I loved the tips I found on this site – they were absolutely invaluable! So I’m returning the favor with my top tips from our trip last month. It’s not a traditional Trip Report. More of a Tip Highlight. Every group has different needs and goals, so use what you can, and I hope you have as wonderful a trip as we did!
Disney Trip Tips – Jan 3-10, 2020
2 Adults - Mom (Me) & my 19 Yr Old Daughter
8 Days at Boardwalk, 8 Day Park Hopper Plus, Dining Plan, Memory Maker
Start Gathering!! As soon as I booked our trip, I started gathering supplies, etc. I had a giant bag and box that I would throw stuff in as I came across it or bought it (for months.) It made packing really easy.
I also de-boxed almost everything so it would fit better. Then put stuff in Ziploc bags if needed, and we used the bags later.
Supplies -Helpful supplies we brought: Scissors, Permanent marker, plastic utensils, flashlight, charging cords, air freshener, dryer sheets, small laundry detergent
Use the suggested packing list ! There’s a great downloadable packing list on the TP site.
Pack non-perishable food/snacks in a hard-sided carryon . Then use that space for souvenirs, change of clothes, wet suits (in Ziploc bags) on the way back home. Donate your un-used food to the maid service or post it on Disney World Freecycle and put it outside your room for arriving guests.
Non-Park Food and Snacks We Brought or Ordered:
Snacks we bought ahead of time (at Wal-mart bc it’s MUCH cheaper that way) and packed in our carryons: Beef Sticks (ended up being our best item – hit of protein and sturdy enough to throw in our back packs – they were a life savor when we were flagging a bit), dry cereal cups, dry soup cups, hot tea bags, creamer, applesauce cups (we actually put these in our suitcase in a ziploc bag as I wasn’t sure they’d make it through security), fruit snacks (our 2nd favorite!), granola and protein bars. I’d say we ate 2/3 of the stuff we brought. We gave away the rest and used the empty space for souvenirs.
Things I ordered from Garden Grocer that were great!: Apples, bananas, small milk, grapes, grapefruit
Things we didn’t use: Juice, oranges, cokes, microwave popcorn (no microwave-doh!)
TSA Pre-Check!! – Why isn’t everyone doing this?! I had it, but my daughter didn’t. We applied for hers about 5 days before we left and got the email the night before we left with her KTN (Known Traveler Number.) Then added in the number for her flight and voila! It was about $85 and took maybe 20 min. You can make an appointment online.
Everything I’ve heard is the security line at MCO is a nightmare. We were literally through the line in 5 minutes. We saved so much time, we were able to spend an extra 2 hrs at the Boardwalk pool on our departure day. And with so much less stress!
On Arrival Day : Get the earliest arriving flight you can. Pack a change of clothes/swimsuit and a small daypack in a carryon, then when you arrive, check all your carry-ons at bell services and hit the parks or the pool with your daypack.
Carry-ons – We each brough 1 regular suitcase with our clothes, etc. And then 1 carryon was full of snacks and gear, and the other carryon had our change of clothes/swimsuits and smaller backpack to hit the parks right away. Our plan was to eat all our snacks during the week, donate what we didn’t eat, and then fill the empty space with souvenirs. It worked like a charm!
Our goal was to travel as light as possible, but we were also going to be gone rope drop to close in anywhere from 40-75° temps so we planned accordingly.
Bigger Pack : We brought a bigger backpack with sweatshirts, jackets, jeans, extra shoes, small drying towel (really nice on our rainy day) etc. to change into as needed. It also had a small first-aid kit, deodorant, spritzy stuff, a brush, sunscreen, and a spare charger. A couple of times we went to a nice restaurant for dinner after park close and didn’t want to be the grungiest ones there. This is the pack we ordered for that. It was waterproof and worked great. It has a compartment in the bottom where we put our extra shoes. The straps were a little uncomfortable, but we weren’t really wearing it for long periods of time at all. It was mostly in our locker. It was good quality, and I wasn’t worried about it getting lost or destroyed bc the price was so reasonable ($16).
