A Disney World Parks Guide: Tips from a Travel Agent

Tips for a Disney Vacation from a Travel AgentBy Erin Johnson

I work for Destinations in Florida as a travel agent, booking vacations for lots and lots of Cheapskate Princess readers. Planning your trip is as important to me as my own family’s vacations. I want you all to have a totally magical and memorable experience. Using personal knowledge gained from my own Disney vacations, I have created a guide for you to refer to during the last few weeks of your vacation planning, on the plane or car ride, or late at night in your hotel room when everyone is at odds as to the best way to get through the parks the next day. I wrote it as if it were just your family and your trusty travel agent walking through each park together.

So, sit back, relax and here you go!  ENJOY! 

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Plan a Disney World Vacation

Magic Kingdom

Many of my clients with only boys think that Magic Kingdom is just for princesses, but it really isn’t. There are so many reasons to visit Magic Kingdom, I could write a book.  In fact, many books have been written about the iconic imagination of Walt Disney and the Imagineers, so I won’t re-invent the wheel. But I will start out by telling you, the NEW FANTASYLAND is a must!  Even if you are a family full of boys, it is a great place to start your day.  

This first option is to take you to Fantasyland at the start of your day.  You will get very excited as you walk into Magic Kingdom and I definitely want you to take it all in, but when you are ready to head in a direction, head to Fantasyland. 

Fantasyland is the biggest draw right now, and it fills up quickly.  It also has the majority of rides with the longest wait times in the park.

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 tips for Disney Moms on vacation


1) Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – the newest attraction is wonderful, and you will want to do this! This is a great FastPass+ option, but it also has a really nice line, if you decide to do the stand by line.  There are several interactive pieces that are fun surprises for the kids.  The last time I rode this with my family there was a little girl in line behind us telling her mom “I sure hope this ride is worth the wait!”  I promised her it was, and when the ride was over I asked her if it was worth waiting, and she said “I would totally stand in that line again for this ride!”  
2) Meet & Greet Anna & Elsa from Frozen – kind of self-explanatory.  If you want to meet these princesses, you will want to FastPasss+ this for early in the day.  They are at Princess Fairytale Hall near the carousel.
3) Peter Pan’s Flight – if you can do this early enough and wait in line, I would do that.  Otherwise, it is always a good FastPasss+ option.  The line gets very long during the day and is a favorite of everyone, so it is fun to do at least once.
4) Enchanted Tales with Belle – kind of amazing if you love the movie.  Can be a long line, and if you are fan I would FastPasss+.  Is it worth waiting in a long line with all of the kids and not FastPassing? YES

4) Ariel’s Grotto – to meet Ariel with her mermaid tail, this is a must and a long line later in the day.  Try to do this early!

5) Dumbo – very popular and fun, but Magic Carpets of Aladdin is the exact same ride, except it’s in Adventureland and usually not a long wait.  The new Dumbo is an interesting line, if there is a long wait, they have a “Play Under the Big Top” area inside the tent.  You walk in and get a buzzer much like you get when you wait in line at a restaurant.  The kids are able to play in the indoor jungle gym while you can take a break and sit for a bit.  Then, when it is your time to ride…you get buzzed!  If the line is not that long at Dumbo, you can opt to just sail on through.  I do not recommend a FastPasss+ for this at all.

6) Goofy’s Barnstormer – this is a great roller coaster for kids, and the majority of the time, the line is never more than 15 minutes.  I would not use a FastPasss+ on this either.

7) Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – if you have little ones, and you are not going to be riding any of the big roller coasters, I do recommend this as a FastPasss+ option because it is a big hit with the kids!

NEVER do FastPass+ for these rides. They are good time fillers if it rains, but there are hardly ever any lines for these rides.

  • Mickey’s Philharmagic
  • It’s a Small World
  • Mad Tea Party

I also would recommend using the Walt Disney World Railroad to get from Fantasyland to the front of Magic Kingdom (Main Street USA) or over to Frontierland if you need or want to get to the other side of the park.  The railroad is also a great break from walking, weather, or just giving everyone a breather if they need one.

From Fantasyland you can go two different ways, either to Tomorrowland or Liberty Square.  There is no suggested direction I have for you, and I don’t think either one will make or break your day at Magic Kingdom.  I always recommend knocking out big draw attractions first, though because later in the day it can be much more patience-testing.  So I am taking you to Tomorowland first!

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Best rides for kids at Disney World Tomorrowland


From the Mad Tea Party, you can walk right over to Tomorrowland.

