Today marks exactly a year since I found out that I had been accepted onto the CEP. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone! This summer already feels like a dream as I’ve readjusted to uni life and living back in the UK. Congratulations to those who have been successful in gaining a place on next year’s CEP! You have a great adventure ahead of you, and I’m jealous of each and every one of you. But for now, you have a lot of planning to do! That’s why I thought I would try and help out a little with some of my top tips. Here’s some of the things that I really appreciated and some of the things I wish I’d done!
Between now and when you leave:
1. Book onto a flight with other CEP participants. Hopefully by now you’re a member of the Facebook group and have made a few friends along the way. I made the mistake of leaving my flights until the last minute so didn’t really know if I’d be travelling out there with any other applicants. I would really recommend getting a flight with a few other participants so that you’re not travelling entirely alone!
2. Buy one of the hoodies. This definitely made everything a lot easier for me, as I was able to identify other participants at the airport. Then once you’re settled in it’s great for wearing around the apartment and even to bed, because it gets cold overnight with the air-conditioning.
3. Travel with two suitcases. Get a huge one to be checked into the hold and get a smaller one as your hand luggage. I had to buy another suitcase whilst I was out there because I bought so much Disney merchandise! I think some airlines allow you to have a small suitcase and a handbag as carry on items, but obviously check with the airline you’re travelling with.
4. Stay in a Disney resort hotel the night before you’re due to move in. Again, check the Facebook group to see where the majority of applicants are staying as you can easily team up with other people to share a cab to the housing complexes the following day. And you can get to know a few more people before you’ve even started the program!
5. Make use of the Magical Express. If you follow the previous step, you are automatically entitled to catch Disney’s Magical Express. This is a free airport transfer to the hotel. You do however, have to make a reservation. You can’t just turn up. This is something I found essential, as it meant that I didn’t have to deal with a taxi rank or tipping after a long journey. And of course all the cast members involved were very helpful and welcoming!
6. Choose the colour of your magic band before you check in. If you follow step 4, you are entitled to a magic band. In fact, I think every Disney resort hotel guest gets a free magic band on check in. I wasn’t aware of this until I got to the desk, but if you download the My Disney Experience App before checking in you’re able to select the colour of the magic band you receive and even have your name engraved on the inside.
7. Make sure you have a good rucksack. I thought I’d be able to manage with just a small handbag going around the Disney parks, as that’s all I’ve ever needed in the past. I was wrong. Having a good sized, sturdy rucksack was so useful, especially going from work to playing in the parks.
8. Don’t forget your lip balm. Being in and out of air-conditioning can really chap your lips. I put some on every night just to make sure they didn’t dry out completely.
9. Don’t bring too much bedding with you. The only things I would bother with are a single fitted sheet and a pillow case. The rest you’ll be buying from Walmart. And if you can, I would get a fitted sheet that’s on the larger size because mine just about fit the bed at Disney.
10. Comfy shoes are better than pretty ones. I packed so many sandals that I hardly wore just because my trainers and Converse were so much comfier after being at work all day. It’s better to have some support. And I would recommend bringing at least two pairs of comfy shoes, as my Converse alone would not have cut it.
11. Only take two outfits for Traditions. I would recommend taking a pencil skirt and two blouses, or two dresses, as anything else can take up valuable packing space in your suitcase. Make sure you read the guidelines though as there a few restrictions on what is constituted as appropriate.
12. Invest in a portable phone charger. This was such a life saver for me. Spending all day in the parks taking photos and checking the My Disney Experience app for wait times can really drain your phone’s battery so having this in my bag at all times made sure I didn’t miss a thing!
13. Bring an extension plug. I didn’t have the foresight for this but luckily my roommate did. She brought an extension plug with her and using my adaptor it made things so much easier. It just meant I didn’t have to keep an eye on where my adaptor was, and could leave multiple things charging. If you know who you’re sharing with then I’d recommend one of you bring the extension plug and the other some adaptors.
Once you get to America:
14. Buy a Magic Band if you don’t stay in a Disney resort hotel. It’s just so much easier than carrying around your maingate card.
