A Walt Disney World vacation is something to look forward to — but it does take some planning. A Disney World vacation isn’t always as easy as it seems.
You probably already know the basics of booking your hotel, getting your tickets, and planning how you’ll spend your day in the Disney World parks in Florida. But, you’ll also need to know about Park Pass Reservations, how to make dining reservations, what to pack, how you can get the most value for your money, and more to ensure a stress-free trip.
We’ve gathered up 80 of the best tips and tricks to plan a Disney World vacation like the pros! Here are the Disney World tips that will make your Disney vacation amazing!
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BEFORE YOUR TRIP
A TRAVEL AGENT IS 100% NECESSARY FOR NEWBIES
Planning a Disney World vacation can be a lot of fun…but it can also be super overwhelming. Since the parks reopened in 2020, a lot has changed. So, what once was a simple process of booking your hotel room, buying tickets, and planning all the fun things to do, is now much, much more complicated.
Those who have vacationed at Disney World before might be able to adjust to the changes, but first-time Disney-goers might find that the fun is taken out of the trip way before it even begins. That’s why using a travel agent can be so helpful! These pros bring their expertise to your first-time trip so that you don’t have to experience any of the headaches as a newbie.
Disney World travel agents will plan every aspect of your trip, taking into account your preferences. They’ll also ensure that you’re getting every possible discount that you qualify for to make your trip as cost-effective as possible. And, the best part? It’s all completely free to you!
BUY DISCOUNT DISNEY GIFT CARDS AT TARGET WITH A CASHBACK CARD
One of the best ways to save on your Disney World trip can be found at your local Target! You might know that RedCard members receive a 5% discount on all purchases at Target. But did you know that discount applies to Disney gift cards? You’ll just need to plan your vacation budget ahead of time so that you know how many gift cards you’ll need to purchase.
Target generally sells $25, $50, and $100 Disney gift cards. Before you go on your trip, head to Target, purchase your Disney gift cards for less, and use them to book your hotel, buy park tickets, and pay for food, souvenirs, and more.
Similar discounts are often available for those who are members of big box stores, like BJ’s and Sam’s Club. In the past, these stores have offered discounted Disney World park tickets and Disney gift cards, and even discounts on gift cards for restaurants located in Disney Springs. For even greater savings, using a cash-back card of at least 2% increases your savings to 6%.
Read More: Should You Choose Disney World or Universal Orlando for a Family Vacation?
SHOPPING FOR SOUVENIRS AHEAD OF YOUR TRIP CAN SAVE YOU A LOT OF MONEY
Plan to shop for your souvenirs before you go on your trip. Many of the same items sold in the parks can be found on shopDisney.com or at Target.
Disney’s online store, shopDisney, has a large selection of Minnie ears, t-shirts, and toys often on sale. Plus, you can usually get free shipping on orders over $75.
In addition, Target has partnered with Disney to be the home of the new Disney Stores, after most stand-alone stores were permanently closed across the U.S. in 2021. This means that you can now find Disney princess dresses, plushies, Minnie ears, and more at any Target with a Disney Store. Most of the same items are available online, and if you use your Target RedCard to purchase your items, you’ll be getting them for 5% less.
Get the best price on souvenirs before you go and bring them along in your luggage so you won’t be tempted to pay full price as you walk through the Disney gift shops!
PACK A PORTABLE PHONE CHARGER
A Disney World vacation has almost become impossible without a phone, meaning that you’ll be using it a lot! Between dining reservations, Disney Genie+, checking wait times for rides, getting directions, mobile food orders and more, your phone battery will deplete a lot faster than you might imagine. That’s why bringing along a portable phone charger on your trip is so important!
Phone chargers are available from Amazon, Target, and other retailers. Just be sure that it’s something that can hold enough battery to recharge your phone for a full day in the parks. Disney also has a FuelRod program, which lets you swap your FuelRod (which is a rechargeable portable phone charger) at designated stations for a fully charged one.
FuelRods are a one-time fee of $30 at the Disney World parks, but you can usually find them cheaper on Amazon (Here’s a 2-pack for $34.) Whether you purchase the FuelRod at Disney or from Amazon, you’ll be able to swap out your charger for free throughout the entirety of your trip.
Read more: MAGIC KINGDOM IN ONE DAY – 11 TIPS ON HOW TO DO IT!
PACK RAIN GEAR EVEN IF THUNDERSTORMS AREN’T PREDICTED
Remember to pack your rain gear. Daily afternoon thunderstorms are common in Central Florida, especially in the summer months. Consider packing an umbrella, rain jacket, poncho, and even an extra pair of shoes and socks, and remember to bring them with you into the parks (even if there’s no rain in the forecast)!
