florida vacation | part 3 - disney world: magic kingdom

We would probably all agree that the Disney experience can be a bit overwhelming - rides, food, snacks, Fast Passes, lines, crowds and kids. It was my ultimate mission to make this experience as simple as possible for all involved, especially my husband and I. We wanted to enjoy this vacation as much as our kids, which meant planning and researching in advance.


Prior to our trip to Magic Kingdom, I spent a lot of time researching the good places to eat. If there is anything I've learned about my family over the years, it's that we like food and we all get a little "hangry". The key for us is knowing where to eat so that it doesn't take an hour to decide and half an hour of searching. I was also able to get our Fast Passes online, which made things really easy. I'm not a true believer in Fast Passes, but it did get us on one ride that always has a long wait.

The day before we went to Magic Kingdom, my husband found an app (Magic Guide) that allowed us to see ride wait times. It even included Character Meet wait times (which we didn't worry about, since our kids don't care too much about characters). This ended up being a life saver for avoiding lines and wait times. The app is user run, which means you can help keep the wait times current by logging the wait time when you get in a line for a ride. Plus, it gives you something to do while waiting in line.

Our "Plan in Advance" Tips:
  1. Research good restaurants
  2. Sign up for Fast Passes (can do a month in advance)
  3. Download a wait time app, such as Magic Guide

Our plan was simple. We didn't plan out the entire day, but knew that we would eat before major meal times. We also decided not to plan a certain route through the park, but relied on our wait time app. When we got into the park, we checked wait times and started with the most popular ride with the lowest wait time. In our case, we started at Pirates of the Caribbean and worked our way to the back of the park. Our goal was not to ride every ride, but ride our favorite rides. We knew we wanted to go on Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, The Haunted Mansion, Under the Sea and Winnie the Pooh. We rode all those and more, plus we weren't disappointed for the rides we didn't get to go on. Adventureland was our favorite and Tomorrowland was definitely our least favorite.

We chose not to talk about anything with our kids while in the park except for what we saw at that moment. For example, we didn't say, "Later today we might get to see Ariel." Because we didn't know what we would get to see, we didn't want to leave our kids disappointed. We chose to slow down, let our kids look at trinkets in shops, play with bubbles and take naps. We focused on all the things we could see at that certain moment in time. This was very helpful when we decided to avoid the parade at the end of the night. Sadee caught a glimpse of the parade on our way out and was in LOVE! If I did it again, I would have found a spot right at the exit of the park (the start of the parade) which would allow us to watch the parade and give us an easy, quick exit.

Our "Plan for Success" Tips:
  1. Eat meals before major meal times - lunch before 12pm, dinner before 5pm
  2. Check wait times on app upon entering the park.
  3. Only discuss current happenings with your kiddos.
  4. Allow your kids to play and have fun. Be less concerned about rushing to rides, shows or events. Enjoy the experience.
  5. Find a spot to watch the parade at the very front of the park, right by the exit.


Now let's talk food... that's basically all I was focused on all day. I wrote down a small list of places to eat - 2 for lunch and 3 for snacks. We also wanted to grab a turkey leg if we saw one, but there are a bunch of vendors with turkey legs. First off, we packed tons of snacks. Tons and tons and tons! We planned on eating meals at the park and trying new snacks. AKA, we planned on spending money on food. For lunch we stopped at Columbia Harbour House which was good food for a good price. We ordered Clam Chowder, Chicken Strips and a Tuna Sandwich. It was all very delicious! Later in the day we stopped by Sunrise Tree Terrace. I read somewhere that the Citrus Swirl and Dole Whips were amazing. Since we've tried Dole Whips, we were planning on going for the Citrus Swirl... but, on the menu they had a Pina Colada Smoothie. Pina Colada's will always speak to my heart and stomach, so that's what we went with. It was DIVINE! Pure heaven that you can drink with a straw #insertheartemojieyes We ran into a dead end for dinner because the place we were going to eat required reservations. We ended up eating in Tomorrowland at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe and grabbed a turkey leg. At the end of the night, we grabbed hot chocolate and funnel cakes at Sleepy Hollow. I would recommend going earlier in the day because it was packed when we were there. Plus, they serve chicken and waffles during lunch time.

Our Favorite Food & Restaurants:
  1. Columbia Harbour House (Clam Chowder, Tuna Sandwich, Chicken Strips)
  2. Sunrise Tree Terrace (Pina Colada Smoothie, Citrus Swirl, Dole Whip)
  3. Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe (Chicken w/ mashed potatoes & green beans)
  4. Sleepy Hollow (Hot Chocolate, Funnel Cakes, Waffles Sandwiches)
  5. Turkey Legs - there are vendors all over the park, but we went to Cool Ship in Tomorrowland


Last, but not least, let's talk Fast Passes. I'm definitely not a Disney pro, but I do love rides and not waiting in line. Fast Passes aren't necessarily the secret to me, but it did help - specifically on The Jungle Cruise. We were shocked by the rides that had long lines versus the rides we thought would have long lines. We had Fast Passes for The Haunted Mansion, The Jungle Cruise and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. The only one we used was for The Jungle Cruise, since the wait time for that is always at least 1 hour. We waited about 15 minutes with the Fast Pass. We should have grabbed Fast Passes to Peter Pan's Flight and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh along with The Jungle Cruise. I was blown away by the wait times on those rides and they were definitely the best ones! The downside to Fast Passes is that they have a tendency to control your day. We went during one of the slowest times of year, which allowed us to wait about 30 minutes for even the busiest rides. It wasn't worth it to use the Fast Passes on 3 rides that we could get on earlier in the day then our Fast Past time, if that makes sense. The Magic Guide app was much more helpful for our trip.

Our Fast Pass Recommendations:
  1. The Jungle Cruise
  2. Peter Pan's Flight
  3. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

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