Planning the Perfect Disney Honeymoon

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Winnie Honeymoon

Walt Disney World is one of the most sought after and romantic honeymoon destinations not only for its location, but the many resort offerings. With themed restaurants and hotels, couples are sure to find a place to stay that is both relaxing and memorable. Prior to booking your Disney honeymoon, make sure to take the time to plan out both your budget and discuss your expectations for the trip to decide how you will allot your money and where you will spend your time.

Where to start?
Create a honeymoon budget. Be realistic and decide how much you want to spend on your room, entertainment (including park tickets), food and travel.
Disney vacations can be quite costly, so knowing your budget will ensure you are getting the best value and you will avoid the dreaded overspend.

Once you have created your budget, then comes the fun part…deciding where to stay.

Do your research.

Prior to contacting Disney’s Reservation line or booking your vacation online, do some test planning through Disney’s online reservation site. Put in your requested dates and decide on hotels that fit closely within your budget. If you contact Disney prior to having a basic game plan for your stay, the cast member may hear the word “honeymoon” and start offering rooms that are not only pricey, but wayyyyy too large for a party of two.

When planning my honeymoon a few years back  I called the Disney Reservation Line and after the cast member heard the word “honeymoon” the first hotel option I  was given was  a town-home style suite at Disney’s Beach Club that would cost us over $4000 for the week. Ouch! The place was enormous and more suited for a family or royalty so I knew going forward to plan a head and have a basic understanding of the price range and hotel theme we would consider.

For honeymooners, I would suggest avoiding the value resorts if possible. These hotels are themed out for families and young kids and offer nothing in the way of romance. There are several resorts in the moderate cost range that are more adult friendly and quieter than the value resorts. For moderate hotel honeymoons, I suggest Port Orleans French Quarter or Riverside and Coronado Springs. All of the Deluxe resorts offer accommodations that are excellent for a honeymoon week with a variety of themes and amenities. My favorites are the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The Swan and Dolphin resorts are reasonably priced hotels located on the WDW property; however are not owned by the Disney Company. They are generally frequented by convention-goers and have a more corporate feel. You won’t find over the top Disney themed decor, however the resorts do have access to transportation and some even boast excellent views of the fireworks at Epcot.

Plan your meals.

Disney permits guests to book their Advance Dining Reservations 180 days prior to your arrival. Decide where you would like to dine by using Disney’s dining search tool and keep in mind which parks you will be visiting each day.

Think about scheduling at least one table service meal per day. This will give you time to relax and enjoy spending time together without the hustle of running around the parks. Romantic dining locations can be found throughout the resort. **Be sure to explain to the Dining Reservation Agent (or make a note if you are planning through the website) that you are celebrating a special event.**

Some of my restaurant picks for honeymoons and date nights include:

California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Ask for the Wishes seating so you can have dinner and enjoy the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the hotel’s observation deck. We recently enjoyed an anniversary here and were completely impressed with the service and attention to detail. They even gave us a few special surprises to make our event even more magical.

Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort. This waterfront gem serves seafood and has an exceptional view of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Consider booking your reservation later in the evening to enjoy both the Wishes Fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant.

For those who want to splurge a lot and have a one of a kind dining experience, Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian is the most intimate restaurant on site. With a strict dress code and limited seating, the location is the perfect setting for an evening out for two.

The Flying Fish Cafe at the Boardwalk Resort serves seafood and offers some interesting seashore inspired desserts. Have dinner at the restaurant, then take a stroll on the Boardwalk and enjoy the sights.

Tokyo Dining at Epcot has quite possibly the best view within the park. Book your dinner close to IllumiNations Reflections of Earth and enjoy the fireworks spectacular from one of the large windows of the establishment.

Don’t overbook your days.

Because there is so much to do within the Walt Disney World Resort, guests have the tendency to plan out their stay and go… go… go… the entire time. Not only is this exhausting, but it doesn’t allow for honeymooners to relax and enjoy their stay.