“SportsNew Drawstring Sports Backpack - Gym Sack - Lightweight Sackpack Bag with Shoes Compartment for Men Women” https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VNPYDGX/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Day Pack – We took a much smaller day pack with us all day. It was from Eddie Bauer and was super lightweight with lots of pockets, etc. It was awesome! The straps were super comfortable, and it was a high-quality bag – worked like a charm and was small enough to stuff under our legs on rides and didn’t hurt our backs or shoulders after 15 hr days. And it folds up into its own bag so it took up minimal space in our carryon. Also key was using a pack that had cup holders on both sides. We used them for water bottles, our refillable mugs, AND for our phones while they were charging – you could still grab your phone for a quick pic and leave it charging and then throw it back in and keep going.
This isn’t the exact one we used, but it is similar. Great deal!! It’s $20
We used a sling pack from Eddie Bauer on even lighter days – if we were only going for a half day, etc. It worked great, but it is more of a pain to take on and off if you wear it cross-body. This is the type of one we used. $18
Fanny Pack – A couple of times we used just a small fanny pack to hold the bare minimum – cell phone, chapstick, cash. This was great for a quick park jaunt, especially getting through the line for HS when we were just trying to buzz in and get ROTR boarding passes. My 19 yr old wasn’t too sure about it but was a total believer after using it for a couple of hours at HS.
This is the one we used - $8 on Groupon! Small and even water resistant. We picked our own fun colors (that coordinated with our water booties and our straws, ahem.)
Waterproof Booties – Stole this tip from another mom – these were awesome! It rained pretty heavily for about 5 hrs at AK for one of our days. And it wasn’t all that warm, so sandals would have been a bit cold. We wore these booties over our tennis shoes, and they worked really well! They have a tread and are stretchy. I wear a women’s sz 5 and my daughter a size 6 and we got the mediums. The water did eventually seep in, but it took several hours, and our feet weren’t soaking wet, just moist. By that time the rain had finished, and we changed into dry socks. Perfect! Do be careful in the tile bathrooms though as they can get quite slick – no slipping issues otherwise. We ended up wearing our ponchos and these booties on Kali Rapids, and they worked perfectly! Gear up and go while everyone else is huddled under thatched roofs that leaked.
CHUHUAYUAN Waterproof Silicone Shoe Covers, Reusable Foldable Not-Slip Rain Shoe Covers with Zipper,Shoe Protectors Overshoes Rain Galoshes for Kids,Men and Women(1 Pair) $12
Metal Straws – I ordered super inexpensive metal straws, and they worked great! They came with a soft carrying case that took up no room in our daypack. We each had our own color in straight and bent. We cleaned them every night and were good to go the next day. Loved them. This link isn’t the exact ones we got but pretty close.
Charger – All the info on phone chargers was a little overwhelming. We ended up taking two of these. Took one to the park in our daypack and let the other one charge at the hotel. It was a little heavier but had tons of charging power and could charge both our phones at the same time while we were on the go. We only needed one per day. We put it in the outer pocket of our daypack, hooked it up, and put our phones in the cup holder pockets and away we went. It worked awesome!!
Ziploc Bags – We brought a box (de-box them if you need the space) of each size (the cheapy brand was fine) in our carry-on. They are great for: Wet clothes, socks, shoes, etc., snacks in your pack, put on over your shoes on wet rides if needed, throw your cell phone in on wet rides, band-aids/moleskin, sunscreen, etc. We threw a couple in our pack of each size – takes no space and so useful!
Another great tip was to pack all your stuff in your daypack inside Ziploc bags, and you breeze through security. They just pull out the clear bag instead of having to rifle through it all.
Binder Clips – Best tip ever! On our rainy day, we brought baseball caps in our daypack, and then clipped our poncho hood to our baseball cap brim. Genius! Your arms are free, your face and hair stay dry, and no futzing with your poncho all day. Worked like a charm.
Lines App!! – This was THE BEST!! Again, why isn’t everyone in the parks on this site and using this app? We LOVED it and were constantly checking it for real-time wait times. We had fun tracking and adding our own wait times as well. It’s amazing how bad we were at estimating the actual time we stood in line vs what the time said. We added our personalized touring plans and were also able to update them as the inevitable changes occurred. So helpful!
