Disney Hacks #1: Tips and Tricks for your Walt Disney World Vacation

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Hey everyone! This will be the first in what I expect to be a series of articles providing little tips and tricks to make your Disney trips go more smoothly — a random smattering of bits of advice that might not individually warrant their own articles that I call “Disney hacks.” So, without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Stroller Tip #25: Making Your Stroller Visible

Best of luck locating your stroller!

For many Walt Disney World Visitors, strollers are a necessary part of a trip, and a necessary part of having a stroller is leaving it somewhere once you get to where you’re going. Unfortunately, even if you know exactly where it is, finding your stroller afterwards can be challenging, especially at night. You’ve got to pick it out of a sea of very similar-looking strollers, a problem that is compounded if you rented it from Disney or one of the more popular vendors. Moreover, Cast Members routinely rearrange and shuffle strollers to tidy them up over time, so even if you think you know where it is, there’s a decent chance it has been moved. The solution is to make your stroller stand out so you can look for something unique that happens to be attached to your stroller rather than looking for the stroller itself.  

We’ve found that by far the most effective way to do this is with LED string lights wrapped around the frame of the stroller. My family actually stumbled upon this tip during the holiday season, when we wrapped our stroller just because we wanted to be festive, but quickly realized that it enabled us to spot the stroller from literally hundreds of feet away. They are battery operated, inexpensive (the lights we bought only cost $6.25 with free shipping on Amazon Prime), and bright enough to spot your stroller at night from a great distance. We use two strands of different colors to distinguish them from other lights in the parks.  

It's not just a balloon, it's a beacon!
It’s not just a balloon, it’s a beacon! Photo © Disney

Lights don’t help when the bright Florida sun is shining, of course, so you’ll need to find a different approach during the day. I have two recommendations on this front.  We also stumbled upon the first one serendipitously when we were gifted a Mickey balloon minutes into our trip to the parks. We didn’t want to take the time to run it back to the room, so we tied it to the stroller. Well, having that balloon tied to the stroller made it very easy to spot during the day, so we just left it on there for the entirety of the trip. If you don’t want to pay for a balloon, deal with a balloon bobbing around your head everywhere you go, or are in Animal Kingdom (where balloons are not allowed), tying a brightly colored scarf or ribbon around the stroller handle gives you something distinctive to look for that will make your stroller stand out.  

There is an added benefit to making your stroller stand out in this fashion — while I’m no doubt sure that stroller theft is in fact a thing, I understand anecdotally that people inadvertently grabbing the wrong stroller is probably the bigger cause of strollers going missing. Making your stroller look wholly unlike any of the other strollers in the area makes it far less likely that someone will mistakenly walk away with yours — and a distinctive stroller is going to be a less attractive target for actual thieves as well.

Transportation Tip #7: Using Uber as Your Safety Valve

Bus lines like this don't have to put a damper on your fun!
Bus lines like this don’t have to put a damper on your fun!

Considering the staggering number of people at WDW each day, the Disney Transportation system does a remarkable job of moving guests relatively quickly around the property, but it’s not perfect. Uber, which is essentially an on-demand ride service that you access from your smartphone, can be a great way to move around Walt Disney World on those occasions when relying upon Disney transportation will take longer than you’d like.  

One such example is when you are going from one resort to another for a meal. Unless you’re traveling from one monorail resort to another or taking a boat from Beach Club to Boardwalk, going from your resort to another using Disney transportation can be a punishing, thankless experience because it requires you to take a bus to a central location like a theme park, and then take another bus from there to the resort. Disney recommends that you set aside one and a half hours to make the trip from one resort to another using its system. Round trip, you’re talking about 3 hours out of your day in transit alone for a single meal.

Would you pay $10 to get the overwhelming majority of that time back? Uber is the answer. Most rides around Disney property using Uber cost between $6-$10, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the price of a Disney trip as a whole. Money aside, however, it converts an epic, 90 minute voyage into a 15-20 minute jaunt, allowing you more time to relax and do the things you came to Walt Disney World to do. We’ve long been advocates of taking a cab when traveling from resort to resort when time is of the essence, but when you can have a better experience for the cost of a couple of snacks, it’s an easy decision.

Uber can also be handy if you show up at your resort bus stop and it’s apparent that it’s going to be a while before you get a ride, either because you just missed the bus, or the bus stop is so packed with people that the next bus might come and go without you on it. In both of these situations, just open the Uber app, see how close a driver is, and in most cases, you can be on your way in a matter of minutes, which could be a far better option than standing around waiting.

Have your driver drop you off at the Contemporary if you're going to the Magic Kingdom
Have your driver drop you off at the Contemporary if you’re going to the Magic Kingdom

Travel to the Magic Kingdom does bear special mention here, because all vehicles other than Disney buses are forced to drop off at the Ticket and Transportation Center, where you are still a boat or monorail ride away from the park. You can get around this by asking to go to the Contemporary Resort instead of the Magic Kingdom, and simply walk from there to the park entrance.  Given this extra walk, it’s a closer call as to whether Uber will save you time when going to the Magic Kingdom; it does, however, put you in control of your own destiny, which can sometimes have value in and of itself.

