Friday, August 24, 2012

The Top 5 Must Dos for Outside the Parks

The final Top 5 (for now) is all about going outside of the four Disney parks. Sometimes leaving the parks for a bit of fun is the best way to go.

Downtown Disney is a great location for shopping and has a lively nightlife. My first 3 must dos are all located there. Before I send you exploring, know that when you look at the map, these places will look FAR apart, but the distance isn't actually very large at all. Take the trek, you'll be happy you did!

1. Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop: Not only can you get a free square of chocolate, the soda fountain side has the best sundaes I've ever had! People will tell you to get a sundae in Magic Kingdom or at a deluxe resort, but this is really the best place to go! My sister and I shared a Cable Car Sundae when we were there in 2010, and we can't wait to share another! Part of the fun of this location is watching the other amazing ice creams orders go out to patrons and wondering what those yummy items are.

DStreet from the outside

2. D Street: If you collect Vinylmation, then this is THE PLACE to go. It's a store devoted to Vinylmation and Vinylmation fans. You can find pretty much all the available series here, can trade, and kids can draw their own custom Vinylmation (on paper) at a table made of Vinylmations in the middle of the store. Vinylmation pins, keychains, notepads, pens, pencils, erasers, bags... you name it, they've got it. This location always has (expensive) custom Vinylmations on display as well. Not sure what Vinylmation is? Go here! You'll be hooked!

It feels like everything in this store is made
out of Vinylmation!

3. Shopping in World of Disney: My secret to shopping effectively and quickly (and believe you me, I SHOP when I'm at Disney) is this: I look around in the shops in all of the parks and make a list mentally or in my iPhone as I go. Then I go to World of Disney, the largest Disney Store in the world, and buy all the items off of my list. Almost always I'm able to find the item I'd wanted. The exceptions to this method are things I see in World Showcase shops. Also, one rule of thumb is if you see it and can't live without it, go ahead and buy it then. You might not be able to find it elsewhere. If you can't find the Disney Dooney you want in World of Disney, TrenD just down the way has a larger selection. Keep your cell phone on while you're in here as it's very easy to get separated from your shopping partner(s)!

4. Go Swimming at Your Resort: If you or your kiddos are a bit too old for an afternoon nap, I still recommend you stop to rest in the afternoon. I'm guilty of walking past my crazy awesome resort pool every day and never stopping to swim in it. On the trips where I have taken time for a dip (either afternoon or late evening), it's been quite refreshing. Disney resorts all have multiple pools, and one is always quieter than the others, so you can find the pool that suits you and your family. Since the pools are heated and weather is milder in Florida, we've been able to swim even during Thanksgiving week. The pool is warm, but the walk back to your room won't be, so if it's a cooler season, bring dry clothes to change in the bathrooms by the pool. Don't miss out on this often over-looked treat!

I would have NEVER gotten this amazing shot if I
hadn't been on the Monorail taking a tour. 

5. Monorail Tour: One of the best ways to make sure you enjoy Walt Disney World is to take time to stop and smell the roses. If not, you'll come back from your trip utterly exhausted, and you'll miss out on the little joys around you. I love riding the Monorail partly because it's just a neat way to travel and partly because of the views it gives you. Staying at a Deluxe Disney Resort is a big dream of mine. Hopefully one day it will be a splurge for a special event like a honeymoon, but for now I get my kicks visiting the various deluxe resorts on a Monorail tour. Christmastime is an especially good time to do this since each resort is decorated to the nines, but it can be a relaxing event to add to your trip at any time of the year. Simply board the Resort Monorail and hop off at each resort along the way. Take a walk, explore the gift shops (yes, they have different stuff than the others do), and then hop back on the Monorail. We choose to do this on the way to meals we've scheduled at one of the Deluxe Resorts. Anyone, not just guests, can eat at the Disney Resorts.

This ends the "Top 5 Must Dos" series, for now. As always, what have I missed? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Top 5 Must Dos for Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney confession time! I did not go to Disney's Animal Kingdom, DAK, until my 3rd trip as an adult to Walt Disney World. My aunt is pretty high up at the Jacksonville, Florida Zoo, and as many times as people scream that "it's not a zoo", DAK is still pretty zoo-like to me. *Shrug* I enjoy the park, but it's more walking than Epcot, and it always feels hotter there than any other park. Don't get me wrong, it has it's high points which is where this Top 5 comes into play.

