No matter what, you can pretty much expect that your visit to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom will be—for lack of a better word—magical. But if you want to make the absolute most of your time in the park, there are some things you may want to be aware of before you set foot on Main Street.
Here are 12 do’s and don’ts that will help you soak up all of the pixie dust the Magic Kingdom has to offer during your next trip to Walt Disney World.
6. Make Your Dining Plans Early
Many seasoned Disney-goers know that dining reservations for the Magic Kingdom’s most popular restaurants—think Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table—are tough to come by, and those reservations open 180 days in advance of your chosen date. If sit-down dining at the Magic Kingdom is important to your family, make a plan and be on-line and logged into your My Disney Experience account by 6am EST the morning your reservation window opens; if you have any trouble, the phone lines open at 7am EST.
5. Make FastPass Reservations
Remember everything I just said about dining reservations? Well, FastPasses pretty much work the same way. While your can nab FastPasses to many classic Magic Kingdom attractions the day of your visit, certain attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and even Peter Pan’s Flight can “sell out” well in advance, meaning that you may be looking at long lines during peak periods of park attendance. Resort guests can book FastPasses for their entire trip 60 days in advance, so if you’re staying on-site, be sure to take advantage of that perk.
4. Arrive Early
So you were able to secure all of your desired FastPasses? That’s great, but you should still plan to arrive early. The Magic Kingdom is a massive theme park, and there’s tons to see and do. And since park tickets aren’t exactly cheap these days, if you want the most bang for your buck, set your alarm and drag your kids out of bed early to be on-hand for park opening…and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with lighter crowds and shorter wait times (at least for a few hours).
3. Take Breaks
As I mentioned, there’s a lot to do…and if you want to pretty much guarantee that your kids have meltdowns, then you’ll attempt to go full speed all day long without stopping. The walking alone can be exhausting—and during Florida’s warmer months, the scorching afternoon hours can be downright unbearable—so be sure to schedule plenty of breaks throughout the day to get off your feet (and into the air conditioning), whether it’s a character meal at the Crystal Palace or an indoor, seated attraction like the Hall of Presidents.
2. Experience the Magic
Many first-time Magic Kingdom visitors are so intent on seeing everything that they miss some of what makes the park so special. While it seems that today’s visitors have to schedule every moment of their visit, from lining up FastPasses to meet your favorite Disney characters to planning when you’d like to eat six months in advance, try to take at least a little bit of time just to explore, whether it’s hunting for Hidden Mickeys with your kids or relaxing with a Dole Whip or Mickey ice cream bar on Tom Sawyer Island.
1. See the Entertainment
Even if you’re not into parades (although if you have kids, or are a kid at heart, the 3 o’clock Festival of Fantasy parade is not to be missed), you’ll want to be sure to schedule viewings of the Magic Kingdom’s entertainment, like the nightly fireworks show over the castle, Wishes, the interactive, kid-friendly shows like Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial in Adventureland, or the new The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History in Liberty Square. Check the Times Guide upon your arrival (or the park calendar on the Disney World website) for a list and schedule of daily entertainment.
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6. Try to See it All in One Day
Believe me, I’ve tried. And while the highly-motivated group of Disney-goers can likely see most of Magic Kingdom’s popular attractions in one day with the right strategy, you’ll still miss out on a whole lot of shows, character interactions, and other special only-at-Disney World moments. Plus, if you try to do too much in one day, you may just end up falling asleep on the curb on Main Street before the fireworks begin (not speaking from personal experience or anything).
5. Plan Three Sit-Down Meals Per Day
I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do, but it’s my personal opinion that dining at table service restaurants can eat up a whole lot of your day, no pun intended. For the best use of your time (and money), you may want to nosh on your own oatmeal or cereal at the hotel before you head over to the park, and then plan for your big meal of the day as a late lunch/early dinner, when prices are often cheaper than evening meals at certain restaurants. Then if you’re hungry later on, there’s no shortage of Mickey pretzels, popcorn, churros, and other delectable Magic Kingdom goodies to fill up on while waiting for Wishes.
4. Be Rude to Cast Members
Touring a theme park can be exhausting and over-stimulating, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen guests snap at cast members for everything from an attraction breaking down to being served the wrong meal at a restaurant. Cast members work ridiculously long hours and will often go above and beyond to make your visit magical, so remember that a little kindness (and understanding that it’s not their fault if your log gets stuck on Splash Mountain) can go a long way when it comes to expressing your disappointment.
3. Miss Out on the Photo Opportunities
Sure, every family has taken the classic group photo in front of Cinderella’s Castle, but there are tons of other amazing photo opportunities throughout the park…which make for memories your family will cherish for a lifetime. Best of all, Disney has made it easy for your entire group to be in the shot every time thanks to Memory Maker; just look for the PhotoPass photographers (and, yes, they do have their own special costume), and if you don’t plan to purchase your photos later, ask the photographer to take a few shots of your entire group with your personal camera or smartphone.
2. Ignore the Calendar
Many families can only visit the parks when the kids are out of school, meaning that the Magic Kingdom is often mobbed over the summer, spring break, and other school holidays. Not to mention, the stifling summer heat in Florida can pretty much suck the life right out of you. So if you have any flexibility at all in your travel calendar, try to choose “off” times of year to visit, when crowds are somewhat lighter and the temperatures are a bit cooler. Also be aware of special events like Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January, or the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in the fall, which can also attract heavier crowds. Remember that the Disney World park hours calendar also comes in handy when it comes to taking advantage (or avoiding) Extra Magic Hours or evenings when the park closes early for special ticketed events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
1. Forget to Set a Budget
Many Disney World fans are fully aware that a visit to the Magic Kingdom has become increasingly more expensive over the years. But while ticket prices continue to climb, you should still set—and stick to—a budget to avoid putting a damper on all your magic memories with a sky-high credit card bill upon your arrival home. Small savings like packing your own sandwiches for lunch or toting around refillable water bottles will quickly add up, and be sure to set a souvenir spending budget right from the beginning for the kids, who will undoubtedly fall victim to the allure of countless merchandise shops scattered throughout the park.