1) Tomorrowland Speedway – this is pretty popular, and not necessarily something I would FastPasss+.  If the line is really long, I recommend skipping it. Don’t get me wrong, it is fun, especially if your kids are at the age where they can drive with you in the car.  But, there are so many opportunities for people to do this type of attraction while in their hometown, I just don’t recommend this as a FastPasss+.

2) Space Mountain – definitely use a FastPasss+. ADULT TIP: I want to make sure you know before going in, they JUST did a refurbishment on this ride, and it could be very, hard on the neck & back and is jerky.

3) Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – a ride very similar to Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios and fun for grown-ups!  Good FastPasss+ choiceespecially for little ones who love Buzz!

4) Monster’s Inc. Laugh Factory – a good break from the weather or walking…pretty funny even for adults.  DON’T FastPasss+ this.  There is never a long line, and it is definitely a fun experience.  The show changes a little every time you go in, so you can see it a couple of times, and it is still hilarious.

5) Tomorrowland People Mover – We like this ride, because it’s a great rest from walking, shelter from rain showers, offers great views, etc. We all love it!  It moves just enough to be a fun ride, but it’s a good break for Mom and Dad!  Also, a this is a good viewing spot for fireworks.  Obviously if you are riding it, you won’t be able to see the entire fireworks show from beginning to end, but it is a nice way to view the fireworks if this is not your first time in Magic Kingdom.

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Food Tip: Cosmic Ray’s is our favorite quick service spot on this side of Magic Kingdom. It is across from Tomorrowland Speedway.

I would not recommend:

-Astro Orbiter – it is always broken or stopped because it is so high and if there is rain it will shut down.  It is just like Dumbo, but up higher.

-Stitch’s Great Escape – it’s dark, smelly, and can scare small children. 

-Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress – unless you just really are into the history of Walt Disney’s work.  We love it, because I love Walt Disney, but also because it is always a nap spot for my kids. Seriously, that is how dull some people think it is.  We spot kids AND adults napping in that show all the time!

Now, the tricky part in the day is determining the best way to get to where you want to go next.  For the purposes of our tour, I am going to take you to Frontierland nest. Next to Space Mountain is a pathway that leads back to the Walt Disney Railroad Fantasyland depot.  I would walk this path and ride the train over to Frontierland for the next land.

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Disney Frontierland best rides for kids


1) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – a good FastPasss+ choice and a must do!  This is not  good ride for the little ones, but it is fun for older kids and definitely for grown ups!

2) Splash Mountain  for sure.  Now, if you are going during the colder months, you might want to skip it, but it is a fan favorite and lots of fun!


I would skip (and have usually skipped)

-Country Bear Jamboree (unless you just want to see iconic Disney Magic Kingdom)

-Tom Sawyer Island

Near Westward Ho (a good place for snacks) Woody and Jessie usually make appearances. 

Frontierland and Liberty Square have great places to view the parades, if you want to find a spot early and rest and claim your spot.

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Adventureland ideas 


1) Pirates of the Caribbean – don’t really need to FastPasss+ this on. The line moves very quickly, and it is always a great cool break from the heat or rain. Outside of Pirates is where Captain Jack Sparrow does an interactive “How to be a Pirate” show that runs approximately every 30 minutes (check the times guides) which is a fun experience for the kids.

2) Jungle Cruise – FastPasss+ after your initial three passes if it is a long line. This is a classic, but not a must on my list.  It is one ride we try to do EVERY time because it is a classic.

3) Tiki Room – just because it is again, a classic and silly.  This provides a nice break from walking and weather, too.  The kids will probably like this!  The Tiki Room is a show, a classic Disney animatronic display and not a ride or anything other than good old Disney fun.  

4) Magic Carpets of Aladdin – the line moves fast and is exactly like Dumbo. I would not FastPasss+ this.

If you want to skip something, skip the Swiss Family Treehouse.

When you exit Magic Carpets there is a walk through where you can get back over to Frontierland and head to Liberty Square.

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Liberty Square:

1) Hall of Presidents – now, I know what you are probably thinking, “No one wants to do this, right?”  Well, it is another great break from weather elements, and it gives your feet a break.  It is a classic attraction and always fun to do at least once.

2) Haunted MansionFastPasss+ if you really want to do it quickly.  It is another classic and also, it is one that if you wanted to do earlier in the day, is near Fantasyland, so you can adjust your plans around it as well.

Something you can skip here would be Liberty Square Riverboat.

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Disney World Haunted Mansion

So, we have gone all through Magic Kingdom!  Obviously, there is more in terms of stops on Main Street, places to eat, and surprises all around.  I wanted to highlight all of the rides/attractions. 

