“Welcome home, princess,” they said.
Magic Kingdom is my home away from home. It’s my favorite park because there’s so much to do and something for everyone. There’s so many great rides, food, and iconic photo spots compared to the other parks. There’s so many “land," each with it's different theme, rides, merchandise and selection of food and shops. You have Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Main Street USA and Liberty Square. It all comes together as the Magic Kingdom. It’s essentially the most magical and the best bang for your buck when it comes to the value of the park tickets. There’s always something to explore and see.
If you’ve never been but interested in going, I’d definitely recommend going sometime in your lifetime. What is holding you back? If it’s costs, Disney is more affordable than you think. There’s plenty of ways to cut corners and still have a great time and full Disney experience. If it’s because you have no one to go with, (i.e. schedules don’t align with friends, other friends aren’t Disney fans, etc) fret not because I still think you’d have a great time even if you go it alone. If anything, you might have a better time because hello? Single rider line bypasses all the wait times, haha! There are actually a lot of people who go to the parks by themselves and have an amazing time. But yes, it is nice to be able to share it with someone. My husband is not a big Disney fan but he still goes with me when the stars align and while he doesn’t enjoy it as much as I do, he still has a good time and is a gentleman holding all my bags for me when I ride rides he doesn’t care for, and is patient with me taking all my photos for me.
In this post, I’m going to go over some basics for commonly asked questions I always get when I visit the parks. If there’s anything I don’t touch upon that you’re interested in, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll provide whatever insight I have on it.
Price-point wise, I’ve discussed this before but I’ll go over it again since it’s a common question I keep getting about my trips to Disney. A lot of people think they can’t afford Disney, but if you plan it just right and go at the right times, it’s definitely affordable, and you can definitely do a whole park in a day. Some people even park hop because they’re able to get so much done, but personally for me, I prefer to do one park a day and enjoy everything I can in it.
Even if you’re on a budget, Disney is definitely still doable. I went all out for my birthday last fall, but this trip was a budget trip since I have to scale back to get my finances in order(I know, why are you even going on vacation then? But I already know I have bad priorities so let’s get that shit out of the way before you idiot MFs wanna call me out. We all have our vices, so don’t start with me if you're “broke af” but still out partying buying $15 drinks in the club). You can also book with just $200 deposit and then pay as you go until your vacation gets here. The full bill itself is due 30 days before your official start date of your vacation. So if you plan it out a year ahead and budget your finances, you can definitely pay it off in time if you put a little bit towards it each month.
Disney has hotels for all different budgets. I’ve stayed at one of each of the 3 tiers; value, moderate and deluxe, as well as a few off-site hotels as well. There are pros and cons to each and it all depends on your preference and budget but regardless, any of them are great choices, honestly. When staying onsite at any of the resorts, you have the luxury of free Disney transportation to and from the parks and resorts, Disney Springs, and the airport (the complimentary airport shuttle alone will knock a $60 Uber bill off your tab). Some hotels offsite also provide complimentary transportation to the parks, albeit on a less frequent schedule than Disney would provide so you have to be aware of when to board their buses.
This trip, I stayed at the All Star Movies resort, which is considered a value resort, the cheapest of the tiers, starting at $99/night depending on the time of year you go, with 4 people max to a room. If you vacation with 3 other people and split it 4 ways, that’s not bad at all if you’re all on a budget. And you still get all the amenities of staying on property with Disney like free transportation and extra magic hours. (If you’re not on a budget, and want some luxury and convenience, I highly recommend the Contemporary, a deluxe tier resort. You can read more about my stay there here in my fall trip blog.)
What is extra magic hours? Depending on the day, some parks are open an hour early or stay open an extra hour past closing, only for resort guests. So if you wanted to get a great picture of your family in front of the castle with little to no crowd, this would definitely be to your advantage with staying on property. Although another work-around that would be to try and snag an early breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table or the Crystal Palace. Early breakfast reservations allow you into the park earlier than official opening hours.
If you’re on a stricter budget than the price of Disney’s value resorts though, there are definitely a lot cheaper hotels offsite, some of which are nicer in quality compared to that of a value resort. I’ll be honest - I was on a budget for this trip so while it was great for the price point, I probably wouldn’t book All Star Movies again because of how old the rooms were and how little space you get for what you pay for. I stayed at Delta Hotel, which is an offsite hotel right next to Disney Springs and it was much nicer, grander, cleaner, newer, and updated than the All Star resorts, as well as cheaper! The only downside was that I had to uber to the parks but considering the money I saved not staying on Disney property, it really wasn’t that much to have to uber. It was also nearby a lot of restaurants within walking distance for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as short walk or quick drive away from Disney Springs. You can find all these affordable but nice hotels with a simple Google and compare prices to as low as $36/night.
