Walt Disney World is one of the most sought after vacations in America. If you’re lucky enough to be planning a trip in the near future, read on for my best tips to have the vacation of your dreams! Whether you’re just visiting for the day or staying for a week, these tips will help you have the time of your life!
For those of you who don’t know, I’m born and raised in Florida, only a little over an hour from Walt Disney World. As a (former) annual pass-holder and someone who’s been visiting regularly since I was a child, I’ve gotten to know the ins and outs of Disney and what to expect when you’re visiting the parks.
Planning Your Visit:
- My Disney Experience App. The number one and most important thing I can recommend is to download the app: My Disney Experience. This will seriously streamline your visit and make your life so much easier. You can view park maps, ride wait times, make dining reservations, reserve fast passes, view your park photos and so much more. It’s especially beneficial if you have Magic Bands, because you can link everything up and go completely paperless. You can get them for free if you stay at a Disney Hotel or purchase them separately.
- Fast Passes. I already mentioned fast passes, but these are seriously essential if you want to make the most of your day at the park. The passes give you a window of time to get on a ride and allow you to skip the normal line and wait in a shorter, quicker moving line instead. You are allowed up to three passes per day, and you can also get more once you’ve used those up. You can book them up to two months in advance, so you can be sure to get some good rides that always have long lines. If you’re unsure about which rides would be good options for a fast pass, check the wait times on your app. Anything with a wait over 60 minutes is a good idea. Some of my recommendations are:
- Magic Kingdom: Thunder/Space/Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (if you can get it!)
- Epcot: Soarin’, Test Track, Frozen Ever After
- Hollywood Studios: Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Disney Hotel. If your budget allows, staying at a Disney hotel is more than worth the extra money. Not only will you get an absolutely magical experience, there are a ton of amenities that other hotels just can’t beat. Number one on my list is the free parking and transportation to the parks. All hotels have bus service to all parks and themed areas, some are on the monorail system or have a boat ride, and others are within walking distance to parks. There are restaurants, pools, gift shops and tons of other things to explore at each of the resorts, all themed to match the resort. You also get free Magic Bands and Extra Magic Hours (extended hours available at certain parks each day only for those staying at WDW Resorts). And it may be cheaper than you think — some of the value resorts start in the $80s/night, which is probably the same price you’d be paying for a crowded hotel off property.
- Plan to get there early and stay late. These are going to be the least busy times at the parks. I would recommend getting to the park no later than 1-2 hours after opening in order to bee-line to the popular rides and hopefully get on them quickly. As far as at night, many of the families with young children will be leaving around dinner time or at dark, but the park (especially Magic Kingdom) will be open for hours afterwards. These are the best times to get on any rides you missed during the busier afternoon, or ride anything for a second (or third) time.
- Don’t overpack. Unless you have kids and actually need diaper bags and such, there’s no reason to have three giant bags with you. Bring a purse, a small backpack, a fanny pack, or something similar. You really won’t need much more for a day at the park than a wallet, a phone charger, and a water bottle. Some may even say that’s overpacking. You can rent a locker at the entrance to the park, but ultimately it’s easier to carry your bag with you, as you can take it all on the rides with you. The less you have to forget somewhere, the better.
At the Park:
- Be prepared for rain. It’s Florida and rain happens, especially in the late afternoons. The good news is that it usually doesn’t last long before the sunshine comes back out again. While everyone else will be running for the exits, spend your time gift shopping in one of the massive gift shops, wait in a long indoor line (almost all the rides have indoor queues), or check out a show. Once the rain is over, the park will be noticeably less crowded.
- Bring your own snacks and drinks. They ARE permitted in all the Disney parks and I would highly recommend it. At the very least, bring some cold water bottles so you can avoid drinking out of the water fountains. And in case you get a little hungry throughout the day, it’s much better to have your own bag of chips rather than spending $8 on a hot dog in the park.
- Have a plan, or don’t. If you’re one of those people who needs a detailed plan of the whole day down to the hour, go for it. But be prepared for plans to change and don’t let a ruined itinerary ruin your day. Unexpected waits will happen, rides may be closed, weather may cause unexpected delays. You can only plan to a certain extent. I’ve seen so many blogs list the “best possible itinerary to see EVERYTHING at Disney World” and while these may be helpful and even realistic for some, they usually won’t be ideal because you’ll be stressed and rushing around all day. Pick and choose the top things you want to do and fit everything else around those.
- Avoid popular parade/firework times/areas. Do not, I repeat, do not be on Main Street during the Festival of Fantasy parade in Magic Kingdom. You will be squished against a wall and you probably won’t be able to see anything unless you get there early. If you do want to see the parade, a good place to watch from is in Adventureland (check the map for the exact parade route.) This is also where I would recommend viewing the nighttime firework show for multiple reasons. First of all, you’ll get to see the fireworks out over the water with pretty much unobstructed views. There are way less people over on this side of the park at night (everyone wants to see them over the castle), and once the fireworks are over, everyone pretty much rushes towards the exits. Usually the park is open at least an hour later than the fireworks, so this is a great time to hang out and ride some last minute rides while everyone else is fighting to get on the trams.
- Afternoon nap. Have a plan for resting mid-day, especially in the summer time. If you’re like me, I can get really really hot and exhausted walking around in the sun all day, which inevitably leads to crankiness. One option is to go back to the hotel and take an afternoon nap. Or, just strategically plan the indoor shows for the afternoon for the perfect cool-down and maybe even a small nap! Here are some options for rides perfect for resting in the AC:
- Magic Kingdom: Country Bear Jamboree, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Carousel of Progress (my favorite!), The Hall of Presidents
- Epcot: The American Adventure, Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, Ellen’s Energy Adventure (45 minutes of a dark, slow-moving ride!)
- Hollywood Studios: Muppet Vision 3D, Star Wars Launch Bay Theater, Voyage of the Little Mermaid
- Animal Kingdom: It’s Tough to be a Bug, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo – The Musical
And those are all my best tips for Walt Disney World! If you have any questions, suggestions or comments, drop them in the comments section down below! Have an amazing evening!