We love Disney gift cards! We've talked before how to get free money to spend on Disney gift cards, but do you know all of the ways that you can use your Disney gift cards? We've got a list for you! This isn't a complete list, but I'll bet there's a few ways to use them you might not have known!
1. Disney Resorts, includng those like Aulani and Hilton Head
2. Food anywhere on Disney Property, even some non owned Disney Spring locations
3. Souvenirs and shopping at Disney and Disney Springs
4. Parking at the Theme Parks
5. Theme park tickets
6. Spa services
7. Disney Cruises
8. Adventures by Disney
9. DVC dues or fees
10. Memory Maker
So what can't you use these gift cards on? Balloon vendors are cash only, and a few of the nightime carts with light up toys can't take these. You can't use these (yet) for Minnie Vans, RunDisney fees, pressed pennies, laundry services and a few other small things. It's also a good idea to have a little cash as a backup, there have been times we've been in Epcot and all credit card readers have gone down, and the only way to get that Mickey Pretzel was with cash!
Once you get your gift cards, you can combine them up to $1000 each, check balances or even buy specialty looking cards, through Disney's gift card website.
There's very little these card's can't buy, and with so many fun designs, they are perfect gifts too! If you haven't read our article on how in less than 10 seconds how to make sure your child (or you!) doesn't lose their gift card, you might want to check it out by clicking here. It's quick, easy, and fun!
Galaxy's Edge might be a trial run for a new style of fastpass. A virtual queue! You'll need something important though to participate.
You are going to need the most updated version of the My Disney Experience App. This is a pretty simple process, but like with everything new at Disney, might have a few kinks.
First, open our app once you've scanned your magicband or presented your ticket. Once you've gone through the gate, open the app, and enter the virtual queue for the Galaxy's Edge. You'll want to select "Join Boarding Group". When it gets time for your group to enter, you'll receive an alert from your app. Once you get that, you have up to two hours to get in line to ride.
A word of warning...just because you have a boarding pass doesn't mean that your group will be called, and also there are only so many boarding passes released each day. You'll want to try and get your boarding pass ASAP when walking into the park!
If this goes well, it's possible that Disney will expand the virtual queue to other rides! The great thing about this, is that you can work your touring plan, have a snack or jump in line for something else while waiting for your turn.
Every one of us has a secret weapon to make our Disney planning so much simpler, and it's completely free, easily available and something the whole family can enjoy participating in the excitement of planning.
YouTube is a treasure trove of Disney Magic, all waiting just a click away. You'll be able to find out most everything you need to whittle down that massive list of must do's when you have more to do than time, and this tool is especially helpful if you've never been, or don't visit often and want to see what's new. If you aren't sure how to plan with YouTube and all of the amazing things you can discover, keep reading!
Go on the rides
Are you unsure if Dinosaur is the kind of ride your six year old will like? What about Grandma Stevens, who doesn't like heights, will Peter Pan's Flight be too stressful for her? Whether you need to find out if something is too fast, too scary, to boring, or just something no one will like, YouTube is your play. Simply type in something like: "Animal Kingdom Rides" or "Kids Rides at Hollywood Studios" and see what pops up!
Preview the food
The best way, other than browsing menus online, is to check out what others are eating, and see how they like it. You'll be able to see portions, real opinions and get a "taste" of what might appeal to you on your own trip!
Watch the Shows
Is it really worth spending 20 minutes finding a spot before the castle preshow? What about the dance party over in Tomorrowland or the new Lightening McQueen show at Hollywood Studios? With YouTube, you can browse the shows, give yourself a preview and not only use someone else's vantage point to decide if that's where you want to stand, or if you'd rather go somewhere else.
Take a walk around
I tend to get lost easily. My kids joke the only place I can navigate around without getting lost is at Disney. I suppose, that's because I need landmarks to get myself from point A to B without getting turned around! Disney has loads of amazing points to navigate with, but if you aren't familiar with the area, and wonder how much walking you'll need to do, or just want to see the land not on a printed map, try a keyword search like: "Magic Kingdom Walkthrough" You could narrow it down, with "Frontierland Walkthrough". Enjoy the scenery, and take notes!
