One of the most magical things about a Walt Disney World resort vacation, is being able to see your favorite characters come to life. Whether, you’re an adult just now living your childhood dream or a parent, making your child’s dream come true – it is a memory you will not forget.
One of my “Disney Goals” is to meet every Disney character and I am well on my way, so I have stood in a line or 100. Here are some of my tips I’ve learned from my experiences.
This is the easiest way to meet characters without having to stand in lines. This comes in especially handy with little ones. You are able to eat your meal while the characters come around to sign autographs and take pictures with you at your table. The Mickey Mouse Gang, (most) Disney Princesses, Winnie-the-Pooh & Friends, Disney Junior Favorites, Lilo & Stitch, Mary Poppins, Lilo & Stitch, and Alice in Wonderland are all available at character dining. However, dining windows open 180 days in advance and these reservations go quickly, so be sure to let your travel agent know as soon as possible. Characters are subject to change and some are only available at certain meals.
The more popular characters may have lines that are over an hour long. If you are not able to score character dining with your favorite, the next best thing is a fast pass. These go quickly as well. Also, expect to stand in line even with a fast pass. It will most likely be a lot shorter than the stand-by line, but more likely than not – you will have to stand in line no matter what.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
My Disney Experience app is a wonderful tool. You are able to view when and where character meet and greets are before your vacation begins. Some characters “retire” from meet and greets, some make special appearances, some are out several times a day, others only a specific time. While these schedules change often, this app allows you to get a good idea of where and when these greetings may occur. Since I am on a mission to meet them all, I always go through the list a week prior to see if anyone I’ve missed is on the list, where I may find them, and how often they are available. You can use this app in the park as well.
While the My Disney Experience app gives a great listing of characters, times, and locations – magical randomness occurs around every corner. (Often times right after parades). You never know who you may see taking a short “break” to sign autographs and take pictures. Rafiki’s Planet Watch at Animal Kingdom and the Star Wars Launch Bay/Animation Courtyard at Hollywood Studios are popular AIR CONDITIONED buildings that are wonderful to go take a break in and sometimes random characters make appearances out of the blue.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will have rare character meet and greets that are not done throughout the year or during regular park times like the villains and Prince Floridian.
Keep Your Cameras and Autograph Books Ready
While the Memory Maker photographers are great, some of the less popular characters do not have their own photographer. You will need to have your camera ready when it is your turn as well as far those impromptu meetings you didn’t expect. This along with having your autograph book turned to the correct page with a pen in hand will help the line go a lot quicker. (Side note: While autograph books are a wonderful souvenir, keep in mind they take a lot of time and also may take away from some of the interaction time.)
Get In Line Early
If you know the exact spot a character will be, it’s best to line up before they make their appearance. According to their popularity, will determine how long you need to wait.
Sometimes they have more than 1 character swapping out. My example is with Mike and Sully. Mike would come out for 10 minutes, then Sully, etc. The line was long and by the time I was able to get to the front of the line, I would be with the character I already met. Sometimes the cast member will let you wait to the side if you discreetly let them know about this, others will not. My best tip has always been to time it just right and start quietly and discreetly letting the person behind me get ahead of me.
Another situation, is with Genie (my personal favorite). He was with Jasmine, but I wanted a special Christmas photo with just me and the Genie. Instead of taking up time for them to take 2 separate pictures, I let the cast member know ahead of time and they were happy to accommodate me. (Jasmine wasn’t offended.)
Do NOT :
- Stop a character and their cast member if they are walking down the street/sidewalk. They are working too, meeting schedules, and abiding by laws & regulations as to how long those characters can stay in the heat. If they stop for 1 person, 100 will line up. They have to say no, just like you do at your job.
- Yell out everything you’ve read online. These characters see thousands of people a day. If Woody, Buzz, and Jessie fell out in the middle of the floor every time someone yelled “Andy’s coming”, they would never get through the line of children waiting to meet them. The times I’ve heard that happened, they were ignored anyway. DO interact with the characters. They will normally say lines from their movie or Ariel may ask if you have seen Ursula. You can have a lot of fun, just keep it respectful.
- Argue with the cast member (or beg) when they have to cut off the line. Again, they have to abide by regulations as to how long the character they are assisting are allow to be out at a time. (Remember characters ARE human, they get hot, hungry, thirsty, and tired just like we do, except they are not allowed to break character to do anything about it.) I have found if you are nice, you can quietly and politely ask the cast member a good time to be back. Sometimes you only have to wait 10 minutes, other time you can come back in a couple of hours. They will even tell you how long ahead of time to start standing in line.
- Break the magic. Whether you have children or not, they are everywhere. Do not break the magic by letting anything “realistic” slip. Sometimes it’s very obvious (to adults), that they have changed Cinderella’s or Goofy may not be as peppy as the one who was there 10 minutes ago. I’ve actually heard remarks standing in line. Keep it MAGICAL!
- Jump in front of the Memory Maker photographers the second it’s your turn. Some of the cutest pictures I’ve seen, is a child hugging the character good bye (and sometimes running back to them). The photographers are always quick to capture these memories, so be sure the person ahead of you is completely out of the way before proceeding.
- Cause a traffic jam. We know you have to keep everyone entertained in line, but I have seen numerous circumstances where this caused the line to be longer than what it needed to be. Keep yourself and your party on track in line. There may be points you are in the same spot for 10 minutes at a time, but stay alert.
Amanda is full of more great tips for your vacation. Reach out to her at Ahowell@onceuponavacation.com