How To Disney

Plan your way to the happiest place on earth (like an expert).

Story and Photography by Kerry Guice


My family and I went on our first trip to Walt Disney World in November. When sitting at my computer to start planning, I quickly realized that I had no idea where to start! Which parks should we visit? Which restaurants and shows? What on earth is a “Magic Band?” What if I forget something that I don’t even know we need?

That’s when I called my friend Jessica Lord of Small World Big Fun. My family got the most out of every second we were there, thanks to her. She has Disney planning down to a science, and has access to planning tools that you and I just don’t have. Her services were so helpful that I’ve asked her to sit down for a Q&A so she can give you a few of her best tips. My best tip is to give her a call before you book a thing—her services are paid for by Disney, so it’s free for you! (Disney thinks of everything!)

JESSICA: Book as early as possible (9-12 months ideally). Disney has changed so much over the years, it’s really difficult to just buy tickets and show up. From dining reservations to Fast Passes, it’s important to be prepared to make the most of your time there. Without a plan, you can feel like you spent all your time waiting and walking in circles.

WHAT’S THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO GO? September, October, January and February are the best times to go, taking crowd levels and temperature into consideration.

DO YOU SUGGEST STAYING IN A DISNEY RESORT OR OFF PROPERTY? Disney Resort, for many reasons. Disney offers complimentary airport transportation, they retrieve your luggage from baggage claim and deliver it to your room. Your Magic Bands are free. Transportation is free to and from the parks, or if you have a car, parking is free. The Disney Dining Plan and the park’s Magic Hours are only available to Resort Guests. Purchases in the parks can be delivered to your room at no charge, and you are able to reserve your Fast Passes and your dining reservations much sooner, which is important because the popular rides and restaurants become impossible to get into very quickly!

Mickey Mouse

DO YOU SUGGEST BUYING THE DISNEY DINING PLAN? Disney’s Dining Plan is a great feature and while it works for several families, it doesn’t necessarily benefit all families. I can help you decide whether or not the purchase is right for your family.

WHAT ABOUT THE MEMORY MAKER? IS IT WORTH IT? Disney’s Memory Maker includes unlimited digital photos and some videos captured by Disney’s photographers throughout the parks and on your rides. It’s truly worth every penny!

CAN YOU BRING YOUR OWN SNACKS AND DRINKS INTO THE PARKS? Yes, you can bring your own snacks and drinks into the parks, and I highly recommend it! You will do so much walking, it’s important to stay hydrated. The snacks are great for kids. It helps keep them occupied in line or can hold them over until your next meal.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE RIDES? Soarin’ in Epcot is a family favorite, as is Splash Mountain, Expedition Everest, Seven Dwarves Mine Train, Toy Story and Space Mountain. Most rides are family friendly, but there are a few thrill rides, too.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANTS AND MUST HAVE DISNEY TREATS? My favorite restaurant is California Grill at the Contemporary Resort. The food is amazing and the view is one-of-a-kind. I have two young girls, so Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom is a must-do for us as well. We also love the Dole Whips in Adventureland, the cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s and the Nutella Waffle at Sleepy Hollow—all found in Magic Kingdom. Other favorites include the Gran Marnier Orange Slushie at the France kiosk in Epcot (for grown-ups only!).

WHAT ARE A FEW ITEMS THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW TO PACK IN THEIR SUITCASE? A poncho for the possibility of rain (they are expensive at the park, and short rain showers are common), reusable water bottles, a cordless phone charger as there are very few places to charge your phone throughout the day, snacks from home and a backpack to carry it all!

WHAT ARE SOME MUST-SEE SHOWS? Disney World has unbelievable shows and parades; watch as many as you can! Favorites include: IllumiNations in Epcot, the Festival of Fantasy Parade in Magic Kingdom, Wishes Nighttime Spectacular in Magic Kingdom and, my personal favorite, Fantasmic in Hollywood Studios.

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Disney Tips