So You Want to Go to Disney? Tips for Surviving the Magic Kingdom

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Guest Post by Nicole Hockin. There’s a small window in our lives when Pixie Dust makes you fly and meeting giant mice wearing clothes is better than winning the lottery. With a trip to Walt Disney World, we get a chance to channel our inner child and experience that magic.

Magic KingdomTaking children to Disney should be on everyone’s list of life to-do’s because there is something truly special about experiencing the “Happiest Place on Earth” through their eyes. That task can also be a bit overwhelming if you are not sure what you are doing. After all, it is an investment. Tickets, dining and lodging are not cheap and you certainly want to get the most bang for your buck.

So here are a few tips for a successful Magic Kingdom vacation. When you finish reading this, if you still have questions – just ask me. I’m glad to answer any questions; we’ll post the answers on the Travel Smart Blog.

Let me begin with the MOST IMPORTANT TIP OF ALL: Have fun and don’t overschedule your family to the point that you aren’t having fun. It can almost be sensory overload – in a wonderful way, of course – so slow down and take it all in, especially on your kids level. Smaller kids will move slowly and that’s fine. Tweens and teens may want to hit ride after ride – and that’s great too. Depending on how much time that you have allowed for your visit, you may not get to everything, but that just leaves opportunity for you to come back again some day.


The lines for favorite and new attractions at any of Disney’s Parks get very long very quickly so head to those first and/or grab your Fast Passes.

You don’t have to be militant about your daily agenda but you should look at park maps and decide with your group what you want to see/ride each day. Then you can loosely plan a course of attack. I am a big fan of allowing for spontaneity but navigating Disney does require some strategy in order to not spend the bulk of your time in line. If you don’t have an agenda, then it’s a good idea to head to the back of the park first and work your way to the front. This way you’ll get the shortest lines, at least during the beginning of your day, as everyone else will be starting from the front.


Master the FastPass system! Your park admission tickets do much more than just gain you entrance to Disney theme parks. They also enable you to get FastPasses, which keeps you riding rides instead of waiting in lines. They are FREE, simple to use, and will save you tons of time in line for the most popular rides. Get the most out of FastPasses– and your whole Disney World vacation– by using them strategically. Check out these Tips for Using Fastpasses.

Expert Tip: Have one person keep all the tickets for your group. 1. You don’t want to lose them and 2. You need them to get a FastPass.

MAGIC KINGDOM: Go Early – Leave – Come Back

The earlier you start your day, the better. Eat an early breakfast (or grab a yummy waffle sandwich at Liberty Park inside the MK) and then head over to the Magic Kingdom 30 minutes before the stated opening time. You can be first in line and catch the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show. You’ll never forget the look on your kids’ faces when they see the steam engine pull into Main Street Station with all the characters aboard waving at them.

Magic Kingdom Welcome ShowDisney novices tend to sleep late, arrive at the park midmorning and then exit by early evening, exhausted by the heat and the crowds. My advice? Go early, have lunch at the park and then return to your resort for a nap or a swim. Re-enter the park around 5 PM when many families with young kids are on their way out. The dinner rush at the parks is between 6:00 – 7:30 PM. Eat before you go back or as soon as you re-enter the park; then hit the rides while everyone else is eating their dinner. Plan to stay for the night parade.

When you first enter the park in the morning, head for the attractions that are most important to your group. If you have bigger kids or you are a big kid yourself then make a beeline for Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Hitting these early might even get you multiple rides. For the little ones: head to Fantasyland and hop in line for a ride on Dumbo or fly off with Peter Pan. And don’t forget to make your way to Frontierland and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Skip Main Street for the Parade

If you’re returning to the Magic Kingdom at night for the parade, head toward Frontierland for a spot on the parade route unless you want to be out of the park as soon as it’s over. People start holding their places on Main Street, in my experience, very early, which isn’t really necessary. There is lots of “front row” room in Frontierland. If you have seen the parade before then take the time while the parade is making its course to also ride a few more rides.

For Little Princesses: Cinderella’s Royal Table Fairy Tale Dining. Little girls, dressed like their favorite Disney Princesses, will think they have died and gone to princess heaven when they are treated to a dining experience inside Cinderella’s castle complete with her and all her friends. Speaking from experience, the meal is surprisingly excellent, which helped to justify the cost. However, it was all worth it to see my daughter’s reaction to the whole experience! Throughout your dining experience, the Princesses visit each table, are on hand to pose for photos and sign autographs. For a sweet finale, desserts include a sampler trio and other irresistible treats. Reservations and pre-payment are required. To make reservations, book online or call (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463. If they day/meal you are looking for is full – KEEP CHECKING. I didn’t get in on my first, second or seventh call but we finally got five seats at the special event.


If you are starting your day at Hollywood Studios then you want to head straight for the Toy Story Mania ride. Ride it and then grab a Fast Pass so that you can do it again. It’s one of my favorite rides in Walt Disney World.