Disney sells rain gear at a premium price in the parks. So, save your money for treats and surprises in the parks and use your own less expensive rain gear from home. This is one of those tips and tricks that can really cost you if you forget!
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DISNEY WORLD RESORT HOTELS
CHECK FOR DISCOUNTS BEFORE BOOKING YOUR DISNEY WORLD RESORT
Staying at a Disney World Resort is pricey. In fact, even Disney’s Value Resorts (which are the cheapest options) can cost $150+ per night, depending on when you’re visiting. Luckily, Disney runs several promotional deals throughout the year — you just need to look for them!
For example, Disney usually offers hotel discounts to U.S. Military members and their families. Plus, there is often a deal running for Florida Residents and Annual Passholders. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to show proof of belonging to these groups at check-in.
Disney also occasionally offers discounts of up to $500+ off your hotel stay for all guests. However, these deals are usually only available on certain travel dates. You can see all of the Disney hotel deals by visiting the Special Offers section on their website.
If a deal pops up after you’ve booked your hotel stay for the dates you’re traveling, call Disney to see if that discount can be applied to your reservation. If they’re unable to do this, you can opt to cancel your reservation and rebook with the discount. Just note that the same room you have booked may not be available after canceling.
SEND YOUR SOUVENIRS TO YOUR DISNEY WORLD RESORT
You don’t have to save shopping at the gift shop until the end of the day to avoid carrying your items around the Disney World parks all day! Disney offers Merchandise Resort Hotel Delivery to anyone staying at a Disney World Resort hotel.
With this free service, Disney will take the items that you buy and deliver them straight to your hotel room. Just let the Cast Member know when checking out and your items will be marked for delivery. It doesn’t matter which gift shop you’re at!
Note that Merchandise Resort Hotel Delivery has been paused at Walt Disney World, and remains paused in 2022.
STAY AT THE RIGHT HOTEL TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EXTENDED EVENING HOURS
In 2020, Disney discontinued Extra Magic Hours and eventually replaced it with two new opportunities for Disney World hotel guests to secure extra time in the Disney World parks. One of the options is Extended Evening Hours — though, there’s a catch.
To take advantage of Extended Evening Hours, guests must stay at a Disney World Deluxe Resort or Villa. These hotels typically cost $500+ per night, but the extra money could be worth it if you want to ride attractions with little to no wait times.
Extended Evening Hours are offered on select nights at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT (and sometimes Disney’s Hollywood Studios). It provides you with two additional hours after the park closes. During this time, most attractions and some restaurants remain open, giving you the chance to do even more without the crowds.
CHOOSE YOUR DISNEY WORLD RESORT BASED ON WHICH PARK YOU PLAN TO VISIT THE MOST
With 32 Disney World Resort hotels, it can be hard to know which one is best for you. One great way to help you decide is to consider which park (or parks) you plan to visit the most! Disney World is big, so staying at a hotel closest to the park you’ll be at often will save you a lot of time. Hotels are also categorized by the parks that they are located closest to on Disney’s website to help you in your search.
For example, Magic Kingdom has three hotels connected to it by the monorail system. Plus, there’s also a monorail route directly to EPCOT, making it easy to go between the two parks if you’re staying at one of the resorts on the monorail.
Staying at a resort on the Disney Skyliner will get you to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT faster. And, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is the closest to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
SEVERAL DISNEY WORLD RESORTS OFFER GREAT FIREWORKS VIEWS WITHOUT THE CROWDS
If you’re hoping to get great views of fireworks every night, then you’ll definitely want to factor that into your hotel decision! Several Disney World Resorts near Magic Kingdom and EPCOT offer views of these shows. You can watch them from your room if you book a fireworks view room, or you can head to an area of the hotel with a free view.
You can see Magic Kingdom’s fireworks show, Disney Enchantment, from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Or you can see EPCOT’s fireworks show, Harmonious, from Disney’s Riviera Resort.
Note that some viewing areas require an additional fee or reservation. However, both Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort have free viewing areas surrounding the Seven Seas Lagoon. A great bonus is that these locations are also open to those who aren’t staying at the hotels, and generally have fewer crowds compared to the park.
