A visit to Walt Disney World or Disneyland is a dream come true for many. Whether it’s your first trip or your 50th, your vacation can create a treasure trove of joyful memories. With a bit of clever planning, you can help create excitement prior to your trip, enhance the enjoyment of your vacation, and preserve those memories with a lasting keepsake.
A fun way to make the most of your time at Disney parks is to collect autographs from the wonderful array of Disney characters you’ll encounter. Here are ten quick tips to help you make the most of your experience.
1. Plan Ahead!
The countdown to your Disney trip can be fun in itself. You can build upon the anticipation by purchasing your autograph books before you leave on vacation. Having autograph books in hand will help you plan how to fill it. You’ll also be prepared to hit the ground running once you arrive, which means you won’t lose any valuable park time searching gift shops for autograph books for the family.
2. Define Your Most Wanted.
As you’re planning your trip, it’s a great time to watch your favorite Disney movies. For younger or new Disney fans, a quick introduction to some of the classic characters will help build excitement. They’ll also be able to better recognize their new favorite characters in the park. Faced with opportunities to meet so many Disney characters, discussions about your favorite Disney films can help you prioritize which characters you want to put at the top of your meeting list.
3. Get the Lay of the Land.
For first time visitors, reviewing the maps of the parks can help you create a strategy for finding your favorite characters. Maps can be found on the Disney Parks website or in the My Disney Experience app.
Many of the characters are where you would expect to find them. For example, If you want to meet Buzz, Woody or Jessie, they’ll certainly be at the new Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or at Disneyland’s Pixar Pier. If Stitch is more your type, you’ll want to visit space-themed Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. To find Mulan, head to the China Pavilion at Epcot!
4. Get the App.
Disney characters are everywhere, and as we mentioned, the My Disney Experience app can help you find them. The official Walt Disney World app is a great tool to help you plan your entire trip. When it comes to character encounters, the app can tell you everything you need to know. It shows which characters are available, where to meet them, and even how long you’ll have to wait. It’s incredibly convenient and can be a major time-saver as you plan for rides, dining, and autograph hunting.
5. Understand the Rules.
The first meeting of a character can be intimidating to younger guests. A simple explanation of what to expect ahead of time will help children be better prepared for the experience. Start with the autograph request so there will be plenty of time after to chat, get a photo, and maybe a hug or a high-five. A great first experience will get the kids excited about meeting other characters, which makes the search for more autographs a lot of fun. And don’t worry, the characters in Disney’s parks are very accustomed to signing autograph books for visitors.
6. Assign a Keeper of the Book.
Once at the park, it’s often helpful to designate someone with the responsibility of carrying the autograph books (and some good pens for the autograph books). That person will ensure you’ll never miss an autograph opportunity. They’ll know where the books are at all times and can access them quickly.
They’ll also ensure it’s protected in the event of unexpected rain. Be sure to put your address or even a business card inside your autograph book just in case. If you accidentally misplace your book, odds are a helpful Disney Cast Member at Disneyland or Walt Disney World can get it back to you!
7. They’re Waiting for You.
There are dozens of permanent Character Greeting locations around the parks. This means you can meet many of the characters rain or shine. At any given time, characters are literally waiting for you to come see them. The locations are easily identifiable on park maps and the App. You can also ask any Cast Member and they’ll point you in the right direction.
8. Dine with the Stars.
One of the easiest ways to see characters is to dine with them. Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks and resorts offer many character dining options. While you eat, you’ll be visited by several characters as they mingle around the dining room. Be sure to make reservations early!
Some of the most popular Disney World character dining experiences are Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (best for princesses), and Tusker House at Animal Kingdom.
Speaking of easy, be sure to use Disney’s FastPass+. This pass reservation system will allow you to skip the longer lines to grab those autographs at the designated Character Greeting locations. You can reserve your FastPass+ on the My Disney Experience app. You’ll be assigned a one-hour arrival window, giving you even more flexibility with your schedule.
10. Keep Your Eyes Open.
Lastly, be aware of your surroundings because you never know who you’ll run into at a Disney park. You may see your favorite character around the corner. While many characters have a permanent home, others move around so if you’re lucky, you might find one at an unexpected location.
Go with a solid plan to obtain those autographs. By the end of your trip, you’ll have a beautiful autograph book packed with memories. The right planning will produce a lifetime of rewards. You’ll have the ability to open your autograph book and revisit the magic anytime you wish. Get out there and fill those pages!