1. Kilimanjaro Safaris: This attraction gets you closer to the animals in a more free environment than any zoo can, and it allows you to see more animals in quick succession than at a zoo. You ride in a large safari jeep that takes you through a fairly long safari full of live animals. The guides are cheesy but hilarious, and the vehicles all have an easy to use animal guide. Photos from the safari are always impressive as the views you get are out of this world! I recommend going to the safari first thing in the morning as animals tend to come out more in the mornings, and the line is typically shorter. You can't go wrong with a Fast Pass here. Thanks to the spontaneity of animals, each time you ride will, of course, be different. One my last trip, the 2nd time we rode was the best safari I'd been on. A giraffe walked close enough that I could have touched it!

2. White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake: I've tried to stay away from Top 5 recommendations of very specific food or drink because I know we all have our own tastes, but this cupcake was one I'd been looking forward to for a very, very long time, and it was worth the wait! The cupcake can be found at the Kusafiri Bakery near the entrance to the Kilimanjaro Safari. While they didn't offer cupcakes at 10 am when I stopped by, the cast member was still able to get me one. The cupcake itself is chocolate with a mound of white icing coated in toasted coconut. In the middle of the icing is a glob of german chocolate icing (my favorite flavor in the world), and the whole thing is topped off by a large elephant sucker made of white chocolate! I loved this cupcake but couldn't eat the whole thing. It's a great snack to share.

Amazing, no?

3. Musicals: There are two large production musicals in DAK. One is The Festival of the Lion King which is more of a musical revue with live actors, singers, and acrobats with characters. I found that it didn't have much of a storyline, but it was still neat to see. It is not its Broadway counterpart, but it was air-conditioned and entertaining. The other musical is Finding Nemo which does follow the storyline of the movie but is much shorter. This one has brought tears to my eyes every time I've seen it. The entire musical is performed with puppets, but you can see the puppeteers. Oddly, you stop noticing the puppeteers and pay the most attention to the puppets. For the best view, I recommend sitting behind the break to the left of center when facing the stage. If you only have time for one of the two musicals, I preferred Nemo over Lion King.

The Festival of the Lion King is in a circular theater with stadium style seating rising above
the stage. Large "floats" are brought in to the middle and between seating areas.

4. Flame Tree BBQ: A few years ago a friend recommended Flame Tree BBQ as a yummy quick service in the park. Now, I'm a Southern belle through and through, and I know my BBQ, so I was a little skeptical. One sniff near this place, and the delicious aromas put all question out my mind! The ribs were out of this world, and the portions are HUGE. Try sharing a meal here. Oh, and enjoy the wild birds while you eat (but don't feed them) as they flock around you. They get quite brazen in this area and will walk right up to you. I think my niece and nephew are still a little traumatized by a duck from this meal.

5. Half Day: I've had friends who tell me this is their family's favorite park; however, for me and mine, this is easily a half day park for us, even after we've ridden all of the attractions it offers. If you're looking for a park to fill a half day and then hop somewhere else, I recommend this one. Go early in the morning, take your time enjoying everything, grab lunch on the way out and maybe watch the parade, and then spend your evening elsewhere.

Help me out, Disney veterans! Have I completely missed the amazingness of this park? Please tell my readers some suggestions for this park in the comments.

The next post of this series will take you out of the parks with the last Top 5 list of the series. Sadly, I have not been to a Disney water park, so those will not make an appearance, but when I get back from my Disney Cruise in November I'll make sure to compile a "Must Do" list for DCL as well.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Top 5 Must Dos for Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios, DHS, is a mixed bag for my family. My brother-in-law, niece, and nephew aren't crazy about roller coasters, and my sister and I can't get enough of them. The park is fairly centered around shows, in my opinion, and I don't love sitting through show after show after show. It's a "one day" park for me, but I do like to go there on each trip.

1. Thrill Seekers: This park is a MUST for thrill seekers! Tower of Terror and Rockin' Roller Coaster are the best thrill rides at Walt Disney World. The theming in both queues is very detail oriented, and the rides themselves are out of this world. My personal favorite is Tower of Terror. It changes each time you ride it thanks to the computer program running the vertical drops of your elevator. Something about leaving my stomach 3 floors above me just pulls the screaming laughter from me! To some this sounds like a nightmare, but I could ride this one for hours! If you love the sweet sounds of Aerosmith, you have to ride the Rockin' Roller Coaster. Be warned, it does go upside down. If you are traveling with a thrill seeker, but you're happy to sit on the sidelines, the queues really are cool. You can walk along with your braver counterpart, and at the front of the line, the cast member can guide you out of the attraction without you having to fight your way through the queue backwards or having to ride the ride. This option keeps you with your travel partner(s) which makes the wait less lonely for you both.

