Disney Adventures

Renata Faeth

It’s a world where elephants fly, toys talk, carefree tigers bounce on their tails and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s Neverland, Wonderland and a Galaxy Far, Far Away. It’s the frozen tundra and the deep blue sea, where mermaids grow legs and beasts become princes, puppets tell lies and genies grant wishes.

The magical, wildly imaginative world of Disney delights children—and children at heart—throughout the world, and nowhere more so than in America’s Disney theme parks, where storybooks and movies come to life.

Anyone who has planned a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, or Disneyland in Anaheim, California, knows the value of an expert to help navigate the range of choices, including accommodations, rides, dining, entertainment and more.

Enter AAA’s Minnesota Mice, a team of Disney specialists exclusive to AAA Minneapolis Travel Agency, whose expertise comes from extensive training and personal experience. With spring and summer just around the corner, it’s time to pass along their recommendations, FAQ style.

Samantha Barry

Disney specialist at St. Louis Park

Are Disney ticket prices changing?

Disney has introduced a new pricing structure based on dates of travel, with a valid use period and a multi-day discount. Visitors will still have the option of choosing one park per day, or Park Hopper options, which allow them to divide their day between any of the four theme parks, including the water parks with the Park Hopper Plus option.

What is the My Disney Experience?

My Disney Experience is a free service exclusive to Disney World in Orlando. As soon as clients book a vacation or buy AAA-discounted theme park tickets, we encourage them to sign up at mydisneyexperience.com and download the app on their mobile device. Once enrolled, travelers choose a themed MagicBand for their wrist, which serves as a room key, theme park ticket, wallet for payments and FastPass+ entries for shorter wait times on popular rides (three per day are allowed). They can make advance FastPass+ and dining reservations throughout the four parks, and view maps, which indicate ride locations and current wait times, restroom locations, and more.

Why should I book my Disney vacation with AAA Minneapolis?

AAA has enjoyed decades of partnership with Disney, so our agents receive both classroom and in-the-park training on the Disney visitor experience. We also routinely sprinkle a little “pixie dust” to enhance a vacation package with exclusive AAA Minneapolis member benefits. For example, this year we introduced a new offer: Members receive a complimentary Birnbaum Disney Guide book when purchasing a 2019 package. It’s a value-add they won’t find when booking anywhere else.

Susan Sabie

Disney specialist at St. Louis Park

What are the benefits of staying at a Disney World hotel versus off-site?

The benefits begin during the planning process. Using the My Disney Experience website, resort guests can choose their free MagicBands, but they also get access to FastPasses 60 days from their arrival date. Off-site hotel guests must purchase MagicBands and wait until 30 days out to access their FastPasses. Disney resort guests also have exclusive access to Disney’s optional dining plans, which are an outstanding value and a convenient way to manage vacation expenses before they leave home.

Also, Disney resort guests don’t need a rental car. Instead, they can simply ride the complimentary deluxe Magical Express motor coach from the Orlando International Airport to their hotel, then use the same convenient coach service for transportation to, from and between parks. We can easily arrange a car for a day at the beach, and still save them considerable time and money.

Disney resort guests also enjoy extra park magic hours, typically an hour in the morning or evening, depending on the park and day of the week. While in the parks, they can have souvenir purchases sent back to their hotel free of charge, and when they’re ready to return home, they can check-in and check bags with most airlines right from their hotel.

Vicki Parsons

Disney specialist at St. Louis Park

Is the Park Hopper option worth the extra cost?

I recommend the Park Hopper option for anyone, especially adults traveling alone or with teenagers who can move through the parks with more ease than families with small children. It’s also great for younger families with toddlers who may only want to see a few attractions in each park; they may need a break mid-day for a nap or pool time at the hotel before their late-day entertainment. Experienced Disney travelers who like to plan their adventure around specific attractions versus “doing it all” also typically choose the Park Hopper for the extra flexibility.

Jackie Amundson

Disney specialist at Eden Prairie

How do I best utilize my three daily FastPasses?