Keep your days simple. Think of a few rides and experiences that you want to enjoy each day, and then plan for some downtime whether that be your meals, pool time at your hotel or even just a few minutes sitting on a bench within one of the parks and chatting.  Trust me, the last thing you want to do is to run around a park all day and then be so exhausted that you don’t enjoy your dinner or the fireworks.

Consider the other happenings at the resort.

The WDW resort has some neat activities outside of the parks that are fun for couples hoping to make lasting memories. Sure some of them cost extra, but just think about the stories that you can tell when your vacation ends.

Enjoy a high flying adventure on the Characters in Flight balloon in Downtown Disney. Soar hundreds of feet in the air and look at the resort below. For an extra special touch, think about taking your flight during the fireworks to watch them like you never have before.

Go golfing. Disney has two mini golf courses on the property; Fantasia Gardens, themed out with the characters from that beloved film and Winter Summerland,  a Christmas themed golf experience with a Summer course and a Winter course. Play a round of golf or two…take lots of photos and enjoy the friendly competition.

Take a spin. Canoes, mini motorboats and sailboats can be rented for a fee from various locations throughout the resort. Take a spin on the lagoon and take in the views of the sprawling landscape.

Stroll around and explore the resort. One of my favorite memories from our honeymoon was walking from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to our resort after park closing. We avoided the rush at the buses and boats and just casually walked the paths and reveled in the quiet time. We ended up at the Boardwalk…played some carnival games…grabbed a funnel cake and sat on a bench for a while. There are many fun little pathways and trails and are best enjoyed in the evening hours when the temperatures have dropped.

Let’s go to the movies! The Downtown Disney AMC 24 is a Dine-In theatre experience that offers guests the option of having a meal while they watch a film. Enjoy a sandwich or pizza  and a beer as your watch a blockbuster movie in a comfy theatre setting.  After your movie, explore the shops of Downtown Disney. It is the perfect place to handle all of your souvenir shopping!

Why don’t you take a picture…it will last longer.

You will want lots and I mean LOTS of photographs to remember your honeymoon. Disney’s PhotoPass Photographers can be found throughout the parks and sometimes are located in the hotels. Plan out where you would like your photos and think about getting at least one photo in front of a major location at each park. The musts are Cinderella’s Castle, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom and the Sorcerer’s Hat at Hollywood Studios. The PhotoPass site has some handy maps with locations of photographers so you can better plan your day.

If you purchase your MemoryMaker PhotoPass prior to your vacation, you will save $50. Log in to MyDisneyExperience.com for current pricing. The MemoryMaker can be added to your MagicBand and you simply allow the photographer to scan your band before each photo. Although the cost of this option is daunting, it is significantly more cost effective than purchasing the photos individually. (I learned that lesson the hard way on a prior trip)

Think about some fun photo ops…get creative and you can even bring along small props to make it more fun!

 

The best advice that I can give you regarding honeymoon planning is to just be realistic with your time. Plan exciting entertainment options that you will both remember.  Remember that sometimes what seems to be the simplest of moments can really be what is most memorable about your trip.

Wishing you a magical honeymoon!

– Winnie

 

 

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Can I Take Snacks Into The Disney Parks?

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Disney allows guests to bring in snacks, meals and beverages into the parks and this option can be helpful to the wallet. Even if you are taking advantage of the Disney Dining Plan, you may still want to consider taking snacks into the parks for when those hunger pains hit between meals.

The rules of the park state that you must be able to carry your bags; so no coolers with wheels are permitted. Guests who bring in their lunches may wish to rent a locker for the day so they don’t have to carry it around the park. Lockers are available inside the parks for a fee of $9-$12. You will have unlimited use of your locker for that day, and can come back as often as you wish. There is a $5 deposit required for the locker key that will be refunded once your key is returned.

What should you bring into the park?

Do you have items that you want to keep cool? Bring along a cooler bag. They are easy to carry and many fold easily for travel. If you have a fridge in your hotel room, freeze some water bottles overnight and use them as your ice packs. Once you have enjoyed your lunch, you then have some water to enjoy for the rest of your day.

