One of the key experiences to visiting a Disney location these days is seeing the characters. After all, what is a trip to Disney World without seeing our favorite mouse?

Before you go to see the characters, there are some key things you should know. Here’s our top 10 list of things you should know before you stop in to see one of our favorite friends.

1. The characters don’t roam anymore

At least not many of them. Most of them have some sort of schedule, and can be found in specific locations. This has it’s positives and negatives. You’re much less likely to run into a random character in the park than you were many years ago, but in many instances it means that your travel agent can tell you where your favorite character is and when. There are some notable exceptions to this. You never quite know where you’ll find Peter Pan in Disneyland and the Storm Troopers and Clone Troopers are not at a set spot for Star Wars Weekends for instance.

2. Character meals can save you significant wait time in the parks

Character meals can allow you to see multiple characters in a short amount of time while you’re sitting down in an air conditioned restaurant. Most of the meals have a fairly steady rotation of characters so that you know who you’re most likely to meet while there, meaning that you can see your favorites without the wait.

3. The characters will autograph a lot more than just autograph booksIMG_7159

While autograph books make for easy signing, they tend to end up on a shelf forgotten. Why not have the characters sign a photo mat board that you can include in a framed photo? Or one of our children’s favorites was to have the characters sign a tee shirt they could wear. Hats can be signed (it’s easiest for them to sign the bill) as can toys (we’ve seen many characters sign Funko Pops). Your imagination is the limit… well almost. Remember that the things need to be easy for some of the masked characters to sign. Also, the characters will not sign any piece of clothing you are physically wearing at the time. But aside from that, anything you’d like to carry around for an autograph is fair game.

4. For a unique photo, strike a pose

You see a lot of adorable photos of children smiling or hugging their favorite character, but for something unique try striking a pose. Yes, you may feel a little silly, but what’s a trip to Disney for if not feeling a little silly? Not sure what pose to strike? Ask Peter if he can show you how to fly. Ask Darth Vader to show you how to do a force choke. Or you can always ask Dug where that pesky squirrel went.

MalelificentMarked5. Unique characters are available during special celebrations

Do you want to see the bad guys? One of the Halloween parties is totally for you. Do you adore Star Wars? Why not visit during Star Wars Weekends? Want to see Santa at Disney? Christmas time it is. Various parties and get togethers throughout the year offer unique characters that can’t be seen the rest of the year. Plan your trip accordingly.

 6. Characters are for everyone

Are you on an adult only trip? Don’t let that stop you from stopping to see the mouse, your favorite princess, or your favorite bad guy. Adults are just as welcome in character lines as the kids are.

7. Let your little ones get used to the characters

It’s extremely common for toddlers and preschoolers to be intimidated by the characters. After all, their favorite cartoon just grew six feet over night. The characters do their best to help your little ones adjust and are usually happy to ‘get down on their level’ and kneel down and be as non scary as they can, but sometimes that’s just not enough. If you’re planning a character meal and have a fearful little one, we recommend sitting them on the inside with mom or dad between them and the characters until they adjust a bit. Similarly, sometimes if a little one is afraid to approach a character, being carried by mom or dad can make all the difference in the world (after all, that instantly makes them taller!) Take it at their speed for the best experience for everyone.

8. If you like different costumes, it can be worth stopping to see the characters twiceMickey

I’m pretty sure Mickey has more clothes in his closet than I do. Mickey and the other classic characters adjust to both the park they’re in and the season in regards to their clothing. If you’re visiting around Easter you may see Mickey in his Easter best. Visit the Animal Kingdom and you’ll get to see him in safari gear. It can be worth stopping in to see his various outfits. And did we mention that at the Magic Kingdom the magic helps him talk?

  9. Remember there are little ears around

This should go without saying, but some adults seem to think that bored children waiting in line can not hear them. Discussions about how hot an outfit is or how someone can see can wait until a safer time.

10. Don’t be afraid to have fun

Whether a child or adult, the characters aren’t just there for you to take a classic shot and move on. Feel free to ask Belle what her favorite book is or challenge Gaston to an arm wrestling contest. They’ll always rise to the task. They’re there to meet you, not just to be photo props. Some of the best memories in our family have come when we lowered the camera and had a quick conversation. And yes, Mickey can talk. He may not use words, but he’ll definitely get his point across.

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