2. Toy Story Midway Mania: I have visited DHS without riding this attraction, BUT it really is a must do. Simply put, the queue gets insanely long quicker than you can blink. If you want to ride this interactive, family-fun, game of an attraction, you must either get to the park first thing in the morning, or make sure to get a Fast Pass the second you get in the park. We have found that the posted wait time is MUCH longer than the actual wait time. If your party is willing to be split up, cast members often go through the queue looking for singles or couples to move to the front of the line to fill in spots in the ride vehicles. My sister, brother-in-law, and I spoke up one time and split up into 1 and 2 and rode within 5 minutes of each other. While you wait in the queue, spend the wait taking photos with your group. There are plenty of great photo ops!

This photo was taken during my first WDW trip as an adult. Can't believe
how much my sweet nephew has grown since then!

3. Animation Courtyard: This area is back in the Disney Junior area. It's a large room with interactive computer stations filled with characters to meet! During peak season, it's FULL of characters with short lines to meet them. During off peak season, it's still full of characters (not always as many) and always has a featured character from a recent movie as well as Sorcerer Mickey. The Incredibles used to have a spot there as well, and I believe they still do. You can go straight to the Courtyard without viewing the movie beforehand. If you're not sure of where to go, ask a cast member. They can point the way.

Characters will strike a pose with you if you ask nicely
and it's something within their character's nature.

4. Star Tours: Recently redone, this attraction is a crowd pleaser! It is a flight simulator that takes you on a journey through the Star Wars universe. The lines moves fairly quickly, and just like Tower of Terror the ride changes each time you ride. I suggest riding it until you see the Naboo ending. It was my favorite by far, and every time I experienced it, the crowd in my car left laughing and clapping (literally) with joy!

This Star Tours drone is voice by Patrick Warburton.
You might know him better as Kronk from
The Emperor's New Groove

5. Shows: DHS is themed to be a Hollywood studio. That means that a large portion of the park is set around shows, street actors, and other Hollywood experiences. The evening show, Fantasmic!, is a beautiful show on a body of water that ends with a steamboat full of characters, many of whom you won't see out in the parks. Be aware that in peak seasons, you'll need to get in line for this show fairly early. My family has seen the show once, and that was through a dining package which allowed us to skip the line. While we'd be happy to see it again, the line isn't worth it, and that should tell you something.

Other shows feature Indiana Jones, stuntmen and women, Disney Jr characters, the Little Mermaid, and many more.  A Times Guide is a must at DHS just to keep up with all of the shows! If you time it right in the summer, you can go from one air-conditioned show to another shaded one right after.

Tuesday we'll head to the fourth and final park in Walt Disney World: Disney's Animal Kingdom.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Top 5 Must Dos for EPCOT

When I first started my "Must Dos" series, I put the parks in a random order. Looking back, I realize this is the order in which I'm missing the parks the most right now! Epcot and Magic Kingdom are often interchangeable as my favorite parks, and no trip would be complete without visiting both! Without further ado, here are the Top 5 Must Dos for Epcot!

The Seas with Nemo & Friends
1. Know Your Attractions (especially the ones with SHORT lines): I haven't met a Disney fan who doesn't love to take a ride on Soarin', and all Disney fans know that you should go there first to grab a Fast Pass. What a shockingly large amount of guests don't know is what attractions boast the shortest lines pretty much all day. Some repeat guests don't love all of the shorter line attractions, but I find joy in all of them. The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Living with the Land, and Journey into Imagination with Figment are all in Future World and all have fairly short lines (typically 10 minutes or less). All are rides that I could happily ride over and over again. (I'll get to Spaceship Earth later in the countdown!)

The Land Pavilion houses Soarin' and Living with the Land.
Over in the World Showcase, though, there are only 2 rides and a lot of movies and shows to take in. As a general rule, you only have to wait for the show or movie before yours to get out to get into one yourself. In regards to rides, though, the Maelstrom in Norway does get a fairly long line. A Fast Pass can be a good idea when they have them available. I find that queue to induce claustrophobia in me, so look out! The attraction most miss and don't realize is there is in Mexico: The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. The line is typically nonexistent because the ride is completely inside, past the gift shops, beside the restaurant, and often hidden by the Mariachi band! The song will be stuck in your head all day, but it's a nice quiet, air conditioned, boat ride that you won't soon forget!

ARRRR! Vikings!

