Disney Tips N Tricks

After many years of Disney posts and dozens of emails from readers, I published my book, Disney Tips n' Tricks. Through my blog and my email I've realized parents and Disney planning families are looking for parent to parent advice, not Hidden Mickeys.  My book was a labor of Disney love, and every chapter details all of my tips, tricks and best advice for families embarking on their next Walt Disney World vacation.  

I removed my book from the Amazon store after deciding the information needed updated due to the many park updates at Walt Disney World.  I've updated this page to include more information and will continue to add as I have more advice!

Feel free to browse my other condensed posts for more Disney World information!

Disney Posts and Reviews:

Growing up, Walt Disney World was an annual vacation. We drove, flew, and even took the train. My parents did packages, stayed outside the parks and stayed inside the parks. I’ve been there over forty times in my life; sometimes we went twice a year depending on what kind of park tickets we had. Not only did I learn the art of traveling to Disney World, I learned the art of traveling to Disney with kids. My parents had six children and new baby or not, they still treated us to our annual Disney vacation.
            My husband and I have continued this tradition with our kids. I can say with confidence I know every park like the back of my hand. I know every shortcut, discount, hotel and package. I can tell you great places to meet characters, tips to keep your little troops truckin’, excellent timesaving tricks, what to skip and where to stay no matter what your budget.

I'm not going to waste time reviewing rides or parks, because every family is different.  This page is more to help you plan your trip and survive your trip without wasting time or money. 

Where to Stay?

Below are my picks for hotels in every price range (I'm a casual girl, no need for fancy. But I like good service, cleanliness, and a classy well maintained establishment. Most importantly, everything I pick is turbo kid friendly!!) However, you really can't go wrong staying inside the parks...every resort is family friendly and has top notch service.

My personal favorites:

Value - Pop Century Resort
Moderate - Port Orleans Riverside.
Deluxe - Polynesian
Wilderness Lodge (also a Villa Resort)
Yacht/Beach Club (Also a villa resort)

Best advice?

1. Save $ on Snacks

Dining Plan or not, I always pack one suitcase of dried goods for our trip. If your munchkins are anything like mine, they could eat a four course meal and still complain they need a snack five minutes later. You do not want to be buying drinks and snacks in the parks. I have had NUMEROUS people tell me they won't pack a suitcase of dry food because of baggage fees. This is my answer:

Pack smart. Pack two kids in one bag and save a bag for food. Pack food in everyone's bag (a few boxes of granola bars in one bag, pop tarts in another...sprinkle it in). Or, fly an airline that offers more bags (southwest is a favorite of mine). Lastly, an extra bag might be $20. ONE SOFT PRETZEL IN DISNEY WORLD IS OVER $5. If you buy one snack every day of your trip in the parks you will have paid more for snacks than that extra bag.

Consider this carefully.

A few of my favorite items to pack in my luggage for the parks:
Bread (in tupperware)

Peanut butter

Jelly (collect small jelly packets from restaurants leading up to your trip. Sounds silly but it works)

Granola Bars


Fruit snacks

Pop Tarts

Juice pouches (in tupperware)

If you are really dedicated to saving money (as I am) and you will have a mini fridge in your room (check with hotels on availability of fridges) pack cold food as well. I usually pack a soft cooler in one suitcase and fill it with frozen yogurt sticks, apple slices, frozen juice pouches (they serve as excellent ice packs) and even cold cuts.

Every day before you go to the park pack a backpack of snacks. Drinks, pb&j sandwiches, yogurts, cookies or whatever you have with you. I have a backpack that is a cooler as well, which works awesome. If you have a stroller in tow, this extra bag won't be an issue. If not, dad or mom can wear it no problem. The best part? It gets lighter as the day goes on.

2. Get Up Early!

The parks fill up as the days go on, and with kids the earlier the better. If you get up and arrive at the park when it opens, you can get back to your room for a siesta. Tired kids = tantrums. If you arrive to a park before opening, even during the busiest weeks of the year you can ride at least 3 attractions with no wait.

3. Plan a Pool Day

Disney is a working vacation. It's go, go and go again. If you listen to my advice you are at the parks early, by the pool after lunch, and back to the parks at night.

I have many parents that tell me they are on vacation and they want to sleep in. I understand that - but it doesn't help when you are trying to avoid lines and see as much as possible in a week (sometimes less).

Plan one day to be a pool day (this cuts back on the running and is much needed mid week). Sleep in, enjoy your resort and your pool. No need for water park passes all Disney resorts have great pools. We take advantage of activities at the resort such as crafts and poolside games.

That evening, head over to Downtown Disney for some shopping and entertainment. There is usually live music and other happenings to experience for free.

Having a planned day to just relax recharges everyone. You also can save money on one less park day for your park passes. 

4. Limit Souvenir $

Limit souvenir money before the trip. For the months leading up to the vacation, my kids start to save every penny. They do chores to earn a little extra, and usually any money that is gifted to them goes into their Disney fund. Before we leave for the trip, we sit the kids down and explain how much they have to spend. They each have their OWN wallet. Whatever is in the wallet they can spend, but once it's gone, there are NO loans from mom and dad.

When we arrive at every park the kids always ask how much they have left to spend. They are very aware of prices because we can easily demonstrate how much something will cost by removing the money from their wallet. Every time they check out the money comes from them, do not buy what they want and then "pay yourself back."

