GUIDE TO DISNEY WORLD MAGIC KINGDOM: TIPS, TRICKS & THINGS I WISH I KNEW

Disney World is truly a magical place, but can be tough to navigate with so many people. Here are key tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your visit.

Park VisitedMagic Kingdom on EMH
Date Visited Friday 22 March 2019 during spring break
(est. crowd calendar 8 out of 10)
Park Pass & Price
1 day Disney theme park base ticket (adult)
USD$132.50 p.p including all taxes and fees

On our last 2 trips to Tokyo and Paris, we had tried to visit Disneyland but could never line up the dates or quite make it work with our itinerary. So when planning our trip to the US this time around, Disney World was designated a “must see”. Unfortunately for us though, the only feasible dates perfectly aligned to spring break in Florida and try as we might, we couldn’t shift our timing. Our park of choice for this visit was the quintessential Disney World Magic Kingdom and so to maximise our time and minimise disappointment, I researched how to plan an optimal day in Disney World and luckily this paid off!

So how you might ask did we, during spring break period, manage to only wait a maximum 35 minute per ride, see everything we wanted to see and leave exhausted, but happy after a long and magical day?

Whilst by no ways exhaustive, these are just some of our own (hopefully) useful tips and tricks for an adults-only visit to MK:

1) Definitely try and score Extra Magic Hours (“EMH”) access

EMH is where guests of Disney resorts and select hotels can spend extra time in the theme park on a given day, either before it opens or after it closes. We timed our visit with a day EMH was in the morning for MK, so during spring break this meant MK opened at 7am with a significant crowd already gathered by 6:30am. EMH is definitely worth it in the morning though as whilst there was still a crowd gathered at opening time, ride wait times are the lowest they will be all day!
See below for non-Disney hotels that can still access EMH.

2) Arrive at least 30 minutes before opening time and don’t forget to factor in time passing through security, getting on the monorail and walking!

Don’t forget to factor in time walking from your car (if you drive) to the monorail entrance, passing through security, travelling on the monorail, and then time walking down from the station to the main gates of MK.
All in all at 6am the lines were minimal and we parked close to the entrance so this took about 15 minutes for us, however the later you go, the much longer the wait becomes particularly passing through the security check.

3) Book in your Fast Passes+ when it opens and book each pass 1.5 – 2 hours apart.

The Disney Fast Pass+ is a free benefit for everyone and one you should definitely take advantge of. It essentially allows you to “skip the line” on three attractions each day and it’s booking system opens 30 days in advance or 60 if you’re staying with a Walt Disney World resort or hotel with Extra Magic Hour benefits (such as where we stayed at Disney Swan Resort –see below!)

We unfortunately booked ours on the 3rd day after it opened and already missed out on securing a fast pass for the popular 7 Dwarves Mine ride. As such and given we love thrill rides, we booked our first 3 on: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Booking your Fast Passes 1.5 – 2 hours apart gave us the opportunity to fit in seeing one other ride between each Fast Pass attraction. For example we had a Fast Pass at 9:30am,11am and 12:30pm. Doing this also allows you some time to walk around and see the sites within each land without having to dash like a mad person to the next booking! Also don’t forget you can’t book your next fast pass until all 3 initial Fast Pass bookings have lapsed – so it’s best not to leave your 3rd Fast Pass booking late in the day!

4) Head straight to the 7 Dwarves Mine ride at rope drop

If like us you don’t secure a 7 Dwarves Mine fast pass, I suggest you make a beeline for this ride when the park opens as wait times reach up to 195 minutes by lunch and it never dropped below 70 minutes whilst we were there (yes it’s crazy).  Although we weren’t at the front of the line when the gates opened, we only had to wait 25 minutes for this first ride of the day!  After the 7 Dwarves, we then did the short walk to Peter Pan (a 30 minute wait) and by the time EMH ended and the park fully opened, we had seen 2 of the most popular rides, with Fast Passes+ booking for the remaining one’s!

Disneyworld selfie with Cinderellas castle.
Excitement – Cinderellas castle!

5) Constantly refresh your Disney app when booking in your next Fast Pass

Disney allows you to book more Fast Passes – albeit one at a time – once all 3 of your initial Fast Pass bookings lapse.

When we were re-booking our next Fast Pass, we refreshed constantly as new time slots opened up all the time. We were able to score a Fast Pass to Haunted Mansion, our next preference that way when the ride’s average wait time was 75 minutes.

Also, towards the end of the day the app often says all the Fast Passes are “exhausted” – but again just keep refreshing as new options always loaded back up.

Lastly, when booking in later Fast Pass slots, I’d recommend just booking whatever is appealing, even it’s a 2nd or 3rd preference. Then use the ‘modify’ reservation function in the app to keep scanning to see if another more attractive ride slot pop ups. That way you always have an option booked!

6) Bring a battery pack for your phone!

You will likely be glued to your Disney World app as it’s where all the wait times are updated in real time and where you can book your Fast Passes from. Add in free wifi park wide and the wait time for rides = significant screen time for the day.

