By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Category — s. FAQ and Glossary

Fireworks and Evening Shows at Walt Disney World

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)


  1. Related to COVID, there are no scheduled evening shows/fireworks at any of the Disney World parks.
  2. Rivers of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom seems to be permanently gone.


There are currently five routinely-scheduled fireworks or special evening shows at Walt Disney World:

Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom, which shows at varying evening times, from a few times a week in the slower seasons to every night during the most crowded times of the year.

IllumiNations at Epcot, which shows every night, most of the time at 9p.

Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which shows almost always every night.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which shows almost always every night, but may be off the schedule over the holidays, as it was in 2016

Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which–so far–has been showing nightly during the busier parts of the year, and four nights a week during the slower parts.

Each of these is a great show, and a don’t miss.

Some of these theme parks also commonly have additional fireworks during the two nights of the year where fireworks are an essential part of American life–New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July!

To check what days and times these shows are scheduled during your trip, check the Disney World calendars:

(Note that it’s common for Disney not to release the schedules for these shows until just a few months out–especially the Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios shows.)

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May 21, 2017   No Comments

Laundry, Valet Service, and Bag Fees at Walt Disney World

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)


I never check bags—it’s not the bag fee, because I almost always fly either Southwest or United, and Southwest doesn’t charge for bags, and I have just enough frequent flyer miles on United that I don’t have to pay.

Rather I don’t check bags because of the hassle, the extra steps, the extra time, and the small but real chance that my bags might wing off to a different destination than I’m heading to.

This means I have to pack light—and for my most recent Disney World trip, that was a real challenge. I made it work through using the laundry rooms and dry cleaning services you’ll find at your Disney World hotel.

With bag fees ranging from $50 to $100 for a round trip, you should consider doing this as well! [Read more →]

February 5, 2013   2 Comments

Park Hoppers and Hopping at Walt Disney World

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)


The itineraries on this site are designed for first time visitors who may never return, and as much as possible don’t include the “park hopper” ticket option.

The park hopper option lets you go to more than one of the four main theme parks in a day.

There’s nothing wrong with park hoppers.  Rather, it’s that on a long enough visit, most of the time you can make everything work without one, and avoid the extra cost of more than $200 for a typical family.   While this site is not shy about spending your money, I do try to eliminate avoidable expenses.

But there are some perfectly good reasons why a park hopper may make sense for your family. Almost all of these reasons come down to simply adding flexibility to your choices.

But be warned: once you’ve been on a visit with a hopper, it’s hard to be at Walt Disney World without one!


Some of the best-loved dining venues at Disney World are in the parks themselves.

Without a hopper, you can indulge in one of these only if that’s the only park you go to that day.

Adding a hopper lets you separate where you dine from where else you might go that day, and can be a big help if the restaurant you are targeting is sold out the day you plan to be in a park.


Much of the year, the key evening events–the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes at the Magic Kingdom, Illuminations at Epcot, and Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–are on pretty much every night, and thus don’t influence hopping.

But certain times of the year because of either special evening parties or lower demand they aren’t on every night.  This makes it harder to fit them into an itinerary–and also typically means that the parks are more crowded on days they are showing.

A hopper can make them easier to see, because you can see them any evening they are on without worrying about where else you are that day.


With some exceptions this site avoids Extra Magic Hours. Morning Extra Magic Hours (“EMH”) themselves are great, but by around lunch the park with morning EMH will be more crowded than it is on non-EMH days.

Evening EMH times often begin not much less crowded, and although crowds diminish the later they go, they can keep you up so late as to make you miserable the next day.

(I do like morning EMH at the Animal Kingdom on days it closes at 5p, and evening EMH at Epcot and Hollywood Studios the nights you are seeing Illuminations and Fantastic.

In the Animal Kingdom case, it can be hard to see the park between only 9 and 5, and for the Epcot and the Studios, it’s nice to not have to leave the park at the end of the show along with 10,000 other people.)

