Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

*This is NOT a sponsored post. Just sharing our experience!**

We spent a week at Walt Disney World and Universal, thanks to my parents. What an adventure! After scouring Pinterest, I learned that there was no post, anywhere, that could really walk me through planning an entire trip to Disney. Throughout the series, I shared our days at the parks, tips and tricks, taming the souvenir beast, money saving ideas, things we learned and photos we captured. They’re all linked below. Enjoy!

Day 1: HDYDI – Plan a Multi-Generational Disney Vacation
Day 2: What We Wore to Disney 
Day 3: EPCOT: A Mom’s Guide 
Day 4: Magic Kingdom: Plan a Visit That’s Fun for All Ages
Day 5: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal: A Family Guide
Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day!

Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome (this post!)
Day 8: 10 Things to Buy/Borrow/Make For Your Disney Vacation
Day 9: 6 Tips to Capture Your Disney Vacation on Film
Day 10: Meeting Anna & Elsa: An Honest Account 

Back in the day, meetings characters was as simple as spotting one, walking over, giving them a hug or high five, maybe snapping a photo and walking along your merry way. This is not your childhood Disney. Enter the internet, many more Disney travelers and lots more characters – the landscape for meeting them has completely changed. During our trip, we met more than 30 and enjoyed two character meals. Today, I’ll share some things we learned along the way, how to make the most of meeting characters and striking a balance between seeing attractions and high-fiving the characters.

Character Meet & Greets

1. Research. If it isn’t 100% obvious by now, I spent a fair amount of time researching our trip to Disney, particularly the characters. We had a mix of boys and girls, bigs and littles and I wanted to make sure we hit the big rides and met some great characters along the way. I found out what characters appeared at what parks (did you know Mulan is only in EPCOT and Pocahontas is only found at Animal Kingdom?) You do now! We also did some digging on the times they appeared and for how long. Whatever you do, the MyDisneyExperience (MDE) app is your new BFF. There’s a great character map on it for each park. Use it!

MDE character map

2. Keep your expectations in check. Our first day in the parks, my brother and I were on a mission to meet some characters. We forgot, however, that the kids were largely done by mid-day. When kids are crying in England while you’re trying to find Tigger and Pooh that’s perhaps a sign you should abandon ship. Lesson learned. The rest of the trip we did a much better job of balancing character meets with rides.

3. Be prepared. You can purchase autograph books at Disney, but be prepared to shell out some serious cash. We made our own using small three-ring notebooks, page protectors, these character printables from Etsy and Sharpie markers. I designed/printed the cover and spine. A note on those sharpies, include a healthy stash of regular Sharpies and big ones. The characters with “big hands” will love you forever. Those scored some major thumbs up from every single one. Because we made our own books, they were pretty customizable, but they were also a pretty big book to lug around. And we had six! The markers, notebooks and page protectors you can pick up at any office supply store (or Amazon). The printables were a hit. My only beef is that they took up quite a bit of ink to print, but I was making a lot of books! Pro tip from a teacher’s daughter here: insert transparency sheets between the cardstock and the notebook cover to prevent “sticking.”

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

On day two, we finally got smart and starting pulling out the pages of characters at the park we were visiting and putting them in a Ziplock bag. Then, we put the Sharpies in another sack. That way, they were easy to access AND waterproof. We did bring along one notebook for the characters to use as they signed. That got rave reviews, too. Whatever you do, make sure you have a way to keep it dry. Rain may not foil your book, but a leaky water bottle might. Thank goodness for the basket on Nana’s scooter that first day!

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

4. Make a priority list. You don’t have to write it down, but if your niece wants to see Anna and Elsa then make that a priority. Or, if your son goes bonkers over Buzz, then put that man at the top of the list. Knowing the characters your kids love and then figuring out where they’ll be, and when, will certainly end up being a highlight of the day.

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

5. Don’t be deterred by the character break. With the extreme Florida heat, some of those characters simply can’t stand in that weather for hours on end. So, they take periodic breaks. But, don’t let those make you jump the rope and move along. Usually, the breaks last less than five minutes (and in many cases, less!) Hang tight, because those characters are coming back!

