PROTIP: Listen to our protips

Three weeks ago my friend Kristen came to visit and we had the absolute best time together! We spent one day at Universal Studios and three days at Walt Disney World. Despite higher crowds than predicted (thanks a lot Playlist Live and Cheerleading Worlds), we still got to do pretty much everything we had wanted to do! Kristen and I thought it would be funny to do a post about all of our PROTIPS, so listen up friends! (UPDATED: 10/21/16) Kristen helped me come up with this list and if you ever want to check out her blog you can do so here.

PROTIP: Bring a poncho if there is rain in the forecast! It is also handy for keeping your bags dry on water rides.

PROTIP: If it does rain, the majority of people will most likely end up leaving the park and this can be a great time to take some awesome pictures and encounter shorter wait times for attractions.


NO LINE for Escape from Gringotts


PROTIP: When utilizing the free lockers at Universal Studios, try your best to get one at the end of a row. The locker area can get super crowded and it’s a waste of time to have to push through a mob of people to get to your locker and then back out again.

PROTIP: Bring an extra pair of clothes if you plan on riding any of the water rides at Universal Studios. If you don’t have Chacos, bring a pair of flip flops to change into for these attractions! Shoes are required on all rides and you don’t want your tennies to get soaked. Also, at any merchandise location you can ask for a plastic bag to put your wet things in afterwards.

PROTIP: Make sure to delete as many pictures off of your camera and phone as possible before your trip so you can take a ton of pictures. We took almost 600 photos!!

PROTIP: Get comfortable with asking PhotoPass photographers and random strangers to take your photos!! Yes it’s awkward and uncomfortable, but you’ll be thankful in the long run.

PROTIP: Be creative and come up with some different poses so that all of your pictures aren’t just of you standing in front of something. If you’re at a loss, ask the characters or PhotoPass photographers for ideas!

PROTIP: Have a phone with a good forward facing camera so you can take selfies when needed! Also, it’s great fun to find all the Snapchat geo-filters and get pictures with the sign from each “land”.

PROTIP: Look at the Times Guide or MyDisneyExperience App and plan to line up 10-15 minutes before a character is said to appear. You will have a shorter wait and ensure that you see the character before their line is cut. We arrived right on time for Peter Pan and his line was already cut 😦

PROTIP: If you are able to be at Magic Kingdom more than one night, meet “indoor” characters during the fireworks or immediately after they re-open Fantasyland. We met Anna, Elsa, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Ariel in under an hour without fastpasses!

EDIT: Anna and Elsa moved to Norway in World Showcase in June 2016, so the “princess pairs” are now Cinderella & Aurora and Rapunzel & Tiana.

PROTIP: Arrive early to Magic Kingdom! Plan extra time to get through the nightmare that is the Monorail and Security line at park open. We almost missed the Welcome Show despite parking around 8 am. If staying on property, TAKE THE BUS TO THIS PARK, DO NOT DRIVE

PROTIP: Head to Fantasyland first and bang out as much as possible before it is super crowded with children and strollers! We were able to hit Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, it’s a small world, and Ariel’s Undersea Adventure within the first hour! We then got in line to meet Gaston at 10 am!

PROTIP: When planning out your schedule for the day, try to stick to one “land” or area of the park at a time. These parks are huge and unnecessary zigzagging will wear you out.

PROTIP: Do as much as you can in the morning before it gets too crowded and plan your fastpasses for the afternoon! Our first fastpass was for Splash Mountain right after the 3:00 parade, we did Space Mountain before dinner, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train around 8:30 pm.

PROTIP: The MDE App now lets you make your 4th FP choice on your phone instead of going to a kiosk! After we used our last FP for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, we were able to grab a 4th FP for Big Thunder later that evening.

PROTIP: If possible, ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the dark! Trust me on this one; it is so much more fun.

PROTIP: Watch Festival of Fantasy from Frontierland! It is less crowded than Main Street, and it’s easy to get a spot on the side opposite of the river where you will be in the shade the entire parade! See, look at that glorious shade!

PROTIP: Ride the indoor things in the afternoon when it’s hot and crowded. This is a great time to do Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, Carousel of Progress, PeopleMover, Enchanted Tikki Room, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

PROTIP: Sunset is the perfect time to take all those pictures you’d been dying to take all day but couldn’t because the sun was too blinding!!

