How to best soak in the last moments of your Disney vacation.
by Blake Taylor
You COULD come and go throughout the Walt Disney World parks as you please, following your touring itinerary as directed to optimize your time and save you from waiting in long lines. BUT, wouldn’t your vacation be all the more magical if you spread a little Pixie Dust of your own onto your plans? If you manipulated your schedule so that every stage of your vacation was custom-fitted to add magic to your itinerary? I call this the Magic Factor.” Disney magic that indefinable, nostalgic emotion that sometimes occurs when experiencing a Disney film or park attraction is present in full force in the parks. However, sometimes it’s not about what you experience, but the order in which you experience it.
Last time, we took a look at how to kick off a memorable Walt Disney World vacation. Today you’ll conclude your Magic Factor crash course with some inventive ways to go out with a bang to end your Disney trip in a way that you’ll never forget.
It’s important for your vacation conclusion to be something special, a finale of sorts. Let’s look at it this way. What’s better: a long-running television series that gets cancelled abruptly and leaves its viewers hanging, or the series that goes out on a high note by giving fans a satisfying finale? The latter of course is much more fitting, and the same is true for a vacation.
To just leave Walt Disney World with practically no closure isn’t necessarily bad – you probably had an awesome vacation – but you’re really missing out on a plethora of magical options to end your trip in style.
As they say, save the best for last. Make your family’s absolute favorite attraction the last thing you do. However, it’s important to let that last attraction be a repeat visit that you’ve already experienced during your trip. You don’t want to leave your favorite for the last day and then end up not having enough time to squeeze it in. Similarly, my family once saved all of Fantasyland for our final night. Bad idea! While we enjoyed riding our favorites, we felt rushed to pack them all into one night.
Additionally, as I have said in previous installments, it’s essential that you remain as stress-free as possible. Go with the flow based on what your family feels like doing. This is especially of concern on your last day – everyone will feel somewhat sad that the vacation is coming to a close, and may have a few things in mind that they’d like to experience one last time, which having a non-flexible predetermined schedule could conflict with.
You may think that this is all fine and dandy, and that you can’t wait to end your trip in a special way. But how exactly does this work? Here are a few examples that I’ve used in the past that have made for a memorable last day:
Try a character breakfast. This is the example that I’ve used more than any other, and it always works wonderfully. Something to keep in mind is that there are several excellent character meals at the resorts. The resort meals are great options if you want a last little savor of your trip, but you don’t want to spend money on another entire day in the parks. (If you’re driving, this works even better. Drive to the resort, eat with the characters, perhaps make a loop around the monorail, then hit the road.)
A neat way to say goodbye to the characters is to make them something. Not only does this usually prompt better interaction, but it gives you a way to thank them for what they do and the magic they make. It also makes their day. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you want¦one time we drew Minnie a quick drawing on a napkin and she was absolutely thrilled.
Personally, I don’t like having a final full day in the parks, going to sleep, and then having to immediately leave first thing the next morning. A character breakfast allows you to have one last quintessential Disney experience the morning of your departure, sending you home with smile in your heart rather than sleep in your eyes.
Another option is to attend Evening Extra Magic Hours. I try to plan my family’s trips so that our last night falls on a night that the Magic Kingdom has Evening Extra Magic Hours because MK is our favorite park. It’s even better when the park is already open late, and then has EMH on top of that (such as an 11pm regular closing, meaning a 2am EMH closing). The extra-late EMH have virtually no one in the parks¦walking down an almost-empty Main Street at [2:00] in the morning is quite surreal!
Unfortunately, Disney no longer has characters out during the Magic Kingdom’s EMH, which is a real pity. One particular character encounter of ours (when we found Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto literally all by themselves) was part of what truly put the Extra Magic into our Extra Magic Hours. If a Cast Member is reading this that has control over character schedules, please bring them back!
Regardless, I can still not recommend the super-late EMH enough. There’s also a little-known secret at the Magic Kingdom that not many Guests are aware of. Although it occurs every night, it’s best experienced when there aren’t many people around (which EMH happily complies with). At regular increments throughout the night, the Castle is sprinkled with Pixie Dust and a very Disney-fied soundtrack (rousing chorus, chiming bells, When You Wish Upon a Star, the whole deal) plays over the loudspeakers. Then a little goodbye message is played. This isn’t a big production – there are no characters or dancers or pyrotechnics involved – but it’s a very Disney way to end the day, and the absolute best way in my opinion to implement the Magic Factor into your vacation conclusion.
This goodbye ceremony (for lack of a better word) is called the Kiss Goodnight. Although it’s not listed in the Times Guide, it does take place several times after the park is closed, so odds are you’re bound to be in the Hub or on Main Street when one of its performances take place. It’s better to not know when it’s coming anyway; that makes it all the more magical and unexpected. Additionally, I would advise that you be the only person in your family to know about this. Don’t tell anyone about it ahead of time¦that way it can be a nice small surprise when it actually happens. (And, I don’t know about you, but my family would probably have their hopes up too high, only to be disappointed, if they knew about it ahead of time. It’s primarily just a quick audio spiel, albeit a phenomenal one.)
Probably the most foolproof way to have a magical ending to your vacation is to make your last attraction one that will send you on your way with a smile on your face and with a sense of closure. Here’s a list of some of the WDW attractions that do this a little better than others:
- Splash Mountain
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- it’s a small world
- The 3pm Parade (What time does that start again?)
- Dream Along with Mickey (Castle stage show)
- Wishes fireworks
- The Main Street Electrical Parade
- Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment – I hear you groaning¦but, you have to admit, this attraction is fun and is very finale-ish.
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios:
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3D
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
- Festival of the Lion King – As an added bonus, see the show and then visit the nearby Greeting Trails to say goodbye to Mickey.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Closing ceremony – Animal Kingdom is the only park to have a genuine, announced closing ceremony. Mickey and friends appear at the front of the park for an end-of-the-day celebration. I’ve never seen it, but I’d imagine it would be an excellent conclusion.
In terms of actually leaving Walt Disney World property: if you’re flying, the Magical Express will bid you farewell with a special goodbye video. But what to do if you’re driving? What I do – and actually this is rather cruel when I think about it – is play Feed the Birds into the car’s CD player. Boy, does that start some waterworks. They’re good tears, though. We wouldn’t have the inclination to be sad if we hadn’t had a great time.
Hopefully you’ll be able to flesh out some of these Magic Factor tips into your own Disney vacation itinerary. Remember that the entire purpose of this Magic Factor is to sprinkle some extra Pixie Dust onto your vacation plans, the key word being extra. Consider any way that you can implement the Magic Factor into your itinerary as an added bonus. That way you’ll feel satisfied when it works out, but you won’t be disappointed when things don’t go according to plan. It’s fun to Imagineer some extra Disney magic for your family, sometimes without them even realizing it. Have a magical day!
Previous Magic Factor installments:
Blake is a high-school student who has been surrounded by Disney literally since birth, having had a Mickey mobile in his crib. Blake enjoys helping peers plan WDW vacations and writing for his Disney blog, BlakeOnline.com.