Disney Tips and Tricks


Like I said before, this was our first time going to Disney World. We are not experts. But we had an amazing time and I’m not sure I’d change a single thing about our trip. If I could control the weather, I might make a few little tweaks there, but even the rain proved to be a blessing to us as it served as a good source of crowd control.


Just after Christmas 2012, I started thinking about planning our Disney World vacation. I knew I wanted to give it to the boys for Christmas 2013. In May, I contacted a local travel agent who is certified through Disney. She helped us narrow down which resort was our best option for our length of stay and our budget. She helped us figure out the specials running with the Disney Dining Plan. (We chose the dining plan that included 1 table service meal, 1 quick service meal, and one snack per day.) I told her which character meals we wanted and she filled in the rest and then she booked them all for us. It saved me so much time and it was so helpful! Also. Her services were FREE!

My Disney Experience

Once you have reserved your trip, you can login on mydisneyexperience.com. You can see all of your reservations there, make dining reservations and make your Fast Pass Plus reservations. You can also add other things to your account like the Memory Maker and Photo Pass options. There is also a smart phone app for My Disney Experience. You login and it pulls up all of your information and it tells you the wait times for the day. It also tells you where you can find different characters. And it makes it easy to make Fast Pass Plus selections or change your selections.

Magic Bands

If you are staying at one of the Disney resorts, you will be able to login to My Disney Experience and customize your Magic Bands. The Magic Bands have a little electronic chip that stores all of your Disney reservation information. So when you go to pay for your meal, you just swipe your Magic Band. When you go to unlock your hotel room door, just swipe your Magic Band. When you have a Fast Pass Plus reservation and get to the ride, you just swipe your band. It stores everything and makes it so easy. You don’t have to keep up with a key or park passes or even a wallet!

Fast Pass Plus

I’m not super familiar with the old Disney Fast Pass system, but with Fast Pass Plus, we were able to use our app or My Disney Experience login and pre-select all of our fast passes for the trip. Right now this is still in the preview stage and is only available to those staying at the Disney resorts. I made our Fast Pass Plus reservations weeks before we left. I knew which days we’d be in certain parks just based on our dining reservations and I was able to select 3 Fast Pass Plus for each day. Because the week we were there wasn’t very crowded, most of the rides we chose never had a wait. So I would switch it to a different time using the app or I would pick an entirely different ride. Certain rides always had a long wait and they were usually favorites of my kids, so I tried to always get a Fast Pass for those. There are also kiosks set up all over the park for those that aren’t staying at the resort to make their selections.

Memory Maker

I used my iPhone camera for our entire trip, but there were a lot of times when I just wanted us to all be in the photo and I wanted to have as many photos as possible. Before we left for the trip, I purchased the Memory Maker package. For $149 you have unlimited access to the photos taken at the resort. (Someone tried to sell us a print of one of the photos of our family and just the one print was $35.) Whenever we saw a Disney photographer, we asked him or her to take our family’s picture. In front of the castle, at the entrance, in front of the Epcot ball, everywhere. And they just scanned my Magic Band and all the photos showed up in our My Disney Experience account. I got tons of photos on my iPhone, but it was so nice to get all of those pictures of us on rides and get the pictures of us as a whole family. To me, this service was priceless.


Some folks may disagree with my input here, but this is just our experience. We stayed at Wilderness Lodge. We could access Magic Kingdom from Wilderness Lodge by boat, which was super convenient and only took 10 minutes, at most. We could take the monorail from Magic Kingdom to the ticketing station and then take the monorail to Epcot. But we ended up driving to Epcot, and we were in our car and parked at Epcot in 10 minutes. It was so fast and so easy. And so easy to deal with our stroller, too. We took the bus one time to get to Downtown Disney, and we decided after that hour and a half bus ride that we wouldn’t be attempting the bus again until our kids are much older. We ended up also driving to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. It was definitely the right call for our family, and I’d do it this way again.


Hudson and Hayes are 4.5 and 2.5 and they both rode in our double stroller the whole time. With the rainy days it was great to put them in there and cover them up. When Hudson was tired of walking, it was great to put him in there so he could take  a rest. We still had to park the stroller and walk to rides before moving on, but the parks are enormous. And at night, when everyone is rushing to get to the boat or the monorail, it was really nice to just push them in the stroller onto the boat. I don’t know that they could have made it 7 days without the stroller.


