Why EPCOT and Animal Kingdom Are Such Important Disney Theme Parks

When I think of Disney World, I admittedly picture Cinderella Castle, the iconic landmark at the heard of Magic Kingdom. Disney World, however, is so much more than the castle and fantasy that Magic Kingdom provides. EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are two of the most important Disney theme parks, arguably across the world. Why you ask? Let me explain.

If you have never visited Disney World, it’s important to explain what makes these two parks unique. EPCOT houses the World Showcase, a section of the park filled with 11 different Country “pavilions.” These countries include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, UK, and Canada. Each of these countries is modeled to resemble the country itself, houses unique dining and experiences in line with the country, and introduces cast members who are native to the countries to interact with the guests. Having 11 different countries to explore in a day is an important interaction that shouldn’t be dismissed. Allowing guests to fully immerse in the different cultures of these countries provide a well rounded, education experience that would lack in that area with another theme park.

Travel west of EPCOT and you will hit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the newest of the four Disney World theme parks. Similar to EPCOT’s World Showcase, Animal Kingdom is split up into individual lands to immerse the guests in a unique experience. Here, guests can visit the Africa area and the Asia area. Like EPCOT, these two sections of the park truly involve the guests in the culture of these continents and are home to cast members from these locations. The music, entertainment, food, and overall style of these two sections of the park truly make guests feel as if they are a part of the culture.

The importance of these two parks really can’t go unnoticed or underappreciated. While this experience is important for kids and adults alike, families are especially lucky for this experience within the parks. A family with kids is unlikely to have the financial ability to visit the various countries represented, and I imagine overseas trips with kids to a brand new country comes with a handful of difficulties. But in Disney World, any child can get the chance to experience new cultures and then meet Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse in the same day. Sprinkling in the chance to learn about other countries and experience them within Disney World is a great way to keep kids attention and promote learning in a fun, friendly, exciting environment.

I know that there is no comparison to traveling the world. The France Pavilion in EPCOT cannot compare to taking a trip to France and visiting the landmarks, speaking with the people, and learning about the history. But, for those of us who simply cannot afford to visit a different country each year, the importance of the Disney World parks including a world traveling type of experience is one that truly makes EPCOT and Animal Kingdom two of the most important and special Disney parks.

Extra, Extra Magic Hours

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard that Disney World is planning to introduce Extra, Extra Magic Hours this fall to accommodate the large numbers of visitors they are expecting. At the end of August, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This brand new, highly anticipated land is likely going to come with huge crowds this fall. In order to plan for that, Extra, Extra Magic Hours have been announced.

If you have not heard about this yet, let’s start with explaining what Extra Magic Hours are. If you stay at a Disney World Resort Hotel, Disney World offers Extra Magic Hours. These are additional hours that Resort guests are able to stay out at the parks after they are closed to regular day guests. Typically, parks will open an hour or two early or close an hour or two later to allow the Disney World Resort guests some time in the parks with a lesser crowd. Now, Extra Magic Hour crowds aren’t what they used to be. With more and more hotels and more people visiting and staying on property, Extra Magic Hours are still extremely popular. However, it is still much better than the regular day crowd that you experience when you visit a Disney World park. Usually, there is one park each day that offers the Extra Magic Hours either in the morning or at night. Rarely is there an overlap in Extra Magic Hours.

This Fall, Disney World is going to have Extra, Extra Magic Hours. This means that every day from the end of August through the beginning of November, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios will offer morning Magic Hours. This means that every single day, three of Disney World’s four parks will have Extra Magic Hours that Resort guests can take advantage of. At Hollywood Studios, in particular, the Extra, Extra Magic Hours will take place from 6:00 am – 9:00 am every day. That is three full hours each morning to experience the brand new Star Wars land, and that is going to be a HUGE advantage for the Resort guests. Staying on Disney World property already comes with its advantages like the Magical Express, Disney Transportation, the close proximity to the parks, and much more. Now, Resort guests also get hours upon hours of extra time to spend at the parks with lesser crowds.

You may have noticed that EPCOT was not a park of the Disney Extra, Extra Magic Hours. I’m not 100% sure why this doesn’t apply to EPCOT, to be honest. However, don’t be alarmed. EPCOT will still have its standard Extra Magic Hours like it usually does. Typically, that includes nighttime hours on Tuesdays and morning hours on Thursdays. That being said, every single Tuesday and Thursday for the few months that Extra, Extra Magic Hours take place, each of the four Disney parks will have Extra Magic Hours.

