Best Disney Secrets and Tips!
Vacationing at Walt Disney World in Orlando can be overwhelming and a little bit intimidating, even for the return visitor. There are so many attractions and thousands of things to see and do. It can be challenging to get your game plan on when it seems everyone else has it down and is running to hit the most popular spots first when you don't even know which ones those are. Don't worry. We've got your back.
Our guide to Disney tips and Disney secrets has all the info you need to do Disney like a pro. We'll help you get the most out of your visit, see all of your "must-sees," ride your favorite ride, and save money, time and frustration while having the best Walt Disney World trip ever.
We'll tell you the best (and worst) days and times to visit the parks, how to get the best dining reservations, optimize the FastPass, and more.
Disney Parks continue to grow in popularity, the destination has expanded its appeal beyond kids and families, and there are new things to see every year. Unfortunately, this all means that the off-season at Walt Disney World continues to get shorter. There are, however, clearly better times of year to travel than others.
Top holiday weekends like Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Memorial Day, or Labor Day are notorious for being peak travel times, just as the holiday period between Christmas and New Year's Day is. The holiday decorations and festivities take the magic to a whole new level, but crowds and pricing will also be peaking out at that time, so weigh out what is important to you. Some predictable low-traffic times are January and September. Here are more Disney tips on The Best Time to Travel to Orlando.
Don't Break the Bank!
Saving money always starts with setting a budget before you go and prepaying your room, ticket media, and rental car. This is a great way to walk out the door with a realistic expectation of what you are going to spend. Disney gift cards can easily be purchased before you travel and are a great way to preset your spend limit for food, merchandise, and other extras. They are accepted in the park as cash.
Keep your eye out for deals on your room and dining. You'll sometimes see flash deals with room upgrades, extra nights, or dining plan specials if occupancy is lower than hoped for. Check the Special Offers Tab before you check and continue to check after. Deals are usually published closer to travel dates, so you can often get the deals by rebooking.
Many off-site hotels have special AAA rates, and don't forget about those credit card offers and airline mileage.
If you're a teacher, you're in luck. This summer, there is a special discount rate at Disney Springs Resort Area hotels with rates starting as low as $75 per night, and they come with perks like Extra Magic Hours and a 60-Day Fast Pass.
My Disney App
My Disney Experience is the App you'll want to download as soon as you book. This is one of the best Disney tips we can give you. You can organize your plans, get your park tickets, reserve entertainment, and make dining reservations. And when you are in the park, check on wait times, showtimes, park hours, virtual queue, and more. You can use the app to order food and beverages at select locations, check in to restaurants, and add yourself to waitlists.
Get the kids ready for the trip by letting them watch videos, read stories about their favorites, and get 50th Anniversary Celebration updates. Download and let the magic begin.
The Parks and Popular Rides
Start at the back of the park. It's easy to get hung up with the first few attractions, along with the rest of the crowd. Head to some of the more popular rides like Big Thunder Mountain first, and you may have a pleasantly short wait time. Then, instead of crossing the park many times, just work your way back to the front. Note: This does not work for Disney's Hollywood Studios. Their most popular attractions like Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Slinky Dog Dash are at the back of the park so that everyone will be heading directly there!
Exiting the Magic Kingdom can be a snap. Many of the gift shops on Main Street are connected, and if the crowds are too much from the parade, you may be able to slip through the shops more quickly. Of course, this Disney secret works well on a rainy day too!
After-hour parties are worth the time. Walt Disney World hosts Disney After Hour events during winter and spring, which are separately ticketed, upcharged events in which a limited number of people have access to the attractions for three hours. This is a great way to beat the crowd, and you can just walk on to many of the best rides.
Extra Magic Hours may not be the benefit it seems to be. This allows guests who stay on-site to access the theme parks one hour before or one hour after the park opens or closes. Unfortunately, you're not the only one who will have this idea, and the park will get much more crowded as the day goes on. With over 30,000 resort rooms at 25 Disney World resorts, the Extra Magic Hours can end up busier than regular hours. So our Disney secret? You might even end up waiting in line longer for the less popular rides.
