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How To Tip the Disney Dining Plan

Tutto Italia
Tutto Italia - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Tipping is a hot topic around social media and takes some thought in how to present it in a post, but I’ll do my best to provide as much (or as little) insights as you’ll be requiring for your planning. Take these thoughts with a grain of salt, as everything is personal preferences.

***Just as a warning***This article will 100% make you hungry!!!

TIPPING IS NOT REQUIRED

Yes, tipping is nice, but when you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you’ve already paid for the food with your initial purchase. It’s not like you’re getting anything for free, so don’t feel that you are required to tip.

When you’re on the Quick Service Dining Plan, there isn’t a requirement to tip at Quick Service locations.

18-20% is the usual tip that we budget throughout our stay on property. Sometimes its less and sometimes it’s more depending on the situations, and we can all tell our experiences on both ends of that spectrum. For this topic, it’s more of a generalization and common courtesy vs individual times…because we all have those stories that we can put on TripAdvisor;)


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PARTIES OF 6 OR MORE

An 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill for parties of six or more. Just be aware of this going in and you’ll be fine. The last thing you want to have is sticker-shock when the bill comes.

THE TIPS ON TIPPING

Now that we’ve gone over the general terms, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the Tipping procedure while you’re on the Disney Dining Plan (Table Service Dining).

Your goal while on the DDP is to have great dining experiences, and it’s important to set yourself up to truly enjoy your full vacation. This means that when you’re booking your ADR’s 180 days out, that you’re thinking about the entire price-point of your vacation.

THIS IS WHERE DUSTIN GETS TO PLAN-GEEK OUT

The cost for the Regular Disney Dining Plan is $75.49/night per adult

  • 1 quick service meal
  • 1 Table Service Meal
  • 2 Snacks
  • 1 Refillable Mug

HOW DO YOU BUDGET YOUR TIPS?

It’s all about planning in advance to know what 18-20% of your Table Service bills will look like. Take into account the meal as a whole, with either an average of $40-45 for adults who get Steak/Chicken and $30-35 for vegetarians. Buffets will usually be a higher pricepoint (aka a better value for your credits at $45-$50 per reservation).

Example:
Dinner @ Be Our Guest
$35
Grilled Strip Steak (Entree)
$5
The Grey Stuff (Dessert)
$4.19
All Natural Lemonade (Non-Alcoholic Drink)

44.19 = Total Bill (without Tax)

The tip for this meal could range from $6.50 (15%) to $8.50 (20%) if the service and food was up to par.


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HOW DO I DO THE MATH?

Disney does it for you!

Take an example from our lunch @ Tusker House

Total for the meal was $74.53 (including tax). Now because we were on the DDP, we only looked at the suggested tip and decided what the meal was worth.

We ended up tipping $15 between the two of us, because the experience was memorable and the chef came out and helped us with options for Jill (as she’s a vegetarian).


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HOW TO PLAN FOR TIPS

We do three things during our vacations, and this is for Two guests:

1. We bring a $10 bill for each meal to start with

2. We bring enough smaller bills to make up the difference in the tips (a variety of $1 and $5 bills)

3. Always tip to fit the experience. Buffets vs individual sit-down meals, time of day and other factors that could impact the overall meal.


If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to let me know via social media @StepstoMagic!

Best Walt Disney World Restaurants for First Timers

Tusker House
Tusker House - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Thinking about travelling to Walt Disney World?
No idea as to where you should start?
Thinking about where to start? Then this list is for you!

ADRs, or Disney advance dining reservations, are one of the many steps to a successful and fun trip to Walt Disney World. Without them, you’re stuck wandering around and stressing out over where you could actually eat. This is incredibly important during busier times, like every month from January through until December : )

Most restaurants can be booked within weeks or even days of your vacation, but there are a few that require significant planning. The reservations before are ones that you should definitely put on your list to get at 7am 180 days to your vacation to get your perfect schedule!

CHEF MICKEY’S

When you visit Walt Disney World, the monorail brings you through the Contemporary resort en route to the Magic Kingdom. After the amazement of taking a train on the ‘Highway in the Sky’ through a building, your thoughts go to being able to eat in a restaurant that has a Disney icon being seen every few minutes…and how?

Our recommendation is quite simple. When you’re planning to be at the Magic Kingdom for Wishes or experiencing the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at night…book your ADR. It’s a 10-minute walk from the turnstiles to the Contemporary!

Related Article – Top ADR’s to get ASAP


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CORAL REEF RESTAURANT

The World Showcase has incredible food, but some of EPCOT’s hidden gems lie within Future World. One of these such special experiences involves fish…and sharks…and turtles!

Coral Reef is a well-themed restaurant and should not be missed on your first trip to Walt Disney World!

Tip: Try to get a seat next to the windows!

Related Article – Ranking EPCOT Dining

SCI-FI DINE IN

As I write this, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is undergoing a transformation. The long-term outlook of the park is still up in the air and years away from fully realizing the concept on paper. BUT…they’ve got some amazing attractions and you’re going to want to spend time walking on Sunset Blvd towards the Tower of Terror or Fantasmic.

Disney Hollywood Studio offers a limited amount of sit down dining options. However, why not dine in the back of a car while watching old school movies on the big screen?

Advice: Check the menu first. This is can be a hit-or-miss… and we have another option further down the list that could also work well.


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TUSKER HOUSE

This was BY FAR one of the best buffet meals that we’ve had at Walt Disney World. Granted, we were there at 11:05am during the changeover and had a plate of breakfast and then a plate of lunch. Outside of that bonus, both my partner and I had a great meal that focused on more than typical “theme park food” that you’ll see at most buffets.

The sheer size of this restaurant will shock and amaze you, but this will give you a great opportunity to enjoy your meal in a quite area. Compared to Be Our Guest, where you’re in three huge themed rooms, Tusker House has multiple side rooms. OH, and I haven’t even mentioned that this is a character experience too!!

Related Article – Best Character Meals

AKERSHUS

Do you like Disney Princesses? Do you have young kids? This is a 100% win if you fall into those two (and only those two) categories.

My partner and I were underwhelmed by the food options and with this dining room. Akershus is very small for the character interactions, we were glad that we did it once.

PS* If you can get our Number One pick…do it!

‘OHANA

‘Ohana means family, and this is by far one of the hardest ADRs to get! Check out the menu, read reviews, ask friends. It’s so much easier to cancel a reservation than it is to wait until 3-4 months before your trip to get your ADR because you just won’t have the opportunity!


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50’S PRIME TIME CAFE

Remember how I brought up the construction and redevelopment of Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Well, this is a great option for when you’re doing a full day of Fastpass+ reservations (Star Tours, Toy Story Mania, Rock N Rollercoaster, etc). It provides a good lunch that will really keep you energized.

Not only is the food high quality, but the experience is highly themed and will make you want to go back time after time.

CRYSTAL PALACE

The number of times that I walked through the Magic Kingdom before actually having a meal at Crystal Palace was just crazy! It’s such a stand-out building that draws your curiosity from the moment that you see it when you first set foot in the Hub!

Great for families and first-timers, this should be a reservation that you snag up as soon as you make your decision to visit Walt Disney World. The food isn’t great, but the fact that you get to hang out with Pooh and Friends is completely worth the adventure.

Our suggestion to get your best out of this restaurant is to go for a late lunch/early dinner. Less kids, more food:)


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BE OUR GUEST

Let’s take a step away from exclusivity at Victoria & Alberts and provide you with the most sought after and highly regarded ADR on the property. I won’t oversell this, except to say that the lunch and dinner services are both memorable for different reasons. Remember that even though lunch is a Quick Service meal, you still need a reservation for it.

