Being the first people in The Magic Kingdom

So I always knew that I wanted our trip last year to be as magical as possible, given that it was a) my first time back in 15 years, b) the girls first ever visit to Disney World, and c) probably the only time both families would be able to do this holiday together, and with that said, I wanted to make it as magical as possible for everyone.

My first priority was making sure that the first time everyone stepped into the Magic Kingdom, it was totally perfect, and in my opinion, the only way to do that was to be the first people into the park, and to see it all without the hassle of weaving through hundreds of other guests.

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Now you could do this by waking up super early, rushing down to the park to be the first in line at the entrance, and waiting for AGES for the ropes to drop and make a dash before the surge of people behind you also converge onto Main Street.

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Or, you could do it the easy way!

Yes, ok, you do still have to get up early, and there’s a tiny bit of queuing, but its worth it, and its as simple as breakfast, quite literally.

Be Our Guest, Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table all offer breakfast reservations from 8am, when the park doesn’t usually open until 9am, and if you have a reservation for any time before the park opens, the gate for you opens just before 8am!

With this in mind, we managed to get reservations for Crystal Palace at 8.15, giving us the opportunity to stroll down Main Street, get some uninterrupted photos and absorb all the early morning magic before we made our way to our fabulous breakfast booking, which you can read more about here!

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Disney World in Large Groups

Disney World is the perfect location for a big family trip, but its not always easy being a large group!

1. Save a fortune on your phone bill by utilising the free wifi

There’s free wifi throughout the parks, so set everyone up on a group message on Facebook or Whatsapp to communicate without the cost.

2. Be prepared to split up

Splitting up the group at times can mean you can cover more ground, get better seats or just give you a much needed break from the madness!

3. Use Memory Maker

The last thing you want after a big family trip is going through photo after photo with someone missing in every one. Memory Maker is great value for money, but in a large group its even more so; just get everyone linked to it and you’ll have hundreds of photos of the whole family.

4. Link everyone

As a large group, we were split into 3 rooms and therefore 3 separate bookings, so our My Magic+ wasn’t linked, but one trip to guest services, and we were all connected for all our Fastpasses and meal bookings.

5. Utilise free transport

In a large group, taxis or car hire is gonna get really pricey, so be sure to use Disney World’s expansive bus system to move around.

6. If you don’t book in advance, eat at unusual times

With Advanced Dining Reservations, you’ve got no problems, but if you haven’t made bookings, try and eat at off-peak times; we were a group of 9 and managed to walk in to the usually super busy T-Rex at about 4.30pm and were seated almost straight away!

7. Allow a little extra time

Being a bigger group is always going to slow you down a little, so be sure to leave a little earlier if you need to be somewhere for a specific time.

8. Try and be a little early too

Especially when it comes to shows and parades, being early gives you the added advantage of not having to split up to fit into remaining seats

9. Be considerate to others

The parks can be packed, so try to think about your impact on those around you eg. if you walk in a long chain, you might be blocking other guests who want to get around you etc

10. Just have fun!

You’re lucky enough to be in the most magical place on Earth, with a whole load of your favourite people, so just appreciate it and have a magical time!

Preventing Disasters

As much as everyone hopes for their trip to run smoothly, you can prepare yourself for any problems you may have!

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Keep receipts for any souvenirs you buy in the parks – if anything gets broken during your stay, they’ll replace it.

As soon as you get your park tickets/magic bands, take photos of them making sure to get all the important information in the shot. This way if anything gets lost, cast members can help you more easily.

If you’re carrying a phone in the parks, set your lock screen with an image of your name, resort/room number and another contact number in case you lose it.

Take pictures of your kids every morning. Its great for documenting your trip, and you’ll be able to find them better in crowds if you can remember what they’re wearing!

Prepare your children for getting lost – make sure they know what to do if they ever get separated from you. Label them with a contact number, have a designated ‘lost spot’ to wait, and tell them to find cast members.

Stock your bag with plasters for blisters and minor scrapes, and don’t forget each park has a first aid center with cast members happy to assist with anything.

Bring spare camera batteries and memory cards, and store them in a waterproof compartment.

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HS Tips and Secrets

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°o° Crowds tend to head to the big rides first (Toy Story Midway Mania, Rock’n’Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror etc), so if you don’t want to be stuck in hour long queues, save these for later in the day, or get your Fastpasses early as they’re snapped up quick.

°o° In midday heat or pouring rain, head to one of the many indoor attractions: Muppets 3D, Animation Academy etc.

°o° Try not to rush around, there are a tonne of tiny details you’ll miss otherwise!

°o° The gas pump when you enter the park represents the opening date of the park.

°o° Pull the rope of the well by Indiana Jones Stunt Show, you might just hear something!

°o° Watch out for the fire hydrant near Muppet Vision if you don’t want to get wet!

°o° Get a photo ‘Singing in the Rain’!