If you plan to take the afternoon off anyway, hoppers really help take advantage of EMH.  You can visit a park during morning EMH, leave for a nap and a swim at the hotel when it gets too crowded, and head to a different, less crowded park later that day.

Similarly with a hopper you can see evening shows on nights a park has evening EMH without committing to that park the rest of your day.


If your visit is short or your kids are young, some parks may be worth only half a day, but you may be unwilling to take the rest of the day off. Hoppers make this possible.

Young kids, for example, don’t get much out of Epcot, but are the perfect age for Turtle Talk with Crush, the Seas with Nemo and Friends, and, if they are tall enough, Soarin.  Illuminations is also a hit with the part of the younger set that’s not overly fearful of fireworks.

A hopper lets you begin your day at Epcot and see everything little kids love there in a couple of hours, return that night (or another night!) for Illuminations, but spend the middle of the day at another park.


A park hopper won’t help much with building a film like Blue Velvet, but a dennis hopper will.

July 16, 2012   22 Comments

Renting a Car at Walt Disney World

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)


Welcome to those of you joining from Heidi’s Head as Magical Blogorail Teal focuses this month on different parts of planning Disney park adventures.

My focus is on car rentals and Walt Disney World.


My basic advice for first time visitors to Walt Disney World is that they ought not to rent a car, but rather should use Disney’s Magical Express instead.

Why? First, you’ll save hundreds of dollars. Orlando rental car costs vary with the time of the year, the length of the rental, any discount or coupon codes you might have, and the size and capacity of the vehicle, but you’ll always pay more than you would for the free Magical Express, and then the free transport within Disney World itself.

Second, you’ll avoid getting lost. Disney World is pretty well signed given its complexity, but getting just a little bit off track can make it hard to find your resort if you don’t have a good mental map of where it is compared to some of the major, well-signed landmark locations.

That said, a rental car can make getting everywhere except the Magic Kingdom faster (if you don’t get lost), can make it easier to get to Harry Potter and to lower-cost shopping venues, and can make it easier to go from your hotel to another hotel—e.g. for dinner—which, depending on where you stay and where you are going, can be hard to do using Disney transportation.

So for those pursuing a rental car, here’s some thoughts


Depending on the time of the year and how long you are staying, a cab, car service, or shuttle may be a cheaper way to travel from and to the airport, or to a grocery/liquor store, than a rental (and their prices are usually the same year round, rather than skyrocketing during the busy times.)

If your issue is just getting back and forth for Harry Potter, consider a shuttle— some are even discounted.

If you just really need a car for a day or two—for Harry Potter, restocking the chardonnay, visiting the outlet malls–Disney’s on site car rental service will rent you a car for a day or two—and pick you up from your Disney resort to get to the car, and drive you back to your hotel when you are done.


While there are sometimes exceptions, in general the smaller the car, the less expensive it is.

You won’t be spending more than 20 minutes in your rental on most of your trips—and on only one of them will you have your bags. (Just one—the trip from the airport—because you can check your bags at your Disney World resort for your flight back.)

Given this, you likely can rent a smaller car than you are used to at home—although this may mean that due to lack of trunk space, the drive in from the airport may require some bags to ride in laps.


You will be pressed to buy insurance from the rental company which can be inordinately expensive.

In almost all cases this is an expensive waste of money, as your current insurance policy will cover you for normal accident costs while you are driving a rental car, and you should firmly say that you are declining all coverages. (But see below for “LOU”.)

Your insurance, however, may not cover you in rental cars—unlikely, but possible–or may have exceptions for certain fancier or speedier options. So call and double check before you go.

Also check for coverage of “Loss of Use” (“LOU”) charges.