If you’re going down for a 7-night trip, then plan to do the lunch on day 2 and the dinner on day 5 or 6. Then you can spread out your time at the Beast’s Castle, and you won’t get overwhelmed with the restaurant.

**Tip** No one will fault you for getting multiple reservations and then canceling them closer to your trip. Think about your Fastpass+ schedule, other dining reservations and nighttime experiences before you cancel any of the ADRs.

We made a mistake during one trip when we canceled a Be Our Guest lunch reservation. We found out that the only daytime parade we could fit in needed to be moved to accommodate for a Keys to the Kingdom Tour. Use the system and as soon as things are locked in, then make your decisions. Not saying that we weren’t happy with Cosmic Rays, but it’s no Be Our Guest! 🙂

Related Article – Ranking Magic Kingdom Dining


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CINDERELLA’S ROYAL TABLE

This experience changed the way that I looked at the Walt Disney World resort. I would 100% recommend this experience for any die-hard Disney fan because nothing’s better than eating in Cinderella’s Castle! And yes…it’s worth it! 

My TripAdvisor review was pretty eye-opening, but I feel the need to share it here:

First off – The reservation was incredibly difficult to get, but persistence paid off greatly.We arrived 15 minutes before our reservation, but was instructed to come back exactly at 515pm. Cinderella was awaiting us in the foyer for a private meet and greet prior to ascending the staircase. We were seated in the middle of the main room, which btw…only holds a small number of tables (around 50), so it was a very private experience vs other dining in the Magic Kingdom.
Full disclosure: we do not have kids and were not the only ones in the restaurant without them. Lots of couples on anniversaries and there were a couple of mid-20’s girls who were Disney-Bounding as princesses for their meal.

The menu is a prix fix menu with 5 options for appetizers, 6 options for entrees and 4 desert choices. My selections were the Castle Salad, Beef Tenderloin and the Clock Strikes Twelve. My partner’s selection was the Royal Tasting of Cheese, the Gnochi with Vegetables and the clock strikes twelve.

Amazing Food! The wait staff was incredible and friendly to a whole other level. They had fun, so it was a pleasant atmosphere.

We actually couldn’t eat everything…so we took the desert to go, which they had a great presentation bag with cutlery and napkins for our enjoyment later that evening.
This is a 2-credit experience, so enjoy it all! There are character meet n greets throughout the meal (Jasmine, Snow White, Ariel and Aurora)

Definitely worth it! We enjoyed ourselves (a little too much) and it’s one of our favourite memories to share with family and friends! In fact, the wand and the sword keepsakes are actually staged on my desk at my office to remind me of the dinner we had at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Highly recommend it!


So that’s our list. Thoughts? Comments? Did we miss any? Share them via social media @StepsToMagic!

How To Talk Disney Like a Pro

Backstage Lane at Walt Disney World
Backstage Lane at Walt Disney World - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is easy until you bring in all the “lingo” and “jargon” that Disney uses to describe things. If we told you we were leaving the AKL heading to MK for the MNSSHP, would you know what we said? No worries if not!

After you read this article you will be well versed in how to talk Disney.

We’ve compiled a full list that will help you “Talk Disney like a PRO”

ORLANDO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (MCO)

Orlando International Airport (MCO) is located in the heart of central Florida, with a name history that actually goes back to it’s life as an airport that was owned by the United States Air Force. Prior to 1974, the property was actually called “McCoy Air Force Base”, but it’s morphed into the name “Mickey’s Corporate Office”.


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LET’S START OUT WITH DISNEY PARK ACRONYMS

DLR = Disneyland Resort
DLP = Disneyland Park
DCA = Disney California Adventure
DS = Disney Springs(WDW)
DTD = Downtown Disney (DLR)
WDW = Walt Disney World Resort
AK or DAK = Disney’s Animal Kingdom
DHS = Disney’s Hollywood Studios
EC = Epcot
MK = Magic Kingdom
BB = Blizzard Beach
TL = Typhoon Lagoon
DLRP or DLP = Disneyland Resort Paris
DCL = Disney Cruise Line
SHD = Shanghai Disneyland
TDL = Tokyo Disneyland
TDS = Tokyo Disney Sea
HKDL = Hong Kong Disneyland

DISNEY RESORT ACRONYMS

AKL /DAKL = Animal Kingdom Lodge
AOA = Art of Disney Animation Resort
AS = All Star Sports
ASM = All Star Movies
ASMu = All Star Music
BLT = Bay Lake Tower
Cont = Contemporary
CS = Coronado Springs
DLH = Disneyland Hotel
FW = Fort Wilderness Campground
FtW = Fort Wilderness
GC = Disney’s Grand Californian
GDT = Grand Destino Tower
GF = Grand Floridian
PFQ = Port Orleans French Quarter
Poly = Polynesian
POP = Pop Century
POR = Port Orleans Riverside
SS = Saratoga Springs
WL = Wilderness Lodge
Y&B = Yacht & Beach Club


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DISNEY ATTRACTION ACRONYMS

BTM = Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
CoP = Carousel of Progress
EE = Expedition Everest
HM = Haunted Mansion
MNSSHP = Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
MVMCP = Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
PotC = Pirates of the Caribbean
RoR = Rise of the Resistance
RnRC = Rock’n Roller Coaster
SSE = Spaceship Earth
SM = Splash Mountain / Space Mountain
ST = Star Tours
ToT = Tower of Terror
TSM = Toy Story Mania
TTA = Tomorrowland Transit Authority


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FUN DISNEY STUFF (TRIP PLANNING AND OTHERS)

AA = Audio Animatronics
ADR = Advanced Dining Reservations
AP = Annual Pass
CM = Cast Member
DDP = Disney Dining Plan
DME = Disney’s Magical Express
DVC = Disney Vacation Club
ECV = Electric Convenience Vehicle (motorized scooter)
EMH = Extra Magic Hours
FW = Future World
HM = Hidden Mickey
TIW = Tables in Wonderland
TTC = Transportation and Ticket Center
WS = World Showcase


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DISNEY EXPLANATIONS

  • 101 = When an attraction is broken down or not operational for whatever reason
  • Attraction = a theme park ride or show (ie Tower of Terror)
  • Audio animatronics = realistic robotics that bring 3-D effect to an Attraction (ie Disco Yeti)
  • Backstage = a park area not accessible to guests (signs are everywhere to let you know)
  • Cast Member = a Disney theme park or resort employee
  • Casting = official employment office (easier than the website)
  • Costume = the uniform worn by a Cast Member (usually really un-flattering)
  • Crew Member = Disney Cruise Line employee (great folks!)
  • Dark Ride = a typically slow-moving attraction where you ride in a vehicle through show scenes. (Haunted Mansion, Peter Pans Flight)
  • Disney Dining Plan = A meal plan for Walt Disney World. Various levels, with each level giving you a base number of points which turns into Quick Service or Table Service meals.
  • Disney point = to point with index and middle finger together; in some cultures, it is rude to point with only one finger (Cast members learn it in Traditions)
  • Disney Vacation Club (DVC) = Disney’s Vacation timeshare program, in which you buy points into a variety of properties, including Bay Lake Tower and The Polynesian Bungalows.
  • Epcot = from EPCOT, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow
  • E-Ticket = the newest, best, most popular attraction; former system of ride coupons ranking rides A-E (A were least popular, E most popular)
  • Fantasmic = lights, lasers, fireworks, and waterworks show at DHS
  • Guest = visitor to Disney theme park or resort
  • Imagineer = employee of Walt Disney Imagineering (formerly Walter Elias Disney, WED Enterprises); combination of imagine+engineer; scientists and artists who design the Attractions
  • Innovention = innovation+invention (Disney term for how they do things)
  • Mousekeeping = resort housekeeping/maid service (Be nice…tip well!)
  • On stage = any area where a Cast Member might be seen by Guests (Literally…anywhere!)
  • Philharmagic = philharmonic+magic 3-D film at MK (Best place to escape the torrential downpours of Florida)
  • PhotoPass = barcoded card/web access to photos taken by Cast Member photographers (Connected to MyDisneyExperience)
  • Plus-ing = constantly striving to improve a project even when it is considered complete
  • Protein spill = term used by Cast Members to indicate someone has vomited
  • Show = everything that encompasses an Attraction or park feature; all the effects & mood setters that combine to make it feel like you’re walking into that world
  • Utilidors = utility+corridors The underground tunnels (or main floor) at the Magic Kingdom that provide access for maintenance, Cast Members, store-rooms, etc.
  • VoluntEARS = The Disney VoluntEARS program provides opportunities for Cast Members to contribute their time and expertise to charitable causes, like Make-a-Wish or Give Kids the World.
  • Wienie = a visual Attraction or landmark that can be seen by Guests from far away; it is used to guide visitors through park, i.e. Cinderella Castle, Tree of Life, Spaceship Earth