Do you have any thoughts about this new experience Disney World is offering up to its Resort guests? Comment!

Kicking Back & Relaxing in Disney World

None of us want to admit it, but we all need a way to relax during our busy Disney World theme park days. Every time I plan a trip, I tell myself that I won’t need to take many breaks and I can be go, go, go the whole time. Good one, Megan. Taking breaks doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy something great that the park has to offer, though. There are definitely ways to enjoy the park without having to be on your feet.

Find a show to go to. Every single park has them. From the Indiana Jones stunt show to Country Bear Jamboree, there are more than enough in-park shows that you can sit back and enjoy. Plus, some of these shows are quintessential Disney. I seriously cannot take a trip to the Magic Kingdom without parking my butt at the Carousel of Progress. It just wouldn’t be a real Disney World trip if I didn’t. The shows that are offered in Disney World are a truly great way to get out of the sun (or rain), sit down, and relax while still feeling fully immersed in that Disney magic that we all know and love.

Stop and have a drink or a snack. The parks are full of options. Plus, a small snack or quick drink requires a lot less planning and waiting than going to a quick service or table service meal. A nice, cold Dole Whip always hits the spot, and you can feel like you have a good excuse to sit down and relax. It seems really silly, but it’s hard to take a seat in the parks when you feel like you don’t really have a “reason” to do so. Having a quick snack or sipping on a cold drink is a GREAT reason to want to pop a squat and relax somewhere.

Take full advantage of the rides that take a long time. I love Rock ‘n Roller Coaster as much as the next person. But you’re on and off in what feels like 60 seconds. Whereas you can hang out with Br’er Fox, Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Bear, and all of the Briar Patch pals over at Splash Mountain for a solid 15 minutes. When you really need to feel rejuvenated, but you don’t want to waste your time, head over to one of the attractions where you know the wait will lead to a nice, long ride. Those 10-15 minutes can really help your feet.

If you’re on Disney World property, take a midday break at your resort. This was really hard for me to grasp on our recent trip. We only have 3 park days and I wanted to get as much as possible out of every single moment. Looking back, though, I don’t think I could have survived if we didn’t take those midday breaks at our resort. For Disney World Resort guests, there are so many other theme park perks that taking a couple hours to go back and relax in your room, hang by the pool, and just get off your feet is so worth it. Think of it this way, if you have Extra Magic Hours that day, you potentially have upwards of 13 hours to spend at the parks. Even if you go back to your resort for a full 3 hours, you still have 10 hours of park time each day. You can get a lot done in 10 hours.

The most important thing, of all, is just to remind yourself that you don’t want to burn out. It’s really easy on the first couple days to be very all-go, no-stop. You’re so excited to be back in the most magical place on earth that you don’t want to stop. However, if you keep that up, you’re going to end up burning yourself out by the third or fourth day. Take time to find ways to relax. There’s definitely ways to do so without wasting your precious Disney World time.

Best Ways to Enjoy Disney World Without Hitting the Parks

A trip to Disney World can sound intimidating to many because of it’s high cost. Want to know a little secret? The most expensive part about taking a Disney World vacation is the admission to the parks. Okay, so it’s probably not a secret at all. Theme park tickets in Disney World are extremely expensive. While I personally thing that every last penny is totally worth it, it can be really intimidating to buy, say, a 4-day park hopper pass for about $500+ each. So while it’s pretty clear that theme park tickets in Disney World can be expensive, what you may not know is that there are plenty of ways to enjoy Disney World without having to spend your savings to get into the parks.

I’m a sucker for the Disney World resorts. I know, I know. It may seem like its way too expensive to afford. But, honestly, if you want to get the feel of that Disney magic, staying at a resort is a great option! You don’t have to visit the theme parks at all, but you can still take advantage of the free bus to Disney Springs other non-theme park locations. For comparison, during times of the year when special deals are going on, some of the Disney World Value and Moderate hotels can range from about $120 to less than $200 a night. If you’re planning to visit Orlando anyway, you can get a little taste of the Disney World vacation by spending a few days (or all of them) at one of the Disney World resorts.

