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!

Guess who’s planning again?!

This week I’m starting to get my Disney buzz back as our Tokyo trip is less than 3 months away, so we’re starting to get into details like itineraries and booking hotels, and also because with sign up a week away, Dad and I are starting to make our arrangements for our Run Disney trip in January.

Buzz buzz!

So as far as Tokyo Disneyland goes, its totally un-chartered territory for us. Planning-wise, my expertise are in Disney World, so I really am a fish out of water, which is exciting and a little scary for me as I’m terrified of not being able to fit everything into the 3 days we’ve got set aside for the parks. Now I’m very much a DIY person, and have never been one to turn to guidebooks for advice, but in this instance I decided to, so I bought two – Top Tips for Visiting Tokyo Disney Resort, and Elijah’s Ultimate Guide to Tokyo Disney Resort 2015 – just to be on the safe side!

Quite honestly, I chose them because they were the first options that came up on my Amazon search, but I’m pretty happy with my choices having them read through them; they both cover different things which is ideal. Top Tips is very much a planning guide, which covers everything from picking a hotel to useful Japanese phrases. Its full of great information on the important park stuff like Fastpasses, dining, transport and shopping; for a little book its packed to bursting!

Elijah’s Guide is more of a breakdown of the parks: rides, restaurants etc. It covers a little about choosing when to visit the parks and other planning basics, and then launches into a blow by blow review of each attraction. It splits everything into its area (Disneyland>Area>Attractions/Restaurants/Shops>individual reviews) and Elijah gives every attraction a rating, a bit of information (when it opened, who its aimed for etc) and a short description.

Our main issue at the moment however is the language barrier. While you may not think it, speaking English isn’t a priority for the Japanese, so we’re struggling to book hotels as not all the staff at the other end of the phone are capable of understanding my dad.. We’ll work it out though!

BUT..

Dad and I booked our flights for January today! Eeeek!

I am so excited. Now we’ve booked flights, we know how long we’ve got in each place, which means planning can begin! We’ve yet to pick and book our Florida resort to stay at as we’re waiting to see if we’re booking through the Run Disney travel company, or just directly through Disney, but by the end of the week we’ll have a plan and right now we’re in no rush to worry about the California leg of the trip just yet, but I am BUZZED.

This is happening, stay tuned for more!

°o°

Preventing Disasters

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

°o°

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.

°o°

HS Tips and Secrets

SONY DSC

°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

DSC01837

°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.

MK Tips and Secrets

Main Street USA

DSC06456

°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

DSC01448

°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

SONY DSC

°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

SONY DSC

°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

SONY DSC

°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

SONY DSC

°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.

°o°

Celebrating in Disney World

Whether your trip was planned for a special celebration, or a special event just happens to coincide with your trip, Disney World is the perfect place to celebrate!

So here are my top tips for adding more magic to your special day:

1. You absolutely must ask for a celebration button!

SONY DSC

Tell a cast member you’re celebrating something, and they’ll give you and your party a free celebration button. They come in anything from first visit to birthday to family reunion, or just a plain simple ‘I’m Celebrating!’. Ok so its a free souvenir, but not such a huge deal, right? WRONG. Our last trip just so happened to contain my aunt and uncle’s wedding anniversary, so they got their buttons. From then on every cast member we saw wished them a happy anniversary, and some even gave special treatment: one day my uncle got two snacks for the price of one!

2. Order a cake!

SONY DSC

There are many places throughout Disney World where you can order a special celebration cake, but if you don’t want to go too far out of your way, I strongly recommend the Boardwalk Bakery. It’s less than a 10 minute walk from Epcot via the International Gateway (located between England and France on the World Showcase), so you can easily pop across while you’re at the park. The bakery keeps generic cakes in stock at all times, but you can stop by and order a unique one for your special day, or give them a call on their direct cake hotline. More notice is required for special requirement cakes, but when I went in on a Wednesday I only wanted a small basic cake with ‘happy anniversary’ on it for the coming Friday, there were no problems.

3. Do something cheesy!

Just engaged or married? Get bride and groom Mickey ears to wear for the duration of your trip! Family reunion? Wear goofy (not necessarily Goofy, though!) matching shirts. Go on, cheese it up, you’re not hurting anyone!

4. Get personalised!

From monogrammed Mickey ears to engraved ornaments, commemorate your big day with a keepsake that will last past the end of your stay, and remind you of magical moments every time you look at it.

5. Plan in advance to avoid disappointment

So as not to ruin your happy day with long waits or failed plans, be sure to book certain things in advance. You can make dining reservations up to 180 days prior to your trip, and Fastpass+ reservations for rides, shows and character meets can be made 30 days in advance. Think about all the things you want to do to enjoy your day, and book to avoid disappointment.

6. Make sure you get a celebration phonecall!

Let the front desk staff at your resort know you’re celebrating an special occasion, and you might just get a call from Mickey and Minnie. On our trip they phoned my aunt and uncle and left a message in which they congratulated them on their anniversary, and even sang a song!

7. Don’t over-plan!

So many people over-plan their days in the parks, and while in some cases this is good, the last thing you want to worry about while you’re trying to enjoy yourself is rushing around to do things on time. Take a step back, walk at your own pace, relax, and the fun with come by itself!

8. Speak to cast members

If you want to do something really special, speak to cast members for help or advice – they’re great at pulling strings!

°o°