Next time you want to impress your friends, drop some Disneyspeak. It’ll confirm what they’ve suspected all along: Yep, you’re a Disney addict!

Let’s be honest, though…your friends who can hang with you on speaking Disney…they’re good people!

These lists are hardly exhaustive, as they are changing all the time. We’ll add them as we stumble upon them!

Top 10 Best Ways to Celebrate Birthdays at Disney World

Customized Birthday Button at Walt Disney World (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

We also believe that a birthday doesn’t have to be “in your face” for it to be something celebrated. If you don’t want a birthday button, don’t get one. This is your day! 🙂

Now before we start, some ground rules. You do NOT have to do every single item on this list for your birthday to be special. In fact, we’re in the camp that says that your birthday is all about spending time with family and friends rather than buying things that take up space in your luggage.

CELEBRATION BUTTON

Stop by City Hall on Main Street to get your Happy Birthday Button! It’s so fun to wear it around and get a ton of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” wishes from random cast members.

This is free and completely worth it!

PERSONALIZED CELEBRATION BUTTON

Birthday Button at Disney World (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

If you want to feel a little more special, you can!

You can stop by the Christmas Shop in Liberty Square and get a ‘Happy Birthday’ button personalized! There’s a charge for it, but it’s 100% worth it!


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A CAKE

This is a pricey option, but it deserves a spot on the list. Disney offers a full service dedicated to special occasions, including birthday packages that include cakes. Give it a look-sie and see if it’ll fit within your birthday plans.

Want more information on this option? Click Here

T-SHIRTS

Get a shirt to brag about your birthday! If I can get a shirt about my love for Dole Whips…you can get a shirt to let everyone know that you’re getting old!

BTW…if you’d like to get a nice Disney Shirt….we do have a TeePublic store! 

SPA DAY

Do you like birthdays that involve cake? Some don’t. Does that mean that you can’t celebrate? Absolutely not. Think about something as special as a day of relaxing at one of the spas on Walt Disney World property.

Want more information about Spas? Click Here

BIRTHDAY CARD

I got one! It’s awesome! Just mention it on your reservation and magically it’ll arrive in your room. Talk about an awesome momento to add to your Disney random collection of stuff that you can post on Instagram.

Want more information on the birthday card? I was going to post it, but why spoil it;) Just add a note on your reservation and be surprised;)


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FIREWORKS

Not really exclusive or private from the surface, but when you think about all the ways to “See Fireworks”, then you open up pandoras box. You can be on a boat, in a desert party or even at a resort…give it a shot and have some fun!

DO SOMETHING SPECIAL (VIP TOUR)

Have you ever done a VIP Tour? If not, why not put it on your list of things to do for your birthday? You may not get a full VIP tour, but the Behind the Seeds tour is pretty reasonable;)

Want more information on Disney VIP Tours? Click Here

SCAVENGER HUNT

Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like a fun activity! A scavenger hunt is a popular thing in the parks, as they are 100% customizable to the experience and we’ve seen everything under the sun, including searching for attraction signs and ending with a Secret Message that turns out to be a meeting point for friends/family to surprise everyone!


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CHARACTER INTERACTIONS

Who wouldn’t want to meet Mickey on their birthday? Take a couple extra moments and mention to the Character Attendant that it’s your birthday and you never know…the Big Cheese himself may even sing you Happy Birthday:)

“MY DAY”

Why is this the Number One spot? Well it’s quite simple…

When it’s your birthday, live it up how you’d like to. If that involves a nice meal, an activity with family/friends or if you just want to do rides that you never get to do because no one else wants to go with you…this is your chance!


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BONUS

Are you the one planning the trip? Well plan a reverse birthday…

Start with ‘faking’ your reservations for the day. This may include saying that you’ve booked an ADR at Tony’s Town Square, when really you’ve got a reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table.


Talk about how you really don’t celebrate birthdays. In the end, your goal is to show how awesome the people you’re with really are for being there on your special day. Have fun with it!

The Best Art of Disney Store in Walt Disney World

Art of Disney at Disney Springs
Art of Disney at Disney Springs - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

We love the Art of Disney! In fact, some of the best shops on Walt Disney World property are these hidden gems filled themselves with hidden gems for any Disney fan to enjoy! The Disney Springs official website states this about the stores:

“Prepare to be wowed by the dazzling works of art that inhabit this shop—from beautifully framed prints to figurines to souvenir postcards. Plus, renowned Disney artists often make special appearances and sign their pieces.”

Art of Disney is actually a brand of stores that are more of a showcase than a full-fledged retail environment. There is a store at every park and one at Disney Springs, so finding something awesome is all about knowing where to go, and which locations are better than the others (because there is a long way in between the best and the “needs improvement” on this list)

Starting from the Worst to the Best

DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM (MOMBASA MARKETPLACE)

Mombasa Marketplace in Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Why is the Art of Disney @ Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the bottom?

Well it’s because it currently doesn’t have a permanent home. Yes, they have it set up in the Mombasa Marketplace, but unlike all of the other locations, the DAK version just isn’t as built up as a brand. They have a few options with cool park art, but outside of that, there’s no real identity (yet). Give it time:)


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DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS (FORMERLY @ THE ANIMATION GALLERY)

Ok, so the location was at the Animation Gallery, which is no longer there. So why does it even place on the list? 100% because it was such a great location and will always have a spot in my heart. The artists were incredible, the hidden gems around the shop were always evolving and the location itself was a prime spot within the Animation Courtyard…which gave it nostalgic feelings.

When the Art of Disney comes back to DHS in a full capacity (instead of a pop-up shop in the Muppets Courtyard), we’re expecting huge things based on the previous incarnation.

MAGIC KINGDOM (BONJOUR GIFTS)

Bonjour Gifts in the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

This is a tough one, as the original location for The Art of Disney was on Main Street USA – but it’s been shifted over to a temporary store that sells classic Walt Disney World merchandise.

If/when the relocation is swapped, then the Magic Kingdom will return to the top of the list. Until then, it’s one of the worst locations due to the layout of Bonjour Gifts – and it’s not a dig at the store, but more about the amount of merchandise that wasn’t able to follow.

The original store was packed with original art, prints, hand-drawn animation cells, books and so much more.

You don’t get that in New Fantasyland.


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EPCOT – AMERICAN ADVENTURE

Art of Disney in the American Adventure at EPCOT (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

EPCOT’s Art of the Disney store will be part of the redevelopment, so with the location being relocated to the American Adventure in the World Showcase, it’ll be awesome to see what’s next!

