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 trick 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.
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.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve been to Disney World, let’s just say it’s more times that 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 it 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 on a regular basis. 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”.
15 Things you Need to Know Before you go to Disney World:
This is not however a “how to see everything at Disney World and not spend any money” post. Although those do exist, just 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 to get more “bang for your buck” but Disney is not cheap, and I realize that.
My goal today is to hopefully offer you some Simple Disney World tips to make the most of the time and money that you do 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.
15 Simple Disney World Tips & Tricks:
Disney Tip #1: Try to stay til 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 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 til 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 o’clock at night and the park feels downright roomy :).
There is something that is dare I say, magical about walking out of a Disney park at closing time. It’s quiet, and dark and you get such a nice view of the park. We love to stop for a treat on our way out, visit some shops and just meander our way to the exit. There’s going to be a HUGE line for the buses at closing time anyway, why not just take your time getting out?
Disney Tip #2: Get out of the main aisles.
Okay, for some reason most people congregate to the middle of things at Disney World. I guess it’s just 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? Is there a ticket kiosk with no people in line (and usually a 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.
On Main Street in the Magic Kingdom there are little side streets 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.
Disney Tip #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 on eating 2 full meals a day plus snacks, then it may be worth looking into.
Disney Tip #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. 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.
Disney Tip #5: Know the places to take a break.
Okay, so now that I said, “don’t wear yourself out” lets talk about what to do if you DO wear yourself out. If you’re needing 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 a half an hour. You could even take a nap if you wanted to.
People Mover: one of my favorite rides in the park actually, it’s slow moving but is 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 really cute 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 kinda boring ride in my opinion, but you sit down, and it’s cool and dark.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends is a really cute 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 just walk into the front door of the aquarium.
Grab a pastry at the cafe in France: (it’s in the back you have to go find it our you might walk right by) Delicious pastries, and it’s now bigger (so the lines are shorter) get an eclair find a place to sit near the lake, and relax for a bit.
The food 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:
American Idol Experience: This is actually a really FUN show to watch. Not good for a nap, but great if you just NEED to get off your feet for a bit (and once again, it’s air-conditioned). UPDATE for 2018 – the American Idol experience is now closed. I recommend Olaf’s Frozen Adventure or the For the First time in Forever Sing Along instead. The Sing Along is in the same location that was previously occupied by American Idol. There are seats and it’s air-conditioned.
Animal Kingdom Rest Spots:
Ride the train to Conservation Station: There is a petting zoo there 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.
Disney Tip #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 very cute 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 pins (you can read more our pin trading experiences here) 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.
Disney Tip #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 go 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. Many times you can 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, 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-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 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.
Disney Tip #8: Don’t be afraid of lines.
There is a lot of information online about the BEST way to see a Disney Park, what to go do first, in what order, you can even make a plan for your ENTIRE day before you go… I think in all of the hub bub of trying to avoid lines at all costs, people have been just afraid of lines in general.
I’m here to tell you if it’s less than 30 min, it’s not bad at all. 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 lines.
Play games with your kids, pull up Disney Trivia on your phone, take silly photos in line, 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 in line. We passed an hour waiting for Toy Story Mania rather quickly playing the fun game on the app.
Disney Tip #9: Look for Hidden Mickeys.
We started this a few years ago, and my kids love it now. It’s a really fun 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.
Disney Tip #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 til 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.
Disney World Tip #11: Travel Off Season
(January, September & and between Thanksgiving and Christmas) 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.
If you have the option, Fall is by far our favorite time to visit. It used to not be busy, but with the Epcot Food and Wine festival, it’s getting very busy. It still in my opinion worth it. Also, we have had success in the past using recommendations by the Touring Plans website.
Disney World Tip #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.
Disney Tip #13: Prioritize
Before you go decide whats 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 it is you decide, make sure to leave some time unplanned for just wandering around the parks and popping into the shops.
Disney Tip #14: Take you 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 just slip the cards into your scrapbook album and not worry about losing an autograph book (btw, not my original idea, saw it on Instagram one day).
Disney Tip #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 really fun to see how each culture is different. At the Animal Kingdom the kids can visit several educational stops and become and Adventure Scout. We did it this last time and my kids loved it (they are 12)…
if you’d like to see what Disney World is like in 2 minutes or less and in stop motion video no less, check out this video my husband made of our last visit. He is to Go Pro camera’s what I am to Sewing Machines *wink*.
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!