Are you planning a Disney World trip with your family in the near future?
I recently went for my son’s 10th birthday and though we enjoyed ourselves I must say that Disney post-pandemic is much different than Disney pre-pandemic. It’s still magical but there are new policies and procedures in place that affect the overall experience.
Since Disney has many choices, we decided to go to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, which is great if you have older and younger kids as I do. My favorite part of the trip was watching how much fun my kids had! It was exciting to see them enjoy the rides and shows as much as I did when I was a kid! There were a few classics that have changed with the times, but the experience was pretty similar to what I experienced as a child.
If you’re planning a Disney trip for the near future and have your matching family shirts all picked out, here are some tips to help enhance your experience and make your visit to The Happiest Place on Earth more magical!
Everything is done now via the My Disney Experience app, so make sure you have it downloaded to your phone before arriving. Make sure you have your tickets downloaded to the app as well as a park reservation which is how you get into the park. (There is a daily capacity limit now for the parks.) You essentially have to stay on the app constantly to book your rides and other experiences, but it pays off! (Note: The terminology has changed from 'Fast Pass' to 'Lightning Lane') I was able to book a character lunch at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom within two days of our arrival, which is an impossible feat according to the Disney phone concierge).
Pack all your essentials (snacks, water, tablets, etc….). There will be times when the more popular rides will be booked solid, like in our case for the Avatar ride at Animal Kingdom, so be prepared to wait in long lines and have things to entertain the kids. Food is expensive at the parks but it’s not a trip to Disney World until you’ve had a Mickey ice cream bar, especially if you’re going in the heat of the summer!
It's helpful to go with a group so that you can split up if need be. I have a 1, 7, and 10-year-old. The oldest is a boy and the younger ones are girls with totally different interests. My mom and I were able to do the younger kid-friendly rides and shows with the little ones while my husband did the more adventurous rides with our son, such as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Have a plan and do your research! Know what you want to experience before you go and have an itinerary planned for your shows, dining, rides, etc. Don’t forget about 'Lightning Lane' on the app to book your rides well in advance, especially for the more popular rides. Don’t give up if a certain ride or experience is booked because the app is constantly updating and things could always change, like in our case with the Character dining.
And here's everything you should experience while at Disney World:
Character Dining: Chef Mickey’s (contemporary resort), Cape May Café (beach club resort), and Tusker House (Animal kingdom). All are buffet-style and have great opportunities to interact with the characters. Book your dining reservation in advance on the app to make sure you get in. You can also get a cake if you’re celebrating something special (you can reserve this on the app as well) and even request accommodations for food sensitivities/ allergies.
Nighttime Enchantment Show: We did not go to Magic Kingdom (even if we wanted to go we couldn’t because it was booked solid) this trip but don’t forget it’s the 50th anniversary of the park this year so Magic Kingdom and all the parks really will have long wait times, and lots of people! The nighttime Enchantment show to celebrate the 50th anniversary is spectacular from what I have heard!
Disney Junior Dance Party: Located at Hollywood Studios, this is great for little ones and there’s an opportunity to meet the characters afterward!
Animal Kingdom Safari: This is an activity that you want to do earlier as the animals disappear later in the day for naps. This was our first stop! Make sure you get a Dole Whip treat as well. It’s recommended to do 'Lightning Lane' for this as well because it's so popular. From the time we arrived at the park til the time we got to the safari (which was about a 15-minute walk), the wait went from 30-40 minutes to 75 minutes! We went ahead and waited because we wanted to see the animals before it got too late in the day. This one is located at the front of the park so it’s easy to do first!
Frozen Sing-Along: If you have fans of Frozen then they’ll love this! It’s got humor for the parents and who doesn’t love a sing-along?! Located in Hollywood Studios.
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge: Located in Hollywood Studios, this excursion is a must-see even if you aren’t into Star Wars! This entire area of the park looks just like the movie down to the restaurant food being Star Wars themed. The rides in this section are all popular so do 'Lightning Lane' for them in advance. There are also Storm Troopers patrolling the section and “recruiting people” so be on the lookout and be on guard!
Avatar Flight of Passage: This ride located in the Animal Kingdom is also really popular! The line stayed at a 2-plus hour wait the entire day and was sold out for 'Lightning Lane', so we passed on it this time. I’ve been told this is a must-see, especially for those thrill seekers! It’s on the list as number one for our next visit!
Toy Story Land: Located in Hollywood Studios, this area of the park is completely transformed to look just like the movie! We stood in line for the Alien Saucers (Think of The Mad Hatter teacups at Magic Kingdom and turn them into a Toy Story theme) for 45 minutes and 60 minutes for Toy Story Mania. This is similar to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which is located in Magic Kingdom.
Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney): This is a free Disney experience where there’s tons of shopping, dining, and entertainment. There’s a Splitsville bowling alley, an AMC movie theatre, and cute rides for the kiddos like a carousel and hot air balloon! Booking a dining reservation is also recommended for the dining experiences (done through the Disney app) such as Rainforest Café and T-rex Café (this is where we went for my son’s birthday). There’s also a capacity limit for some of the stores (like the Lego store) which has a section for the kiddos to play with legos.
Hopefully, this guide was useful and helps you when booking your next trip to The Happiest Place on Earth!!