The one downside I find to the more affordable a hotel is, the further away it is from the parks. So if getting there asap first thing in the morning or getting back to your room as quick as possible after a long day in the parks is your priority, then you’re going to have to weigh how much you’re willing to spend and compromise with the location of where you choose to stay. For this trip, it took about 20-30 minutes each way from my hotel to the park by bus. Last fall when I stayed at the Contemporary, Magic Kingdom was literally across the street. I was fine with taking my time to get to the parks this trip as I wasn’t in a rush, but it was definitely nice to just cross the street and be there in mere minutes, instead of having to leave earlier and factor in travel time to get to my breakfast reservations on time.
Park admission is not included in your hotel stay so you have to purchase that separately or add it onto your vacation package. You do get to conveniently purchase as many or as little tickets as you want independent of how long you plan on staying there, i.e. you can stay 5 days but choose to only purchase a 4 day ticket if you wish to use one day to just relax and enjoy the resort, or even go to a non-Disney park like SeaWorld or Universal (Yes, for those uncultured swine reading this, those parks are NOT Disney-owned parks.)
The price of park tickets as well as the price of hotels stays vary by season. The cheapest times are when school is in session, during the off-season. Don’t go during school breaks and holidays, and definitely don’t go during summer. You don’t want to pay peak season prices and then be stuck in a crowded hot park with the sun beating down on you all day with unbearable wait times for rides. Currently the cheapest prices start at $109/day for off-peak and go up to $122/day for peak season days.
I follow LivingByDisney and she provides a free chart showing week by week what the crowds are like, as well as what the weather is usually like during that time to help you plan your trip accordingly. Side note: She’s also great at answering any questions you have about Disney as she’s there almost every day and gets back to you pretty quick!
Your trip costs will also depend on how many days you want to stay there and how many parks you want to do. For example, if you just want to go one day, tickets start at $109, but if you buy a 6 day park ticket, prices drop to $67/day. If you choose to stay even longer and do a 10 day ticket, prices drop even further to $45/day. There are also annual passes but I can’t speak for those yet since I have yet to get to that status. One day though!
My personal ranking of the parks from must-do to can-skip is this:
This was a short stay so I chose to do Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Both Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, I’m not crazy about, personally. I just feel like there’s not enough to do to fill a whole day and since the admission price is the same across the board for all the parks, I’d rather spend my money on the first two which I personally feel there is more to offer when you’re on a budget and time constraint for your visit. But if you do happen to have more time and money, then it’s definitely worth checking out the other two parks to see for yourself what you like best. It’s also true that the park ticket pricing goes down significantly the longer you stay there. But that’s because they know the longer you stay, the more money you’ll be spending anyway on food and lodging so they’re giving you a bit of a break since they already have you suckered in.
The parks are also very different so you might like a different park than I do, depending on what you prefer to do in terms of activities. If you like watching shows and performances, go to Hollywood Studios. If you like trying different foods or getting drunk around the world, go to Epcot. If you like zoos, then Animal Kingdom is your jam. If you like going on a lot of cute but tame rides and being an Instagram hoe, then Magic Kingdom is right up your alley and mine. If you just want to shop and don’t want to pay to get into a park, lucky you, Disney Springs is calling your name.
I did book this trip again with Never Grow Up Vacations, which I highly recommend if you’re a first timer and new at Disney vacations and everything feels overwhelming to plan yourself, or even if you’re a seasoned Disney traveler. My travel agent is Jill Kuritz and she was available to answer any questions and concerns I had at all hours of the day and night. She fixed any issues I had and saved me a lot of money this vacation when she was able to find deals to apply to my existing reservation. My sisters came along on the trip last minute and she was able to help me get them on my Disney Magical Express bus and added onto my reservation free of charge! Their planning services are also free so they can book and take care of your entire vacation for you free of charge! What do you have to lose? I’m not even being paid to say this, I just really enjoyed working with Jill to plan my last two vacations and it helped make everything go so much smoother and stress-free having someone be able to find all the answers to my last minute questions and concerns.
Sometimes I think I’m not that much of a Disney expert so when I get people asking me all the time what the hell a magic band is, I remember not everyone is a Disney freak like me. Where have you guys been living under?
