We are frequent Disney World visitors. I’ve been asked many times for advice for traveling to Walt Disney World, by friends and family. After many, many requests, I’m posting all of my best Disney World Tips & Tricks.
I believe in simple travel tips, and this post contains just that. Simple travel tips and tricks to make your visit to Disney World just a little bit better. ENJOY!
I know that the internet is FULL of all kinds of Disney World tips, tricks, and advice. Most of it is really good advice and some of it is terrible. Because of all of this advice, I’ve contemplated writing this post for about 3 years now, I just wasn’t sure about it.
Table of Contents
- Things you Need to Know Before you go to Disney World
- #1: Try to stay until close.
- #2: Get out of the main aisles
- #3: Stay on property
- #4: Plan for breaks and snacks
- #5: Know the places to take a break
- #6: Buy Pins & T-Shirts Before You Go
- #7: Watch Food Prices
- #8: Don’t Be Afraid of Ride Lines
- #9: Look for Hidden Mickeys
- #10: Rethink Lunch
- #11: Travel Off-Season
- #12: Don’t Try to See it All
- #13: Prioritize
- #14: Take Your Own Cards for Autographs
- #15: Visit KidCot Stops at Epcot and Become an Adventure Scout at the Animal Kingdom
I didn’t want it to just get “lost” in the sea of Disney related information. I wanted to make sure if I wrote a post about Disney World that I knew what I was talking about.
Things you Need to Know Before you go to Disney World
I’m not sure how many times I’ve been to Disney World, let’s just say it’s more times than I would have guessed when we first went 17 years ago. It’s just one of those places that actually lives up to the expectation you put on it. I’m not really sure how it happened that we went so much, it seemed like Disney was “on the way” to somewhere. Or my husband had a class in Orlando, or they were offering a killer deal.
After a few years of “stumbling” our way to Disney, we just decided to jump in and PLAN to go to Disney World regularly. We live close enough to drive, which helps a lot. We are also DVC members and now have annual passes. So I guess we’ve evolved into “Disney People.”
However, this is not a “how to see everything at Disney World and not spend any money” post. Although those do exist, google it. I’m not going to talk about costs and Disney because it’s so different for each person that goes. I will say this; there are ways to save money at Disney World and get more “bang for your buck,” but Disney is not cheap, and I realize that.
Today, my goal is to hopefully offer you some Simple Disney World tips to make the most of the time and money that you spend at the “happiest place on earth.”
That being said, we have “our” way of doing Disney. Someone else might have another favorite way to do Disney, but this is ours.
#1: Try to stay until close.
Okay, here’s what happens at Disney World most days. People wake up and try to get to the park when it opens. Well, we all have kids and know how that usually goes. Someone is tired, traffic is bad, you miss a bus, someone can’t find a clean Disney shirt, etc. Most people don’t get there when it opens but soon after. About 2 o’clock, you look around and swear it’s so crowded they couldn’t get another person in the park if they tried.
Most people intend on staying till it closes (closing time changes by park per day) but after about 6 o’clock are done for the day. The park slowly begins to clear out. The next thing you know, you look up, and it’s 8 p.m., and the park feels downright roomy :).
There is something that is, dare I say, magical about walking out of a Disney park after closing time. It’s quiet and dark, and you get such a nice view of the park. We love to stop for a Disney snack on our way out, visit some shops and meander our way to the exit. There’s going to be a HUGE line for the buses at the closing time anyway; why not just take your time getting out?
#2: Get out of the main aisles
Okay, for some reason, most people congregate in the middle of things at Disney World. I guess it’s just a simple crowd mentality. Before you walk into a big crowd of people, take a second and look around to make sure it’s where you want to go, is there a side path? Is there another way around it? Is there a ticket kiosk with no people in line (and usually an employee waving for people to come over to the side!)?
If you see a path and wonder where it goes, walk down it. There are all kinds of fun little shortcuts and passages in the parks. Did you know you can walk from the new Fantasyland to Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom? There’s a cute little path that lets out by the cars.
There are little side streets on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom with fun things to see and places to SIT! In Epcot, the World Showcase is FULL of little paths. If you stay on the main drag, you’ll miss 90% of what’s back there.
Take a second and look around; you don’t have to follow the crowd down the middle of Main Street if you don’t want to. Also, if you want your photo taken with the castle in the background, try the evening. Sometimes it’s less crowded than at the beginning of the day. Just keep in mind that you might be too tired for a photo at the end of the day. In that case, it’s worth waiting for a photo as you arrive.
#3: Stay on property
People always ask me where to stay and how I booked my room. It’s pretty simple; I stalk the Disney World specials page until one pops up for the time frame I’m looking for. Then I book a whole package together. I like this for lots of reasons. You get extra magic hours in the parks (i.e., you can stay past closing time). You don’t need a car, you can take the bus, and with the new Magic Bands FastPass+ system, you can book your ride reservations 60 days before you leave.
That being said, if you can not stay on Disney property, you’re still going to have a great time; I just prefer it when it’s an option.
