10 Brilliant Disney Theme Park Hacks

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Getty Images

The modern theme park experience is due to undergo some drastic changes in the coming years. Universal Studios is reportedly testing line-free attractions utilizing a bracelet that will allow visitors to spend time in adjacent entertainment areas until their place in line is called up; Disney plans on a sprawling Star Wars landscape that will feel very Westworld, with the ability to stroll around and interact with familiar characters. 

While engineers continue to figure those evolutionary plans out, there are some low-tech ways you can enjoy a theme park sabbatical while saving some money. Check out these 10 ways to make an excursion to the major Disney destinations lighter on your wallet and easier on your patience. (While we reference Disney World, most of these should be applicable to Disneyland, as well.)

1. BRING YOUR OWN FOOD.

Yes, those Mickey-shaped ice cream bars are delicious—but like virtually everything else available for purchase inside the park, they come with a little bit of sticker shock. Ice cream sundaes with character souvenir bowls are $23, while most full meals at Disney are $20 and up. To keep your energy up, consider bringing your own snacks into the parks. Anything that doesn’t require heating is fair game, so long as you tell a Security Cast Member about your edible contraband when you enter. If you have a lot of food for a large family, you can even rent a locker so you don’t have to tote it around. (Bonus: Those lockers will also have charging stations for your phone.)

2. BRING A CHUNKY MARKER FOR CHARACTER AUTOGRAPHS.

One of the great pleasures of Disney World is encountering men and women in hot, stuffy costumes who will refuse to speak but wildly gesticulate. If you or your child wants a John Hancock from Donald Duck or Buzz Lightyear, you stand a better chance of something legible if you’re able to hand said character a chunky, oversized marker. Those are far easier to grip with their enormous gloves and make signatures a breeze.

3. GET THE PARK (PRACTICALLY) TO YOURSELF DURING “MAGIC HOURS.”

If you stay at one of Disney’s in-house resorts, you’re eligible to get access to one of the parks either an hour before or up to two hours after their normal operating hours. (Disney refers to them as "Extra Magic Hours.") You can follow their schedule by using a Disney-affiliated travel agent or by checking the official Disney World site.

4. GO IT ALONE.

Some rides—like Test Track, Ride Everest, and Rockin’ Roller Coaster—have single-rider lines that are separate from the regular group lines. Typically, single riders are a rare breed, so single-rider lines shouldn’t be deep at all. If you don’t mind breaking from your pack, you can squeeze in one of these attractions without any idle time.

5. DON’T RENT A DISNEY-BRANDED STROLLER.

At $15 a day, they’re expensive. Instead, look for nearby companies that offer rental strollers you can take into the park with you. This gets more economical if you plan on visiting the park for more than three days.

6. LET THE DISNEY PHOTOGRAPHERS TAKE YOUR PICTURE FOR FREE.

Disney’s PhotoPass service involves many professional photographers patrolling the grounds, ready and willing to take your family’s photo and then download the images to a kiosk where you can browse through them later. Purchasing those photos involves a fee, naturally—but those same pros will more than likely use your own camera or cell phone to snap a photo for free if you ask (politely, of course).

7. USE YOUR BABY TO GET YOU ON A RIDE WITH NO WAITING.

It’s called the Rider Switch, and it works like this: Adult A hangs out with the baby (who doesn’t meet the height requirement) while Adult B whoops it up. When Adult B returns, the baby can change hands and Adult A can hop on the ride with no wait time at all. Ask a Cast Member if the ride you’re considering offers it.

8. SAVE ON A MORE EXPENSIVE RESORT BY HOPPING OVER TO IT.

Some of Disney’s more expensive resorts might not be affordable if you’re going to be there for several nights. Fortunately, the park has a little bit of a workaround: If you stay at a less expensive resort the majority of the time, Disney will transfer your bags over to the fancier room should you elect to reserve it for just a night or two.

9. ARRANGE FOR A CHARACER WAKE-UP CALL.

Lines to meet characters in the park can be long, but you or your child can still hear their favorite characters right in your hotel room. Just ask the front desk for a character wake-up call, which will be a pre-recorded voice. Try putting it on speakerphone if you want the whole room to listen in.

10. PASS TIME BY SPOTTING THE HIDDEN MICKEYS.

Navigating the park and waiting in line—or waiting for family members who are waiting in line—can sometimes turn into a chore, especially with summer’s rays beating down. To help pass the time, you can try to spot one of the “Hidden Mickeys” sprinkled throughout the park. A Hidden Mickey is a Mickey graphic that blends into a building, display, or other structure. Trying to find one is fun, and one of the added pleasures of the park that’s absolutely free.

6 Protective Mask Bundles You Can Get On Sale

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pinkomelet/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Daily life has changed immeasurably since the onset of COVID-19, and one of the ways people have had to adjust is by wearing protective masks out in public places, including in parks and supermarkets. These are an essential part of fighting the spread of the virus, and there are plenty of options for you depending on what you need, whether your situation calls for disposable masks to run quick errands or the more long-lasting KN95 model if you're going to work. Check out some options you can pick up on sale right now.