°o° Each limo in the Rock’n’Roller Coaster plays a different Aerosmith track.

°o° In Muppet Vision 3D, there is a sign saying ‘back in 5 minutes, key is under the mat’. Why don’t you check for the key?

°o° The nautical flags above Dockside Diner actually spell out Dockside Diner!

°o° The back of the Tower of Terror is designed so that when you see if from nearby Epcot, it blends in with the Morocco Pavilion.

°o° Outside The Great Movie Ride are a load of hand prints in the ground, have fun finding which famous person you match with.

°o° Young wannabe Jedis can try their skills out at Jedi Academy, and even face Darth Vader himself!

°o° The Fantasmic lake is only 18 inches deep.

AK Tips and Secrets

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°o° You can enter the park 15 minutes early, and Mickey and the gang greet you by the Tree of Life.

°o° Grab a map and schedule; there are so many unique character meets in the Animal Kingdom such as Rafiki, Baloo, Russell and Doug etc.

°o° Crowds tend to head for Kilimanjaro Safaris first thing as the animals are usually more active in the morning. That being said though, you’re likely to see animals any time of day, so if you can, hold off til the afternoon when queues will be shorter.

°o° Be sure to wear comfortable shoes; while walking is a given, AK has lots of adventurous trails to explore.

°o° If you’ve stopped off at The Rainforest Cafe before heading into the park, use the secret entrance at the back of the gift shop to skip the queues at the main entrance.

°o° At Adventurer’s Outpost, you can meet Mickey and Minnie in their safari gear. This is the only place you can see the two of them in these outfits, so is a totally unique photo opportunity.

°o° At various stations around the park, kids can receive stamps in a ‘passport’ for completing activities – collect all of them for a special prize!

°o° There are red, yellow and white pipes found on Dinosaur, each with a chemical formula on them. The formulas are actually the real formulas for ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise!

°o° See if you can spot DiVine – she’s a fabulous live act, but hard to find as she’s usually part-tree!

°o° The highway sign Route 498 symbolises the park opening in April 1998.

°o° You can squirt riders on Kali River Rapids from the bridge near the exit. Don’t feel guilty, they’ll already be soaked!

°o° If you’re a coffee addict, the Kusafiri Coffee Shop is the place to get your fix.

°o° Don’t rush from attraction to attraction, there are so many things to see as you walk around the park!

°o° You can hop on the Wildlife Express Train in Africa, which takes you across to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Epcot Tips and Secrets

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Future World

°o° One of the best ways to meet characters is at the Epcot Character Spot. Its just past Spaceship Earth on the right of the park, and if you head there as soon as the park opens, you’ll get to see Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy all in one go, with a wait time of under 15 minutes.

°o° Innoventions East and West are full of tonnes of interactive activities to entertain all ages.

°o° Complete habit heroes in Innoventions East, and you’ll get a free rubber wristband!

°o° If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, there is a separate queue for Mission: Space which leads to a version of the ride which isn’t so spinny!

°o° Take a trip to Club Cool for free samples of international Coca Cola brands – trick your family into trying Beverly, its gross!

°o° The large fish tank in The Living Seas is the second largest tank in the US, and could fit Spaceship Earth inside it with room to spare!

World Showcase

°o° Only one of the totem poles in Canada is real, see if you can work out which one it is.

°o° The Rose and Crown pub in the UK is so named as ‘rose’ and ‘crown’ are the two most common featured names of English pubs.

°o° Although it may not seem like it, each country’s pavilion is the same width, to give all countries equality.

°o° Between the UK and France is a path that leads out of the park via the International Gateway. From here you can take a quick 15 minute walk across to The Boardwalk, or explore some of the resorts gathered around the lake. There is also a footpath that leads to Hollywood Studios; its about 30 mins walk, which at times is quicker than other transportation.

°o° Sometimes Chef Remy will visit you at Le Chefs de France.

°o° The Morocco Pavilion was actually built by and paid for by the Moroccans.

°o° In the Japanese pavilion, you can purchase a range of souvenirs from authentic tableware to Pokemon toys.

°o° The statue on the right as you enter Japan was a gift from the Japanese government.

°o° While the American Adventure building appears to be only 3 stories high, it is actually 5!

°o° Check out the big clock in Germany. On the hour a wooden boy and girl pop out and twirl around a bit.

°o° If you buy a fan or parasol in China, you can have it personalised for free with your name in traditional Chinese writing.

°o° The acoustics of the temple in China are so perfect, if you stand in the centre of the room, your voice will echo back to you!

°o° Buildings in Norway have grass growing on the roof, to reflect traditional Norwegian buildings, but a lack of Epcot goats to munch on the grass means cast members have to trim it!

°o° La Cava del Tequila in Mexico has over 200 tequilas in its cellar, hello margaritas!

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MK Tips and Secrets

Main Street USA

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°o° On your way in, grab your park map and schedule; sometimes parades and shows happen at different times due to the day/season/occasion.

