💡Tips and tricks: News 6 staff dishes on Disney and other theme parks

Landon McReynolds, Matt Austin, Lisa Bell, others offer park advice

So what are some of the best tips to make your theme park experience a good one?

ORLANDO, Fla. – Hello everyone, my name is Landon McReynolds. I’m a news producer at News 6 and a writer for all things theme parks on ClickOrlando.com. I’m also the author of the News 6 newsletter, In The Loop: Theme Park Scoops, which goes out every Friday morning with some of the biggest theme park headlines you might have missed during the week!

This story is something I have been meaning to get to for a bit and it all revolves around the best ways to tackle Central Florida’s theme parks. Is there a good way nowadays? It seemed at one time like our theme parks had slow(er) seasons -- but not anymore!

So what are some of the best tips to make your experience a good one?

Here are a few things I have learned.

  • Plan ahead. What are some of the must do attractions? What is the weather going to be like? Any must-try foods? Read up on the parks ahead of time.
  • If you’re like me, and on your phone a lot, check out some of those reusable battery options. Most of the parks sell FuelRods. $30, one time, and then you can keep swapping out for new batteries at the kiosks.
  • If you’re staying for multiple days, and have a hotel with an incredible pool, maybe pick a day to just relax. It’s called a vacation! Enjoy it.

Those are some of my tips to start this off. But don’t just listen to me. I surveyed some of the News 6 staff to get some of their tips, too.

Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World (McReynolds)

Matt Austin, News 6 anchor

I would say never watch a parade. Parades are when all of the people line the streets and wait for characters to drive by. The real experts use this time to take advantage of shorter lines! (Except Disney’s Christmas parade when it snows on Main Street. That one is kind of magical.) I would also say to always make dinner reservations. You can ad-lib for lunch, but you want to make sure you have a place set up for dinner. Otherwise, every good spot will be full and you will be stuck with a hotdog for dinner, and your family will be grumpy and nauseous for the rest of the evening.

Lisa Bell, News 6 anchor

Don’t overlook the smaller attractions on International Drive. I have 8- and 5-year-old boys and they LOVE Fun Spot Orlando, Dezerland and Wonderworks.

Universal Orlando, Jurassic World Velocicoaster (McReynolds)

Ginger Gadsden, News 6 anchor

I would recommend you go with a friend who will hold your hand on the rides. Also, go when the forecast looks a little bleak. People don’t want to stand in line when there is a slight drizzle.

Erik Von Ancken, News 6 anchor

Don’t even think about going in the summer -- unless you enjoy brown caked-on sweat on the hard plastic seats, slimy restraint bars, sticky, melted ice cream and smelly, cranky tourists in never-ending lines and heat exhaustion.

Slinky Dog Dash at Disney's Hollywood Studios (McReynolds)

Justin Warmoth, News 6 anchor

I always tell people to bring a Ziplock bag to protect their phone from water damage. Works for both water rides and afternoon thunderstorms.

Bridgett Ellison, News 6 anchor

Prioritize a short bucket of experiences for the day and plan ahead, but expect surprises along the way and be flexible.

Don’t get frustrated or disappointed by unrealistic expectations of what you or your group can accomplish in one day or one trip. Someone can and probably will get frustrated, overheated, have a meltdown or all of the above before it’s all over. It’s not magical, but it’s so normal.

Many times a mentality of “Let’s do as much as possible!” can overtake you or your group as you anticipate your trip or day at the parks. Plan if you can, but resist the urge to seek satisfaction from volume and quantity. It’s a destination dreams are made of, so stop, smell the flowers and foods, enjoy the scenery, take photos and make memories with your loved ones as you take it all in.

Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal Orlando (McReynolds)

Crystal Moyer, News 6 anchor

Is the park closing? As long as you’re in line for an attraction before closing time, you will get on the ride. (Also makes for some awesome photo opportunities after the park’s cleared out when you’re on the way out.) Also, wear leggings! They are comfortable and dry more quicly after water rides compared to jeans. Ride water rides when it rains -- zero line and you’re already getting wet. Don’t worry, it’s safe, they’ll close the ride if lightning is a problem.

Candace Campos, News 6 meteorologist

This one is for the parents: Don’t stress and have a full out meltdown when you realize you forgot the diaper bag. I MIGHT be speaking from experience! Every Disney park has a baby care center. You can purchase diapers, wipes, booty cream, pacifiers and even formula (surprisingly at unreasonable prices). This little QUIET air-conditioned oasis also has highchairs, full-sized changing tables and breastfeeding rooms.