Although this is the smallest currently operating location, it’s still alive n kicking…which means that you should go and check it out the next time you’re in the park. Currently located right beside Spaceship Earth, this location boasts a large amount of big-figs (the figurines that most people buy for their offices and shelving units) and a lot of hidden gems that allow you to take EPCOT home with you.

The cast members are also very knowledgeable about everything parks-related, so stopping in and having a conversation would be a highlight of the day. Oh, and it’s air-conditioned….

DISNEY SPRINGS – MARKETPLACE

Art of Disney at Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that this is one of my favourite shops on property…because it is. I’ve bought a number of prints, an assortment of books and had a few memorable interactions with artists and friends within the Disney community at this location.

I won’t spoil the magic, but this is by far the best store at Disney Springs!

Related Article – Best Things to Buy at the Art of Disney


Did we get the list right? Have you bought stuff at the Art of Disney and want to brag a lil? Let us know through Social Media @StepsToMagic

10 Awesome Disney YouTube Channels to Fuel your Addiction

I’m a huge fan of having something playing in the background to inspire my work on the StepsToMagic.com website. My favourite resource is YouTube! This platform has built up an incredible library of amazing content. Those of us who may not be able to be at a Disney Park daily often overlook the awesome stuff found on YouTube to supplement their daily dose of Orlando (MCO) Theme Parks! Below are ten to get you started!

1. DISNEY PARKS BLOG

1.55M subscribers & 559 million total views

The official Disney Parks channel is all over the place, in a great way! The curator of this channel has an eye for keeping the subscribers wanting more, and has provided an admirable amount of synergy within such a huge organization. They have a series that actually shows you how to decorate Candy Apples!!!


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2. THE TIM TRACKER

335k subscribers & 125 million total views

Tim and Jenn Tracker (aka The Trackers) are based in Florida and are huge theme park fans. They share their passion for the Universal Parks, Disney Parks and the entire industry in their daily vlogs. And let’s be honest…the jealousy for Tim’s magical facial hair is always there because seriously – just wow!

3. JONES FAMILY TRAVELS

44.3k subscribers & 23 million total views

One of my favorite up-and-coming vlogs about Family Travel, this channel have gotten HUGE in a short time! Jones Family Travels brings you all over the world, from cruises to Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney and so many more places!

4. SPOKESMAYNE

43k subscribers & 29 million total views

Live vlogs with awesome commentary and really fun conversations! Lots of in-park experiences, on-ride stuff and so much more! I’ve been following their adventures for a while when I’m writing new articles, and can’t wait to see what’s coming soon with these folks! 7pm nightly live vlogs!!

5. FRESHBAKEDDISNEY

169k subscribers & 74 million total views

Will the real Muffins amongst us please stand up:) Yes, the group traditionally focuses on the Disneyland Resort, although they’ve recently got a correspondent in WDW to help with content from out here. Overall, the FBD videos make their viewers feel like they’re part of the family…and that’s a huge compliment for a channel that’s been around since 2012!


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6. THEDAILYWOO

656k subscribers & 227 million total views

Adam the Woo’s second channel daily vlog channel is an inspiring journey of a guy who’s trying to make his impact on the world in his own way…and he’s doing a GREAT job of it! His humor isn’t for everyone, but he’s got a way with vocabulary and his storytelling ability is contagious and will definitely make you fall down the rabbit hole into his earlier videos.

ATW has recently ended his “daily” vlogs, but that doesn’t mean that his channel is gone. It just means that he’ll be producing more creatively challenging videos on his main channel. He hit 5 YEARS of daily uploads, so plenty of content to explore!

7. ATTRACTIONS MAGAZINE

896k subscribers & 414 million total views

The entire team over at Attractions Magazine are passionate about the theme parks in Florida. Recently, they’ve started to venture out to a lot more around the amusement industry outside of the US.

(PS I was at that Press Event for Toy Story Midway Mania and it was AWESOME!)


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8. DISNEY COLLEGE PROGRAM

Thinking about getting into the “bubble”? Well, there are a few channels that the individual business sections of TWDC have put out there. The first is the Disney College Program channel, which is actually a fairly solid representation how things work within the company. Videos average 1-2 minutes, so it’s not a bad investment of time.

9. EXPEDITION THEME PARK

33k subscribers & 2.6 million total views

Ok, so this isn’t a 100% Disney channel, however, they bring a lot of Disney & Universal topics to the forefront. From theme park history to extinct attractions and everything in between, Expedition Theme Park is definitely a channel that you should subscribe to ASAP!

10. NEW AND EXCITING!

The great thing about YouTube is that there are constantly new channels to explore! With our Number 10…I want to give a few shout-outs to a few channels that are kicking butt!

Disney on Broadway, Brian Hull and Defunctland are all on my regular playlist, with added fun from ResortTV1!

Keep an eye out for more awesome Daily Vloggers…and you never know…maybe I’ll be joining the game soon! 🙂


Do you have a YouTube Channel to share? Let us know on Social Media and we’ll be sure to share them with everyone! @StepsToMagic

Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World

Disney World is a magical place, and although you may think that “what you see is what you get”, there’s more to the experience than presents itself on a pamphlet or planning booklet that you get from your local travel agent in the mall.

Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World

The “Extra Magic” comes in the form of a perk for guests who stay on property at a Disney Resort. Imagine being able to play in the Magic Kingdom for an hour before any other guest who’s staying off-property….or staying an extra two hours at EPCOT after all the rest of the crowds have left? These are called “Extra Magic Hours” and they are a massive way to get more time in the parks for the difference in price that it costs to stay at Pop Century vs a Disney Springs “Good Neighbor” Resort.

Each theme park participates in the program and with a resort that’s constantly evolving and growing, it’s important to stay on top of the schedule. Disney has provided a link to their calendar, so I would probably bookmark this. 


WHAT’S OPEN FOR EXTRA MAGIC HOURS?

Because the parks are at a reduced capacity for this special perk, anywhere from 50-75% of the offerings are available. This changes with each park, but you can bet that the E-Ticket attractions are going to be available.

When you arrive at your Disney Resort, you’ll actually get a timetable for Extra Magic Hours and which attractions, shops and restaurants will be open.


WHAT’S THE STRATEGY FOR USING EXTRA MAGIC HOURS?

With more than 25 Disney Resort Hotels on property, that’s a significant number of guests that will be given the opportunity to use Extra Magic Hours…but most guests actually don’t use the perk. Why?

  • Breakfast ADR – Maybe they got a reservation at Chef Mickeys or Akershus?
  • Off-Property Day – Maybe they’ve prescheduled a trip to Universal Orlando?
  • Travel – Maybe they are travelling early the next morning and need their sleep.

With this information, it’s impossible to plan an exact itinerary that is flawless. But the best strategy is to be flexible and enjoy the time. If you see the Haunted Mansion at 5 minutes, do it:)


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DO YOU STAY AT THE PARK AFTER MORNING EXTRA MAGIC HOURS?

Absolutely not.

This is a huge mistake that most guests realize after the fact…and it’s easy to predict. With guests from over 25 resorts ALREADY in the park, it’s important to get in, ride your attractions and then around 930am, head to your next park. It’ll allow the initial crowd levels to be absorbed into the attractions and you’ll be sitting pretty.

FUN TIP – Say you’re at the Magic Kingdom for Early Morning Extra Magic Hours. Schedule your FastPass+ Reservations at EPCOT starting at 10am and you’ll be able to get the most out of your day.


WHAT’S THE BEST PARK FOR EVENING EXTRA MAGIC HOURS?

