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The Best Disney Fast Passes for 2019

If you’re trying to figure out the best Disney Fast Passes for a seamless 2019 Disney vacation without waiting in long lines, then pull up a chair and start taking notes!

I truly love helping people plan their ideal Disney vacation. I’ve brainstormed with friends who are 2 years away from booking a trip, and I’ve jumped in to help friends who are leaving in a week and haven’t booked a thing.

The mistake I see again and again that makes me die a little inside is people not using Fast Pass! (Cue horror movie sound effects.)

Almost as bad- when people book Fast Passes, but they chose rides that really don’t warrant it or weren’t the best use of their selections.

Since you’re here, I know you won’t make any of those mistakes!

Disney Fast passes 2019

 

Disney Fast Pass FAQs

Let’s start with some of the questions I hear over and over again about booking Fast Passes.

Do you have to pay extra for Fast Pass?

No, no, and NO! Unlike Universal, Disney includes 3 Fast Passes per day for EVERY ticket. You don’t need to be staying on site and you don’t need to pay extra. And after you use those 3 (or let them expire), you can book more one at a time.

Is it really necessary to book Fast Pass ahead of time?

It not a requirement to schedule ahead of time, and most attractions will have Fast Passes available on the day of. However, if you want the best chance at those extremely popular attractions, you absolutely should book your Fast Passes as soon as you possibly can.

There are a limited number of Fast Passes for each attraction, and the most popular rides do run out of Fast Passes well in advance.

When can I book my Fast Passes?

If you are staying onsite at a Disney resort, you can book your Fast Passes 60 days before the start of your trip (and you can book your entire trip on that day). If you are staying offsite, you can book 30 days in advance. You will need to book each day of your trip one by one, abiding by the 30 day window.

The booking window opens at 7am EST, so sit down at your computer at 6:50 on the day your booking window opens and log on to MyDisneyExperience to book!

What’s the best time of day to schedule my Fast Passes for?

There are two schools of thought on this, and it depends on your touring strategy.

Personally I’m in the rope drop crowd (arriving before the park opens to take advantage of the early morning low crowds). With this strategy, I recommend booking Fast Passes starting at 11am. You can take advantage of the low crowds prior to that time while still having them scheduled early enough in the day to then use a 4th, 5th and 6th Fast Pass after your initial 3.

family in matching Disney shirts meeting Mickey at magic kingdom

How can I get extra Fast Passes?

Once all your pre-booked Fast Passes have been used (or expire), you can book another using the MDX app or at Kiosks located throughout the parks. You may only book one at a time with this method. Once you use your fourth Fast Pass, you can book a 5th.

For 4th Fast Passes and beyond, you can repeat one of the attractions that you already FastPassed and you can choose a different attraction from the Tier One category. Just remember these are subject to availability so it’s not incredibly likely that those will be available. People do change plans and cancel Fast Passes last minute however, so it’s worth checking.

What’s this I hear about “tiers”?

At Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, Fast Passes are selected within a tiered model.

This means you may only select ONE of the two or three most popular attractions in that park. You can then select two of the Tier 2 attractions. My recommendation is to choose your most desired Tier 1 attraction and use Fast Pass for that. You can then prioritize the other Tier 1 attraction to be your first ride of the morning if you arrive at rope drop, or your last ride of the night if you take the late shift (both good times to ride a popular ride without a Fast Pass).

Want to know how I afford to go to Disney every year without going broke? Don’t miss this post that dishes all my secrets on how to save on Disney World!

Best Disney Fast Passes For Each Park

Magic Kingdom (no tiers)

Seven dwarfs Mine Train is the top pick for fastpass at Disney Magic Kingdom
Seven dwarfs mine train: the best Fast pass choice for Magic Kingdom

Top 3 Picks

  1. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  2. Space Mountain
  3. Splash Mountain

Other Solid Choices

  1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  2. Peter Pan’s Flight (personally I think it’s overhyped, but the lines get VERY long so if you choose to ride, do it with Fastpass or at rope drop)
  3. Winne the Pooh (slow load times = long lines)
  4. Enchanted Tales with Belle
  5. Meet Mickey and Minnie at Town Square Theater (sadly this Mickey no longer talks)
  6. Pirates of the Caribbean
  7. Buzz Lightyear Spaceranger Spin

Epcot

Spaceship earth at Disney's EPCOT is a fun ride you may want to use tier 2 fast passes on
Inside that giant ball is Spaceship Earth, one of my favorite rides

Tier 1 (choose ONE of these)

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Test Track

If you have a Frozen fan on your hands, go with that as the lines are longest. Otherwise, choose Test Track. Don’t miss Soarin’- ride it first thing in the morning or last at night, or grab it as a 4th Fast Pass if you’re lucky.

Character spot is Tier 1 but probably not your best use of FastPass.

Illuminations is also a Tier 1 choice but nobody should choose it, there are plenty of spots all around the lake with great views of the show.

Also note-worthy is that Illuminations will be replaced by a new nighttime spectacular show at Epcot sometime in 2019. It remains to be seen whether or not this new show will alter the best choice of Fast Pass, but I will keep this updated if it does!

Tier 2 Solid Choices

The other attractions rarely get long lines so Fast pass should not be necessary.

Animal Kingdom

Everest at Disney's animal kingdom is a good use of fastpass
If you’re brave enough for Everest, you’ll want to ride it with a FP!

