I started my Disney Program in July of 2017. The application process took a total of 11 months and I was offered the job in January 2017. It’s a lengthy process but one that is most definitely worth it. I spent one very magical year living at working at Walt Disney World in Orlando and through my employment was able to experience some amazing things that had I not worked for the Mouse, might not have had the chance to do. If you are thinking about applying or have already applied, here are some of my favourite things I did throughout my year there.
1) Book A Disney Cruise
Disney Cruises are expensive, take advantage of the amazing savings that are offered during your Disney program, you won’t regret it! I’d never had the opportunity to experience a cruise before, but once I did I was hooked. Five of us booked the Disney Dream 4-night Bahamas cruise for my friend’s birthday. It was the most incredible five days ever. Possibly the biggest highlight of my time out in Orlando. Usually these cruises are around $1200 per person but we paid $650 each. So do it!
2) Stay Club Level At A Deluxe Resort
Before starting my Disney Program, I’d never stayed at a Walt Disney World hotel, never mind a deluxe resort or club level. One of my bucket list items was to stay club level at every Walt Disney World deluxe resort. And I managed to do it! Free snacks and alcohol? Why would you not!
3) Visit Disneyland
Take advantage of the fact you work at Walt Disney World and spend a few days in it’s west coast counterpart – Disneyland! Full time Walt Disney World employees get in for free with your cast I.D. And, if you visit between the months of October and February the holiday discount for both Disneyland Hotel and Grand Californian still applies. This is how I was lucky enough to spend 3 magical nights at the Disneyland Hotel.
4) Eat At Victoria & Alberts
This was a one time thing for me, I’ll never say I ate at Victoria & Alberts again. Located inside the victorian style Grand Floridian resort, Victoria & Alberts is an award winning fine dining restaurant. It can be hard to get a reservation, sometimes the waiting list is 6 months long. But if you keep an eye on the app you are able to find reservations. Inside the restaurant is very small, and there is a harpist who played many Disney tunes as well as the GOT theme.
We did the ten-course tasting menu and ordered a bottle of wine between the four of us. In total my bill (just for me) came to $350 including tip. I realise that’s a lot of money for dinner, but this is more of an experience. We were here for around 4/5 hours. After dinner you get a box of chocolates, the menu with your name and date you dined on, and a single red rose to take home.
5) Visit The Disney Studios In Burbank
If you are an active Disney Cast Member, you are able to gain access to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. This is a must during your Disney program! Two days after my Disney Program ended I flew to Los Angeles. I stayed with my sister for a week, and luckily for me, she lives a 5 minute drive from the Disney studios. I ventured through the studios alone, and was incredibly stoked I was even here at all. During my visit I found the multi-plane camera, and made some purchases in the employee exclusive store.
6) Spirit Of Aloha
The Spirit of Aloha is a luau dinner show at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. This show isn’t always discounted for Cast Members, so keep an eye out on the hub. I did this for a friends birthday and drank unlimited sangria (despite ordering a coke!) We ate coconut cake and danced the luau, complete with lei’s.
7) Wild Africa Trek
The Wild Africa Trek is a must do at Animal Kingdom. During my Disney Program the trek was heavily discounted to Cast Members for an limited time. The Wild Africa Trek is usually $265 per person but we paid $75. It’s a steal!
During your tour, the guides will give you an overview of certain parts of the park and the tour starts at Kilimanjaro Safaris. You are taken backstage to get up closer to the animals. We were with the trainers when they fed the hippos, and got to cross the suspension bridges over the crocodiles. The tour ends with a private tour through the safari and dinner in the “boma”. Boma is Swahili for “safe place”. I also learned the term “Twende!” which means “let’s go!”
Did you know that a group of Giraffes is referred to as a “Tower”? It’s fair to say I learned a lot on this trek!
8) Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Disney offers great discounts on the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue all year round. So it’s definitely possible to go more than once! Located on the grounds of Fort Wilderness, the Hoop-Dee-Doo is a dinner and musical show.
9) Sunset Yoga In The Magic Kingdom
Each year Disney hosts a “Sunset Yoga” event, which takes place inside The Magic Kingdom (as well as Disneyland and Disneyland Paris) This event is free to attend and is for Cast Members only. Prior to the event you’ll receive an email stating when the sign up is available. I’d recommend doing it ASAP as everyone wants to do it and spaces fill up fast. The 3.00am start was hard but when will you ever be able to say you did this again? We entered the park around 5:30am and staked out a spot directly in front of the Partners Statue. Seeing Main Street so early in the morning with no one there was kind of surreal. Watching the sunset in front of Cinderella Castle is something you’ll never forget.
10) Starlit Splash
Starlit Splash is a Cast Member exclusive event, just for Disney Program participants. The event generally happens in April, and unlike other events there is no sign up needed. All you need is your cast I.D. There is a buffet, carts handing out Mickey bars and free glow-in-the-dark face painting. All the rides are open up until around 1am. The wave pool was where we spent most of the time, simply because it was the warmest!
11) Vero Beach & Hilton Head Island
Experience one of Disney’s famous DVC resorts. DVC is like Disney’s version of timeshare, it stands for Disney Vacation Club, and a dream of mine to one day join! Disney has a resort in Vero Beach, another in South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, and Aulani in Hawaii. I spent a night at Vero Beach and two nights at Hilton Head Island, both were incredible. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the madness that is Walt Disney World but still have some of the magic at your resort. Vero Beach was so relaxing during my stay and a only a few hours drive from Orlando.