A lot of people have asked what we packed for the trip. The boys wore their normal, every day clothes. I did bring a pair of shorts for each boy, but we didn’t end up needing them. I packed their rain jacket and Todd and I bought ponchos when we got there. If I had a raincoat, I would have packed it. I wore gym shoes, yoga pants, and long-sleeve workout tops every day we were there. I brought a quilted vest to wear because it was chilly at times. I’m so glad I wore my most comfortable shoes and my most comfortable clothes. I didn’t feel sloppy or like a fanny pack-wearing tourist. 😉 I brought a few nicer things to wear- skinny jeans, tops, flats- to wear to dinner at night if we had a chance to change. I packed two pairs of shoes for both of the boys, which ended up being a good decision. With all the rain we had, their shoes were soaked by the end of the day. So we had a chance to dry out the shoes and they could wear dry shoes while the other pair dried.


One of the things I dreaded most about the trip was the “gimmes.” After almost every ride, there’s a gift shop full of Disney characters and stuffed animals and toys. It’s a lot! And any kid would want something every chance he got. But this trip was their Christmas gift and the trip itself was an investment. We don’t need any toys and don’t need to be carrying toys all over Disney World. My friend Amy gave me a good tip. I told the boys that we would make a list of all the things we loved, and on the very last day, they could go shopping and pick out their one favorite thing. And it worked out well. I had to remind them a lot, but it seemed to make them happy. And on the last day, we said, “Let’s go shopping!” And they both loved getting to look around and pick out their one favorite thing.


A lot of you have asked how we did naps at Disney World. Well… we just did. Ha! We were there for quite a while, so we had six full days of park passes and only four parks to visit. So we called it quits every day around 3:00 or 3:30. We stayed through lunch, rode a few things after lunch, and then left. We were back at the hotel within 20 minutes. Sometimes the boys fell asleep in the stroller on the way back and sometimes they just crashed as soon as they got in their beds. And Todd and I would rest, too. We had dinner reservations for a few nights and some nights we’d head back over to Magic Kingdom to see the parade and fireworks. The naps helped us stay relaxed. We weren’t “go go go” the whole time. We were just able to chill out, enjoy what we could, and then pack it up.

Long Lines

We were fortunate that the longest line we stood in was only 25 minutes long. I know this isn’t the case for every Disney World visit. But for the longer waits, I was so thankful that Nina had sent the boys a care package full of lollipops! We put the lollipops in Todd’s backpack and let them have a lollipop while we stood and waited. Some of the waiting areas have some fun and entertaining things for little kids. But Hayes is quite the wiggle worm. He’s 2.5. He wants to touch everything and keep moving. He understood more as the days went on, but the lollipops helped a lot when they started to lose it.

Dining Plan

We are so glad that we went with the Disney Dining Plan. Hayes’s entire trip was free because he’s under 3. We didn’t have to pay for his park passes. We didn’t buy him a dining plan. At the table service meals, the cast members always gave us a small plate for him and just didn’t charge him to eat– most of these meals were buffet style. The quick service meals were a little different. For a few of the meals, we just shared our food with Hayes, but other days when everyone was starving, we just bought him a separate meal. The rest of us just swiped our Magic Bands at the scanner to pay for our meal off the dining plan. It was so very easy and so convenient! The snacks were all great, too! We had more than enough food and loved getting to do the character meals and have low-key, quick, easy meals, too.

To read our trip recaps, just click on the Disney World category to see days 1-7!

I’m happy to try to answer any questions. I can only speak to our experience, but I’d love to talk about it if you have any questions!

Carrolls do Disney World: Day 7

Day 7- Magic Kingdom (again)

We woke up on our last day at Disney World and, yep, it was raining again. But it wasn’t raining hard, just like all the other days, so we got up, got dressed and got on the boat with our stroller to Magic Kingdom.


Todd and I loved the Disney ponchos!

On that day, we really just wanted to soak up our last day. We had a FP+ (Fast Pass plus) for Peter Pan, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Winnie the Pooh because those were the favorites of the trip and the crowds had picked back up for Friday. But not by much.

The first thing we did, was hop in line for the Haunted Mansion. I thought the kids might be scared, but it was a ride and all the “ghosts” were very friendly looking. Not too haunted.


We rode It’s a Small World again and The Little Mermaid ride again. We tried to ride as much as we could before they just couldn’t go anymore.

My kids love a carousel and wanted to ride Prince Charming’s Carousel every time we passed by. It never had a long wait, so we would always just hop on.


