What child hasn’t dreamt of hugging Mickey Mouse on a visit to the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’.
When Walt Disney opened the original Disneyland in 1955, even he could not have foreseen the impact his park would have on the world.
For generations, families have been visiting a Disney theme park to celebrate the lovable characters, enjoy the thrill of the rides, and to admire the magical castle and make-believe worlds.
California and Florida, in the USA, are where you’ll find the original two Disney theme parks, but today, you’ll find Mickey Mouse and the Magical Kingdom gang in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris, all top destinations in their own right for a fun-filled family getaway.
A visit to a Disney theme park can be a marathon though, and wondering through this, not so small world, requires some planning to maximise the enjoyment.
So here are a few tried and tested hints and tips to ensure you get the best out of your Disney visit.
Wear comfortable shoes
Forget about glass slippers! Walking these giant parks, comfortable footwear is a must. The newest, and largest Disney park in Shanghai, China is spread over four square kilometres (1.5 square miles). This mega-theme-park will test your soles, so don’t even think about wearing flip flops. A pair of good, sturdy sneakers or joggers should do the trick.
INSIDER TIP: Walking around Disney is not the place to break in a new pair of shoes. Here, comfort always wins over style.
A popular option with many travellers is ‘FASTPASS’. This convenient ticket option holds your space in line for your favourite rides and attractions. Although an extra fee on top of the already pricey entry ticket, it’s well worth the price when attempting to get to all the attractions in a single day.
INSIDER TIP: Book your FASTPASS early, as there are limited numbers available each day and they book out quickly.
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Fun and exciting for the whole family, character dining is a must-do, especially for families with younger children. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner with your favourite Disney characters, both within the parks, and at select Disney Hotels, which are generally attached, or very close by to the parks.
INSIDER TIP: Pre-book to avoid missing out on this popular attraction and don’t miss the Mickey Mouse shaped waffles.
As the saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. This of course was not intended for Disney theme parks or Mickey Mouse himself, but a well laid plan will save you time, tears and walking. Plan out the morning, afternoon and evening with plenty of scheduled rest and food breaks in-between to keep you going. Disney parks are a marathon, not a sprint!
INSIDER TIP: For a great way to involve children, ask them to help plan out the day so they have something to look forward to, and ensure the whole family gets to see and do what they want.
If you suddenly find it’s time for an immediate break or rest, jump on the monorail for a scenic view of the park. Not only will it save your feet, but the birds-eye-view can assist in navigating the park. The perfect way to find that next big attraction!
INSIDER TIP: If staying at select Disney hotels, the monorail can deliver you from the lobby, to the park, and back again within a few minutes.
If planning a few days at the park, scope out your shopping must-haves, but leave it for the last day. That way, you’ll avoid multiple carry bags while walking around the park, and in the hotel.
You will find all the usual themed souvenir stores, but look out for the LEGO Store, various jewellery stores and specialist photographers for long-lasting memories.
INSIDER TIP: If staying at a Disney hotel, all purchases including shopping, food and beverages while in the park can be charged back to your room with your MagicBand. The wristband acts like an account, similar to what you would find on a cruise ship.
Pack your patience
It may be the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’, but during busy weekend and holiday periods, you will need to pack your patience. The lines generally pass quickly and passing entertainment provides a great distraction, but there are inevitably times when lines and crowds can’t be avoided.
There are signs throughout the queues with approximate wait time from that point. But crowds are always a given and just part of the experience.
INSIDER TIP: Say hi to someone in line and you’re sure to make friends with visitors from around the world, or consider purchasing a FASTPASS (see above) during peak travel times to skip the queues all together.
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