Fourteen life hacks from a regular visitor that will help you have an unforgettable time at Disney World
Tara Chaff, a theme park journalist, has been visiting Disney World for over 30 years. She shares useful life hacks with everyone who wants to spend time in the park as much as possible, reports INSIDER.
Here are 14 things she always does there:
1. Everyone wants to get Mickey's autograph when they go to Disney World, so the lines to meet the characters can be quite long. Instead, she always orders one of the Disney character breakfasts.
“Usually I choose based on my kids' favorite characters so they can take pictures, hug and get autographs while we're having breakfast,” Tara says. “Usually there are about four or five of them, and they walk around the room, so each of them should come to your table at least once during a meal.”
Breakfasts tend to book quickly so you need to make booking immediatelyas soon as the booking window opens (60 days before travel).
2.When it gets too hot or the kids get tired, we go back to the hotel for a swim.
Tara used to think that she had to be at theme parks from opening to closing in order to visit as many rides and shows as possible. But now she has changed her mind.
“Now that I usually go to Disneyland with my three kids, I know that taking them from morning to night is a recipe for disaster,” she says. We still get to the parks quite early, but almost always return to the hotel pool (our favorite is at the Polynesian Resort) to relax and rejuvenate after dinner. This is the hottest time of the day and the queues tend to be the longest.”
“After a couple of hours we have cooled down and are ready to go back to the parks,” she adds.
3.Tara walks past Starbucks and chooses Joffrey's, which serves the best coffee in Disney World.
“When I go to the parks, I like to buy things that are unique to Disney. For coffee, that means Joffrey's. It has a fun flavored coffee, Kona Iced Mocha, but its real strength is espresso and iced coffee,” she says.
4.Tara always asks PhotoPass photographers if they take any funny magical pictures.
“I don't visit Disney World without buying Memory Maker, a service that lets you download all your trips and PhotoPass photos from your vacation,” she says.
Photographers are great at capturing great shots against the backdrop of iconic landmarks. But they also make "magic shots" when funny Disney characters or balloons are added to the photo.
Sometimes they do it automatically, but you can always ask your photographer if they have anything in stock. They differ from park to park, and there are seasonal frames for holidays and special events.
5.Satu'li Canteen is the best fast food restaurant in Disney World.
“Besides our typical breakfast, I don't order much food in the parks. I don't like to depend on plans - we just stop and eat when we're hungry," says Tara.
Her favorite place to eat is Satu'li Canteen in Animal Kingdom's Pandora . You can diversify your meal with meat, vegetables and grains.
She loves cheeseburger pods (they taste like a McDonald's cheeseburger) and Hawkes' Grog Green Ale.
6.Tara rides on Space Mountain first thing in the morning when everyone else runs to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
.She loves "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train”, but does not like to stand in line.
Most people head straight there when the morning opens"Magic Kingdom ”, but Tara goes straight to Tomorrowland to take her favorite slide in Disney World: Space Mountain.
“At this time of day, the wait is usually less than 30 minutes (sometimes half that), and the interactive queue is one of my favorites,” she says. “Since I still want to ride the Mine Train, I just check the waiting times during the day and wait for the line to clear up.”
7. Tara love to eat and drink in the Epcot area, especially during festivals.
When she and her husband have the opportunity to visit Disney on their own, they love to spend an evening of food and drink walking around Epcot's World Showcase.
“It's almost guaranteed that our visit will fall on one of the four annual festivals, and we can sample food at food stalls throughout the park,” she says. “Some of my favorite foods you can find throughout the year are the Spice Road Table hummus fries, the avocado margarita from La Cava del Tequila, and the giant pretzel and beer from Sommerfest.”
8. Her husband made it a tradition to buy decorations at theme parks.
“Over the years, my family has collected a lot of souvenirs, including jewelry and toys,” she says. “But during our anniversary visit, my husband bought me a pair of sugar skull earrings from the Mexican Epcot pavilion, and since then he has chosen jewelry for me on every trip.”
Her favorite places are Epcot's World Showcase and Animal Kingdom.
9. Tara asks everyone in her group to pick one or two must-see attractions instead of planning the whole day.
“I learned that instead of making a minute-by-minute schedule to plan out our day, everyone is happier when we take a less stressful approach,” she says.
Tara asks her kids and husband to share the top things they want to do in each park, and they do their best to squeeze in everyone's wish. It could be anything from getting cotton candy to flying Peter Pan.
This makes the days in the park more relaxed, but everyone in the family can still do their favorite things.
10 Tara makes sure to make at least one trip on the monorail and Skyliner.
She loves all kinds of Disney vehicles. They are like attractions in themselves, as the journalist notes.
“The monorail makes me very nostalgic, and the new Skyliner offers amazing bird's-eye views of parks and hotels,” she says. “I try my best to make at least one ride on every Disney vehicle on every vacation.”
11 Tara skips the large crowds around Cinderella Castle and watches the Magic Kingdom parades from Frontierland.
“I'm not a big fan of big crowds or waiting in line. That's why I'm heading to a little corner in Frontierland between Splash Mountain and the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn to watch the Magic Kingdom parades and the cavalcade of characters,” she says.
Tara says this is where the parades start and it's usually not too crowded, making it easy to see the show and take some great photos.
12 Tare makes sure to buy a Dole Whip at the George Wine Bar in Disney Springs.
Tara can't visit Disney World without booking it at least once.
Her favorite version is boozy Frozcato from George's wine bar Disney Springs.. The frozen drink is made from nutmeg, vodka and pineapple Dole Whip.
“It's cold, delicious and has a tropical flair. I always look forward to it as soon as I come to Disney,” says Tara.
13. No visit to Disney World is complete without a trip to the Haunted Mansion.
“I can't really say what's so special about the haunted mansion that makes it a must-see,” Tara says. “Maybe it’s because I have so many childhood memories of it. It can also be sinister but catchy music or frightening special effects.”
Whatever the reason, it's not a trip to Disney World for Tara until she visits this classic attraction.
14Kilimanjaro Safaris different every time and Tara always likes to watch what the animals do.
In the wildlife sanctuary Harambe Wildlife Reserve at Disney's Animal Kingdom more than 34 species of animals live.
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“You can see many of them on Kilimanjaro Safaris. You can see how they are very active one time you drive and rest peacefully the next time. When baby animals are born every year, you can also see them with their mothers, says Tara. “I feel like I’m visiting old friends when I go on this trip.”
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