Searching around the web, I’ve seen a lot of posts from accredited tourism sites (and plenty from Mom-blogs) giving tips about traveling to the parks and I’m here to offer probably one of the most important set of tips, surprises, and common misconceptions from the point of view of people who actually WORK in the parks and are there to make sure your vacation is the best it can be.
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Let’s start with some Magic Kingdom Entertainment Tips. Magic Kingdom is the place for nighttime entertainment, especially because of the fireworks, Wishes!, and the fantastic Main Street Electrical Parade (called the ELP by Cast Members). Most nights in the summer, the park’s entertainment schedule will go something like this:
9:00PM Main Street Electrical Parade
9:45PM The Magic, The Memories, and You
10:35PM The Magic, The Memories and You
11:00 Main Street Electrical Parade
On a double ELP night, ALWAYS stick around for the second one. I know exactly what you’re thinking: 11PM is way too late for your little one to not be in bed. But here is one tip coming from working those front lines at Magic Kingdom: it can be done. The crowds for the first parade are INSANE and in order to expect to make that parade with pretty good seats, you should plan on picking out a spot around 7:15/7:30 and staying there throughout the night.
At 10:00, the street around the castle (also called The Hub) and Main Street will be PACKED with people with small walkways along the far outer edges of the sidewalk to the right and left. At 10:20 when the fireworks end, you will be with a massive amount of people turning and walking for the exit with you. That means that everyone who is stuck in the street with you and your family will now be waiting in line for the bus back to your resort, the monorail to the parking lot, even the boat. And that line will be over an hour.
Enter the second parade, take an extra two hours to explore the park, ride some rides! You can even catch the fireworks from Fantasyland (by Pinocchio’s Village House is one of my favorite spots!) and then walk to the castle area to catch the 10:30 presentation of MMY.
As always, when enjoying the parade stay away from Casey’s Corner and the Ice Cream Plaza at the far end of Main Street USA. While it may seem like prime viewing area there is very little area in which you can sit and Cast Members are relentless about keeping people in those limited viewing areas.
While it may seem like Cast Members are just yelling for the sake of yelling, LISTEN TO THEM. That area and its limited walking areas are the only ways for people in the front of the park to get to the back, and people at the back of the park to get to the front. Additionally, it contains one of the only access points to First Aid. Just listen to the Cast Members, they know what they are talking about!
NEVER EVER EVER sit in front of trashcans along the parade route. One of the biggest comments I got from Guests when I worked at Magic Kingdom was “I was here a year ago and sat here and it was just fine”. Sitting in front of the trashcan during a parade is absolutely never allowed. If you got to sit in front of one during some other time in the past, look around for the employee who told you it was okay because they probably don’t work there any longer. Trashcans are stationary objects and sitting in front of them makes it harder to evacuate the parade route in the case of an emergency.
Think it doesn’t happen? Last year during a Halloween parade, a float lost power and brakes and flew into the float in front of it, pushing it out of the way before careening down the hill at Splash Mountain, stopping only when it hit a stationary post. If you have trouble standing, tell a cast member–they can bring you a wheelchair.
The Magic, The Memories, and You (also called MMY) is an amazing show at the castle. (I even talked about it a bit in this post.) They have even retrofitted it for Summer, transforming the Cinderella castle into a sandcastle and even a scene out of Lion King!
Have a free day and looking for a way to keep cool while getting the Disney experience (for free?) Resort Hop! If you park at the Ticket and Transportation center you can easily walk to the amazing pools at the Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian resorts. Enjoy the Disney experience of their amazing hotels and just pay for parking!
Resorts have cute little stores, and amazing places to eat. Our favorite is Kona Cafe in the Polynesian. Have the sticky wings–they’re to die for!
NOW LET ME BE CLEAR: If you have your own vehicle, it’s very difficult to simply drive up to a resort gate and get let in without being a resort guest at a different hotel or part of the Disney Vacation Club, or having a reservation for dining somewhere in the resort. The key to proper Resort Hopping is to park at public parking (The Ticket and Transportation Center, Downtown Disney, or self-parking spaces) and make your way to the resort. The best way is to park at Magic Kingdom and take the walkway or Resort Monorail to Polynesian and Grand Floridian–The Polynesian beach is even a great place to watch the fireworks at the end of the night!
If you’re in the parks and looking for a place to cool down (or a place for nap time for the little ones), there are several really great attractions that are quiet and pump out the AC like crazy. These rides also tend to be on the side of cheesy animatronics and education so they tend to have significantly low wait times (if any at all)
Magic Kingdom: Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, Laugh Floor, Carousel of Progress
EPCOT: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Mexico Ride, Norway Movie, France Movie, Canada Movie, Living With The Land
Hollywood Studios: The Great Movie Ride, One Man’s Dream
There are also a few no-line, do at your own pace attractions for families with kids including the Perry the Platypus World Showcase game at EPCOT (formally Kim Possible and really really fun!) and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. I also recommend purchasing a Hidden Mickey book, which comes with a scavenger hunt for each theme part, making waiting in line go faster and it’s fun to see how many Mickey’s you can find!
When planning your trip, avoid the parks on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th of July. Those are the second most busy days year round after New Years and usually mean they will start restricting who can enter the park, people staying off property (not at a Disney resort) with standard tickets (not Vacation Club or Passholders) will be cut off first.
