Dietary Issues at WDW

I have written about Traveling to Disney with Food allergies, but now it is time to talk about other dietary restrictions. I understand the stress that occurs while planning a vacation when there are medical issues with foods. Where do we eat? Can we bring our own “safe” food? One thing to know is that you can bring in your own cooler with your comfort foods (with some rules attached) or just stuff your backpack and stroller with necessary items.

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Oh No! I can only go when it is crowded!!

What do you do if you can only travel during the more crowded times of the year? Don’t fret, help is on the way.

First of all, you need to know the most crowded times of the year. Basically, if kids are on a break then WDW is crowded.

The busiest times are:

  • February over President’s Day Weekend
  • Spring Break season: Mid March through Easter
  • Easter: Date changes but week before and after are second most crowded of the year
  • Summer: Mid June-Early August
  • Columbus Day Weekend: Modest increase in crowds
  • Thanksgiving: Third busiest time of the year for the week
  • Christmas – New Years: Busiest time of the year from Christmas Day-New Year

Here are my tips for traveling during the busiest times of the year:

Lower your expectations: You can not expect to go to Magic Kingdom and ride everything on your list. Pick your top 3 priorities and know there will be time to do other things. By doing this you won’t be walking away disappointed and you will be pleasantly surprised when you get more accomplished.

Stay on Property: The convenience of staying on property outweighs the additional cost in this situation. The resort transportation will be more crowded than normal, but will not be as bad as driving your own car into the crazy parking lots, then taking a tram to the entrance or WDW transportation. This is especially important for Magic Kingdom because you park at the Ticketing and Transportation Center then take a monorail or ferry to the entrance of the park. By staying on resort property you also have the benefit of Extra Magic Hours (EMH).

Extra Magic Hours:  When staying on property you are given access to certain parks for 1 hour in the morning before it opens to the public and 2 hours in the evening after close. Taking advantage of this can greatly increase the amount of attractions you are able to see and do! I personally like to enjoy EMH mornings at one park and then leave when it gets crowded to go to a different park by park hopping. Alternatively, if you are a night owl the evening EMH might be up your alley. The evening EMH are much more crowded than the morning, but if you can stay until the end you will reap the benefits of extra ride time with little wait. If you are not staying on property, avoid the parks with EMH during your vacation.

Park Hop: The additional cost of the park hopper is the most beneficial during these times. You can go to one park until the crowds overwhelm you, then hop over to a less crowded park. Or you can head back to your hotel (especially when staying on property) and then hop to a different park in the evening.

Go to the parks EARLY: I know you are on vacation, but so is everyone else going to Disney. That being said, WAKE UP EARLY and be at the parks for rope drop (official opening) or soon after! Most people will not get themselves together and moving by 8am, but by 10am the parks will be crowded. No one goes to Disney for a relaxing, sleep in vacation. For example: Christmas Day at Magic Kingdom has been at capacity the last few years around 10:30am. You can walk right in at 7am, but you can’t even get past the gates at 10:30. What does this teach us (other than avoid MK on Christmas!)? Get to the parks early, you will thank yourself when you are walking out to take a swim at 11 and the entrance turnstiles are 20 deep!

Take a Mid Day Break: The parks are most crowded from 11am-4pm. Take a break back at the hotel for swimming and a nap. Or have lunch in a hotel near the park and do some hotel hopping to check out the different WDW resort hotels.

Make ALL your dining reservations: When going during a crowded time of year, you will not have a snowball’s chance of getting into the more popular restaurants without reservations far in advance. That being said, you can still get into table service restaurants. Choose less popular restaurants in the park or ones located in the resort hotels.  

Utilize the Fastpass system: This is the time when Fastpasses are your best friend. Decide your most important priority and get a fastpass at park opening for that ride. You can get your next fastpass 2 hours later, so at 9am if your fastpass return for Space Mountain is not until 2-3pm, you can get another fastpass at 11am for a different ride as well. With the new Fastpass+ system, you can prearrage your fastpasses (up to 3) which will be a huge benefit to staying on property during a crowded time.

I hope this advice helps and doesn’t scare you! I have traveled over Christmas with a group of 14 and I am going back at the same time this year. Take this advice and you will still enjoy your trip!