Here are few things to remember:

* Walt Disney Railroad Depots are at Main Street USA, Fantasyland and Frontierland.

* Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Pirates League appointments should be made in advance, and you will obviously want to work your itinerary around them.

* Best places to watch Wishes Fireworks is Tomorrowland Bridge or back in Fantasyland.

* Sorcerers of Magic Kingdom is an interactive trading card adventure, and while it is lots of fun, it takes a big chunk of time out of your day. If you want to play, it will have you chrisscrossing each land to find the magic portals.

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best Hollywood Studios rides for kids

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is easily manageable and completed in a day if you want, or you can take your time!

All of these experiences are on the “right” side of Mickey’s hat in the park, although the hat will be disappearing soon, which means really just going right.  This is also the side where you will see Fantasmic.

1. Toy Story Mania – Must do and a Must FastPasss+! I would arrive at the park and go here first, ride it while the ride is not that long, and then have a FastPasss+ to do it again later.  It is fun, and the kids will definitely enjoy it!

2. Voyage of the Little Mermaid – Celebrate highlights of the animated film The Little Mermaid at a 15-minute puppetry show.

3. Magic of Disney Animation – you can meet a variety of characters in this section like the Incredibles, Wreck It Ralph, and lots of newer characters

4. Disney Junior Live on Stage – Puppets, fun scenery and catchy songs invite preschoolers to sing, dance and play.

5. Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage – in a 1500 set theater, relive Belle and the Beast’s “tale as old as time” in a stage performance.

For ADULTS:  Tower of Terror – FastPasss+ and try to wait in line; the ride is different EVERY single time.  Different stories, different amount of drops, different EVERY time. SO great!

For ADULTS:  Aerosmith Rock-N-Roller Coaster; same thing as above, FastPasss+ for sure and wait in line at times too.  If you like roller coasters, this one is amazing.

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Now I am taking you to the other side of the hat or just going left.

1) Star Tours – never a long line, a GREAT break from the weather; I don’t normally recommend FastPasss+ing this because the line does move quickly.  It just depends on how badly you want to ride it.  Next to Star Tours is the Jedi Training, which is similar to the Captain Jack Sparrow training at Magic Kingdom, and is started approximately every 45 minutes.

2) Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – only if you really want to see a show; you can volunteer to be in it, and it is kind of a classic.

3) Muppet Vision 3-D – enjoy the magic of the Muppets during a hilarious film and live-action extravaganza.

4) Lights, Motors, Action, Extreme Stunt show – film professionals perform high-octane stunts while revealing special effects secrets – enjoy this soon, as it os reportedly closing at some point.

5) Studio Back Lot Tour – it has been announced that this ride is closing, so if it is still running while you are there you might want to do it.

6) Honey I Shrunk the Kids Play Area – kids can climb, crawl and explore a bug-sized world at this interactive kids play area inspired by the movie.

 Some things to remember about Hollywood Studios:

*This park is much smaller than the other Disney parks and is much more manageable.

*Backlot Express is a GREAT quick service place to grab a meal.

*You can see characters here that you don’t see anywhere else, like Lightening McQueen, Mater, Phineas & Ferb, Incredibles, etc.  Be sure and check the times guide when you get to the park and your My Disney Experience app.

*Fantasmic is a great show to see, however, if you feel like missing one night-time show, I actually recommend missing Fantasmic.  This involves a lot of waiting and after a long day, sometimes it is more fun to be doing things in the park while everyone else is filing into the Hollywood Amphitheater for the show.

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 what to do at Epcot for adults


Epcot is composed of two distinct areas, Future World and World Showcase. The park is spread out, so get ready for a lot of walking. 

Future World

Opens at 9 a.m.

1) Spaceship Earth – I would start here, as this is usually not a long line, however with the addition of FastPass+, I have been suggesting to FastPass+ this one, because the stand by line can get out of control.

2) The Seas with Nemo and Friends – if you have small kids, and you are going during a peak time, this is a good FastPass+ option.  And when you exit this ride you will can head into Turtle Talk with Crush which is another must do!  It’s a lot of fun!

3) Soarin’ – The Land houses this attraction, and a FastPass+ it is a must. FastPass+es each day go quickly here.

4) Living with the Land – a nice little boat ride that is a good way to see how Epcot is contributing to protect the environment.The Behind the Seeds tour runs all day and you can get information in this section, but also see some of what the tour will go over while you are on this ride.

2) For ADULTS: Test Track – FastPass+ it is a must and the FastPass+es each day go quickly here.

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World Showcase

Opens at 11 a.m.