°o° All the shops are conjoined – when Main Street is packed, like park closing, make a dash to the nearest shop and cut through there, you’ll save a load of time!

°o° The shops don’t shut until an hour after park closing, so if you’re not in a rush to get to bed, you can take your time browsing souvenirs.

°o° If you need any help, pop into City hall, or if you have any Photopass problems, Town Square Theater is the place to go.

°o° With any luck you won’t need to, but should you have any medical problems, First Aid is just next to Crystal Palace.

°o° If you can, watch the Main Street Electrical Parade on a Friday – they make it longer with additional floats.

°o° Sneaky devices emit the scents of cookies and vanilla onto Main Street.

°o° There’s a secret apartment above the fire house to reflect Walt’s apartment.

Adventureland

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°o° Most people head to Fantasyland first, so Adventureland is really quiet in the morning – hello queue times under 5 minutes!

°o° Most attractions and shops are indoor or undercover, great for avoiding middle of the day sun.

°o° Watch out for spitting camels!

°o° On Pirates of the Caribbean, look out for Ab Lincoln disguised as a pirate – when Hall of Presidents was updated, the retired animatronic was moved here to live out the rest of his career!

°o° The skeletons playing chess in the queue for Pirates of the Caribbean are at a stalemate – how ironic!

°o° The front half of the plane on Jungle Cruise is the one used in the Casablanca scene of  The Great Movie Ride

Frontierland

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°o° Most people don’t like doing Splash Mountain first thing, so its pretty quiet, but if its hot, its a great way to keep you cool.

°o° While a lot of the queue for Big Thunder Mountain is under cover, its still very warm during hot seasons, so don’t get stuck in a long queue around the middle of the day.

°o° From Frontierland, you can catch a ride to Tom Sawyer’s Island to explore, and look for hidden paintbrushes.

°o° Sometimes parades run reverse routes and begin near Splash Mountain.

°o° From here you can hop on the Walt Disney World Railroad to get across to Fantasyland, Tomorrowland or Main Street USA

°o° You can meet Woody and Jessie near the queue for Splash Mountain.

°o° If you’re a Vinylmation collector, Frontier Trading post trade and sell figures.

Liberty Square

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°o° During the heat of the middle of the day, Liberty Square is an ideal place to be; all the main attractions are indoors, and hold a lot of people.

°o° Many of the displays in the waiting area for Hall of Presidents are authentic items that belonged to former presidents and their families. Disney also needed special permission from the US State Government to have the Presidential Seal on the carpet.

°o° Tucked into a small corner of Liberty Square is a year-round Christmas store: Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe.

°o° In the queue for The Haunted Mansion, you pass a pet cemetery where you’ll see a tombstone for J. Thaddeus Toad, a nod to the former attraction, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride.

°o° Each building in Liberty Square has a 2 digit house number – put an 18 in front of each number, and it gives you the year from which that style of building came.

°o° There are no restrooms to reflect a lack of plumbing during that period in history.

°o° The Liberty Tree holds 13 lanterns, to represent each of the original colonies.

°o° Ask to pilot the Liberty Belle!

Fantasyland

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°o° As you start your trip on It’s a Small World, look up and wave at diners in Pinocchio’s Village Haus!

°o° You can ride Cinderella’s horse on Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel – its the one decorated with purple flowers.

°o° You’ll find another nod to Mr Toad on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride; Mr Toad appears in several pictures to mark the fact that this ride replaced his own.

°o° Ride the lilac teacup on the Mad Tea Party – it goes fastest!

°o° Try and pull the sword from the stone; you just might succeed.

°o° Through Storybook Circus is another stop of the railroad, continuing road to Main Street.

°o° Dumbo the Flying Elephant Ride has a new interactive queue – inside the Big Top is a play centre where you can wait, and a pager will let you know when its your turn to ride.

°o° In Pete’s Silly Slideshow, you can meet your favourite characters in wacky circus outfits – great unique photo opportunities!

Tomorrowland

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°o° Tomorrowland is an ideal place to go at all extremes of weather: hot, cold, wet etc, as almost all the attractions are indoors, as are the queues. Even the TTA Peoplemover is fairly safe in rain – we took cover on it during a horrendous rainstorm, and stayed pretty dry!

°o° You can skip fighting through the busy castle area to get to Tomorrowland by taking the shortcut past Plaza Ice Cream Parlour and walking through the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant

°o° Get a Fastpass for Space Mountain, whether its busy or not. The Fastpass queue leads to the track on the righthand side, which is longer and faster, with more bumps and turns.

°o° There’s a quiet path round the side of Space Mountain, which leads to Fantasyland through the Storybook Circus – also a good way to get to the railroad.

°o° The TTA Peoplemover runs through the top of a few rides, look out into Buzz’s Space Ranger Spin and Space Mountain, and also spy on shoppers in Mickey’s Star Traders.

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