Every time I go, I book character breakfasts, ride Space Mountain early, and buy souvenir jewelry.
I also like to grab a quick lunch at Satu'li Canteen and ride the fun Disney transportation.
I skip the long meet-and-greet lines by booking a character breakfast.
Everyone wants to get Mickey's autograph when they go to Disney World, so the character meet-and-greet lines can get pretty long. Instead, I always book one of Disney's character breakfasts.
I usually choose based on my kids' current favorite characters so they can get photos, a hug, and an autograph while we eat breakfast.
There are usually about four or five characters, and they circulate around the room, so each one should pop by your table at least once during your meal.
These tend to book up quickly, so you'll want to make your reservation right when your booking window opens up (60 days before your trip).
When it gets too hot or the kids get tired, we head back to the hotel for a swim.
I used to think I had to be in the theme parks from open to close so I could squeeze in as many rides and shows as possible. But the way I do Disney has changed quite a bit over the years.
Now that I typically travel to Disney with my three kids, I know that pushing them from morning until night is a recipe for disaster.
We still get to the parks pretty early, but we almost always head back to the hotel pool (our favorite is at the Polynesian Resort) to relax and recharge after lunch. It's the hottest part of the day and the lines are usually the longest, too.
After a couple of hours, we're cooled off and ready to head back to the parks.
I pass right by Starbucks and head for Joffrey's, which has the best coffee at Disney World.
When I'm at the parks, I like to get things that are unique to Disney. For coffee, that means Joffrey's.
It has fun flavored coffees like the frozen Kona mocha, but its real strength is its espresso and cold brew.
Take it from someone who drinks her cold brews black, Joffrey's is the superior Disney coffee.
I always ask the PhotoPass photographers if they offer any fun magic shots.
I don't visit Disney World without purchasing Memory Maker, the service that lets you download all of your ride and PhotoPass pictures from your vacation.
The photographers are excellent at getting great shots in front of iconic landmarks. But they also do "magic shots," where fun Disney characters or balloons are added to the photo.
Sometimes they'll do this automatically, but you can always ask your photographer if they have any available. They differ from park to park and there are seasonal shots for holidays and special events, too.
Satu'li Canteen is the best quick-service restaurant at Disney World.
Aside from our character breakfast, I don't book a lot of table-service meals at the parks. I don't like being locked into plans — we just stop and eat when we get hungry.
My favorite place to do that quickly is Satu'li Canteen in Animal Kingdom's Pandora section. The food tastes so fresh and you can customize your meal with different meats, veggies, and grains.
I love the cheeseburger pods (they taste just like a McDonald's cheeseburger) and the green Hawkes' Grog ale.
I ride Space Mountain first thing in the morning when everyone else is running toward Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
I love Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but I don't love waiting in line.
Most people head straight there when Magic Kingdom opens in the morning, but I make a beeline for Tomorrowland to get on my favorite coaster at Disney World: Space Mountain.
At that time of day, the wait is usually less than 30 minutes (sometimes half that), and the interactive queue is one of my favorites.
Since I still want to ride Mine Train, I just check the wait times throughout the day and wait for the line to calm down.
I love eating and drinking around Epcot, especially during the festivals.
When my husband and I have the chance to visit Disney on our own, we love to spend an evening eating and drinking our way around Epcot's World Showcase.
It's almost guaranteed our visit will fall during one of the four annual festivals, and we can sample dishes from food booths around the park.
A few of my favorite items that you can find all year are the hummus fries from Spice Road Table, the avocado margarita from La Cava del Tequila, and a jumbo pretzel and beer from Sommerfest.
My husband made it a tradition to shop for theme-park jewelry.
My family has collected a number of souvenirs over the years, including ornaments and toys.
But during a visit for our anniversary, my husband bought me a pair of sugar-skull earrings from Epcot's Mexico pavilion, and since then, he's picked out a piece of jewelry for me every trip.
Our favorite places to look are around Epcot's World Showcase and at Animal Kingdom.
I ask everyone in my group to pick one or two must-do attractions instead of planning out our entire day.
Rather than make a minute-by-minute spreadsheet to map out our day, I've learned everyone is happier when we opt for a less stressful approach.
I ask my kids and husband to share the top things they want to do at each park, and we do our best to squeeze each one in. It can be anything from getting cotton candy to riding Peter Pan's Flight.
It makes our days feel more relaxed, but we still each get to do our favorite things.
Even if we bring a car, I make sure to take at least one ride on the monorail and the Skyliner.
I love all forms of Disney transportation. They're basically like attractions themselves.
The monorail gives me major nostalgia and the newer Skyliner offers awesome bird's-eye views of the parks and hotels.
I go out of my way to take at least one trip on each form of Disney transportation on every vacation.
I skip the big crowds around Cinderella Castle and watch the Magic Kingdom parades from Frontierland.
I'm not a huge fan of big crowds or waiting in line. That's why I head to the little corner in Frontierland between Splash Mountain and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn to view Magic Kingdom's parades and character cavalcades.
This is the spot where the parades start, and it's usually not too crowded, making it easy to see the show and snap some unobstructed photos.
You get a lot of extra waves from the characters on the parade floats, and you can go off to your next activity while everyone else on the parade route is still watching.
I have to get a boozy Dole Whip at Wine Bar George in Disney Springs.
I didn't eat a lot of Dole Whip as a kid, but now I can't visit Disney World without ordering it at least once.
My favorite version is the boozy Frozcato from Wine Bar George in Disney Springs. The frozen libation is made with moscato, vodka, and pineapple Dole Whip.
It's cold, delicious, and has a tropical kick. I always crave one as soon as I arrive on Disney property.
No Disney World visit is complete without a ride on Haunted Mansion.
I can't quite pinpoint what it is about Haunted Mansion that makes it a must-do ride.
Maybe it's because I have so many childhood memories of it. It could also be the ominous-yet-catchy music or the chilling special effects.
Whatever the reason, it doesn't feel like a Disney trip until I visit this classic attraction.
Kilimanjaro Safaris is different every time I visit, and I always like to see what the animals are up to.
You can see many of them on the Kilimanjaro Safaris ride, but they're wild animals, so they're always doing something different.
You may see them being very active one time you ride and resting peacefully the next. When baby animals are born each year, you can see them with their mothers, as well.
I feel like I'm visiting old friends when I go on this ride.
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