Tuesday 6 October 2015

Top 10 things to NOT do at Disneyworld for first-timers

As many of you may know, I have just come back from a trip to Florida. I went 2 years ago, so this trip I was able to do at a slower pace because that need to feel like I needed to cram everything in wasn't there as much. This allowed me to cover parts of the parks that I just didn't have the time to do previously. Now I feel like I have some good solid knowledge and experience of all of the Disney parks (and Universal) to enable me to advise any first-timers what NOT to waste your time doing. This is obviously personal preference and family situations. I do not have children, however most of the tips are universal to all families and situations.

1. The Tiki Rooms. This is somewhere to go for a breather and a sit down, however there are much better shows to see if you want a bit of time out from the sun and off your feet, but still not want to waste time. SPOILER - The Tiki Rooms is based around (fake) birds, very colourful birds for that matter. You're sat in semi-darkness and the birds put a show on and tell a story. They're hanging from the ceiling and there's lots of them. Admittedly there's lots of detail to these birds and their cages. The show has a very addictive song that will stick in your head for days afterwards. This show is great for young children due to the colours, movements and songs, however if you're holiday-ing as adults, give it a miss. 

2. Don't leave getting a spot for the 'wishes' firework display till the last minute. The firework display itself isn't an issue if you arrive late (for obvious reasons), but the electrical parade is. We've been in a similar spot for 2 holidays running now, and I know how much effort and detail goes into this parade, however because the parade is based on the path, and not at great heights, if you're in a bad spot, you can only see the tops of the floats. The Disney characters also reappear on all the floats, so its a shame if you miss this. It's really unusual and different from any other parade I've seen before. 

3. If you're visiting either Hollywood Studios or Epcot purely for the evening fireworks or to watch Fantasmic, and you're driving, don't waste your money on parking if you're arriving later in the day. Yes, thats right, if you turn up at 8am or 8pm, Disney will still charge you $18 for the full day. Cheat and park in either Downtown Disney or The Boardwalk. DTD offer free Disney buses to the parks, and The Boardwalk offer a free boat. I don't think many tourists think of doing this but its well worth it to save $18! It also enables you to see parts of Disney that you may not have visited otherwise, and you also get to travel by a more interesting mode of transport! The boat across the water at night is pretty relaxing and almost romantic, seeing all the lights twinkling as the sun goes down..

4. Wherever you go in Florida they seem to offer free drink re-fills (on non-alcoholic drinks) whether this is in the restaurants, in McDonalds down International Drive or on the coast! This is great for people who drink a lot, but for people like me who get a little tired of fizzy drinks after a few days it gets a little tedious. Don't feel obliged to keep asking for coke etc.. try asking for iced water. It quenches your thirst so much more on hot days, and its free too, so its a win-win situation! If you do like your sugary drinks and there's a few of you, try just buying one and sharing it between 2. Because they offer free re-fills its not a big issue to share. We started to do this towards the end of the holiday and probably saved quite a few $$$.

5. This year was the first time we got to trial the new fast pass+ system out. It has its pros and cons, however the cons are rather frustrating ones. Because we visited when most children started back at school, we noticed the queue times were massively reduced compared to our last visit in June 2013, which was obviously great for us. However at times we felt like our fast passes were wasted because people without fast passes joined the fast track queue a little too soon (for my liking). I noticed this moreso with shows, so my advice is do not waste your fast passes on shows, because the majority of them have a large seating area, with sometimes over 200 people fitting in, and having a fast pass does not get you priority seating in shows (apart from the firework displays) so it's basically like a free-for all once you enter the room. We had fast passes for fantasmic, however once we'd got into the 'arena' (lets just call it), we were directed towards the back, and no priority seating was provided. 

6. Do not buy one of Disney's rain poncho's whilst at the parks. Be prepared and buy a poncho either before you go (or bring your own light weight rain mac). Disney make an absolute fortune for people getting caught out in the rain. When it rains there, it really does rain - We got caught in a rainstorm in Universal were the water was up to our ankles, covering our whole feet, it really did just look like I'd jumped in a swimming pool! Moral of the story, buy a poncho at a supermarket or bring your own and save $$$.

7. Similar to above, if you're wanting to buy Disney souvenirs for family/friends back home (or even yourself!), although the Disney shops have a great range of items to choose from, depending on what you're after, you can find some really good stuff in Walmart (supermarket) or gift shops down International Drive or in Kissimmee (or anywhere for that matter that isn't on Disney property!). They're half the price and are identical. I found a huge selection of Disney pens for only 99c, whereas in the parks they were charging $4+. So, don't waste that precious spending money if you can get it 50% cheaper elsewhere!

8. Do not try and blag manoeuvring around a park without a map. You WILL get lost. Some of the parks have good focal points (i.e. Magic Kingdom and the castle), however parks like Animal Kingdom are an absolute pain, so a map is a must. These are free at the entrance to all parks. However, I have just heard that Disney are hoping to phase maps out gradually (and apparently have already started doing so!). They want everyone to use their Disney Apps to navigate around the parks. Hmm.
9. Do not try and spend a full day at Downtown Disney. Not doing my research properly 2 years ago, we did this. We got dropped off at 10am and were collected at 5pm. The last few hours of our day were wasted trying to kill time. There really isn't much to do - There's a handful of really good Disney shops and some amazing (and themed!) restaurants, however there's only so much eating and shopping you can do! There is Disneyquest which is an indoor arcade. This has 4-5 floors of madness, but is aimed more at older children/young teens. Entrance is usually free if you have the Disney ticket so its worth a quick wonder but I'd definitely visit DTD on an evening for a meal and some cocktails.. its a little more lively, with live entertainment etc.
10. In the China area of Epcot there is a 'show' called Reflections of China, and there's pretty much an identical show in Canada, named 'O'Canada' (but obviously with different content). They both last between 15-20 minutes long, however they're standing shows, so if you're visiting this area towards the end of the day, this isn't an ideal place for those feet! Also, if you're not interested in history, or the culture of different countries, then again, you won't enjoy this, and there are much better places to spend 20 minutes at! Although the whole 360 degree cinema is good, it's not an ideal environment for younger children either.

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