We went over to Fantasyland to ride Goofy’s Barnstormer and after decided to leave our stroller at Fantasyland just take the train around Magic Kingdom. It was a good way to duck out of the rain and the kids loved an easy train ride.


Hudson had been begging for an ice cream sundae all day, so we thought, “why not?” We got off the train at the Main Street station and took the sweet boy to get an ice cream sundae. And while we sat there and ate it, the Move It, Shake It street parade began!

Hayes loved loved loved dancing along and we have some fun video of that.



On the very first day, the boys were overwhelmed with “the gimmes.” They wanted everything they saw. We had prepared ourselves for that and my friend Amy gave me some fun ideas to help curb their wants. I told them that I loved all the things they loved, but they needed to make a list with me of all the things they loved and on the last day we would go shop and pick out their one favorite thing.

This seemed to appease them. They got their mouse ears, and then on the last day, after we had ice cream, we told the boys we could go into one of the stores to pick out a prize to take home. (We do not need ANY toys. No clutter. White space! ha! But I didn’t want to be saying “no” all week, so promising them one thing at the very end of the trip was a good solution.)

Hayes picked out a talking Woody doll that has stayed in his hands ever since he picked it out. And Hudson picked out a Mac truck from Cars and it opens up and had 15 other Cars characters inside. He made a good choice!

We made our way back to the boat, and before we got on the boat, both boys were like this. They stayed like this all the way to the hotel room and even slept a little more in their beds for a long nap.


For our last night, we put on dry clothes and headed over to The Contemporary to eat at Chef Mickey’s. 


We loved getting to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto again. The food was pretty good, too, and we had the nicest servers.


Todd and I had the best time on this trip. We never thought of ourselves as “Disney people.” We each went once as kids and I got to go with cheerleading in middle school. And we never went back. We were originally very overwhelmed at the thought of planning this trip, but nothing about it was stressful or overwhelming. Every little thing about it was fun and it was all so magical. So, so magical!


Carrolls do Disney World: Day 4

So, once again, I planned to combined days 4 and 5, but I have way too many pictures for that. I’m hoping y’all aren’t tired of these posts yet!

Day 4- Back to Magic Kingdom

We woke up at 6:30 a.m. on Day 4 to the sound of the fire alarm in the Wilderness Lodge. Todd and I literally jumped out of bed, grabbed our shoes, grabbed the boys’ coats and their shoes, grabbed the boys out of their beds and ran out the door. We were on the first floor of the hotel so it was easy to get out. We saw a little bit of smoke coming from the laundry room. We waited until we got the all clear to go back inside and we were thankful that there was no real danger. But it was an adventurous way to start the day and to get to see the sun rise!


Because we had six days of park hopper passes, we were able to go to Magic Kingdom three times and really take our time seeing everything. A lot of the rides were ones the boys wanted to ride again and again and this allowed us to do that.

And we hadn’t spent much time on the first time in Adventureland, Frontierland or Pioneer Square, so we did that on this gorgeous day.

Hayes and I had a lot of fun on Aladdin’s Magic Carpets!


This was a very sunny, warm day. It was in the low 80s and the rest of our trip was in the 70s and 50s with rain. So we were very surprised to see so much sun, and we loved it!


We had a ton of fun that day and used our Fast Passes for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

After we rode Pirates of the Caribbean, we noticed that our big double BOB had a very flat tire. It was almost impossible to push. So we took the stroller to the Disney stroller rental area and thought they might air it up for us. And they replaced the whole tire! For free! There is nothing like Disney World service!

While we waited for the stroller, the boys picked out a couple of hats they liked. We had promised each of them one toy at the end of the week, but decided to also let them get some mouse ears.


We stumbled upon the Dream Along with Mickey show and the boys had a ton of fun watching that in the middle of the day!





Hudson and I rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad together and then we used the rider switch passes so Todd could ride it with Hudson. While they rode, Hayes and I waited to meet Woody and Jessie, and Hudson joined us in time to meet the fun friends!


Hayes and Hudson were so excited, and they both wanted to give Jessie a big kiss. They just kept smooching her! We all got a big laugh out of it, and then the Disney cast member helping Jessie that day said, “I’m gonna tell Buzz!” (Because Buzz and Jessie are an item. Duh.) So we all laughed about that and Hudson begged them not to tell Buzz.




We rode the Winnie the Pooh ride for the first time that day and it was one of the longer waits we had all week. We probably waited 25 minutes. But the line was a lot of fun! It was all covered and there was lots of fun things for the kids to do and play with in line. The boys loved the drums!


