During my 6-month Disney College Program, I worked at 26 different locations in Disney World.
When I go back, I always make detailed plans and agendas to make the most of my trips.
Some of my favorite eats are empanadas from Mexico in Epcot and Flame Tree in Animal Kingdom.
Disney Springs is almost a park of its own.
Disney Springs — the property's free dining, shopping, and entertainment district — has so much to do that I could easily spend a day there.
You can shop at World of Disney (the largest store at Disney World) or view Disney-inspired art at the WonderGround Gallery in addition to plenty of other shops, entertainment options, and attractions.
You can also get some fan-favorite snacks like Dole Whip and a variety of specialty mac-and-cheese dishes. I recommend dropping by the Ganachery, Gideon's Bakehouse, or Amorette's Patisserie for unique treats.
Don't forget to visit the resorts - also known as "resort hopping."
It's free to "resort hop," or visit the different themed Disney resort hotels around the property.
I love taking photos with character sculptures at Art of Animation Resort or the giant throwback toys at Pop Century Resort, and the best part is there are hardly any crowds.
Other favorites are the BoardWalk and Beach Club resorts right outside of Epcot and the beach huts at the Polynesian Resort.
You can also get some great food at the resorts' restaurants and food courts.
Character Warehouse has some great Disney merchandise on clearance.
Once items are no longer in season, Disney ships them to places like Character Warehouse, which has two locations at outlet malls in Orlando.
Both carry park merchandise with heavy discounts. I've been able to get over 50% off on my souvenir hauls.
When it's time to hit the parks, always go in with a plan.
Whether I'm going into the parks for a few hours or a full 16-hour day, I always have a plan to make the most of my time and energy.
Some time-saving tips include using a Magic Band for park entry and purchases and making dining reservations and mobile orders in advance.
Whenever I have an agenda for the day, I'm always able to accomplish the things I really want to do, like take certain photos or get on my favorite rides.
Go early and take midday breaks in the parks.
At Disney, the early bird gets to go on the most rides with the shortest wait times.
I always recommend getting to the park early. If needed, you can take a midday break by riding one of the air-conditioned, slow-moving rides or seeing an indoor show.
Some of my favorite break spots include "Mickey's PhilharMagic" in Magic Kingdom, the Short Film Festival in Epcot, "Finding Nemo – The Musical" in Animal Kingdom, and Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy in Hollywood Studios.
Don't be afraid to go to the parks alone or pose for solo photos.
I love having solo time in the parks to explore and do exactly what I want. I also always want photos to look back on, even if it means I have to pose by myself.
Don't be afraid to get silly and ask park employees (especially PhotoPass photographers) or other guests to take photos for you.
Enjoy a secluded meal at Flame Tree Barbecue.
Complete with beautiful views of Expedition Everest and live ibis birds (that will try to eat your food), Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom has delicious food.
The dining area is hidden away by foliage, so many guests don't even know it exists.
I always get the pulled-pork macaroni and cheese and a mandarin-orange lemonade.
The cheese empanadas in the Mexico pavilion are delicious.
The Epcot World Showcase pavilions are full of iconic snacks and meals, but one of my favorites is the cheese empanadas at La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico.
Don't shy away from the kid's meals either, they're more budget-friendly and come with sides like chips and queso and a drink. Plus the smaller portions leave room for more food.
After, explore the cool pavilion, and catch a ride on Gran Fiesta Tour.
Play with your food at Woody's Lunchbox in Toy Story Land.
Woody's Lunchbox in Hollywood Studios has some great finds, like barbecue-brisket melts and grilled three-cheese sandwiches.
It also offers unique side options of tater tots or tomato soup.
You can also get your food to-go and watch a nighttime show.
If you can snag a reservation, breakfast at Be Our Guest is a must.
As a huge "Beauty and the Beast" fan, Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom is a must for me.
Over the years I've learned the best way to dine there is to make a reservation before Magic Kingdom opens and order ahead — which can be done at most of the breakfast restaurants.
I recommend the croque madame, which also comes with complimentary pastries and a drink. I think one order is enough for two adults to split to save money.
To get to the park, I just walk over to the Contemporary Resort because there are usually fewer crowds, and I can easily get to the entrance by 7:30 a.m. when they open the gates for anyone with a breakfast reservation.
