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10 ways to do the Disney parks like a pro

Published July 13th, 2017

Sometimes being a grown-up is hard. If you’re anything like me, you want a holiday where you can escape the real world, forget about life responsibilities and just have fun.

Where better than the happiest place(s) on Earth? My recent back-to-back visits to Disneyland and Walt Disney World really reminded me what it’s like to be a kid again.

If sporting a pair of those famous mouse ears and following in Mickey's footsteps sounds like your kind of spinning tea cup you're in luck! We've  got the USA on sale right now with flights to Los Angeles from $899* flying Virgin Australia – for under 30s & Students!

Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your Disney experience.

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marnie matthews disney cinderella castle selfie
Obligatory castle selfie, check! (image: Marnie Matthews)


1. Stay close to the action

If you really want to make your trip as easy as possible, stay in Disney accommodation. They might cost more than your average hotel but the perks alone are worth it. At Walt Disney World in Florida, I stayed at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, where actual African animals roamed outside my window, and at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, my twinkling bedhead played lullabies!

Staying at a Disney hotel also gives you access to free and frequent shuttle buses that run between the parks, your accommodation and the airport.

2. Eat breakfast with Mickey and friends

Meet your Disney heroes while fuelling up for the day at a Character Breakfast. It’s a really fun and personalised way to meet your favourite characters; just make sure you book ahead to avoid missing out.

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marnie matthews disney character greeting
Cue the "Circle of Life" (image: Marnie Matthews)


3. Avoid the lines

Get the most out of your day by making a Fast Pass game plan. This complimentary benefit to all Disney guests allows you to save a place in line at some of the parks’ most popular attractions at a specified time of the day.

There’s an app for that…

You can also download an app that shows you the approximate wait times for each ride to help plan your day, too!

4. Buy the ears

I thought I might feel a little geeky being a grown-up buying Mickey or Minnie Mouse ears to wear around but to my delight everyone was wearing them! They look great in photos and you can pick out the ones that suit you best from heaps of different styles. I couldn’t pick between the classic ears and a set of sparkly pink ones, so I got both!

5. Go on all the rides

They’ve all been designed for maximum enjoyment and even the rides I thought were going to be really scary had me in stitches of laughter by the end.

My favourite adrenaline-pumping rides were the Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (prepare to scream!) and the famous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (prepare to scream even louder!), both at Walt Disney World.

As for the 3D/4D rides, they are totally worth wearing those dorky 3D glasses. Toy Story Mania (at both Anaheim and Orlando) has you blasting moving targets in an interactive, shoot-em-up-style game starring your favourite Toy Story characters – make sure you check your scores at the end to see if you beat your mates!

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The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was given a spiffy Guardians of the Galaxy makeover (image: Disney)

6. Get wet

Seriously, who cares if you get wet? I rode the Grizzly River Run multiple times with my friends to see who would get the most soaked each time, even though everyone ends up getting a decent drenching.

Disneyland’s popular log flume ride, Splash Mountain, is an absolute must-do. I made the mistake of asking my guide where I should sit if I didn’t want to get wet (I was wearing white. Hot tip: don’t wear white), and he suggested the front, which seemed strange, but I trusted his advice. Of course, the joke was on me when I got drenched. This didn’t stop me from laughing until my sides hurt and taking a million hilarious photos with dripping wet hair.

Top tip: Pack or purchase a poncho if you’re worried about getting wet. (There are also many dry and safe places to store your valuables, too.)

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disney pandora navi river ride
Find magic in Pandora on the Na'vi River Ride (image: Disney)

7. See and do all the new stuff

Both Disney parks are in constant states of evolution, so even if you’ve been before, there will be new rides – and even whole new worlds (like Aladdin, geddit?) – to get lost in.

Earlier this year, Disney opened its newest attractions, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at Disneyland, and Pandora: World of Avatar in a section of Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Over in Anaheim, Disney gave the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror a complete Guardians of the Galaxy makeover. This drop-tower attraction now has more action, hilarity and stomach-turning thrills than the original.

Back in Orlando, Pandora: World of Avatar is so much more than just Avatar-themed rides; Disney created a whole new reality that allows you to experience Pandora as if it was a real planet. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could take a ‘banshee’ flight over Pandora, or if you prefer to slow things down, a cruise through the bioluminescent rainforest of Pandora might be up your alley.

Smile for the camera
A souvenir photo is taken on almost every attraction, so make sure you’re enjoying (or at least look like you’re enjoying) every second when that camera flashes.

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There's really no place better in the world to embrace your inner kid than the wonderful worlds of Disney (image: Marnie Matthews)

8. Dress the part

I don’t want to get too parental on you, but for the love of Donald Duck, wear comfortable shoes, drink plenty of water and lather on sunscreen. You don’t want to ruin your Disney day out with sore feet (although you could pick up some very comfortable character slippers to go with your Mickey ears), sunburn or exhaustion because you haven't had enough water or re-applied that SPF.

9. Take a break

The busiest time of any day at the parks is between 1 and 4pm, so if you’ve had an early start, this is the best time of day to take a break. You could head back to your hotel for a swim, grab some delicious food in Downtown Disney (Anaheim) or make a booking at any of the amazing international restaurants in Epcot (Orlando).

10. Scream as loud as you can

The best way to live your best Disney day is to just let your inner-child take over and give into the fun. Trust me, no one is there to judge you. I travelled with a group of grown men who all screamed and laughed just as loud as I did! 

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Marnie Matthews

Marnie's favourite way to explore a new city is to spend long days walking the streets and visiting its art galleries. She loves finding the 'creative soul' of a destination by drawing it, taking her sketchpad everywhere she goes. Marnie has lived in London, considers New York City the love of her life, and is currently planning her next adventure: Jamaica in 2018.