Tier One (must choose one)

  • Avatar Flight of Passage- The most sought after Fastpass in WDW. Get one of it you can!
  • Na’vi River Journey (only pick this if you can’t ride Flight of Passage due to height or other restriction!)

Tier Two Solid Choices

Hollywood Studios

Child and mother in front of tower of terror- tier 2 fastpass choice for Hollywood studios
Tower of Terror: A great choice for your Tier 2 FP

The addition of Toy Story Land has completely rearranged the Fast Pass tiers for this park. I imagine that, after the newness wears off, they will restructure the tiers again. For now, they look like this:

Tier One (must choose one)

  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • Toy Story Mania

Your best bet is to get a Fast pass for Slinky Dog and try to ride the others standby or with a 4th Fast pass or higher. The wait times for Alien Swirling Saucers have died down recently so should be the most reasonable of the three. Also, the queue for Toy Story Mania is a fun one, which helps if you choose to ride it standby.

Tier Two Solid Choices

  • Rockin’ Roller Coaster
  • Tower of Terror
  • Star Tours

Check out this post for a closer look at the best rides at Hollywood Studios!

Still have Fast pass questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do another Fast pass FAQ in my next Disney post.

If you are planning the ultimate family Disney vacation, don’t miss my picks for kids’ favorite Disney resorts and kid’s favorite Disney restaurants!

And don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest:

 

The Best Disney World Restaurants For Kids

If you’re planning the ultimate kid-centered Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll definitely want to stay in one of the best Disney resorts for kids. You will also want to book dining reservations at the best Disney World restaurants for kids!

While it’s true that almost all restaurants in Walt Disney World cater to children, some dining spots are definitely better suited for the younger set than others. From elaborate theming to exotic menu choices or their favorite characters, here are the kids’ picks for best Disney World restaurants.

Best Disney World Restaurants For Kids

And by the way, the kids who shared their opinions below happen to be the children of some of the best Disney gurus on the web!

SECTION 1: CHARACTER MEALS

Character meals are a no-brainer for parents heading to Disney World with small children. The kids get to meet some of their favorite characters and get autographs without waiting in line. It’s perfect for kids who get restless at the dinner table as they will be up out of their seat and distracted by who is coming to their table next.

The drawback of character meals is that they can feel chaotic. It’s hard to relax with a larger-than-life character stopping by your table and thrilling your child every few minutes.

Another negative for some (but not all) character meals is that the quality of the food can be lacking. A lot of character meals are buffets, and many have the same kid-friendly go-to dishes that get redundant after a while.

We like to mix up our dining reservations to have a nice balance of character meals and regular sit down meals, which tend to have a slower pace.

Tusker House

So when I said character meals have lower quality food, this would be an exception.

The food at Tusker House is unique and delicious with an African flare. You can find things like carved bone-in ham, corned beef hash, potato and leek frittata, and the famous POG juice at the breakfast buffet. (In case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of drinking POG juice, POG = passion fruit, orange, and guava.)

Lunch and dinner feature carved meats, seafood, couscous and African stews and salads.

best Disney restaurants for kids

My kids loved meeting Donald, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy at Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House. Zari says his favorite part was “meeting Mickey with his explorer outfit on, eating waffles and the really good juice that was like… tangy and tropical.”

1900 Park Fare

My daughter Tiana loves the character dining at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. First of all she loves everything about that resort, since it’s “the most beautiful and fancy of all of them.”

If you go there for dinner, try to go on a Magic Kingdom day so you can take the monorail from the park to the resort. Get there a little early so you can walk around the lobby and explore a bit before eating.

best Disney restaurants for kids

She also loves the characters at dinner, especially Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella: “Lady Tremaine was mean just like in the movie. But not too scary. The stepsisters were fighting over my brother because because he was in a prince costume and they both wanted to marry a prince!”

Sarah from MomMoment.com agrees that 1900 Park Fare is great fun for kids. She says:

Our favorite Disney Restaurant is 1900 Park Fare in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. We’ve hung out with the Evil Stepsisters for dinner, and stuck our tongues out with Alice and the Mad Hatter at breakfast. I’m usually not a fan of the buffets, but 1900 Park Fare has really delivered with good quality food every time. I also love the variety of Characters you can meet, including villains like Lady Tremaine and favorites like Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh.

best Disney restaurants for kids

Her son says, “I love it because it’s a buffet, but the food is really yummy. The characters are all ones that you can’t find at the park really easy. I’ve never found Mad Hatter at the park, and Alice in Wonderful is kind of hard too.”

Crystal Palace

best Disney restaurants for kids

Robin of Luxe Recess says her children’s favorite Disney dining option is Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom:

My kids consider Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom our family ritual. We have photos of Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore from over the last 7 years that serves as our kids’ unofficial growth chart. We have always enjoyed an extended air-conditioned break for lunch, and the buffet offers lots of healthy options so that we can indulge in Mickey bars in the afternoon.

