Updated for 2015!
If you are like most parents of small children, you will wait a long time in many lines to collect Disney character autographs on vacation. Time is money, especially on a Disney vacation. Are there pointers to making this process go smoother?
We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans, who have spend mucho time standing in line for character autographs, if they had advice they passed on to friends and family. They had LOTS of great ideas for you to take along on your trip.
1. Make your own book
Brian, “Make your own book and have different color sharpies on hand. Do not buy one of the cheap books at the parks!”
Renee, “Bring a larger autograph book. The characters will draw pictures if they have the time.”
2. Bring a Disney Toy
Cyndi, “Bring a stuffed Disney character! The characters always interacted with my son’s toys and that thrilled him.”
3. Bring Them a Gift
Shania ,”My kids like to make a couple small gifts to give the characters. They have a lot of fun making these before the trip.”
Now, I can easily imagine some parents handing the Character handlers a $5 or a $10 bill and saying, with a sly wink, “Can you give us a few extra moments?” Disney Characters are not allowed to accept money or food, but they can accept small gifts, drawings, and letters. Given how hot some of these suits are, how bending over to give hugs to nap-deprived, fussy kids, it can be tough on a person hour after hour. Shania makes an excellent point; this could make a Cast Member’s day. It can also give you some nice pre-trip time and conversation with your kids, time you’ll treasure long after the pain of standing in line to see the characters has passed.
4. Bring a Big Sharpie
Sandy, ” Bring one of those big HUGE Sharpie pens and have it ready to go. Cast Members wearing big huge gloved hands will appreciate the larger writing device. People in line behind you will appreciate you not wasting their time digging through your bags looking for your pen.”
5. Bring a Disney Autograph Book
Ashley, “We thought the autograph books were a waste of money, until we bought one for our shy daughter. The book helped my very shy girl break out of her shell!”
6. Don’t Bring an Autograph Book, but Bring This…
Jill, “I like to bring something other than the traditional autograph books. We’ve had characters sign t-shirts and pillow cases. My daughters seem to like these items more once we get back home.”
We have an entire list of items that have worked for many of our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans. Use this link:
7. Get There First Thing
Mary, “My best character tip is while everyone is making the mad dash at rope drop in the morning, head for character meet and greets! They aren’t busy at all first thing, and you can have some amazing interactions with them because the lines aren’t there!”
8. Hold on to Your Baby
Joyce, “Characters don’t want to hold your baby, no matter how cute. That’s a lot of responsibility for someone standing in a furry suit with huge gloves over their hands. Just hop in the picture with your baby. You’ll be glad you did when that baby is 15 and balking about going on family vacations.”
9. Don’t Let Your Terrified/Crying/Now Screaming Child Hold Up the Line
Brittany, “We’ve all stood in line with the parents that waited forever with small excited children, only to have those kids turn into terrified shrieking crying messes. If you child suddenly freaks out when they get around the characters, don’t force them any further just because you want a photo. Maybe you next trip, they will handle it a little better. People in line behind you will thank you too!”
10. Let the Kids Take the Lead
Kate, “My tip is simple…let your child lead the way. When I try to manipulate the situation for that ‘perfect’ picture or moment, I’m usually disappointed. But when I let my kids be in the moment, let them be KIDS and not actors in a commercial, those are the best memories! Once my daughter started shaking her bottom at Goofy and singing the hot dog song. He joined right in and everyone was giggling and smiling. Adorable, typical Rory moment. Stay stress free and let your kiddos interact on THEIR terms!”
11. Don’t Ask Characters to Break Character
Carol, “The characters have certain traits they are known for. The princesses will be sweet and charming, but they will not sword fight or jump around like Tigger. Don’t ask them to be something they’re not just to entertain your child, because they can’t.”
12. Don’t Complain if a Character Takes a Break
Janine, “Don’t you know that suit gets hot, especially in summer. When the Cast Members helping the characters announce it’s Pooh’s break time, they did this for the health and welfare or the Cast Member inside, not to ruin your vacation. Complaining and raising a big fuss will only make you look ridiculous. You’re going to stand in a lot of lines to see characters; just hang out a little while longer until your child’s favorite character grabs a drink of water and heads back to make your child’s day.”
