On Saturday, July 13, Belinda Skelton and I donned our Mickey Mouse ears to share insider tips on all things Disney on her radio show “Belinda Skelton’s Atlanta Living.” Here are some tips that will save you time, money and sanity! Check them out before your next trip through the turnstiles in Orlando. Thanks to my social media friends who shared their best tips!
Saving on Admission to Disney
Sadly, there are very few discounts to be had. I don’t recommend trying to score deals on eBay or Craig’s List as you don’t know whether the tickets are valid or not. There are some official resellers such as Undercover Tourist or Maple Leaf Tickets. Make sure the site is an authorized Disney Parks ticket seller.
Prices usually go up in January and August so if you know you are going you can purchase ahead of time. Tickets never expire. If you’re going back a lot, you might consider an annual pass.
Bypassing long lines
Get a Fastpass. And it’s free! Just go to a machine, put your admission ticket in and get a ticket with a time stamped on it to return. When you return at assigned time, you go right to the front. Not all rides have them but the most popular ones do. You can see a list of them here.
Here are a few more tips for avoiding long lines.
• Start at the back of the park and work your way towards the entrance. (Billy Miller)
• Go to rides and the most popular restaurants during parades. Lines for everything are shorter then. (Beth Kempe)
• If you’ve got big bucks to spend, hire a Disney guide who will drive you to theme parks so you’ll get around quickly. You will still need to use a Fastpass for lines. The cost for a Premium VIP Tour is $315 an hour for up to 10 guests with a minimum of six hours. That does not include park admission.
• No matter how painful it is after staying up late for fireworks, get the parks early to enjoy shorter lines. (from Stacie Hanna)
Dining at Disney
My favorite restaurants in Disney are the sit-down ones at Epcot but for a quick meal my favorite is Cosmic Ray’s, where I always get rotisserie chicken with green beans — healthy and filling.
Here are other tips to eat healthy or save money while visiting theme parks.
• Take groceries or if you are flying, use a grocery delivery service from Publix or another local store to deliver to your hotel the day you arrive. You’ll save a lot of time, money and frustration if you have some food of your own.
• Make sure your kids eat breakfast before you go.
• For healthier options, look for Kids’ Picks where kids can choose items such as carrot sticks, applesauce, grapes, apple slices. Many restaurants offer healthier choices like veggie burgers or turkey sandwiches. Visit this site for more tips and a list of healthy choices available at the theme parks in Orlando.
• Adults can order kids’ meals to get a smaller portion, usually plenty for the average appetite.
• Adults can order kids’ meals to get smaller portion, usually plenty for grown-ups.
• If you want to eat at one of the many sit-down restaurants, make a reservation in advance.
• You can save money by eating a late lunch at the park, then wait until you leave to get dinner at a local restaurant or your hotel.
Alcohol at Disney
It was big news when Magic Kingdom finally started serving alcohol last fall when it opened Be Our Guest restaurant in the new Fantasyland addition. But as they said, you can’t have a French restaurant without wine and beer. Be Our Guest serves Belgium and French beers and wines from France and California. But these are available only inside the restaurant and only during dinner.
Animal Kingdom has plenty of wonderful restaurants where you can enjoy an adult beverage, as does Epcot. We enjoyed some delicious cocktails at Tokyo Dining on my most recent visit. At Hollywood Studios you can buy mixed drinks and wine inside full-service restaurants, and can visit a beer stand around the park.
What to Take to Disney
You don’t want to be too weighed down, but you’ll be glad to have that backpack or tote filled with a few essentials during those long days. Here are just a few items to include
• Water bottle
• Bandaids for blisters and lots of patience! (From Wendy Ellin)
• Your own pirate and princess costumes for the makeovers at Pirate League & Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at the Magic Kingdom. (Stacie Hanna)
Here’s another suggestion if you are going with kids. Stock up on Disney merchandise at Target or WalMart before you go. Give each child a small amount to spend at the theme parks.
Accommodations at Disney
One of your first decisions is whether you want to stay in one of the 23 Disney resorts, in all price categories. To compare them all, click here.
The advantages to staying in a Disney resort include:
• The Magical Express A free shuttle and baggage delivery service for the airport.
• Disney’s Magic Extra Hours On a rotating basis, a different park will be open one hour earlier and three hours later for Disney resort guests only.
• Free and easy transportation to theme parks. Disney Resort guests can take a bus, monorail or at some resorts, a water ferry to get to the parks.
• Package delivery. Rather than carrying that giant stuffed Tigger around all day, have any purchases delivered to your hotel.
Tips for Disney Resorts
• Call the resort directly and ask for specials
• Look for specials on the Internet and search for discount codes
• W hen you arrive, ask for invitational upgrades. These “invitations” are only sometimes available and will bump you up one class,
• If you stay at a Disney Moderate or Deluxe Resort, ask for an in-room refrigerator, which are offered free of charge.
• Don’t forget to take time to explore the resort. Dana Lindsey traveled with her family and stayed at The Art of Animation. “From the food court, to the swimming area, to even the cute themed soaps in your room – all of this is part of Disney Magic!,” she said. “During our last trip (and we’ve been on many), I had just recovered from a broken leg so I took an afternoon to stay at resort while family went out. I walked around the amazing family suite (we were at Cars suites) and tried out everything. I then went to food court and sampled the international fare and to the souvenir shop because there are unique items designed for each resort. One night, my youngest and I took some time and just sat in the Kozy Kones by the pool, and we made sure we to stop and touch every single car t on display. Those are the memories that last, too!”
Accommodations Outside of Disney
• Research deals on the Internet, where you can find really good rates. For example, the Radisson Orlando Resort is just 1.5 miles away, offers free transportation to Epcot and has rooms starting at just $89 a night. Kayak.com is a good site to search for deals. If you’re a AAA member, try searching on their site. If you are staying several days, you may want to search for houses or condos on a site like vrbo or Airbnb.
A trip to Disney is a wonderful, okay yes, I’ll say it, magical experience. Makes your more magical by following some tips and doing your research first. Come back later this week when I’ll write about what’s new at Disney this summer.