Bon Voyage Breakfast at Disney’s Boardwalk

Disney’s Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno on the Boardwalk offers the unique opportunity to meet some Disney PRINCES! The character breakfast features Ariel, Prince Eric, Rapunzel, and Flynn Ryder.

best Disney restaurants for kids

Kayla from Mommy of a Princess writes:

We enjoyed meeting both princesses and princes. They did a formal announcement for each character while we were there which was really fun to see. Rapunzel and Flynn danced together which was absolutely adorable! They also did a character parade (happens once per hour) for all the kids to follow and dance with the characters together. Our food was delicious and presented in a very fun and creative way. I ordered Rapunzel’s Tower of Pancakes and it was so yummy! My little princess loved the pancakes too. She liked the powdered sugar sun off and ate nearly as much as I did!

Ohana

best disney world restaurants for kids

This one technically qualifies as a character meal AND non-character meal, because it has characters at breakfast (typically Lilo and Stich, as well as Mickey and Pluto in their Hawaiian garb) and no characters and lunch or dinner. Both are great fun and delicious food, but I think the breakfast wins as the meal of choice for kids.

During breakfast, children are given maracas to do a little parade around the restaurant with Mickey.

The food is served family-style in a large skillet in the center of the table. It’s all-you-care-to-eat, so they will keep refilling it until you’re done. The breakfast starts with Hawaiian welcome bread and a side of fruit. Then the skillet comes out filled with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, breakfast potatoes, and Mickey waffles.

If you’re not staying at the Polynesian, booking a meal at Ohana also gives you a reason to go check out the resort. The theming is exquisite and there are several great restaurants on site.

Hollywood and Vine

Truth be told, the food at Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood and Vine has never really impressed me much, but kids rate it one of their favorite Disney restaurants.

Hard to find characters are featured at the Disney Junior breakfast at Hollywood and Vine, including Doc McStuffins, Jake from the Neverland Pirates, Sofia the First and Roadster Racer Goofy.

Depending on the season, dinners at Hollywood and Vine feature Minnie in various holiday garb with friends like Daisy, Mickey, Donald and Goofy.

Shannon of BRB Going to Disney says her toddler daughter loved seeing the characters all dressed up for in their pastel best at Minnie’s Springtime Dine. She especially loved Minnie’s dress!

best Disney world restaurants for kids

SECTION 2: NON-CHARACTER MEALS

50’s Prime Time Cafe

This Hollywood Studios restaurant is always a hoot, even if the nostalgia factor is appreciated by the parents more than the kids.

Adults will be blown away by the details in this restaurant where seemingly every tchotchke is the exact one from your grandparents house! Kids enjoy the interaction with the servers, especially when they give their parents a hard time.

Tiana says,

I love how the Aunts and Uncles are your servers and they tell you things like “Get your elbows off the table!” One time my mom got yelled at for being on her phone and it was SO funny!

Randomly, I actually caught that incident on video so here it is:

The menu includes classic Southern comfort food like fried chicken and meatloaf, just like Grandma would make. Definitely a unique experience that is not to be missed.

Teppan Edo

best Disney world restaurants for kids

Teppan Edo is a fun, interactive Hibachi restaurant located in the Japan pavilion at Epcot. It makes a great meal for families because it holds the little ones’ interest but allows the parents to get a break from the typical American casual cuisine and enjoy some yummy Asian food.

Gena from GingerCasa.com says, “My boys (4, 7, 9) all say Teppan Edo at Epcot! My youngest was celebrating his birthday and they gave him a chef hat and he loved it! The food is THE best and they were all so nice (of course!).”

Via Napoli

best Disney World restaurants for kids

Lisa from Adventures In Familyhood shares that her 11 year old daughter loves Via Napoli in the Italy section of Epcot:

My favorite Walt Disney World restaurant is Via Napoli. The pizza is heavenly! It tastes as if the chefs put Disney Magic into every pie they make. The margarita pizza is my absolute favorite. It’s the dough that makes the pizza so yummy.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

best disney world restaurants for kids

Lindsey of Red Head Baby Mama writes:

My son loves Sci-Fi- Dine-In Theatre because of the unique car seating and awesome movie clips! Mama likes the fact that he’ll clean his plate here, too.

AJ, age 7, also loves Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre:

The Sci-Fi drive in movie restaurant is the coolest because you get to sit in these cool cars and you get to watch TV!

Some parents love Sci-Fi as well, however they caution that it can be very dark and difficult to read the menu. There is also the issue of the seats all facing the screen, so if two parents are seated with two kids you are not facing each other. The kids most likely won’t mind, but it can make it a little difficult to cut their food and address any needs they may have while they dine.

Rainforest Cafe/T-Rex

best Disney world restaurants for kids

Darkness, noise, and animatronic animals might not be at the top of the list of characteristics adults look for in a restaurant. But for kids, the unique experience found at Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex (both owned by the same company) is about as thrilling as dining can be.

Lena, age 5 says: “We went to Disney Springs and I liked Rainforest Cafe. It looks like a real rainforest and kind of like a zoo!”

Most kids will go gaga for the theming if they are animal fans or dinosaur aficionados. However, if your child is easily frightened by darkness or noise (or thunderstorms!), they might not enjoy the experience.

The food at both of these is your standard American fare served with large portions and themed names like Prehistoric Pasta and Guac-asaurus burger.

With two Rainforest Cafe locations (Disney Springs and Animal Kingdom) plus T-Rex also at Disney Springs, these are one of the easier reservations to get in case you missed that 180 day mark when planning your trip.

Does your kid have a favorite Disney World restaurant?

Leave a comment and let us know what it is!