If you don’t want to stay at a resort, I can’t totally blame you. If I were staying at a Disney World resort and not visiting the parks, I think I would have some serious FOMO. That being said, you can do so much more outside of the parks and resort stay, too.

If you want to visit a fun, crazy water park one day, take a trip to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon. Disney World finds a way to throw it’s Disney magic into water park form with both of these spots. You’ll experience wild slides and fun attractions all while spending a day in the water and soaking in the sun. Water park tickets are significantly cheaper, and it’s still a great way to experience Disney World without having to invest too much into your vacation.

Beyond the water parks, there are a few other recreation activities you can take part in on Disney World property. Interested in a few rounds of mini golf? Disney World has two different miniature golf locations on property with 36 holes each to enjoy. And, just like Disney does, it’s not just your regular mini golf course. Each of them is themed to that high level Disney theming that we all know and love. Mini golf definitely won’t fill up an entire day, but it’s a nice way to be on Disney property and feel like you’re enjoying the Disney magic while on your Orlando vacation. Want to take mini golf a step further? You can actually golf on property, too. And, if you’re like me and not a very skilled golfer, you can play foot golf too. Basically, you’ll be playing golf with soccer balls. It’s harder than it looks, so make sure you set aside a good chunk of time to play foot golf if you’re interested!

Last, but certainly not least, you can visit Disney Springs and use that as your hub to travel wherever you wish on Disney property. If you just want to shop for some Disney souvenirs and enjoy some delicious food, stay at Disney Springs for the day! There is more than enough to do there, and buying a couple pieces of Disney merchandise is something you can continue to cherish after your Orlando trip ends. Want to do a little more? Disney Springs is a great hub to get other places on property. Buses to each of the Disney resorts have a stop at Disney Springs. Want my suggestion? Take a bus from Disney Springs to either The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, or The Contemporary. These three resorts are Disney Worlds “monorail resorts” and all have access to the Disney World monorail. Take a trip around the monorail loop to get some great views of the Magic Kingdom. Stop off at the Ticket and Transportation Center, and take the EPCOT loop to get views from the inside of the park over in EPCOT. The best part? Monorail trips are completely free! When you get back to the TTC, take the Magic Kingdom monorail back to one of the 3 hotels on the loop and take a bus back to Disney Springs.

With all these things to do in Disney World that aren’t theme park related, I do want to leave you on this note: Disney World is Disney World because of the theme parks. If I REALLY couldn’t afford theme park tickets at all and wanted to visit Orlando, I would absolutely do at least one, if not all, of the options above. However, for me, It would be very hard to not take advantage of the theme parks at all. But, Disney World knows how to get people coming on property even if you aren’t planning on visiting the parks. They know what they’re doing, and they do it the best!

Theme Park Backpack: What to Bring

I can’t go a day in a theme park without my trust backpack behind me. I’ve said this in previous blogs, but it really amazes me that my family used to travel to theme parks when I was a kid with just fanny packs. I think in our later years, my mom graduated to a drawstring bag, but still! How is it that at 24, I needed a full size backpack for just myself and my mom managed a family of 4 in a fanny pack? Maybe the times have changed. I honestly don’t know. But, what I do know, is what you have in your backpack or bag on your theme park days is really important. I’m not going to mention the obvious things here. Of course you need your wallet, your phone, your magic band, etc. This list is some of your not so obvious, must-haves.

