Disney Springs’ Boathouse Restaurant: Tips for Dining Under $20

Boathouse Restaurant at Disney Sorings for less

Updated for 2017!

I don’t mind admitting I was intimidated by the Boathouse restaurant at Disney Springs. The Internet was abuzz with chatter about the prices almost before the doors opened, and the menu just shouted fru fru to my immature pallet. Foodie is the last word people use to describe me, but we gave it a whirl on a trip to Orlando, with the intentions of seeing what you can get for under $20 a person. You won’t get a steak or a lobster, both of which they offer, but there’s definitely meals aplenty for under $20.

Read: Save Money on Food at Walt Disney World

What then should you order that won’t bust up your budget? [Read more…]

Transportation Changes at Disney Springs & Other News Around the Mouse this Week

By Julie Franklin

Summer 2016 is in full swing at Walt Disney World, and with the prime season comes changes to handle the crowds. Among the news: table service at The Diamond Horseshoe Magic Kingdom is extended, Sounds of Summer debuts this week, Disney’s Hollywood Studios  (where Star Wars lives at Disney World) extends their park hours, preferred parking for a price is being tested at the Disney’s Water Parks and what I am focusing on this week, transportation changes at Disney Springs. [Read more…]

Christmas Holidays at the Disney World Resorts…Where to Find the FREE Stuff!

While the Christmas holidays are the busiest time to visit Disney World, this time of year, with music, entertainment and fantastic decorations, is also the most beautiful. You don’t need park tickets to enjoy resort hopping and free fun. So where should you go and what should you do for free?

General Resorts

Holiday Performances – Choirs, from elementary and middle school through retirement ages, are frequent presences in the resort lobbies singing holiday tunes.  Stop and sing along with a few songs.

Christmas entertainment Disney World resorts

Treats on Christmas Day – For the past several years on Christmas day, Deluxe and Moderate Resorts offered Snickerdoodle cookies and lemonade in the lobby. These were the same kind of cookies given out at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties, and let me tell you, they were yummy. Looking for a Christmas day activity in Orlando without standing in line up to your elbows with thousands of people? Resort hop, and be sure to stop in the lobby.

free Christmas snacks at Disney World

Smores – Many of the resorts now have fire pits where they had out free marshmallows and fire sticks. Even in the summer whine’s hot, my sons thought this was pretty fun, so it’s got to be even better in cold weather. Check with your resort to see if there is a fire and ask about start time.

making marshmallows at Disney World Resort

Free Snack Samples – Many resorts are now offering cupcakes and assorted sugary goodies in their gift shops, kept in refrigerated cases for freshness. Check the top of the snack case for occasional free samples like cookies and fudge.

Window Shopping – There may be no better time to “window shop” at the resorts than Christmas. The decorations are amazing and the music is magical. It will be very hard to keep that Visa in your pocket though, so stay strong. Once you see some of the prices on ornaments, you may have reason to fight the urge to spend.

Christmas shopping at Disney resorts

Beach & Yacht Club Resorts

Beach & Yacht Club Villas –  You can see the “Holiday Village” in the resort lobby, which was created by Cast Members, there’s a miniature train that makes its way through a quaint village over to a sugar rock mountain.

The Edible Carousel – It’s pretty amazing to see the life-size, edible spinning Holiday Carousel, and 2014 will mark 15 years the carousel has been created. Be on the lookout for magical surprises and hidden Mickey’s hiding in the carousel’s décor.

Boardwalk Resort

The Holiday Gazebo  – Gaze up at this merry gazebo in the lobby at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and examine a scene made entirely out of gingerbread and chocolate. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for Hidden Mickeys just waiting to be discovered.

Stitch’s Bakery Store Front  – Explore a Stitch-sized replica of the Boardwalk Bakery’s store front in the lobby. See if you can spy Lilo as Cast Members create gingerbread houses right in front of you.

The Stitch Display contains:

  • 50 pounds of Icing
  • 400 gum paste and sugar flowers
  • 300 pounds of chocolate
  • Over 2000 gingerbread pieces
  • 15 hidden Mickeys

While you are at this resort, you really need to take your group to get one of these desserts. It’s a true experience!

Contemporary Resort

Gingerbread Holiday Tree  – On the Grand Canyon Concourse, there is a a gigantic gingerbread holiday tree decorated with ornaments, candy canes and presents. Up until 2013, this tree was themed with Mary Blair’s Small World figures, but in 2014, Disney has (totally rammed Frozen down our throats) created a Frozen-themed tree for the Contemporary. Disney Characters have been known to pose here for photos, and if they are no where to be seen while you are there, you can snap your own photo in front of a holiday background near the tree.

The 2014 tree was inspired by Mary Blair’s “small world” figures and Disney’s animated movie”Frozen” and created by the Contemporary Resort Bakery Team. Thanks to WDW Shutterbug for the stats and photo.

  • 311 lbs. honey
  • 514 lbs. flour
  • 212 eggs
  • 67 lbs. spices
  • 35 lbs. sugar syrup
  • 222 lbs. icing
  • 433 lbs. chocolate
  • 1500 gingerbread shingles
  • and 14 hidden Olafs

See the Christmas Tree – Outside the resort, don’t miss the 70-foot-tall Christmas tree at the resort’s main lobby entrance, featuring nearly 36,000 white LED lights. Take a stroll outside; kids love to stand beside this tree in amazement of the truly immense size, and you’ll be impressed by the size as well.

Mickey Wreath – One of my very favorite Disney Christmas decorations has to be the Mickey Mouse wreath at the Contemporary. This wreath is four stories tall, measuring 25 feet in diameter and has 18 feet elliptical mouse ears. As you approach the Contemporary in the monorail from the Magic Kingdom, it lights up the night.

Gingerbread Pin Signings – By  the gingerbread tree in years past, visitors have been offered opportunities to meet the Disney chefs behind some of Walt Disney World’s best holiday gingerbread creations. For 2013, the chefs were signing Gingerbread Trading Pins. Pastry chef Jeff Barnes was at the Contemporary Resort in 2013 on November 15th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. I suggest you call the resort to see if any signings will take place this year. With the new Frozen theme, I would highly suspect there will be Frozen gingerbread-themed pins available.

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Gingerbread House – In what may be the most famous of any Christmas decoration on WDW property, there is a life-size gingerbread house built in the Grand lobby during the holidays. 2014 is the 16th anniversary of the gingerbread house, which is 16 feet high and 17 feet wide, taking six men almost 10 days to create.


What sort of ingredients are used to make this fabulous  once-a-year holiday creation?

  • 1050 of honey

  • 140 pints of egg whites

  • 700 pounds of chocolate

  • 800 pounds of flour

  • 35 pounds of spices

The Tree! – Decorated with a Victorian theme, you have got to see the bird cages, intertwined swans, and lots of amazing golden-colored ornaments adorning this humongous Christmas tree. Assembled in just one night while guests sleep, the tree is four stories tall (40 feet) and sparkles with 45,000 lights.

Meet Holiday Minnie & Mickey – Mickey and Minnie Mouse, dressed in their Christmas finest, arrive to take photos in front of the grand Christmas tree. Lines are not that long, so bring your camera and ask a Cast Member to snap a shot of the whole family.  This would make a fabulous Christmas card photo.

free picture of Minnie and Mickey at Disney World

Hear Some Tunes – Beginning mid-afternoon, you will hear live music as soon as you walk into the lobby. Starting around 3 p.m., a pianist starts playing and alternates with an equally talented orchestra until almost 10 p.m. There is no better place in all of WDW to hear live musicians performing mostly Disney themed tunes, all for free. The orchestra is called the “Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.”

Free music at the Grand Floridian Resort

If you take a walk around toward the Polynesian Village, the beach area here is lovely. Take a seat or a swing and enjoy the surroundings.

Disney World Polynesian Village beach

Wilderness Lodge

Enjoy the Christmas Tree –  When the holiday season rolls around, a massive Christmas tree is erected in the center of the lobby. PhotoPass photographers are available to snap your picture, or you can just take your own photo.

Meet Holiday Minnie & Mickey – Dressed in their Christmas finest, our favorite Disney couple arrives to take photos by the “indoor stream.” Lines are not that long, so bring your camera and ask a Cast Member to snap a shot of the whole family.

Wilderness Lodge Christmas tree

Disney World Wilderness Lodge Christmas decorations

Wilderness Lodge indoor lobby stream

As a FREE bonus, we have some bonus information on what to do at Downtown Disney, because entertainment is free there as well.

Bonus- Disney Springs

Enjoy Some Live Music – With restaurants like House of Blues, Paradiso 37, Raglan Road, there is no shortage of Downtown Disney music floating over the crowds. Even the new bowling alley, called Splittsville Luxury Lanes, frequently has outdoor musicians.

street performers at Disney SpringsJPG

Festival of the Seasons  – Enjoy Downtown Disney holiday entertainment (November 15 – December 29 for 2013) plus holiday sights and sounds.  Live Christmas entertainment includes carolers, Latin, jazz and pop performances of cherished holiday songs, costumed stilt walkers, street performers, and a lively holiday dance party with deejay.

Festival of the Seasons  – (November 14 – December 29 for 2014) Speaking of free live shows, Disney has performers walking around showing off everything from acrobatics and magic to theater. Live mini-concerts pop up in various places throughout the Downtown Disney area. Our family has watched Christmas Soldiers on stilts dance above our heads, had our photos taken with mime-type performers, and listened to some of the best singers and guitar players we’ve ever heard perform live. Often there are street performers like jugglers, comedians, fire-eaters, and jazz ensembles in the evenings. Find a spot with a good view and enjoy the show.

Disney Springs Festival of the Season Christmas

Stop the family for a photo.

Disney Springs

Lego Store – Stop by and play with Legos, or take your picture with many of the huge Lego decorations.

Downtown Disney Springs Lego store free activities

There are some lovely sunsets at Disney Springs, which are always free.

Downtown Disney Springs lake sunset

Visit with Santa – During the Downtown Disney Festival of the Seasons, you can visit with Santa and have your picture taken. Santa’s cottage is typically located in-between The World of Disney Store and Arribas Brothers and Basin.

Disney Springs free Santa Photos

After Santa heads back to the North Pole, then Goofy takes over for photos. Times may vary, so stop by what was formerly Santa’s Chalet to see when Goofy will be available.

Goofy's chalet at Disney Springs

See a Show– Look for an outdoor stage across from The World of Disney store. There is a large amount of seating, which is more comfortable in winter because you will be seated in direct sun light. This can be a great place to rest weary feet. This stage is used as a performance area for middle through high school and college bands playing everything from jazz and pop to holiday tunes. You’ll see ballet dancers, dance teams, and hear choirs singing and dancing their way through every genre of music imaginable. Disney has very high standards for acceptance as guest performers, so sit back and enjoy the free show.


Christmas is one of the busiest times at Walt Disney World, but it is stunningly beautiful. When we can get to Orlando during the holidays, my family spends a lot of time wandering the resorts and gift shops, away from the huge crowds and long waits at the theme parks. Roller coaster rides are great, but taking in the holiday sights and sounds is equally as memorable.

Cjristmas decorations at Disney World

plan a Christmas Disney vacation

Christmas Mickey Mouse

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the monorail, traveling toward gift shops filled with Christmas merchandise…


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Erin, our Cheapskate Princess travel agent

Erin, our Cheapskate Princess travel agent

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel.  She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

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

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Get Fabulous End of Summer Value Rates at the Downtown Disney Resorts

Downtown Disney Springs hotel rate deals

As the summer heat starts to take a slightly downward spin, special prices are being offered at many of the Downtown Disney Resort Area Hotels. It’s not too late to get a deal for Disney World travel during the next several months, and Erin, our official Authorized Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel, is standing by to help you get started. From a free vacation quote to booking your room, plus help with purchasing tickets and making dining reservations, you can’t go wrong using Erin’s FREE travel services.

So what kind of deal can you get?! [Read more…]

Save Money on Disney’s Characters In Flight

save money on Characters in Flight at Disney Springs

Updated for 2016!

If you made the trip to Orlando for some theme park visiting, it’s always a good idea to have a “free” day with no park tickets. We’ve devised the ultimate early morning plan for Disney Springs, leading you to an amazing coffee shop, an awesome and discounted balloon ride, followed by world-class Disney shopping. Sorry, roller coaster enthusiasts, but it may not get any better than this! Not for this price anyway…

So here’s what you’ll do for a morning at Disney Springs as you head over to climb aboard  Characters in Flight.

get a discount on Characters in Flight at Disney Springs

Save Time

Traffic is so crazy at the new Disney Springs, with construction going on at every turn and intersection. The whole complex is really going to be fabulous upon completion, but parking and highways are a big mess right now. If you don’t get an early start, you could be headed for some major delays. By getting to Disney Springs before most stores even open, you’ll be looking at a relatively empty parking garage. Several hours later, traffic and parking will be congested and frustrating.

Arrive at Disney Springs by about 9 a.m.

Now walk straight to the new Starbucks right next to Characters in Flight, which is the balloon that takes guests up 400 feet in the air.

where Disney Springs Characters in Flight is located

Enjoy a Snack

Have you been to the new Starbucks by the lake at Disney Springs? As much as I dislike the Starbucks that replaced the bakery on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, I LOVE this Starbucks location. It’s not that I am anti-corporation or anti-Starbucks coffee. I just disliked how they removed the seating. Perhaps they noted my complaints and set out to rectify that mistake at Disney Springs.

Go in, order a breakfast snack or drink and take a seat. Starbucks prices are not unreasonable, and many drinks and snacks are part of the Disney Dining Plan. I’m not sure there is a coffee shop with a better view anywhere than this Disney Springs location. When you go to the Disney Starbucks early in the morning, I can’t tell you how relaxing it is, without having to wait for a seat or stand in line to order.

Sitting inside smells like coffee with a view. To see more pictures, use this link:

I Completely Disliked Starbucks at Walt Disney World, Until This Happened…

tips for Characters in Flight

Outside seating, interesting on its own, has an even more fantastic outlook of the lake and the balloon. The combination of wood, stone, vegetation, and fire is soothing to the soul. Did I mention how much I LOVE this particular Starbucks? I don’t even like coffee, and I practically run from our car straight here.

To see prices from Starbucks menu, use this link:

Disney World’s Main Street Bakery: Can You Afford Starbuck’s Prices?

how to enjoy Characters in Flight

Grab a table and enjoy the scenery!

save money at Disney World

When to ride the Disney World balloon

Enjoy the Ride + Save $$

Finish your snack by 9:30, 9:40 at the latest, and then walk over to buy your tickets at the balloon. 

Characters in Flight is an attraction that takes guests 400 feet up in the air on an Aero30 tethered gas balloon that was custom-built for Disney by Paris-headquartered company Aérophile S.A..

The yellow striped balloon has hand-painted silhouettes of Peter Pan, Dumbo, Aladdin, Jasmine, Buzz Lightyear, and Tinker Bell. On its 19-foot diameter gondola, up to 29 passengers and an Aérophile-certified pilot can take a ride straight up, floating skyward with the help of up to 210,000 cubic feet of helium.

Because the balloon is tethered, it will not travel beyond 400 feet at any time.

Is Your Starbucks Coffee Habit Taking Money Out Of Your Disney Vacation Fund?

save money on Characters in Flight

If you purchase your ticket and travel up by 10 a.m., ticket prices drop from $18 for adults to $10. For adults, that’s almost half off! You’ll save $2 per child’s ticket. It’s called the Early Bird Special. Kids under the age of three fly free everyday.

Now, this special could change at any minute with no notifications for you or me, but a Cast Member said this promotion had been going on for a long time.

So up you go, Early Bird, but first be sure you have read our ultimate guide to Characters in Flight.

Characters in Flight at Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Guide

Characters in Flight discount

cheap fun at Disney Springs in Orlando

Tips to Know Before You Go Up

The balloon will not fly if winds exceed 22 mph or if there is a storm.

Maximum balloon capacity will be affected by wind speeds.

Items that are not permitted aboard are bags, food and drink, smoking and strollers. You’ll need a place to secure these. 

There is a safety net, but the holes are large enough that you could drop your camera or phone. You won’t save enough on Early Bird tickets to replace anything electronic that you drop, so hold on tight. 

best things to do at Disney Springs

Do Some Shopping

Well, now you are now at the perfect time to do some shopping, assuming you are finished with the balloon by around 10 a.m. Stores at Disney Springs traditionally start opening at ten, so the crowds aren’t crazy yet. Temperatures in the summer start to rise at this point, so being in the air-conditioned stores will keep you cool.

There is so much to do at Disney Springs, you could easily spend half a day here. Even with the current construction woes, it’s a great place to spend some time on vacation.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you with an almost finished Starbucks coffee in hand, headed for the ticket counter.


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel.  She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

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

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Over 190 Disney World Tips for Kids!

best tips for kids on a Disney World vacation

Best Disney Tips

If you are planning a Disney vacation that includes children, you will do a lot of just that – planning. We’re here to help. When we published our most popular article, entitled 120 Walt Disney World DO NOTs: Tips From Real People on How NOT to Screw Up a Disney Vacation!, we had no idea it would be read over one million times in less than two years. So introducing…Over 190 Disney World Tips for Kids. Think of this article as our FREE vacation gift to you, because we love free!

Warning: this article is long. But this list may seriously be the ONLY planning guide for Disney World vacations with kids that you may ever need. At least we hope it is!

So don’t feel like you have to read it all at one time, because we’ve organized, categorized, and numbered it for you.  Pinterest pin it, bookmark it, e-mail it to yourself, come back later, or just settle in with a cup of coffee for a nice long read. You’ll thank us later.

And if we forgot YOUR favorite tip, leave us a comment so we can add it in. We have some of the most traveled readers and best informed Facebook fans ever!

tips for a Disney World trip with kids

1. Use FREE T.A.

Planning a Disney vacation has become a complicated ordeal, especially when traveling with kids, and it’s nice to have expert help. We recommend using Erin, our official Authorized Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida. Her services are 100% free, and she is fantastic!

2. Phone App.

Get the My Disney Experience iPhone app., where you can view and update plans, make dining reservations, search park maps, and get attraction wait times. Older children could easily learn to navigate this app. on their on, plus practice reading a wealth of information. For more detailed information, use this link.

3. Schedule FastPass+

Use Disney’s website or the My Disney Experience app. (see #2), to make three (per day) pre-reservations for rides, shows, or meeting characters before you even arrive in Orlando. On-property guests can make FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days before their trip; everyone else can book FastPass+ reservations up to 30 days in advance. Use your first three FastPass+es, then get more one at a time. Fine out what rides are most important to the kids, and let the pre-planning begin.  Use this Disney link for more info.  

4. Arrange for Magical Express

Are you and the kids flying? Disney’s Magical Express transportation is a complimentary service for guests of select Disney Resort hotels from Orlando International Airport to your Disney resort. To use this service, provide your arrival and return flight information when you make your reservations.  We recommend using Erin with Destinations in Florida, whose services are free.

5. Delayed Check Out

All Disney hotels have a posted check out time of 11 a.m. To work with later flight schedules, when you check in at the front desk, ask if it would be possible to extend your check out time. Sometimes, depending on occupancy levels, this can be extended by several hours but no guarantees.

6. Tickets

Unless you purchased Annual Passes, your tickets will expire 14 days after the first day of use. So if the kids get tired after several days of early mornings and late nights, you have the flexibility to schedule in a free day without stressing over looming expiration dates.

Almost 130 FREE Walt Disney World Resort Activities!

7. Start Walking 

Kids have a tough time walking miles for days at Disney World. Start them walking way before the actual vacation, as exhausted children make for brutally long days. The Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Disney Vacation? It’s a Four Letter Word!

8. Wear Comfy Shoes

Kid’s need shoes to be comfortable. Glittery heels, flip-flops, and sandals can be rough on little feet hour after hour, and wearing brand new shoes is just asking for trouble. What are the Best Shoes to Wear on a Disney World Vacation? We Asked the Fans…*

9. Prepare for Rain

It rains a lot in Orlando, especially in the summer. You can buy good quality ponchos at the parks, but they are expensive, so many people bring their own.

10. Count Down Calendar

If your children are driving you crazy in anticipation of your departure date, make an old-fashioned paper chain or a chalk board count down calendar so they can physically see how many days they have left (to suffer) before you leave.

11. Google Maps

Google maps have some really cool, almost-cartoon-like maps of the Disney parks and resorts. These are great for kid’s entertainment. This is a perfect way to show children what your resort and the parks look like with a childlike appearance. FREE Disney Virtual Vacation…Check Out the Walt Disney World “Parks” Maps.

12. Free Disney Planning DVDs

Disney Planning DVDs offer video tours of the theme and water parks, resorts, a tour of Disneyland, tips to save money, and pocket-sized planning guides  To request a free planning DVD, use this link. 

13. Utilize YouTube 

YouTube can be a huge aid in planning and preparing for a vacation. Show the kids several ride videos each day so they know what to expect. Search YouTube for ride videos, park tips and secrets, ride music (one of my favorites), and all sorts of fun fact videos.

14. Camera Equipment

It’s extremely important to remember extra batteries and memory cards for your camera to ensure you catch your children’s precious memories. Charge your phone, and make sure you remember your camera. Some of these experiences will not ever be repeated. 

15. Photopass 

Disney’s PhotoPass is a free service where Cast Members are stationed with digital cameras at park entrances, iconic locations, most character meet and greets, and character dining to snap photos of your group. Purchase all of your Walt Disney World PhotoPass photos on one CD for $169.95, or pre-order the CD at a discounted price of $119.95. The PhotoPass Archive Disc, which is your photo CD, gives you a copyright release to print the photos yourself. Use this link for more information. 

10 Vacation Questions Answered by a Disney Travel Agent

16. Memory Maker

Memory Maker connects your photos to your MyDisneyExperience account, including your PhotoPass, attraction, and dining photo print packages all for $199. Purchase it in advance for $169. Download your photos at no additional charge from MyDisneyPhotopass.com for 45 days after being taken. These photos also come with a copyright release, allowing you to do anything you want with them except commercial use.

17. PhotoPass Photographers & Your Camera

PhotoPass photographers will be glad to take pictures with your camera, even if you don’t want PhotoPass. Simply wait in line, hand the photographer your camera to snap a picture, and say thanks!