Around 3:30, we were tuckered out and decided to head back to the Wilderness Lodge on the boat and let the boys rest before our dinner reservation at O’Hana that night.

Hayes usually fell asleep on the boat ride and Hudson just loved to feel the wind in his hair. That 10 minute boat ride was such a sanity saver every day!


And Hayes did a great job with naps just about every day. We skipped them a couple of days, but we were always glad to take a little break.


After naps, we headed over to the Polynesian for dinner at O’Hana. The boys enjoyed walking around the water outside before dinner. Our dinner reservation was at 8:00 and we could see a little bit of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from the restaurant windows.

We had another great day at the Magic Kingdom!

Carrolls do Disney World: Day 3

Day 3: Epcot

Oh, Epcot. I really cannot say enough great things about Epcot. We all loved Epcot.

Because we drove to Disney World from South Carolina, we decided to drive to Epcot instead of taking the bus from Wilderness Lodge. (Wilderness Lodge isn’t on the Monorail but has a very convenient, quick boat ride to Magic Kingdom. But the only way to get to the other parks is via bus. And we were not big bus fans on our first night.)

It was super easy for us to drive. We arrived at the park at 9:00 a.m. and parking was easy and we were right inside the park at 9:05. Dealing with our big stroller was so easy because we had our own car. I would definitely choose to do it this way every time.

When we entered Epcot, we had our photo taken in front of Spaceship Earth (the big iconic Epcot ball). Then we saw Pluto! I love Pluto and his happy face. The line to meet Pluto had about four families in it, so we jumped right in.

We took advantage of the Memory Maker package that allows you to pay a one time fee and any time you see a Disney photographer, you have them take your picture, scan your Magic Band and all the photos automatically show up in your My Disney Experience app. It was totally worth it. Any time we rode a ride that had photos, we had our bands scanned so we could have the photo. My account has over 100 photos in from our trip. We definitely got our money’s worth out of the Memory Maker.

Anyway… the boys loved Pluto!


And then a few minutes later as we walked farther into Epcot, we saw Chip and Dale! And they went nuts for Chip and Dale!



We jumped on The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride and rode it three times because there were no waits and the boys just loved it. And then we did Turtle Talk with Crush. Hudson had a little bit of a meltdown during the wait time for Turtle Talk, but he ended up loving it.

We did the Michael Jackson “Captain EO” experience. It was a whole lot more cheesy than it was “classic,” but Todd and I got a good laugh out of it. And we did the Imagination ride with Figment and the boys really liked it.

Then we started off around the lake into the World Showcase. We tried to take it all in but the boys were hungry, and they were begging for mac and cheese. With all the amazing food in the World Showcase, they chose mac and cheese in the United States.



Todd and I waited until we could sample things from France, Italy and Mexico. Well worth the wait! We also passed the line to meet the Frozen characters in Norway. And even on the slowest day ever, the line was 4 hours long! No, thank you. My boys didn’t even know the difference.

That day, we rode everything we could. We had a Fast Pass to ride Soarin and it may have been my favorite ride in all of Disney World. Hudson was tall enough, but Hayes wasn’t. We also did Mission: Space and it was incredible! There are some really great rides at Epcot and I just loved the pace of the whole day. We had a lot of fun.

We went into one of the character meet and greets to meet Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. Again, no wait at all. It was amazing and we got a good bit of time with each of the characters.

These pictures can speak for themselves!

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Goofy was so tall! And my boys couldn’t get enough of him!

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This right here was the highlight of my whole trip. Minnie Mouse has some big fans in the Carroll boys. She ate them up and they loved every bit of it. They laughed. She was hugging them and ticking them and they just didn’t want to say goodbye to her. They loved her so much and it was the sweetest thing to see!

(All of these pictures were taken by the Disney photographer and were in my Memory Maker account. The best!)


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We seriously rode everything at Epcot and it was one of my favorite days of the whole trip. We skipped naps that day and no one even dozed off in their strollers. We ended the day by eating at Coral Reef for our “table service meal” for the day. Coral Reef was good and had a great view of beautiful aquariums form inside the restaurant. We did choose to purchase the Disney dining plan and it was such a great decision. It made everything so easy and even though Hayes was free for the trip (until he turns 3 in May), he got plenty to eat, too!

Please don’t skip Epcot on your trip because you think it’s just for adults. It was such a fun day for us!



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