We do recommend you get to the park early and stay late. Popular rides like Big Thunder Mountain or Rock 'n' Roller Coaster will have much shorter lines early in the morning and later after the fireworks, so plan accordingly. Even if the park is not open, you can get in line so that you can ride an attraction among the first guests. Then, go back to the hotel for a midday break and snack, and then come back for evening hours.
Check My Disney App for wait times. It can save you tons of time crossing an entire park only to see that wait times are 90 minutes. However, they do sometimes inflate the wait times, so if you see a short line, jump in. They also sometimes inflate wait times near closing to discourage people from getting in line close to closing time.
One of the greatest Disney secrets ever is the single rider. If you are not traveling with small children, you'll find lots of time saved on the most popular rides like Test Rack or Smuggler's Run.
Rider Switch is another great Disney tip for people traveling with a small child who may not want to ride. You and your partner will not have to wait in line twice if you use Rider Switch. Before you get in the line, let a Cast Member know that you want to use Rider Switch, and they'll give you a special pass to give to the last Cast Member you encounter before boarding. When done, go outside and switch places with the second person who can hop in the FastPass line to ride.
You can get anywhere on Disney property without driving. The resort bus lines conveniently travel from every on-site hotel to every theme park and Disney Springs. The monorails travel between Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, and nearby resorts. Boats will take you between Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and many of the hotels on that side of the resort.
Check for the availability of FastPass. It can save you hours in line and assure you that you get to ride your favorites. Learn more about FastPass here.
Guests who are staying on-site (a Disney Resort Hotel) can book three FastPasses per day at one park 60 days before arrival. So some of the best rides get booked up before off-site guests can book them. Off-site guests can book 30 days out. Plans change, and spots open up, so keep checking for Fastpasses online and in your App, even while you are in the park. You could save yourself a very long wait in line for Space Mountain!
Once you book and use your three Fastpasses per day, you can book one more selection on the My Disney app or in the park kiosks for any theme parks. After you use the fourth, you can book a fifth, if FastPasses are still available.
The first rule of thumb for beating the crowds is to eat when people ride and ride when people eat. Don't squander your time booking meals for regular mealtimes. Instead, try dining at 4 pm and watch the wait times for rides drop at 6 pm.
Try getting reservations for breakfast inside the park before the park opens. You can then head directly to the rides before most guests are in the park.
It can be challenging to secure restaurant reservations at the best restaurants in the parks and the resorts. Disney dining reservations are open 180 days in advance for non-hotel guests and up to 190 days for hotel guests. So many of the most popular restaurants can be booked up six months in advance.
Our Disney secret is to continue to check Walt Disney World's dining website and the My Disney Experience app. Many restaurants charge a cancelation fee for dropped reservations 24 hours or less before their time slot, so many times, spots show up as plans change and people cancel their reservations.
Extra Disney secrets, Disney tips, and Hacks!
Take a screenshot of your scheduled Park Passes and Dining Reservations to save your phone battery at the park. Take images also of your hard tickets and MagicBands in case you lose them.
Preparing for Florida weather and other sanity savers.
Regardless of when you are visiting Orlando, you can expect the sun to be hot. Stay hydrated. Skip the bottled water at $4 each and bring your own water bottle. Any quick-service restaurant at Disney will give you free cups of ice water. Pour that into your water bottle and use the water fountains located throughout the theme parks to refill as well.
Bring your sunscreen, and apply frequently. Bring a hat and sunglasses on high sun days.
Dress in layers if traveling at a time when nights are a bit cooler, wear comfortable shoes, and bring an umbrella, and rain poncho and some snacks to store in a rental locker.
First aid is there to help. They have refrigeration for medications that need to be kept cold and free things like bandaids, over-the-counter meds, and ice packs.
Attach your luggage tags with current contact info on all bags and personal belongings, including backpacks and purses.
Set your phone's lock screen as an image with an alternate phone number and your hotel info if you lose it. Bring a phone charging cable with you to the parks, as there are spots to charge it. Save the money on a power rod rental or backup battery pack.
Our biggest Disney secret?
Take your time and enjoy it. Yes, there are thousands of things to do. But relax, take it slow and enjoy it all. If you miss one ride, there's always next year.