5 “tricks” to make Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party experience a treat

The 2016 Mickey’s No So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) began last week.

Yes, I know it’s only September, but the Magic Kingdom likes to get its spooky side on a touch early every year.

 ©Disney (Charlie Champagne, photographer)
©Disney (Charlie Champagne, photographer)

This special, hard ticket event runs on select nights through October 31 (which is already sold out, btw.)

Visit the official Walt Disney World site for ticket prices and dates.

REMINDER: This ticket has a separate admission price from a normal park ticket. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but if you’re a Halloween lover, then it’s worth doing at least once, in my opinion.

MNSSHP is fun for the entire family and isn’t truly scary — which the party name makes pretty clear.

There’s trick-or-treating, special live shows, dance parties, the Boo to You night parade and the exclusive HalloWishes fireworks show is probably the best pyrotechnics extravaganza at Walt Disney World.

Get a sneak peek at the 2016 MNSSHP map, courtesy of WDWInfo.com!

There is so much to do and so little time on party nights. Here are my top 5 tips to help you get the best party experience possible!

  1. Get plenty of rest before the party. My advice: do NOT go to a park before your party night. There’s a lot of partying to do and spending hours at another park earlier in the day will wear you out. If you have little ones, make sure they get nap time or down time before heading over to the Magic Kingdom. A rested kiddo is more likely to be a happy kiddo, even as the party runs late into the evening.
  2. Your ticket gets you in at 4 p.m. The party may officially start at 7 p.m., but anyone holding a MNSSHP ticket can enter the park at three hours earlier to get a jump start on the fun. The holiday-themed entertainment (including trick or treats) doesn’t start until 7 p.m., which is when the general public must exit the park. But, with that extra time, you can maybe book a few FastPass+ reservations (only until 5:30 p.m. — there are no FP+ reservations during the party), grab an early dinner so you don’t miss out on party time in a restaurant or just catch a few of your favorite things to do before the party gets going.
  3. Don’t forget to get your wristband and treat bag. If you decide to enter early, you won’t be able to get your party wristband and treat bag until closer to 7 p.m. You MUST be wearing the wristband to remain in the park during party hours. City Hall is one distribution point for the bands, but there are usually others. Check the 2015 Party Guide Map for more information.
  4. Line up early for special character meet and greets. When I attending MNSSHP, there were two character meets that had LONG lines: Jack Skellington and The 7 Dwarfs. These rarely seen characters traditionally make special appearances during the annual Halloween party, so if you want to take advantage of that, make sure to get in line early. Jack usually does his meet and greet near City Hall on Main Street U.S.A. and the 7 Dwarfs meeting in New Fantasyland. Based on my experience, you might want to start lining up for Jack around 5:30 p.m. and the Dwarfs by 6:15 p.m. For a full list of character M&G, plus their locations, check out the Party Map/Guide.
  5. Do NOT miss the Boo to You Parade and Happy HalloWishes! Party guests will find a variety of live entertainment, including the new Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular in front of Cinderella Castle. However, I cannot stress this enough. The Boo to You Parade and Happy HalloWishes fireworks are MUST DOs for the Halloween Party. The soundtrack to the parade is catchy, the characters and cast members look fantastic and there are plenty of special characters to see, including the Headless Horseman who rides down Main Street U.S.A. to kick off the parade. And, Happy HalloWishes was breathtaking. Again, another catchy soundtrack, an entertaining “ghost host” and pyrotechnics that make the regular Wishes Fireworks Spectacular look “ordinary.” (it’s true!)

**BONUS TIP! If you intend to stay until the park closes, take your time leaving!

First of all, there will be a mass exodus of people pushing their way to the buses, ferries and monorails.

Second, many of the shops stay open and this is a good time to look for special party merchandise or just do a little window shopping as the crowds thin.

Eventually, you’ll be pretty much on your own on Main Street U.S.A.! Oh, the pictures you can capture on a nearly empty street!!! We even found a Disney photographer near the entrance who snapped some pictures of my husband and me.

Then, at about 12:45, we made our way to the now deserted bus area and a bus driver pulled up as we walked to our stop and offered to take us “wherever” we needed to go. If we weren’t so tired, we might have headed to Downtown Disney, but we enjoyed our private ride back to the Pop Century!

Have you ever attended MNSSHP? What are some of your best tips to enjoy the party? Share the in the comments section below!