As always, make sure you’re purchasing your tickets through a licensed distributor. Ticket prices are subject to change at any time, and will more than likely rise during peak seasons (when everyone else is vacationing as well). The Disney Store sells the exact Magic Your Way Tickets that are available at the gate, and, if purchased early, can help you from paying too much at the gate if ticket prices rise. The lines at the Disney Store are always shorter than at the gate and the longer you plan to stay in the park, the cheaper your ticket is per day.
Eat before you go, pack some snacks, and prepare for extreme heat (sunscreen, hats, water bottles are all a must!)
But, the most important tip I can give you is to MAKE FRIENDS WITH CAST MEMBERS. If you have a question, ask them and take time to listen to what we have to say. Cast are not drive thrus: don’t shout questions at them as you walk past. Ask them where you can and cannot sit for the parade, and tell others around you if they don’t listen (the Cast will reward you).
These Cast in the bowties are some of the best people you will ever meet.
Take a second and read a Cast’s name tag, they are not all from Orlando and many are college students. Remember that no amount of money you paid to get in the park gives you any right to assume you can treat people however you want or do whatever you want. Say a thank you every now and then with a smile, Cast love to hear it.
If you have a Cast Member go out of their way to make your day TELL SOMEONE. Go to Guest Relations with the name of the Cast member, where you met them, maybe where they were from and rave about them. More often than not, cast hear only about complaints, make the effort to give them compliments if they deserve them.
Hope this helps you on your future summer Disney trip!
Have a magical day!
Yes! This is fantastic!
Pool hopping is only allowed for certain people, namely DVC members. It's very frowned upon. The Disney Store tickets are the same as gate prices. I'm also a former Cast Member & regular Disney guest, and hate that some of your tips are misleading.
I love this! Thanks 🙂
Wow, so here I am paying top dollar to stay at the grandflo and I'm in a pool surrounded by pool hoppers.
We are planning a family ruinion right around July 1st, I am sad to see that we can possible not get into the park?…. never heard of this…
HI we are planning on having a family reunion around July 4th, sad to think that we may not be able to enter the park….never heard of that…
Hi Natasha! The third and forth of July are some of the busiest days to visit Walt Disney World (right up there with New Years Eve). Typically the only park that gets busy to the point of restricting entry early on is Magic Kingdom. If your family plans on spending either of these days at Magic Kingdom, I would recommend arriving well before the park opens to ensure you wont have an problems getting in. The park will be VERY VERY VERY busy.
I would recommend avoiding Magic Kingdom those two days. Opt instead for Hollywood Studios or EPCOT instead. They will be easier to get in to and will also likely do holiday fireworks or entertainment. Hope that helps! Thanks for reading!
Hi! I love Disney World and recently went on a trip there. I was thinking to be a cast member for a while when I get out of high school. Are there any tips for applying? And can you apply for a certain position or just take what they give you? Thanks!
Hi! Working for Disney was the best thing I ever did, and in fact my family and I are headed back down there in June to work with Disney again!
There are a few different ways to apply for positions at Disney. First, is to check out http://careers.disneyparks.jobs This is where “front line” (aka jobs in the parks) are posted and you can apply for them.
If you are thinking of going to college, you will be eligible to participate in the Disney College Program after your first semester. This is an excellent opportunity if you are interested in getting involved with Disney at the corporate or management level in the future. (I did it! I loved it!)
Once you have applied for a position you may be contacted to conduct an online interview. After that you could be contacted to schedule a phone interview or go in for an interview.
Once you have an interview, they may offer you one position or several–it really depends on what they are looking for.
Be advised that if you are looking to move to Florida for work, you will not be eligible for Disney sponsored housing unless you are a College Program participant.
If you have any other questions, I'd love to help. Feel free to contact me via any methods on my Contact Me page.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for the tips. It is unfortunate that you have to mention to be nice to the cast members. You should always be nice to others. The Golden Rule always applies…
Do you have any tips for a family with a child with Cerebral Palsy? I have a 9 yr old son with CP. He can't walk really long distances or stand for very long times, but he CAN walk. Is there any help with the long lines? Thanks.
Hi there! Disney Parks are well known for being very accessible to families with disabilities. The first thing I would recommend you do is visit a Guest Services location at any of the four parks. There you can describe your child's abilities and be issued a Guest Accessibility Card (GAC). Each GAC is filled out especially for each child so Cast Members elsewhere in the park will know how to accommodate them best. If your child can transfer from his wheelchair, he will likely be issued a GAC card that will allow him to enter an attraction in a separate location so he will not have to stand in a long line. It is possible some changes might be coming to the GAC cards in the future as it has recently made national news that some people were abusing them to skip lines. Visiting Guest Services will allow any questions you have to be answered and ensure you have a magical vacation. Thanks for reading 🙂
Thank you so much for responding to this! I really appreciate your time and the information. Sadly, I often see this occurring with anything set aside for people with disabilities. It makes me frustrated for my child when we have to walk across a huge parking lot because late-arriving moms are using the handicapped parking spaces for a quick drop off! 🙂 Such is life, I guess. I sure hope the changes won't make it more difficult for families with true disabilities! We'll check in at Guest Services and find out more once we get there. Thanks again!
You are so welcome! And just as a last bit of handy information, here are the guides for guests with disabilities for Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Have a great vacation!
what do you think about going the last 3 days before school starts. I'm planing to go in august 16.
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