out-of-pocket. I have not used the current version of the Dining Plan, but on my first trip to Disney World my family purchased a predecessor to the Disney Dining Plan (I believe it was called the Wishes Package) this package was essentially the same as the current Premium Dining Plan. With this plan, much like with the current dining plans, we were allowed to order basically anything on the menu at participating restaurants, since we didn’t have to worry about the price of the meal, we were able to order things we usually wouldn’t (my brother basically ordered surf-and-turf at every restaurant that offerred it). If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, especially in Disney World, I highly encourage you to consider buying a dining plan, at the very least it takes away the hassle of planning out your food budget from home, and it can even save you money and give you access to fabulous dining experiences!

5. Time your trip carefully- If you have a pretty busy schedule, you may be limited in when you can take your vacation, but if you have a little wiggle room, you can plan your trip around certain times that offer perks such as lower prices, lower crowds, and better weather. It’s pretty tough to find information online regarding the different pricing seasons at Disneyland, so I can’t say for sure when the best deals are, as a general rule, it typically costs less to go during the less busy times, as they lower their prices to attract more visitors. Some of the best times for lower crowds are before and after holidays and typical vacation seasons. Guidebooks such as Birnbaum’s Guides and The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland typically have information about crowds and prices, so these can be a good place to look for more information. There is a lot more readily available information online when it comes to Disney World, so I can give some more precise suggestions. As far as value season, the most inexpensive time to go to Disney World is January through early February, excluding holidays such as President’s Day. January-Early February is also a good time to go as far as crowds, but there is a trade-off. As much of Disney World’s maintenance happens during this time period you may find that some of your favorite rides are closed, so double-check the ride closures and if there are any rides you absolutely have to ride, you might have to consider paying a little more and braving a bigger crowd to go at a different time. Allears.net has a nice list of ride closures here. Aside from January, some other great low-traffic times to visit are: April and early March (although there is a risk of encountering hurricanes), late August, most of September, October, and November, and the weeks in December that come before Christmas Week. There are lots of great websites that offer detailed crowd calendars and planning help. My favorites are dadsguidetowdw.com, yourfirstvisit.net (great for first-time visitors, but also a great resource for repeat customers), and undercovertourist.com (which also offers an iPhone app that’s great for use inside the parks).

Well, that’s all for now. Did I miss anything? What are some of your favorite Disney vacation tips? I’ve got plenty more tips of my own, so be on the lookout for more Disney posts in the future!

Have a good weekend, and Happy Learning!

-Lizzie