18. Bring Ziplocs

Ziplocs can store light medical supplies, unfinished snacks and meals, unopened snacks, batteries, memory cards, cameras, and phones, with everything remaining safe and dry. Want to Save Money on Food at Disney World? Ziplocs Can Save You Cash!

19. Bring Your Meds

You can purchase simple medical supplies in the park and resorts gift shops, but that’s expensive. Make sure you pack what medical necessities you and the kids need beforehand.

20. Bring Your Sunscreen  

You will need sunscreen, and it costs more to purchase it on Disney property. Be sure you put it on the kids 30 minutes prior to being out in the sun. Make sure the sunscreen has not expired; all sunscreen has an expiration date.

21. Bring Change

One of the cheapest souvenirs ever is the pressed penny, and pressing machines are found all over property. For $.51, you can get a Disney image pressed onto a penny. For $.75, you can get an image pressed onto a quarter. The Cheapest Disney Souvenir EVER? Many crafty moms turn these souvenirs into jewelry.  Cool Disney World Pressed Penny Jewelry! Children will enjoy throwing change into fountains on property as well.

22. Tinker Bell Gifts

Many parents buy gifts before the vacation, which can save big bucks on souvenirs. Tinker Bell brings gifts at night for children, especially those with good behavior. Our readers offered suggestions: The Ultimate Tinker Bell Gift Guide for a Disney Vacation

23. Glow Jewelry

When the sun goes down, glow in the dark jewelry appears. Many parents purchase these in advance from Dollar Tree or Michael’s. This is also a great way to spot your child in a crowd while you are in dark lighting situations. 

What Items Can You NOT Bring to Walt Disney World Theme Parks?

24. Autograph Books

If the kids plan to collect character autographs, you’ll need an autograph book. Make or buy your own book pre-trip, or purchase a Disney autograph books for around $10. Tips on out of the ordinary items to have autographed:  12 Totally Cool Ideas to Replace Your Usual Disney Character Autograph Books.

25. Bring a Sharpie

For character autographs, make sure you bring a large wide-tip Sharpie marker. Many of the characters wear big chunky gloves, so it’s hard for them to hang onto small pens.

planning guide for a kids vacation

26. Costumes

Children really dress up at the Disney parks these days. And If you don’t bring pirate and princess costumes for your kids, it’s going to cost a fortune to buy them there. We suggest you bring outfits with you including comfy shoes.  Can You Afford Those Adorable Disney Princess Costumes at Walt Disney World?

27. Match those Clothes

Dressing the family in matching t-shirts creates a sense of belonging and makes your group (especially children) members easier to spot. You can order your shirts or make them yourself.  Save Money on Disney World T-Shirts by Making Your Own!

28. Packing for Winter

We generally recommend taking pants and a jacket with you to Orlando in the winter. In the daytime, shorts and t-shirts may be just fine, but night-time could require some warmer clothing. Be sure to check the weather forecasts frequently.

29. Best Rides for Your Child’s Age

The Disneyworld.com website has sections under each theme park with a series of filters that can help you determine the best rides for your child using their age, height, and interests. If you would like to do some detailed research for your family, use these links to each park’s Attraction Page: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

30. Celebrate Something

Did you know you can celebrate “something” at Disney six months prior to and six months after the date? This opens up all sorts of reasons to plan a trip, including birthdays and anniversaries. *Nine Tips for Celebrating Birthdays at Walt Disney World for FREE!

31. Plan a Child Free Night?

If you are celebrating something adult-ish, like your birthday or a wedding anniversary, perhaps you would like some adult time without the kids? Disney uses “Kid’s Nite Out” for in-room babysitting children 6 months to 12 years of age, with prices starting at $16 per hour for one child. Use this link for prices and more information. 

5 Steps for Planning a Disney Vacation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

32. Children’s Activity Centers

Kids ages 3 to 12 years of age can visit “Children’s Activity Centers” located at select resorts hotels. These are themed, supervised play areas where children watch movies, play games, draw, eat and play. Call 407-939-3463 for more information on operating hours, because hours vary based on location.

33. Potty Training

Ah, potty training. Do you really want to be hauling around a child’s potty seat or even one of those big plastic potty chairs? (No, you don’t.) This could be a great incentive for kids to speed things up and do some pottying on a regular adult seat.

34. Beware the Automatic Toilettes

The toilettes in Disney parks and resorts are automatic flushing. You can put your hand over the sensor, but this makes helping out difficult with one hand tied up. Take some Post-It notes with you into the bathrooms (keep them stored in your Ziplocs.) Place a sticky note over the sensor before your little one sits down, taking it with you when you exit.

35. MagicBands + Room Key

MagicBands have mostly replaced traditional room keys/keycards. Linked with My Disney Experience (see tip #2)MagicBands are colorful, waterproof wristbands that resemble a watch or bracelet which are touched to a sensor. Use the bands to unlock your room, enter theme and water parks, check in using FastPass+, connect PhotoPass to your account, and charge food and merchandise purchases to your room.

If you do not want your children to have charging privileges with MagicBands (or key cards), tell a Cast Member when you arrive for check inWalt Disney World MagicBands: A Cheapskate Guide 

36. Customize your MagicBands 

The My Disney Experience website allows you to customize colors (pink, blue, red, green, orange, gray and yellow) and names for your MagicBands. Ask the kids what color they want, because you have until 10 days before your arrival to customize your MagicBand, if you wish to have the bands shipped to your home.

10 Things They Forgot to Mention About Walt Disney World Vacations

37. Earn $ 

If you know someone who wants to take a trip, Disney or other locations, you can earn $20 for referring your friends, family, work associates to use the FREE travel services of Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida. There are some specifics to qualify, so use this link for more information.  Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals! 


When kids are out if school, families go to Disney. If you can take the kids out of school, lines will be shorter and crowds will be lighter. But this can be hard for those with older children who would struggle with make up work or truancy policies. What Are the Best Times to Visit Walt Disney World?

tips for toddlers on a Disney World vacation

38. Locker Rentals

You can rent key-operated lockers to store your personal items in the theme and water parks. Not including a $5 refundable key deposit, large are $10 and small are $8 per day. Return your locker key before one hour after park closing to receive the deposit refund. Use this link for more information. 

39. Keep a Map/Schedule

At the resort front desks and park front gates, grab time schedules and park maps. Put these in scrap books, picture frames, or turn them into drink coasters by gluing them onto small ceramic tiles, coating them with Mod Podge.

40. Free Stickers 

Be on the lookout for Cast Members with free stickers, which are great for t-shirt decorations, scrap-book mementos, and spilled-food stain cover ups.

41. Change of Clothes

Accidents happen, kids get dirty/wet, and chances are pretty high they will need a change of clothes. Put an extra outfit in a Ziploc bag (tip #18) inside your park bag, swapping the dirty clothes back into the Ziplocs.

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42. Hydration is a Must

Mid-summer in Orlando is Africa hot. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures, direct sun, and high humidity, without sufficient rest and fluids puts children at risk for dehydration. So keep those fluids going, both water and Gatorade type drinks.

43. When Children Get Sick

What do you do what a child gets sick on vacation? In the parks, visit one of the First Aid centers. Nurses are available during normal park operating hours to offer over-the-counter medications, bandages and other quick remedies. Resorts have a map with directions to local drug stores and Wal-marts if you need to pick up medications. In-room medical services are available at all WDW Resort hotels 24 hours a day. Use this link for more information. Offsite Urgent Care centers like Florida Hospital Centra Care Walk-In Urgent Care Centers are open 8 to midnight, M-F, and 8 to 8 Sat. to Sun. Complimentary transportation is available and many insurance plans are accepted. Call (407) 934-2273 for more info. or use this website for more information. 

44. Hand Sanitizer

You won’t always be able to get little hands to a sink with real soap, and kids touch everything in sight at Disney. (So do I!) Keep some small bottles of hand sanitizer with you and apply often; wash with soap in sinks when possible.

45. Pin Trading

With Disney Pin Trading, guests trade metal Disney pins with Cast Members and possibly other guests. The pins are not free, but trading them is. Trading Pin boards are located at resorts and gift shops. Cast Members wear pins on lanyards for trading: if their lanyards are green, they will only trade with children.

46. Ready for Characters?

Cast Members in some character costumes are tall, and even if they are very familiar, children still may get scared when it comes time to take a picture, like what often happens with Santa. If the kids start freaking out, don’t push them or force them to interact. Tips from our readers: Over 20 Disney Character Autograph Tips from Fans and Parents*

47. Where are the Characters?

If your child is looking for a certain character, just ask Cast Members where to find them. If you want to make advance plans, use this list on Intercot.com for typical character locations, although remember these can change at any time without any notifications.

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48. Get a Button

When you celebrate a special event at WDW,  stop by your resort front desk or Guest Services for a FREE “button” ( a big pin, but don’t confuse this with Trading Pins) announcing your special event. Get them for first trips to Disney, birthdays, anniversaries, and occasionally special events. Why Celebrate with a Birthday Button at Disney World? Let a Cheapskate Princess Tell You!

49. Get on the Correct Bus

A great majority of the Disney busses look exactly the same, or they look pretty similar. Before you lose valuable time riding on the wrong route, ask the driver where they are headed. It never hurts to double-check anything.

plan a fun Disney vacation

50. Transportation Trading Cards 

Cast Members on the various forms of Disney transportation often have transportation trading cards available upon request. Sometimes they are out of stock, so if you strike out with one Cast Member, just ask another.

51. Travel Takes Time

Traveling ANYWHERE at Disney takes time. Be sure to give yourself just that, a lot of time to transition from place to place. When traveling from a resort to a dinner reservation, give yourself an hour’s  head start before your reservation time.

Some thoughts on Safety…

52. Child Gets Lost?

If you look up and can’t find your child, or they aren’t at a designated meeting spot, immediately tell a Cast Member. Lost children can also be reported at Guest Relations and Baby Care Centers. When a lost child is found, they will be taken to the Baby Care Centers.

53. Take a Daily Picture

Snap a quick cell phone picture as you walk out of the hotel so you know exactly what each child is wearing that day. This could come in handy (if your memory is like mine…) if you need to show someone what your child’s outfit looks like. 

54. Utilize those Buttons

Remember the buttons we mentioned in Tip #48? Take a Sharpie and write your contact info on the back. If your child gets separated, make sure they know to find a Cast Member and show or tell them your how to reach you.

55. Cell phones

*Cell phones can be really helpful with children that are old enough to A) answer them B) not lose them C) tell you exactly where they are if you get separated on accident. They don’t need a brand new iPhone, because an older phone or a Go Phone works fine. 

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56. MagicBands 

Cast Members say MagicBands will NOT provide any information about a lost child. Have your children memorize your full name and phone number, or write your information on a Disney button (#48) or on a piece of tape you secure inside their shirt collar.  Until the MagicBand technology advances, the bands won’t help when a child is lost.

57. White Name Tags

When separated from your group, make sure children know to look for Disney Cast Members wearing white oval name tags. Make sure your child is carrying or wearing your contact information if they can’t remember it on their own. 