Also, we have found unless it’s offered for free as part of a promo, the Dining plan is too much food for us to eat in a day. So it’s not a good deal for us to buy it (more on food in a minute). If you plan to eat 2 full meals a day plus snacks, it may be worth looking into.
#4: Plan for breaks and snacks
Okay, slow down and make sure you take breaks frequently; even if you don’t think you need it, your kids might. Find a nice quiet (or at least shaded) place to sit and have a soda and a Rice Krispie treat.
If you’re going a million miles an hour all day, you’re going to wear out and fast. The last time we were at Epcot, we walked 10 miles! That’s insane!!! It’s a place that requires a lot of walking, so don’t wear yourself out.
If you are staying at a Disney Resort for a week, I recommend 1 pool day after every 2 days in the park. You’e going to be SO tired, trust me, you’ll be glad you planned a break day in the middle of the week.
#5: Know the places to take a break
Okay, so now that I said, “don’t wear yourself out,” let’s talk about what to do if you DO wear yourself out. If you need a nap or a cool air-conditioned place to sit, here are my choices:
Places to take a break in the Magic Kingdom:
Carousel of Progress: (okay, sorry Walt, but this is the most boring ride ever!!) But it’s air-conditioned, you can sit, and it takes about half an hour. You could even take a nap if you wanted to.
People Mover: one of my favorite rides in the park is slow-moving but very relaxing, and you get a great view of the park. I think other people have started to discover it as well. The last two times we visited, there was a line for the People Mover. It used to be that you could walk right on with no wait and even ride twice. I guess I should not have told the ‘internets’ my secret!
Train: Get on the train and ride it in circles until you’re not tired anymore.
Mickey’s Philharmagic: It’s a charming movie and a nice cool spot to recharge for a bit. Great for hot or rainy days.
Where to take a break in Epcot:
Spaceship Earth: Sorry, another quite boring ride, in my opinion, but you sit down, and it’s cool and dark.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends is an adorable ride and at the end is an aquarium, very relaxing if you’re feeling stressed out. If you don’t want to take the ride, you can walk into the front door of the aquarium.
Grab a pastry at the cafe in France: (it’s in the back you have to find it our you might walk right by) Delicious pastries, and it’s now bigger (so the lines are shorter) get an eclair to find a place to sit near the lake, and relax for a bit.
The quick service restaurant in the Land building is usually not too busy. Grab a snack and a table and enjoy the air conditioning and break.
Hollywood Studios cooling-off spots:
Frozen Sing Along: If you just NEED to get off your feet for a bit it’s air-conditioned and there is plenty of seating.
Animal Kingdom Rest Spots:
Ride the train to Conservation Station: There is a petting zoo and a nice big room with educational things to do. It’s cool and not usually very crowded—a great place to recharge for a bit.
Rivers of Light Steps: Animal Kingdom no longer hosts the Rivers of Light water show. The amphitheater they built for the show is still there, though. You can find plenty of seating to relax for a bit. The only downside is there is not much shade in this area.
Bird Show: We LOVE the UP bird show. It’s been rethemed recently but is still one of our favorite things in the park. It’s about 20 minutes long, and you get to sit and relax for a bit. It’s not air-conditioned, but they have quite a few fans, and the theater stays somewhat cool.
#6: Buy Pins & T-Shirts Before You Go
My kids are older now, but they still love to wear Mickey Mouse (and other Disney) t-shirts when they visit Disney World. The shirts at Disney are adorable and unique, but you can get great deals on shirts at Target and the Disney Store– buy them before you go to save $.
Also, if you want to trade Disney pins, consider buying them on eBay before you go. Just be SURE you are buying genuine pins from a reputable seller- don’t waste your $ on fakes. You get a variety of pins, and since you’re going to trade them anyway, it doesn’t matter which ones show up in your grab bag.
#7: Watch Food Prices
Okay, crazy thing. One day we all went out for breakfast to a sit-down restaurant (Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Restaurant), and the total bill was less than the fast-food lunch meal we had the day before!
I’ve figured out that some sit-down restaurants are the same price as fast food, so for the cost of a tip, you can sit and enjoy your food (maybe even less if you share a meal). But watch out; some are much more expensive before you check the menus and don’t automatically rule out the sit-down restaurants.
Also, if there is somewhere you KNOW you want to eat, make reservations in advance. If you can’t get the reservation that you want right away, then try back several times. You can often book them the day before because people cancel their reservation before a fee is charged.
Our favorites Disney Restaurants (both fast food and sit down):
- Via Napoli in Epcot
- Katsura Grill in Epcot
- Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom
- Ohana and Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort
- the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue
- Flame Tree BBQ in the Animal Kingdom
- Woody’s Lunch Box and Sci Fi-Dine-In Theater in Hollywood Studios.
