Hey everyone! It's been a while since I've done a blog post (the holidays always end up being waaaaay busier than I anticipate...which really just means I need to plan better) but I'm ready to go and excited to give you lots of content this year!
I just officially scored Free Dining for our Pop Century stay this August, so I've got Disney World on the brain! (I mean, I always do, but even more so now.) Even though my next trip isn't until August I am in full planning mode, so I decided to compile a list of the best Disney World Tips and Tricks I've found over the years. Enjoy, and let me know if you use any of them!
1. Start planning as early as possible. This isn't really a "tip or trick," but I have to say it because this is going to save you the most time, money, and stress than anything else! Rooms book out much quicker than you'd imagine, and you need to make some dining reservations 180 days in advance.
2. Use a Crowd Calendar to plan when you're going. I really like Touring Plans.
3. Buy Disney gift cards at Target. If you use a Target Red Card you can save 5% on your gift cards purchases, which could mean some decent savings.
4. Stay on site...if you can. Staying in a Disney World hotel is significantly more expensive than staying off site, and I totally understand this isn't always an option. But, especially if you have a short trip, take some time to see how much time you'll save (early access to FastPass+ reservations means potentially waiting in line less) and other areas that you'll save money (Disney offers free transportation so there's no need to rent a car).
5. Get to the parks at rope drop. Rope drop is Disney World's lingo for park opening. The only way to really take advantage of this though is to arrive well before rope drop so you're in the first group of people let into the park. This means getting to the parks anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes before opening.
6. Get a Special Occasion pin from Guest Services. If you're celebrating a birthday, honeymoon, first visit, or really anything else, head to Guest Services and grab a special occasion button from them. It may not do anything, but there are lots of stories of guests getting free desserts or special magical touches from wearing a pin.
7. Walk through the shops to get down Main Street quickly. If Main Street is so packed you're barely inching along, head inside a shop on either side and see if they're less busy. All the shops are connected, so you can head all the way to the end of Main Street through them. This Disney World tip also works when it's raining or miserably hot outside!
8. Eat at off times. Most people follow their normal eating times when they're in the parks. That means 7-9 am for breakfast, 11:30-1:30 for lunch, and 5-7 pm for dinner. Reservations will be easier to get if you eat lunch at, say, 2:30 pm. Plus the parks will be a little less crowded during peak eating hours and you'll be taking an air-conditioned break when crowds are at their highest right after meals.
9. Save your FastPass+ reservations until later in the day. The first 2-3 hours after park opening are never that crowded, even during the busiest times of the year. Take advantage of those lower lines and save your FastPasses to skip lines that are actually long. I recommend booking between 11 am and 3 pm depending on the time of year you're visiting.
10. Rides during parades and shows. Ever seen how busy a parade or show is at Disney World? That means those people aren't on the rides. If you don't really care about the shows, really take advantage of this time.
11. Take an afternoon break. The afternoon at Disney World is hot and crowded. If you can, leave the parks all together in the early afternoon and head back to your hotel for a nap or a dip in the pool. Once you're refreshed head back to the parks for a cool and less crowded evening!
12. Don't buy bottled water in the parks. Bottled water is expensive and terrible for the environment. Bring your own bottle and fill it at one of the many drinking stations in the park, or feel free to ask for free ice water at any dining location.
13. Free Dining isn't always the best deal. I know, shocker right? This Disney World tip really comes down the the individual trip, so before booking free dining compare your savings between that and other discounts. Especially for deluxe resorts, a room-only discount may save you more than Free Dining.
14. Have your groceries delivered to your hotel room. Save yourself a shopping trip and have food and other essentials delivered to your room. Lots of services to this, including Garden Grocer, Instacart, and more.
15. Keep trying for that dining reservation you didn't get. Hope is not lost! If you really want a dining reservation, keep checking for availability up until the day of. I couldn't get a reservation at Be Our Guest the last time I visited Disney World, but I was able to score one about three weeks before we left because I kept checking.
16. Bring a thick sharpie for autograph books. Some characters have huge gloves and can barely write with a flimsy pen. Be kind and get a better signature by bringing the thickest sharpie you can.
17. Rent a stroller at the park. Lots of families travel to Disney World, so Disney is prepared. Don't worry about dealing with your own stroller on a plane and between hotels. Rent one for the duration of your trip and return it before you go home.
18. Don't hate the rain. Afternoon downpours are expected at WDW during much of the year, and it can be tempting to head back to your hotel. But take advantage of the rain! Many guests will head out of the park, so lines will be much shorter if you can tough it out. Most rides and attractions stay open when it's raining.