I didn’t get the time or money to stay at Aulani during my Disney program, but I did visit the resort during a trip to Hawaii a few years back – it’s still on my bucket list and if you can you should book it!
12) Preview Upcoming Attractions
Just before my Disney program ended, Toy Story land was due to open. Magic Backstage had a competition for people to preview the new land prior to it’s opening. I was one of the lucky people who was chosen for this opportunity. I rode the Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers with no wait and little to no crowds. Unfortunately I came away with no photos as some of the land was still under construction – but the memories will always be there!
13) Wear Matching Spirit Jerseys
Embrace your basic bitch and wear matching spirit jerseys with your Disney friends! I’m a total nerd and have done this at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom.
14) Buy A Disney Dooney & Bourke
It’s no secret that I have a thing for hand bags. With a holiday discount of 40% off, I didn’t just buy one Dooney & Bourke, oh no, I bought five. I managed to pull together some self-control and didn’t buy any more but they still tempt me! Leaving with 7 suitcases full of Disney merch was not fun. And a tip for anyone who likes bargains – many of the Dooney’s end up in the Character Warehouse outlet, where Cast Members get another 10% off at the cash register.
15) Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
One of the best time’s to visit Walt Disney World is Halloween! You’ll be singing “it’s really not so scary” for weeks after seeing the “Boo To You Parade”. During the Halloween party at Magic Kingdom you’ll find rare characters such as Jack & Sally, the 7 dwarves and Lotso Bear. Even Donald & Daisy duck put on their best Halloween outfits. Fill your trick or treat bags with tons of candy and meet the ghosts over at The Haunted Mansion.
Disney offers discounted tickets to it’s Cast Members for most events. But be quick because there are limited dates for discounted tickets and they tend to sell out fast. The Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom starts in late August and finishes November 1st. Company D (the Cast Member exclusive store) will be the place to purchase tickets. I attended my very first MNSSHP in 2017 and managed to attend twice. It gets very busy and lines for characters are very long.
16) Get Photos At The Purple Wall
You’ve got your matching spirit jerseys, now it’s time to get photos in them! What better place than the purple wall. Pretty much every Disney Instagram profile has a photo of the purple wall. The purple wall is located in Tomorrowland just next to the Tomorrowland Terrace.
17) Drink Around The World
Spend an afternoon exploring the different country pavilions in Epcot’s world showcase. Sample a different drink in each country! My favourites are the Margaritas in Mexico and the Tokyo sunset in the Japan pavilion.
18) Do A Backstage Tour
There are a couple ways you can snag your way onto a backstage tour. If you’re lucky, your work location will arrange these themselves. A sign-up sheet will pop up in your location and then a number of people will randomly get picked.
You can also check out Magic Backstage through the HUB. They often post competitions to do backstage tours around the resort – including stays inside the Cinderella suite!
I was lucky enough to be picked for the Star Tours backstage tour through my work location. We entered Hollywood Studios at around 6:00am and were given the backstory of the attractions design, allowed to walk around areas guests never see and had our own private ride on Star Tours.
19) Spend New Years Eve In The Parks
Over New Years Eve, Magic Kingdom and Epcot are usually blocked out for Cast Member admission. However, Hollywood studios is a great alternative. If you’d like to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks, you can see the Epcot fireworks from the Boardwalk , or the Magic Kingdom fireworks (which are amazing) from the Polynesian Beach.
20) Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
November 2nd Halloween disappears and BAM! It’s Christmas just like that. Get your fix of gingerbread and Eggnog at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party!
Just like the Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party has select dates that are discounted for Cast Members. These tickets will also be available from Company D (located inside Epcot cast services and Hollywood Studios cast services). There is a shorter period for the Christmas Party and this is a far more popular time than Halloween. So if you’d like discounted tickets I’d say get them sooner rather than later.
21) Join The UK Lasses
This is something I realise isn’t for everyone. I attended my first Lasses apartments on my check-in day. Then had to be up for 8.am the next day, good times! Happy Mondays gets a lot of bad rep, but it’s something you have to be open-minded about.
For anyone who isn’t sure about what Happy Mondays is, I’ll give you a quick overview. It’s basically a night out (on a Monday, obvs) where different teams meet and play flip cup. The teams are generally country specific – so working in the UK pavilion and being from the UK, I was part of the UK girls team.
It’s a great way to get to know people, and an ice breaker for when you first start your Disney program. I was really nervous going for the first time and had no idea what to expect. Everyone was really welcoming and I had a great time! After a couple of months I was “initiated” into the UK Lasses team. A lot of people don’t like this part of Happy Mondays, but you’ll never be forced to do something, and if you don’t want to just say so and people will be okay with it! There were nights where I would go to apartments only and not drink.
22) Graduate Disney Style
The only time you will ever be able to put on a Mickey ear graduation hat and meet Mickey and Minnie in their Graduation costumes, so enjoy it! Disney puts on a service celebration for all of it’s Disney Program participants, free food, photo-booths and you very own Disney Diploma!
Hopefully this has given you some insight as to what you can do during your time out in Orlando. It really is the best year of your life!
For any applicants waiting for interviews, good luck and hopefully you’ll be doing some of the things on this list soon!
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