5 Best Disney Souvenirs (and 5 Not Worth Your Money)

Disney world: it’s fun, it’s magical, and… it’s expensive! Parents save and save just to get their kids there. Then you finally set foot inside the parks, and the kids have the audacity to ask for MORE! The reason? There are fun and exciting toys and souvenirs around every corner! The kids don’t stand a chance against the genius of Disney marketing. The key is to figure out which Disney souvenirs to buy and which to skip (or buy ahead of time for a better price!) Here are the 5 best Disney souvenirs, and 5 not worth your money.

best Disney souvenirs

Best Disney Souvenirs

Make your own light saber

A huge hit with all the Star Wars fans visiting Disney World! The price varies depending on how elaborate you want to get, with the simplest single blade design selling for about $25 and the most elaborate double blade designs (like Kylo Ren) going for around $45.

There are several locations in WDW where you can make your own saber. Tatooine Traders in Hollywood Studios can be very busy since it attracts most of the Star Wars crowd, so check out Once Upon a Toy at Disney Springs for the same experience with a shorter line.

Another cool option is the Build a Droid available at the same locations for about $15.

Here is a fun video showing the process:

Photo Autograph Book

This is an easy and inexpensive way to capture the memories of meeting Disney characters!

Instead of just getting the basic autograph book for characters to sign, buy one with slots to put photographs in. Then when you meet a character, snap a photo of the kids (or yourself, who am I to judge?) with the characters to put in the book alongside the autograph.

We actually filled two books with all the characters we met on our last trip, so we did one for just princesses and one with all other characters.

Disney souvenirs autograph bookDisney souvenirs princess autographs
Disney souvenirs photo autograph bookDisney souvenirs photo autograph book

My kids ADORE looking through these! It helps to preserve their memories of the trip too. (Have I ever mentioned how I can’t stand it when people say not to take young kids to Disney World because they won’t remember it? Preschool age is an amazing and magical time for a Disney trip!)

Silhouettes

Ok this one isn’t exactly the most Disney-esque of all Disney souvenirs, but it is probably the best bargain around for a truly lovely keepsake.

For only $10 per person you get TWO portrait silhouettes (the way they are cut leaves you with two copies, one facing left and one facing right).

They are done extremely quickly. We were in awe watching the process, and even our toddler was able to sit long enough to get hers done. It was shocking to me how wonderful they came out. They captured our children’s profile at that age perfectly. I absolutely cherish these silhouettes!

The carts selling silhouettes are stationed in several locations throughout WDW. We did ours in Liberty Square because we weren’t able to find the one on Main Street near Town Square (maybe the artist was missing that day?).

You can also get them done in Disney Springs and sometimes in the France pavilion at Epcot.

best Disney Souvenirs
Silhouette Cart in Magic Kingdom (photo credit: touringplans.com)

HOT TIP! Learn from my mistake and make sure to bring cash or credit card with you when you get these done!

We are so accustomed to just putting all expenses on our Magic Bands when we’re in WDW that we don’t even bring a wallet to the parks. But the silhouette makers are considered independent contractors and can not accept Magic Bands! I almost had to run all the way back to our hotel to get money after we had ours made, but luckily I was able to recite my credit card number for memory and they ran the transaction by typing it in.

My husband was a little alarmed by my ability to recite my entire credit card number, but that’s another story for another day 😜

Personalized Mickey Ears

The most classic of all Disney Souvenirs has got to be the Mickey Mouse ear hat. Go with the classic or pick your favorite character: Buzz Lightyear, Piglet, R2-D2, and tons more.

They have sparkly Minnie Mouse ears attached to a headband, an ear hat with a bride’s vail attached, and even light up ears that change color to the beat of the fireworks music. Prices range from $15-$25 depending on the style you choose.

best Disney Souvenirs

While these may not be the most practical choice for theme park attire, there is just something special about a kid wearing them on their first trip to Walt Disney World. And it makes for all kinds of iconic photo ops.

One way to make these extra special is to have them embroidered with your child’s name on the back. Choose your font and stiching color, and within the hour your Mickey ears will have their owner’s name on them for only $3. You can also add two lines of text for $7.

best Disney souvenirs

You can get your Mickey ear hat embroidered at The Chapeau on Main Street of Magic Kingdom or at Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories in Disney Springs. If you want to order them ahead of time for your trip, you can order them through Disney Floral and Gifts.

Pressed Pennies

All over the parks, restaurants, and Disney hotels you will see pressed penny machines. Normally this is the kind of thing I try to steer clear of, but when traveling to Disney World with small children it’s one of those tools to keep in your arsenal. When there is downtime, things like this are a great distraction for kids and they get SUPER excited about it.

Here is the book we use to store them in:

best Disney souvenirs

They love going back and inspecting each one to see the different characters and rides on them.

best disney souvenirs

Disney Souvenirs Not Worth Your Money

Mickey balloon

I feel like such a Disney grinch saying this, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $12 on a souvenir that won’t even survive the duration of the trip.

While they will delight your kids for a moment, they will likely drift into the sky minutes later causing a flood of tears. Best case scenario, they end up tied to a stroller that gets parked somewhere for the day while you go on rides.

Disney souvenirs Mickey balloon

HOT TIP! If you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, they do not allow balloons of any kind on the premises. They are hazardous to the animals on property. Avoid disappointment if you are staying there and don’t try to bring one back to your room!