A family of 4 could easily pay $12 or more for one round of soft drinks or other beverages in the parks, so you may want to consider bringing your own. Be sure that any milk products or perishable juices are appropriately cooled with ice packs or those frozen water bottles…..because it gets hot pretty quickly in those parks.

Snacks that cannot melt in the heat are your best choice for a Disney Day. Goldfish crackers, pretzels, cereal and popcorn are just some of my suggestions. If a member of your party has a food allergy, bring some snacks along that they can eat. While Disney has some incredible options for all types of dietary requirements, the items may be on the other side of the park when you are ready to grab a quick bite and run to a ride.

When bringing lunch into the park, make it a simple meal. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy and can be prepared quickly in the morning. If you do not wish to make your own lunch, you could visit the quick service restaurant at your Disney resort hotel, pick up a few sandwiches, salads or snacks and put them in the cooler for later.

Bringing in your own food and drinks can be a significant money saver. During our last trip, my husband and I brought our own water and soda into each park and saved about $60 for the week…..money that was used for souvenirs at the end of our visit!

Money saving while in the most magical place is always a welcome treat!

Magic Kingdom Date Night

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Magic Kingdom Date Night
It’s that time of the year…romance is in the air!
The Magic Kingdom park is brimming with exciting date night activities for you and your special someone.

If you are considering going to Disney for Valentine’s Day, your anniversary or honeymoon, make sure to plan some special moments to ensure a date night that you will not soon forget.

Here are a few of my tips for a memorable Magic Kingdom date.

Walk Down Main Street U.S.A.

Take some time to discover the shops on Main Street U.S.A.
Be silly and try on some hats, find some souvenirs for your loved ones…maybe a keepsake for your own collection. The products that each store carries varies and includes collectables, hats, Christmas ornaments, baked goods, jewelry and t-shirts. Have a blast and make sure to get your photo taken on while on Main Street with the castle in the background!

I Can Show You the World

Soar high in the sky like Aladdin and Princess Jasmine over the bazaar in Frontierland on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride. For a truly remarkable experience, plan your ride during the Wishes Fireworks display… or if you want to really impress your sweetie… ride after dark and quietly play, “A Whole New World” on your iPod or phone as you fly!

Get Cozy on Dark Rides

The Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are both eerie rides that are perfect for snuggling or holding hands. Pirates also has a neat gift shop at the end that is fun for some interactive window shopping. I can’t help myself when there are pirate hats around…I have to try them on! Remember to keep that camera handy for some great candid shots!

Take a Stroll on Tom Sawyer Island

This site is very easy to skip with so many other incredible attractions in the Magic Kingdom. It is however, a great escape from the bustle of the park. Take a motorized raft over to the island and spend some time exploring! From caves to a fort…even an underground escape tunnel… the island is the perfect place to stroll, chat…or sit for a few minutes to catch up.

Got a Competative Streak?

Check out the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade or the Tomorrowland Arcade. Try to beat one another’s scores or jump into the photo booth at the Tomorrowland Arcade for some funny pics to take home! Both arcades require additional cash to play.

Fireworks Just for Two

Wishes is the spectacular of fireworks that occurs nightly at the park. The best places to view the fireworks are either in front of the castle or on one of the bridges in Tomorrowland. Buy a popcorn or sweet treat to share while you are enjoying the light display with your Valentine.

Make sure to end your evening with another photo to commemorate your special day….and pick up a Mickey balloon on the way out of the park.

Wishing you a magical Valentine’s Day!

– Winnie

Plan an In-Room Getaway

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Pop Century Resort Photo Credit: J. Kulak

Pop Century Resort
Photo Credit: J. Kulak


Disney is all fun; however there may be days that you just need to get away from the non-stop excitement. I usually try to plan meals for times when I know we will need a break, but there are moments that even the restaurants can be over-crowded and loud. Sometimes the best way to unwind and settle down is to step away from the magic and head back to the hotel.