Touring in peak seasons, which I often do since I'm a teacher, means I have to know what attractions are best for Fast Passes and which queues are shorter for between Fast Pass times. If you're going during a peak season, I recommend reading my Thanksgiving Trip Report (scroll to the bottom of the page to find it by day).

2. Kidcot and Agent P's World Showcase Adventure: Epcot is typically a favorite park for adults, but having kids in tow, especially young ones, can make it not as enjoyable for the whole party. It feels like there's more walking here than anywhere else, and while you might enjoy exploring the various countries, your toddler might not be as keen on this more educational park. Knowing your kid friendly spots in the World Showcase can give the adults time to look around and take in the beauty of the countries.

Kidcot is a station set up in each county (and pavilion in Future World) where kids can color a Duffy puppet and have a passport stamped. The cast members at these stations can write your child's name in that country's language. I suggest trading out the adults who stand watching the kiddos while the other looks around, or if you have older kids, make a deal with them: we'll color at the Kidcot station first, and then we'll all go look around the country together. I don't have my own children, but I hear teaching them to take turns is pretty important. :)

Agent P's World Showcase Adventure is great for older kiddos. This is the old Kim Possible Adventure remade. You pick up a "transponder" cell phone like device called a F.O.N.E. (Field Operative Notification Equipment) that guides you through the World Showcase to stop the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz. Your F.O.N.E will cause different elements in the World Showcase to move and reveal mission related items. Missions vary, so if you and your kiddos enjoy this, do it more than once as you tour! One tip: don't get so caught up in your mission that you fly through the countries and forget to look around!

3. World Showcase Food and Drinks: While you're in the World Showcase, be sure to grab some food and drinks! This is by far my favorite place to eat. If you haven't eaten here, I suggest checking out the Disney Food Blog before your trip to get some ideas. For adults there are plenty of unique alcoholic beverages in each country. Everyone can find a snack to munch on when they get hungry! Two of my favorite stops are the Boulangerie Patisserie in France and the Karamel Kuche in Germany. Look around, explore, and have fun eating and drinking your way around the World! (I tend to eat very light meals the day(s) we go to Epcot, so I can get all my favorite snacks.)

Goodies from Germany! Take your snack and head to the
African Outpost to find seats and tables shaded by umbrellas.
The area offers a peaceful view of the World Showcase while you eat.

4. IllumiNations: Not sure if you can tell, but World Showcase is really my favorite side of Epcot. A great way to end your night is with the fireworks show off of the World Showcase Lagoon. It's a tribute to all of the nations full of lights, fireworks, and moving music. While Wishes is by far my favorite, IllumiNations should not be missed! Want a good spot? I've always had luck standing in Mexico, right next to the Ring Carver's booth, across from the margarita stand.

Taken while riding the Monorail. Want a good view of Epcot?
Make sure to ride the Monorail that circles the Park!

5. Spaceship Earth: I saved my favorite for the end. Did you know that some people go to Epcot and never realize that there is a ride inside of Spaceship Earth?! Even more shocking is that some don't realize that the "Big Ball", "Epcot Ball", or "Giant Gold Ball" is actually called Spaceship Earth. *Sigh* This is by far my favorite attraction at Epcot, quite possibly my favorite attraction in ALL of Walt Disney World. The line moves quickly even when it looks long because the ride is on a continuously moving track. Inside you will be taken on a journey through the history of communication. I know, I know, that makes it sound like a snoozefest, but trust me, you'll be glad you went on it. At the end of your journey, there's an interactive bit on the computer that helps you shape your future, and after you get off of the ride there's a fun "play area" on the way out that adults and kids will love. Be sure to take the time to play. I always get rushed out, and I always want to play!

Plan at least one day, maybe more for Epcot. This is a great park to catch tons of characters. Be sure to grab the Times Guide as you go into the park to know what characters will show up when and where. This will stop you from spending your day running back and forth between Future World and World Showcase. Lines do get long though, so be prepared to go wait long before the character is set to show up to make sure you get to meet them.

Come back on Friday to move to our next stop in the series: Disney's Hollywood Studios!

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Top 5 Must Dos for Magic Kingdom

This month, the Magical Blogorail Peach loop was asked to focus on the "Top 5 Must Dos for a Disney Newbie."  After sitting and brainstorming for a while, I decided that Disney newbies need quite a bit of general tips, so I focused on those for my last post. However, I wanted to share my must dos for all of the separate Parks in the World. Most everyone has shared must dos like Soarin', Toy Story Midway Mania, and other attractions, so I'm going to try to share some classics for newbies as well as things repeat guests might not have considered.