9 Walt Disney World freebies

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Finding free things and activities at Walt Disney World is not a fairy tale. In fact, Walt Disney World offers its guests many opportunities to enjoy something for nothing. And, while many of these things may seem like small potatoes compared to the price of a family vacation, all of them are priceless in their own way.

Free ice water: Many people don’t know that you can go to any counter service restaurant in the Walt Disney World Parks and ask for a cup of ice water. They may not be huge, but you can get them as often as you like and it’s often just enough to satisfy your thirsty crowd!Water bottles cost at least $2.50 each at Walt Disney World. Even in the cooler months, your family needs to stay hydrated and for a family of four, 2 bottles of water a day for each person will run you $20. Multiply that by how many days you’ll be on vacation and that takes a big bite out of your budget.

Celebration Pins: Is it your birthday? Anniversary? Honeymoon? 1st time visiting? Family Reunion? Graduation? If you are celebrating anything at Walt Disney World, the parks have free, special buttons for you to wear and show off proudly during your vacation. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, you can ask for one when you check in. You can also pick up your buttons at City Hall in the Magic Kingdom or Guest Relations at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You get to keep the buttons as a souvenir and sometimes, a WDW Cast Member may provide a little extra magic if he or she sees it’s a special day for you.

Sweet treats: If the family is in the mood for a little snack, you have a couple of options to satisfy your sweet tooth at no cost. In the Magic Kingdom, stop by the MK Confectionary where not only can you watch Cast Members make yummy treats like fudge and caramel apples, you can also get some free samples to try and enjoy. If you’re over at Epcot’s World Showcase, stop by Karamell Kuche in the Germany Pavilion where you can watch Cast Members make fresh caramel popcorn and offer small bags for guests to sample. The only downside, you will likely be compelled to buy something after the sampling because it’s all so good!

Monorail/Resort Tour: Do you need a break from the crowded parks in the middle of a hot day? Hop on board the Resort Monorail to take a tour of the Magic Kingdom hotels. I love riding on the monorail because you get some great views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake and it is so cool to actually ride through the Contemporary Hotel lobby!

You can get off and on the monorail at your leisure to explore Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Feel like a longer ride? Switch monorail trains at the Transportation Ticket Center stop and climb aboard the monorail to Epcot.

During the ride, you’ll get a quick, but cool tour around Epcot’s Future World. If you’re too busy at the parks during the day, but want something a little more low key to do in the evening, a monorail ride and resort tour is a wonderful way for the family (or a couple) to get some down time while still enjoying the sights.

Kidcot Fun Spots: Epcot’s World Showcase may not wow the younger travelers as much as the rides, but Disney created some kid-friendly activity stops around World Showcase for the younger travelers to enjoy and learn from during their stop at each country. The free activities usually include some sort of craft that the kids create and then can carry with them as a souvenir of the day.

Interactive Games: Walt Disney World moves past the classic ride and attraction offerings with a number of interactive games at select theme parks. In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests can become Wilderness Explorers and tour animal exhibits and get their activity book stamped as they move trough the game.

Over at Epcot, kids can play Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure where they pick up a handheld device and follow clues all around the World Showcase to help find and defeat the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

Magic Kingdom guests have two game options. First, Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom involves picking up a packet of game cards at Main Street U.S.A.’s Firehouse and use them with magic mirror portals to defeat notorious Disney villains. For those looking for a pirate experience, head over to Adventureland for Pirate’s Adventure, where players join Captain Jack Sparrow and navigate the waters of the Seven Seas.

Stickers: Seriously, who doesn’t love stickers? Even grownups get a little giddy if given one, right? Around the WDW Theme Parks, Cast Members love going around to kids and families to give them some stickers featuring popular Disney characters.

Park Maps: Sometimes I think the park maps are almost too pretty to use to guide us around the parks. The colorful pictures and maps capture the magic of each park and they can be used as souvenirs in a scrapbook or even framed as a piece of art and hung up on the wall. So, grab a couple of extra copies to and see how you can bring a little piece of Walt Disney World into your home.

Photos: Pictures really are worth a thousand words. If you bring your own camera, you can capture countless magical memories at the parks that you can use to look back on your vacation. In addition to taking your own pictures, any of the Walt Disney World Photopass photographers will happily use your camera to snap some pictures of you and the entire family together. Note: If you’re interested in the photos taken on the PhotoPass photographer’s camera, you can purchase those copies on your way out of the park.