  • Snacks: ALWAYS PACK SNACKS! You will be hungry. Probably more hungry than you are on an average day. Having snacks will prevent you from having to spend money every time you’re hungry. Now, you’ll spend money on just meals and snacks you really want to eat.
  • Sunscreen: Even in the more modest months, I would say sunscreen is a must-have. If you’re going in Florida Winter, bring a little travel size sunscreen. You definitely won’t need a full bottle, but there could always be a random day where it’s very hot and sunny. Be prepared!
  • Water Bottle: This one is a no brainer. There’s water fountains all over theme parks. Don’t be that person who spends $5 on bottled water every time you’re thirsty. Put a TON of ice in your water bottle before you leave your hotel, and continue to fill up on free water during the day.
  • Ponchos: I was totally, 100% the person saying “I won’t wear a poncho in Disney World.” Are they cute? Not really. But it’s so much more convenient than an umbrella. It’s more compact, it’s easier to walk around with, and it’s the one place in the world where you won’t be judged for wearing a poncho. Extra pro tip: buy cheap ponchos somewhere outside of Disney World. If you really want a poncho with something Disney on it, some of the stores (Target, Walmart, etc.) around Disney will have ponchos with Mickey or Minnie on them. They’re a little pricier than the standard ponchos, but they are A LOT cheaper than the ones in the parks. Or, splurge on the park ones if you want. To each their own!
  • My Must-Have Makeup: Read this blog for my must-haves and why I say so. Just out here plugging my other blogs 😉
  • Flip Flops: Again, this one is good year round just in case. We all love Splash Mountain. What do I not love about Splash? Just the thought of it getting my feet wet with gym shoes and socks on and being forced to walk like that all day. Blister city. Avoid all of that annoyance by packing a cheap pair of flip flops. Throw them on before you get in line, and you’ll be able to put on your dry shoes and socks after the ride is over.
  • Extra Socks: On that note, always pack extra socks. Even if you don’t do water rides, and you stay dry all day long. They say one of the best things for your feet is to just change your socks. Even though you didn’t do water rides, the gross truth is that your feet are still sweating and causing that moisture to be contained in your socks. Switch them out for a fresh pair once or twice. Yes, that may mean you pack 15 pairs of socks for 5 days, but it’s a lot better than having painful, blsitery feet. Take it from me.
  • Portable Charger: This is huge. Having a portable charger in the 21st century is a must. I brought 3 every day on my recent trip. Even though 90% of the time I didn’t have to use them, it was the comfort of knowing they were there if I needed them. I never had to worry about my phone dying. First World problems, I know. But that’s the reality a lot of us live in, so we may as well be prepared.
  • Plastic Baggies: This is my inner mom coming out at ya. I’m 24, but I am so Mom in Disney World it’s almost unbelievable. Plastic baggies are a must have for water rides, especially in the summer. For those of you who don’t know, they tend to turn off or lessen some of the water features on the water rides during the colder months. If you were guaranteed to get soaking wet even in the 50 degree weather, no one would want to go. Having plastic baggies for your electronics is crucial in ensuring they will also make it through the water rides. Again, there’s a chance you never even touch them, but they take up virtually no space so it doesn’t hurt to have.
  • Clothing Additions (depending on the season): This really depends on when you’re going, but I think any season could benefit. If you’re going in the dead middle of the summer when it’s the hottest, you may want to bring extra shirts. Long theme park days in the sun = sweaty. A fresh shirt could do you good. If you’re going in the winter or fall, it could be warm during the day but get cool at night. Pack a long sleeve t-shirt or a sweatshirt to save yourself from a pricey gift shop trip.
  • Deodorant: My only explanation will be a little math equation. Long days + sweating = smelly. Smelly + deodorant = not smelly anymore. You’re welcome. Math lesson, over.

I’m sure there are things on this list that I didn’t mention. Anything you think is crucial that I left off? Let me know!

How I Like to Pack for Disney World

**Follow my blog if you’re loving these Disney World topics! I’d love to have you along for the journey, and to cater even more to what all of my fellow Disney World fans want to hear about. I look forward to your input!**

Packing for Disney World requires a lot more preparation than you may think. Disney World is in the heart of Central Florida. So, of course, it’s going to be hot, right? That means just throw some shorts and t-shirts in a checked bag and you’ll be on your way. Well, my playbook for packing is a little bit more in depth.

The most important thing to me is that you ALWAYS have some sort of carry on bag. Even if you are checking 1, 2, or maybe even more bags through your airline. Why? It’s not that you need the extra luggage space, necessarily. On your way to Disney World, if you stay at a Disney World resort, they will handle all of your luggage for you. As soon as you drop it off at the counter at your hometown airport, it will be handled by a bunch of other people to get it from your airport to Orlando airport and then to your Disney World resort. If you’ve never been a person who has had their luggage lost, consider yourself lucky. But, take the advice from someone who has. ALWAYS have a carry on bag with at least 1 day worth of clothes for your entire group or family. There is nothing that would bring my mood down more than getting to Disney World so excited to back and realizing that somewhere, my luggage was misplaced and it won’t get to me until the next day. If you didn’t have that carry on bag, you’d be scrambling trying to piece together how to make it work. The carry on totally solves that problem.