1. Cotton Face Masks; $20 for 4

Protective Masks with Patterns.
Triple7Deals

This four-pack of washable cotton face masks comes in tie-dye, kids patterns, and even a series of mustache patterns, so you can do your part to mask germs without also covering your personality.

Buy it: $20 for four (50 percent off)

2. CE- and FDA-Approved KN95 Mask; $50 for 10

A woman putting on a protective mask.
BetaFresh

You’ve likely heard about the N95 face mask and its important role in keeping frontline workers safe. Now, you can get a similar model for yourself. The KN95 has a dual particle layer, which can protect you from 99 percent of particles in the air and those around you from 70 percent of the particles you exhale. Nose clips and ear straps provide security and comfort, giving you some much-needed peace of mind.

Buy it: $50 for 10 (50 percent off)

3. Three-Ply Masks; $13 for 10

Woman wearing a three-ply protective mask.
XtremeTime

These three-ply, non-medical, non-woven face masks provide a moisture-proof layer against your face with strong filtering to keep you and everyone around you safe. The middle layer filters non-oily particles in the air and the outer layer works to block visible objects, like droplets.

Buy it: $13 for 10 (50 percent off)

4. Disposable masks; $44 for 50

A batch of disposable masks.
Odash, Inc.

If the thought of reusing the same mask from one outing to the next makes you feel uneasy, there’s a disposable option that doesn’t compromise quality; in fact, it uses the same three-layered and non-woven protection as other masks to keep you safe from airborne particles. Each mask in this pack of 50 can be worn safely for up to 10 hours. Once you're done, safely dispose of it and start your next outing with a new one.

Buy it: $44 for 50 (41 percent off)

5. Polyester Masks; $22 for 5

Polyester protective masks.
Triple7Deals

These masks are a blend of 95 percent polyester and 5 percent spandex, and they work to block particles from spreading in the air. And because they're easily compressed, they can travel with you in your bag or pocket, whether you're going to work or out to the store.

Buy it: $22 for five (56 percent off)

6. Mask Protector Cases; $15 for 3

Protective mask case.
Triple7Deals

You're going to need to have a stash of masks on hand for the foreseeable future, so it's a good idea to protect the ones you’ve got. This face mask protector case is waterproof and dust-proof to preserve your mask as long as possible.

Buy it: $15 for three (50 percent off)

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7 Online Tech Course Programs That Will Help You Build New Career Skills

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dusanpetkovic/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It's always a good time to build new career skills, and with these tech-related courses, you can learn anything from the basics of Python to the ins and outs of G Suite. These courses will boost your knowledge of the digital world and help you put some valuable new bullet points on your resume. Many of these courses allow you to read through the materials for free, but if you want to take advantage of graded coursework and earn a certificate of completion to include on your LinkedIn profile or resume at the end, there will be a fee of anywhere from $39 to $49.

1. UI/UX Design Specialization

In this four-class specialization on UI/UX design, you’ll discover how to design digital experiences that users can navigate with ease. Over about four months, you’ll learn the basics of visual communication and you’ll be able to practice gathering user feedback to build intuitive, attractive websites and interfaces.

Sign up on Coursera to take all four courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

2. Python for Everybody

Python is quickly gaining ground as one of the most in-demand programming languages for employers. Plus, its fans say it’s highly readable and approachable for new programmers just starting to learn a coding language. If you want to understand the basics of Python, from 101 principles to more advanced database design, these courses will get you started.

Sign up on Coursera to take all five courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

3. Data Science Professional Certificate

Data science is one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this nine-course professional certificate program, you’ll start by learning basic data science methodology before moving into how to use Python and SQL to analyze and visualize data to forecast future trends. IBM estimates that you’ll complete the entire certificate in about 10 months if you commit four hours per week, but the timing is flexible enough to suit any schedule.

Sign up on Coursera to take all nine courses in this specialization for $39 a month.

4. Computer Architecture

This course, taught by an electrical engineering professor at Princeton, teaches students how to design computer hardware that supports powerful software. But be forewarned: This is an advanced class intended for students with extensive knowledge in computer science. If you’re looking for a beginner-level course, this class—also from Princeton—may be a better fit.

Sign up on Coursera for free.

5. AI for Everyone

If you’re worried that artificial intelligence will drive you out of the workforce, this course will help. Over the course of four weeks, you’ll learn the basics of what is and isn’t possible through AI—and you may even gain some ideas for how to use AI to augment your own career.

Sign up on Coursera for $49.

6. G Suite Administration Specialization

Become a Google Cloud expert with this series of courses put together by Google itself. Over about two months, you’ll learn management tactics and security guidelines for using Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Calendar. This specialization prepares participants to become G Suite administrators at their respective companies and organizations.

Sign up on Coursera to take all five courses in this specialization for $49 a month.

7. Introduction to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is near the top of the list of skills employers are looking for, according to LinkedIn. In this introductory course, you’ll gain a basic understanding of cloud-based networks and get some practice working with IBM Cloud.

Sign up on Coursera for $49.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.