It really depends on what you think you’ll enjoy most, but remember, only so many are dispensed each day for each ride. The five most popular FastPasses are Seven Dwarfs Mine Ride at Magic Kingdom, Soarin’ at Epcot and Disneyland’s California Adventure Park, Frozen Ever After at Epcot, Slinky Dog Dash within Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, and Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom.  (See the Disney Travel Center at AAAMinneapolis.com/Planning/Travel/Theme-Parks for complete details on these and other rides.)

We’ve been to Disney World in Orlando and are considering a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. What’s the difference?

Completed in 1955, Disneyland represents Walt Disney’s original vision of family entertainment on a grand scale. Visitors experience the park as he imagined it, and for those who want an in-depth view, there is the “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” guided tour, offering fascinating details on park history and the inspiration behind his creations. Because it is a smaller footprint, Disneyland is easier to navigate than its counterpart on the east coast, and it’s ideal for Disney neophytes and families with small children because there are only two parks: Magic Kingdom and California Adventure.

Florida and California’s Magic Kingdoms are similar, but only Disneyland has Indiana Jones Adventure, and California Adventure offers Cars Land and Pixar Pier, two huge draws for younger kids. It’s also worth mentioning the real-life adventure beyond Disneyland—south to San Diego, north to Los Angeles and the coast, and inland to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. California offers endless vacation possibilities that can feature Disney as a highlight.

Sarah Heimer

Disney Specialist at Minnetonka

How can I make my Disney Vacation as affordable as possible?

AAA members enjoy discounted ticket prices, and the savings increase the longer you stay. When choosing travel dates, remember that the least popular travel seasons offer the best savings. September is the quietest month at Disney because kids all over the country are back in school. It’s a fantastic time for retirees, working adults, and families with young children to enjoy smaller crowds and less expensive accommodations. Yet special events are still in full swing: Epcot features their annual Food & Wine Festival, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party—a special ticketed event—runs on select nights beginning in late August through Halloween.

If you have a budget but still want the full Disney experience, consider staying at one of Disney’s value properties. You’ll find fewer amenities, but they are still Disney-themed, and they offer the benefits of staying at a Walt Disney World owned and operated property.

Are the dining plans a good value?

Oh, yes. Purchasing food inside the park without the dining plan can run up a costly food tab: Think State Fair pricing, then imagine that for the length of your vacation stay. Disney offers three pre-pay dining plans available exclusively to Disney resort guests, which are accepted at over 200 establishments throughout the parks and resorts. Here’s what I like: being able to walk right up to a restaurant and not have to worry about taking out my wallet or fret about my budget, since food was built into my full vacation price. Plus, it’s fun! While dining in Epcot, I sampled a main dish from France, walked 30 feet, and had dessert in Morocco. And when will I ever get another chance to have a buffet dinner in a colorful African Marketplace with Safari Mickey, Donald and Pluto? Eating well enhances a vacation, and the dining plan makes that possible.

An Inside Scoop

AAA Minneapolis’ Disney specialists share their favorite Walt Disney experiences, movies, rides and more!

What is #1 thing visitors shouldn’t miss at Walt Disney World?

The VOID in Disney Springs. It’s a virtual reality experience for Star Wars fans. Who doesn’t want to help aid the rebellion in taking down the empire?
– Acacia Fritz

What is your favorite theme park at Walt Disney World? 

Impossible question! But if I had to choose I’d say the Magic Kingdom, because it’s what people picture when they imagine Disney. It’s classic and timeless.
– Jackie Amundson

What ride would you do over and over again if you could?

Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We flew on the back of a mountain banshee in wild 3D, where we witnessed Avatar’s spectacularly creative scenery. We didn’t want the ride to end.
– Vicki Parsons

If you could be any Disney character, who would it be?

Woody from Toy Story! He loves new adventures, is a fearless leader, and has a great group of friends.
Sarah Heimer

What is your favorite Disney character and why?

The Mad Hatter. He hosts the best parties in Wonderland! He is also a smart dresser and a good friend.
– Samantha Barry

What’s your all-time favorite Disney Movie and why?

The Little Mermaid. I saw it as a kid and fell in love with the music and songs.
Susan Sabie