Magic Bands have been around for some time now and I think they’re one of Disney’s coolest and creepiest implement in the park. It’s basically a bracelet that acts as your key to everything Disney. You can open your resort room door with it (so you don’t have to carry around or fumble with a room key card). You can also use them as your ticket into the parks if your tickets are linked to them so you don’t have to carry a physical ticket or waste time pulling it up on your phone from the app to enter the parks. It’s super easy when entering the line to get into the parks, you literally tap your band, scan your fingerprint and go! You can also link your credit card and pay for almost anything in the park using it so you don’t have to carry around cash or your wallet and worry about losing it. You can check into rides with them if you’re using the Fast Pass system(I’ll go into this in a little bit). Also any photos taken by the Photopass photographers will show up on your account as long as you remember to tap your magic band to them. This works also for rides! Some rides will have monitors at the end showing your ride photo and then you just have to tap your band to the corresponding monitor to save it. But on the newer rides, Disney has implemented a new system where the ride photos and videos appear on your Disney account automatically later on in the day without you having to tap anywhere. It just knows you were on the ride at that exact snapshot through you wearing your magic band. I still have no clue exactly how this works, hence why I find it so creepy but still so cool.
The solid colored bands are provided free to you when you book a hotel stay with Disney, for each member in your party. They come in 8 different colors to choose from and you can even personalize it with your names on the back. If you’re not staying on property, fret not, you can still partake in the Disney magic. They’re available for purchase throughout the parks and at Disney Springs in even more colors and unique designs. Solid colored bands are $14.99 while ones with cute designs start at $24.99 and up. There’s also a magic band lab in the Tomorrowland section of Magic Kingdom where you can custom make your own band with different designs and color combos and they’ll have it ready in a few minutes. I learned about magic bands back in 2013 on a girls trip with my best friend. We saw everyone wearing them and wanted them too. I still have my original one with the totally unnecessary but super cute charms I bought for it too. Oh yes, there are cute charms and things you can purchase additionally to dress up your band. They’ve also recently changed their design in the past few years as well. At first I hated the new redesign but it’s growing on me. I like that I can still use my original band as well still since the battery still hasn’t died.
You don’t necessarily need a magic band during your trip. I just find them cute to pair with your outfit and super convenient to not have to carry your wallet or pull out your phone or ticket for your fast pass or credit card. I love that it’s the key for everything in Disney and all the magic it unlocks.
My favorite Disney ride is actually not currently in the Orlando parks. BUT! It’s under way to being built in Magic Kingdom. Tron is my favorite ride and originates from the Shanghai Disneyland and it is really amazing. I’m usually a bitchass at coasters and although I do ride them sometimes, I’m still a wimp and my ride photos show it all. But something about Tron made me love it. It’s unique and really fun for a coaster ride. Although I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen the movie. I just like the ride.
My favorite rides actually in the Orlando parks are the following:
Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Haunted Mansion, Alice’s Teacups, The People Mover, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear and Winnie The Pooh (I actually enjoy all the rides in Magic Kingdom except Splash Mountain, but if I listed them all, it wouldn’t be much of a favorites list but you see here obviously that there is simply more rides in this park compared to the others.)
Epcot: Spaceship Earth, Soarin, Test Track
Hollywood Studios: Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Aerosmith’s Rock N Roller Coaster (although I have a love-hate relationship with this)
Animal Kingdom: Avatar Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safaris
I highly recommend using the Fast Pass system if you’re going to do rides. Some people don’t know about it (i.e. old people who don’t know how to use phones or are afraid of the internet) and this is to your advantage to use it. Disney provides it to every guest that purchases a ticket ahead of time and you can book it 60 days out from your reservation if you’re staying on property and 30 days out if you’re staying off site. You can book up to 3 a day based on a tier system of how popular a ride is. It’s basically a skip-the-line system to help plan your day. Once you swipe into a ride to use your fast pass, in my experience you’re usually on the ride within 5-10 minutes. For Disney newbs, this is a time-saver for newer, popular rides that tend to have long wait times. Make sure to wake up and snag these fast passes asap as soon as your fast pass window opens up for your vacation reservation.) And use them wisely. Book them for rides that are popular and usually have longer wait times. Don’t waste them on rides that are less popular that you can easily walk on or have a shorter wait. The exception to this is Peter Pan’s Flight. I have no idea for the life of me why that wait time is so long (I’ve always seen it at 60-90 minutes) and honestly I’ve rode it before when I was able to walk on at the end of the night so I can tell you that ride is overrated for the wait time. Don’t waste your fast pass on this. Either get there at rope drop or get on near closing time for the shortest wait if you insist on riding this.