1. Fantasyland and Classic Attractions: Fantasyland, in my eyes, is the foundation of Magic Kingdom. It's the place where everyone can feel the full force of Disney magic and pixie dust, and adults can relish in being a kid again! Take the time to enjoy all, or at least most, of the Fantasyland attractions. First thing in the morning the lines tend to be short, so hurry to Fantasyland first. To enjoy the Land without it taking too long, my family has taken to this manner of touring: grab a Fast Pass for Peter Pan's Flight, get in line for Dumbo, ride it's a small world and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, and go see Mickey's Philharmagic. By then your Fast Pass for Peter Pan's Flight should be ready to go. If not, enjoy the interactive queue for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. A 30-45 minute wait isn't too much to endure when you can play along the way! (I took the time to fully play with this entire queue on my last trip, and I loved it!) Mad Tea Party can be ridden with a fairly short line by the time you're done with this area. Sadly, I cannot give advice on how to fit in the new Fantasyland Expansion, but I can't wait for November to experience it and share it with you!
Make sure you ride in an adjacent Dumbo to your group, so you can
take photos of each other! 
Along with Fantasyland, I recommend that you know your classics (in all of the parks). Since these attractions rarely change for more than a cleaning and update, their lines tend to be shorter, and they are great time fillers for when you're waiting for Fast Pass times to come up. The Haunted Mansion is right by Fantasyland, and with its new interactive queue, it's a blast to explore with the entire family! The "ride along" part at the end has been updated, and it's sure to entertain! Walt Disney himself envisioned parts of Tomorrowland like the Carousel of Progress and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. Both classics are calm but must do's for me on every trip. Make sure you ride the Mountains (Space, Splash, and Big Thunder), so you can boast that you've conquered them all!

2. Wishes: The nighttime fireworks show at Magic Kingdom is my favorite by far. It has forever ruined non-Disney fireworks shows for me! Not only are the fireworks amazing, but the music that accompanies the show is poignant. My sister and I stand on Main Street, USA, singing along with the music, and I'm usually fighting back tears. Wishes is Disney magic at its finest; one might say the fireworks themselves are made of pixie dust!
It was so humid on a couple of my recent trips that the smoke
from the fireworks was crazy visible. It made for a unique show!

3. Parades: Disney parades, like everything else there, are phenomenal! The music blasts just loud enough to get your feet taping. You can't help but grin ear to ear, and children and adults find themselves waving joyfully to their favorite Disney characters. I got chills writing that, but seriously, that's just how wonderful the parades are! Magic Kingdom has two, really three, of my favorite parades: A Dream Come True in the afternoon and The Main Street Electrical Parade at night. Spectromagic is really my all time favorite parade, but Main Street Electrical Parade came back and took its place a few years ago.
How about some viewing tips? The best place my family has found to view the evening parades is in Liberty Square in front of the Hall of Presidents. We tend to have one more ride on The Haunted Mansion and then take a seat just behind the parade ropes about 45 minutes before the parade. Yes, the adults in our group sit on the ground too. We love the parade, and we like to have a good view and get to sit with the kids. We do NOT stand up once the parade starts as it allows those behind us to still get a good view if we stay seated. This spot lets us get wonderful photos, and we get the added bonus of interacting with the characters who are on foot. The afternoon parade is great, but it's a rough time for the kiddos, so we tend to fight for a spot on Main Street, USA and then head out for rest time quickly after the parade ends. We were one of the first groups to see the Dream Come True parade, and one of the dancers gave her streamers to my niece at the end of the parade. I still tear up thinking about that sweet moment.

4. Rope Drop: Some people like to sleep late and then stay out late with Extra Magic Hours in the evenings. My family rises very early. When asked for tips from a friend a while back, she returned from her trip and thanked me saying that Rope Drop was one of the most magical moments for her family! Rope Drop is a show that happens at Magic Kingdom just after you enter the ticket area. Get there at least a half an hour before Park opening, and stand watching for the train to enter. I'm not going to spoil the surprise for you, but it's worth getting up early one day to see it. This is yet another event at Magic Kingdom that makes me tear up. It's like the magic just overflows out of everything here!