58. Hand Holder/Harness

Toddler harnesses and “hand holders” (Playskool made one called the “Baby Hand Holder for Toddlers”) can help you hang onto impulsive children, on those occasion when you need a little extra help besides just holding a little hand. They may look a little over-protective, but they work. 

59. Deliver Foods to Room

Having groceries, water and snacks delivered  to your hotel can save money and provide picky child eaters with exactly what they will consume. Goodingsdelivers.com, Amazon.com, gardengrocer.com, staples.com (no perishables), and wegoshop.com are companies that deliver water, snacks, and groceries.

 dining tips for Disney World vacations

Dining Tips

60. Kids Under Three Eat Free 

Children under the age of three eat for free at Disney’s buffets and family style table service restaurants as long as they eat off your plate. So their food is free as long as they are willing to eat what you eat. Why Take a Baby to Walt Disney World? Because It’s FREE!

61. Kids’ Meals

Kids’ meals are served with carrots or grapes and milk. If your child wants fries or a soda, simply tell the Cast Member when you place your order.

62. Drink Refills

Kids get thirsty, as do adults, and at almost all WDW theme parks, you will pay more for additional drink refills at counter service dining locations. But FREE refills (leaving more money for other items) are available at certain restaurants:

  • Magic Kingdom: Tortuga Tavern, quick service lunch at Be Our Guest
  • Epcot: Sunshine Seasons, Electric Umbrella
  • Hollywood Studios: Backlot Express
  • Animal Kingdom: Restaurantosaurus

63. ADRs 

Because of increased crowd levels, it’s difficult to get a table at a full-service restaurant without an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR.) You can make ADRs 180 days before your trip by calling 407- 939-3463, make reservations online, or let Erin, our T.A. with Destinations in Florida, do it for you. For last-minute trip planners that cannot secure a reservation, it never hurts to walk up and ask if you can get a table.  If you are close by anyway, the best they could do is locate a table! 

64. Recipe Request

*If your children really enjoy a specific dish served at a table service restaurant or character meal, speak to your server, and they can sometimes provide you with the recipe. You can also phone Disney Guest Services at 407- 939-6244 to request a recipe, or visit disneyfoodblog.com for recipes.

65. Eat Now, Not Then

If you eat at your children’s regular meal times, you will probably be standing in long ordering lines. Try to eat before the rush, like a late lunch or even a late dinner. Lines will be shorter, more tables will be available, and you won’t have to leave the kids seated and reserving your table while you order.

What You Can NOT Wear to Walt Disney World Theme Parks

66. Free Water/Ice Cups

You can order water with meals, and water is FREE!  Kids will save calories, and you’ll save that and money. You don’t have to be eating a meal to order water. Counter service restaurants and snack stands will give you water or cups of ice for free, so just ask. Want to Save Money on Drinks at Disney World? Order This Drink for Free!

67. Eat Breakfast in Room

You don’t have to eat breakfast outside of your room, unless you have a meal plan or free dining. We recommend you and the kids eat breakfast in your room to save time and money. The best food to eat? To Save Money on Disney World Food, Eat Breakfast Here!

68. Bring Your Own Water

Bring your own water bottles, and to save money, refill them with fountain water, water left from lunch, or water you got in one of those free cups we mentioned in Tip #66. Take your own refillable water bottle/container with you into the parks to keep you from throwing away so many plastic bottles, teaching the kids about recycling. To Save Money on Food At Disney, Bring This Bottle With You

69. Bring Water Flavoring 

Some people do not like the taste of Disney water when it comes out of the water fountains, especially children, so bring flavor packets to mix into your water bottle. Let the kids pick these out at the store.

70. Freeze that Water

Freezing water bottles the night before you need them is a great way to fight the heat, and many believe it makes the yucky Disney tap water taste a little more palatable. Drink the cold water as it melts.

71. Bring Your Own Snacks

If your children are picky eaters, bring snacks with you on vacation so they will have their favorites Not only will this save money, but it can keep the picky eaters satisfied and full in-between meals. Can You Bring Your Own Food into a Disney World Theme Park?

72. Check the Menus

Are your kids picky eaters?! It’s a good idea to take a peak at the restaurant menus before you show up for an expensive meal. How to find menus online: Before You Make Your Disney World Dining Reservations, You Should Read These…

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73. Character Meal/Table Service Money Saving Tip

Lunch is a less expensive time to eat than dinner for table service and character meals, and a lunch-time break could be just what fussy children need before a nap. Save Money on Food at Disney World? Make Dining Reservations for This Meal Rather Than That One…

Disney park tips for kids and toddlers

74. Parking Space

Cast Members say you wouldn’t believe how many people forget where they parked. Notice what section and row you parked in. Take a picture and text it to yourself, or write it down, because you’ll need this information 12 hours later when the kids are ready for bed.

75. Holidays

Holiday at Disney are magical and completely decorated to the hilt, especially Christmas. If you go to Disney World during a holiday when children across the country are out of school, then prepare the kids for long lines, people everywhere, and more waiting in lines. Are You Crazy Enough to Go to World Disney World at Christmas?

76. Daily Schedule

Grab a daily park schedule when you first arrive at the parks so you know what’s going on with scheduled events, entertainment, and character locations. You can also get a time schedule at the resort front desks.

tips and tricks for planning a Disney vacation

77. You Can Rent Strollers

Disney also has molded plastic strollers for rent, which are not suitable for infants or older babies but are fine for toddlers to preschoolers. To get the length of stay stroller discount, you pre-pay the number of days that you need.

  • Single strollers (children 50 lbs. or less) cost $15 daily and $13 for multi-day rate.
  • Double strollers (children 100 lbs. or less.) cost $31 and $27 for multi-day rate.

78. Strollers are Moved

Cast Members will often move strollers around as they straighten the area, so there’s no need to panic if you don’t find your stroller where you originally parked it. Attach balloons, ribbons, or decorate your stroller for easier recognition.

79. Stroller Fold Up 

If you get on Disney busses and trams with your stroller, it needs to be folded up. Strollers can be rolled onto monorails and some boats, depending on space, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared to fold it up.

80. Emergency Plan

If you get separated, do the kids know where to meet? Do small children know what to do if they suddenly can’t find you? Should they stand still or walk around looking for you? Determine a meet up place if you should get separated.

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81. Baby Care Centers at all Four Parks

Open during regular park hours, each full-service Baby Care facility is FREE to use and includes the following:

  • Private nursing room with rocking chairs
  • Changing room with tables and a unisex bathroom
  • Feeding area with high chairs
  • Kitchen with microwave, oven and sink
  • Main room with television, table, chairs and sofa
  • There is an on-site shop offering formula, baby food, juice, diapers, wipes, sunscreen, over-the-counter medications and clothing for purchase. There items are not free.

82. Souvenir Pick-Up  for Big Toys

Theme park merchandise purchases can be delivered to a designated location near the front entrance for convenient pick-up as you exit the park. When you make your purchase, tell the Cast Member to have your items delivered to the park entrance.

83. It Gets Loud

Small children sensitive to loud noises can find shows like Lights, Motors, Action!, Fantasmic!, IllumiNations, and Wishes to be really loud. You can bring earplugs, and they are also available at First Aid. If possible, sit far away from the source of the noise.

84. It Gets Dark

If kids have never been on “dark rides” before, you may be shocked by their reactions. Don’t push them into something they can’t handle. If the tears start in the first dark space, then don’t continue going into dark ride after ride.

85. Go Early

Head over to the parks early. Except on Extra Magic Hours days, theme parks are the least crowded first thing in the mornings, so you may have a shorter wait time than later on in the afternoon. In the summer, early mornings are not yet hot and humid.

86. Need more Tickets?

If the kids beg you to stay another day in Orlando, to add another day(s) to your current tickets, go to Guest Services before you use the final day of your tickets. Unless it’s the last day, you have the option to add more days, park hopper, and water parks options.

87. Take a Nap

On a typical Disney day, kids start to lose it just after lunch, so head back to the hotel for a quick rejuvenating snooze. There are kids napping in strollers everywhere, which is a great other-option as opposed to going back to the resort.

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88. Take a Break

Disney overstimulation is a very real possibility. If your child isn’t into naps, take a break from rides, take a walk around a resort, or you catch a nap while they watch a little TV. Less stimulation is ideal over cranky and completely stimulated.

89. Lines/Queues Entertainment

Stand-by lines can frequently get really long.  Entertain the kids with iPhone apps., look for Hidden Mickeys, play “I Spy,” or use this time to have a conversation with your child.

90. Ride Before Parades & Shows

During parades and shows, or when people start lining up for entertainment, take advantage of what can be shorter wait times for popular rides. These lines will fill back up right after the parades and shows end.

91. For Big Theaters…

For shows like PhilHarmagic, Little Mermaid, and Muppets 3D Movie in large theaters, your impulse will be to hurry inside one they open the doors, but the better plan is to hang back. First guests inside are instructed to walk all the way to the end of the rows. To be seated in the middle, let other people go in before you.

92. FastPass+ Ride Limits

FastPass has changed in recent years. You can schedule FastPass+ rides in advance but not for the same ride. Some parks put rides into categories called “tiers,” and you can only choose one attraction per tier. Without a FastPass+, stand-by lines for your child’s favorite ride can be long. Use this link on touring plans.com for more information.

93. FastPass+ is Inflexible

FastPass+ ending times are now strictly enforced. You will not be allowed on a ride if you arrive past your return window. Screenshot your My Disney Experience so you remember your times, or write them down, and double-check them frequently to ensure you arrive on time.

94. Extra PastPass+

When the switch was made from FASTPASS paper passes to FastPass+ and MagicBands, you were only allowed three passes per park per day. You can get more PastPass+ passes once you have used your original three, one at a time, but warn the kids, there may not be many popular passes left by the end of the day.

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95. Special Parties = Extra Tickets

Especially popular with kids, “hard ticket events” are special parties held at the parks that require additional admission. MNSSHP (Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party) and MVMCP (Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.) have a starting price of around $55- $65 for children’s tickets and $65-$75 for adult tickets before tax. You get sweet treats, special photo opportunities with characters, music and light shows, and time in the parks when regular ticket holders have left.

96. Sleep In

There will be days when you just can not wake up super early without the kids declaring “mutiny.” It’s not the end of the world if you sleep in. You can make up a few missed rides later with a good attitude and a rested body.

97. Stay Late

Extra Magic Hours (EMH) are hours the parks open early or stay open later for those guests staying at Disney resorts.  EMH at Magic Kingdom are a great option for vacationing with small children, because when the really popular roller coasters have long lines, there are still lots of MK attractions for kids without crazy waits.

98. Show the Bands

If you attend Extra Magic Hours, you will need a MagicBand/park ticket for every person you are traveling with to show a Cast Member for E.M.H. admittance. You will not be allowed on rides or in shows without a ticket or band, and that rule goes for every person.

99. Night Time Shows

If the kids can stay up late, some of the best shows start after 9 p.m, like Main Street Electrical Parade, Wishes, and Celebrate the Magic at Magic Kingdom, IllumiNations at Epcot, and Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios. If there is a second show time, the second showing is generally less crowded than the first.