EPCOT (McReynolds)

Molly Reed, News 6 reporter

Always bring a dollar-store poncho you can throw away at the end of the day or if you don’t need it. I would also recommend wearing closed-toe and comfortable shoes and anything dry-fit. Eat lunch early or late on the off-hours and go clock-wise around the world at EPCOT (starting at Mexico). Have a gameplan before heading in. Think about where you want to go first, then geographically go from there to save time instead of wandering.

Erik Sandoval, News 6 investigative reporter

If you have a hard time around big crowds, just remember – you’re there to have fun. Breathe and enjoy. I need to follow my own advice sometimes.

Popcorn bucket (McReynolds)

Ezzy Castro, News 6 reporter

If you hit the parks on a budget, make sure to bring a water bottle you can constantly fill up. All parks have water fountains. A Disney popcorn bucket is only $2 to refill during your stay, and it’s a great snack to munch on while walking around!

Carolina Cardona, News 6 reporter

Arrive as soon as gates open and ride the most popular rides first before the lines get too long.

Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom (WKMG)

Treasure Roberts, News 6 reporter

Go when it’s cooler outside for a better experience. Walking around in extreme heat for hours is draining. Buy Mickey/Minnie Mouse ears on Amazon before you go to Walt Disney World to save money. The ear headbands cost like $30 at the theme parks.

Jason Olson, News 6 assistant news director

As a father of three, pack snacks and water. Also, pack poncho(s) because it can rain in Florida one second and the next it can be sunny.

SeaWorld Orlando Ice Breaker (McReynolds)

Angel Blazquez, News 6 executive producer

Go to the most-wanted rides first, even if they are far apart. Plan ahead which ones are most important and spend time early in lines when everyone is fresh and then you can explore the whole park a little later.

Tara Evans, News 6 executive producer

Wear gym leggings or shorts or gym-type clothes that are dry-fit type material. Even if you get caught in the rain, they dry out fast (because they’re made to) so you’re not wearing soaked uncomfortable jeans. Get a battery-powered baby stroller fan -- whether you have a baby or not. They’re pretty clutch and, especially if you have a stroller, keeps the tiny, hot people from becoming animals.

Mickey Mouse at Disney's Animal Kingdom (McReynolds)

Ken Pilcher, News 6 producer

I always stress to anyone who has never been to a certain theme park -- or hasn’t been in a while -- study a park map/download the app before you go. Look at what’s open ahead of time and decide what you most want to do. The biggest way to miss out is to not have a gameplan. Just wandering into a park then walking around all day wastes time and money.

Ashleigh Coran, News 6 producer

Wear comfortable shoes. You never know how far you will be walking. Also, bring some snacks for the kids.

Fans available at Walt Disney World (McReynolds)

Erika Briguglio, News 6 producer

Purchase a souvenir cup, it will be way cheaper to get refills as opposed to continuously buying drinks. This is key, especially on a hot day!

Brooke Savage, News 6 producer

Epcot seems to always have a festival going on these days. If you’re interested in eating and drinking around the world, bring a friend or significant other. It can get expensive, so maybe consider splitting some things to cut down on costs. If you want to eat at the theme parks and get into a specific restaurant, make a reservation ahead of time through the Disney app, usually you have to do it months in advance.

Disney Skyliner will begin carrying guests high above Walt Disney World Resort

Haley Coomes, News 6 producer

The ferry boats and Skyliner aren’t just for transportation. Taking a ride on the Skyliner is a fun way to pass the time and it’s a great ride option if popular attractions at Epcot or DHS have high wait times. Explore the resorts and what they have to offer. During the holidays, the Christmas displays are unique to the resorts and in my opinion more impressive than what you see at the parks.

Christie Zizo, digital editor

One those cooling towels work well. Pour water on them, snap them, put them around your neck -- they help. Keep replenishing your electrolytes. Peanuts, almonds, and bananas are foods that are easy to carry around the parks and will help. Also if you can get fruit like watermelon, strawberries or citrus, that helps, too. Also, be sure to take air-conditioned breaks, especially in the afternoon between 2 and 5 p.m. Take a late lunch, try to schedule shows or inside rides for then. Also, some parks have places that are just naturally cooler, like Knockturn Alley at Universal, or the Mexican pavilion at Epcot.

Magic Kingdom balloons (McReynolds)

Stacy Greenhut, Social Media Producer

Freeze water bottles. They thaw throughout the day and provide cold water -- you can bring your own water bottles and food. There are plenty of times where I’ve gone to a theme park and bought nothing because we came with water, a lunch’able for a meal and our own snacks.

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About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.