A world of emotions

Excitement levels run high in Walt Disney World. Carolyn Gilbey reveals how to make sure that your tension levels don't rise as well

On any family trip to Disney, the one certainty is a tantrum. What I hadn't counted on during our recent trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando was that the tantrums would start so soon, or that my husband would throw the first hissy-fit. We'd just entered the Magic Kingdom and already we were bickering about what to do first. The thing is, when you're on an "I've invested my soul" trip of a lifetime, you want to make sure that every second counts. But once you step into the shadow of Cinderella's Castle and encounter the inevitable crowds, queues and heat, tensions can run high.

On any family trip to Disney, the one certainty is a tantrum. What I hadn't counted on during our recent trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando was that the tantrums would start so soon, or that my husband would throw the first hissy-fit. We'd just entered the Magic Kingdom and already we were bickering about what to do first. The thing is, when you're on an "I've invested my soul" trip of a lifetime, you want to make sure that every second counts. But once you step into the shadow of Cinderella's Castle and encounter the inevitable crowds, queues and heat, tensions can run high.

It's the sheer size of Walt Disney World that is so awe-inspiring. The 47-square-mile complex is home to four theme parks, two water adventure parks, six golf courses and more hotel rooms, restaurants and shops than any one can count. It's no wonder that so many people on first entering the fantasy playground are stumped by the simple question of what to do first.

Swotty as it sounds, doing your homework before you set off can save on trauma later. There are those who take such planning to extremes, creating elaborately engineered "time lines" to plot their every move. But such military precision isn't necessary: a list of top "must dos" should suffice.

In the face of queues and crowds, well, it's just great to be British. We can take advantage our quirky holidays and half-terms, which often coincide with Disney's less busy periods. Another plus is jet lag. The one piece of advice you hear over and over again from Disney veterans is to get there early. So for once the five-hour UK/US time difference plays in our favour. We can be up with the larks and at the front of the queue for "Big Thunder Mountain" before local vacationers have stirred from their Chip'n'Dale-themed bunks.

A Disney time-saving measure that can benefit sleepless Brits is the "Extra Magic Hour". Each morning one of the four theme parks opens an hour early for the exclusive use of guests staying at the resort. However, it's worth noting that if you're not staying at the resort then it's best to avoid the "magic hour" park as, having drawn in hordes of eager early birds, they are liable to be extra crowded that day.

Whatever day or time of year you go, there'll be queues. It's an inevitable part of the theme-park experience. However, Disney has instigated some queue-busting measures of its own. Many of the more popular rides now offer a "Fastpass" system. Instead of waiting in a long, long line, you pop your entrance ticket into a special machine and receive a Fastpass slip denoting a one-hour window of time when you can return to the ride and zip straight in with little or no wait. Disney claims that by using this system, you can cut queuing time during the day by up to two hours. The downside is that you can hold only one Fastpass slip at a time, a neat Disney trick that is likely to drive you into a shop or a restuarant while you wait for the appointed hour to arrive.

For my six-year-old daughter one of the highlights of the trip was ambushing the many Disney characters that were out "meeting and greeting". She joined throngs of autograph-book-wielding teeny fans, who made it their mission to pursue Cuddly Critters wherever they should go.

The best way to meet costumed friends is to attend one of the character breakfasts, where a selection of cartoon chums join the kids for a cuddle over their bacon and eggs. By far the most popular is the Once Upon a Time breakfast in Cinderella's castle, but places at the Royal Table are much-coveted. The only way to guarantee a seat is to book well in advance.

The height restrictions on some of the snazzier - and frankly more exciting - rides are the real tantrum-trigger. After hearing for years from their friends how "awesome" Space Mountain is, it can be heartbreaking to get to the front of a queue only to discover your child is two inches short of the magic mark. Check the restrictions in advance to avoid tears later.

Dining with Disney can be a dismal experience, as you jostle in long lines for a soggy plate of expensive but mediocre pizza. However, there are a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, some of which are worth taking a detour for. The Flame Tree Barbecue in Disney's Animal Kingdom features a divine assortment of wood-roasted meats, served in an outdoor African setting, and there's a funky bar serving interesting and refreshing cocktails. Just don't forget your passport, as you won't get served alcohol without ID, even if you look old enough to be the bartender's grandmother.

Disney's great strength is that it is always changing and improving. Just when you think there couldn't be a better ride than Space Mountain, along comes another which blows it out of the stratosphere. The latest star attraction is Epcot's Mission: SPACE, which is about as close as you can get to Space Shuttle launch without actually donning a space suit. Based on NASA's astronaut training techniques, the heart-stopping simulated take off gives riders the sensation of g-force and weightlessness.

The evening parades and firework displays round off the day neatly. Gone are the days of elbowing your way along Main Street in the hope of getting a good spot. The display is now so large and so spectacular that the colorful blasts and explosions can be seen from almost anywhere in the resort.

Come six o'clock, most kids are in full melt down mode. But that, my husband surmised, is the sound of kids who have had such a good time that they can't take any more good times for the moment. So in essence, a Disney tantrum should be cherished as the mark of a highly successful, not wasted a minute, trip of a lifetime.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Rooms at Disney's Value Resorts start at £22 a night. Five-day Park Hopper ticket prices start at £130 for children under 10 and £164 for adults. Tickets allow unlimited access to the parks plus two visits to a water park or one of the other attractions. Once inside a park all rides and "Fastpass" tickets are free.

Budget and suit hotels are plentiful, most within five minutes of the Disney resort and most provide a shuttle service. For availability and booking try www.orlando.com. For more information on packages inclusive of room and ticket prices, see www.disney.co.uk

Opening times:

Magic Kingdom: generally 9am-6pm/9pm.

Future World: 9am-7pm

World Showcase: 11am-9pm

MGM: 9am-7.30pm/8pm

Animal Kingdom: 9am-5pm

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
media
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz