Our 10 Best Disney Tips

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.  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!

Magic Kingdom

Save $ on Snacks

1. One word - Instacart! Food delivery services have truly changed the way people vacation, and Disney is no different. Schedule a grocery delivery to your hotel the day of your arrival (these will be delivered to the concierge most likely). We purchase Gatorades, juice pouches, water bottles snacks and easy breakfast foods. This will save you plenty of money when you need a snack at 10pm or breakfast before rope drop. 

This brings me to...

2. When it comes to meals, purchase as little as possible from Walt Disney World. 

We eat breakfast in the room and pack a backpack cooler for the parks. By midday, the cooler is just a backpack because we stayed hydrated with Gatorades and grazed on pop tarts, crackers, fruit snacks, muffins and cheese sticks. For lunch or dinner we split quick service meals. We also order kids meals.

Buying food is unavoidable, but you will save hundreds avoiding restaurants and buying everyone quick service every meal of every day.   

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 in the afternoon. Tired kids = tantrums. If you arrive to a park before opening, even during the busiest weeks of the year you can ride at least three attractions with no wait.

If you wait until 10am to hit the parks, you are most likely looking at longer wait times and warmer weather for most of your day. We enjoy an early morning and resting at the pool when the parks are at their busiest midday. Return after dinner and enjoy cooler weather and a dip in wait times as the parks clear out (or ride attractions during parades or fireworks).  

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 is much needed mid week). Sleep in, enjoy your resort and your pool. No need for water park passes, all Disney resorts have fantastic pools. We also take advantage of activities at the resort such as crafts and poolside games. We truly cherish this rest day and it recharges our batteries after a few days of walking half marathons. 

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

Limit Souvenir $

Limit souvenir money before the trip. For the months leading up to the vacation, my kids started to save every penny. They did chores to earn a little extra, and usually any money that was gifted went into their Disney fund. Before we left for the trip, we sat the kids down and explained how much they had to spend. They each had their OWN wallet. Whatever was in the wallet they could spend, but once it was gone, there were NO loans from mom and dad.

When we arrived at every park the kids always asked how much they had left to spend. They were very aware of prices because we could easily demonstrate how much something would cost by removing the money from their wallet. Every time they made a purchase they did it with their money from their wallet. 

This method taught them how to save, how to evaluate how much they really wanted 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.

Disney Genie+/Lightning Lanes

These services cost you, and the price will depend on how busy the park is scheduled to be (Disney misses nothing when it comes to the almighty dollar). I will cover these services in separate posts. For now I will just say they do save you time. If you are willing to pay for a "Lightning Lane" for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you will save yourself at least forty five minutes IF you arrive when park opens. That forty five minutes will get you on two to three other attractions. Then you hop in the Lightning Lane when it is your turn to ride. This can be costly, but depends on how much you are willing to spend to save time. 

The Genie+ will allow you to schedule certain attractions for certain times, but each attraction can only be booked one time each day. You can also only select one every 120 minutes. More on this in another post.

Both options save you time. One Lightning Lane might do the trick, but a full day in the Magic Kingdom might be worth the Genie +.

What about character meals?

These will cost you. There is no way around it. If you have the money, or really want to experience this with your family, just save up and understand it will be over $200 for a family of four (and your kids will eat maybe ten dollars worth from the buffet). We purchase Disney Gift Cards ahead of time to offset the cost. We set them aside and the meal is paid for before we even go to Disney. 

Disney Gift Cards

Before I continue, you can meet characters all over Disney World. If you are willing to wait for signatures and pictures, skip a character meal and enjoy your time in the parks. Use the money you save to buy fun desserts or quick service meals. 

If you have a little Princess, don't miss Cinderella's Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian. 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. Chef Mickey is also a casual place to meet all the original favorites such as Mickey, Minnie and Pluto. We reviewed that meal, check out our Chef Mickey's post for all the information. 

If you want to experience all the princesses, no need to book Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom. This is extremely expensive. 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. 

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 dressed and sunscreened, give the kids an idea of what to expect that day AND what is expected of them.  This is important!  I used this in everyday life and it worked wonders (my babies are teens and young adults and I still have these discussions).

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. Stand firm.


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.

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 or another second site. 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 everything works. You will a pro on the My Disney Experience App by the time you leave.

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!