Doing Disney right means more than just booking a flight and snapping up a pair of Mickey ears. You need to do a bit more homework to really knock the trip out of the park. So we turn again to our resident Disney expert to answer the real life questions that can make all the difference. Put it this way, would you rather leave with "It's a Small World" stuck in your head or with photos of you and your loved ones splashing out Disney-style? Think about it.
Want to ask our Fodor's Disney expert a question? Shoot her an email: DisneyExpert@fodors.com.
What special annual parties are offered at the Magic Kingdom? Do they cost extra?
A: The Magic Kingdom hosts Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in September and October and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in November and December. Both parties are offered only on select nights, and tickets begin at $62. Guests can enter the Magic Kingdom starting at 4 pm and the party lasts from 7 pm-midnight. The Halloween Party includes trick-or-treating around the park, a special parade, and shows featuring the villains. The Christmas Party is filled with cookies and hot chocolate, themed shows, and a special Christmas parade that can otherwise only be seen the week of Christmas. Holiday themed fireworks are created for both events.
Even if your family is not planning on attending one of the parties, take note of the dates they're running. On those evenings the Magic Kingdom closes early (7 pm) to those not attending the party.
I've heard there is a new policy for guests with disabilities. What is different?
A: Due to the changes in the Fastpass system and the exploitation of the previous disability system, Disney has announced significant changes to its policy for guests with disabilities, both in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Guests will now be required to visit Guest Relations each morning to receive a Disability Access Service Card. (Guests staying on Disney property may be able to have one pass for the length of their stay). This pass will include a picture of the guest who needs it, so if the card is written out for one family member, no one else can use it. Guests will have to take this pass to different kiosks throughout the park where they will receive a ticket that will allow them to return to their chosen attraction at a certain time. For example, if you reach the kiosk at 11 am to find that Space Mountain has a forty minute wait, you will receive a ticket to report at Space Mountain between 11:30-11:40 am. Disabled guests can only retrieve one pass at a time, but can still utilize their Fastpasses as well. Guests using a wheelchair should not need a pass as Disney is making it a priority to create wheelchair accessible queues for all lines.
There is a lot of controversy over this new system, which requires more effort for the handicapped guest and their party, but Disney is holding firm. To make the process easier, bring a doctor's note and plan to get to the parks as early as possible to receive the pass.
My nine year old loves animals. What is something special we can plan at the Animal Kingdom?
A: The Animal Kingdom is a great tribute to Walt Disney, who always wanted to include live animals at Disneyland. With this in mind, Disney has created a wonderful learning environment with plenty of ways for guests, especially children, to interact with the animals.
While in the park, make sure to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris. Safari guides recommend riding in the morning when the animals are most active, but this is a great attraction to visit more than once as no two journeys through the savannah of Africa are ever the same. Also make sure to check out Rafiki's Planet Watch which provides a backstage view of the animals—where they live, what they eat, and how they keep healthy.
Feeling adventurous? Guests age eight and up can take the Wild Africa Trek, a guided tour through Kilimanjaro Safaris that includes feeding hippos, lunch on the savannah, and walking over the crocodile pit! The bridge over the crocs can feel a bit intimidating, so bravery is a must. Prices begin at $189 per person. When your daughter is older, the Wild by Design and Backstage Safari tours provide a detailed look at how Disney created the Animal Kingdom and cares for the thousands of animals living within it.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Walt Disney World