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Disney World dos and don’ts

This insider’s guide to Orlando’s Walt Disney World shows you how to take on the town — and avoid the mousetraps.
Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel series "Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern," joins Chef Goofy in the Magic Kingdom on Jan. 2 to enjoy two of the theme park's giant, smoked turkey legs. Gene Duncan / DISNEY/HANDOUT
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“I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known,” Walt Disney once said about his most famous animated character and de facto mascot of the Disney theme park empire. And whether you’re a once-in-a-lifetime visitor or devout ear-wearing fan (or catering to one), there’s no denying that Disney’s passion for all things Mickey still resonates.

Walt Disney World is, hands-down, the most popular destination in the world; almost 50 million people visit the Orlando parks each year — a number that the original “imagineer” never would have foreseen when he opened his ground-breaking amusement park in 1971.

But for all their magical family fun, brazen marketing efforts and unabashed dream-making, the parks (Magic Kingdom; Epcot; Disney’s Hollywood Studios; and Animal Kingdom) do present challenges, even for the smartest travelers. To this end, has consulted with experts and culled the best tips to help ensure a memorable trip to Disney World.

Having a plan of attack is essential; without one, you risk wasting precious vacation time and, in some cases, money. To help you prioritize — and organize — your time in the Magic Kingdom, consider hiring someone like Tour Guide Mike. Just complete an online questionnaire, pay a fee ($22), and you’ll receive detailed suggested itineraries based on ages, tastes and travel preferences. In a word, Mike does the planning for you.

When it comes to time-saving strategies, however, nothing beats the “FastPass.” This nifty innovation allows you to speed to the front of the lines at some of the parks’ most popular rides. It will also buy you and your family time enough for extras — be it another ride down Splash Mountain, a nostalgic spin through Pirates of the Caribbean or a leisurely stroll down Main Street. Just be sure to hit the popular rides early in the day; when slots run out, the park stops issuing passes.

Even the most basic components of Disney World vacation, such as transportation, come with their own rules of thumb. For example, be sure to avoid slow resort shuttle buses and opt for a rental car instead. The cost per day is the same as a short taxi ride, and you’ll have your own set of wheels for park-hopping.

For some, of course, it’s the memories that matter most. And as many Disney regulars will tell you, few things rank as high on the fun meter as character breakfasts. Goofy and Donald Duck may be mobbed in the park, but at these popular, all-you-can-eat events, fans are guarantee face-time — and photo opps — with their favorite Disney character.

With our insider tips in mind, you’ll be better equipped to make the most of your next trip to Walt Disney World. In the words of Walt Disney himself: If you can dream it, you can do it.