Enjoying the Magic Takeaway

You really can get something for nothing at the parks. Yes, for most of these, you still need to pay park admission to get access to the activities, but it’s nice to know that there is so much to do that is not an extra hit on your wallet once your inside the gates for the day.

QUESTION: What is your favorite WDW freebie? 

5 expert tips to master Disney buses

Did you know Walt Disney World is the size of San Francisco (40 square miles)?

Consider that for a second.

My feet hurt thinking about it.

The resort is so big it has its own bus system, and depending to whom you chat with about it, it’s an amazing thing or can be the biggest pain in the ass of your vacation.

5 expertDisney bustipsAfter using WDW bus transportation exclusively for our last few trips, here are a few important lessons I need to share with you.

Lesson #1 – If you’re staying at a WDW hotel and using the Magical Express service, then pack a small bag with you for check in. The Magical Express is the coach bus service from Orlando International Airport to the various hotels on Walt Disney World Property.  There is something about leaving the driving to Disney that made our trip feel more like a vacation. We didn’t have to worry about our checked bags, waiting in long lines at the rental counter or finding our way to the resort. We could sit back and relax.

HOWEVER…

It can take luggage services a few hours to get your checked bags to your room, so you have two options. You can pick up your checked luggage at the terminal, if you wish. Or, you can pack what you will need (bathing suit, change of clothes) in one of your carry ons. We decided on the second option and were at our hotel and in the pool within 2 hours of landing at the airport–and we didn’t have to lug all of our bags. Win-win!

Lesson #2 – Get to the bus stop early in the morning – Disney buses start running about 60-90 minutes before park opening (AKA ‘rope drop’).  Most days, we were at the stop about an hour before park opening and the buses weren’t full. The bus schedules were consistent at 10-20 minutes between pickups. We found earlier in the morning, there were actually more buses coming through than later in the day. Some resorts have monitors near the bus stops with wait times until the next bus.

Lesson #3 – Skipping the parking lots – This is a nice little perk provided by Disney transportation. When traveling to the Magic Kingdom, the buses take guests past the Transportation and Ticket Center and directly to the main gates! No waiting for the monorail or ferry boat!

At Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the bus stops are just to the side of the entrance–less than a 5 minute walk from the gates. We didn’t miss waiting in line for the parking trams and then walking around to find our car after a long day.

Lesson #4 – Patience is a virtue – While we never experienced the bus delays many complain about except at the end of the day when the crowds leave en masse and head to the buses. Typically, this is after the last parade or fireworks show. This can mean long waits at the bus stop, which can be a bummer after a long day.

The one time we did wait, we started at the end of the queue and only waited about 20-25 minutes because they were moving the buses in so quickly.

After that, we decided on a different strategy for the next day: hang around the park. We waited in the park after the final fireworks and watched as the crowds made their way to the exits. We did a little window shopping, took pictures or just sat and enjoyed the view.

This is now one of my favorite times in the park. Then, within 30 minutes or so, the crowds were much lighter and the bus lines were much shorter.

Lesson #4a – There is always going to be another bus. This is related to the previous rule, but worthy of its own mention. I also learned to wait until the next bus if I saw it was jam-packed. My legs and feet ache at the end of the day and standing up the whole ride home is not something I enjoy. We decided to wait until the next bus to get a seat. It was worth it, because we rarely waited longer than 5-10 minutes.

Lesson #5 – Leave enough time to get from place to place – Delays can happen and planning for this is important. Whenever we were heading to the park for a dining reservation or a time-sensitive event (fireworks, FastPasses, etc.) we left plenty of time to get from one place to another.

Don’t expect to get somewhere on the buses at the last minute to make an appointment. You’re setting yourself up for failure.

Most times, we allowed 60-70 minutes to get to and from the parks. I’d say 90% of the time we had time to spare once we arrived, but it’s better to have extra time than be late and miss something important.

This is especially true for your return to the airport on the Magical Express. They ask guests to board the bus about three hours before the flight’s departure time. It seems like a long time, but the bus can make multiple stops, there can be traffic and security lines can be long.

Bottom Line: Using Disney transportation to get you from your hotel to other locations around the resort is like any other part of your trip: a little planning before you head out for the day goes a long way to help your enjoyment of the service!

HAVE YOU EVER USED THE WDW BUS SYSTEM? What was your experience like? Share in the comments!