How to plan an in-room getaway:

Dinner time– Plan to go back to your hotel in time for dinner. If you have the Disney Dining Plan, use your Quick Service dining credits for a meal at your hotel. You can even grab your dinner selections and take them back to your hotel room to eat picnic style or on your balcony if your room has one. Room service is another dining option…but this can be costly since it requires two Disney Dining credits. Ouch! In my opinion, room service is not worth spending two Table-service dining credits.

Entertainment- Bring a long some travel games that pack well like Go-Fish, Memory or Pictionary. You can also plan a simple craft or watch a Disney film on your laptop/tablet. Some hotels offer nightly activities that may include campfires, storytelling and family movie nights. Check with your hotel’s concierge upon check-in.
Many rooms afford excellent views of the parks’ fireworks. You can use your snack credits to purchase some sweet treats to bring back to your room and host your own Dessert and Fireworks viewing party.

Relax- Stop by the pool for a leisurely evening swim. Stroll the beautifully manicured grounds of your hotel resort. Visit one of Disney’s several spa locations and enjoy a massage or pedicure. Or, take advantage of your night in and get some much needed zzzzz’s so you can wake up refreshed for another Disney day!

Do you plan in-room getaways for your Disney vacations? Do you have any tips?

Renting Disney Vacation Club Points

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Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Photo Credit: Julie K.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Photo Credit: Julie K.

The Disney Vacation Club is a timeshare that allows owners to stay in Deluxe category accommodations at Disney resorts.  Owners purchase points to vacation in various sized suites within Vacation Club resort locations. Sometimes Vacation Club owners do not use their allotted yearly points and rent them out to other guests. Renting Disney Vacation Club points from an owner can save you a significant amount of money on your Walt Disney World vacation depending on the time of year and the type of room that you select for your trip. You have a greater chance of renting the villa of your choice, the sooner you book your stay.

We decided to rent points for our upcoming trip, so I wanted to share some tips and information with you about the process.

(Please note: This  is simply a review for informational purposes.  I am in no way affiliated with or compensated by the organization mentioned in this review.)

Where to go to rent points:

The safest and most convenient way to purchase points is through a broker that specifically handles these types of transactions. They have knowledge of the process and most communicate through email so your transaction is documented. There are several organizations that broker Disney Vacation Club points and act as a mediator between owners and renters.  For our transaction we used David’s Vacation Club Rentals. Other Better Business Bureau accredited rental organizations also offer point purchases and can be located with a Google search for a comparison.

My advice would be to stay away from Craigslist. There are horror stories of guests booking with someone they thought was a Disney Vacation Club owner, only to be scammed out of their vacation budget. Stick with legitimate businesses that have excellent online reviews, rather than attempting a risky transaction with someone you don’t know.

How the process works with David’s Vacation Club Rentals:

You rent points on a scale depending on the length of stay, villa size, resort requested and date. Traveling on holidays and during peak periods means a higher point purchase.

The villas available through the Disney Vacation Club consist of studios, 1 and 2 bedroom suites, Grand Villas and the TreeHouse Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs. Some resorts also have preferred rooms at a higher cost offering scenic views of the water, Magic Kingdom or even the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Using a point calculator on a broker’s website is the best way to determine how many points you will need for your stay. David’s Vacation Club Rentals’ calculator can be found here and allows you to put in your requested dates and compare points needed per resort and villa size.

For an example, if you want to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge from March 10th- March 15th. Select your dates and then decide if you wish to stay in a studio, 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom suite. Then determine if you want a value room (no view), standard view, savannah view, or club level (concierge floor).   Get the points required and multiply them by $14 for the total cost of your trip.

Next steps:

Once you have your quote and the amount of points needed for your stay, complete the reservation form with the dates and your preferred Disney Vacation Club resort. The form lets you  choose up to 4 resorts in case your preferred resort is unavailable. Once your form is complete, a partial payment of $98 is required to secure your reservation.

If David’s Vacation Club Rentals is unable to secure your requested rental, the $98 is returned to you; however if a rental is found, the deposit is applied to your rental total and the balance in full is due immediately.

Important: David’s Vacation Club Rentals is based out of Canada. Check with your credit card company to determine if they charge a fee for transactions that occur outside of the US prior to entering your deposit. If there is a fee, you will want to add this figure into your vacation budget.