Princess dolls

For the 12 inch (Barbie size) Disney Princess dolls, buying in the parks will cost you around $20. The same dolls are sold at any Disney Store nation wide for $10 when you buy two or more.

Delight your kids by taking that same $20 and buying two at home before you leave for your trip and surprise them when you get there 😃

best Disney souvenirs

Princess dress up dresses

One thing every little girl wants to do in Disney World is Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

Girls get princess makeovers with hair, nails, and shimmering makeup by cast members called “Fairy Godmothers-In-Training”. The basic package costs a hefty $65 for the experience lasting 30 minutes to an hour. If you want the package that includes a new princess dress, it will set you back $200!

best disney souvenirs
Photo credit: disneyworld.disney.go.com

My advice would be to buy a dress elsewhere and stick to the basic package. Disney store, JCPenney, Amazon, Etsy, etc all have similar dresses.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a special experience due to the interaction with cast members and feeling of being pampered. It really doesn’t matter much where the dress comes from.

FYI: Without considering BBB, just to buy the dress alone that they sell in the parks goes for $70. This dress is considered “deluxe” meaning it is a bit more ornate than the regular Disney store dresses. But I truly don’t think most kids would notice the difference between that and the $45 Disney store dress that is still shiny, sequined, and has the Disney label.

Light up Toys

When the sun goes down in Walt Disney World, the light up toys come out. Glowing swords, necklaces, spin toys, etc are everywhere you look.

Of course every kid will want one and of course they are way overpriced. I have fallen for this one before but then I got smart and came equipped with this:

Disney souvenirs light up toy

Light Up Galaxy Spinner with Flashing LED Lights

The kids were enthralled and I spent $7 on it. WIN!

Amazon also has a light up princess wand that would do the trick:

best disney souvenirs
Light Up Princess Wand

Then when it breaks or gets lost in an hour, it doesn’t ruin your night 👍

Large stuffed animals

Please try to talk your kids out of buying a big stuffed animal in Disney World.

First of all, you can get them anywhere. Choose a souvenir that is more unique to the Disney parks.

Secondly, what are you going to do with the thing while you walk around the park and go on rides all day??? Yes, Disney has thought of everything so they do offer the service of holding it for you or sending it back to your room. BUT, how many kids are going to be ok with shipping off the giant Mickey they just talked you into buying? Then you know who is going to end up carrying it around… MOM!

best Disney Souvenirs
Don’t be stuck carrying these guys around

What are some of YOUR favorite Disney souvenirs?

If you are planning an amazing family vacation to Disney World, don’t miss these 5 underrated attractions!

Best of Disney World With Preschoolers

The 2-5 year old age bracket has spoken, and these are their favorite experiences at Walt Disney World! If you’re planning on doing Disney World with preschoolers, here are the attractions and experiences you can’t miss.

Download the free printable checklist to make sure you hit them all!

Disney World with preschoolers

None of these has a height limitation that would preclude a preschooler, nor are they potentially frightening for small children. (For a guide to all the height restrictions and potentially scary rides in Disney World, read this post.)

Magic Kingdom

It’s no surprise that the majority of preschoolers’ favorites are at Magic Kingdom. This is the park that has the most rides in general and by far the most for small children to do. If you’re planning a 5 day trip, I would recommend doing 2 Magic Kingdom days and 1 day at each of the other parks.

Town Square Mickey

Disney World with preschoolers

Aka Talking Mickey! Meeting characters is a huge source of excitement for most preschoolers, and the main mouse tends to draw the most excitement of all. Of all the places to meet Mickey, this one is not to be missed because he’s the only one that talks! He will greet your child, ask them questions and even tell jokes.

Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel

After walking through Cinderella’s castle, you will see every child’s eyes light up when they see the carousel. In fact, if you are rushing to another attraction you should probably take a different route to avoid walking by the carousel. If you walk by it, your kid is going to want to ride it right then!

Dumbo

It doesn’t matter that today’s tykes most likely have never seen the movie. They will still want to take a spin on the classic flying elephant! An added perk is that you don’t have to wait in line. When you enter the queue you will be handed a paging device which you hold onto while you relax/play in the air conditioned play area. While parents cool off and sit down to rest their legs, the little ones will love running and climbing.

Festival of Fantasy parade

A catchy song, dancers, all their favorite characters, and a fire breathing dragon? What’s not to like? Tip: keep kids under a sun-shaded stroller if you have a stroller. Most of the viewing areas are in direct sunlight and that pavement will cook you. Grab a spot and then send one parent to get them an ice cream and some ice water. It will help the wait go by and keep the kids cool.

Casey Jr. Splash and Soak

Speaking of keeping cool, if you’re visiting during one of the 9 months of the year when it’s hot at WDW, pack a change of clothes and let the kids get soaked at the Casey Jr. splash pad.

It’s A Small World

Disney Scrooges hold your tongue. The little ones truly enjoy this ride, and to them the song is fun, not annoying.

Walt Disney World Railroad

They say Walt himself was a lover of trains and that is why there are so many train-themed attractions in Disney World. Preschoolers may be too small or too scared to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Big Thunder, but they can certainly enjoy the quaint train ride that circles all of Magic Kingdom. BONUS: Use the train to get from one side of the park to the other if your need to rest your legs and take a break!

Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid

Ariel fans will be captivated by this mini journey through the movie, taking you virtually under the sea and through all the major scenes from the movie. My 5 year old son was afraid of the larger-than-life Ursula, but I don’t expect most kids have that reaction.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Disney World with preschoolers

This one is a bit of a time commitment, so plan accordingly! It is well worth it to work it into your touring schedule. Disney magic transports you to the day Belle met the Beast in a way that leaves even adults wondering “how did they do that?” Many small children will get a role in the re-enactment that follows, putting them into the heart of the story.

Peter Pan’s Flight

The line is almost always long for this popular ride, so get to it first thing in the morning or better yet book a Fastpass! Kids love the sensation of flying when the pirate ship you boarded moves by suspension from the ceiling.

Tomorrowland Speedway

It kind of kills me to put this one on here, because it’s truly one of my least favorite Disney rides. The smell, the heat, the old cars that barely move… it’s pretty awful for adults. But this is about the preschool crowd and unfortunately they LOVE it. It’s every small child’s fantasy to drive a car and they manage to see past all its faults and enjoy this attraction.

Epcot

Disney World with preschoolers

Frozen Ever After

Disney knew what it was doing by bringing Frozen to Epcot. Any parents who were considering skipping this park, which is known for lacking “kid appeal”, are now making a beeline for it so their little Frozen fans can ride this.

Meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Summerhaus

Piggybacking off of the Frozen ride, you will also find Anna and Elsa’s meet and greet at Epcot. My son (the same one who was terrified of Ursula) was afraid that Elsa would “blast him with her ice powers” but I’m pretty sure every other preschooler is delighted to meet the Frozen duo.

Disney World with preschoolers

The Seas with Nemo and friends

Similar to the Little Mermaid ride at Magic Kingdom, Epcot has the Finding Nemo ride that makes you feel like you’re going under the sea. The building that houses this attraction has a fun little aquarium for kids to explore so plan to spend some time there.

Turtle Talk with Crush

Another attraction in the Seas building is this interactive experience with talking Crush, the hippie turtle from Finding Nemo. It’s really impressive to see how he actually responds to what the kids say, and he’s hilarious too. Another great example of Disney magic at work.

Hollywood Studios

Frozen Sing Along

Just in case your kiddos didn’t get their Frozen fix at Epcot, there’s the Frozen sing along at Hollywood Studios. Kids love the show, which will have everyone joining in to sing. Have you ever heard of this little tune… what’s it called again?… Let It Go?

Disney Junior Live on Stage

Disney World with preschoolers

This is a can’t-miss show for preschoolers. Join Mickey, Sophia, Jake, and Doc McStuffins in a live stage show with all their hit songs and plenty of surprises like bubbles and gold doubloons falling from the ceiling.

Toy Story Midway Mania

An all-around fun ride for young and old alike! Put on your 3D glasses and get spun around to a series of midway shooting-style games with all the Toy Story characters. You will want a Fastpass for this one as it’s very popular. Heads up: There will surely be other preschool favorites coming to Hollywood Studios soon with the addition of Toy Story Land, coming in the summer of 2018!

Animal Kingdom

Nope, it’s not a zoo. It’s definitely a theme park (and it’s my husband’s favorite!)

The Boneyard

Disney World with preschoolers

Make sure to take the little ones over to Dinoland USA to let them burn off some energy at the Boneyard, a very cool themed play area. In addition to running and climbing, kids can be mini paleontologists by digging up dinosaur remains with their shovel and pail. Do this one early before it heats up too much to be enjoyable.

The Festival of the Lion King

Don’t miss this captivating show with amazing costumes, music, and talented acrobats. It’s definitely a highlight of Animal Kingdom for the younger set who isn’t quite thrilled by the World of Avatar yet.

Kilimanjaro Sarafis

While Animal Kingdom isn’t a zoo, it does have animals. Board your jeep and drive through the terrain on this safari to see animals “on the loose” in their habitats (there are invisible enclosures). The giraffes, elephants, and lions were the highlight for my kids.

In addition to these 20, all ages will enjoy these 5 underrated Disney attractions

These are family favorites that you won’t find on every must-see Disney list.

Plus, 2 can’t miss bonus experiences

Disney World with preschoolers

Schedule some time at your hotel pool!

Parents might cringe at this, but when you ask a preschooler what their favorite part of the Disney World was, most often their answer is the hotel pool! Make sure to take breaks from the parks and let the kids go for a swim. All the Disney resorts have life jackets in various sizes that the kids can use.

And lastly, book a character meal!

There are so many great ones to choose from, I can’t recommend just one. Cinderella’s Royal Table or Akershus if you have princess fans, Chef Mickey’s or Tusker House if you want the classic Mickey characters, Crystal Palace for Winnie the Pooh and the gang… I could go on and on. Just pick one (or more than one) and book it. It’s a great way to get to meet multiple characters without waiting lines, and a fun way to eat a meal if your kids need some entertainment to enjoy a restaurant. Win-win.

If you’re planning to do Disney World with preschoolers, print this checklist to make sure you hit all the attractions they are sure to love!

Disney World with preschoolers

Click here to download and print!

 

Disney Trip Day 1: Animal Kingdom (including Pandora- The World of Avatar)

For those who have been following, you know about the mother-daughter trip to Disney Tiana and I took in October. This is the trip report of our first day, which included traveling to Orlando, checking in to Saratoga Springs, and spending the rest of the day at Animal Kingdom. (Spoiler alert: we made it on both of the new rides in Pandora- the World of Avatar.)