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100. Height Requirements in Alphabetical Order

  • Big Thunder Mountain – 44″
  • Goofy’s Barnstormer – 35″
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – 38″
  • Space Mountain – 44″
  • Splash Mountain – “40
  • Stitch’s Great Escape – 40″
  • Tomorrowland Speedway – “32

101. Wishes Fireworks Viewing

If your children can handle the loud booms of fireworks (or bring ear plugs,) try standing behind Cinderella’s Royal Carousel to watch Wishes at 10 p.m. Fireworks are shot from the roof tops and the swampland behind Fantasyland, so you get a tremendously “in your face” experience from behind the castle. Beware falling ash on windy nights, but this spot becomes more popular each year for a reason.

102. After Wishes 

Watch Wishes (Tip #101) from behind Cinderella Castle, and then walk around to the front of the castle for Celebrate the Magic. You should be able to get an unobstructed seat right up front. Then catch the second Main Street Electrical Parade performance. This helps avoid the crazy crowds exiting the park before and after Wishes at 10 p.m.

103. Trading Cards 

The Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game gives you five FREE collectible trading cards per day for each ticket that has been activated on that day. If dad stays back at the resort, sorry, you can’t pick up his cards. You don’t have to actually play the game to start collecting. Pick up cards at the Fire Station on Main Street and over in Liberty Square by the Christmas Shop. 

Disney Mom tips for vacation

104. Hair Cuts

While hair cuts are not generally regarded as all that much fun, they can be at the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street. Prices for child and adult hair cuts are extremely reasonable.  Should You Get a Haircut at Walt Disney World? For $20, with Pixie Dust and Stickers, Yes!

105. Hair Confetti 

The Harmony Barber Shop (tip #104) on Main Street will “confetti” and “pixie dust” your child’s hair for free. Castle Couture in Fantasyland also has “pixie dust.” As far as we know, this is still a free service. 

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106. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Cinderella’s Castle is a styling salon for children over the age of three. This is popular, so reservations (407-WDW-STYLE) are highly suggested. Cancellations must be made 24 hours in advance, or a $10 fee can be applied. All packages range in price from $15.95 (Knight Package) to $189.95 (Castle Package) Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: Can A Cheapskate Afford To Become A Disney Princess?

107. The Pirates League

Next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, kids ages three and up can become transformed into pirates or empresses, complete with a new pirate name and a bag of loot. This is becoming popular, so reservations (407-WDW-CREW) are highly suggested. Package prices are $29.95 (Jake and the Never Land Pirates) to $74.95 (Mermaid Deluxe Package)

108. Early Character Meals

Make an early reservation for Crystal Palace or Cinderella’s Royal Table on a day with no Extra Magic Hours, and you are admitted into the park ahead of other guests. Your child may not eat $30 worth of food, nor might you eat $50 worth of food, but it’s truly the experience you are paying for. Tips to Keep a Good Disney Character Meal From Going All Wrong*

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109. Goodnight, Sweetheart, It’s Time to Go…

Getting out of the parks at night can be a mad dash to get in yet another line to wait for transportation. Many parents leave before Wishes fireworks. If you stay until after 11 p.m. or later, transportation lines and crowds will be much more manageable.

110. Shop Late

After park closing, Main Street at Magic Kingdom frequently stays open a full two hours. While the whole world is standing in line to get home, kids can take their time and look through the gift shops or grab a snack and eat it above the train station. Let them take your time looking for souvenirs.

111. Free Snack Samples 

Visit the Main Street Confectionery for occasional free candy samples, with cotton candy being a pretty common sample handed out daily. Good luck getting out of there without purchasing something sweet.

Epcot Tips for toddlers and teens

112. Height Requirements in Alphabetical Order

  • Mission: SPACE Green and Orange – 44″
  • Soarin’ – 40″
  • Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions East – 48″
  • Test Track – 40″

113. Two Entrances

Epcot is the only Disney park to have two entrances. The front entrance at Future World (East and West) connects to the parking lot. The secondary entrance, connected to the back edge of World Showcase, leads to Disney’s Boardwalk and multiple resorts. If the kids want to see the countries, you may do less walking by using the back entrance. 

114. Two Opening Times

Just as there are two different entrances, World Showcase also has a different time schedule, typically opening two hours later than Future World. Plan accordingly, because a lot of wasted walking is at risk.

115. Seriously, Strollers

Epcot is massive. Even if your children can handle every day walking, you should think about bringing or renting a stroller, because little feet tire fast.

116. There are Characters

While most people do not associate Epcot with Disney characters, there are meet and greets for characters including Alladin and Jasmine, Alice in Wonderland, Aurora, Belle, Mary Poppins, Snow White and others. Consult the times guide or ask Cast Members where you can find them.

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117. Character Photo

Have a Disney Chase Visa Card? Enjoy a character Meet ‘N’ Greet at Chase’s Private Cardmember location that includes a FREE 5×7 photo.  This exclusive event is offered daily 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Innoventions West.

118. Character Meals

Epcot has 2 character meals. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Princess Storybook Dining) features Ariel, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Mary Poppins, Mulan, and Snow White. These characters rotate, so you won’t see them all during every visit. At the Garden Grill (Chip ‘n Dale’s Harvest Feast) kids meet Chip, Dale and many other favorite Disney Characters, which can include Mickey and Pluto.


Make sure the kids stop by INNOVENTIONS East and West, two separate pavilions where children discover engaging exhibits, stimulating simulations, educational games, and tons of interactive, hands-on fun.

120. Fountains = Wet

Several areas in Epcot allow kids to splash and play in fountains, which can be great for cooling off in the sweltering summer heat. Have a change of clothes though, just in case the little ones don’t like walking around soaking wet. 

121. Get a Drink

Club Cool in Epcot’s Future World offers eight drinks from around the world, all of which are international Coca-Cola brands. Taste as much of the beverage samples as you want, but make sure the kids don’t leave with a tummy ache.

122. Kids Crafts

See Cast Member at any Kidcot Fun Stop to get a complimentary cardboard Duffy the Disney Bear for your child to decorate and personalize with the free supplies at each station. Cast Members will share insights about their native lands, such as how to say “hello,” and they will give your child a stamp of Duffy in each country. Use this link to find Kidcot Fun Stops.

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123. Go on a Secret Mission

At Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, kids can solve clues with Agent P. to thwart some of Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s most daringly evil plots. Visit a recruitment center at Odyssey Bridge, Norway Pavilion, Italy Pavilion or near the International Gateway to receive your assignment. Here you will pick up an interactive handheld device that will guide you on your 30 to 45 minute mission. 

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124. Model Trains

A large model train display is located at the Germany Pavilion. Kids will love the three electric traveling trains, mostly locomotives that pull a car or two. 

125. Buy Me Somethin’

Where can you shop with kids in mind at Epcot? Mouse Gears is a massive souvenir shop in Epcot’s Future World by INNOVENTIONS, where kids will find every imaginable bit of Micky-themed merchandise available. There are gift shops in World Showcase that are more adult-oriented, but they offer candy, toys, jewelry, and holiday ornaments.  

126. E-mail a Video to Friends

Leaving Spaceship Earth, you are deposited in Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. Kids can e-mail a video message to their friends and family.

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127. Thoughts on IllumiNations

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is a 12 minute fireworks show beginning just before the park closes at World Showcase Lagoon. Small children can definitely be frightened with the loud sounds of fireworks. Also, the show is probably best viewed right around the lagoon, which can be difficult on crowded days.

128. Hats & Glasses

Of all the parks that get direct sun without benefit of very much shade, Epcot guests suffer the most.  Kids would definitely appreciate hats and sun glasses.

Disney Hollywood Studios tips for kids

129. Height Restrictions in Alphabetical Order

  • Rock’n’Roller Coaster – 48″
  • Star Tours – 40″
  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – 40″

There are only six rides in Hollywood Studios, three of which have height restrictions, so if you visit with smaller children, understand they will be seeing shows and street entertainment more than riding anything.

130. Shows for Smaller Kids

*If there is a benefit to a lack of rides for kids at Hollywood Studios, it would be that the stage shows available are Broadway-caliber. Beauty and the Beast – Live on StageVoyage of The Little Mermaid, and Disney Junior-Live on Stage! are all tremendously popular shows. Remember parts Little Mermaid take place in a darkened theater, and Ursula can be scary to little children.

131. Specialty Meals

Looking for a special dining experience for kids? The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater restaurant lets you enjoy your meal sitting in convertible car tables, watching clips from b-movie sci-fi flicks on a big screen. The 50’s Prime Time Cafe invites you to enjoy crazy family antics eating in “Mom’s kitchen.” Advanced reservations are highly recommended.

132. Character Meal

Jedi Mickey’s STAR WARS Dine at Hollywood & Vine is a character meal available May 4 through June 14 (2015 dates). You’ll meet Disney pals dressed like Star Wars characters, including Jedi Mickey, Princess Leia Minnie, Darth Vader Goofy, Storm Trooper Donald, and Ewoks Chip ‘n’ Dale.

The cost is $57.99 per adult and $34.99 per child age 3 to 9. Tax is included but not gratuity. Advanced reservations are highly recommended. For booking, you can check availability online or call 407- 939-3463.

133. Shrunken Playground

Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure is an 11,000-square-foot play area based on the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Children climb enormous anthills, scale sprawling spider webs, avoid dripping garden hose, explore a maze tunnel, slide down a roll of film, and sit atop an ant. Be advised that this is a large area, and it can be hard to spot your own children here.

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134. One Man’s Dream

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream is part walk-through exhibit and part 15-minute film. Guests view over 400 of Walt Disney’s personal artifacts featuring one-of-a-kind animation art, paintings, storyboards, photos, park and ride models, props, costumes, and movie set pieces. Here, children can get a better understanding of Walt Disney as a real person.

135. 3D Movie

Join Kermit, Miss Piggy and the entire Muppets gang for a spectacular 3D movie presentation in a theater designed to look like the original Muppet Theater from the classic television series. This show rarely has a long wait.

136. Get a Jedi Training Certificate

At the Jedi Training Academy, children learn to use the Force in a 20-minute training academy. Twelve guests between the ages of 4 and 12 years of age will be selected for each show, all receiving a certificate at the end of training. At park opening, get in line outside the ABC Sound Studio, across from the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, to sign the kids up.

137. Get a Disney Junior Dance Party Balloon

During night-time Extra Magic Hours, dance to music videos with Handy Manny, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto and more. New characters fill the floor throughout the night, so you never know when someone special like Jake and the Never Land Pirates or Bones & Sharkey might appear. 

138. Take Home a Free Drawing

At the Animation Academy, with help from a trained Disney artist, kids get instruction for drawing a Disney character sketch. Unlike the Animation Academy at DisneyQuest, take your drawing from this Academy home for free.

139. Fantasmic

Fantasmic! is a 30-minute fireworks and water extravaganza showcasing pyrotechnics, laser lights and one million gallons of dancing water. 50 costumed performers sing Disney tunes while classic animation clips are projected onto massive walls of water. This is an extremely popular show, so if there are two shows, the second is almost always not quite as busy.

Disney Animal Kingdom tips for moms and kids

140. Height Restrictions in Alphabetical Order

  • DINOSAUR – 40″
  • Expedition Everest – 44″
  • Kali River Rapids – 38″
  • Primeval Whirl – 48″

141. Hot and Sunny

Welcome to the Florida jungle, where there is a real lack of shade and air conditioning. This park tests your ability to cool off sufficiently, so keep the kids hydrated and sun protected (hats, sunglasses sunscreen.)