Check out the resorts
Who has the best pools? How far is it from the check in to the building you are assigned to? Is the theming better at this place, or that? By typing in the name of resorts, you'll find videos of the insides, the outsides, and all the little extras and unique parts that each resort has to offer!
Browse the stores
There is nothing like a Disney store to bring our your inner shopping spree personality. Young or old, Disney stores have something (times a hundred) for everyone! Motivate yourself and your children to save, by checking out the merchandise, and the prices! Need more tips? Go here to find some savings tips for adults, and then go here, for ways to help your kids to save!
Experience the nostalgia
Relive the old days! Rides no longer there, shows that have closed their curtain, and characters who don't appear often. This is not really something to help plan, but makes for a fun evening anyway!
Chances are, one evening won't be enough to do this! One video turns into five, turns into ten, turns into more things you want to see than you have time for! Before you worry that that's the problem you already had in the first place, more to do than time, jot down the things you are seeing that you want to cut from your list.
Hopefully some of these ideas will make planning for your next trip easier! Do you have some other planning tips, or a favorite thing to watch on YouTube about Disney?
If you've not stopped by Target lately, you need to! On a large standalone display near the groceries and housewares, at least in my store, is a display with all kinds of Disney Eats merchandise. You'll find cookie kits, bowls, snack containers, kitchen utensils, other food related things, and these...beautifully decorated cookies like you'd see at Disney. But part of what makes these so amazing, is for those of us who need to be on the hunt for allergy friendly products. These are made in a peanut and tree nut free facility!! All of this cookie's brands are. Isn't that fantastic?
We bought both the tub, with 8 cookies for $14.99 and some single cookies at $1.99 each. The tub has 4 different designs, snowflake, Christmas tree, gingerbread and Mickey Clause. Single sold cookies, they had Mickey Clause, and Minnie. I'm hoping they get some plain Mickey in too, to save back.
We all love the taste of these, they are not as hard as you might expect iced cookies to be, and actually have a bit of flavor, unlike many decorated cookies I've tried. What could be a better way to brighten the season than to have beautiful, Disney cookies at your family gatherings? In a Disney park, since these are safe for your child with nut allergies, or tucked in a stocking or lunchbox? We plan to give a few to our Disney loving school librarian!
Since these have a long shelf life, I plan to buy any left after Christmas! (I might have already bought 3 tubs and some singles!! So I've bought all I can at full price!)
It's my hope that they will bring these back for next year! And the year after that! Every Christmas cookie tastes better when in the shape of Mickey!
While there is no bad time at all to visit a Disney Park, without a doubt one of the most popular times to visit is a holiday. There’s something special about holiday decorations, whether it’s for a Patriotic holiday, Halloween of Christmas. It adds a little extra Pixie Dust to that already magical experience.
If you are one of those planning out your visit to the Magic Kingdom or any other park for an upcoming holiday, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.
Going to Disney during a holiday does mean more magic, but it also means higher crowds. In order to get the most magic, and the least frustration out of your trip, there’s a few things you’ll want to take into consideration!
If you are driving your own car, be prepared for a much longer walk to and from your parking space. Arrive as early as you can for the best parking space possible. There will also be longer lines or wait times to take the parking tram.
Because holidays, New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, are such popular times to visit, Magic Kingdom can reach capacity. What does this mean? A holiday at capacity happens in stages, so knowing those stages can make sure YOU get inside. Disney can change the way they do things at any time, but this is generally how it happens when it starts getting closer to capacity. Usually you’ll only need to worry about this a few days before, and after Christmas.
Guests with one day, single park tickets or those using cast member passes will not be allowed to park, they will be turned away at the toll plazas.
Any guest staying at a Disney Resort, even if they drive themselves, is allowed in. Also, anyone with a multi day ticket, or park hopper tickets, annual passholders, someone hopping in from another park, anyone arriving by Disney transportation or anyone with an existing in park reservation.
When the second stage occurs, the only ones allowed into the parking lots, or through the ticket turnstiles are:
Those staying at a Disney resort, annual passholders, those re-entering the park from earlier that day, those hopping from another park, those with in park reservations or those coming by Disney transportation.
Once it reaches the third stage (which isn’t too often, the second stage it the most common) the only ones allowed into the turnstiles, or the parking lot are:
Those staying at a Disney Resort, annual passholders, those with in park reservations.