When they see the money leaving their wallet the lesson is more effective.

This method teaches them how to save, how to evaluate how much they really want something (is it worth having no money for remainder of the trip?), how to count money, keep track of change and most importantly how to budget for each day.

If you do nothing else before your trip make sure you implement this spending system. You will thank me for this later, every ride drops you into a shopping zone. Every. Single. Ride.

5. Fast Passes

Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have an itinerary with all your Fast Pass times. Set up your Fast Passes on your magical experience page on Disney's website. This page is an excellent tool for your vacation, and the app goes right on your phone.

Fast Pass tips:

Make sure you consider what park you will be at each day. Check which parks open early and arrive when they open, or avoid the park that opens early all together. The reason being if you don't take advantage of the extra hour in the morning, the larger crowds won't be worth the trouble.

If you don't have hopper passes (passes that allow different parks in the same day) make sure you are at the park your meals will be in (if you have a dining plan).

Most importantly, DO NOT use fast passes anytime before 10am. The crowds are fairly light until that time, and lines won't be long unless you are visiting during peak season. We've even vacationed during the busy times and had minimal waits before 10am. Save your fast passes for evening and afternoons, when lines are longest.

6. Favorite Meals with Kids?

The Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom is a family favorite. I think it is extremely underrated.

For dining plan members, this isn't a top pick because the meals aren't expensive enough to really maximize your dining plan dollar. However, the club sandwiches, burgers and hand dipped milkshakes are mouth watering enough for me to overlook it. Great place to grab lunch after a busy morning in the Magic Kingdom.

Other restaurants I recommend:

Biergarten (Epcot, Germany)
Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)
50's Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios)
O'Hana (Polynesian)

For a real rundown of all things Disney Dining check out the Disney Food Blog. 

What about character meals?
Its a tie. If you have little Princesses, don't miss Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian. Make sure she wears her best Princess Dress!!! If you are looking for a general character meal, The Crystal Palace with Winnie the Pooh and Friends is in the heart of the Magic Kingdom. Make dinner reservations to maximize your dining dollar if on the meal plan.

If you want to experience all the princesses, no need to book the castle in the Magic Kingdom. This is extremely expensive and takes two dining plan credits. You can see many of the same princesses in Norway at Epcot. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is located right next to the entrance to the Frozen ride; the perfect princess combination.

7. Set the Rules Every Morning

Disney is overwhelming for everyone.  People, shops, rides, characters...it's like sensory overload. Every morning, when you are getting your little cherubs and sunscreened, make time for a "family meeting."  You need to regroup and give the kids an idea of what to expect that day and what is expected of them.  This is important!  I use this in everyday life and it works wonders.

Our rule in Disney World is if you are walking and you can't reach out and touch mom, dad or the stroller you're walking too far away.  Maybe tell walking kids they have to hold your hand.  Remind the kids of walking rules as well as what you will be doing first and for the rest of the day.  Also remind them this may change depending on everyone is behaving.

Today we are going to the Magic Kingdom.  We are riding rides until 11 and then we will stop for lunch.  We are not shopping today.  We will swim this afternoon. At the pool we can talk about what we all want to do this evening. Remember if you can't reach out and touch mom or the stroller when you are walking you are too far away.  

If you are too far away more than two times you have to hold a hand because it is too easy to lose you in the crowd. 

Trust me, this prevents a few meltdowns.  Not all, but a few.

8.  Labels

Before your vacation, print a sheet of address labels with your phone number on them.  Stick these to your bags and the backs of your walking children.  If something or someone gets lost this is extremely helpful.

9.  Pin Trading and Penny Pressing

These two activities have saved me thousands of dollars. If your kids are anything like mine, they collect stuff and they love to hunt for more stuff for their collections.

Can anyone say tiny hoarders?

Pin trading is extremely popular in Disney.  You wear a lanyard with pins, and you can trade with anyone else in the park wearing pins.  I limit these trades to cast members (they all wear pins), because I'm not huge on walking up to strangers.  It isn't out of the ordinary for little kids to approach other little kids and offer a trade.

If you are going to pin trade, purchase a lanyard and pins on ebay.  Pins in Disney are expensive, and starter sets will run you at least $30.  If you buy pins on ebay, your kids can load up their lanyards for cheap and trade the pins away.  That's the trick, you don't tons of pins your kids love.  You need some you're willing to trade. Buy a few favorites (and tell them not to trade them!) and trade the rest.  Nothing burns like watching your child trade away a brand new $15 pin for an $8 pin.

Penny pressing was a favorite of my youngest.  She looked for machines all over every park.  Bring enough quarters to press a few pennies every day.  Disney sells holders for your pennies, and this alone satisfied my kids many trips.  Well, pressed pennies and a few stuffed animals.


This should be number one. When planning the trip, you will start to wonder if you'll understand anything before you leave.  You probably won't.  The good news is you will be fine when you get there.  Cast members (employees) are extremely helpful and all of them will happily explain how your dining plan works, where the bus is, how to find the bathrooms and how to use your fast passes.

Think of it like learning a card game. The game starts and you're clueless. After one round you're good to go.  Disney is much the same.

Have a fantastic trip!