Six Rookie Mistakes to Avoid at Magic Kingdom
A couple of weeks ago, MickeyBlog listed several rookie mistakes that most people make the first time that they visit Walt Disney World. Afterward, we mentioned that we would also offer a few tips for each individual park. Today, we’re starting with the most trafficked theme park in the world. Here are six rookie mistakes to avoid at Magic Kingdom.
You Didn’t Do Any Planning
Many folks don’t like to plan their vacations. They celebrate spontaneity and prefer an open-ended schedule. That’s totally fine for most trips, but Disney works a bit differently. You need to have at least SOME awareness of how a park visit will work. Otherwise, you’re going to suffer a rude awakening once you enter Magic Kingdom.
I’m going to say this again because it’s important. Magic Kingdom is THE most trafficked theme park in the world. What does that mean to you? People are all around you. Even a “light” traffic day at Magic Kingdom is one of the most crowded places you will ever experience in your life. If you get there with no firm plans and no idea where anything is, you’re in a world of hurt.
Now, that’s a worst case scenario that’s probably not applicable to you. After all, you’re reading this blog. Clearly, you care enough to do at least some research. Follow the pro tips we list here, and you should be fine for the most part. The ONE thing that we can’t do for you is tell you where everything is in the park. You have to do that on your own. At a minimum, you should pull up a map of Magic Kingdom to get comfortable with where everything is.
You Didn’t Bring Your Phone
Let’s say that you don’t follow our advice about the map, though. That’s where your smartphone can save you from disaster. The My Disney Experience (MDE) app includes mapping functionality that will provide directions anywhere on the Walt Disney World campus. This information won’t help you if you forget your phone, though.
This subject is actually divisive to many Disney fanatics. Some people believe that everyone should put down their phones and appreciate the majesty of a Disney theme park. While there’s truth to that philosophy, Imagineers have built plenty of functionality into the MDE app. It can help you in myriad ways. You always want/need access to it while you’re at Magic Kingdom. Plus, you never know when you might want to Google something about the park, its rides, and their histories. Or just take a selfie.
You Forgot the FastPasses
This is really bad, but I’ll offer a pro tip at the end that may help. FastPasses (FP+) are basically ride reservations. When you book one, you’re guaranteeing that at a set time and for a one-hour window, you can get into the shorter line at an attraction. Oftentimes, FP+ is the difference between waiting 10-15 minutes for an attraction as opposed to wasting an hour or longer for the same experience. Think of FP+ as the ultimate time management tool at Magic Kingdom.
You can book three FastPasses at Magic Kingdom up to 60 days ahead of your park visit, presuming that you’re staying at a Disney resort. The window is only 30 days if you stay offsite, yet another reason why you should be talking to a Mickey Travels agent about booking your next hotel stay at Walt Disney World.
At 60 days, you should be able to get a FP+ reservation for virtually anything. The attractions that have the longest lines are usually Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Jungle Cruise, and the three Mountain rides (Space, Splash, and Big Thunder). Pick your favorite three from that list to shorten the length of time that you stand in line for each one. Also note that you should book FP+ early in the day. Once you’re finished with your current set, you can book others.
So, what do you do if you forgot to book any FastPasses? Well, you rely on the kindness of strangers. When you enter Magic Kingdom, go to Guest Services and explain the situation. While you can’t be sure of it, some cast members are kind enough to give you three “blank” FastPasses that are good for any ride. But you shouldn’t take that chance.
You Didn’t Book Advanced Dining Reservations
Out of the mistakes listed here, this one is the least problematic at Magic Kingdom. You DO want to make an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) if possible. Two of the most popular restaurants at all of Walt Disney World reside inside Magic Kingdom. Those eateries are Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest. The other restaurants that may book early are Crystal Palace and Tony’s Town Square.
Without an ADR, you won’t eat at any of these places. That’s particularly unfortunate at Be Our Guest, one of the best Disney dining experiences on the planet. If you want to eat here, you have to book early, preferably at the 180-day window. Any park guest can make an ADR up to 180 days in advance. When you’re staying at a Disney resort, it’s 180 days plus the length of the stay (i.e. 185 days for a five-day stay). That’s yet another reason to stay onsite.
At Magic Kingdom, you have a couple of options if you’re shut out at the high-quality Table Service restaurants. You can use Mobile Order on the MDE app to grab some food on the go. Alternately, you can just stand in line the old-fashioned way at a Quick Service restaurant, although I personally wouldn’t recommend that. You’re wasting valuable park time by doing so.
When you’re in the mood for a great meal but don’t have an ADR ahead of time, the other thing that you can do is check the MDE app to see if something’s available at one of the monorail resorts. The food is exceptional at most restaurants at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The only downside is the travel time you spend, although that’s not a negative if you love the monorail.
You Aren’t Taking Advantage of Extra Magic Hours
You’ve noticed a recurring theme here. I prioritize park time above everything else. It’s the reason why we all spend so much money on park tickets at Magic Kingdom. We all want to have a wonderful time at the Most Magical Place on Earth. To do that, you have to ride as many rides as possible while taking in all of the wonderful shows. Doing everything at Magic Kingdom that you want in a single day isn’t impossible, assuming you’re up for the challenge. It does involve lots of strategy and maximization of park time, though.
The Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom is a huge boon in this regard. When you stay onsite at a Disney resort, you get to spend an extra hour at one of Disney’s theme parks each day. We’ll assume that it’s Magic Kingdom for the purpose of this discussion, but you should check the calendar prior to your arrival to know for sure.
During that hour, the ONLY guests at Magic Kingdom are the people staying at Disney resorts in the area. And out of that group, it’s only the people who are willing to either get up an hour early or stay up an hour late to enjoy this benefit. With so few people at the park, you can easily ride three or four attractions that you may have missed otherwise. At a minimum, it’s time you have to spend on other activities at Magic Kingdom. Extra Magic Hours are an incredible benefit that rookies oftentimes fail to appreciate.
You Aren’t Planning for the Parades and Fireworks
This goes back to the crowd discussion from earlier. Those same people that you’ve seen all day know what time the 3 p.m. parade is (and it’s a trick answer since Disney recently moved the Festival of Fantasy Parade to 2 p.m.!). They will rush to get the best seats for the events.
The same is true for the nightly exhibition of Happily Ever After. If you arrive one minute before the fireworks begin, you’re going to get lousy seats and a glare from the guests who have been there for a while.
If you plan to attend the parade and fireworks exhibitions – and you really should – you need to arrive at the designated area about 20 minutes prior to the show. You can show up sooner, but there’s a point of diminishing returns on these things. You don’t want to waste any more park time than that. Just get a seat that gives you a direct line of sight to the floats or Cinderella Castle. That’s all you need to avoid this rookie mistake.
Next time, we’ll discuss rookie mistakes at Epcot. Some of them will share commonalities with Magic Kingdom, but the second gate at Walt Disney World also has its own special set of challenges for Disney noobs. MickeyBlog is here to make sure that you avoid them.