ROTR tips – Nothing terribly new to add here. But just confirming what most folks have said. Your whole group scanned in before official opening time. Head towards whatever ride you want to hit at rope drop. Make sure your whole group is linked together through the app. Don’t use the park wifi. We just had our app open, and the Join Group opened up right at 7am. Didn’t mess with the refreshing app, etc. Didn’t seem to be an issue at all. We got Group 11 and Group 15 on two different days. Once my daughter got in first, and I did the other time. Rumor has it, the groups were gone in 90 seconds for all the days we were there.
We debated going back on our final morning, but decided it was worth our second 5:45 am wake-up call. It’s literally the best ride in the world right now. Literally. And we could walk to it from the Boardwalk. So we got our group, went back and checked out of our hotel and rode it again. Amazing again! So worth it!! (and that’s saying something for my college kid to willingly get up that early twice on vacation.)
SR – Single Rider Line ! Um, this was also amazing. We walked on Smugglers Run – twice in a row. And the stand-by line was 1 ½ hrs. Granted you pretty much only get to be the Engineer, but we didn’t mind. It was worth the time savings for sure! We also did it for Test Track and Rock-n-Roller Coaster, but our biggest time saver using it was for SR. Although our 2nd rope drop at HS, we were literally the first in line in the SR line for RRC so we got on almost immediately. That was fun – albeit a little bit of a rush for 7:00am. We’re hard-core. Lol.
Great parade viewing at MK – We just lucked into the perfect parade spot. Sit across from the liberty tree towards Tom Sawyer island. There are several shade trees there, the sun isn’t in your face, and you’re right on the corner where the parade curves so you get to see them normally and then watch them head towards main street. They often stop at the corner as they’re waiting for the timing, and there is more space there for them to perform. AND you’re nearer the parade ending so you can go while everyone else is still watching. AND you’re right by the Fantasyland crossover so you really beat the crowds that sat at the front of the parade bc they can’t cross till the parade is through anyway. Bonus – grab a Dole Whip at the pass-thru for Aloha Isle (use mobile ordering!) while you’re waiting for it to start.
Order dinner for fireworks viewing! – Good seats for fireworks can get crazy. I went and got a spot while my daughter went to grab dinner for us in Tomorrowland. She brought it back (with hot teas for a cool night on cold concrete – mmm) and we sat and enjoyed dinner while waiting and watching the chaos unfold around us. The one thing I would have done differently is make sure to get a spot near one of the rides you want to do after the show. We sat near Tomorrowland but wanted to hit BTM afterwards. Tactical error.
Keys to the Kingdom Tour – We LOVED this tour!! It was excellent and just the right amount of time and info. We went on our 2nd MK day which was perfect so we could enjoy all the magic the first day and get the scoop on the 2nd day. Highly recommend!
Fun little MK Easter Egg – find the old-school hat monogramming store on the far-right corner when you first get to main street. Pick up the receiver on the old timey wall phone. Love Disney and their attention to detail!!
Memory Maker – We LOVED this! Since there were just 2 of us, it was wonderful – we were both in all the pictures. I thought it was a great deal (one of the few things that are still a deal for your money at Disney) when you bought it ahead of time. Scanning our bands couldn’t have been easier. The photogs had better cameras than us, knew the best angles, knew how to avoid weird shadows, did their best to make sure there wasn’t some crazy guy in the background, and of course, magic shots. SO worth it!!
Indiana Jones Stunt Show at HS – Some folks don’t like this, but I don’t know why. It’s so cool! I know it’s an older show, but it’s still pretty amazing. My daughter got chosen by the “casting director” to be part of the show, and she had a blast! The trick to getting picked is be there a bit early, sit nearish the front, and the moment the casting director mentions volunteers, jump up and wave your arms and holler like a crazy person. It works – I got to do it 12 yrs ago, and this time she got to. True story. We’re both super involved in theater and gymnastics so it was an absolute highlight for us.
Dessert Party at HS – We did the Jingle Bam party. I don’t know that’s it’s particularly different than any other dessert party, but I really wanted to see a Christmas show. We got there Jan 3, so most Christmas shows were over, but this one was still going on. We really enjoyed it. Good food, nice adult beverage, as many pics as we wanted with Chip and Dale – we did a kick line with them, our own table overlooking the gorgeously decorated lake, and then prime seating for both evening shows. There is seating for the food portion, but not for the show. But you’re in the very front and most of us sat down anyway on the concrete and could see fine.