Honestly, if you can stop at every country and experience something, I would.  There are so many things to see and do, and it really depends on what you enjoy.  I would try to go to each country, and if they have rides and shows, do them.  Some countries only have food, but they provide good photo opportunities. America, France, Germany and Italy have fun snacks that are excellent.  When you receive maps after booking a vacation with me, just look at the countries and  pick at least two things you don’t want to miss. That way you have a plan on how to hit all your MUSTs.

There are spots in every country call “Kidcot Spots.” This is where your children can color a sign, and have it stamped in every country.  This can be something fun for your older children who are in school, and it is a great thing to bring back to show their teachers.  Lots of characters are in the different countries and depending on what interests you, or if you are having a grown up only day, walking the world is a lot of fun!

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 Disney Animal Kingdom tips for kids


LOTS of walking, and I am listing things out of order because I don’t know when you are getting FastPass+ and how you want to plan.  I list things here in a “Must Do” order and then provide a list of kid heavy/skip if you want order.

1) Kilimanjaro Safaries – this is one I would not FastPass+ because I suggest (and do this myself) getting to Animal Kingdom when they open. Head straight back to see the Safaries first thing in the morning, because that is the best chances to see the animals.  If you are having a character breakfast or getting to the Safari by 10 a.m. or after, I would FastPass+ this one.

2) For ADULTS: Expedition Everest – FastPass+; such a great Roller Coaster!

3) Tree of Life – you can see this on your way in or out – Celebrating all living creatures, this iconic man-made tree is the symbol of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.

4) Wildlife Express Train – ride the rails on a rustic locomotive that travels behind-the-scenes from Harambe, Africa to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

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1) Wilderness Explorers – complete challenges and collect over 30 badges and earn the right to echo the Wilderness Explorer call—“Caw! Caw! Roar!”

2) It’s Tough to Be A Bug –See the world from a bug’s point of view with a little help from Flik in a 3D how and live show located inside the great Tree of Life. My advice? SKIP THIS!  It can be scary for kids.

3) Adventurers Outpost – head here to enjoy a magical meet ‘n’ greet with Mickey and Minnie at their exploration headquarters.

4) Greeting Trails – Mickey and Minnie are not here any longer, but you can see Pocahontas, Chip & Dale, Donald Duck, and others.

5) Habitat Habit – watch cotton-top tamarin monkeys and learn how you can share your world with animals at this outdoor discovery trail.

6) Conservation Station – A wildlife conservation center home to animal encounters, interactive exhibits and a veterinary facility.

7) Affection Section – A petting zoo providing delightful hands-on encounters with a variety of animals, including goats and sheep.

8) Everything in the Dinosaur Section – Warning!  The Dinosaur ride can be very scary for kids.  Some love it; some hate it.  But, if you have kids, even ones who LOVE dinosaurs, I would ride it first before taking a younger child.

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Disney Moms

Well, there you go.  I have walked you through every park.  I know it looks like I spent more time on Magic Kingdom than on any other park, but that is because most of my clients feel the most overwhelmed by trying to see everything in that particular park.  There are many ways to see all of the rides and attractions, and again, you don’t have to go in my order.  I hope you find this helpful in picking FastPass+.  

One thing to definitely remember is the best advice I can give you, which may seem impossible at time, but the best thing to do at Disney is GO WITH THE FLOW!

You can have a great plan in place, and a number of things can derail the perfect plan, but remember, you are on a magical vacation, with people you love.  If you stumble upon a store you really fall in love with and want to buy a souvenir, do it!  If you want to sit and people watch, do it!  If you decide to go back to your room and take a break or a nap, do it!  Do whatever works for your family. 

Enjoy every minute and let yourself be a kid. You have earned this vacation, and I truly wish for you and your family to make once-in-a-lifetime memories and have magical experiences!

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splash Mountain Disney World

A big thanks to our Destinations in Florida Agent, Erin, for her input on each of the Disney parks. I’m calling Erin pronto when I start planning my next vacation.


Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin is a Disney College of Knowledge Graduate and a Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure Specialist.  She has also recently become a Florida Destination Wedding and Honeymoon Specialist.  She can book and plan your vacation to anywhere.

As an avid scrapbooker and parent, Erin makes sure all her clients know memories are her priority.  Erin’s passion is helping everyone have a once-in-a-lifetime magical vacation, which include excellent customer service, attention to detail, celebrating milestones and bringing families together.

Whether it is a honeymoon, a family’s first visit to Walt Disney World, or an extended family coming together from all across the country, Erin specializes in making sure everyone gets the most magic out of their vacation!


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Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com. 

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