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142. Go Mornings

If there is a Disney park you can finish in less than a full day, this is it, so going back to your resort for a break or a nap is not advisable. Arrive first thing in the morning, because it’s cooler and animals get less active as the temperatures rise.

143. Stuff Just for Kids

TriceraTop Spin is very similar to the iconic Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom. Primeval Whirl is a spinning roller coaster with sudden dips and hairpin turns. Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama! is a dinosaur-decorated amusement park with vintage-style attractions and games. At The Boneyard, kids ages 10 and under can climb rocks, cross  bridges, roam caves, hurl down twisting slides, navigate a maze, and unearth dinosaur bones.

144. Talk To Cast Members

Cast Members are a wealth of Disney-related information, but this is especially so in Animal Kingdom. Many of them have years of experience handling and caring for animals, so have the kids ask them some questions.

145. Park Hours

Animal Kingdom usually closes well before the other parks; animals need to be fed and cared for, plus have time to sleep. Off season, Animal Kingdom could close as early as five p.m., although six or seven is more common during regular season. In peak attendance times, this park will sometimes open 30 or 60 minutes early. There are no fireworks at Animal Kingdom. 

146. About Dinosaur

DINOSAUR includes loud sounds in the dark with seemingly menacing audio-animatronic dinosaurs that may be scary for children. It is not recommended for younger, easily scared children.

147. Explore The Wilderness 

Kids can follow in the footsteps of Russell and his faithful dog, Dug, from the Disney•Pixar film Up! as they complete a series of self-guided, completely different challenges, ranging from animal observation to learning nature skills. As you complete missions, collect over 30 badges to place in your official Wilderness Explorer field guide. Use this link for info. 

Disney World Resort tips for kids, toddlers, and babies

148. Staying on Property

It can definitely be cheaper to stay off Disney property. But if you are traveling with children, paying more money to be closer to the action and surrounded by all the “Disney Magic” of the resorts may be more desirable than saving money. Cheapskate tip: the Value Resorts are very popular because of the child-centered decorations, and so they are frequently packed.  *10 Cheapskate Reasons to Vacation on Disney Property

149. Pools

If you kids are comfortable in the water, the pools at Disney resorts are great fun. Plus Walt Disney World Resort hotels heat pools to a comfortable 82 degrees Fahrenheit (about  28°C). Remember that Value resorts do not have slides while Moderate and Deluxe resorts do.

150. Pool Side Games

Lots of WDW resort activities include a fee, but many Disney resorts now offer games lead by Cast Members poolside for the kids. Groups of children participate in these games. By the way, swimming at resorts where you are not a registered guest is tempting but not allowed (unless you are a DVC member at certain resorts.) A Guide To Disney World Resort Pool Hopping

151. Use Their Pool Towels 

For registered resort guests, there are towels available that can be used in the pool-side showers located in the bathrooms. Let the kids take a swim on check-out day. Have a large group and want to speed up the showering process at night after a long day at the parks? Send family to the showers near the pool.

Disney moms and kids on vacation

152. Bathroom Freebies

H2O toiletries at the resorts smell lovely and come in child size bottles. If you run out, stop by Mouse Keeping and ask for extra soaps, conditioners, and shampoos. Extras can also be delivered to your room. 

153. Stationary Freebies

There are usually free postcards, stationery, and WDW resort pens in your room. These are for your use, so make sure the kids bring them home.

154. Character Greeting Call

When you check into your resort, ask a Cast Member to set up a “Welcome Call” from a Disney character. Like Disney magic, Mickey or a Goofy friend will leave a message on your room phone. Have the kids answer this. 

155. Character Wake Up Call

Just like the greeting we mentioned above, schedule a wake up call to your resort room and a Disney character, usually Mickey, will call to wake you up. What better way to get the kids out of bed to start another magical day. 

156. Fireside Marshmallows

Camp fires at resorts offer free marshmallows and roasting sticks. These complimentary campfire activities can be found at 14 locations at Walt Disney World Resort, so use this link for the list. Call the resort to confirm that night’s fire and get an approximate time, although they usually take place before sunset.

Mickey Mouse Decorating on a Cheapskate Princess Budget!*

157. Outdoor Movies

Take in one of the many free “Movies Under the Stars” outdoor movies at WDW resorts following the campfires, although this is dependent on weather and thus subject to cancellation or change without notice. Huge screens are blown up for nightly movies. Call the resort desk for specific seating information, and for movie schedules, call 407- 939-7529.  How to See FREE Movies at the Walt Disney World Resorts!

158. Mugs

Purchase a Resort Mug and receive free refills at all the Disney resorts for soda, coffee, etc. Dining Plans include a mug for everyone over age three, but the cost for everyone else is $8.99 (1 day), $11.99 (2 days), $14.99 (3 days), and $17.99 for your length of stay. These make excellent dinner cups once the kids get back from vacation.

159. Dirty Clothes? Clean ’em Up!

There are laundry machines at the resorts, so don’t forget to bring plenty of quarters. Disney sells one dollar laundry detergent for a single load box, while it costs $2 per load to wash and $2 per load to dry the clothes.

160. Schedule Mouse Keeping

When you check in your resort, make sure you ask for early housekeeping. If you are early morning risers, this will ensure that if you return for an afternoon rest, your room will be clean. And if you are napping, you won’t be disturbed by Mouse Keeping if you forgot the sign.

161. Professional Portrait Service

Like to have professional portraits taken of your family on vacation? Portrait sessions are available at the Grand FloridianPolynesian Village, Beach ClubWilderness Lodge, and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Up to 30 days in advance, call 407-934-4004 to make a session reservation.

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162. Playgrounds

All Disney Resorts have playgrounds, which are great for a free day or when the parks close early for holiday parties. Coronado Springs has an amazing playground next to the Aztec-themed pool.

163. Hotel Baggage Handling

If your room isn’t ready when you arrive, drop off your bags with Hotel Baggage Handling, and take off for the parks. On the day you leave, check out, drop off your bags, and pick them up later when you are ready to head home.

free day tips for a Disney World vacation

We always recommend taking a “free day” in Orlando, because it’s nice for children to take a stimulation break from riding rides and standing in line, and there are tons of fun activities outside the park main gates. 

Downtown Disney, soon to be re-named Disney Springs, is a shopping, dining and entertainment complex located lake side and within an easy WDW bus ride or car ride from the Disney resorts. You can entertain yourself for half a day here easily. 

164. Play with Legos

*Head into the Lego Imagination Center  for some free interactive Lego fun. Outside is a 3,000-square-foot play area filled with Legos,  just tempting little hands to build something. Inside and out are larger-than-life Lego statues just waiting to be photographed.

165. Bowl & Movies

AMC Movies at Downtown Disney 24 is a modern movie theater located near Splitsville Luxury Bowling Lanes. Both are new facilities with state of the art technology and top-notch casual dining. If you can entertain yourself for half a day at Disney Springs, throw in a movie or some bowling with a meal, and you could stretch your half day to a full.  

166. Visit with Santa  

November through December, visit with Santa and have pictures taken. When kids are out of school, lines can get long. Goofy takes over for pictures after Santa heads home.

167. Play Some Games 

Once Upon a Toy has the largest assortment of toys and games in all of the Walt Disney World Resort. You will find theme park play sets, Mr. Potato Head and Star Wars building stations, and an amazing amount of t-shirts, toys, dolls, video games, and collectibles.

168. Splash Around 

In the section with Goofy’s Candy Co., in full sight of the Rainforest Cafe, is a splashpad type fountain. This is fabulous for children on a hot day and funny entertainment for adults any day. Remember, kids may need dry clothes.

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169. Goofy’s Glaciers Free Samples

Goofy’s Candy Co. is a great little candy store by Rainforest Cafe.  Grab a small-cup sample of a Goofy’s Glacier, with flavors like Pucker Purple, Glacier Apple, Rootin’ Tootin’ Red, Orange You Happy Orange, Gawrshly Berry Blue, and Coca-Cola Cooler. This store smells amazingly sweet, and you will want every snack you see! Chocolate-covered caramel apples you design yourself are a big hit with the younger crowd. 

170. Watch an Artist 

In the Art of Disney store, kids can watch an artist drawing Disney characters projected onto a big screen. Statues and paintings for sale are bright and colorful.  Free Disney World Entertainment? Don’t Miss the Art of Disney Store

171. Disney’s Days of Christmas

Children love Christmas, and in this store, it’s Christmas 365 days a year. There are all sorts of tree decorations and plush toys, just right for little hands to touch and squeeze.

172. Free Chocolate!

Cast Members at Ghiradelli’s Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop hand out free chocolate samples throughout the day. This is a small retail space, but they offer some of the best ice creams and desserts anywhere in Disney Springs. They are very rich, so grab a table outside and make plans to share something cold. 

173. Hydrate Your Skin 

Basin is located nest to the Mickey pots topiary fountain, right next door to the World of Disney. Want to get kids excited about bath time? Bring them in to smell the bright, multi-colored soaps. Basin has an assortment of hand scrub and lotions samples you can sample for free. Be sure the kids wash their hands…they’ll love it!

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174. Aaribas Brothers

Looking for a nice souvenir for your princess? Bring her into Aaribas Brothers for a vast assortment of tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, and rings, most of which have Disney themes, sparkling with Swarovski crystals. Boys will probably be more into tip #175. 

175. Watch a Glass Demonstration

Arribas Brothers has glass blowers and glass cutters on staff giving demonstrations throughout the day. You can even purchase some of their creations. Children will be mesmerized by the blow torch, guaranteed.

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176. Hear a Concert

There are musical performers at Disney Springs throughout the year, both on a large stage on front of The World Of Disney and in random locations. Take a seat on benches or even the ground for a performance, giving little feet a rest. 

177. Go Up in a Balloon

The Characters in Flight balloon floats 400 feet straight up in the sky for 8 to 10 minutes, providing 360 degree views of Disney Springs. Prices before tax are $12 for children and $18 for adults, but arrive before 10 a.m., and you can fly for $10 each with their Early Bird Special.  Characters in Flight at Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Guide

178. Kid Restaurants

*Two restaurants in Disney Springs are popular with the younger crowd, Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex. Singing birds, trumpeting elephants, chest-pounding gorillas and schools of brightly colored fish welcome you to the Rainforest Cafe, while you are surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, banyan trees, waterfalls and a starry nighttime sky.

At T-Rex, you dine among life-sized animatronics dinosaurs, including a 15-foot-tall T. Rex. There are themed rooms and a meteor shower every 20 minutes or so, complete with rumbling and fiery “explosions.” The lights dim and things get loud! Kids can assemble a plush pet dinosaur at the Build-A-Dino By Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Reservations are recommended and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit. Call 407-939-1947.

179. DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park

DisneyQuest is an indoor five floors of fun including virtual worlds, 3D encounters and classic video games. Hours are typically 11:30 a.m. to 11 pm. Guests under 14 years of age must be accompanied by a guest age 14 years of age or older. Admission to DisneyQuest is included with certain ticket types (see tip #182 below), but pre-tax, tickets for children ages 3-9 are $39 and adults (10+) are $45.

