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 — The Great Disney World Controversies

Parade and Show Viewing Etiquette at Walt Disney World

(This is an entry in a series on Disney World Controversies.)

After my experience with last night’s Celebrate the Season, A Frozen Holiday Wish, and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, I feel compelled to republish this material…

Frozen Holiday Wish from


This post focuses on etiquette for parades and shows at Disney World, and suggests two points for the well-mannered:

  • The only way to save a spot for viewing a is to be in the spot
  • The fact that you wish you had a better spot gives you no right to push your kids–or yourself–ahead of others who have sacrificed their own time to get the spot you wish you had…


There’s currently two four parades at Disney World:

During the times of year this site recommends you go, there’s usually plenty of good viewing spots available up until about 30 minutes before the parades begin.  See the links for details.

If your kids–or anyone else in your party–are shorter than the typical adult, you’ll want to grab a spot right at the edge of the parade route so that no one is front of you, and if this may be your only visit, it’s worth perching on such a spot even earlier than thirty minutes before.

The way you do this is you stand…or sit…in the spot you want.  You don’t put down a towel, bedspread, thong, or anything else to claim your spot.  The investment in claiming a spot is your time, not your bedding.

And what if you are late?  And your kids are short?  So they can’t see? Don’t you have a right to push your kids in front of other, taller, children and adults, who have been waiting in their spots, so that they can see the parades better? Disney World is about the kids, after all, isn’t it, and don’t we all care about kids?


Frankly, we’re just not that into your kids. The consequences of your failure to plan, or your failure to execute your plan, are yours to bear, not yours to impose on others.

The way to handle this is the same way that you should handle all other etiquette questions–to ask yourself whether, in the circumstances you face, if everyone else followed the principle you are following, if life would be in sum better or worse?

Spots with un-blocked views of the parades are everywhere along the parade route, but even so there simply aren’t enough of them that every kid waiting for the parade can have one.  So there’s no way it could work for people to push their kids to the front–there just aren’t enough spots for all the kids.

Scarcity is always allocated by a “price.”  This price could be literal–Disney could charge for good viewing spots–or the price could be willingness of people to “spend” something else of value.  Right now, good parade viewing spots are allocated by people willing to spend time waiting. This is true even if you have FastPass+ for the parade. That just puts you in an area–you need to arrive early to grab a good spot within it.

If your kids are near the front, and the people right in front of them are taller, you should always feel free to ask if your kids can step in front so they can see better.  But don’t push them forward without asking–and don’t block the view yourself!

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November 11, 2014   1 Comment

Your First Disney World Visit…Might It Be Your Only One?

(A slightly different version of this first appeared in WDW Magazine.)

Your First Disney World Visit or Your Only One from yourfirstvisit.netThis site exists to help first time visitors to Walt Disney World who may never return make great decisions quickly. The home page has a Summary of Instructions built to do just that.

And since I opened the site almost six years ago, the most controversial—and most misunderstand–instruction has been the third one:

“…if this may be your kids’ only childhood visit, consider going when your youngest child is at least 8 or 9, and your shortest child at least 48 inches tall.”

The Magic Kingdom from

It’s the “who may never return” words that drives this instruction: Will–or might—this be your only Disney Word visit?

So it can be hard enough to plan a first visit to Walt Disney World, and here I am asking you to figure out how this visit might fit into your other future vacation plans too? What’s up with that?

Well, if you want to have the best first visit, it really matters.

There’s an enormous Disney World fan community that can’t imagine going only once.

Yet plenty of families can’t imagine how they could go more than once.

  • Some just can’t see how they could afford a return visit.
  • Some could afford another visit, but have too many other vacation goals—Yosemite, New Orleans, Cleveland—to see how a return visit could fit.
  • Others could afford another visit, and could make the time…but just can’t say before they visit for the first time whether or not they’ll ever return. This group won’t know whether the value is there for a return visit until they go the first time, because—if you’ve never been there—it’s astonishingly hard to imagine the scope and fun of Walt Disney World.

If this might be your family’s only trip, and you want to see all the best of Walt Disney World…well, that has big implications for how old and tall your kids should be, how long you should stay, what you do each day you are there, when you should go, where you should stay, and all kinds of other issues.

Jess and Friends from yourfirstvisit.netFor now, let’s focus on how old and tall your kids should be.

If this may be their only childhood visit, wait until your youngest child is around 8, and the shortest around 48 inches tall.

Why? Because Walt Disney World is not designed for children.

It is designed for children and their parents.