19. Take a small towel with you into the parks. If/when it does rain, use it to wipe off the seat or to sit on during a parade.
20. Share your meals. Disney World meals are big, especially at table service restaurants. If you aren't a big eater, consider splitting with another member of your party. Most Cast Members are very accommodating and you'll save a lot of money in the long run. (You may not technically be able to split a meal on the dining plan, but no one will stop you from eating off someone's plate.)
21. Sit in the back on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Even if you're stuck in the middle of the seat, you can always look back and have an unblocked view of the savannah.
22. Book character meals at breakfast to save money. Character meals are expensive, but breakfast is significantly cheaper than lunch or dinner.
23. Look at menus and prices online before booking a dining reservation. Even if a restaurant is listed as $15-$35/person, it could mean one $15 option with $30 entrees to round out the menu. Disney World has all their menus online, so check ahead of time so you know your options.
24. Walk from Epcot to Hollywood Studios. If you're park hopping, walk between the parks instead of taking the bus. It's not very long and may be faster than waiting for a bus.
25. Buy pins on Amazon for trading. They're super expensive in the parks, so order them ahead of time to save money.
26. Buy your kids Disney gift cards for souvenirs. It's a great way to make your kids feel engaged, and it's a good way to stay on budget.
27. Pack two pairs of shoes. No matter how comfortable your shoes are, you'll be sick of them after a few days and wish you had another.
28. Bring a portable battery for your electronics. Please, for your sanity, bring one.
29. Plan a rest day. If you have a long trip, do yourself a favor and plan a rest day when no one goes into the parks. You may not realize how badly you need a day to sleep in and relax until you're halfway through your trip and completely exhausted.
30. Bring your own snacks into the park. Disney allows food and drink inside (just no hard-sided coolers) so pack your own snacks to save money and eat healthier.
31. Send your merchandise to your hotel directly from the parks. If you're staying on site, Disney will ship your purchases directly from your hotel room so you don't have to carry them around all day.
32. Avoid Extra Magic Hours. Sometimes they're worth taking advantage of, but EMH days are usually super crowded (especially at Magic Kingdom). Choose another park unless your adamant about using the EMH or leaving for another park in the late morning.
33. Be kind to Cast Members! This isn't a trick. Just be nice.
34. You can skip the scary portion of the Haunted Mansion ride. Great for those with kids who might get a little too spooked. Just ask a Cast Member.
35. Watch Magic Kingdom parades in Frontierland. It's usually less crowded and you don't have to line up as early.
36. Get more FastPasses after your three FastPass+ reservations are used. You can get an unlimited amount of passes through the My Disney Experience app for the rest of the day (based on availability).
37. Check the lines on the My Disney Experience app. Disney keeps them updated so you'll know when a ride you're waiting for drops in time.
38. Uber and Lyft is cheaper than a taxi. Download the app and use ride-share instead of handing out big bucks for a taxi.
39. Ask for the front row of Soarin'. This will send you to the top of the ride, which means you won't have to see the ride through dangling sneakers.
40. Don't leave so quickly. The shops at the front of the park stay open an hour after the park technically closes. Save your shopping until then.
41. Create a daily itinerary. As I always say, a good plan is the best way to enjoy Disney World. Create of your own, or let me plan your Disney World trip.
42. Don't use your dining credits on Signature restaurants. They take two credits, making them a terrible use of your precious credits. It's better to pay out of pocket.
43. Get free soda at Epcot's Club Cool. They have samples of soda from all over the world. It's fun, refreshing, and did I mention free?
44. Watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade in Magic Kingdom from the train station at the front of the park. Beat the post-parade crowds by jumping on the train as soon as the parade ends and heading to a different section of the park.
45. Ride "roller coaster style" rides at night. You won't regret it!
46. Don't visit Magic Kingdom on a Monday. It's always the busiest day of the week, since many people are starting their vacations.
47. PhotoPass Cast Members will take your picture for free on your phone. Just ask! Make sure it's not a super busy time though, and be polite.
48. Pack cheap throwaway ponchos. Reusable ones will save you some money in the long run, but do you really want to shove a wet poncho back in your bag multiple times a day?
49. You can get in line right up until park closing. If the park closes at 10:00 pm, you can get in line for a ride up until 9:59 pm, no matter the posted wait time.
50. Use Mobile Ordering whenever you can. You order and pay through the My Disney Experience app, then head to the counter when your order is ready. Especially during busy times, this has saved me SO much time in line.
There ya go! 50 Disney World Tips and Tricks for your next Disney World vacation. Let me know if you have any more in the comments!
Want help planning your next Disney trip? Learn more about my custom trip itineraries here!