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Saving on a disney vacation series extra activities

This is part of an ongoing guest post series on Disney World Savings, written by a life long Disney lover.

I thought it’d be helpful to go over some miscellaneous stuff prior to really getting into what each park has to offer.  You can experience much more at WDW than just the parks.  Personally, I’ve done very few of the extra activities as the parks usually keep me busy.  As such, I’d love some feedback on your experiences!

Extra Activities

Extra Magic Hours
This is pretty simple, really.  If you stay in a Disney resort or select others, you are able to go into scheduled parks before the park actually opens and/or after the park closes.  The extra magic hour schedule changes seasonally, but these extra hours are great because the park population is much smaller than usual.  This allows you to hit those really popular rides with a fraction of the wait time.  You can search for the extra magic hour schedule for when you are going.

Disney Related Apps
Verizon has an app that has all the times for rides, attractions, shows, and character spots.  It costs money, but does have a lot of information.

Undercover Tourist has a free app that shows attraction wait times.  I use this often and is a huge time saver for deciding which rides to go to quickly rather than walking across the park to find your favorite ride has a 90 minute wait.

Hidden Mickeys
Hidden Mickeys are a really fun way to keep you and your kids engaged as you walk around Disney World and even wait in line.  Disney has placed TONS of hidden Mickeys all over the parks and in the rides for you to find.  There are several books that will help you find these Mickeys or you can ask cast members to point them out to you.

Pin Trading
Disney offers a fun service where you can trade Disney pins with cast members.  Before you go, buy a lanyard and some pins to put on the lanyard to trade with certain Disney cast members.  Many of the cast members do have lanyards with pins on them and are excited to trade pins with anyone.  Here is some more pin trading information.

Personal Tour Guide
Another service offered by WDW is this personal tour guide.  I’ve never done this, but first timers will find this particularly helpful.  Your personal tour guide will take you around the park and knows the best seats for shows, all the times, and can help you create your plan for the day.  One neat thing the tour guide will do is grab you Fast Pass tickets for one ride while you are in line for another.  However, the price is what scares me.  WDW charges $175-$315 per hour.  Here are full details on WDW tour guides.

Extra Experiences
All of WDW’s theme parks offer special tours, attractions, and events.  You can go for a backstage safari in Animal Kingdom, get a hands on experience with dolphins in EPCOT, and many more.  There is an extra cost involved.  Here are all the details for WDW extra experiences.

Fast Pass
To make your day more efficient and leave time for some of these other activities, you definitely want to consider the Fast Pass. The Fast Pass was implemented by Disney in 1999.  It has been a huge success and many other theme parks have followed suit.  So, how does it work?  Most of the rides in WDW will offer fast pass.  Each that does offer it will have several large boxes under a big sign that says Fast Pass distribution.  You slide your ticket into the box and out pops a fast pass.  On the fast pass you will see a return time, something like 1:00 to 2:00.  This means that you will be able to come back to that ride between 1 and 2 o’clock, present your fast pass to a cast member, and enter the fast pass line.  As the name implies, the fast pass line is a MUCH shorter wait than what you would normally have to deal with.  It is shorter because it limits the number of passes for that time slot.  Fast Passes are crucial during peak season and for the really popular rides.  In value season, when the crowds are smaller, the most popular rides are usually about a 45-60 minute wait time (that’s not too bad).  With a Fast Pass that wait time can come down to about 20 minutes.  During Peak season, wait times for those same rides can jump up to 100+ minutes.  That’s when you really want to have a Fast Pass.  Your wait time will come down to about 20-30 minutes with the Fast Pass.  These times are based on my experience so yours may differ.

Hint: Fast Passes for the most popular rides sell out quickly, so make sure you head to your favorite ride early in the morning to get a Fast Pass.

Other Disney Activities
WDW actually provides a ton of activities other than just the parks.  Downtown Disney features a movie theater, shopping, bars, entertainment, and great restaurants.
If you’re looking for a real winner with the kids, check out Disney Quest.  This massive 5-story arcade offers many games not found elsewhere.  One game allows you to create your own roller coaster then test it out in a simulator.  There is an admission fee of $37-$43 or you can get in with the Water Park option on your ticket. There are many other activities that WDW offers, including golf, mini-golf, boating, and more.

What experience have you had with some of the Disney extra activities?

Come back next week to talk about the Magic Kingdom.

    • Heather

      Note on FASTPASS: We love Fastpass, but if you start reading Disney forums (especially older posts) you will see that everyone says that cast members will let you come back anytime after the beginning time on your Fastpass, even if it is hours later (for example, your FP says to come between 1:30-2:30, and you come at 7:30). This used to be okay with Disney, but recently they are very strict about their time frames.
      We have annual passes and when we went in May, they were just starting to give “warnings” but would still let you on if it was later. We just went a few weeks ago and we were turned away twice at rides with our Fastpasses that had expired 40 minutes before. BUMMER! So if everyone tells you that on the forums, it’s unfortunately no longer true.

    • mightymousemom

      I love Disney, but Universal Studios & Islands of Adventure are my favorite parks. If you go to Orlando, enjoy Disney, but give yourself a day (or more) to go to Universal. I have boys and Disney has a lot of princess themes for girls so my boys enjoy the Marvel area and more boy centric themes at Islands of Adventure and Universal a little better. We are going to Disney this Christmas (this is our 20+ trip) and I always to forward to going and being with my family no matter what park I’m visiting.

    • Dani

      Can you do more than one fast pass at a time? Previously you could only do one at at time.

      • only one at a time. You can get a new one every 2 hours, or after your other one is expired.

    • Dee Wotlers

      My daughter is working at Epcot ( 6 month professional internship) before starting grad school in Jan. She works in the Living with the Land Attraction, and leading the “Behind the Seeds” Tour is the high light of her day. If you have been to WDW more than once, it might be time to see something new with a guided tour. While they do cost extra, you really get personal attention. This could be a special treat for an older child who shows an interest in plants, for example.

    • grahammcb

      If you have little ones that cannot ride the rides because they don’t meet the height restrictions, you can ask for a rider switch pass from the attendant at the “fast pass return” line. They allow the parent who is staying with the small child to “switch” with the parent taking the other children on the ride. The rider switch is good for one ride anytime that day for up to three people and it puts youinto the fast pass line again. Its been so nice to use the fastpasses during the designated times and then save the rider switch passes to use during the day whenever you want.

    • Disney Lover

      One of my girls’ favorite thing to do (and it is FREE) is head to the T-Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney and “hunt for dinosaur bones”. There is a small play area inside the restaurant’s gift shop that lets the kids get a brush and sift through the small pebbles to discover the buried dinosaur bones. The theme of both the T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe are very interesting. The kids love just walking around and finding all of the little touches that have been added. Also, inside the gift shop at T-Rex, there is a place to purchase a rock. They have a machine that will split it so you can see all of the “diamonds” (as my girls call it) inside it. The Ghirardelli shop in Downtown Disney usually offers a free sample of chocolate when you go inside. This fall when we were there, they were sampling pumpkin pie chocolate…it was actually pretty good! Enjoy finding your own little unexpected treasures at Disney. Those are the best.

      • Goofy (guest post writer)

        Great tips!

    • kim

      My son absolutely loved the pin trading. The first year we went we bought the pins there, which were pretty pricey but the next year i found them on ebay for around a dollar each.. We used those to trade for pins he liked and then i let him pick out a special one at the park which we saved..