7) Use noon – early afternoon to eat, check out the stores and take a break from the rides!

By lunch time, crowds are the craziest and wait times for the most popular rides can hit up to 200 minutes. Depending of course on when your next Fast Pass is, we used this time to grab lunch, check out the daily parade, do some shopping on main street and (for one of us) to take a quick nap to recharge.

For a summary of our day plan – see below!

Having a nap at Disneyworld
Having a nap.

8) When filling into cinemas or shows and selecting where to sit, pick the row where a fair number of people have gone before you

In every show there are attendants that direct people to fill up each row from the ends first, meaning people can’t just plop down in the middle of the row. This means that rather than choosing an empty row, if you choose a row where people have already gone before you, you have a better chance of getting a middle seat!

9) Visit the Crystal Arts shop on Main Street for the glass blowing demonstration

You get to see close up and personal a live demonstration on blowing glass by the same people who produce the wares on sale in the Disney shop! It’s an interesting and fascinating 15-20 minute show that was held every hour.

10) If you read in other blogs to skip the Happily Ever After fireworks at 9:15pm and line up for popular rides as the crowds lessen – DON’T DO IT!

Firstly, the firework show was one of the highlights of our entire day – it was the perfect end to our time at Disney World and a fantastic collaboration of fireworks, music, lasers, lights and all beloved Disney characters. It isn’t just for kids as it also touches upon many of the older classic Disney movies and isn’t a short show, going for a solid 18 minutes so it is worth the wait. We arrived about 40 minutes before the show started and got a prime position, but they do pack the square so as many people as possible can get a great view. I would also note I did check the app and wait times, and whilst they did decrease slightly on the popular rides it was only by 10-15 minutes, so still a 80 minute wait for the 7 Dwarves Mine or Space Mountain!

Firewords at Disneyworlds closing celebrations.
Night time fireworks at Disneyworld!

11) The bus may be faster

When leaving the park, if the line for the monorail is mammoth – take a bus! When exiting the park, rather than heading right to the monorail, veer left towards the buses. There are always many attendants around who will point you to the direction of the next bus. When we left, the line for the monorail was insane and rather than a >30 minute wait, we were able to board a bus straight away and was back at our car within 7 minutes.

12) If you want to buy Mickey Mouse ears, buy them at the start of the day

I ummed and ahh’d about buying Mickey Mouse ears and finally caved as owning an original pair from Disney World has been a long time want for me. If you buy it at the start of the day, at least you’ll get to wear it for the full day and maximise your cost per wear 😊

Mini Mouse ears at Disneyworld.
Mini Mouse ears at Disneyworld.

13) Check out Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn – it’s Mexican food with generous sizing sizes and affordable pricing.

If you like Mexican and are looking for a hearty meal, this is a good place.
You pay for base ingredients for your Mexican meal such as the meat, tortilla, rice, chips, etc but all toppings (cheese, salsa, sour cream, tomatos, lettuce, jalapenos) are self serve! So you can load up your plate for a filling lunch.

14) If Disney Resorts are too expensive consider these other hotels as they can access all the same Disney benefits such as the all important EMH!

  • Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
  • Shades of Green Resort
  • Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels
  • Four Seasons Resort Orlando
  • Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek; and
  • Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

We managed to score a great deal at Walt Disney World Swan Hotel (which despite the name is not technically a “Disney Resort”) and stayed for a fraction of what the cheapest Disney Resort would have cost us.

It was a great hotel however if you do stay here make sure to check if the daily US$30 resort fee is included in your quoted price or not! Also, good to note that parking is charged at US$20 per day in addition as well.

15) Save a bit of money!

Purchase your ticket through authorised resellers such as undercovertourist.com and scout websites such as http://www.ebates.com for any cash back offers! This worked out to be cheaper than purchasing direct from Disney (though bear in mind the type of ticket we bought) and I managed to score some cash back.

If you are new to ebates, you can automatically get US$10 back (plus any cash back %) by using this referral link! https://www.ebates.com/r/GABRIE25532?eeid=28187

16) Lastly, there are some great useful websites out there already that explain ride strategy, the fast pass system and the crowd calendar if you wish to read up some more!