I’ve always loved EPCOT, as the World Showcase after the park closes to regular guests is magical! You get to have great conversations with cast members, awesome shopping opportunities and most of the attractions in Future World are walk-ons, like Seas with Nemo and Friends & Journey into Imagination with Figment.



MY TIP FOR USING EXTRA MAGIC HOURS EFFICIENTLY

Sleeping in on vacation is perfectly fine, but with the costs associated with a vacation to Walt Disney World, you have to think about whether or not you’d rather sleep in (and get stuck in the crowds) or if you should get to the parks early…and then nap in the afternoon.

Personally, the mid-day heat and crowds are worth avoiding anyway, so naps are always the preference!


DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS?

Let me know on social media and I’ll add them to the article! 🙂

Important Phone Numbers at Walt Disney World

Have you ever called Walt Disney World? Well, the words “daunting task” have been associated with this endeavor for far too long… Let’s go through the Important Phone Numbers at Walt Disney World

Please note that we’ll do our best to provide you with up-to-date contact info, but if you need 100% updated numbers, Google is your friend!

In addition, please note that there are no toll-free numbers available for the public’s use.

You may always contact Disney via email: [email protected]

Important Disney World Phone Numbers


Walt Disney Travel Company – central reservations number: 407.934.7639 (407.W.DISNEY) – note that it’s faster to call a specific number below.
Main resort switchboard: 407.824.2222 – use to reach any specific resort or park location
Vacation package booking: 407.939.7675
Resort (room only) booking 407.939.7429
Tickets: 407.939.1289
Dining reservations: 407.939.3463 (407.WDW.DINE) – If on Disney property, *88 from any wired phone
Dining reservation line – club/concierge level guests: 407.939.2582 (407.WDW.CLUB)
Annual passholder information and reservations: 407.939.7277 (407.WDW.PASS)
Group reservations (for 10 or more rooms): 407.828.3318
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: 407.939.7895 (407.WDW.STYL)
The Pirates League: 407.939.2739 (407.WDW.CREW)
Recreation activities, including waterpark cabana rentals: 407.939.7529 (407.WDW.PLAY)
Birthday and party planning: 407.939.2329 (407.WDW.BDAY)
Golf: 407.939.4653 (407.WDW.GOLF)
Birthday and party planning: 407.939.2329 (407.WDW.BDAY)
Typhoon Lagoon surf lessons and after hours surf parties: 407.939.7873 (407.WDW.SURF)
Fishing: 407.939.3377 (407.WDW.BASS)
Transportation: 407.939.7433 (407.WDW.RIDE)
Wedding packages: 407.828.3400
Technical support: 407.939.7756
Jobs: 407.828.1000
Lost and found: 407.824.4245
Mail order: 407.363.6200
Disney florist: 407.827.3505

And for questions that don’t fit the above categories…
Guest information, U.S. residents: 407.939.6244
Guest information, Canadian residents: 407.939.6244
Guest information, U.K. residents: 0870.24.24.900 (from the UK) or 407.939.7718 (from the US)
Guest information, hearing impaired: 407.827.5141


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Resort-specific phone numbers

*Please note that resort calls are first answered by the call center Cast Member to determine if your question can be answered before you are transferred.
All Star Movies: 407.939.7000
All Star Music: 407.939.6000
All Star Sports: 407.939.5000
Animal Kingdom Lodge: 407.938.8000
Art of Animation: 407.938.7000
Beach Club: 407.934.8000
Boardwalk Inn: 407.939.5100
Caribbean Beach: 407.934.3400
Contemporary: 407.824.1000
Coronado Springs: 407.939.1000
Dolphin: 407.934.4000
Ft. Wilderness: 407.824.2900
Grand Floridian: 407.824.3000
Old Key West: 407.827.7700
Polynesian: 407.824.2000
Pop Century: 407.938.4000
Port Orleans French Quarter: 407.934.5000
Port Orleans Riverside: 407.934.6000
Riviera Resort: 407.828.7030
Saratoga Springs:: 407.827.1100
Shades of Green: 407.824.3400
Swan: 407.934.3000
Wilderness Lodge: 407.824.3200
Yacht Club: 407.934.7000


Still wanting more ideas for experience on your next Disney World vacation? I love sharing more and more content to keep your trip planning juices flowing to build the excitement!

Important Phone Numbers at Walt Disney World - #StepstoMagic
Important Phone Numbers at Walt Disney World – #StepstoMagic

What to do on your Disney Vacation Arrival Day

Orlando International Airport for an evening arrival (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Let’s be honest…you’re excited to get your vacation started. Most of us have spent months planning the perfect experience, from amazing ADRs, to Lightning Lane Reservations, to what snacks we want to eat. 

So instead of giving you a list of things that you’re going to laugh at me for mentioning, I’m going to give you a few tips to make your Disney Vacation Arrival Day incredible!

**Starting Point-  When I travel to Walt Disney World for vacations, my point of origin is YYZ Toronto**

DON’T EXPECT TO RUSH TO THE PARKS!

Orlando International Airport RideShare Pickup (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

I’ve heard it a million times (and I’ve done it a few myself) about guests who want to get to the parks asap, and then get disappointed with delays. When you get to the resort and your room is available…unpack and have a shower. If you can’t get into your room, leave your bags with the Cast Members at Baggage Services and take the opportunity to grab a meal at the resort’s food court. Nothing (and I mean nothing) will stress you out more than not allocating proper time for delays and things that are beyond your control.

*Fun Story – During a recent trip, we had a reservation for the All-Star Movies resort. It’s always easy to get a great deal and I had assumed that it would be reasonable to make it from MCO Orlando to the resort and THEN to the parks for a 12pm lunch at the Magic Kingdom and then an 8pm reservation at Coral Reef.

Not factoring the 7am flight (3am wake-up), we were incredibly sleepy and ended up at the resort in a groggy state of mind. Oh, and there was a cheerleading competition just ending, our room wasn’t ready and we were coming from Toronto (cold) to Florida (not cold) so without a room to change…stress started to boil over.

Then Jill, my partner, reminded me that we were at Walt Disney World and that everything will work out if we just take a step back and enjoy it all at the pace that we could function at. We checked in, got our magic bands and then decided to play the “Next Bus” game. The EPCOT bus showed up and our first meal at Walt Disney World during our vacation was at Sunshine Seasons:)

Talk about a great start to the trip!


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EAT WHEN YOU NEED TO!

Starbucks Iced Drinks at Orlando International Airport (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

From my own personal experience, we like to be on the earliest flight getting into MCO airport as possible. Expect to experience some delays, like traffic from the airport to Disney.

When you catch a 7am flight to get into MCO at 9am (ish) you’re bound to run into delays. This is normal. Grab a Dunkin’ (USA) or Tim Hortons (Canadian) before your flight and then when you get off the plane, grab a little snack at Starbucks before heading to the Mears Connect OR your UBER.

This will give you enough fuel to last through the trip from the airport to the resort and then through the check-in process at the resort.


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BE SPONTANEOUS!

Town Centre at Disney Springs (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

The Magic Kingdom is a magical place to start your vacation. However, if you leave the planning to the next bus that arrives at your resort, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Disney Springs is actually a great way to get acclimated to the ‘Disney Bubble’ (yes, it’s a thing). With the World of Disney right next to the Disney Marketplace (pins, food, and shops), you can spend an hour or so just relaxing and waiting for your room to be ready. This leaves you ready to head out to the parks for a little evening fireworks.

GO FOR A SWIM!

Swimming at the Pool! What’s better than jumping in the pool after being on a stuffy plane and then being shuttled on a Mears Connect bus to the resort?


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ORGANIZE YOUR TRIP!

Being organized from the get-go will actually help your sanity 3-4-5 days into the trip.