Hollywood StudiosFor Star Wars fans: Jedi Training Academy. If you are visiting Hollywood Studios, you want to get to the park early and let “the Force” navigate you to the Jedi Training sign-up line. Kids ages 4-12 can participate and it is FREE to do it. There are multiple shows throughout the day but only 15 training spots per show. So be sure to sign up for a time early – check out the video of Travis, my son, taking on Darth Vader – just return at your scheduled time. You can even get your FastPass for the Star Tours attraction. It is a great experience for the kids, entertaining for the adults, super photo ops and participants get a great certificate at the end.


Eating in the parks is not cheap so to avoid a potential financial hemorrhage you should stop and buy snacks when you get to Orlando. Fruit snacks, crackers, juice boxes, etc. – carry them in a backpack around the parks. Your wallet and the kids you are with will thank you. Dole them out while standing in line for rides.


It can actually be cold in Florida especially in the evenings. Check the weather and make sure to pack jackets for your visit.


A great, affordable souvenir that also has a function during your visit to Walt Disney World is an autograph book. Buy one for each child at any Disney store (and a pen) and begin collecting character autographs and photo memories of your visit. Character locations are displayed on maps of each theme park.

Chip and Dale Disney


The Disney buses, monorails and watercraft make it easy to get around and can be part of the fun. I hate to say it but I think my kids looked forward to the “free” bus and monorail rides most of all.


Theme Park “rider swap” program gives both mom and dad a chance to enjoy the latest attractions without the double wait. A parent who waits with a young child while the other parent rides the attraction can get on the ride with minimal wait time once the first parent comes off.


2012 will have some fun new attractions for Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom will introduce the new Fantasyland later this year complete with a new Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid ride.

Thanks to 2012 being a Leap Year, Disney announced that there will be an extra day of magic called “One More Disney Day.” For the first time ever, both Magic Kingdom Park and Disneyland parks will stay open for 24 hours straight. From 6 AM, February 29 to 6 AM, March 1, 2012, local time, you can fill the extra day with a marathon of Disney Parks fun!

Wow! I could go on and on but as they say…”Now it’s time to say good-bye…” Share with me your best Disney tips. I’d love to hear them and we’ll share them on the Travel Smart Blog!

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  1. Olivia Rubin says:

    Once you learn the park and the path, you realize it’s not that large, or as large as you thought. It’s the crowds of people and vendors that take you off route. It is so,important to have a plan. But if you go in 2 days, dump the plan, get a fast pass and just do one half in one day. Come back for,the rest the next day

  2. Austin Baroudi says:

    I would be so happy if I could go here, especially to the Jedi Training Academy! I’m a huge Star Wars geek and it would be so awesome to see that! Thanks for the post!

  3. Rachel Skirvin says:

    Been to Disney at least 100 times (No Joke) My friends dad worked there so we got in free. Now that I’m grown and have children, it’s time to revisit the land of awesomeness!

  4. Carolyn A Colley says:

    Great tips, it’s been years since we went to Disney

  5. I have never been either. I wish I can one day

  6. have not made it yet to Disney :(

  7. vicki hale says:

    we coulda used this before we went! thanks

  8. Vanessa D. says:

    Thank you for this information :)

  9. Donna Marie says:

    We have never been but want to go so badly. THanks for all of the great tips

  10. Heather martin says:

    If possible, go for your child’s birthday. They made the experiance incrediably special for my daughter. She was 4. She is now 14 and still talks about it. And you don’t have to pay extra to the little suprises.

  11. Wow thank you so much for this great information filled post. We are planning a trip soon and this helps me out a lot..

  12. Elisabeth says:

    Thanks for all the advice! I’m a Disney newbie.

  13. Tiffany Winner says:

    enjoyed all these tips, will hopefully get a chance to use them soon

  14. Ashley Nolan says:

    I have always wanted to take the children to Magic Kingdom, I hope to go this summer!

  15. Thanks for all the great tips yeah when I go on vacation I don’t like to plan much but a little bit but don’t want to be overwhelmed we just last minute stuff LOL

  16. linda brooks says:

    Thanls for the good advice

  17. my best tip is go at an odd time of year. We went early February and it was the BEST time! Great weather and no super long lines!

  18. We are planning another Disney trip in October. We are so excited to go to the Jedi training academy this time. Fingers crossed that we “get in.”

  19. I’m praying I can make enough money this year to take my kids to Disney. Fingers crossed it will Happen! I don’t have any Disney tips but thank you for sharing yours

  20. Lynnette Watkins says:

    Every nice tips. I would never thought of making a route first.

  21. Love this! Pinned it to our WDW board!

  22. I’ve never been to Disney but really appreciate these tips in case I get to go in the future. It looks like such a fun place to visit!

  23. Susan Smith says:

    Good tips, we always go early, go back to the hotel to take naps and eat and then come back when it’s cooler and we are more refreshed.

