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.
You can visit our Family YouTube channel to keep up with our adventures, here’s the link.
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!
More Disney Ideas and Crafts you may enjoy:
How to Display Your Disney Trading Pins
Simple DIY Disney Vacation Photo Album
DIY Disney Cruise Scrapbook Ideas
More DIY Disney Cruise T-Shirts
Haunted Mansion Inspired Halloween Lanterns
Alice in Wonderland Costumes for the Mickey Not So Scary Halloween Party
OMG I am Magic Kingdom right now waiting in line to see Anna and Elsa! This is our first trip as a family and here is what we have learned: bring an umbrella to make your own shade, get an app to get on the fly directions, we put a cheap huge fake flower sticking up from our car door to help find it in the parking lot, if you have a driving navigation app you can also mark the position of your car that way, bring your own plain aloe gel everything they sell here has alcohol blended in
Melissa Mortenson says
ugh!! You’re in the worse line at the park!! It was a 3 hr wait for Anna and Elsa when we were there- I was glad my kids didn’t mind not meeting them. That’s a great tip about the flower for you car, I’m going to have to remember that one. Have fun and eat a Mickey Mouse rice kripsie treat for me!
Daisy Martinez says
Thank you so much for your tips.
My husband is taking me to Disney world as a graduation gift and we are first timers!!!
I am so glad I read your page.
Now I know what rides are good for small breaks!!
Deborah Florus says
I am glad I saw your video you made it look so much fun. My family are going in June I can’t wait. Thank you for the tips.
I love your tips especially about going in the off season!! When I went we had an early spring break that year and school and went in late March it was great it rained a little but it wasn’t too hot mostly 70 so it made our whole trip very enjoyable.
Well, now I want a GoPro. What an awesome video! Went in March, planning our next trip. We paid for the Memory Maker and did not enjoy the results. Thanks for the post!
Great tips!! I love the Project Life tip and will have to use that one. We are leaving next Saturday for our first family Disney vacation. Wish us luck!!
Cha Po says
The American Adventure in Epcot is also a nice place to sit and relax. Nice long show in the dark with air conditioning and comfortable seats. Napping is an option.
Melissa Mortenson says
Yes, I forgot about that one…. we are headed back next week, I’ll have to remember that.
Your video made me cry and give me goose bumps. We have 27 days until our trip, my 5th and my husbands 1st and I’m having a hard time bottling my excitement. Thank you for the video! So worth the 2 minute watch!
My fiancée and I are going for a day trip to Magic Kingdom after a family wedding. So excited!!! It’s the first time for both of us and we can’t wait! Thanks for the tips!!!
Donna D says
My mother in law ( 80 yrs young) and I (65 yrs young) are both going for the 1st trip in early Dec,2015. I have severe. Arthritis and would never be able to do the walking and mother in law won’t be able to do as much walking to do all we want to do. The carts in each park are $50. A day and 1st come 1st serve, with no reservations allowed. So I called several places in town and found 3 wheeled carts for rent at $149.00 for the 5 days we’ll be there and they will be delivered and picked up by the company to our motel rooms. Now we can enjoy the whole trip and not have to spend most of each day resting.
Melissa Mortenson says
Thanks for the tips. I’ve seen several people in the parks with outside rentals. Disney is very scooter and wheelchair friendly. I hope you have a great time.
Brandi W says
Hello, Great tips! We surprised the kids last year for the April vacation in school. I got a Disney Gift Card and put money on it every month. We used that for all of our food purchases. We even had money left over that we used for souvenirs. We got the kids their own gift cards that they could use for whatever they wanted (not food – we covered that) – they loved it! For me – I loved that everything was paid for before we arrived. It requires serious planning on what you would spend on food and souvenirs, but well worth it for us.
Gretchen Burbach says
Where do you get a disney gift card? I love the idea of giving the kids each their own card!
Melissa Mortenson says
You can get them at customer service at the front of the park. We have done this many times, our kids love that they can buy things themselves and the receipt prints how much money they have left on their gift card after each purchase. It really helped my kids to be able to budget their spending money and not ask us a million times for souvenirs.
These were super helpful! How warm was it when you guys went? In going on Friday and we are staying til Tuesday then going to key largo and these tips definitely will help! Thanks again!!
Melissa Mortenson says
We went in April. It was cold the first few days then hot and muggy the last few. The weather there changes a lot. If you’re going now, it will be chillier than you think… make sure that you pack layers!
Sarah Christie says
I love this post, we are going in August and cant wait, some of your tips are fantastic thank you. oh and love the go pro video, i think I need one of these for my trip too x
Gretchen Burbach says
We are going in August too! I am nervous about the extreme heat…I like the umbrella idea for shade and the tips about places to rest and cool down. Have you been before?