  • Set aside your pins for trading in a plastic bag (for easy transport)
  • Set up your Charging Station, with your cords to charge your phones, cameras, and external batteries.
  • Print out your daily agenda before leaving and then set-up a daily “To-Do” list on the table. Write out what parks, restaurants, Lightning Lane / Genie + ideas and if there are things that you want to accomplish each day? It may sound a little over-the-top, but when you’re getting to the end of your trip and you realized that you needed something from the Animal Kingdom and you’re only doing 1 day there…being organized will help a ton!
  • Hang up your dollar store ponchos, jackets and other clothing in the closet. Remember…you’re on vacation! Stay a while;)

I hope this was helpful! Whatever you plan for your arrival day, I’m confident that you’ll have an amazing experience in Orlando!

Best Apps for Disney Trip Planning

Disney Play Sign at Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railroad at Disney's Hollywood Studios (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is so much more than deciding which day to have a Dole Whip on (which the correct answer is “every day” of course)

It’s important to factor in all your requirements into what you bring with you and what you’re leaving behind. This is equally true for your phone storage, as not every phone has an unlimited amount of GBs available for all of your favourite apps.

MYDISNEYEXPERIENCE (IOS, ANDROID) FREE

This is an easy one, as the official MyDisneyExperience app allows you to have your schedule at your fingertips, including Fastpass+, Mobile Ordering and Dining Reservations.

The app is also GPS-enabled, so this will allow you to plot out your next attraction, find the nearest washroom or see when your favourite character is appearing next.

PODCASTS

Looking for ways to pass time in lines or when you’re waiting for Disney Transportation? Grab the Apple Podcasts app AND stock up with awesome shows (like the We Like Theme Parks podcast!)


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INSTAGRAM (IOS, ANDROID) FREE

Sharing photos is fun but the reason why I put this on the list is due to the feature that allows you to add a location to your photos. When you’ve finished posting a photo, go back to that post and click on the location because you may discover hidden gems that other guests have found that are right in front of you. It’s better to explore while you’re in the moment than wish you had seen something.

HIDDEN MICKEYS (IOS, ANDROID) $7.99

What makes the Disney Parks different than the other theme parks in the industry is found in the details, in fact…this goes back to Walt’s time.

Hidden Mickeys are found throughout the films, cartoons and all over the theme parks. Usually, you’ll hear things through passing or maybe a cast member or fellow Disney-fan will point something out on Facebook or Instagram, but there’s another way.

The App is a solid resource packed with 1200+ Hidden Mickeys and exactly where to look for them and when. Some are in plain sight, where others are at a very specific moment while on Tower of Terror right before your elevator moves into the final drop shaft and the stars come together to make that iconic image right in front of your eyes. Get this app…you’ll have so much fun with it!

WDW RADIO (IOS, ANDROID) FREE

Do you need something to do while you’re in a standby line for Splash Mountain or waiting for your reservation to be called at Crystal Palace? Well the WDW Radio app is a great resource to have on your phone, with the blog, newsroom and a ton of other tips n tricks all at your fingertips.


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BONUS TIP

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT OFFICIAL APP (IOS, ANDROID) FREE

Put everything you need to know about your vacation in the palm of your hand. Download The Official Universal Orlando® Resort App. It’s free!

It’s the easy way to:
· Check ride, show and attraction wait times at home, on the go or in the parks.
· Explore the parks using detailed maps and photo navigation with the “Guide Me” feature.
· Customize your park experience using filtered lists and the map to plan your day.
· Create your own favorites list.
· Share your Universal Orlando® Resort experience on Facebook and Twitter.
· Stay up-to-date with in-park notifications and news about upcoming special events.
· Set ride wait time and show time alerts to make the most of your time in the parks.
· Guests with visual disabilities can access Voiceover support to better utilize the app and enhance their in-park experience.

3 tips to score a Be Our Guest Reservation

Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Would you like to eat the Grey Stuff in the Beast’s Castle during your vacation? It is one of our Top Ten Disney Advance Dining Reservations to get ASAP. Let us help you get the hard to find Be Our Guest reservation.

My goal during this short post is to share my experiences on how to get last minute Be Our Guest reservations via MyDisneyExperience.

TIP ONE – BOOK 60 DAYS OUT

Be Our Guest Restaurant
Be Our Guest Restaurant – Photo by Steps to Magic

Do your research and have a plan.

TIP TWO – BE FLEXIBLE

Be Our Guest Restaurant
Be Our Guest Restaurant – Photo by Steps to Magic

Say you’re looking for a “7p.m.” Dinner Reservation, and you’re searching for that exact timeframe through MyDisneyExperience. Well, the Disney dining system is actually only giving what you’re looking for. This means you’re possibly missing out on a full “dinner” service reservation that could be a little earlier or little later.

Open up the search options, choose dinner for a time, you may be surprised by the results. A 5p.m. ADR and an 8:30p.m. ADR are both acceptable if you are able to plan around them with naps, snacks, and flexibility.

TIP THREE – 24 HOUR PERIOD

Be Our Guest Rose Gallery
Be Our Guest Rose Gallery – Photo by Steps to Magic

You can book a Disney dining reservation online at MyDisneyExperience.com or by calling (407) WDW-DINE. At the time of booking you will be asked to secure your Disney Dining Reservation by a $10 deposit. This deposit is odd but opens a world of possibilities.

The actual wording of the “Credit Card Guarantee” is:

Reservations must be cancelled at least one day prior to avoid $10 per person cancellation and/or no show fee.  Plan to arrive 5 minutes prior to your reservation time to check-in and allow up to 1.5 hours to travel to your destination when using Disney Transportation.  Menu items, pricing, and hours are subject to change without notice and 18% gratuity will be automatically applied for parties of 6 or more.  Special Seating Requests may be done upon arrival at the podium. 

So, what all this means is, you MUST cancel 24-hours prior in order to not get charged. Most guests adhere to this policy in order to avoid the charges. If you are thinking about using the system to your advantage search 23 hours out from when you’d like to secure your reservation. You will be shocked at how many reservations become available and hard to eat at Disney restaurants.


BONUS TIP – THE “WALK-UP”

Did you know that some restaurants don’t put those last-minute cancellations back into the ADR system?

You may just want to do what’s called a “Walk-Up.” In order to do this, you simply head to a dining establishment, go up to the podium and ask if there are available tables.


Good luck on your attempt to Be Our Guest!

8 Christmas Activities at Walt Disney World You Can’t Miss

Magic Kingdom Train Station in the Holidays
Magic Kingdom Train Station in the Holidays - Photo by Dustin Fuhs

“I want to go to Walt Disney World for Christmas!” is something that every Disney fan has said before. And then you look at prices, resort availability, ADRs and crowd calendars…and then you reconsider and end up going to WDW 3rd week of November!

Why would someone want to go to the most visited theme park in the world during their busiest time of the year? Great question!

MICKEY’S VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS PARTY AT THE MAGIC KINGDOM

Cookies, hot chocolate, fireworks, and Disney…seems like a great combination to me! Although it’s a hard ticket event, the party is a highlight for those of us who want a little extra holiday cheer with our favourite Disney characters (and Santa of course!)


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CANDLELIGHT PROCESSIONAL AT EPCOT

Put this on your list of activities to experience, because it’s well worth it! The Candlelight Processional is the story of Christmas as told by a celebrity narrator, 50-piece cast member orchestra and choir in the American Garden Theatre in the American Pavilion.

**EXTRA TIP**

Look into the Dining Package to save your spot in the experience, as lineups get pretty crazy sometimes depending on who’s narrating that evening’s event.