You know, as a former cosplayer, you’d think I’d be over this but there’s something about the Disney magic in the bubble that transforms you into a kid when seeing your favorite characters. It does remind me though of the joy in children’s faces when they see me in cosplay at cons, so I guess I can relate on the other side of the fence. My favorite characters to visit are my favorite princess, Rapunzel, and my favorite marshmallow robot, Baymax. I have yet to visit Gaston because I always miss the cutoff for his line, or he’s never there.
If you want to meet characters, there’s a few things you need to know. First off, each park has its own set of characters, so if you want to meet a certain one, make sure you look it up online and head to the right park. Like for example, Baymax is only found in Epcot, and Buzz and Woody are only in Hollywood Studios. Some characters are there all day, and some only have certain meet and greet times/hours so plan accordingly. For the ones with limited hours, make sure you’re there right before the line starts because they do cut off the line, even if it just opened up. There are also extra characters that only appear during certain times of the year or certain events. For example, you rarely see the villains but they all come out for the Halloween parties held in September through to October. Some of the regular characters also dress up for Halloween, as opposed to their regular costume so if you want to see Pooh dressed in a cute bee costume, Halloween is what you want for special appearances like this. Woody shows up dressed in his Christmas scarf for the holidays.
Wait times on line are also inconsistent because the children get to spend a little more time with the characters for a more interactive experience. Sometimes they play games with the children or answer their questions and sign their autograph books, instead of a simple photo and moving on. It’s part of the magic to personalize the children’s experience for their memories. I appreciate that they put in the time and effort for this so I can’t hate that the wait times on this are long, in case one day my child ends up being that kid that wants to spends a little extra time with their favorite character.
In case you don’t want to wait on line to meet some characters, there’s also a cheat around this system. You can always try to snag a character dining reservation, and the characters personally come to you while you eat, for a quick photo and some interactions. I’ve done several of these and have had great experiences each time. Crystal Palace houses Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, Be Our Guest has the Beast come out for dinner, Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus has several of the original Disney Princesses, and the Bon Voyage breakfast at the Boardwalk has Rapunzel, Flynn, Ariel and Prince Eric. There are several other character dining experiences throughout the parks as well, these are just the ones I’ve had the opportunity to try. Character dining does get quite expensive since you pay for the experience and it’s basically a skip-the-line, but if you don’t like waiting on line, and like to kill two birds with one stone by dining and having the princesses come to you, it’s definitely worth it. Especially if you’re visiting with children who don’t do well waiting too long on line for anything and get hungry quick.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to use their photopass system. You’re free to use your own camera for photos with the characters. Feel free to ask the photographers to take the photos using your camera/phone instead of yours, they don’t mind at all.
What is Disneybounding?
For those unaware, only children get to dress up and wear costumes in the park year round. For anyone 14 years of age and above, you are prohibited from wearing costumes, as to not detract and take away from the Disney magic. They don’t want the guests mistaking you for a Disney character and a child overhearing you curse or act in any way that would ruin their experience. (“Mommy! Tinkerbell just said fuck!”) The only exception to this rule is during the Halloween parties since the entire night is a trick-or-treat event.
For all other times of the year, the way to get around the no costumes rule for adults is called Disneybounding. You are not allowed to wear full on costumes, but you are allowed to wear colors and designs inspired by your favorite characters. TheDisneyBound is one of my favorite accounts showcasing great outfits worn by park goers. You can interpret your favorite character any way you like, from being subtle and wearing just their signature colors throughout your regular style, or adorning pieces that you think your character would wear if they were a modern day civilian, in athleisure wear, dapper styles, etc.
Why would you want to dress like the characters, you ask? It’s just fun! If you’re a negative Nancy, well then I have no idea what you’re doing here reading my blog if you’re offended by Disneybounding or adults in costumes. You can show yourself the door.
Can you guess which characters I'm Disneybounding below?
These are just some of my favorite things about Disney, for the beginners who always watch my stories and Instagram posts and were curious about certain details and how I personally Disney my way around each visit. If you have any questions you want me to touch upon or elaborate, feel free to ask! Are you headed to the parks soon? If you are, drop your IG handle, I’d love to watch your stories and posts of your visit!
Until my next visit, here are some photos of this past trip. Enjoy!