180. Play Miniature Golf

Found in the Epcot Resort area, these two mini-golf courses are based on Disney’s classic animated film Fantasia. Disney’s Fantasia Gardens is designed for families and beginner mini-golfers, as you aim through twirling obstacles, cross fanciful fountains and discover musical surprises. Fantasia Fairways is more challenging, emphasizing skill over chance,with par-3 and par-5 holes ranging in length from 63 to 109 feet, plus sand traps, bunkers, water hazards and sloping greens. Pre-tax, tickets for children ages 3-9 are $12 and adults (10+) are $14.

Located by Blizzard Beach Water Park, Winter Summerland Miniature Golf depicts where elves built Santa two distinctly different 18–hole mini golf experiences: a sand course named “Summer” and a snow course named “Winter.” The courses combine for the last holes, and after sinking the last putt on Hole 18, mini-golfers earn a special message from Santa Claus. Pre-tax, tickets for children ages 3-9 are $12 and adults (10+) are $14.

best tips for kids Disney World vacation

181. Smart to Hang Out

Disney vacations are tiring; it’s a good idea to plan a free day mid-vacation just to keep from stressing everyone out. If the group can’t handle the parks again without a melt down, have a back up plan. Day after day of waking up early and going to bed late starts to wear out little bodies. If you are already in Orlando, you might as well schedule a “free” day to enjoy life beyond the theme parks.

182. Water Parks Fun & More Option

Add the Water Parks Fun & More Option to any valid Magic Your Way ticket for just $60 plus tax. You can enjoy two water parks, as well as admission to one of the following for each day of your ticket:

  • DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park
  • Disney’s Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf
  • Winter Summerland Miniature Golf
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
  • Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course (one round) Tee times are required for Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course and are subject to availability.

183. Water Parks

Tickets for Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach start at $53 per day before taxes. With both thrill and chill rides, relaxing lounge areas, wave pools, snorkeling adventures and much more. Both parks have areas specifically designated for younger children. Use this link for more info. on Disney water parks and ticket options. 

184. Resort Hop

Resort hopping is simply looking around the Disney resorts where you are not staying. Each resort has a completely different theme. This is a great opportunity to talk about finances with your children, because there are big price differences in the three resort levelsDisney World Resort Hopping: A Cheapskate Guide To Free Fun!

185. Wishes Viewing  

Watch the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks show from one of the many Disney resorts on the monorail loop. At the Polynesian Village Resort, fireworks are visible directly across the Seven Seas Lagoon, and show music is piped in through speakers. Before or after the fireworks, grab a bite to eat or a snack. Hang out in the remodeled lobby, which is beautiful at night.

186. Night Time Water Parade  

Visit the Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness, or the Contemporary Resort to catch a glimpse of the nightly water show, The Electrical Water Pageant. The water-light parade was originally created in 1971 for the dedication of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. In my opinion, this show is geared more for younger kids. Approximate show times are:

  • Polynesian Resort, 9:00 p.m.
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 9:15 p.m
  • Wilderness Lodge, 9:30 p.m.
  • Fort Wilderness Campground, 9:45 p.m.
  • Contemporary Resort 10:00p.m.

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187. Character Meals

Rather than schedule a two-hour meal break on a day when you have park tickets, enjoy a character meal at one of the resorts. Character meals are pricey compared to table service, but you are paying for an event that kids (and adults) are sure to love. Character dining locations at the resorts are Ohana’s, Garden Grove, Cape May Cafe, Chef Mickey’s, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and 1900 Park Fare. What Are the Top Three Character Meals at Walt Disney World?

188. Visit Celebration

A 15 minute drive away from the parks is the planned town of Celebration, Florida. Kids will enjoy the fountain by the lake, plus candy and toy stores. Adults will enjoy the shopping, Starbucks, and restaurants. Every night during the Christmas season, the snow falls at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Everybody will enjoy photos with Santa, strolling holiday carolers, an ice rink, entertainment and more. Skating is a reasonable $10.00 for a 1/2 hour minimum skate, with your skate rental included. Free Fun in Celebration Florida: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Ft. Wilderness Tips

189. Campfires/Singalongs

Ft. Wilderness is home to a free campfire program sing-along and movie, although there is a charge for refreshments. This event begins around 7 p.m. in fall/winter and 8 p.m. after the time change in April through summer.

190. Christmas Lights

During the Christmas season, vacationers staying at Ft. Wilderness adorn their campers, golf carts, and tents with a huge display of Christmas lights and decorations. It’s wise to take small flash lights with you, as some of the woodsy roads through the campground are not well-lit. 

191. Explore the Ranch  

At the Tri-Circle-D Ranch from to  through the stables to see Cinderella’s Ponies and the horses of Main Street, U.S.A.. You might get to see the blacksmith make and apply horseshoes. Advise the kids that as a free activity, they will be doing more looking than petting.

192. Pony Rides

How can the kids can touch ponies? For a very reasonable fee of $8.00 (cash payments only), children can take a pony ride at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Offered daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. near Pioneer Hall, no reservations are necessary. Riders must be:

  • at least 2 years of age
  • under 80 pounds
  • no taller than 48 inches
  • be able to hang on by themselves.
  • lead on their pony by a parent or guardian at all times.

193. Other Horse Activities

Tri-Circle-D Ranch offer activities for the kids and adults that love horses, including horseback trail rides, wagon rides and private carriage rides. Call (407) 824-2832 for information.

plan the best Disney World vacation

If you made it to the end, congratulations! You deserve a free Disney sticker…

We hope you gained some valuable information on what to do with children at Walt Disney World. Many of our suggestions are just that – suggestions. If you think they will work for you, great, and if not, do what you know works best.

Did we miss anything you feel other parents need to know? Leave us a comment, and we’ll add it in. If any times or prices have become outdated, let us know that as well. Disney changes things all he time without calling me first – can you believe it?!

120 Walt Disney World DO NOTs: Tips From Real People on How NOT to Screw Up a Disney Vacation!

Thanks for stopping by, and we hope you have a magical trip to Walt Disney World!


Ready to plan a Disney World or Universal Vacation?

Planning an Orlando trip these days is a complicated process. Let us introduce you to Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel. Occasionally she offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote, call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com.

best Disney travel Agent Cheapskate PrincessErin 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. Erin specializes in making sure everyone gets the most magic out of their vacation!

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Characters in Flight at Disney Springs: A Cheapskate Guide

guide to Disney's Characters in Flight

Updated for 2016!

If you ever walked past the Aérophile Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs without purchasing a ticket, telling yourself you’ll do it the next time when you have a little more money, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess.

But did you know they offer an “early bird” special? Get there before a certain time, and you can save almost 50% off the regular ticket price. That was just the news my family had been waiting for!

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wedding idea at Downtown Disney Springs

What is Characters in Flight?

Characters in Flight is an attraction at Disney Springs in Orlando, also known as Downtown Disney, that takes guests 400 feet up in the air on an Aero30 tethered gas balloon that was custom-built for Disney by Paris-headquartered company Aérophile S.A..

The yellow striped balloon has hand-painted silhouettes of Peter Pan, Dumbo, Aladdin, Jasmine, Buzz Lightyear, and Tinker Bell. On its 19-foot diameter gondola, up to 29 passengers and an Aérophile-certified pilot can take a ride straight up, floating skyward with the help of up to 210,000 cubic feet of helium.

The balloon is tethered and will not travel beyond 400 feet at any time.

Where can you ride an Aérophile balloon?

In 1993, Matthieu Gobbi and Jerome Giacomoni, who were just 25 years old at that time, reinvented the tethered gas balloon, which enables faster rides than your typical gas balloon. They started the company called Aérophile. Their balloons are now fun attractions in more than 60 locations around the world, including Paris, Berlin, and Angkor Wat Temple.

Renowned amusement parks like Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris use Aérophile’s innovative balloons. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding attractions and landscape, and stay with us to see how you can save money on your tickets as well.

Don’t Eat Too Much of This at Disney World

get a discount on Characters in Flight at Disney Springs

Where is Characters in Flight located in Orlando?

The balloon is located on the West side of Disney Springs, right next to the (new in 2015) Starbucks location along the waterfront facing Saratoga Springs Resort.

You will see from the map below that the balloon is also very close to the AMC Downtown Disney 24 Dine-In Theaters and the Planet Hollywood restaurant. This map was current when we first published this article, but back then we still called the area Downtown Disney. When they finish re-imagining the entire area, we’ll update this map. When the balloon is floating in the air, you can’t miss it!

where is Disney Springs Characters in Flight located

How much does Characters in Flight cost?

Adult tickets, and adult means anyone age 10 and up, are $18.00 including tax.

A child’s ticket, ages three to nine, is $12.00.

Children ages two and under are FREE!

How long does Characters in Flight last?

Visitors hover for 8 to 10 minutes, experiencing breathtaking 360-degree views of the Disney Springs area. Soar high above the white peaked tents of the Cirque du Soleil Theater and get a view of the theme parks and resort hotels off in the distance. Depending on the weather conditions, guests on board will be treated to stunning vistas up to 10 miles away.

If you look closely, you can see the Epcot ball!

see Epcot from Downtown Disney balloon

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How old do you have to be to ride?

Guests over nine years of age are permitted to ride by themselves. However, children under nine years must be accompanied by an adult (18 years of age or older).

What if you have a wheelchair or a scooter?

Guests must transfer from their motorized scooter or ECV to an available wheelchair to experience this attraction. Be sure to speak with a Cast Member when you get your tickets.

Who shouldn’t ride?

Expectant mothers should not ride. This attraction is not recommended for those prone to motion sickness, vertigo, heart problems or any other condition that may be aggravated by flight.

While the main Disney website does not include this information, Groupon, who runs 40% off coupons about once a year, states that while there are no age or height restriction, there is a 250 pound weight restriction. Use this link to their information regarding groupon coupons and information.

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cheap fun at Disney Springs in Orlando

where to get tickets for Disney's Characters in Flight

More Info. Before You Go

The balloon will not fly if winds exceed 22 mph or if there is a storm.

Maximum balloon capacity is affected by wind speeds.

Bags, food and drink, smoking and strollers are not permitted.

above Disney Springs in Orlando

Disney Springs Parking Concerns

Because of ongoing construction and limited parking availability as Downtown Disney transforms into Disney Springs, it’s highly recommend that all Disney Resort hotel guests take advantage of complimentary transportation options. So if you can hop a bus from your resort, this could be easier than taking your own car. Busses will drop guests off at the Marketplace end.

Watercraft transportation is also available from Port Orleans, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs.

If you drive your own vehicle, it’s suggested that you leave 60 minutes in advance of all reservations and planned activities. Traffic is just crazy in this area with all the construction.

Valet Parking is available daily with pricing starting at $10 for 0-2 hours; the cost is $15 for 2-3 hours and $20 for three or more hours.

Differences in the Disney World Resort Levels: A Cheapskate Guide

The gondola seems smaller when you are walking by at a distance, but it feels much larger as you get closer to the balloon.

Disney World Characters in Flight gondola

There is more than enough room for people to walk by each other on the balloon gondola without feeling cramped.