 

Bonus Uber Tip: Post-Wishes Bailout

One of the best things about staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the ability to casually stroll past the morass of people lining up to catch buses, ferries and the monorail during the crush that occurs immediately after Wishes each night.  Using Uber during this time can let even those staying at other resorts experience this wonderful bit of schadenfreude by catching your Uber back to your resort from the Contemporary at the end of the night.  Once you exit the park, open the Uber app and drop a pin at the Contemporary entrance to see how close a driver is.  In most cases, requesting a car when you’re about halfway there will result in you arriving just in time for the driver to pick you up.

Do you have any transportation or stroller hacks that you’d like to share? Please include them in the comments!

 

James Rosemergy

When not planning for or traveling to Walt Disney World with his beautiful wife and impossibly adorable daughter, James practices law in St. Louis. He also really likes cheese -- and loathes kale. He can be found on twitter at @jrtoastyman.

14 thoughts on “Disney Hacks #1: Tips and Tricks for your Walt Disney World Vacation

  • August 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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    Any experience with what the Uber upcharge/multiplier is like when trying to escape theme parks at closing?

    • August 16, 2015 at 2:47 pm
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      We used Uber extensively on our last trip in May, and we only encountered surge pricing once, in the morning, and it was 2.6, which made it comparable to a cab.

  • August 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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    I am from the UK and have never heard of I bet – would you be able to explain exactly what it is please? Is it just a local taxi firm? Thanks

  • August 16, 2015 at 1:52 pm
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    Sorry for I bet please read uber – stupid predictive text!

  • August 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm
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    Uber is characterized as a ride sharing service, but it is basically like hailing a cab, except you do it with your phone on the Uber app and everything — setting your pickup location, payment, etc. — is handled within the app. You link a credit card to your account, and your card is automatically charged when your ride is over. Unlike calling a cab, you know where your driver is when you call for it, how long it will take to get to you, and you can watch them on their way to get you. In my experience, it is a much more pleasant experience as compared to a cab.

    Since you’re from the UK, however, it bears mention that it relies upon the data connection on your phone, so you’d have to have some sort of data access to use it. Not a big deal if you’re at a resort, but it might be an issue if you don’t have access to a local cellular data network.

  • August 16, 2015 at 11:56 pm
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    I thought there were some restrictions on using Uber in WDW. Can you contact them to pick you up at a resort?

    • August 17, 2015 at 9:07 am
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      Yes, absolutely! We were picked up several times from resorts without incident.

      • August 17, 2015 at 9:10 am
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        Thanks

  • August 17, 2015 at 1:14 am
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    Taking a traditional cab from a cab stand at any resort is basically much simpler than Uber and it’s relatively affordable.

    It’s also a good after firework transportation hack.

    WDW is nice. But after visiting many, many times, the transportation to and from Magic Kingdom is a PAIN. The contemporary is a hack to that.

    • August 17, 2015 at 9:12 am
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      Personally I find that Uber is easier, especially since it doesn’t rely on finding a taxi stand. It’s also cheaper usually and for me has always been a better experience than a traditional taxi.

    • August 17, 2015 at 9:13 am
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      Well, the taxi vs. Uber thing is another topic entirely, but the thing that prompted us to start using Uber over cabs is that there were rarely cabs waiting at the resorts, and when you call for a cab, you just don’t know how far away a cab is. Uber gives you that info, so it’s easier to make a snap decision on whether it will save you time or not, making it a good “on the fly” option.

  • August 17, 2015 at 7:23 am
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    Great tip about the stroller! We used red and green garland to identify ours. It was shiny (shimmering, splendid) so it caught the sunlight and the ambient light in evening too. Best of all, it was only $1 at the dollar store. The excess decorated the window of our resort!!

  • August 18, 2015 at 2:32 pm
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    Have used a cab a few times over recent trips to WDW, mostly when traveling hotel to hotel. Each time, I simply ask the cast members outside the hotel to call me a cab, and the wait was never longer than a few minutes. They are happy to do it, and there is usually a cab nearby.

    Super duper hack regarding taxis to the Magic Kingdom: have them drop you off at the Grand Floridian. You can take the elevator up to the monorail station, and MK is the very next stop. It saves a little time and energy, rather than taking the walking path from the Contemporary.

  • August 19, 2015 at 2:20 pm
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    Speaking of strollers – we just returned on Monday from one week at WDW and wondered when it became mandatory for children to travel in enormous, deluxe strollers that have more features than our first cars? Yikes!! It also seemed that many of the parents who were pushing the side-by-side double deluxe strollers enjoyed using them as something of battering ram to clear their path of pesky pedestrians. Back in our stroller days we traveled with a lovely folding stroller, it was more comfortable for our sons than a bare bones umbrella stroller, but it was much easier to fold up and didn’t require pedestrians to give us an 8′ wide clearance on our path.

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