Mobile Order! – Why isn’t everyone doing this?! I have no idea. I walked past line after line of folks waiting to order food. It worked so well. Not all places have it, but for the ones that do, it’s great!
Senses Spa at Saratoga Springs!! Got a GC for Christmas so we treated ourselves to a double massage for both of us and a mani for my daughter. It was FABULOUS!! This spa is gorgeous! I couldn’t find a lot of info about it. So, I’m here to say, it is top-notch. Gorgeous lounge area. The dressing room/lounge is beautiful. Whirlpool (look for the hidden Mickey), steam room with eucalyptus – my favorite!!, heated loungers, showers with everything you need. It was not crowded and was so classy. No sales pressure and very professional. Highly recommend!
We spent all morning there, showered and headed over to Disney Springs for lunch at Morimoto Asia and shopping. Such a great way to spend our “off” day in the middle of our trip.
Things we missed but I wished we did : Disney Visa card photo op at HS. I forgot about this and wish we had taken advantage of it. Also, I didn’t know about the lantern shot at the Tangled restrooms. There wasn’t a MM around, but I wish I had known about it, and I would have hunted them down.
We didn’t end up doing any of the miniature golf near the Boardwalk or tennis, although I wanted to. Maybe next time.
I used the request room feature on this site and requested our room with the right specifics. We had to have 2 queen beds, REALLY wanted a balcony, and then really wanted to get an Epcot fireworks view. We didn’t get our requested room but were literally across the hall from it - 5267. Our room faced the courtyard/lake/entrance from the boardwalk to the hotel. So it was technically an upgraded “water view” albeit not straight on. But ours was one of the very few rooms that did not have a balcony. I was really bummed about that as I was looking forward to tea on the balcony. They did offer to switch us to a balcony room but it overlooked the parking lot. We ended up staying where we were. The view was very fun – the lights at night and activity on the boardwalk and lake were fun to watch, and we were very close to the elevators, main lobby, and bus stop. It was quite cool when we were there, so that made it easier not having a balcony.
It was super quiet. I only faintly heard the boat horns a couple of times. We were up pretty early anyway, but I didn’t hear any noise from the boardwalk which surprised me.
Talk About Priorities : My daughter and I travel very well together. We like the same things, have the same walking stride, the same positive attitude, etc. But we made it a point to talk about what was most important to us for this trip.
She really wanted to stay at a Disney hotel vs off-site. I really wanted MM pictures. I didn’t need a ton of souvenirs (although I came home with my fair share), but what I really wanted was professional pics of our trip. So we agreed to stop as much as possible to take pics as long as the line was reasonable. We both really wanted to eat at CRT, so we were thrilled when we got reservations. She wanted a Mickey Bar. And neither of us felt a huge need for character interactions, but we did have a short list of if we see them, drop everything characters – We got some awesome shots with Mereda, Peter Pan, Jessie, Sombrero Donald and Gaston – our absolute favorite!!
And we both agreed to check in frequently and be honest about how we were doing – hungry? Tired? Over-stimulated? Need a break? Etc. We gave each other permission to cry uncle, it’s ok if you’re not having fun. And we had an amazing trip. No melt-downs, no hurt feelings, not irritated with each other. Starts with having realistic expectations and agreeing to communicate.
On Departure Day : Get one of the last flights out for that day. Check your bags at the Airline Check-in spot at your hotel. Make sure to verify when they will be there as they’re not there all day. Then you don’t have to mess with your luggage until you arrive home – genius!! Then check your carry-ons at bell services and hit the park or pool for another full day of fun. Just tip the airline check-in folks like you would a skycap at the airport.
We decided against taking ME back to the airport. After a half day at HS to do ROTR again, we headed back to the Boardwalk pool. We grabbed our carry-ons from bell services, changed into our suits and had a wonderful afternoon poolside. We got a Lfyt for about $35 back to MCO and got another 1 ½ hrs at the pool for a glorious nap in the warm sunshine and one last meal. We just changed into our travel clothes in the bathroom by the pool (across from the arcade.)
Hope your trip is as fun as ours!! May magic and pixie dust find you around every corner!