Characters in Flight balloon

how much does Characters in Flight cost

And there doesn’t appear to be a bad place to stand, because one side give you a water view, and the other gives you a view over land.


balloon Disney World Downtown

Disney Springs balloon Character in Flight

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Saratoga Springs Resort from high above…

Saratoga Springs from Characters in Flight balloon

From 400 feet in the air, you can see all the construction going on. Now months -actually over a year- after these pictures were taken, things will look vastly different.

Downtown Disney construction

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Disney Springs construction photos

Downtown Disney fun for less

view from Characters in Flight in Olando

Photo Tip: Remember the Net

There is a safety net around the gondola for your protection, which can make it difficult to take pictures. It’s not so much that the net will prevent you from snapping photos. But putting your hands and camera through the net can be stressful, because if that camera/phone slips from your fingers, there is no safety net below to catch it. It’s just gone.

The photos you see here came from my iPhone 6, and I was an absolute nervous wreck holding my phone through the net. The balloon was not swaying very much at all on our flight, so it wasn’t crazy winds that would have caused me to drop my phone/camera but rather my shaky hands.

So hold on to your camera/phone.

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tips for Disney Spring's Characters in Flight

Tip: Motion Sickness & Nervousness

When we purchased our tickets, my teen son was a bit nervous. The Cast Member selling tickets told him to keep his eyes on the horizon, on the buildings in the distance rather than looking straight down, which he explained could help with motion sickness as well as nervousness for those that are afraid of heights.

The balloon will sway, even if there is not a strong wind that you can feel on the ground. 400 feet in the air, the balloon has a slight motion feeling. I get severely motion sick, and I felt a little queasy once the balloon got back to the ground. So if you don’t have severe motion sickness, you should be fine. Keep your eyes on the horizon.

If you are not sure if you are afraid of heights, you will find out really quickly once you hit 400 feet. The Cast Member we talk with said most people are just fine. For us personally, two of our three kids enjoyed the ride, while the third never got over the height issue. 

How to Save Money!

If you made it through all our flight pictures, then it’s time for the most important information you may get today.

If you buy your ticket and travel up by 10 a.m., ticket prices drop from $18 for adults to $10. For adults, that’s almost half off! You’ll save $2 per child’s ticket. And when I heard that, nine years of saying I would go next time became let me show you my money. It’s called the Early Bird Special.

Now, this special could change at any minute with no notice for you or me, but a Cast Member said this promotion had been going on for a long time.

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you 400 feet up in the air. Trust me, I’ll be there before 10 a.m.!


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel.  She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

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

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Disney Springs Must Do: Chocolate Extinction at T-REX

Chocolate Extinction T-REX Disney World

Updated for 2017!

T-REX is a fantastic restaurant located in the heart of Disney Springs. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled back 200 million years when you dine next to wooly mammoths, pterosaurs, a giant octopus, and life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, the largest of which is a 15-foot-tall T. Rex. This dining establishment is a favorite of kids and adults alike, although see our warning at the end for small children.

Serving lunch and dinner, T-REX burgers start at $16, while seafood, pasta, and “carnivore” dishes start in the $20 range and go as high as $30 each. This can be a pricey meal for a large family. If you are looking to enjoy the T-Rex experience without breaking the bank, make an Advanced Dining Reservation and order the Chocolate Extinction!

Read – Disney World Vacation Planning: Non-Holiday Dates to Avoid

Chocolate Extinction dessert price

T-REX is unlike anything you will encounter at your neighborhood eatery for sure. Dinosaurs decorate this dining establishment, where every room has a different theme, depicting diverse primordial landscapes from an ice cavern to a fern forest. We are fond of the ice cave, which changes colors frequently.

T-Rex restaurant Disney Springs

ice cave at T-REX Disney Springs

Hello Chocolate Extinction!

Chocolate Extinction is a gigantic portion of chocolate fudge cake served with ice cream plus whipped topping covered in fudge and caramel sauces, then topped with Butterfinger crumbs. This dessert is enough for four people, and it’s priced at $17.99 (2017 prices). That would be steep for one person, or even two, but four…We’ve now cut our costs down significantly per person.

And as somewhat of a self-appointed Disney dessert expert, having eaten more sweets on vacation than entrees, I can vouch for how rich tasting this cake is.

Read – Pros and Cons of Staying at a Disney Resort: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

T-Rex Downtown Disney menu

chocolate extinction dessert Disney World

Here’s what the dessert looks like in the light, in much better quality than photos I take…

T-REX dessert menu

Noise Warning for Small Children

Approximately every 20 minutes, there is a meteor shower with rumbling and faux-fiery explosions. The lights dim, the explosion sounds get loud, and things get interesting. But little people with noise aversions who may have some fears of both tall dinosaurs that appear real with darkened lighting may not react with clapping hands.

If your kids sailed right through and counted down until the next meteor shower, that’s fantastic. Having dined here multiple times through the years, we have witnessed several small crying children being walked out by a parent. So be aware of the noise/lighting changes and anticipate how your child will react. If your children can’t do dark rides at Magic Kingdom without issues, they may not be ready for the atmosphere of T-Rex’s prehistoric dining.

Use this link to more tips on Disney food.

There are a lot of appetizers on the T-REX menu that won’t break the bank. 2017 prices. 

Bruschetta $9.99

Tomatoes, herbed cheese, toasted focaccia bread, balsamic glaze

Dual Dip $11.99

Shrimp and Artichoke Dip plus Chili Con Queso Dip

Colosso Beef Nachos for Two $16.99

Cheddar cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, green onions

Mega Mozzarella  $8.99

Seared mozzarella, marinara, mozzerella fingers

Chicken Flatbread $11.99

Cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan, goat cheese, caramelized onions, balsamic glaze

Chicken T-Rexadillas $11.99

Red bell peppers, green onions, Monterey Jack, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, avocado cream sauce

Supersaurus Sampler (for Four) $18.99

Chili con Queso Dip, Bruschetta, T-Rexadillas, onion rings. Add St. Louis style pork spareribs 7.99
There are also other desserts if you want to make your reservation for an afternoon snack or after-dinner treat. 2017 prices. 

Ice Age Indulgence (for Two) $8.99

Layers of ice cream sandwiches, fudge sauce, whipped topping, Heath Bar Crunch®

Meteor Donut Bites (for Two) $9.99

Chocolate and vanilla donut holes, powdered sugar, caramel and chocolate sauces

Cosmic Key Lime Pie $7.99

Our own freshly baked key lime pie, graham cracker crust, raspberry sauce, whipped topping

Sorbet Sampler  $6.99

Mango and Raspberry sorbet, raspberry sauce, mango puree, chocolate covered wafer

Read – A Cheapskate Prince$$ Guide: Top 10 Freebies at Disney World 

We do recommend you make an Advanced Dining Reservation, which you can do 180 days in advance of your travel, but you can always stop by and see if they have an available table. Asking for a seat at the bar can be a fast way to get a seat.

T-Rex prices at Walt Disney World

Here’s a cute map of Disney Springs, March of 2016 edition, of the T-Rex location.

map to T-Rex Disney Springs

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you with fork and spoons in hand, ready to dig into some dessert!

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess


Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Now let our vacation planners help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Elizabeth and Julie, our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda 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. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Elizabeth and Julie. You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Disney Springs Must Do: Starbucks by the Lake

new Starbucks at Downtown Disney

Updated for 2017!

I am one of those people who handles change pretty well, but when I heard my beloved Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom was being over-run by Starbucks, I was quite skeptical.  I don’t have anything against the Starbucks Corporation; I’m certainly not anti-corporation. I’m just not a coffee drinker, and even if I was the biggest Starbucks fan on the planet, the magic of Disney World’s original Main Street bakery was gone forever for me once they competed the make over. No more park-closing after-hours cinnamon roll.  No more carrot cake while watching the glass blowers work their magic next door at Crystal Arts.  No more, blah blah, gone forever…

So how ironic is it that the first place I go on every visit to  Disney Springs is the Starbucks, located by the Characters in Flight balloon. [Read more…]

THE Best Place to Buy Dooney & Bourke Handbags at Disney World


Updated for 2017!

Disney Fashionistas are familiar with the term Disney Dooney. These are handbags created by the famed Dooney & Bourke company with a Disney inspired design. And while we talk a lot about saving money here at Cheapskate Princess, sometimes you just have to splurge on a quality souvenir to bring home from vacation.

Purses are so popular as merchandise items at resorts and parks, they now have key chains shared like purses.

[Read more…]

Disney World Snacks to Share: A Glacier from Goofy’s Candy Co.


Updated for 2017!

A Glacier – even the name sounds cold and frosty!

Disney Springs has made some amazing renovations in the last several years. I would honestly say that a trip to Disney World in Orlando would not be complete without some time spend there because of their superior shopping, dining and entertainment options. And while your entertainment options have increased lately as well, prices have risen right along with the fun.

If you ever shared a snack to save some money, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess! And we sure love to share a sweet drink called a Goofy’s Glaciers at Goofy’s Candy Co. in Disney Springs.

Read: To Get FREE Disney Emojis, Play Disney Emoji Blitz!

You’ll find Goofy’s Candy Co. next door to Rainforest Cafe by the new bridge they just completed. The phone number is 407- 939-6244 if you get lost, and the hours are 10 am to 11 pm, so you have plenty of time to stop in.





Goofy’s Glaciers are simply an ice cold slushie style drink that comes in a variety of flavors. These flavors can change without notice, but they have remained pretty steady for the last several years.



Coca-Cola Cooler

Razzle Dazzle Pink

Orange You Happy Orange

Goofy Glacier Apple


Gwarshly Berry Blue

Pucker Purple

You can also combine the flavors to make your own special glacier.

The price for a standard cup is $4.79. They also offer glaciers in souvenir cups for $8.79 and $9.79.

My suggestion, unless you just want a souvenir cup to take home, is to order a drink and share. Unless it’s really hot, when you may enjoy one all for yourself.

Read: Times Have Changed: Welcome to the New Era of Walt Disney World


At one time, these slushy style drinks were only found in Club Cool in Epcot. After they moved into Goofy’s Candy Co. years ago, they can now be purchased in Big Top Treats in the Fantasyland section of Magic Kingdom. So you can indulge your sugar craving in more than one location on Walt Disney World property.

With flavors like strawberry, blue raspberry, and lemonade, these drinks are slightly less expensive at $3.99 for a basic cup.

Grab a couple straws and get to sharing!


To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess


Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Now let our vacation planners help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Erin and Elizabeth, our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda 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. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Erin and Elizabeth. You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

The Ultimate Walt Disney World FREEbie Guide: 130 Free Vacation Items and Activities

119 Tips for Free Disney Items and Activities

Updated July 2015!

Wow, a Disney World vacation can be expensive. Between the tickets, a place to stay, transportation to Orlando, snacks, souvenirs, and the list goes on and on, you could buy a compact car for what you will spend on your next trip. With prices seeming to increase every year, some families struggle to make their Disney vacation dreams a reality. While a Disney Princess may have no trouble paying for her next vacation, a Cheapskate Princess searches for the best deals and the best ways to spend her vacation time.

If you ever Googled “Free Disney Stuff,” you just might be a Cheapskate Princess! [Read more…]