Ask Trip Coach: Walt Disney World

Brad Tuttle reads the fine print so you don't have to.

Do we need a stroller? Should we bring one or rent one?
Yes, you need a stroller. Heck, a lot of adults wish they could have someone wheeling their tired bones around. Bring your own stroller, preferably a sturdy umbrella type that folds up easily and quickly. Disney's strollers can't be taken outside the park gates, and chances are good that you're going to wish you had one in the parking lots or at the hotel or airport. And Disney's rentals are pricey: $15 a day for a single or $31 for a double, with a small discount ($2 to $4 off) for multiday use.

How do we pack in all of the things we want to see and do?
You don't. You can get up early, rush around, and strategize to beat the crowds all you want, but remember: You're on vacation. Relax. And assume that you'll be back.

SUPRISINGLY FREE STUFF
Make a race car Outside the Lego Imagination Center in Downtown Disney is a 3,000-square-foot area with bins and bins of Legos. Kids can build whatever they want—like race cars that speed along a sloping track. Huge Lego sculptures, including a dinosaur, a robot, and a dragon emerging from a lake, are the work of professionals.

Learn to use the force At Hollywood Studios, there's a stage that several times a day hosts a Jedi Training Academy, in which two dozen or so kids are picked to learn the Jedi arts from a full-fledged master. It's worth showing up early to make sure your child gets picked.

Gather 'round the campfire Be sure to catch the nightly sing-along and outdoor movies at Fort Wilderness Resort. Bring marshmallows for toasting or purchase a s'mores kit at the nearby Meadow Trading Post.

Captain the monorail Before boarding, ask a cast member (a.k.a. a Disney employee) if your child can ride with the driver. Four people are allowed per trip.

Walk right in Throughout 2009, get in free on your birthday. Register in advance at disneyparks.com and bring ID.

RESOURCES
Our favorite Disney guidebook is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2009 (Wiley, $20). The 850-page tome is loaded with practical advice and info you won't find anywhere else, plus quotes from real Disney visitors who weigh in with their opinions and tips.

The following independent websites are also obsessively detailed and helpful: wdwinfo.com, mousesavers.com, allears.net, themeparkinsider.com, and wdwplanner.com.

PRINCESS TIME!
Get up close and personal with your kids' heroes at "character meals" around the parks. What you pay varies based on whom you dine with, and when. (Starting prices for all characters based on kids 10 and up.)

Goofy $14, breakfast at Vero Beach Resort
Mickey Mouse $19, breakfast at Animal Kingdom
Jasmine $29, breakfast at Epcot Norway Pavilion
Ariel $31, lunch at Epcot Norway Pavilion
Cinderella $32, dinner at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

MORE TIPS
Especially sunny day? Go to Animal Kingdom, which was designed to have more shade than any other park.

Psst! There's a black market for rental strollers from families leaving early. Don't pay more than $5.

Buy tickets through AAA and you can park right by the front gate in a AAA Diamond Lot.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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