15. If you have time, grab an all you can eat breakfast the day you move in. This REALLY helped me! We went to Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness before I moved in to Patterson, and stuffing my face in the morning definitely tied me over until we reached Walmart. Remember that you could have a long day ahead of you when you move in, so make sure you’ve eaten well or have something on hand until you get to the supermarket!
16. Buy a water filter. Don’t buy one for your tap, just get the jug and keep it in your fridge. I was incredibly lucky with my flatmates as they had already purchased a router for the wifi, a kettle, a toaster, a tv and a water filter jug. I had friends who bought the filter that attaches directly to the tap, only to find that it wasn’t compatible with those in Disney housing and had to drink the water unfiltered. It’s not a big deal, but I think you’ll understand when you taste the water out there. I think it’s safe to say we had a few visits from our friends when they just wanted to have a nice glass of water.
17. Buy food that you can cook quickly, and that doesn’t require much effort to make. When reading other blogs and watching vlogs one of the things that was repeatedly mentioned was that CEP participants tended to eat out more than they cooked at home. I definitely fell into the trap of thinking that I wouldn’t be one of those people, but you really do not have the time or energy to be making meals. Invest in things that don’t require much effort to make and don’t go off quickly. I had a lot of toast and Ramen whilst I was out there, not to mention Pop Tarts. Just be realistic.
18. Take photographs of every single bus timetable and save them to your phone. This was something that I did accidentally and it proved to be essential. Do not lose your bus timetable, it’s so important. You’ll soon find out that your life can be dictated by Transtar so make sure you know when the buses are!
19. Get a good water bottle. Although you can get free cups of water from any Disney QS location, I still found carrying a water bottle very handy in the Florida heat. There are loads of water fountains located round the parks and if you’re not comfortable with that water then you can always refill your bottle with the water in the QS restaurants. It’s incredibly important to make sure you stay hydrated whilst you’re out there. One of the first things that they teach you at Traditions is that if you’re thirsty, you’re already on the way to being dehydrated.
20. Use Uber. No, this isn’t an advertisement. I just found them incredibly useful and they were quite reliable. You don’t have to worry about tipping or even bringing cash. Just be careful which bank account you use when initially downloading the app, as hooking it up to your English account can result in loads of currency exchange fees.
21. Get a poncho and have it in your bag at all times. I don’t think I really need to explain this one. I think buying them from the Disney parks instead of bringing them from home is also useful, as you get more packing space and they cover your rucksack as well as yourself.
22. Invest in a Memory Maker. This is possibly my biggest tip. One of the best decisions we made whilst out in Florida was to buy a Memory Maker as a group. Splitting it between 6 of us definitely made it more affordable and worthwhile. I think in the end we had accumulated about 3,000 photos ! (This is another reason why a magic band is essential!)
23. Get to Universal as soon as you can to get the most out of your money. If possible, one of the best times to go is in your first couple of weeks when you and all your friends are together and you haven’t started work. Buying the residents pass works out cheaper than paying individually each time you go, but you have to visit the parks for a minimum of 3 times to make it worth your while.
24. Go to as many housing events as you can. They’re really fun and usually involve a give away and something cast member exclusive. Saying that, don’t forget that you have actually paid for them in your program fee, so get your money’s worth!
25. DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY. I can’t stress this enough. Initially the 2 months or so that you have in Florida seems like plenty of time to get the things done that you’ve planned. But once you’re out there and working, time really flies by. You need to ensure that you have plans every time you get a day off, even if it’s without friends. I went to the parks alone when all my friends were working and still managed to tick things off my bucket list. Make the most of this amazing time!
26. Share food with a friend when you’re in the parks. The food at Disney isn’t cheap, and if you’re in the parks on your days off then you’ll need to grab a bite or two whilst you’re there. We soon discovered that we couldn’t really afford to keep buying portions to ourselves, but that sharing some nuggets between two was just the right amount at just the right price.
27. Make the most of the My Disney Experience app. If you know you’re going to a particular park on a particular day then book the fast passes you want in advance. If you add your friends on the app then this can make everything a whole lot easier. Also, don’t be afraid to modify your bookings and keep refreshing the app, earlier times can and will come up if you keep trying. This helped enormously with restaurant reservations as well.
That’s it for now. If I think of anything else I’ll be sure to add it, so keep checking back!