It's first-come, first-serve for seating at Be Our Guest, so I snap a few pics in the near-empty park and head to the restaurant. By ordering ahead, the food will be out fast, and I can get in line for a popular attraction before the rest of the crowds even enter.
I like to eat smaller meals so I can still take snack breaks.
I love trying all the Disney snacks when I go to the parks, so I make sure to schedule out my breaks in between meals.
Some of my must-have snacks include the giant marshmallow treats from the Confectionery (which are made in house, whereas the small ones are not), a $2 souvenir popcorn-bucket refill anywhere around the parks, cream-cheese filled pretzels at the Lunching Pad, and of course, Dole Whip or a Citrus Swirl in Adventure Land.
Animal Kingdom has some of the best drinks (for all ages).
Animal Kingdom has some of the best drinks, including the Frozen Flamingo (strawberry-and-passion fruit slush) at Harambe Market, Pink Lotus (strawberry-lychee lemonade) at Thirsty River Bar, Night Lotus (apple, pear, and lime slush with passion-fruit boba) at Pongu Pongu, and frozen Coke from various locations.
Check out Epcot's festivals and other seasonal offerings.
Epcot has four seasonal events every year: Flower and Garden Festival, Food and Wine Festival, Festival of the Arts, and Festival of the Holidays.
Although the offerings vary for each festival every year, some of the best recurring food and drinks I've tried are the violet lemonade, Cronut, tres-leches cake, lobster tail, and honey-mascarpone cheesecake.
Most things are small and around $5, so you can easily try a bunch.
There are also awesome performances and activities, like the free drawing classes during the Festival of the Arts.
There are a bunch of additional magical experiences that are free around the property.
Disney vacations aren't cheap, but that's even more of a reason to take advantage of all the free perks and experiences.
There are complimentary celebration buttons you can pick up from guest services or most merchandise locations if it's your first visit, a birthday, an anniversary, or a honeymoon.
I also like pin trading with park employees, where I can swap out any pins I have for something from their lanyards or boards.
For more interactive activities, you can also collect stickers and postcards around the world at Epcot with KidCot, sample international sodas from Club Cool in Epcot, get "pixie-dusted" in Magic Kingdom, go on a Pirate's Adventure in Magic Kingdom, become a Sorcerer of the Magic Kingdom, or become a Wilderness Explorer in Animal Kingdom.
You can also collect stickers and character autographs across the property.
When I have to go, I always head to the themed restrooms.
It's inevitable you'll have to visit a restroom when at the parks, so try for some that are nicely themed, cleaner, and less crowded.
My favorites in Magic Kingdom are the ones by Gaston's Tavern, Storybook Circus, and the "Tangled"-themed area in Fantasy Land.
In the Norway pavilion in Epcot, there are also sauna-themed restrooms.
Bonus tip: Much like in actual colonial times there's no indoor plumbing (aka public restrooms) in Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom.
Spend a full day in each park.
Some people only plan for a full day in Magic Kingdom and try to shove the other parks into half days, but I think all of them deserve attention.
If you have the time, really enjoy all the country pavilions in Epcot, from the 360-degree films in Canada, China, and France, to the galleries in Morocco, China, and Japan. I like to find photo spots to trick my friends into thinking I'm a world traveler.
In Animal Kingdom, see all the shows and take your time on the Maharajah Trek and Gorilla Falls trails, where you can experience up-close animal encounters.
At Hollywood Studios, check out Walt Disney Presents, a walk-through attraction with tons of Disney history. The exhibits even end in a theater where you can watch the "One Man's Dream" documentary or exclusive extended previews for upcoming movies depending on what's playing.
Always end the day with a nighttime show.
There's no better way to finish off a day in the parks than with one of the nighttime shows.
My favorites are "Fantasmic" in Hollywood Studios and "Happily Ever After" in Magic Kingdom — which was recently replaced by a new show called "Disney Enchantment."
I think the best spot to experience Magic Kingdom fireworks is near the Walt and Mickey Partners statue.
As a bonus, after the shows, you may be able to stick around long enough to get some empty-park photos.
Note: Some of the experiences on this list maybe be temporarily closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
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