5. Nighttime Attractions: Magic Kingdom is a beautiful sight to behold when it's all lit up at night, especially at Christmas. Some attractions are even better after dark has fallen as some give you a better view and others are simply "cooler" in the dark. The Jungle Cruise feels completely different at night, and the line tends to be a little shorter then. The Haunted Mansion queue is a bit creeper in the dark, and the interactive queue looks fabulous! I always insist on riding Astro Orbitor at night because of the spectacular view you get as you ride. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover also affords you great peeks of Cinderella Castle all lit up without people blocking your view. Have your camera ready though because the ride moves fast at times and your Castle shot is out of sight quickly!
Playing the organ in The Haunted Mansion queue after dark

What have I missed? Do you have some must dos for Magic Kingdom? Anything on the list that you as a returning guest have NOT done? 

Next Tuesday I'll be heading to the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow for five new must dos! See you then!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The Top 5 Must Dos for Disney Newbies

Many of my friends and acquaintances come to me when they start to plan a Walt Disney World vacation and ask for tips for touring the Happiest Place on Earth.  Typically I have SO MANY tips for them that I end up sending them an email broken down by park as well as tips for what to do with and without kiddos. This month when we were asked to write about our 5 must dos for Disney newbies, I immediately knew a series would need to be written to do this justice! (Good thing too because I have had the worst case of writer's block EVER lately!)

I'm going to wait to tell you about specific attractions and places to eat in later posts and tell you instead about a few tips that still help me tour effectively and happily when I visit Disney World.

1. Fast Passes: If you haven't heard of Fast Passes or aren't sure how they work, read up on them before you head off on your vacation. They allow you to stand in a "virtual" line while you go enjoy other aspects of the park you are in. You can only get one per ticket per time slot, but they're well worth it for major attractions that have a line over 45 minutes long. A common misconception is that Fast Passes are only for people staying on Disney properties. Anyone can use Fast Passes, and my family uses them constantly while traveling at peak and off-peak times. Read here for more details from the Mouse!

2. Stay on Property: Take a minute to let this truth sink in: Disney is not cheap, but it is definitely affordable. Disney Resorts come in value, moderate, and deluxe levels. Staying on Disney property is about as affordable as staying in a Holiday Inn down the street, and you get many, many more perks! It's Disney themed, you can get the Disney Dining Plan, Disney Transportation usually rocks (and is free), and it's honestly just more magical! Try it once, and if it's not for you and yours, cool, stay off property next time, but you need to try it at least once.

Image from Disney Food Blog
3. Use the Disney Dining Plan: The Disney Dining Plan, DDP, is a great deal! There are different levels to choose from, and it ends up being close to the same amount that you would spend on food out of pocket. However, it allows you to pay for meals ahead of time and not worry about spending the extra money on food once you get there. Best of all, Disney runs specials all the time that give you free dining when you book for a certain number of days! That's one of the BEST deals out there!

4. Rest Time: Biggest mistake first time visitors make is that they try to do it ALL on the first day. Plan your trip long enough that you can take your time in the parks, and make sure that you rest midday. A trip back to the resort for a nap or a swim, or even a calm meal or show in the afternoon is a good time to get your energy back. If you cannot plan enough days to do justice to all four parks, I suggest focusing on Magic Kingdom and the other park(s) that look the most interesting to your family. You will most likely decide to visit again! If you exhaust yourself mentally and physically the first day, the rest of the trip will not be nearly as fun.  How do you know it's rest time? The kids AND the adults start to have temper tantrums and breakdowns! Try to take a rest before this happens, as meltdowns are definite dark clouds on an otherwise amazing experience.

5. Research Ahead of Time: One blog post or Magical Blogorail ride is simply not enough to prep you for this trip. If you're going to Disney World, you need to be at least a little familiar with the Parks, Disney Transportation, and attractions. I advise that you at least pore over the Walt Disney World website. Touring Plans is a great website (subscription needed) for learning what crowd levels to expect and how to make the best of your time touring the Parks. The DISboards are message boards where people share tips and chat about Disney Parks. It's a blast to join along or just lurk and read. Either way, the more you know ahead of time, the better you'll be able to relax and enjoy your vacation!

**OK I had to go over five because I just remembered another one! Get a Times Guide as you enter each park. The Times Guides at the resorts are basic park hours and such. The ones in the individual Parks (beside the maps as you enter) give specific times for that Park including shows, parades, and fireworks. It's small enough to stick in your pocket, and it will save you from missing amazing things!

Next few posts (set to publish on Tuesdays and Fridays) will feature Top 5 Must Dos for all 4 Parks at Walt Disney World as well as a 5th "out of the parks" list at the end.

What are your general must dos for Disney newbies? Better yet, what do you wish you'd known the first time around?