13. Have Your Children Ask Them Questions About the Character’s Life
Michele, “Ask the characters questions about their movie or about other characters they know. The response is usually fantastic!”
Dana, “Ask Cinderella about dancing! She danced and twirled with my daughter for several minutes. I cried like a baby!”
14. Meet the Characters at Epcot
Leigh Ann, “If you plan to wait in line to meet characters, then Epcot is your place to do it. The best experience we had on our trip was with Snow White in Germany at Epcot. Snow White went to tickle my one-year-old nephew’s cheek, and he leaned in for a kiss. It ended up being a very sweet moment. Snow White gave him a big hug and kiss that we were able to catch on video. All of the characters in Epcot were super interactive with my nephew and niece and were able to bring my niece out of her shell. Chip and Dale were also great, giving us a spontaneous dance party and Dale even grabbed a hanky and pretended to wiped the remnants of my nephews very first Micky ice cream bar off his face as he happily chomped away at it in his stroller.”
15. Do Something Unusual
Penelope, “To capture a great character photo, do something FUN! Strike a surf pose with Stitch and Lilo, high five Mickey Mouse and don’t forget candids when they are signing the autograph book or just chatting.”
16. Get Help with Your Equipment
17. Do Your Homework
18. Skip to…the Back of the Line
Renee, “If they close the line behind you somewhere for the characters break, slip to the end of the line. I have beautiful pictures of my daughter escorting Princess Tiana, Tigger/pooh, and Stitch over to their stage doors. Princess Tiana made such a fuss holding her hand and teaching her to wave to her fans!”
19. Go Early
20. Book a Character Meal
This was by far our most suggested tip.
Missy, “Do NOT wait in lines! We use our meal plan to book character dining experiences. You enjoy a good meal and the characters come to you.”
Stephanie, “If you can, do character meals. We were able to meet all of my son’s favorites. We were waiting for Stitch at Ohana, and he skipped us due to the dancing. I told our waitress, and they sent Stitch right over for my son to ask him questions and take many pictures. The look on my son’s face was priceless! We brought a pillowcase for them all to sign with different color fabric sharpies! It looks great!”
Stephanie, “Character Meals! You get personalized time with the characters and don’t feel rushed to hurry through pictures, etc. With the wide variety of character dining experiences, you can meet so many this way!”
Καλλή, “Go to a character meal, take a picture frame boarder, and have the characters sign. When you get home, frame a photo of the meal with the signed boarder.”
Mendi and Nick, “Character Meals are where it’s at! You are inside, there is good food without a long wait, and there is good rotation.”
Bridget, “Character meals are our favorite way of getting autographs. Have your book and pen ready for the character. Mom and Dad, try and get a picture of your child as the character approaches and greats them. Sometimes these shots are the priceless ones.”
Kristin, “Take advantage of character dining experiences and extra magic hours!”
22. Do the Dance Parties!
Holly, “Go to the Disney Junior Dance Party at DHS! My then-two year old had the time of his life popping bubbles and dancing with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. There were less than twenty kids in the room. It was a hidden treasure.”
Sandra, “I second the Disney Junior Dance party. The characters do not sign autographs there, but they will take pictures, and there was someone there making balloon animals for the kiddos. My other suggestion is to get in lines for autographs that are indoors during the heat of the day. It was nice to cool off in some a/c while waiting for Tinker Bell’s autograph.”
23. Get a Disney Visa Card
Joy, “Get a Disney Visa card! There is a special character meet in Epcot.”
So there you go, tons of suggestions from our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans on how to make the most of your character meet and greets. For those of you with small children who love hugging Disney characters, you’ll spend a lot of time waiting to see them. We hope this helps you make the most of it!
And let us know in the comments if you have any additional ideas. Can you really ever have enough great tips?!
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
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