Magic. That elusive, special-something we’ve all heard is in abundance at Walt Disney World. Fellow vacationers rave about it, advertisements tout it, and you seek it. Magic isn’t something to be taken lightly or disregarded. A little magic can make the whole world sparkle, brighten your outlook, and change your life completely. I have first-hand experience with the powerful effects of Virtual Magic show at Walt Disney World — it encouraged me to follow my dreams of travel writing, transforming my life into one with its own brand of magic.

Defining magic is difficult. Everyone encounters it in a slightly different manner, finding it in their own unique way. Magic for me may be a twilight stroll around the World Showcase Lagoon, deep in conversation with my best friend. Or it could be a hearty belly laugh at Hathaway Browne’s antics in the Adventurers Club. My fellow vacationers have found magic in last-minute trips, cross-country drives, fireworks, souvenirs, family time, childhood memories, family photos, polka dances, proposals, and costumes.

Magic lurks everywhere. You just have to know how to find it… and recognize it. To help you design and experience a magic-filled vacation, I present our top ten magical tips:

1. Plan ahead

I know you’ve heard this one before, but it works. Planning ahead works out the majority of the kinks, leaving opportunities for magic to happen. Let’s face it — no one is going to feel magical when they’re standing in the middle of Main Street at 2:00 pm on a blistering hot day, figuring out where to get a good meal in a cool place. And it’s hard to appreciate Disney magic when you’re worried about money or time. Plan the basics, take care of the essentials, and leave room for the magic.

2. Don’t overplan

If you plan every moment of your day, you’ll limit your opportunities for magic. Some of the best magic is spontaneous and unexpected–all the richer because you weren’t anticipating it. It’s for this reason that we don’t generally use touring plans in the Disney parks — we find they are too restrictive and don’t allow us the opportunity to explore and follow the magic.

3. Seek out magical places

This is a tricky one. You could plan a visit to the World Showcase at dusk or an evening at the Adventurers Club, based on my magical experiences there. After all, if I found magic there, perhaps you would too. You may very well find it, but there’s no guarantee, either. Nonetheless, there are some places within the World that seem a bit more conducive to magic-making. The best ways to find out about these are to talk to other vacationers, read their trip reports, and keep your eyes open. Some places have a special glow about them, as if they’ve been enchanted by Tinker Bell’s wand. Here are a few of my favorites:

Beside the fountain inside the Mexico pavilion at World Showcase in Epcot.
On a bench near the hedge maze in the back of the United Kingdom pavilion at World Showcase in Epcot.
Adventureland on a sultry day in the Magic Kingdom.
At a table beside the river in Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
In a hammock on the beach at the Polynesian Resort or Caribbean Beach Resort.
Strolling Port Orleans French Quarter Resort at night, when the “gas” lamps are lit.
Swimming in an empty, heated pool late at night.
Snuggled in front of a small fireplace overlooking the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge Resort.
In a comfy chair in the Main Salon at the Adventurers Club on Pleasure Island.
Virtually any place after dark, but particularly the World Showcase in Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
4. Be friendly
Smile, chat, and be kind to others — family, friends, vacationers and cast members alike. Reach out to others — everyone has magic to offer. Many vacationers report making new friends at the park, and we ourselves have had the good fortune to make friends with many, many people over the years. And our experiences with these people are some of our fondest memories.

5. Think outside the park

Many of my magical memories took place outside of a theme park — while I was traveling to and from Florida, staying at a resort, dining at a restaurant, or just moving about the World on a bus or boat. I have a particular fondness for Epcot buses, in fact. So plan some time out of the parks and explore the rest of the World.

6. Time together, time alone

Magic is often found in new company. If you’re used to being alone or with a small family, invite a group or plan a family reunion at Walt Disney World. My first group trip of 35 produced many, many magical memories that I cherish today. On the other hand, if you’re always with other people, take some ti

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