6. Look for the one-two punch. We worked hard to meet characters in twos, or more, like Woody and Jessie, Phineas and Ferb and Tigger and Pooh. You stand in line once and get two signatures.

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

7. Capture the memory. With the exception of one character (green army men), every meet and greet had a PhotoPass photographer taking pictures. For those that purchased Memory Maker, once they scan your band all the photos appear in your account. But, if you don’t purchase MM, the photographer is always happy to take a picture using your camera/phone. What I discovered? I took lots of pictures of the kids interacting with the characters. Almost always, the Disney photographer would start doing the same. It’s so nice to have photos that aren’t all “stand here and say cheese.” It was especially great when Duffy dropped one of our notebooks and we captured this! Or, when Luke showed off his car to Buzz. Classic. Now that we’ve finally downloaded all those photos, we’ll be including some in the autograph book to accompany the signatures.

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

 

8. Don’t count out the big kids. When I was creating the books, I purposely left out making one for my big boys. Big mistake. When my oldest discovered I was making these, he begged me to make one that he and his brother could share, which I did. Maybe your 14-year-old won’t care about getting Mr. Incredible’s signature. Or maybe he will. The “Disney effect” may be greater than you think. It is great to be a kid, after all. In this photo, my oldest insisted on it. I die.

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

9. Enjoy the unexpected and lean into the experience. When Stitch happened upon our family and happily grabbed our son’s hand and processed to the picture spot, it completely made our son’s day. Totally unexpected and totally awesome. When Phineas and Ferb were having a blast playing jokes on the kids or Woody kept rearranging our oldest son’s baseball cap or how Russell played peek-a-book with the baby – enjoy your time with these characters. They go through a pretty intensive boot camp to have the privilege of playing these iconic characters. Have fun with them. Give them a high-five. Every single time we encountered a character, they made us feel like the most important guests in line. True story.

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

Character Meals

1. Make the most of them. Go at lunch! Breakfasts take you away from hitting the rides before the lines get long and dinners are always the most expensive. Visit during lunch (maybe an early or late one) and get the best of both worlds! Like I mentioned on day one of the series, signing up for the Disney rewards credit card might pay for your meal. Budget about an hour + 15 minutes. Arrive before your reservation and then count on a short wait for seating and then about an hour for the meal. As for which one/s to choose, there are so many. Yes, eating in the Castle for Cinderella’s Royal Table may be awesome, but if princesses are who your girl loves, then I say head to Akershus in EPCOT’s Norway. We saw five – Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, Snow White and Ariel! We also chose Tusker House in Animal Kingdom for our boys where they dined with Mickey, Goofy, Daisy and Donald. Many of my friends sing the praises of Garden Grill, Chef Mickey and Be Our Guest.

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

2. Take your camera. There are PhotoPass photographers there, but they don’t move from table to table. At Akershus, they only took photos with Belle in a special photo area, the rest were up to guests to capture, tableside. At Tusker House, they took photos outside, with no characters around.

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

3. Didn’t get the meal you wanted? Call the day before (or even the morning of) and ask if there were any cancellations. Because guests have to cancel 24 hours in advance or incur a fee, you might just score big.

4. Keep the menu and attire in mind. Maybe African food isn’t your gig, or you’d prefer a table meal over a buffet. Find out which meals offer what and then decide the one that’s best for your family. Attire might matter to your little princess. If she’s meeting Belle, you might consider either a) having her wear her dress or b) packing it so you can do a quick change in the bathroom. We opted to wear fun shirts and change up our Minnie ears instead of wearing princess dresses. That was so much easier!

Making plans to see characters at Walt Disney World? These 13 tips will help you make the most out of meeting your favorite characters - from autograph books, capturing it on film, the best time to visit, which character meal to choose and more!

That’s your character 411. Questions? Pop ’em in the com box!