Melissa Mortenson says
We have been in August before, yes it’s pretty hot but you’ll be okay. Disney has lots of places to “cool off” my advice is to let your kids wear clothes and shoes that they can get wet… In Magic Kingdom in the new fantasy land there is a new splash pad that would be great on a hot day.
Great post! I too am a huge Disneyworld fan and find our family revisiting every other year. I always find that each time a read a post on Disney I find another great tip or tidbit of information I didn’t know. The beauty of research. One of my fav’s I’ll pass along to families with little ones…go ahead and rent the double stroller at Disney. The double is roomier. Even if you have another child who is more than capable of walking for the day (4,5,6 year old) they too will want to sit in it at some point. Bring your own bandana (and a bright one- neon works great) and tie it to the handle to quickly spot yours in the ocean of strollers. Trust me, this is a MUST. Bringing your own stroller is do-able but a pain when trying to get on/off the buses and then trying to stand holding onto it, your kids, your loot/gear…yeah, rent one- it’s worth it. The character meals are all great- I think we have been to most all of them. Chef Mickey is our favorite for breakfast, Crystal Palace is great for lunch. The princess meals were great too. Dressing up is a must for those meals for your little girls! Must haves for our family are Dole Whips and the huge cupcakes! Now our kids are pre-teen but Disney is still so much fun for us all! Our favorite resort has been Port Orleans Riverside. I think we enjoy is most since it is centrally located to all the destinations. I can’t say we have personally experienced any thing less than great at any of the resorts we’ve stayed in. It is an expensive vacation, but well worth it. Pack your own snacks and water as you will need them. We typically go in September (less crowded and cooler). Their are strange winged bugs that come out the later part in September that are everywhere. Did I mention everywhere?? Maybe they are there in other months too…not sure. The meal plan gives you PLENTY of food. It’s fine when they are offering it for ‘free’- and you can stretch it out to cover your food for the whole day. We worked our character meals into this for our sit down. Do a little research to stretch it out. One cupcake will easily feed two people but only using 1 of the snack credits. MANY of the snacks work that way- giving you large portions that can be shared. This is an expensive trip even with super careful and strategic planning- it’s still going to be expensive, but it is action packed and so many unique experiences. Disney does TRUELY make it worth every penny.
Melissa Mortenson says
I agree it’s worth every penny!! Thank you so much for sharing your tips, there are a few I can’t wait to try out on our next trip.
HI! We leave in 34 days for Disney!!!! Thanks for the tips..just one question…when you talked about a “passport” / “project life cards”..what do you mean? Is that something you buy or make? THanks!!!
Melissa Mortenson says
You can grab the cards on Amazon… http://amzn.to/1PMYESC – there are a lot of different styles to pick from. Then while you are in Epcot ask where each KidCot stop is. There will be someone there with a stamp and they will sign your cards for you!
Melissa, thanks for the tips!Can I add my 2 cents?I live in sFL(we’re a family of 7) and get to go to a park every few yrs:)We rarely stay on property, because the perk of being in the park before the general public isn’t worth the cost to us. We’ve stayed in several hotels that offer free breakfast and /or suites that have kitchens, or timeshares/condos. We go to the grocery store as soon as we get to Orlando and buy fruit and other non-salty snacks. We bring our own refillable water bottles that we carry with us. We have breakfast in our suite or hotel dining area, lunch ‘out’ at the parks, and an ice cream at some point during the day* disney has their own line of icecream treats that kids love), and dinner back in our suite.We also stay until the parks close, as there is a parade right at closing time. scout out a good place to sit to watch the parade, and sit back and relax. Our favorite places to eat are England and Norway in Epcot( we’re vegetarians), the restaurant you see as soon as you get into Animal kingdom, and a place in tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom- they have reasonably priced food that is kid-friendly. warning to people who plan to bring a cooler of food to save $: security is very tight and I’m not sure they let you bring food into the parks. check before going.
Melissa Mortenson says
We’ve taken lunch into the parks before and they were fine with it, but I know that security has changed recently. I also love to carry the refillable water bottles, we just have the people at the restaurants fill them for us and they are almost always happy.
Thank you so much for sharing your tips!!!
Hi Melissa, thanks for the tips, they are the best I’ve read so far. We are from Australia and planning a visit to Disney. My husband and myself, 3 adult children and a 10 year old. How long do you think we will need to allow for Disney? This will probably be a once in a lifetime trip so we want to see everything. Also do you recommend visiting the waterparks? We will be going in April.