Among Walt Disney’s frustrations that led him to the concept of Disneyland—which set the tone for all the other Disney parks that followed—was watching his daughters enjoy rides that were too dull for him.

That lead him to a park design that children and their parents could each enjoy together.

As a result, much of the best of Walt Disney World has a level of sophistication, and of physical and emotional demands, that will escape, or worse, overwhelm, children younger than 8 or so.

Disney World itself is only half of the equation—it requires the other half, your child’s mind, to complete the experience of the place.

The play world of kids is grounded firmly in what they understand of the real world, and a kid with an understanding of the real world below that of the typical eight year old just won’t get as much fun out of Disney World as a more sophisticated and experienced kid will.

Height is the second issue. A couple of Disney World’s best rides require kids to be 48 inches tall, and several more of the best require a kid to be at least 44 inches tall. Some of this is for safety reasons, and some is a way of marking that a ride just isn’t for the littlest kids.

Disney World Height Requirements from yourfirstvisit.netIf your kids aren’t this tall, they won’t get to enjoy these rides at all—and if they are tall enough, but aren’t mature enough, then they can ride, but may well not get Disney Word at its best.

Now don’t get me wrong—kids of any age can enjoy Disney World.

But if this may be your only trip, why not wait until they are old and tall enough to fully enjoy all of the best of Walt Disney World?

Santa Goofy and Friends from yourfirstvisit.netIn contrast, if this is just the first of several trips, then bringing younger and shorter kids makes much more sense. Having things go over their heads is not an issue, because they can see and fully get those attractions on a later visit, when they are older.

But little kids do bring along their own set of issues. You have to match what you do to their interests, stamina, and routine schedules…or tantrums may result!

This tends to lead to much shorter days, and fewer experiences per day, than with older kids. Not an issue if you can catch what they missed later on another visit…but frustrating to the parents—who, since the parks were designed for them too, will want to see and do more than their kids can take!

But if you push your little kids too hard…well, the most miserable people one sees in the parks later in the day at Walt Disney World are the parents of small children, and the second most miserable group is their kids…

If you don’t push them too hard, littler kids who will be returning are also easier to schedule for.

  • The first visit can be just a few partial days at the Magic Kingdom.
  • A later visit can add to revisiting the Magic Kingdom (your kids will never tire of revisiting the Magic Kingdom) mornings at Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • Still later visits can pick up the more sophisticated rides and shows at all the parks.

So a core question—one that really affects almost everything else—is whether or not you will be able to return.

And that’s why you need to think about this now.

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December 22, 2013   4 Comments

A Family Suite at Art of Animation, or a Deluxe Room?


In my overview of the deluxe Disney World resorts, it’s noted they are distinguished by having

  • the most amenities
  • nicest views
  • best dining options
  • best transport
  • largest rooms
  • best service, and
  • highest prices

However, there’s a lot to like in the Art of Animation family suites.  In the review published this summer, I noted that

“there are even some deluxes that I’d skip to stay in instead in one of these family suites. You lose the fine dining, more sophisticated décor, balconies, and cooler pools of the deluxes, but for that you get a larger, better equipped, and more livable space…plus two baths.”

So was I carried away, or are the family suites at Art of Animation really a legit alternative to a deluxe?


November 20, 2012   5 Comments

Parade Viewing Etiquette at Walt Disney World

(This is an entry in a series on Disney World Controversies.)


Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Teal. Enjoy the ride as once more we delve into the great Disney controversies, large and small.

And note that Teal is a little cranky this month…

This post focuses on etiquette for parades at Disney World, and suggests two points for the well-mannered:

  • The only way to save a spot for viewing a parade is to be in the spot
  • The fact that you wish you had a better spot gives you no right to push your kids–or yourself–ahead of others who have sacrificed their own time to get the spot you wish you had… [Read more →]

August 28, 2012   24 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

Review: The Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party at the Magic Kingdom

(This review is also an entry in the series on Disney World Controversies.)


Move It Shake It Celebrate It–I’m dropping the exclamation points–is a combined minor parade and brief dance party that happens several times each day at the Magic Kingdom.

I find it somewhat awkwardly named–must I also celebrate that which I am otherwise delighted to move and shake?–but otherwise a hoot, and the equal to better known and more widely anticipated and attended formal afternoon parades, like the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

But you won’t find it in this site’s itineraries, nor in its Comprehensive Guide to Rides and AttractionsWhy? And why might that be changing? [Read more →]

April 4, 2012   4 Comments