Disney Now and Then: Planning a Day at a Disney Park

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I’ve never been in a Disney Drought until now. And it’s terrible. As we speak, I’m listening to Disney music on a loop and I wish that I was soaking up the sun getting ready to go on Splash Mountain, rather than sitting in my icy apartment in New York. Growing up, I went to Disneyland a lot. We’re talking multiple times a month. I was an annual pass holder and my mom used to pull me out of school so that we could play at Disneyland.

These were happy times for me. Not just because I got to go to Disneyland all the time, but because my mom knew how to make every moment of these trips magical. She knew how to plan a day at the park so that it was perfect. And no, she didn’t cram in every ride and character meetup into a fully packed day. She used to pick one focus for the day. We would visit Toontown. We would get ice cream on Mainstreet. Sometimes we would head out after rush hour just to pop in and see Fantasmic! She knew how to take all of the stress out of visiting Disneyland. Yes, it was one of the perks of living so close to Disneyland, but the same mindset can be applied for the people who only visit once in awhile. Ever since I quit working at Disneyland, I’ve had to find ways to plan my trips so that they still feel spontaneous yet memorable. Below are my tips for having a magical trip without overwhelming yourself. These tips are a mix of things that I learned while working at Disneyland and things that my mom learned while taking two kids to Disneyland all the time. Enjoy!

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1) Sit Back and Enjoy the Flowers!
So, you got through rope-drop and off you go! You have a list of things that you must-see and you can’t mess with the list! Please remember to stop, breathe and enjoy the flowers. Sit on a bench at some point in the day and take in the beauty of the park. You don’t want to miss it because you were on your phone or racing to the next attraction. My mom used to spend entire days in the park simply photographing the plants. They are a VISION. The landscaping of the entire park is gorgeous. Sit on Main Street with a coffee or stroll by the plants in the hub. I promise, you will love it.

2) Visit City Hall
It will be crowded, but I recommend a visit for a couple reasons. They have buttons for anything that you’re celebrating that day (Happy Birthday buttons, anniversary, etc). They have every park map in every language, and you can take the Disney pledge with a cast member or have your little one use the phone to talk to Goofy. The guest relations team were Walt Disney’s team of gems from the very beginning. They are some of the loveliest people and they have a strong working knowledge of the entire park. If you have any questions going into your visit, go see them.

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3) You Won’t See Everything.
Tell yourself this the minute you park your car. You won’t see everything. It’s not meant to be a downer. It’s meant to be realistic. Even the seasoned pro who can navigate the park blindfolded may not be able to see everything in a single day due to large crowds and unforeseen circumstances. Your focus needs to go to enjoying every moment rather than worrying about the entire day. For instance, going into my first trip to Walt Disney World, we checked the weather every single day leading up to the trip. The day of the trip it down poured all day. All of the parades and shows got cancelled. Nothing could wipe the smile off of my face. It wasn’t a wasted day, but rather it gave me more time to do other things. I ended up trying all of these really wonderful snacks and relaxing and having more time to visit with characters and it took the pressure off of us having to do and see everything.

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4) The Art of Dining
One must understand the art of dining at Disney, and to understand that is to understand the fact that there is no art to it. All of your decisions during the day will be based on how much time you have to eat. You may not have time for a sit-down restaurant like you thought you would. You also might think that you’re ok with grabbing food and eating on benches all day and you may actually hate doing that. My advice, is make 2 reservations through Disney Dining. Make one in-park reservation at a restaurant and make one reservation at Downtown Disney. You may decide you don’t want to go to either restaurant since you filled up on hotdogs. No problem. Cancel the reservations. However, you always want the option of a sit-down. The crowds can be draining sometimes.

5) Put Your Energy into Seeing a Show
There is NOTHING like seeing a show at Disney. Doesn’t matter if it’s a parade or fireworks. They are all spectacular and handled with so much care and magic. Even if you are positive that you are not a show person and would rather commit your time to rides, please schedule at least one show into your day. You won’t regret it.

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6) Enjoy What You’re Watching!
I used to race to watch the parade or fireworks almost every day after work. I never took pictures of what I was experiencing but I still remember exactly how I felt when I watched the shows. I remember tearing up. I remember my heart racing. I remember feeling bliss. It’s been a few years since I’ve worked at Disney and on my last trip to Disneyland, I had my camera ready during the new Paint the Night parade. I wanted to document a parade that I may not get to see again for awhile. I haven’t looked at a single photo since the trip, but I do remember how I felt when the parade first rolled out. What I’m trying to say is, you don’t have to capture every single moment to remember it in a powerful way. The memory of a parade will stay with you. If you try to snap a photo of a float going by, you may miss the moment when that princess waved at your child. And please don’t take pictures of the fireworks. It’s just so silly and disruptive.

7) Spend Time on Main Street
You may only see Main Street when you enter the park or later in the day when it is packed as people wait for the parade. Take a moment during the day to browse the shops. There are candy shops and an ice cream parlor and adorable souvenir shops. You can also snag a ride on a Main Street vehicle. While you’re there, wave hello to Walt’s apartment for me!

Erika Jenko
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Posted on January 12, 2016, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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