Bring a backpack! I have no idea how my family used to survive our long Disney World trips with just fanny packs back in the 90’s-early 2000’s. On my most recent trip, both my boyfriend and I had our own backpacks and they were usually full or close to it. Yet somehow a family of 4 was able to survive in fanny packs? The times have definitely changed. Especially with the increased prices of everything. The last thing you want to do is have to buy snacks, drinks, and clothing items every park day because you didn’t come prepared with what you need in your backpack. Having an extra sweatshirt, your trusty water bottle, and some ziplock bags full of snacks helps you save any money that you may have HAD to spend on those necessities. Your backpack is your right hand partner on a Disney World vacation to help you be the most prepared day after day.

Lastly, make sure you leave some space in your checked bag(s). We all tell ourselves that we’re not going to overspend on souvenirs. But have you seen the new World of Disney at Disney Springs? You tell me how you take even one lap around that place and don’t pick something up. Seriously, tell me how you do that. i really need to stop walking by everything I see, touching it, and going “aw this is cute.” It’s a problem. I’m working on it… (Okay. No, I’m not.) Disney Springs has really evolved into such a great shopping center that it’s become a must-do of any Disney World vacation. When it comes to how shopping at Disney World has changed since I was a kid, Disney Springs is really it. It’s no longer about buying just Disney merchandise. There are so many great stores and shops in Disney Springs that you may just walk into one because something you’ve been needing or wanting is there. So, now, you have to plan for your Disney merchandise as well as a normal shopping day. The extra space in your checked bag will save your life.

Of course, this is just a general overview of how I like to pack for Disney World. There’s a lot more that goes into it. How do I decide what outfits to wear and bring? What if it’s going be hot during the day buy cool at night? I want to have options, but how do I fit it all in my bag? What essentials must be on my packing list? All of these things will be discussed over time on my blog, and I’ll continue to give you the best advice on planning, preparing, and packing for your Disney vacation. Have any specific questions about packing? Comment below or contact me!

My Must-Have Makeup Items to Have During a Long Theme Park Day in Disney World

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Long Disney World days can take a toll on even the toughest makeup. Luckily, it only takes a handful of products to help freshen up your look midday. Throw these items in your park bag, and you’ll be good to go from park open to park close.

1. Face Powder

This one is an easy pull. Everyone knows the feeling of their face getting oily and discolored during a long day. Pull out your face powder and give it a little brush across your face. Your face will even out and look much fresher with just a little bit of face powder TLC.

2. Bronzer

The only problem with touching up your face powder is there’s a good chance it’ll wash out any natural color in your face. The best way to bring that back? Just a little bit of bronzer. A quick swipe on the cheekbones and around the perimeter of your forehead will immediately bring that glow back to your skin.

3. Concealer

Concealer, to me, is the “just in case” item on this list. There’s a 99% chance you won’t need to use it. But, that 1% chance is worth it. I mean, think about it. You’re in the hot Florida humidity, and you’re walking around with the sun blazing down on you. There’s every chance in the world that some dirt gets into your pores and causes a midday breakout somewhere on your face. While this is totally natural and not something to be ashamed of, I know I feel better knowing I have my trusty concealer to cover anything up if needed.

4. Mascara

This is probably just a personal preference. Mascara is one of the most important parts of my makeup routine. It takes me from looking like I just rolled out of bed to looking like I’m ready to take on the day. And no matter what I try, no mascara looks as good at 2:00 pm as it did at 8:30 am when I just finished my makeup. As my mascara fades throughout the day, it’s nice to give my lashes a quick coating to make my eyes pop.

5. Chapstick

This is an absolute no brainer. Everyone needs a good chapstick in reach at any moment. I don’t think I’d be able to survive a full day without chapstick, let alone a full Disney World park day. For any of you who prefer to have a little color on your lips, opt for a tinted chapstick. Kill two birds with one stone!

Everyone is different when it comes to their makeup preferences. Some of you may opt for no makeup, and some of you (like me) do your makeup every single day. These 5 items are the ones I find myself grabbing the most during a long, busy day in Disney World to keep me looking and feeling picture perfect. You never know what Disney World celebrities you may see and want to snap a pic with!