Before our first trip to Disney World, I became crazy-overboard-planner - and I am NOT a detail-oriented woman. But with two little girls (almost-3 & 5), I knew I had to bring it big or go home! There are so many Disney tip pages (and entire websites) out there, so I'm only sharing information on a few things that are either not emphasized or were tips I found on only one site, that turned out to be winners:
1. Early Breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table - this ties in with another princessy item, Enchanted Tales with Belle. ETB gets insanely crowded later in the day, primarily because it is an event that takes a while to get through, so the crowd really builds up. Enchanted Tales is a relatively new attraction, so there wasn't too much information on it out there. I did read a tip about doing an early character breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table - primarily so that you could watch as each princess "arrived" at the Kingdom for the day, and also because you can then get done and out as soon as the park is opening up. We booked the 8:10 breakfast, and I loved watching my daughter's eyes light up as each princess was announced! Then, at 9 we headed out, and made a beeline for Enchanted Tales. Our group wasn't even the maximum capacity, and every child easily got a part to play in the production. The cast members also gave us extra privileges by allowing parents to freely move around the room to videotape their kids. Magical!
2. Finding Little Known Meet N Greets - my daughters are autograph fiends, which is easily the biggest Disney racket. Standing in line for 30 minutes to have a person in a costume give my kids an autograph? The girls were thrilled, so I'm not one to rain on their parade! For our second trip this year, we went after the harder to find characters. Two great ways to find them are (1) ask a cast member (any Disney employee) in the area - one lady gave us fantastic tips that helped us snag Peter Pan quickly, and (2) check out Kenny The Pirate's website, which I found to be most accurate in terms of locations and updated info.
3. Pick a Pearl at Epcot - Loved, loved, loved this! What a wonderful experience, and everyone I tell about it has no idea it exists. At the Japan pavilion at Epcot, inside the store there is a counter full of oysters. For approximately $15, a person can pick an oyster. The Disney employees make a big production out of opening the pearl - a crowd gathered to watch while the employee had my 5-year-old count down in Japanese. She then cracked open the oyster, pulled out the pearl to everyone's oohs and aahs, and then cleaned, measured, and bagged it. My daughter's face was shining by the end! I can't remember where I found this tip, but the person had also suggested buying a pearl holder pendent off of ebay - if you go to ebay and google "pearl carriage", a silver Cinderella's carriage to hold the pearl on a necklace goes for about $10. They have pearl holders there as well, but for much more. Amazing experience!
4. Tinkerbell Gifts - For months before going, I bought Disney Princess and Mickey related tees, trinkets, etc. from Party City, Target, Old Navy, and Walmart. I also found Tinkerbell images on-line which I downloaded and pasted onto Microsoft Word to make Tinkerbell stationery, on which I wrote poems for each day. When we arrived and then again at the end of each day, my daughters would find "Tinkerbell gifts" left for them in the room (I had them prepped the night before, then would throw them on the couch immediately after the girls exited the room for the day). Not only was it a fun way to end the day, but they really didn't ask to buy any of the overpriced souvenirs in the parks. Party City has the best options, with so many little body tattoos, plastic rings and bracelets, glow necklaces, etc. The glow necklaces and wands are great for nighttime events, like the fireworks show and electrical parade.
5. Pre-pay for Photopass - It's not always easy to find on the actual PhotoPass website, but if you pre-pay you can pay $120 for unlimited shots through the Disney PhotoPass photographers, as opposed to the $170 you would pay after your trip.
Not really a tip but a recommendation - we stayed at the Polynesian the first time around and at Art of Animation the second time. The Polynesian is a "premium" resort on-site, whereas Art of Animation is "value." Other than the (admittedly extremely convenient) proximity to the monorail at the Polynesian, we preferred the Art of Animation on every other level - accommodations, activities, dining, etc. The themed buildings are adorable. We stayed in a very reasonably priced Finding Nemo suite, with a bed that pulls down from the wall, replacing a table. So much more comfortable than a pull out couch, although they had one of those as well, in addition to another double bed - so the rooms can technically sleep 6. It was extremely clean, relatively new (opened last year), and has great pools and and a fun Little Mermaid splash pad area.