RESORT HOPPING

One of my favourite pastimes while on Disney property is to visit all the various Resorts…usually to pin trade…but in the holidays it gets more fun as each resort has their own unique brand of celebrations. Christmas Trees and awesome decorations aplenty are enough to get some guests to come back year after year.


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YOU CAN LEARN AT EPCOT

EPCOT has always been a park for knowledge and “Edu-tainment”, but during November & December, the World Showcase takes center stage with Holidays Around the World. Each country offers a sampling of their holiday traditions at scheduled times during the day.

It’s a great way to take in the cultures of the participating countries and maybe learn a little bit at the same time!

IT SNOWS ON MAIN STREET

Walking down Main Street USA is by far the best part of the holidays at Disney World. You’re able to see all the festive decorations, the hidden mickeys and Cinderella’s Castle in the distance…yea, it’s pretty awesome.

CHARACTERS IN HOLIDAY COSTUMES

Goofy dressed as Santa is probably one of my favourite memories of all time! Goofy isn’t the only one, though! The parks are packed with holiday characters you can only find during this time of year. Mickey & Minnie, Donald & Daisy, Chip & Dale, Goofy & Pluto, Tinker Bell all have special outfits for the holidays.

There are many others you can find in addition if you go to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party.

In short, you have plenty of unique character opportunities during the holidays.


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HOLIDAY MERCHANDISE

Did you know that you can buy holiday merchandise year-round at Disney Springs and in the Magic Kingdom? Not matter what you can always find holiday merchandise at Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Days of Christmas at Disney Springs.

DISNEY’S YULETIDE FANTASY TOUR

This seasonal 3-hour tour is offered  on select dates throughout the holiday season and provides you with an “insider look” at the transformation of the Walt Disney Resort into the holiday wonderland that we all flock to Florida to see each and every single year!


Did we miss something on our list? Check it twice…and then send me a note via Instagram @StepstoMagic

Top 10 Characters We Want to Meet Again in Disney World

Dustin and Figment at EPCOT

When we look at our scrapbooks (or Facebook “moments”) from past trips, there is a constant thought that rings true to many Disney fans. “I wish that I could meet XYZ character…again!”

It may be a budget cutting situation, construction of a new land or just a movie release special engagement, but character meet and greets are held to a level of mis-understanding within the hallowed halls of the Team Disney building that I’m going to try to explain in a short post.

We need to look at how a character meet and greet experience comes into play. Usually, it’s out of a partnership between the studios and the parks in which a marketing budget is created to allow for a limited engagement of a character but every situation is a little different.

CRUELA DE VIL

When Cruela De Vil was meeting at Hollywood Studios, we got the opportunity to see one of the best Disney villains (hands down) one-on-one with guests who loved the quick wit and amazing personality that only she could bring. Overall, meeting Cruela was one of the highlights in my own personal Disney experience…and I wish that others could have the same!


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MEEKO

My cat’s name is Meeko. My favourite character is Meeko. Can you imagine a day in the parks when I got the chance to meet Meeko? Every so often this little bandit is hanging out with Pocahontas in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but he’s such an integral part of the “BFF Pals” that it’s just frustrating that he’s not available more often.

VADER GOOFY AND STORMTROOPER DONALD

Star Wars Weekends was an event that allowed fans to mix the two worlds together, with the outcome as hilarious as the above photo…

The concept on paper was an easy sell. Introduce Star Wars and their massive fan base to the Disney product and visa versa, with characters that we knew and loved like Goofy swapping a vintage look with a Darth Vader costume (and forgetting his pants in the process). Donald was meeting with guests while dressed like a stormtrooper, and let’s be honest, that was pretty epic.

It would be great to have this opportunity again, and in the coming years with such a large influence of the Force making its way to the Studios, maybe we’ll see Jedi Mickey and Pals in full Star Wars costumes soon!

JOHN SMITH

Did you ever make it to a Pirate and Princess Party? Think “Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party” mixed with a “Long Lost Friends” D23 event….and throw in a New Orleans feel with music and beads.

At this party, you got the opportunity to meet our Number 7 character that we’d want to meet again…John Smith! Pocahontas was meeting with her beau in the current Liberty Square veranda meet and greet (Tiana was meeting there last we saw), but it was such a huge find for a character enthusiast. They were able to play off of each other in real form and it was so awesome to ask questions about Meeko and Flit…and see a true ad-lib sketch comedy session happen right in front of my face.


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CAPTAIN HOOK AND MR SMEE

When was the last time that you got to meet the Ol Captain and his BFF? Smee and Hook are classic characters that need to be out more together. This was also at the Pirate and Princess Party in 2008, but since then I’ve met Hook separately at Not So Scary and Smee at the World Showplace one afternoon in EPCOT while wandering around the Showcase.

PS…look at my tan! This is what I looked like the last month of my contract after spending months and months in the Florida sun!

ROBIN HOOD

Have you seen Robin Hood lately? Great movie…immortal character…

This photo was taken in behind the old Toon Town train station during a Character Scramble, where guests were able to meet some of the classic Disney friends like Prince John, Mr Penguin, Launchpad and so many others. Let’s be honest though…Robin Hood is seriously under-represented in the parks and needs a little TLC in WDW;)

Let’s make this happen, please?

PHINEAS AND FERB

I need to point something out with this photo. See the autograph book? I’m an adult with an autograph book, collecting autographs from my heroes and idols while walking around the most magical place on earth. You’re never too old to have fun…and you never have to grow up.


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KIM POSSIBLE AND RON STOPPABLE

Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite character from Disney Channel was/is/will always be Ron Stoppable. Meeting Kim and Ron on the Streets of America was always a part of a trip to the Studios and I wish that they were able to be seen in other parks.

They don’t really have a home right now, but hopefully in the future we’ll be able to meet these awesome characters again!

KENAI AND KODA

I’m from Canada, which you can tell by my unhealthy addiction to bacon, beer and dole whips. In 2007/08 I had the opportunity to be a Cultural Representative in the Canadian Pavilion and more than 10 years later…my passion for the brand still goes strong.

I had the opportunity to be the 2nd last guest to meet Kenai and Koda in the pavilion before they were unceremoniously booted from the Victoria Gardens…and I was literally in tears. For months, I worked closely with these characters and they were a part of my day. Koda would steal his plush almost daily…and Kenai would just be the big brother and make him give them back.

They were more than friends for me…they became family and I miss them to this day. Whenever I have the chance to see the stars from Brother Bear during random trips to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I just go back to this experience and it makes me smile from ear to ear:)


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FIGMENT

This is an absolute no-brainer! During my contract in 2008, I had the privilege to meet a legend in Figment. In fact, I didn’t know about it until after, but the photo above was one of the last (if not the last) that was taken with him before the character spot closed forever.

The fact that the icon of EPCOT is no longer available for guests to interact with…well it’s so disheartening. I completely understand the reasoning why (Kodak and all), but this is by far and away the number one character that I want to meet again!


Are there any other characters that you would want to see in the parks again?

How To Use Disney Resort Concierge Desk

Disney's Contemporary Resort Front Desk (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Have you ever walked past the concierge desk at a Disney resort and asked yourself what they could help with to improve your vacation…and just walked by because you didn’t know where to start? Well, my goal in this article is to provide you with as much information as possible, without getting into the details of case-by-case situations.


LET’S START WITH THE BASICS:

Every Disney Resort Concierge Cast Member will provide you with as much information as they are able to, especially regarding activities within the resort. Keep in mind that they are not vacation planners, and usually, the concierge cm’s are also managing a phone line, so asking multiple questions in one stop will typically shorten the explanations and options…so knowing what to ask is important:)

WHAT CAN THEY DO?

The short answer is EVERYTHING!

