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Disney Tips from a Former Cast Member

Walt Disney World Block Party

I admit it. I’m one of “those” Disney people. We go every year with my husband’s entire family. We spend a lot – a lot – of money on souvenirs while we’re there. We have Mickey and Minnie artificial topiaries in our backyard.

For me, it all started when I worked at Walt Disney World during college. For my husband’s family, well, I’m pretty sure they’ve just always been Disney nuts. In a good way.

Since several of my friends have asked me multiple times for tips or advice when they’re planning a Disney vacation, I thought I’d pull some of my most common suggestions together here.

In General

We prefer to stay on Disney property.
• Hotels we love: Wilderness Lodge (our No. 1 all-time favorite), Port Orleans Riverside, Polynesian
• Hotels for when there’s not a good deal available (read: cheaper): Pop Century, All Star Music

Make your dining reservations as soon as you are eligible.  That’s 180 days in advance if you are staying at a Disney resort. The most popular restaurants will fill up almost instantly. Cancellations do happen, though, so if you can’t get in at the restaurant you really, really want – keep trying!

On a related note, the Disney Dining Plan is worth the money. And if you can book your vacation on dates it’s offered for free, DO IT NOW. Now!

Go for at least 5 nights if your budget and schedule can swing it. Short Walt Disney World vacations don’t give you enough time to see everything and to relax.

Plan some pool days in between the park days – you’ll want a break in the middle to rest your weary feet.

You can save on your Disney tickets at AAA before you go.

Disney With Kids

If you have little kids, bring your own stroller. You can rent them at the parks, but they are expensive and clunky.

We don’t go back to the hotels for naps. If our kids get tired, they nap in the stroller. I realize this may not work for everyone, but we have never found getting to or from the hotels to be quick or convenient (even though we always stay on Disney property.)

There’s not a lot for little kids to do at Hollywood Studios. If you want to skip a park, this might be the one to skip.

Transportation

My very first job at Disney was driving the monorails, so that was a really good way of learning my way around. (I also heard a lot of really funny questions from guests who had no clue where they were or where they wanted to go!)

Cue embarrassing flashback picture:

Wahler, c.1999

The monorails service the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. You can also get a monorail to three Magic Kingdom-area resorts: the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian. Disney buses go everywhere – all the Disney resorts, theme parks and water parks, and Downtown Disney.

Personally, we prefer to rent a car instead of depending on the Disney buses. We can leave the strollers in the trunk, and we don’t have to wait for buses at the end of the night when we are all tired. Parking is free for resort guests, so you don’t have to worry about that extra cost.

And – shameless plug alert – the AAA Diamond preferred parking pass that we get when we book through AAA is worth a million bucks to us.

Do you have more Disney questions or tips to add? Join the conversation in the comments below.

January is Disney month at AAA Travel. For Disney travel planning, packages, tickets and exclusive member benefits, call your AAA travel professional or go to AAA.com/Disney.
  • Katie

    Great post, Laura!

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