Our ItineraryApprox. TimingApprox. Waiting Time
Arrived at the park entrance, ready and waiting for rope drop!6:30 AM30 min to
opening
1) 7 Dwarves Mine Railway7:00 AM35 min
2) Peter Pan 7:45 AM35 min
3) Splash Mountain (FastPass #1)9:30 AM5 min
4) Pirates of the Caribbean10:15 AM30 min
5) Enchanted Tiki Room Show 10:45 AM10 min
6) Big Thunder Mountain
Railroad
11:30 AM5-10 min
7) Monsters Inc Show12:00 PM10 min
8) Presidents Hall Show12:30 PM
9) Space Mountain (FastPass #3)1:15 PM15 min
Lunch / parade / shopping / glass blowing demonstration / snooze 2:30-6:30 PM
10) Mickeys Philharmonic Magic Show15 min
11) Haunted Mansion (FastPass #4)7:15 PM15 min
12) Dumbo (FastPass #5)8:00 PM10 min
13) Happily Ever After Fireworks
(snagged a spot by 8:30pm)
9:15 PM 45min
14) It’s a small world after all (FastPass #6) 9:45 PM5 min
Home time! 10:30 PM

SXSW 2019 – EXPERIENCING THE FUTURE OF TECH

Some of our tech highlights from South By South West (SXSW) 2019

South by South West (SXSW), probably one of the worlds most significant industry events, stemming across marketing, media and advertising, music, wellness and what I’m yet to experience (but honestly most excited about) gaming. Sweeping the many different aspects of industry types, people from all over the world travel thousands of kilometres to attend. It brings with it a chip on the shoulder, an excitement of participating in something quite unique, something that I can only say is similar to the unique emotions people seem to share with me about events like Burning Man: “you have to really experience it to understand it.” Albeit an entirely different experience, I would think.

It is my first time attending SXSW, and it has so far had it’s up and its downs.

The ups come in the form of sitting and listening to some of the brightest and interesting people from around the world. From the inspirational to the innovative through to the future thinkers, I have yet to be in a room where have I felt I had to walk out before I fell asleep – despite the intense jetlag I was definitely feeling.

SXSW is not just about the speakers. It’s also about the unique experiences you get along the way. Snapchat set up a shack/bar, which provided free alcohol and food. Amazon created a garden to chill and listen to some mellow music while promoting its new shows. Netflix, a private bar, with live roleplaying game experience in a 1930’s setting.

Then there are the display rooms, showing off an array of the latest tech trends and start-up businesses traversing the globe.

Here are some of the things I encountered and/or items that stood out for me:

MAGIC LEAP

Magic leap is a similar premise to Microsoft’s HoloLens. A cheaper, and less advanced version, it’s one benefit being compact and lighter.

Putting on the goggles, you’re suddenly surrounded by bright lights as the device configures its surroundings. Within minutes, you’re looking at your usual surroundings with augmented grass and flowers set up all over space. Reaching out, you can make the flowers and grass move with your hand (no gloves needed), and little sparks fly off into the air as you touch them.

A kind of space alien creature, a floating jellyfish, moves about and you’re hinted by the device to follow it around. But nothing really happens…

I see the potential for this device, but the inspiration of the demo was a huge miss. The graphics were choppy, and the colours very bland. Perhaps it is yet to have any engaging content to test, but if Magic Leap is to compete with the likes of Microsoft’s HoloLens, it needs to step up its game.

ROBOTS AND AI

Who doesn’t love robots! From fun educational robots, teaching our children of the future how to learn and write code. Robots were showing off how they are going to improve our medical practices and robots that will be sent to space, through to robots just playing random music…because, why not?

We’ve all seen the future of robotics, and it was in plentiful amounts here at SXSW.

VR & AR EVERYWHERE

I’ll be sharing a separate post on this later, but wow. VR is at every corner of SXSW, and I loved it. Jump behind the wheel of a fast-moving vehicle, venture into outer space, see what it’s like to operate heavy machinery, or just watch some fresh videos. If you’re not on this bandwagon yet, please get on it!

I controlled a space ship landing! And I got to see the sun in all its fiery glory while traversing a collapsing space station – and wow did it feel, despite being virtual, amazing.

VR and AR and is the future, and the potential for this to change how we work, how we socialise and consume entertainment is only going to be held back by our imagination.

LIFELIKE SOUND

Sound is an integral part of my life. I enjoy listening to my music, and I enjoy experiencing movies with the best audio I can afford (which my wife would say is too much).

Nura is a headphone that adapts to your ear. Their design is somewhat confronting to some people, with a mixed over and in-ear cup. But once you start up the app, and the headphone customises itself to match your ear patterns, the audio it delivers into your ear, is next to nothing I have ever experience.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I’m about travel for 7months and have little to no space in my backpack….I would have bought them on the spot. I guess I’ll have to wait until I get back.

8K TECHNOLOGY

Beautiful, sweet, delicious 8K….Sony had a screen. A screen that would crush all other screens…. 440 inches of just pure high-resolution quality video.

In a private showroom, Sony was excited to demo its new 8K streaming capability that it had started to launch in Japan. It was crisp, clear, bright, and huge. I could only dream of pulling out my PC or many consoles and it up to that beautiful 440inch screen to play a bit of Apex, Skyrim or Super Smash Brother (regardless of the resolution limitations of the latter).

The future of high-resolution content is upon us. Although we’re still catching up even on the 4K front, 8K is closer than we think.

I’m reminded of the Futurama quote between Leela and Fry.
Leela: Fry, you’re wasting your life sitting in front of that TV. You need to get out and see the world.
Fry: But this is HDTV. It’s got better resolution than the real life!