9 Disney Vacation Tips to Maximize the Magic

Lisa Mendillo

by , Sr. Manager, Digital Integration

Whether planning for your first Disney vacation or your 50th, the panelists at planDisney have some great ideas on making the most of your Disney vacation. Prepare to learn more about offers that could benefit your family, cost-saving tips for the parks, and magical ideas on how staying at a Disney Resort hotel can add to your vacation.

Offers, Discounts, and More!

1. Special Offers and Military Discounts

planDisney panelists are always on the hunt for a pixie-dusted offer and they will let you in on a little secret … you don’t have to search very far to find those magical discounts! Diana recommends guests always check out the Special Offers pages that can be found on both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort websites. From local resident discounts to package offers, there is often an offer that will match guests’ vacation criteria. Jackie P. also reminds guests to “be sure to update your profile in your My Disney Experience to receive any applicable offers!”

Attention! Michelle wants to remind guests not to forget military discounts. “Eligible Service Members are active, retired, 100% disabled members of the military and their spouses,” she explained. “They’re eligible for promotional rates on Military Salute Tickets as well as special rates on select Disney Resort hotels.”

2. Seasonal Offers

Did you know your park tickets and resorts can vary in price based on when you are vacationing? Ashley M. knows all about seasonal pricing and offers up her top tip when it comes to booking your vacation dates. “Beyond the frequently changing special offers, deals & discounts that are offered on the website, I would suggest being as flexible with vacation dates as possible. Theme park ticket prices vary by month and even day to day, taking the time to check out the pricing calendar before you purchase can save you money, as the price of your selected ticket is determined by the first day it will be used.”

Bonus planDisney Pro Tip: “Got a little one under the age of three?” asks Amy. “Don’t forget they don’t need a park ticket until their third birthday!”

Ways to Maximize Your Park Days

3. Food and Beverage Tips

Cheers to Disney Eats! One look at a Disney Foodie Guide, and you might want to try everything you see. The panelists are here with tips for making the most of your food dollars. “My favorite budget-friendly snack hack is to purchase a refillable popcorn bucket on your first park day,” says Mandy. “The family can snack on discounted refills in all four theme parks the entire length of stay. Plus, it doubles as a really cute souvenir.” At Disneyland Resort, Kamini says a must-do snack for her crew is the Quantum Pretzel at Pym Test Kitchen at Avengers Campus. “It’s a great, filling snack for a family of four and more economical than buying four separate pretzels.” 

Other amazing tips for maximizing your meals at Disney Parks:

  • Instead of three meals, plan for two larger meals and fill in with snacks when the rumbly in your tummy begins, suggests Lola.
  • Want to try a more upscale restaurant, but looking to save money? Jackie H. recommends drinks and appetizers in the lounge areas rather than full meals in the dining room.
    • From across the pond, UK panelist Jane says never miss a pizza dinner to feed larger crowds.
  • Looking for a meal large enough for more than one? Greg recommends the Tonga Toast, with a side order of eggs at Capt. Cooks. “And not only do my wife and I share this entrée, but our daughters also share a kids’ entrée too!”

After all the food, don’t forget to hydrate! Carrie reminds guests to ask for complimentary cups of water at any quick service location at Disneyland or Walt Disney World Resorts. Water bottles to refill are also a top tip from planDisney.

4. Beyond the Rides

With every park ticket comes magical attractions, but the panelists don’t want guests to forget all the extras there are to do in the parks along with those rides. If you or anyone in your party is an aspiring artist, or you just love to draw, be sure and check out the Animation Experience at Conservation Station at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. “You can uncover the secrets of Disney animators in a 25-minute character sketch lesson and it’s air conditioned,” Eean said. Good news, there is also an Animation Academy at Disney California Adventure park. “And don’t worry, even less artistic people like me can follow along easily,” giggled Kamini. The drawings also make a great complimentary souvenir to take home to remember your Disney vacation.

Panelist Jin also says don’t miss what he calls an often-overlooked gem. “On Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland Resort, don’t miss the ‘Main Street Cinema‘ that has a super old-school vintage feel and plays some of Disney’s oldest animated shorts.

Over at Walt Disney World Resort, Frances says take the time to truly enjoy every country in the World Showcase at EPCOT. “I walk throughout the park each time I visit, and I always find something I missed,” she exclaims. “Kids will love the Kidcot stops, everyone will enjoy the exhibits in each country, and you can even catch a movie in select countries. And let’s not forget the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros tucked away in Mexico!”

