Pricey but worth it: 4 tips to survive Walt Disney World Orlando

Mini fireworks during the lighting up of Cinderella's castle right after the evening performance.
Mini fireworks during the lighting up of Cinderella's castle right after the evening performance. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM
Enchanted tales with Belle where kids have a role in the story.
Enchanted tales with Belle where kids have a role in the story. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM
Enchanted tales with Belle where kids have a role in the story.
Enchanted tales with Belle where kids have a role in the story. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM
A fire-breathing dragon during a procession along a street in Disney World.
A fire-breathing dragon during a procession along a street in Disney World. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM

My first trip to Disneyland had to be Disney's global flagship theme park in Orlando, Florida. I was dumbfounded as much by the magical displays as by what I had to pay.

Last month, I spent almost $800 for a two-day entrance fee at Walt Disney World for three people including my five-year-old "princess". But after seeing the joy on my daughter's face, the $800 is worth every cent.

Planning ahead is a must. Fortunately, there were some useful cheatsheets online. Here's my version after spending two enchanted days in the Magic Kingdom, one of the four theme parks in Walt Disney World.

1. Download the Disney World app

This is crucial for selecting the three daily FastPass allowances for each visitor.

A FastPass lets you enter an attraction or take a ride by a separate, shorter queue. Popular rides like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan's Flight, and meet-the-princess sessions have long, long queues with waiting times of up to two hours. But don't be disappointed if you cannot reserve a FastPass for meet-and-greet with Princesses Elsa, Anna or Rapunzel, or even the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride. I overheard many Floridians complaining about the impossibleness too.

But the app is also good for providing live updates on the waiting time at each attraction.

Don't worry about data roaming - free Wi-Fi is provided throughout the park.

2. Start early

We drove to the Magic Kingdom at 9am. It was early by our standard, but not by those of the park's more than 17 million visitors yearly. There were already rows and rows of cars in a massive open-air carpark when we arrived.

First things first - head for the must-do attractions in the morning. Queue if you must, as the line gets longer as the day goes on. I feel that Enchanted Tales with Belle is one of the most under-stated attractions. Beyond the usual meet-and-greet and autograph signing, children are given roles in the Beauty and the Beast story to act along with Belle to recount how she and the Beast fell in love.

3. Get ready for the street and stage performances

From 3pm, you may want to park yourselves strategically along the street as it comes alive with music and dance to a procession of colourful floats and all-time favourite characters, from Mickey Mouse and Disney princesses to a fire-breathing dragon.

From about 4pm, there are more performances on the stage in front of Cinderella's castle. My daughter could not take her eyes off Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Peter Pan and Cinderella, Snow White, Elsa and Anna as they waltzed on stage - her feet tapping to the beat throughout the shows. The picture perfect moment for the lighting up of Cinderella's castle comes at around 6.30pm, accompanied by fireworks.

4. More fireworks

All the cheatsheets say to stay for the mother of all fireworks at 10pm. But my daughter was tired and cranky, so we left at 7pm on both days. As we were leaving, crowds were still pouring in. Some people actually visit the park later in the day until it closes - another option for parents with young children if the 10pm fireworks is a must-see event.

itham@sph.com.sg