19 Comments

  1. Nicole on June 5, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    Hey that’s the EXACT same Alice we met, and I recognized Tinkerbell from an earlier post, too. Character meet and greets are SO FUN. Some of them seemed a little better than others. Claire especially loved Snow White, Lady Tremaine and the step sisters and Rapunzel. I always love Chip & Dale and the gang from the Jungle Book. What fun times… YES – bringing the bigger sharpies is a super help! Another tip to note… When our kiddos were wearing shirts with their names on them – the characters (and cast members) would greet them by name – and many of their signatures that year said, “To Claire” or “To Owen”. I guess they could also do that from the Disney buttons, but the shirts were a hit that year. Love your customized autograph book, too! Yay!

  2. Jessica on June 6, 2015 at 7:27 am

    I’ve been loving this series. We enjoyed Tusker House too. My son has some food allergies and the chef came out, escorted me through the buffets and showed me what was safe and what to avoid. Disney service cannot be beat.

    • Kathryn on June 7, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      You’re not the first person that has sung Disney’s praises when it comes to food allergies. I’m so happy to hear that!

  3. Bea on June 6, 2015 at 8:24 am

    We had the Disney Storybook Collection (I think there’s a bedtime and regular book) that we bought ahead of time for $20. Then the characters autographed their story, which they loved. Plus we read stories when we were in line to deter boredom. It lived in the stroller which was a plus.

    • Kathryn on June 7, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      I’ve heard great things about those storybooks – we just had too many books to make!

    • meghan on February 8, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      brilliant!

  4. […] need to decide which would be most likely to be the least crowded. 4. Reading Kathryn’s Disney recap posts makes me want to plan a family trip to Disney. It would be so nice to go with my husband’s […]

  5. kathryn on June 7, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    would it be crazy to have ONE of those storybooks/autograph books for the ENTIRE family? I mean, why would they each need their own, unless they plan to take it off to college? I’m just new to this whole scene and trying to minimize the amount of stuff in the bottom of the stroller…also…the early/extended hours…do they switch from day to day? and about character meals…is one/day sufficient? thank you for this series! I am a Disney-deer-in-headlights!! 🙂

    • Kathryn on June 7, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      Great question. We had two family units so making just one wasn’t a viable option. I suppose we thought it would be fun for them to each have their own – they share just about everything else in the house so this once we let them have their own. And, after going to the parks and seeing them light up, I’m glad we did it the way we did. You know your family, and kids, best. Do what works for you! Extra magic hours do change every day (and they’re only available to those who stay on Disney property). We tried to avoid the parks with EMH to avoid the crowds. That was a strategy that worked well for us. Character meals are a highly personal decision. For us, two meals was perfect for our week there. You might have kids that want to see more of the characters.

  6. Julie on January 18, 2016 at 10:10 am

    These are all great tips!

  7. Lisa pack on April 8, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Do you have to get the dining plan to have dinner with the characters or can you you make reservations without the dining plan

    • Kathryn on April 8, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      Nope! You can definitely make reservations without a dining plan. Enjoy Disney!

  8. Debbie on August 1, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Hi there! Great post!! Question: where did you find that Lightening McQueen?

    • Kathryn on August 7, 2017 at 9:47 am

      Hollywood Studios!

  9. Chrissy on March 24, 2018 at 1:11 am

    I’m planning our first family trip and your posts are so awesome!

    Question: are the autographs on top of the page protectors or did the actual printouts get signed?

    Thanks,
    Chrissy

    • Kathryn on March 28, 2018 at 4:50 pm

      Chrissy, the autographs were on the actual paper, the protectors were just used when we came home. After lugging around all those books at the park, we eventually just pulled the pages of characters we knew we would see at the park that day, then popped the papers in a ziplock bag. It made it so much easier!

  10. […] A Family Guide (this post!) Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day! Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome Day 8: 10 Things to Buy/Borrow/Make For Your Disney Vacation Day 9: 6 Tips to Capture Your Disney […]

  11. […] at Universal: A Family Guide Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day! Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome Day 8: 10 Things to Buy/Borrow/Make For Your Disney Vacation Day 9: 6 Tips to Capture Your Disney […]

  12. […] at Universal: A Family Guide Day 6: Animal Kingdom & Hollywood Studios: All in One Day! Day 7: Character Meals & Meet/Greets: 13 Tips to Make Them Awesome Day 8: 10 Things to Buy/Borrow/Make For Your Disney Vacation Day 9: 6 Tips to Capture Your Disney […]

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