Ashley F. encourages guests not to miss the Flag Ceremony at Magic Kingdom Park. “It is such a beautiful show of patriotism and often missed in the hustle and bustle of Main Street, U.S.A. The ceremony takes place every day at 5 p.m. in the Main Street, U.S.A., Square.” During the Flag Retreat, a member of the military is randomly selected each day to participate. To nominate a veteran, be sure and stop by City Hall at Magic Kingdom Park. There are also interactive games and scavenger hunts available as part of your ticket price.

5. Souvenirs

Looking for an economical way to grab those beloved souvenirs? The number one tip from planDisney panelists is to gift members of your party with Disney Gift Cards. “Put Disney Gift Cards on your kids’ wish lists for birthdays and other holidays,” suggests Anna. “Then they’ll have their own money to buy souvenirs or extra snacks.” Lisa also recommends buying those souvenirs with a Disney Rewards Visa. “We earned reward dollars by booking flights, hotel, and theme park tickets with our Visa. The reward dollars add up and we use them for dining and souvenirs!”

Bonus planDisney Pro Tip: Pressed Coins! Nick explains that not only are they an economical souvenir, creating them is as much fun as carrying the coin in your pocket! A souvenir Scrooge McDuck would definitely approve of.

Reasons to Stay at a Disney Resort Hotel

6. Extend the Magic

There is so much to do at a Disney Resort hotel that guests will want to extend the magic and participate in activities at the Resort! To stay in the know, Mandy suggests snapping a picture of the Resort Activities board in the lobby upon arrival. “That way, you’ll always have easy access to the list of activities and schedules right on your smartphone. Don’t miss the free recreation offerings and activities right at your resort, such as pool parties, lawn games, trivia, campfires, and Movies Under the Stars, just to name a few.”

And according to Jennifer, some of your most magical memories can, and will, take place at the resorts! “On a recent resort-only stay, my family let the recreation experiences board be our itinerary. It was such a fun day, and we even took advantage of the complimentary Skyliner Rally Scavenger Hunt where the clues lead you to all seven resorts connected by Disney Skyliner.” If you aren’t sure about the scavenger hunts at your resort, be sure to stop by the front desk for more information.

7. Extended Time in the Theme Parks at Walt Disney World Resort

Nick reminds guests that one of the biggest benefits of staying onsite at a Disney Resort Hotel is taking advantage of extra time in the theme parks. “You have the Early Theme Park Entry, which gets you into the parks 30 minutes before opening. Every park, every day!” Guests choosing a Disney Deluxe Resort or Disney Deluxe Villa Resort can also take advantage of extended evening hours in select theme parks on select nights, and don’t forget the complimentary parking at the theme parks when you stay at a Disney Resort hotel. No car? No problem! There is also a variety of complimentary transportation from all resorts to the theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs.

8. The Extras

Characters have been known to make surprise appearances at Disney Resort hotels, just ask Ashley M. who was greeted by Donald Duck in her hotel lobby. Plus, Greg reminds guests at Walt Disney World Resort not to miss a trip to Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. “The Ranch is beautiful and a perfect change of pace from a busy park day. There is no charge to visit the ranch, see the beautiful horses and even chat with cast members who can share intriguing stories about the horses.”

Bonus planDisney Pro Tip: “At the resort, do not forget to purchase your refillable resort mug,” says Ashley M. “Pay one price per cup and be able to use the mug for complimentary refills on soft drinks, coffee, and tea for the length of your stay. Oh, and they make a great souvenir too!”

9. Last tip .. got more questions on how to maximize your next Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort vacation? Come ask the panelists at planDisney.com. This is a complimentary service, and the panelists would love to provide you with personal answers to your questions! Also stop by @planDisneyPanel on Instagram or @planDisney on Twitter for even more tips on planning your next Disney vacation.

Enjoy your next visit!

Panelists receive compensation for their participation on planDisney.

Comments

  • Candace, Idk if you found your answer already. All park reservations must choose a starting park regardless of ticket type. If you have a park hopper ticket you will be able to hop to other parks after 1pm at Disneyland Resort or 2pm at WDW Resort.

  • A question….I bought park hopper tickets as part of my stay in December but I had to make a choice on which park to go to each day??? What is the purpose of the park hopper?

  • Unfortunately it looks like the military salute tickets aren’t coming back. I was looking for one for early next year and it isn’t available-only regular day tickets and hopper options right now. With the need to make reservations to enter parks you would think they would be up by now.

  • I love these tips, especially the gift cards for children’s birthday or Christmas wish list! I will be using this idea at Christmas time!