If you are in an accident, some rental car companies will threaten you with additional penalties that most insurance won’t cover–LOU. These are charges to your credit card of the car’s daily (undiscounted) rental rate while it is being repaired, to make up for the revenue lost to the rental car company from its inability to rent the car while it’s being repaired.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a scam meant to scare you into buying the rental car company’s overpriced additional coverage. But check to see if your policy will cover it—likely not—and consider your accident record, including dings that you may not care about but that a rental company would, before deciding to skip the coverage.


When your dates are set, use a source like to check base rates. Don’t even consider prices from companies you’ve never heard of, or that don’t have cars in the terminal. While I’m sure some of these are fine at least some of the time, I have yet to use an off-site rental that makes me think the cost savings was worth the inconvenience and hard-sell on insurance.

Then start looking for a deal. The basics are memberships, coupons, and codes.

Other have already covered this terrain—see for great stuff on renting cars and getting deals on them, and Steve Bloom’s post on that both covers the basics on getting deals and also adds a less common strategy.

And, as Mary notes, once you have a deal, keep checking, as an even better one may emerge!


If you are watching every penny and don’t have a tight schedule on the day of your return, don’t pre-pay your gas. Instead, stop at one of the Hess stations at Disney World to fill up before you return to the airport.

Inspect your car carefully—including the roof—for damage before you leave the rental lot. Report any you see. Some people even make videos to prove that damage was there when they rented their car. If you don’t note any existing damage before you leave the lot, you may end up paying for it.

The Orlando Airport has two terminals, A and B, and identical rental car facilities at both. When you return, follow the signs your departing airline’s terminal, and use the return facilities there.

MORE ADVICE AND HELP ON RENTING A CAR AND GETTING A DISCOUNT has lots of great stuff on renting cars and getting deals on them.

Steve Bloom’s post on covers the basics on getting deals and adds a less common strategy.


Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Teal this month. We will be back Tuesday, March 27th with an all new theme.

Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney info, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

February 28, 2012   23 Comments

The Epcot Resorts at Walt Disney World

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)


The Epcot resorts are deluxe resorts grouped around Crescent Lake within easy walking distance of Epcot, and a moderately longer walk away from Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Boats take guests to both parks as well.

As I count them, there’s seven Epcot resorts:

But most people, when they think of the Epcot resorts, are thinking of the Beach Club, the Yacht Club, and the BoardWalk Inn.

I’m not keen on these resorts for first time family visitors–they hold up the bottom end of the list of Disney World deluxe resorts ranked in order.

But for returning visitors, they are wonderful choices and the favorites of many. [Read more →]

February 16, 2012   8 Comments

Is Walt Disney World Free on Your Birthday?

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)

Disney World free on your birthday 2012DISNEY WORLD FREE ON YOUR BIRTHDAY?

As many as two dozen people a day come to this site with some version of “Is Disney free on your birthday?” as the words they entered into a search engine.

Here’s the bad news: there used to be a deal where Disney World offered free tickets on your birthday.  But there isn’t one anymore.  Disney world tickets are the same price on your birthday as they are on any other day.


But there are still some fun birthday offers from Disney World, and some of them are free!

Free Disney World birthday stuff includes:

  • A happy birthday button (see the image at the top, courtesy of Kristin’s Tips from the Disney Diva), which you can get either from your Disney World resort hotel or from guest services in the parks. Mike at My Dreams of Disney reminds me that Disney strictly enforces when you can get this free birthday button–it must be within 6 months before, or 6 months after, your birthday!
  • A happy birthday call–dial 0 in your resort to schedule it
  • Perhaps, a happy birthday cupcake as the finale to a Disney World table service meal.
  • And of course you can bring birthday celebration materials from home!


Much more celebration of birthdays at Walt Disney World is possible–but not for free. 

Options include birthday cakes ($21 and up), birthday parties ($16 per person and up), and many others. (Prices are from The Complete Walt Disney World 2012.)

See Natalie’s article on Walt Disney World birthday celebration ideas on Meet the Magic for more ideas and options!

February 1, 2012   28 Comments