Resorts for Grown Ups

Everyone thinks of Disney as a travel destination for parents with small children but this is not the case. There are tons of adults that love Walt Disney World and may want to enjoy the parks without the kids (or grandkids). Here are my recommendations for resort hotels that are more suitable for adults. These are based on location, amenities, restaurants/bars on site and the general grown up feeling of the resort. Yes, you will find families there but it’s Disney World and you can’t avoid that! Most of the resorts I recommend for adults are in the Deluxe category because you will find more and more families when you go to moderate and value resorts. Continue reading

A list of the Character Meal Options

I have so many people ask me about the various Character Dining options in Walt Disney World. I have compiled a list with descriptions for each to make deciding easier for you! I have previously written about my favorites if you want to take a look. This is a basic list that tells you the facts, not my opinions of each (which I have many).

Character meals

(Organized by Character type)

Mickey & Friends Continue reading

Be Our Guest Restaurant…Make your Reservations!

Today is the day to make your reservations for the Be Our Guest Restaurant for dinner starting November 19th. Don’t bother with trying online, as of today they are only taking phone reservations at 407-WDW-DINE. Online reservations should be forthcoming, I assume they didn’t want to take down their system for the day! If you are traveling within 180 days, you should try to get a reservation! This is opening a few weeks before the rest of the new Fantasyland which tells me that you will possibly be having “soft” openings of attractions as well.

For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about…Be Our Guest is the new restaurant inside the Beast’s Castle in the Fantasyland expansion. It will be a quick service during lunch and a sit down for dinner.  There will be 3 themed dining rooms, The West Wing, Ballroom & Rose Gallery. If you are a Beauty and The Beast fan, this restaurant is a must for you.

Mousekeeping & Tipping

I have written a previous article about the cast members at Disney. Now it is time to focus on the people who make your hotel room your home.

Mousekeeping is the term WDW uses for its housekeeping staff. These people work very hard every day to make sure you come back from the park to a clean room full of surprises. They are happy to leave extra towels, coffee, or shampoo if you ask. They set up the kids toys in a fun way to make coming back to the room magical. The mousekeeping staff deserves a tip and is allowed to take it. One way to make your mornings go more smoothly is to put your tips for each day into an envelope before you leave for your trip. Make enough envelopes for each day of your trip and write your little housekeeping thank you note on them. Continue reading

My favorite Disney apps

There are bunches of apps for smartphones to help you on your Disney vacation. Some of my smartphone apps are helpful with planning and others are in constant use while on my vacation.

Here are my favorites: Continue reading

Update: Disney’s Photopass Service

I love Disney’s Photopass Service. I think that it is totally worth the money if you utilize it correctly and plan ahead. Our first few trips, we didn’t use photopass and I regret that because we have so few pictures of our whole family. The photographers will take pictures with your camera, but their photos will be better!

To get the most bang for your buck, stop at every photographer you see in all the parks. Let’s be honest, you can’t have too many pictures of your family in front of the castle! There are photgraphers in every park. Here is a map and some tips of all the photopass photographers. Disney Photopass Map

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Having the kids involved with planning

My kids help with our trip planning even though they are only 5 & 7 years old. We discuss when to go, where they would like to eat, which characters are important for us to see, what rides are a must, what parades we have to watch. This helps us plan our time there and what is a priority for each of us. At Christmas, the main goals were Rapunzel and Santa. We planned 2 mornings in Magic Kingdom to be in line for those characters as soon as the park opened. For Star Wars weekend, the goal was to do Jedi Training and see the Hyperspace Hoopla. This upcoming trip, we are excited about Storybook Circus, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom & Agent P!

I think it is important for them to realized that this costs us money and we have to save and plan each time we go. Continue reading

Oh no…I don’t have dining reservations!

If you read my previous post about the importance of dining reservations and are now freaking out, don’t worry! There are wonderful restaurants throughout WDW that will have open tables for walk up customers. I would not recommend going without dining reservations, but I am anal retentive and like to have my schedule planned out! Do not expect to get into character meals, these are always booked and impossible to get in unless you have lucked out with a cancellation! Epcot is always a good choice because there are so many restaurants. Yacht Club & Boardwalk are walking distance from Epcot & a long walk or boating distance from Hollywood. Contemporary, Grand Floridan & Polynesian are on the monorail line, so you can head there from Magic Kingdom and Epcot very easily! You can always call the reservation line – (407) WDW- DINE or use your smart phone and book through the internet!

Restaurants where you can get a table with little or no wait: Continue reading