The fourth stage, the park is entirely shut down, to all visitors. This has only happened once though, so it’s unlikely you will need to worry about it.
If you are visiting during a holiday, and NOT staying on property, you need to arrive at least an hour and a half early in order to make sure you get into the park. Remember, with the new opening procedure for the park, the hub is open an hour, sometimes earlier, than actual park opening. Once that is filled, and it will fill on a holiday, people will be stuck between the gates and the turnsiles, backing up to to the arrival areas and it will take much much longer to get inside of the park and get where you want to go. Holiday are NOT a time to get there late.
There will be crowds, but like any Disney crowd, common sense will see you through. If you’ve small children, keep them in the stroller or tightly hold their hands so they don’t get lost, or knocked over. It only takes the blink of an eye for your group to be separated when another group pushes past you, so something like matching hats or shirts can go a long way towards spotting each others.
First-timers- please note! You will NOT be able to hear your cell phone ringing, and the person you are trying to call will not be able to hear theirs! Even on a regular park day, it’s just too loud in the park to hear it, so plan to take frequent breaks to look to see if you’ve missed a call or text from another in your group.
If there was a sit down place you wanted to eat, or if your little princess wanted a makeover, I hope you’ve already got reservations. You can start booking your preferred restaurant 6 months in advance. Didn’t do that yet? It’s okay, and you might still be able to get a reservation, but the sooner you start checking, the better. As time draws closer to your trip, if you haven't been able to score a table, don’t give up. Things happen sometimes with the others who hold those reservations, and it’s not unlikely, or impossible to get the restaurant you’ve been longing for, a few days before your trip. The trick is to keep trying, and not stop. Check the odd times too. It doesn’t matter if it’s quick service or not, tables are filled more from 11:30am-1pm.
This really goes along with the crowds, but you know there will already be some longer crowds. While it’s a little harder to beat the crowds on a holiday, it’s not impossible to minimize your wait time if you have a plan. If you don’t know what you want to do, where you want to go and where you want to eat, the lines are going to get longer and longer and you are going to start feeling frustrated. Disney is such a great place to visit, don’t let your magical trip be ruined by something so small like an hour per park that you’ve made at least a general outline of what order you are going to do things.
Take advantage of the great service Disney offers that’s totally free! Have the shop send your purchases to the front of the park for pickup on your way out, or even better, back to your resort! Keep in mind though, if you are sending back to your resort, don’t send anything back in the last 24 hours of your trip because it might not get to you in time.
Holidays at Disney have some extra special photo opportunities, so be sure to take advantage! You’ll find Mickey and his friends in seasonal costumes, as well as characters you might not get to see during the rest of the year. There will be special parades, music, shows and of course, lot sof special treats to sample that you can only get during these special occasions.
Disney also offers special seasonal events, such as the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These have special things like trick or treating, or cookie and cocoa stations throughout the park as well as other fun surprises.
Keep in mind that if you are visiting the park on a day where one of these parties is held, the park does close early to those who do not have tickets for these events. Tickets can sell out quickly, so it’s best to get yours the moment you know you will be there during a holiday. It is very unlikely that you will be able to buy a ticket the day of the event.
Patience, patience, patience
While this is a top tip, other than planning, for any Disney vacation, it’s needed more than ever during a Disney holiday. Have patience. Patience with the family who just cut in front of you, patience with that REALLY annoying family remember who keeps slowing you down, patience with your kid who had to stop for the 11th bathroom/pretzel/pin trading moment in the last hour and a half. Don’t forget to have patience with yourself, too. You might not get to do everything you want. That’s okay. Enjoy what you can!
Remember, a little prep, a little planning will go a long way towards making the most out of your vacation. It can be a little overwhelming to plan a Disney trip, but it’s far worse to be standing there in a panic as the lines get longer and longer and you’ve no idea what anyone wants to ride! Like the old adage, an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.
Stay sane, and have fun during your Disney holiday!
Want some more ideas?
Click here for a way to save HUNDREDS during your Disney vacation in just minutes
Click here for tips to maximize your Disney Dining Plan credits
Click here for a FREE touring plan to do 10 rides in just 3 hours at a Disney Park!