Hannah and Ethan with our guide Disney Maureen

DAY TWO — You better plan ahead if you want to dine with a princess. I learn that breakfast or lunch at Cinderella’s castle is such a hot ticket that it‘s booked six months in advance. We see lots of little princesses in glittery, fluffy outfits with their hair done just so at the new boutique…

We opted for breakfast with Mickey and Minnie and, for once, it wasn’t a faux pas to be wearing the same dress — at least three year old Hannah Sitzman doesn’t think so. “I’ve got the same dress as you!” she exclaims, greeting Minnie Mouse, jumping up and down. We’d wondered if Hannah would be afraid of the characters – I’ve got pictures of my own kids crying as Goofy tries to put his arm around them at that age — but Hannah couldn’t be more excited. Her brother Ethan is determined to get every autograph he can in his spanking new book. It is fun to see Disney World through these little eyes who think everything is so much fun and so exciting.

The key to these character meals is the characters all come to you so you don’t have to wait in line (and those lines can be very long!). So you eat your pancakes, sip your coffee and wait as Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, or whomever is the characters at the meal you’ve chosen, make their rounds posing for pictures, signing autographs, giving a high five here and a hug there. It’s so much less stressful!

So is doing the park with a VIP guide like Maureen Murphy. I felt like she was my fairy godmother! You pay a premium m for the service (something like $175 an hour) and you don’t get to cut lines. But if you are a first time park visitor, guides like Maureen know the place backwards and forwards. That means they know which fast passes to get first thing in the morning (any of the mountains she said — Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Thunder Railroad. She can guarantee you a prime spot for the parade where the characters might stop and give your kids a hug, and she can navigate through the crowd and the stroller brigade. As many times as I’ve been to magic kingdom, I’ve never had a less stressful day or managed to “do” as many rides — from Dumbo (always a long line, so go there first thing in the morning) to Splash Mountain. Maureen also had good suggestions for where to take three year old Hannah when Ethan went to ride some of the Coasters with his dad. (The Bear jamboree was one hit.)

It’s not that we couldn’t have figured it out on our own — it’s just that she made it easier. I know Disney is pricey without an extra fee for a VIP guide, but if you’re traveling with another family or grandparents, and can split the cost, it may be worth it if it’s your first time.

Maureen’s tip: Figure out what is most important and hit those rides first. And if autographs are on your must-do list — head to Toontown.

Hannah and Ethan are stationed perfectly for the parade. Hannah blows kisses at the fairy godmother while Goofy waves at Ethan and Chip and Dale come over for a hug… The kids are beside themselves with excitement.