The long answer is that you’re interacting with a cast member who is incredibly well trained to provide you with an enjoyable experience while giving you a clear and concise “next-step” plan. You won’t leave the desk confused! In fact, you’ll probably leave the concierge with ideas for your next vacation, including thoughts about private tours, dining experiences and so much more.


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THE FOLLOWING ARE ITEMS THAT CONCIERGE CAST MEMBERS CAN ASSIST YOU WITH:

TICKETS

The concierge can sell Disney Park Tickets, including adding on additional park days and options like Park Hopping and the Water Park Fun and More.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Thinking about attending the Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party or the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party? Your concierge desk may be able to help you with those experiences, including start times, best practices and transportation ideas.

STROLLERS

Do you need a stroller while on vacation (and didn’t pre-buy one from Walmart.com)?

Well, your concierge will be able to give you options and contact information, including renting one from Disney, using a service like Kingdom Strollers or the nearest Walmart/Target/Shopping Mall that you could drive to.

TOURS

Keys to the Kingdom
Keys to the Kingdom – Photo by Steps to Magic

Thinking about going on one of those cool “Keys to the Kingdom Tours” in the Magic Kingdom, or a “Behind the Seeds Tours” at EPCOT?

Stop in at the concierge desk and they’ll be able to help you book these experiences. They’ll also provide you with assistance if the tour time is conflicting with other items on your schedule.

ROOM ISSUES

Disney’s Mousekeeping (Room Attendants) provide great attention to detail, but every so often they’ll miss something.

  • Is your Air Conditioning unit not working?
  • Do you have a burned out lightbulb?
  • Put a request for extra towels, pillows, blankets, cups

If there is a bigger issue and you don’t know where to start if you want to change rooms? Well stop in with your Concierge and they’ll do their best to assist you.

MAGICBAND

Did you know that your concierge desk can assist you with issues that may come up with your MagicBand? Technology sometimes doesn’t work how we’d like them to…and it’s important to know where to turn to first.

OTHER SERVICES

  • Car Rental Information
  • Faxing Prescriptions to the Pharmacy
  • Printing Airport Boarding Passes
  • Organizing Wheelchair and ECV’s
  • Making and adjusting Dining and FastPass+ Reservations
  • Bandaids (this is a huge one, especially if you’re wearing new shoes and haven’t broken them in yet…blisters ouch!)

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WHAT CAN’T THEY DO?

Well, the list is a little smaller, but they’ll never send you away without providing you with an end destination.

ANNUAL PASSES

They’re unable to process anything to do with AP’s, including initial sales or converting other pre-purchased passes into Annual Passes.

DISABILITY ACCESS SERVICE PASS

They’ll be able to provide you with the end destination (Guest Relations) but are unable to issue these passes. FYI, all the details are available here

MILITARY PARK TICKETS AND OTHER DISCOUNTED TICKET OFFERS

Disney provides a large amount of unique discounted tickets through outside sources, such as the Military Discounts on park tickets. Details on these passes are usually provided through your contacts within your organization, however, you can do a simple Google search and find all the answers within a couple of clicks.

The concierge desk will probably do this search for you, but it’s easier to be prepared to do that extra step yourself. FYI, the details for the Military Discounts are available here

IN-PARK ISSUES

Did you experience a disturbance while on an attraction, dining location or retail shop while in the theme parks? If something happens at EPCOT…just stop into the Guest Relations at EPCOT.

Your resort concierge won’t have the same access to tools “to make it right” as those in the parks.

“WILL CALL”

Did you buy an online ticket voucher which requires you to go to Will Call? The concierge desk gets a ton of guests wondering where this is located…and it’s actually really simple (if you know what you’re looking for).

When you first visit a theme park, say Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll find ticket wickets for those who have already purchased tickets…look to the left or to the right…you’ll see the Will Call desk. It’s usually right next to the Guest Relations location.


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TO SUM IT UP

The concierge cast members are tasked with providing information and tools to enhance the experiences of their guests before, during and after their time at the Walt Disney World Resort.

If you don’t know where to go, just ask your concierge…they’ll do their best to guide you in the right direction!

Walt Disney World Attraction Height Requirements

Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom (Image: Dustin Fuhs / StepstoMagic)

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World for your family starts long before you step foot onto a Monorail or that first sip of a Dole Whip. 

If you are traveling with children to Disney World, attraction height requirements is a topic that is sure to come up.

Full disclaimer: I don’t have kids, but after working in the parks and at the Disney Store for a few years I feel like I can give some input on this topic.

There’s no right or wrong answer to when you should start bringing your children to the parks. You are the best judge for deciding on the perfect time to bring down in Florida with your family is.

WHAT DOES THE HEIGHT REQUIREMENTS LOOK LIKE?

Attractions and experiences do change, but this is the height restriction run-down:


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THE MAGIC KINGDOM HAS 6 HEIGHT RESTRICTED ATTRACTIONS

  • The Barnstormer – Guests must be 35 inches (89 centimeters) or taller
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Guests must be 38 inches (97 centimeters) or taller
  • Space Mountain – Guests must be 44 inches (113 centimeters) or taller
  • Splash Mountain – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
  • Tomorrowland Speedway – Guests must be 32 inches (82 centimeters) or taller

EPCOT HAS 4 HEIGHT RESTRICTED ATTRACTIONS

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Guests must be 42″ (107 centimeters) or taller
  • Mission: SPACE – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
  • Soarin’ Around the World – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
  • Test Track – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller

DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS HAS 7 HEIGHT RESTRICTED ATTRACTIONS

  • Alien Swirling Saucers – Guests must be 32 inches (81 centimeters) or taller
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – Guests must be 38″ (97 cm) or taller
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or taller
  • Slinky Dog Dash – Guests must be 38 inches (97 centimeters) or taller
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Guests must be 40″ (102 cm) or taller
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller

DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM HAS 4 HEIGHT RESTRICTED ATTRACTIONS

  • Avatar Flight of Passage – Guests must be 44 inches (112 centimeters) or taller
  • DINOSAUR – Guests must be 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain – Guests must be 44 inches (113 centimeters) or taller
  • Kali River Rapids – Guests must be 38 inches (97 centimeters) or taller

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BLIZZARD BEACH

  • Chairlift – Guests must be 32 inches (82 centimeters) or taller
  • Downhill Double Dipper – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or taller
  • Slush Gusher – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or taller
  • Summit Plummet – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or taller
  • Tike’s Peak – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or shorter

TYPHOON LAGOON

  • Bay Slides – Guests must be 60 inches (152 centimeters) or shorter
  • Crush ‘n’ Gusher – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or taller
  • Humunga Kowabunga – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or taller
  • Ketchakiddee Creek – Guests must be 48 inches (122 centimeters) or shorter

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5 Things to Know About Height Restrictions

  1. Measure your kids BEFORE your Vacation
  2. Don’t hype experiences that they won’t be able to ride
  3. Cast Members aren’t the enemy – They are following regulations for safety
  4. Don’t make a scene – It won’t get your kids to grow inches immediately
  5. Use Rider-Swap if there are experiences that you want to go on.

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The theme parks in Orlando have created a system that breaks down the safety requirements based on height and not age, and we’ve seen a ton of hilarious (and in-genius) ways to count down the time before your kids are able to go on various attractions. This may include a ruler that you’ve painted onto a door with all the attractions listed on it. Or even, an annual height-off, where you give your kids certificates that say that they’ve “graduated” to being allowed to go on Space Mountain (44″).

We’ve also seen parents create ticket books based on the height limits that their kids are able to go on. Therefore, the kids are excited instead of being disappointed that they aren’t able to go on an attraction like Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Part of the discussions about taking a trip to Disney, involve questions surrounding when you want to introduce your family to various attractions.