This is all of the stuff that fit nowhere yet everywhere at the same time when I was trying to think of Disney World things that make our annual trip better. (P.S. This is the very last mention of Disney World I'll make. For now. Promise.) So . . . uh . . . randomness.
Random Disney Tip #1: Hidden Mickeys are the bomb. I don't care if saying that makes me sound like I should grab a cane and some Metamucil, I like searching high and low for the hidden Mickeys.
For the blissfully oblivious, hidden Mickeys are exactly what they sound like--there are Mickeys hidden all over the place at Disney World. The twisted minds that design the rides and such are really quite excellent at making something that should be obvious blend in really well. In other words, some of them are REALLY FREAKIN HARD to find.
And I love it.
There is no better way to make a line not quite so painful than to spend your time trying to find Mickey. Rides that I should be sick of by now are fresh and new each time because I'm looking for the damn rat. When Alexis starts impersonating Goofy on speed, I can focus her attention on trying to find a Mickey no matter where we are. When she is a little bit older, I plan to make it a contest to see who can find the most of them each day. And, yes, I will cheat. I'm not above that.
Random Disney Tip #2: There's plenty of debate about whether it's better to stay on property or at Downtown Disney or in Kissimmee (you pretty much have to research and see which is the best fit for you), there isn't much debate that if you are going to Disney World with a group large enough to need two hotel rooms, you may very well save money by renting a condo. We have used this company and ended up happy with the decision.
(Side note: If you stay on property, the Dining Plan is a very good idea. It's confusing as all heck, though. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions as you are booking and while you are there. The Cast Members are used to it.)
Random Disney Tip #3: The best time to visit Disney World is October. The weather is usually good and the parks are fairly empty. One word of warning, though--there WILL be some major attraction that is closed every October. If you've got your heart set on a particular attraction, it's worth researching to be sure it's not scheduled to be shut down.
Random Disney Tip #4: Pay attention to the details. They are what makes Disney amazing, in my opinion. For example, stand in a spot in the Magic Kingdom. Look all around. Can you see a trash can? Of course you can. Now try another spot. And another. And another. I bet you can't find a place where there is not a trash can within your line of vision. That's no mistake.
Some other little details that fascinate me include:
-- There are no mirrors above the sinks in most restrooms. It seems people move faster when they aren't primping and staring at themselves.
-- Try to figure out why you seldom see anyone emptying a trash can in the Magic Kingdom and yet you rarely (if ever) see an overflowing trash can.
-- Look for a newspaper and some gum. Good luck.
-- If it happens to rain while you are at Disney World, watch how quickly rain gear magically appears all over the place.
-- I'll be the first to admit that a lot of the food at Disney World pretty much sucks, but sit and watch just how many people flow through a line in five minutes. It's mind-blowing when you start thinking about the scale of it all. For example, there are reports that Disney World sells 10 million hamburgers each year.
-- When you're walking around the Magic Kingdom, you're on the 2nd floor of the complex. If you look around, you'll be able to find the entrances that Cast Members use to go down to the 1st floor, but only if you look hard.
-- Lotso really does smell like strawberries. AND HE IS EVIL.
Random Disney Tip #5: If you have a moment where you feel overwhelmed by everything, consider the fact that it's like that every day. When I worked at Mickey's Character Shop, 35,000 people shopped there daily. They collectively spent $1,000,000. EACH WEEK. It's always nuts.
Because it's always nuts, you can be certain that whatever your situation, you aren't all that special. Someone else has already used that line, tried that scam, or worked that angle. You should absolutely say something if a situation comes up that needs to be addressed, just know that trying to work the system is likely to end in failure. It's up to you to make sure you have the time of your life.
Random Disney Tip #6: The rules that exist at Disney World exist for a reason. So, for example, don't try to cheat the height requirements on rides. The Cast Members aren't trying to be jerks when they turn your kid away. It's truly not safe for someone that size to be on that ride.
One of my roommates worked at Splash Mountain. Every day people would try to cheat the height requirement by rushing past the Cast Members, putting the kid in shoes that made them seem taller, having the kid wear a big hat or big hair, etc. It seemed that every time someone succeeded, they would end up with a kid with a bloody mouth because the kid would lean forward during the big fall and end up smashing their teeth against the bar.
Just cooperate if a Cast Member asks you to follow a rule. They truly do know something that you don't.
Random Disney Tip #7: Take snacks and drinks with you if it's feasible. This year we stopped at Target when we got to Orlando and spent $60 on snacks and bottled water. That saved us a ton of time and money because we didn't have to stand in line to buy a $3 bottle of water each time Alexis was thirsty.
By the way, if you ask for a cup of water at any restaurant, they'll give you one for free. If you just ask for water, they'll sell you bottled water.
Random Disney Tip #8: If you have a smart phone, find some apps. There are apps that have maps, dining information, attraction wait times, etc.
The most useful app, though, might just be Foursquare. I know that sounds weird, but I was constantly checking Foursquare when we were at Disney World. There are tons of tips loaded for just about everything.
Random Disney Tip #9: Check out all of the great websites that have tons of information about Disney World. Here are a few:
Undercover Tourist (Slightly discounted park tickets. Thanks to @MarkECib for the heads up on this one.)
Random Disney Tip #10: Have fun!
Please add anything I may have missed in comments!