Pre-trip planning

Since this was a special one on one trip for my daughter, I let her make a lot of the decisions in the planning. We only had three days, so I told her to pick three parks. Her original choices were Magic Kingdom for the Halloween party, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot.

As everyone who has planned a trip to Disney World knows, a lot of advanced planning goes into these trips. So I was a little thrown off when one day Tiana saw a commercial featuring Pandora- The World of Avatar and wanted to change our plans to include a day at Animal Kingdom! I rolled with it as best I could and set to out get us Fast Passes for at least one of the two Avatar rides.

We both REALLY wanted to get a Fast Pass+ for Flight of Passage, having heard all the hype. I knew the standby lines were in excess of 3 hours so the only way we’d get to ride it would be with FP. Of course when I logged in at the 60 day mark, there were none available. I did get one for Na’vi River Journey, but I was definitely bummed that we didn’t get our first choice.

I thought about changing our plans back to Epcot once again. Then I remembered a time I had been in a similar FP conundrum before. A few years ago when people were waiting all day to meet Anna and Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall, Fast Passes were nearly impossible to get. I got in the habit of checking every day at different random times just in case anyone decided to let theirs go. About a week before the trip at 6am, I got one. I think the was the closest I’ve ever felt to winning the lottery!

Once again we were pixie dusted by the Fast Pass gods because a couple weeks before our trip I happened to check for Flight of Passage Fast Passes for our Animal Kingdom day and there they were. Tons of time slots magically opened up, indicating Disney had released a whole batch of new FPs. I really didn’t care about why, I was just so happy to know that we’d just scored the hottest ticket in town.

Travel

Our travel day started early, as we had to leave our house at 6am. Both of us were so excited about the trip that waking up early was no problem. It was too early for any traffic so it was smooth sailing to the airport.

Tiana was using her own piece of rolling luggage for the first time so she was enjoying feeling like a big person.

animal kingdom including Avatar

The flight was three hours of peace and quiet like we never get at home with the three younger kids. We both enjoyed our books and Tiana enjoyed coloring with some scented markers I had picked up for the flight.

Soon enough the plane landed and we made our way to Magical Express. The only noteworthy tidbit about this part of the journey is that we stopped to use the restroom and there was an ENORMOUS cockroach in one of the stalls. It scared Tiana so much that she’s basically sworn off using any airport bathrooms for the rest of her life.

There was no wait at all for our Magical Express and we arrived at Saratoga Springs before lunch time.

Checking in to Saratoga Springs

Arriving at our resort wasn’t quite as smooth as other Disney resort check ins I’ve had in the past. We had received a text that our room was not quite ready yet, so I thought we’d just leave our bags and get to the park. But we weren’t appropriately dressed for 80 degree Florida weather, so dropping our bags and running wasn’t exactly an option.

In addition to changing clothes, I also had to rearrange a lot of our stuff to turn our backpack full of flight entertainment into a park bag. Bell Services is right next to the entrance to the very busy lobby so opening my bags right there with people passing by was not very pleasant.

In the middle of all that, my phone buzzed and I saw that our room was now in fact ready. I quickly abandoned my bag re-packing mission to head to our room. A cast member pointed us in the direction of our room so we had a vague idea where we were going.

It ended up being a bit of a hike to our room, plus we got lost on the way there which made it even longer. I was feeling a little annoyed that the Cast Member hadn’t offered to help us with our luggage knowing how far the room was. The joy of carrying her own luggage had definitely worn off for Tiana by now.

I snapped this pic just before we went the wrong way and got totally lost:

Animal Kingdom including Avatar

Eventually some kind soul helped us and we got to our room. We changed and freshened up a little, packed our park bag and hopped on the bus to Animal Kingdom.

Finally at Animal Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom including avatar

I am infamous for taking crappy cell phone pictures, but HOW did I not notice that the “m” was cut off from Animal Kingdom in this photo???

We had some time to spare before our first FP, so we happily explored the park and some of the animal exhibits. We both love just wandering this park and taking in the cool vibe and energy it has. One of Tiana’s dreams is to visit Africa one day so she especially loves hanging out in that part of the park.

Pretty soon it was time for our Expedition Everest Fast Pass. Tiana was nervous about this one! Even though she likes roller coasters, she isn’t into the scary elements and she doesn’t particularly like going backwards.  She asked me if she HAD to ride it, and I told her no, she never has to ride anything. I did remind her though that this was our only day at Animal Kingdom and I wasn’t sure when we’d be back for another trip just to make sure she understood if we skip it she can’t change her mind tomorrow. She thought about it for a couple minutes and decided to give it a go.

In the past, this one has made me so motion sick I almost lost a whole day of touring. This time I was prepared and had taken Bonine for motion sickness so I was feeling confident!

The verdict on Everest? I think this face says it all:

animal kingdom including avatar

Tiana was NOT a fan! I would have enjoyed the ride except that she was screaming and maybe crying so I had to try my best to console her while my brain was getting rattled around. She told me she is NEVER going on it again, “not even if I bring my kids here and they beg me and beg me”. 😄

I’m pretty sure I got her a Mickey bar at this point to get her back in a good mood. It also helped that our next FP was for Kali River Rapids, which we both love.