One last thing, don’t shoot me, but I’m not a big fan of the Princess Breakfasts, BUT my kids were never DYING to see Cinderella either. They are a great option if you know your kids LOVE characters; you’ll knock out a bunch in one sitting (but you’ll also pay for it). The food is “ok,” but you’re really going for the character meet and greet.
We also love to Be our Guest for lunch. If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation, make sure you PRE PAY for lunch. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck in an insanely long line waiting to order your food, even if you have a reservation.
#8: Don’t Be Afraid of Ride Lines
There is a lot of information online about the BEST way to see a Disney Park, what to do first, in what order, you can even make a plan for your ENTIRE day before you go… I think in all of the hubbub of trying to avoid lines at all costs, people have been just afraid of lines in general.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not bad at all if it’s less than 30 min. 45 min and longer, I’ll be honest, is not super fun if you find yourself waiting in line for a ride (and by all means, DO use your fast passes, stay late, go early, or whatever to avoid the line if you can).
Find fun things to do while you’re waiting in line for a Ride.
Play games with your kids, pull up Disney Trivia on your phone, take silly photos inline, Look for Hidden Mickeys, etc. You can find ways to pass the time. Disney worked hard to find new ways to entertain you while you’re in line. Also, if you’re trying to get on Toy Story Mania, I think they lie about how long the wait is at the end of the day to keep people from getting in line.
Keep trying for FastPasses all the way up to the day before you go. Many times people cancel vacations, and spots will open up. It’s just the luck of the draw, though.
Also, now that Disney has the Disney Play app, you have another option for things to do inline. We spent an hour waiting for Toy Story Mania rather quickly playing the fun game on the app.
#9: Look for Hidden Mickeys
We started this a few years ago, and my kids love it now. It’s an enjoyable thing to do while you’re waiting in line, and I think it makes you “slow down” and notice what’s going on around you more– You know that whole “be in the moment thing.”
A hidden Mickey is a Mickey Mouse head hidden somewhere it’s not supposed to be. Some are so obvious, and others are harder to find. You can get an app on your phone or a book to use as a guide. We now walk around calling them “hidden Mickeys” and “Totally Obvious Mickeys.” For our family, it has become a fun inside joke.
#10: Rethink Lunch
Okay, this is my favorite trick, don’t eat lunch at noon. We like to do one of two things. Eat snacks in our hotel room for breakfast, then eat lunch at 11 am, right when the restaurants open. OR eat a bigger breakfast and wait to eat lunch till after 2 pm.
We also prefer to sit down for lunch rather than dinner. It gives you a nice break in the middle of the day, and most times, we end up so full from lunch that all we want for dinner is a snack.
#11: Travel Off-Season
Off-Season at Disney is generally considered to be January, September & and between Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, it is consistently busy year-round.
Disney World is most crowded at Christmas and Thanksgiving. After that, most of April is busy for Spring Break, and the weekends in May are busy for Star Wars Weekends. You can find crowd calendars online. Orlando in July is INSANELY HOT and crowded. It is also jam-packed during any RunDisney event and Presidents Day weekend.
If you have the option, Fall is by far our favorite time to visit. It used not to be busy, but it’s getting jam-packed with the Epcot Food and Wine Festival & Halloween festivities. It still, in my opinion, worth it. Also, we have had success in the past using recommendations by the Touring Plans website.
#12: Don’t Try to See it All
Just realize before you go that you’re not going to see EVERYTHING and ride EVERY ride. You’ll make yourself crazy trying. Although I’m a “check off the list” type when I’m on vacation, I have to let go of that instinct a bit at Disney. If you love it, you’ll probably go back, save some things for next time.
Before you go, decide what’s most important for you and your kids to see. If they are crazy for characters, make a plan around seeing characters (fast passes and character meals). If you want to ride ALL OF THE RIDES, then plan your fast pass times close together so you can get to as many rides as you can.
Whatever you decide, make sure to leave some unplanned time for just wandering around the parks and popping into the shops.
#14: Take Your Own Cards for Autographs
If you are going to try to get autographs from characters and employees at Epcot, take along Project Life cards (or other 4×6 pre-decorated cards that you can buy at the craft store in the scrapbook section) for them to sign, then when you get home you can slip the cards into your scrapbook album and not worry about losing an autograph book.
#15: Visit KidCot Stops at Epcot and Become an Adventure Scout at the Animal Kingdom
Disney has done a good job finding ways to entertain kids as they move through the parks. Each country in Epcot has a KidCot stop. Kids can sit and color and get their passport (or project life card) signed by a person from the country they are visiting.
It’s a great way to get your kids to chat with people, and it’s entertaining to see how each culture is different. At the Animal Kingdom, the kids can visit several educational stops and become and Adventure scouts. We did it this last time, and my kids loved it.
If you enjoyed our Simple Disney World Tips and if you’d like to see what Disney World is like in 2 minutes or less and a stop motion video, check out this video my husband made of one of our visits.
A Few Other Disney YouTube Videos you May Enjoy:
I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips! If you have any please feel free to leave them in the comments section, I’m always looking for fun new ideas for Disney World!