We're cast members—not employees
At Disney, every employee is called a cast member because every interaction and experience is a show at Disney. As for the visitors, we call them guests. “Guests are not considered 'customers' because we are welcoming you into this immersive experience and fantasy,” says a former quick-service employee at Disney World. You may even hear us occasionally call a visitor a “real guest"—it's an unofficial code word we use for rude guests.
Eat breakfast with the Disney characters
Start your morning off right eating breakfast with a princess at Cinderella’s Royal Table or Winnie the Pooh at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. The prices for character-dining experiences can range anywhere from $20 to $60 per adult, but breakfast typically falls on the lower end of the price spectrum than dinner. And don’t worry about missing out on your favorite characters because the characters usually remain the same no matter what time you go!
Walt Disney inspired the ‘Disney point’
As cast members, we are taught to properly point by placing our index and middle finger together (aka the ‘Disney point’). We are told that pointing with your index finger may be misconstrued as rude to some guests. But the real reason for this specialized finger point lies within Walt Disney. The story goes that old photos used to show Disney pointing to various attractions with a cigarette between his two fingers. But the company reportedly airbrushed the cigarette out of his fingers in pictures when the company wanted to dissociate itself from smoking. Now, the pictures just look like Disney always pointed people in the right direction using his two fingers. (Here are 12 more etiquette rules that every Disney employee must follow.)
Custodians are the go-to cast members for directions
No one knows how to get somewhere in the park better than a custodial cast member. Disney has a very strict policy that prohibits any of us from wandering away from our post. But custodians are the exception to the rule because they need to move freely around the park to maintain order and cleanliness. “If you don’t understand the directions a cast member gives you, a custodian can walk and talk with you,” says a former Disney World College Program participant. “An attractions, merchandise, or food cart cast member doesn’t have the same freedom to go around with you.” All you need to do is look for the man or woman dressed up in a pristine white jumpsuit.
You can only meet the Beast in one place
Unfortunately, you won’t ever see the Beast step foot in any park. Sorry, Beauty and the Beast fans! In fact, the only place you can catch him is at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom during dinnertime. But we've heard that dinner reservations go fast and you may have to book a table as early as 180 days in advance!
Order off the kid’s menu
Don’t let the words “9 years and younger” discourage you from ordering off the kid’s menu at a fast food joint in Disney. “I used to get a kid’s meal on my lunch break,” says a former Disney World guest relations cast member. “It’s a good deal because the food is better for you, you get snack options, and you don’t need this quadruple serving of food.” You can buy a kid’s meal for about half the price of a regular meal. But keep in mind that table-service restaurants are typically less lenient about letting adults eat like a kid.
We use code words for everything
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We use secret lingo to alert our colleagues about ride difficulties, gross accidents, and other mishaps. For example, a “Code P” means someone accidentally urinated in the park and a “Code V” stands for vomit. We even make up our own silly codes sometimes like "405 in Line 2" which means there's someone attractive standing in line. Of course, codes of this nature are not Disney-approved in any park. (Make sure you know the three words Disney cast members are never allowed to say.)
Get a character’s autograph first thing in the morning
Mornings are the best time to get up close and personal with your favorite Disney character before you spend all day standing in line. Not only will you get your autograph fast, but you may also be rewarded for being the first fan to arrive. “I once saw Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter take a little boy on the teacup ride with them,” says a former quick-service employee at Disney World. "There’s no other time you would see that.” Unfortunately, not every Disney character goes on a ride with the first person of the day, but they may strike a special pose with you!
Download the Disney app
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The app makes it easy to plan your day at Disney. Many of us download the My Disney Experience (for Walt Disney World) or Disneyland apps to navigate the parks, find times and meeting places for character photo-ops, and check ride wait times and show schedules.
Don't be deceived by long wait times for a ride
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“The ride line waiting times are kind of like the stock market,” says a former quick-service cast member at Disney World. “When it gets high, it’ll likely see a significant drop.” She frequently checks the ride wait times on the Disney app to map out which ride to head to next. For instance, a 200-minute wait for a ride often scares people away so it drops quicker than a more consistent time where everyone is constantly hopping in line. On the other hand, low wait times may work against you, especially if you’re far away from a ride, because everyone else will also be rushing over to get in line. Then, by the time you arrive, the wait will be even longer than before. Remember that everyone on the Disney app sees the same information, so keep that on your radar when calculating your next move.