Rental agreement:

You will receive a standard rental agreement contract that specifies your dates, guest information, the resort details and your confirmation number. This number will allow you to log in to Disney’s online check-in system to view the details of your trip. 60 days prior to your vacation, you can pre-check in, add any special requests (like hypoallergenic pillows) and disclose if you are celebrating a special event during your stay.

Disney Dining Plan and tickets:

Your Disney Dining Plan and park tickets can also be purchased through David’s Vacation Club Rentals..

Benefits of renting:

We saved a significant amount of money on our upcoming vacation by renting points. If we had booked the trip through Disney, we would have paid over $1,000 more for the same studio villa.  Renting a villa also allows guests to use Disney Transportation (including the Magical Express shuttle to and from Orlando International Airport) and renters enjoy the same amenities that all Disney resort guests enjoy; with the exception of daily housekeeping.

Possible downsides:

When renting you must book in advance and plan ahead. It is recommended for example, that you rent the Animal Kingdom Lodge 11 months prior to your trip in order to ensure enough time to secure points. The recommended rental timeframes from David’s Vacation Club Rentals can be found here. Renting in advance means that you also pay for your trip long before your vacation begins.

Disney Vacation Club does not offer daily housekeeping. If you are staying longer than 4 days, a towel/trash service occurs on the 4th day. For stays of 8 days or more, a full cleaning happens on the 4th day and a towel/trash service is offered on day 8. You can request daily or additional housekeeping services for a fee.

To sum this up:

Renting Disney Vacation Club points is a great alternative to staying in a standard hotel room. Our experience thus far has been a very pleasant and easy one…I will be sure to update you with a review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas once we stay there in the Spring.

If you have any questions for me, please ask them in the comments. I would be happy to help!

2013 Candlelight Processional

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Summer just started, so why am I talking about the holidays? When the weather is warm, it is sometimes difficult to think about the cooler winter months; however it is the perfect time to start planning a holiday trip to Walt Disney World Resort and getting those Advance Dining Reservations scheduled.

If you have ever been to Epcot during the holidays, you know that the Candlelight Processional is a holiday event not to be missed. You also know that the line to get into the event is generally long, which can result in very lengthy wait times. Even after waiting in the line, you still may not secure a seat for the performance.

Thankfully, Disney offers a Candlelight Processional Dinner Package that can be added to your dining experience and guarantees preferred seating at a performance and an exclusive viewing location for IllumiNations: A Reflection of Earth.

The Candlelight Processional is held nightly at 5:00, 6:45 and 8:15 PM in Epcot at the America Gardens Theatre. This year’s event will begin on November 29th and run through December 30th.

The Candlelight Processional features a 50-piece orchestra and mass choir accompanying a celebrity narrator who reads the story of the Nativity. The celebrity narrators were announced this morning when the packages became available for purchase.

This year’s Candlelight Processional narrators are:

11/29- 12/1- To be determined
12/2-12/3- To be determined
12/6-12/7- Whoopi Goldberg
12/8-12/10- To be determined
12/11-12/13- Dennis Haysbert
12/14-12/16- James Denton
12/17-12/19- Edward James Olmos
12/20-12/22- Trace Adkins
12/23-12/15- To be determined
12/16-12/28- Blair Underwood
12/29-12/3- Amy Grant

** Narrators are subject to change**

The Candlelight Processional Dinner Package for 2013 went on sale today, and will be offered at the following Epcot restaurants:

 Biergarten Restaurant
 Chefs de France
 Coral Reef Restaurant
 The Garden Grill
 La Hacienda de San Angel
 Nine Dragons Restaurant
 Restaurant Marrakesh
 Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room
 San Angel Inn Restaurante
 Teppan Edo
 Tokyo Dining
 Tutto Italia Ristorante
 Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

The cost for the Candlelight Processional package varies and will include either a three course meal or a buffet; depending on the restaurant you have selected. The cost of admission to Epcot is not included in the package.

