Who wants to spend all day in line? These insider secrets and tricks will help you make the most of your Walt Disney World vacation.
There's so much to see in Walt Disney World, and without a time-savvy game plan, you could miss out on the best stuff (or waste half of your vacation waiting in line.) Here are the best tips for planning ahead, skipping long lines and squeezing the most fun out of your trip.
Pick your favorites.
Walt Disney World is twice the size of Manhattan, and that can be overwhelming. You might not have time to do everything you want, because of long lines, or the logistics of attractions being far apart. Decide on your absolute must-sees and get to them as soon as you enter the park. Once you check the biggies off your list, relax and see where the day takes you. Disney’s full of amazing, unexpected surprises.
Don't wait in line for more than 30 minutes.
Just move on to the next attraction, and check back later. Make it a rule your whole family understands, and stick to it to avoid meltdowns and whining. If something with a long line like Rock 'n Rollercoaster or Soarin' is on your must-see list, be one of the first people in the parks and go directly to that ride. (They won't let you run, but walk very, very fast.)
Buy your park ticket before you go.
This may seem like a big duh, but people always forget and end up waiting in an hour-long line in the heat before they even get inside the park. Shop for tickets in advance online at disneyworld.com. It's cheaper, too!
Stay in a Walt Disney World resort.
But not just any Disney resort—pick the one that’s nearest to where you hope to spend the most time. If you have little kids, stay near the Magic Kingdom. Don't stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge unless your kids are obsessed with animals or you're going to spend a majority of your time at the Animal Kingdom Park. If you plan on traveling a lot, stay at the Polynesian, which is the only resort within walking distance to the Ticket and Transportation Center, the hub to everything in Disney World (bonus: it has one hell of a luau!) If you have older kids, stay near EPCOT. If you want to save money, stay at an All-Star Resort (or another one of the bargain hotels) and rent a car.
Get priority seating (Disney's version of "reservations") for dining.
If you could get a reservation for a ride you would, wouldn't you? Take advantage of the opportunity of a saved spot at the dinner table. Some restaurants fill up months in advance, so call as soon as you book your trip. You can make reservations at disneyworld.com/dining, and there's even a cool tool there that helps you find the restaurant that's right for your family. Spending less time waiting for a table will leave you more time to wait for fun stuff.
If a ride has Fast Pass, get it first thing in the day.
(Fast Pass is a ticket you pick up at the line entrance that reserves your spot on the ride for a time later in the day.) They only issue a certain number of Fast Pass tickets for each ride, and the tickets can run out, so you want to score one ASAP.
Use Disney's Extra Magic hours.
Each day, certain parks are open an hour early or up to three hours later for guests staying in Walt Disney World resorts. Research Extra Magic hours before you go so you can plan ahead of time which parks you can take advantage of early AM or PM.
Shop on your way out.
When the park closes, they shut down the rides, but they don't actually kick you out of the park or close the stores. So spend your valuable time on rides when they're running, and shop as you make your way to the gates.
Avoid the Magic Kingdom during peak hours.
It might sound like blasphemy but the lines can be insane and the crowd unmanageable between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Go to the Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning for a couple hours or go back later at night (especially if there are Extra Magic hours.) In between, visit EPCOT, which has more space for strollers, or go back to your hotel for some pool time or a nap. Everyone will be refreshed and excited to go back at night!
Take a Taxi.
If you're trying to get from one park to another, or to your hotel and you sense the kids are at the end of their rope, take a cab. They are located in lines in front of the parks. It's a little extra money but sometimes it can save you about an hour if the bus lines are long.
Catch the "Single Rider" line.
Some rides, like Soarin' and Test Track, offer single rider lines, which move way faster. So if a big kid (or you) wants to go on something popular and doesn't mind going alone, they can skip a bulk of the waiting and catch the ride solo.
Head to the back of the park.
When you first get to the park, go straight to the back. Most people will start with the first ride they see. This is especially true for EPCOT's Spaceship Earth, the ride that welcomes people to EPCOT. Come back later in the day; it will still be there. (And do come back, it's an incredible ride!)
Consider Renting a Car.
The Ticket and Transportation Center (the hub which connects visitors to anywhere on Disney Property) doesn't open until 8:45 a.m., so if you will rely on it to connect from your hotel to a park before 9 a.m., rent a car. It costs more but the time you’ll save might be worth it to you.
Get Fast Pass and ride standby.
If you know that you want to ride something twice, get your Fast Pass immediately, and while you're waiting for your reserved time, get in the standby line. By the time you wait and ride, it will probably be time to ride again.
It is most people's inclinations to go to the right side first, so if you see two lines for a ride (like in Space Mountain), hop in the left one to shave off a little waiting time. If you're going around World Showcase or the Magic Kingdom, start on the left side going counter-clockwise.
Get in line right before the parades.
About an hour before most parades start, people will put a halt on their attraction and ride plans to score a front row parade spot. If you don't care about getting a primo spot (or about seeing the parade at all), use this time to get in line for big rides.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast.)
With kids, eating out can become an ordeal. You can save tons of time in the morning if you bring breakfast to go or pick something up quick at your hotel's 24-hour cafeteria (most Disney resorts have one.) Bring bowls and cereal, and buy milk in the park. You can dish up breakfast while your husband is getting ready, and vice versa. Then you can get to the rides right away. Save that time (and money!) for a sit-down lunch or dinner.
Plan your wardrobe.
Plan what you're going to wear and pack it together, so each morning you can just grab a full outfit from your suitcase. Letting your kids choose the outfits ahead of time is a good way to get psyched for the trip, and eliminate bickering over what to wear while you’re on the trip.
Bring some Walkie Talkies.
If you have a big party, it can be hard to keep track of everyone. With Walkie Talkies, you can keep tabs on the group if they split for different rides or if someone needs a break. Kids will have fun radioing to each other, too.
Download the Undercover Tourist app (for free).
You can use it to forecast the crowds, read about the rides and make up your own, personalized schedule, plus see park maps, menus and more. Go to undercovertourist.com.
Pick the right time to visit.
Find out which of the less-hectic weeks fits with your schedule at yourfirstvisit.net. The site will tell you what to expect that week; for example, if there are generally lots of rides closed, how the prices are and if there are any big events going on in the park.
Use these tips to save as much time as you can, but if you do end up waiting, remember you’re there to spend time together—so just enjoy every minute.