PROTIP: Bring your own water into the park and ask for cups of water when your water bottle runs out. Yes you technically could refill your bottle at a water fountain, but trust me when I say that the water tastes like Splash Mountain. Yuck.

PROTIP: Utilize all the cool apps that are available nowadays. The MyDisneyExperience App is essential for checking wait times, character appearances, fastpasses, dining reservations, your PhotoPass pictures, etc. Since I’m at the parks so much I went ahead and got a subscription to TouringPlans and I use their app to optimize and evaluate my daily plans. If traveling in a group, I highly suggest Splitwise to keep track of expenses. It even does all the math for you and simplifies debts!

PROTIP: Bring a power bank to charge your phone! Using apps and taking photos can quickly drain your battery. I use this one and I love it.

PROTIP: Eat during non-peak times! When you go to Disney you think about avoiding long lines for rides but what about those long lines for food? Most days we didn’t eat lunch till 1:30 pm or later which gave us tons of time in the morning to do things before it got crowded as well as gave us the opportunity to try some snacks mid-morning.

PROTIP: Don’t stress if you are a little bit late for your dining reservation. Try to be on time but know that they will hold your reservation for up to 15 minutes. We were late to most of our reservations for various reasons (almost to the front of the line for Snow White, still in a show, etc.) and it wasn’t a problem.

PROTIP:  If you plan to do Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom in the same day, go to Hollywood Studios first. Now this might all change once Rivers of Light opens but for now, this is what works best. It is near impossible to get fastpasses for Toy Story Midway Mania, so do Hollywood Studios in the morning, park-hop to Animal Kingdom for the afternoon (and plan your 3 FP’s for here), then come back to Hollywood Studios once Animal Kingdom closes.

EDIT: Over the summer, this completely changed because Animal Kingdom was typically open till 11:00 pm and Jungle Book:Alive With Magic ran every night from Memorial Day till Labor Day. Now that Fall has hit, the park has been closing earlier around 8:30 pm which is actually still pretty late in comparison to years past. Personally, I love Animal Kingdom at night! I LIVE for the dance parties, the nighttime safari is a nice change, and the Tree of Life Awakening is beautiful. However, if you plan to combine Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom into one day, I would probably suggest spending the evening at Hollywood Studios (at least until Rivers of Light opens) as Animal Kingdom currently does not have a “nighttime spectacular”.

PROTIP: Arrive at Hollywood Studios early and get ready to RUN (safely) to Toy Story Midway Mania! We rode it by 9:15 am and when we got out, the line was already up to 60 minutes.

EDIT: Since the introduction of a third track over the summer, the wait time for TSMM has gotten a lot more reasonable. It is now much easier to snag a FP for this attraction, or ride in stand-by at a much lower wait (I did it a couple of weeks ago around noon and we only waited 20 minutes). However, I would still suggest heading here early in the day if it is imperative that you experience this attraction.

PROTIP: Animal Kingdom has much better quick-service options than Hollywood Studios. We decided to eat a little early so we could get our dinner at Animal Kingdom before heading back to Hollywood Studios. To even further optimize our time and ensure that we made it into the last show of Festival of the Lion King, we picked up some food from Harambe Market and then sat and ate it in the outdoor queue while we waited for the show. Multi-tasking for the win!

PROTIP: Character meals are a great way to meet characters!! Yes they are more expensive than a traditional meal, but they are totally worth it when you realize you can eat AND meet about five characters in a little more than an hour. We did this on our last day before Kristen’s flight when we had no plans to go to the park. Kristen chose breakfast at 1900 Park Fare which is one of my favorites 🙂

If you take anything away from this post, this last tip needs to be that one thing:

PROTIP: BRING MORE THAN ONE PAIR OF SHOES!!! I don’t care how comfortable your shoes are, by day three or four your feet will need a change! Kristen brought her Nikes and Chacos and alternated each day. I had only brought my tennis shoes and by Sunday night, I was limping and my feet hurt SO bad!!! On Monday, I ended up wearing my ugly work shoes and man I’m glad I did!! My feet needed a change and my work shoes are super comfortable. Sacrifice your cuteness for comfort if needed, trust me your feet will thank you.

Thanks so much for reading! You should all be theme park pros as well now!!

Ryan & Kristen

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