Ten Ways to Make a Disney Vacation Extra-Special
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Ten Ways to Make a Disney Vacation Extra-Special

B93PBN Entrance in the shape of Mickey Mouse at the Ice Sculpture Festival sponsored by Disney at Harbin, China 2009
© Ulana Switucha / Alamy Stock Photo
B93PBN Entrance in the shape of Mickey Mouse at the Ice Sculpture Festival sponsored by Disney at Harbin, China 2009
© Ulana Switucha / Alamy Stock Photo

You've booked Fast Passes, you magically landed a reservation at Be Our Guest and you're ready to hit the Magical Express. Even if you have the perfect Walt Disney World itinerary—or are instead opting to just wing it—there are plenty of ways to easily kick your trip up a notch without putting in much more effort. These smart, simple ways to save time, nab the best seats for your favorite rides, and even experience new parts of the parks will make your vacation that much more special. From in-park freebies to fun new hobbies, these ten tips are better than Mickey Mouse himself letting you into the park—which you'll soon find out is actually possible:

1. Have a birthday cake magically appear at dinnertime.

You can plan to devour custom two-tier mini cakes, Mickey Mouse-shaped cakes and chocolate statuettes of beloved characters well before you even board a plane to Orlando. Personalized cakes for as few as a couple and as many as a family reunion can be delivered to restaurant hotels and the Magic Kingdom (call 407-827-2253) as well as some restaurants within Epcot (call 407-560-6395). Forgot to plan prior to leaving? Simply let the restaurant know upon arrival that you'd like a purchase a celebration cake and it will arrive to the table before the meal ends.

2. Cut the line to meet Kylo Ren—and most other characters.

The main perk of holding a Disney Visa Credit Card isn't whatever cash-back program they allow, it's the private in-park experiences offered only to cardmembers. Sign up before your trip, and you'll be able to attend a members-only character meet-and-greet in Epcot from 1 p.m.-7 p.m. daily, as well as a Star Wars Imperial meet-and-greet from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at Disney's Hollywood Studios simply by flashing your credit card. Character lines can be extremely long, so saving time getting those Pluto selfies can seriously enhance your trip.

3. Let the entire park know you're celebrating without saying a word.

Walt Disney World's oversized buttons are not only fun and free, but often result in plenty of fun interactions with cast members and tend to make birthdays super special. Pick them up at the front desk of Walt Disney World resort hotels or at guest services throughout the parks, and prepare for friendly folk to congratulate you on your anniversary, ask how your first visit is going or wish you a happy un-birthday. Park staff often create "magical moments" for visitors, too, so don't be surprised if you end up with a card, treat, complimentary photo, or something more spectacular.

4. Experience something only early risers get to see.

There are plenty of under-the-radar surprises that happen when you arrive to the Magic Kingdom before the gates officially open. Morning festivities led by the Mayor of Main Street, USA—oh yes, there is a Mayor!—include a Magic Kingdom welcome song-and-dance, beloved characters taking the steam train in to open the park, and once you enter, guests riding in a horse-drawn car, double-decker omnibus, or other old-timey vehicles down Main Street. And, if you arrive extra early, you could possibly be selected as the Family of the Day, an honor that comes with a mini-tour of the empty park, a private photographer, special character meet-and-greets, bonus Fast Passes and inclusion in the opening ceremony.

5. Make your vacation boredom-proof.

It's hard not to participate in the phenomenon of Pin Trading once you see the lanyards around cast members' necks, but starter pins on-site can be costly, and selecting them can eat into your ride time. Instead, surprise your family or plan ahead for yourself by ordering bulk packages of Disney pins on eBay. This will allow everyone in your party to begin searching and exchanging for new souvenirs immediately, and keep younger children happy and preoccupied during tedious tasks, such as checking into the hotel or waiting for a restaurant table. (Hotel front desks and gift shops tend to always have a Pin Trading board!)

6. Have Olaf wake your family up for you.

Rallying the troops in the early morning hours to make it to Cinderella's princess breakfast can be tricky, so outsource the task to someone your kids love just as much as you, if not more: Olaf. The characters used for wake-up calls tends to rotate, but whether it's the beloved snowman, Baymax, or Mickey Mouse himself, leaving before it's light outside is much easier to do when you're not the one to blame.

7. Sit front row for every single rollercoaster—no VIP pass required.

If you want to sit in the very front of any ride, all you need to do is ask. The extra wait time will be nominal—it's usually around 45 seconds—but is absolutely worth doing at least once, just to get an unobstructed view of the characters, design and drops on each attraction. Witnessing Expedition Everest's twisty mountain track up close is an experience you'll never get from the back of the train car, and front row on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train allows you to enjoy the inventive details so much more. Want to know where to sit for shows and safaris, too? Our Best Seats guide will tell you that too.

8. Enjoy two vacations for the price of one.

The best way to experience all WDW resort hotels have to offer is by staying at more than one of them. It's called a "split stay", and this unique option is simpler than it sounds. Each WDW hotel offers complimentary baggage transfers between hotels, so all you need to do is make two reservations and link them, which is especially easy when done through Walt Disney World's help line (407-939-5277). Not only can it be a budget-friendly move, but it allows your family to experience new facilities, food, and features (like waterslides or nighttime campfires) just by zipping up your suitcases.

9. Cross every ride off your list without having to wait.

You've probably heard of the morning fanfare that comes along with "rope drop" when the park opens. Most tend to ignore it, preferring to casually stroll in mid-morning and take their time getting to the parks. It seems silly to wake up extra early, but it's worth experiencing the park with non-existent lines at least once. You don't necessarily want to rush through your favorites—that's what the day's for!—so instead utilize the opening hour to blast through everything you typically don't get to see on your vacation. You'll enjoy new rides without wasting time and get so much under your belt that the rest of the day will feel relaxing, something that rarely happens at Walt Disney World.

10 . Make your hotel room feel like a home.

Plenty of families, particularly for the holidays, deck out their front door with streamers, banners, and paper cutouts celebrating their arrival at Walt Disney World. Surprise your kids in the morning by decorating the door while they're asleep, and it'll make returning back to the room the next evening and leaving the parks feel a bit more fun.

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