Please call 1-407-WDW-DINE for additional details and to make your reservations. Due to the popularity of this experience, it is recommended that you make your reservations as soon as possible.

Is the Candlelight Processional part of your holiday tradition? Please share your special memories and any tips you may have about viewing this performance.

Dining With Remy

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I never thought that the phrase, “A rat stood on our table during our meal,” would ever cross my lips, but after our experience at Chefs de France, I couldn’t stop talking about their resident rodent chef!

Chefs de France can be found in the World Showcase at Epcot and is modeled after a bustling French bistro. While the menu changes with the season, the offerings are diverse and the dinner selections include French onion soup, roast chicken and beef tenderloin. Lunch selections offer soups, sandwiches, salads, ribs and hamburgers. The wine list is quite impressive and guests can order by the glass or bottle. Make sure to leave room for dessert; the crème brûlée is magnifique!

The pinnacle of the dining experience is a visit from the “chef” himself; Remy from the film, “Ratatouille”. Chef Remy visits and interacts with guests from a platter that serves as his stage. A cast member glides Remy along, interacts with him and encourages dialogue from diners. It is a fun experience for kids and grown ups alike! While we were taking pictures of our time with Remy, he happily posed and uttered a “cheese!” I am not sure if I ever smiled so much in my entire life.

One Disney Dining Plan entitlement is required for both lunch and dinner, and the only plan not accepted is the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan.

When making your Advance Dining Reservations, be sure to ask for a seating that will ensure a character experience with Remy. These experiences take place 4 times a day, 6 days per week; but are subject to change. Call Disney Reservations at (407) WDW-DINE for additional details, or to make your reservations.

Bon Appétit!

Date Night at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort

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Disney is thought of as a family destination, but it can also be the most romantic place on Earth! Throughout the parks and properties are restaurants, experiences and locations that are couple-friendly and ideal for an evening for two.

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort is one of the best date night locations throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Styled after the Atlantic City boardwalk of yesteryear, the resort boasts fantastic dining options, scenic views and adult-only entertainment options.

My suggestions for a memorable date night experience at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort…

Dinner:

The Flying Fish Café is a contemporary and modern restaurant with incredible cocktail options and an extensive menu. The menu includes steak, pork, pasta and several seafood dishes. For dessert, the PB&J Crème Brule is a favorite as well as the Trio of Boardwalk Concession Treats that makes for a great selection to share!

Jellyrolls is a piano bar for guests over the age of 21 that offers great music and cocktails. The musicians take requests (my favorite is the “Ducktales” theme song) and sing-a-longs are encouraged. There is a cover charge associated with admission and further details including group reservations can be obtained by calling Jellyrolls at 407-560-8770.

Wanna’ Dance? Then the Atlantic Dance Hall is the place for you and your special someone. DJs play songs from the 80’s to current hits while you spend your evening on the dance floor. Check Disney’s website for announcements and theme nights prior to your visit.

The BoardWalk features some carnival style games that encourage friendly competition. Play a few and win some fun prizes to take home that remind you of your date night.

The Finale:

Grab a funnel cake on the BoardWalk and head over to the bridge between the BoardWalk and Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin resorts. Here, you will get a view of the Illuminations fireworks at Epcot starting at 9PM. You probably will not be able to hear the music from the show; however what could be more romantic than a terrific view and sharing some sweets with your sweetheart?

Whatever you choose to do during your time at the BoardWalk, you are sure to have a magical evening!

Do you have any BoardWalk fun tips? Is there a special game or activity that you look forward to during each visit to the BoardWalk?

Party of Two

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During our last visit to WDW, my husband and I found that we were given the option of getting out of a line and onto a ride sooner because there were only two of us. We had to hold onto our Mickey Ears because we were wisked away quickly to fill empty seats. Since many that visit Disney are families of 3 or more, cast members will look for smaller parties as you get closer to the front of the line, if they cannot fill seats with the guests in queue. Keep alert as you get closer to the front of the line so you don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to get to the magic sooner!

If you could choose one ride where you could go straight to the front of the line…which one would you pick?