It was mostly overcast that day, so Tiana decided she didn’t want to risk getting soaked on Kali. Luckily we were armed with these bad boys:

animal kingdom including avatar

We always end up laughing so much on this ride talking with the other people on our boat. Everyone knows a couple of us are going to get soaked and no one wants it to be them! The line wasn’t too long, about 20 minutes, so we rode it again standby since we had plenty of time on our hands.

Kali River Rapids Animal Kingdom
Photo credit: disneydaybyday.com

Just a pic of the ride in case anybody isn’t familiar with it.

One little detail that will pop up again later in the trip: After riding Kali River Rapids in her poncho twice, Tiana went to take it off and it ripped all the way down the front. I considered it garbage at that point and threw it out, leaving us with just one poncho in our park bag.

Now I was getting super excited because we were finally headed somewhere I’d never been before…

Pandora- the World of Avatar

Disney does such an amazing job of transforming the mood when you switch from one land to another. Going over the bridge to Pandora you can feel a shift in the atmosphere. The sounds are different, the smell is different. It is hard to describe but we felt a certain mystical energy building.

We loved checking out all the little details and of course stopped for a pic of the floating mountains.

animal kingdom including avatar

Everywhere we looked, people were holding this brightly colored frozen drink with an enormous amount of kid appeal. Not surprisingly, Tiana suddenly couldn’t live another minute without one!

animal kingdom including avatar

The Night Blossom: aka the most Instagrammed beverage in Disney history!

Note the paper straw as plastic straws are not allowed at Animal Kingdom (dangerous for the animals).

I thought this drink would be so overly sweet that we wouldn’t be able to finish it between the two of us. Well those fears were unfounded because we CRUSHED it.

By now it was time for the moment I had been waiting for. Time to ride Flight of Passage!

It almost felt wrong cruising by in the Fast Pass lane with people waiting an estimated 3 hours to ride. Almost.

The indoor portion of the line is like a dark, cement cave. Very industrial. I’m sure it’s authentic to the movie but I only saw it once and don’t remember these details!

I had purposely avoided reading much about this ride prior to our trip. I wanted to go in with no expectations. All I can say after riding it is WOW. Whatever expectations I had were blown away!

The guy in front of me in line had warned me that it was “intense” but I wasn’t really getting it. After experiencing it, that really is the best description for it.

In fact it was a little too intense for Tiana, she was screaming her face off the whole time!

It turns out, she believed every word of the pre-show and was convinced an Avatar was going to come take over her body. She thought the whole thing was 100% real. So that kicks up the intensity to a whole other level.

Dinner time

After Flight of Passage Tiana was suddenly very interested in going on Na’vi River Journey. I had to sacrifice the original FP I had gotten for it in order to book the Flight of Passage FP since you can only get one. So I had mentally crossed this ride off my list since I knew the line would be majorly inflated. We walked over to check anyway and it was about two hours. I was not interested in waiting that long so I told her we could come back at night and see if the line was down then.

Moderately satisfied with that answer, Tiana decided to head over towards Dinoland. We mostly just browsed shops and watched street acts, whatever Tiana was interested in. We passed by character spots but Tiana chose not to meet them, so I guess at 9 she is not as into meeting characters anymore. (She did end up changing her tune later in the trip so it wasn’t a completely character-less visit to WDW!)

Around 6:00 we made our way over to Rainforest Cafe, which Tiana had chosen for our dinner reservation.

animal kingdom including avatar

It’s probably not the restaurant I would have chosen, but I have to say we had an awesome time there.

With a family of 6 Tiana doesn’t get the chance to go to restaurants all that often. And going out to eat just me and her is something I’m pretty sure has never happened! Which is exactly why we needed this trip 👍

After we’d had our fill of animatronic animals, pretend thunderstorms, and lines of servers shouting “volcaaaaaaaano!”, we headed over to catch Rivers of Light.

Animal Kingdom by Night

It was starting to get dark as we passed by the Tree of Life.

Animal kingdom including avatar

I was excited to see Rivers of Light because I had never seen it before.

We were seated up near the front on the left side of the amphitheater. We watched the huge seating area fill up as we waited. I would never have guessed that many people were even in the park that day! Crowds are so different when spread throughout the park versus all in one place.

The show started and while we thought it was cool to see, we also kind of felt like we didn’t know what was going on 🤷


It also felt SUPER short! When it ended I was actually confused. It seemed like there should have been more. In future trips I think I won’t bother watching this one again.

(Just my honest opinion, I know some people love it!)

Back to Pandora

Being seated on the left was good because we were able to make our exit before most of the crowd. We walked with intent over to Pandora, since I had told Tiana we could check the wait time for Na’vi River Journey before park close.

The posted wait time was 90 minutes and I had told Tiana I was only willing to wait 60, but she talked to me into it.

I’m glad she did, because the wait ended up being just under an hour. And with friendly people to chat with in front of us in line it went by surprisingly quickly.

animal kingdom including pandora

The ride was very cool to look at with immersive theming from the movie. It was so serene and relaxing. We enjoyed it, but I’m glad I didn’t wait over an hour for it.

We exited the park right after riding as it was actually past closing time. Tiana was so happy after our long exciting day, she talked about it the whole bus ride back to Saratoga Springs. I went to bed that night so happy that I had decided to take this trip with her.

Next up…

Follow along with our trip as we head to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on day 2!

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