Tips for Making the Best of a Disney Vacation

It’s time for a family vacation. After hearing about all the awesome military discounts Disney offers, you book a trip to Disney.

So now what? Do you wing it? Do you plan every last minute? That’s up to you, but there are some things that I think everyone who visits Disney should try to accomplish. Stay with me on this, we can take it park by park.

Magic Kingdom

The Must Dos: For me, fireworks are nonnegotiable. Wishes is a spectacular show and worth staying for at night. If you’re staying on Disney Property and get to use Extra Magic Hours in the evening this is a perfect time to use them! Extra Magic Hours allows those staying on Disney property to go into the parks before they open or stay after they close. Magic Kingdom clears out after Wishes so you can ride Space Mountain to your heart’s content. Also a must do in my book.

The Should Dos: The classic rides; Dumbo, the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World and even the Carousel of Progress. Some are hokey, but they are classic for a reason! Plus, with the New Fantasyland now open there are tons more rides to choose from.

The If You Have Time Dos: The history buff in me kind of loves the Hall of Presidents. If you have small children or an impatient spouse feel free to skip it, but it is air conditioned! I am also a huge fan of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House.


The Must Dos: For the same reasons above, I have to insist you go to Illuminations. Fireworks are just some of the best things in the world and Disney sure knows how to do them! When you arrive at EPCOT try and grab yourself a Fast Pass for Soarin’ or Test Track. Once you have the Fast Pass for one you can go wait in line for the other and hit two big rides back to back. First thing in the morning rides aren’t too crowded but if you’re in EPCOT at a busy time of day or year that is the way to do it. Also be sure to check out the classic Spaceship Earth (aka the ride in the giant golf ball), Mission to Mars and Universe of Energy.

The Should Dos: The EPCOT Character Spot just reopened this June and if you want to meet Mickey and Friends this is the way to do it! It is air conditioned and has different characters that rotate through. In the World Showcase be sure to walk around your favorite country (mine was Italy) and enjoy the local cuisine. They have a great variety from fast food to fine dining, pick at least one to try. 

When I was an intern I worked at Innoventions in Future World, and trust me, if you have kids who love hands-on activities and shows, you need to take them. For daredevils they also have a design your own rollercoaster option that you can ride too. 

The If You Have Time Dos: If you’re not traveling with kids feel free to try and Drink Around the World. Can be a daunting task but many have managed to do it and survive! El Rio del Tiempo in the Mexico pavilion and the Living Seas with Nemo are good if you have small children but older kids may not enjoy them as much. Club Cool, the Coca Cola sampling store, is alright if you like soda but some of the flavors from around the world are a bit out there! 

Animal Kingdom

The Must Dos: The Safari. Try and get to Animal Kingdom when it opens and go to the Safari first thing. The animals are a lot more alert when it isn’t too hot out and this is the best time to see them. The daring also must ride the Expedition Everest Roller Coaster! If you are obsessed with Dinosaurs (like me) the Dinosaur ride cannot be missed. It may scare younger kids but nearby Dino Land is a good compromise.

The Should Dos: Mickey’s Jammin Jungle Parade was always really cute, maybe seeing Mickey in a Safari hat just made it better for me. Kali River Rapids is also a great ride, but you will get soaked. Make sure you have a change of clothes, shoes or a towel if you don’t want to be soaked all day.

The If You Have Time Dos:  Finding Nemo and the Lion King musicals. Broadway quality, air conditioned and fun to watch.

Hollywood Studios

The Must Dos: Toy Story Midway Mania!, Tower of Terror, the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and Fantasmic (the night time show with fireworks and all your favorite characters) are all the things I have to do when I go to Hollywood Studios. I recommend getting fast passes for the more popular rides when you first get to the park. Also, see the Beauty and the Beast show. It is so worth it. 

The Should Dos: The Backlot Tour, the Great Movie Ride, Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular are all amazing if you love to see that movie magic in action. If you're extra nerdy like me do not miss Star Tours for some in depth Star Wars fun. The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow wasn’t there when I worked at the parks but I have heard really good things about it.

The If You Have Time Dos:  Eat at '50s Prime Time Cafe, where the servers treat you like family, right down to scolding you for a lack of table manners if necessary! Also check out the MuppetVision 3D and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure. I loved the giant blades of grass as a five year old and I still had fun in my twenties.

Water Parks

The Must Dos: Typhoon Lagoon. I could spend all day the wave pool. If you wait too long for a slide and it gets hot it provides the perfect, cool relief.

The Should Dos: Blizzard Beach. A lot more slides and thrills but there is a lazy river if you just want to relax.

The If You Have Time Dos:  Both!

Make sure you do research before you go. And if there is a certain character you have to see, a place you’re dying to eat at, or a ride that you would wait in line for three hours to go on, make sure you do it. 

Disney is a fun, happy place. It can get hot and crowded, but it is magical. Take advantage of those military discounts, and have fun!

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