  24. I love the bring your own snacks tip while waiting in line. Also review Disney songs to sing in line.

  25. courtney b says:

    i love these tips, disneyland can be overwhelming for sure!

  26. I would love to be able to take my whole family to Disney World someday. I got to see it last year, but not with the family. Luckily I am only about 8 hours from DisneyLand so I might be able to take them there!

  27. These are really good tips. I love Disney and Magic Kingdom is great for kids, but it can be crazy at times.

  28. Ashley - Embracing Beauty says:

    Great tips! I would love to take my little girl to Disney!

  29. Great tips! I’ve always said a midday break is essential for any family at Walt Disney World. It doesn’t matter if your kids are 2 or 22, taking a break at your resort to nap/swim will save everyone’s sanity and allow you to enjoy your resort more.

  30. Wendy Mastin says:

    The Magic Kingdom is a great place for kids of all ages. The inside information is very helpful and much needed when you go to visit. Thank you.

  31. I think another good tip is planning to go off season if possible. Anytime we can go when it is less crowded is great.

  32. love disney

  33. I TOTALLY agree on the leaving and coming back part. There is SO much fun stuff to do at night, catching a quick afternoon nap so you feel up to it is a great idea! (for the parents too!)

  34. You’ve listed some great tips!

  35. Great tips! I’ve been to Disneyland, but have always wanted to take the kids, hopefully one day!

  36. Thanks for these tips! They will come in handy for our Disney vacation!!

  37. This is seriously helpful information! We have not made the ‘pilgrimage’…YET. We would like to do it next year, so I will be gathering info this year to make the trip smoother. Thank you for doing the legwork!

  38. I love reading the tips you have. My best tip would be if you are willing to miss some school or have kids that are not in school yet, go during the off season! It is so much less crowded and your trip can be 1000 times more enjoyable!

  39. Thank you.. it will be a while before we get to go though :/

  40. Betty Baez says:

    Great tips…we use to live locally 40 min away and we visited a couple times, now that we are 18 hours away i want to plan a trip for the near future im sure its going to break the bank ;)

  41. Thanks so much for this. We are starting the planning for our first trip to Disney later this year and can use all the help we can get.

  42. Great tips! I would like to go to Disneyland this year

  43. We used the fastpasses about 10 years ago, so I’m glad to hear they still use that. It was wonderful!

  44. Evelyn Goettner says:

    Great tips! I hope to be able to afford to take my kids to Disney within the next 2 years.

  45. Those are great tips. They didn’t have Fast Pass when I was last there – sounds like what I’d get for sure.

  46. Another Tip, make sure you ask a Cast Member when the 3 O’clock parade is! As a former magic kingdom cast member that is the #1 question we always get asked. Best tip is though to see the parades at the end of the route since people so tend to crowd main st, since thats where it begins.

  47. I love taking the kids to Disney.

    best tip, go EARLY everyday, it sucks to wake up early on vacation, but it is sooooo worth it!

  48. Heather Hayes Panjon says:

    Great Tips! One Day We Will Use Them When WE Go To Disney !:)

  49. Michelle S says:

    I would definitely plan for delays and “map” out your must see’s and their location before you go.

  50. Jennifer Marie says:

    I think the planning your route is an excellent tip-we are not at the stage of going, but we hope to in the next year or so.

  51. saminder gumer says:

    great tips. i will have to use some of them if and when we go back to the magic kingdom. not sure that will happen, but it would be fun to go back.

  52. Would love to go someday! Thanks for all the great tips!

  53. Great tips! I couldn’t agree more about Fast Passes and getting to Magic Kingdom early…or if you have older kids go to one of the late night MK openings. Those are always fun!

  54. Thomas Murphy says:

    Great tips! I def want to use FASTPASS for my next trip.

  55. We are hoping to make it to Disney World this summer and definitely would like to have fun and not over-schedule. I didn’t know about FastPasses. These are definitely helpful tips. Thanks!!

  56. Our girls loved Cinderella’s Royal Table. It was worth all of the work to get the reservation.

  57. Snacks! I love that tip. It’s so necessary unless you want to take out a loan when the kids get hungry.

  58. Thanks for the tips, we haven’t been there yet but plan to in the next couple of years. My wife and I both work with people that go every year and know all the ins and outs. Sounds like a good idea to have a plan and be well prepared.

  59. Thanks for the tip.
    Very helpful

  60. Sandy VanHoey says:

    We love going to Disney and having a plan is the key. We too have packed the snacks to take along with us. A must have as kids are always wanting snacks. Thanks for all your great tips

  61. I think the “go early, leave, come back” has worked best for us. Avoids the heat and some of the crowds.

  62. Kimberly M. says:

    Thank you for the great tips. I would love to take my grandchildren to Disney in a couple years. They are alittle young yet but these tips will sure come in handy when we do go.

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