SEVERAL DISNEY WORLD RESORTS FEATURE GIANT GINGERBREAD DISPLAYS OVER THE HOLIDAYS
A Disney World vacation is extra magical around the holidays, but many vacationers end up missing out on some of the biggest holiday displays! That’s because they aren’t in the Disney World parks, they’re at the resorts.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is home to a life-size gingerbread house (that sells gingerbread from inside!) and Disney’s Contemporary Resort usually has a large-scale gingerbread construction. Both of these are easy to get to from Magic Kingdom because they’re located on the monorail route.
Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club also features a full-size gingerbread carousel and holiday train display that you don’t want to miss. Add this to your park day at EPCOT, and use the entrance from World Showcase to get to the resorts. And, be sure to pick up some treats for yourself too while you’re there!
YOU CAN HAVE GROCERIES DELIVERED TO YOUR DISNEY WORLD RESORT HOTEL
Whether you’re craving a late-night snack or you want to save some extra cash on Disney World food, grocery delivery to your hotel can be a great option. Disney doesn’t currently offer their own delivery service, but services like Amazon Fresh, Walmart, InstaCart, Whole Foods, and more are offered in the Disney World area.
If you are opting to order groceries through a delivery app, you’ll want to do this at a time you plan to be at or near your hotel so that you can arrange pick-up. Some Disney World hotels may accept the order on your behalf, however, they are not currently able to refrigerate items. If you are opting to have Bell Services accept the delivery, you can choose to pay a fee of $6 to have the food delivered directly to your room or pick it up for free.
The only Disney World hotel where grocery delivery is a bit different is Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. If you’re not there to pick up the delivery yourself, it will be placed in the smart lockers located just outside of the main building. You’ll receive details on how to pick it up from the lockers via email.
HOTEL CHOICE MATTERS A LOT DURING HURRICANE SEASON
Hurricane season in Florida begins June 1st and ends November 30th. There’s a chance that severe weather could come your way – even at Disney World. This is why your Disney World Resort hotel choice is even more important during this time.
Many Disney World hotels have rooms that open to the outdoors. This means that guests must walk outside to get to any amenities, including food. However, some hotels have rooms that are connected to the main building without having to go outside at all. These are ideal for hurricane season!
Choosing a Disney World hotel room that is connected to the main building (like the rooms at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or in the Grand Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort) ensures that you’ll still be able to access food, entertainment, and more, in case of a hurricane. These hotels also offer extra entertainment, like crafts and movies during severe weather, so you’ll keep busy too. In rooms opening to the outdoors, you likely won’t be able to access these things without risking your safety.
CHECK INTO YOUR HOTEL ONLINE BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
To save time on the first day of your vacation and get to the parks as quickly as possible, you can take advantage of Disney World’s online check-in system. Prior to arriving at your hotel, you’ll log into your My Disney Experience account on a web browser or through the app, and complete your check-in paperwork. You’ll also note what time you plan to arrive at the hotel on check-in day.
If you’ve completed the online check-in forms, you’ll receive a text message or email on the day of your arrival with your room number. This means that you can bypass the lobby and go directly to your room. Your room key will be automatically linked to your MagicBand or your My Disney Experience digital room key feature!
A NEW FEATURE CALLED “HEY DISNEY!” IS COMING TO EVERY DISNEY WORLD HOTEL ROOM
Coming to all Disney World Resort hotels in late 2022 is “Hey Disney!” This new complimentary perk provides guests with “custom voice assistance” through Alexa on Amazon Echo devices installed in each room. And, it will unlock some pretty cool features for guests!
Once installed, all you’ll need to do is say “Hey Disney!” and ask a question. The voice assistant will be able to provide you information on park hours, the weather forecast, and dining recommendations. You will even be able to order room amenities, like extra towels! It will also add some extra magic to your trip because you’ll be able to talk to Disney characters through it too!
GENERAL DISNEY PARKS TIPS
PARK PASS RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED AND NEED TO BE MADE IN ADVANCE
Since the reopening of the parks in 2020, Disney World requires all guests to secure both a valid park ticket and a park pass reservation for the park that they plan to visit before arriving. Park Pass Reservations are free (aside from the cost of a ticket) and they can book up fast for certain dates, so you’ll want to secure your reservations as soon as you purchase your tickets.
If you plan to park hop, you’ll only need to make a reservation at the first park that you plan to visit that day. Disney does require you to scan into the park that you have a reservation for before you are able to park hop after 2 p.m. Disney World’s Water Parks are the only locations that do not require a Park Pass Reservation at this time.
HOW TO GET EARLY THEME PARK ENTRY
While Extended Evening Hours require guests to stay at specific (more expensive) resorts, one perk that is available for all Disney World Hotel guests is Early Theme Park Entry. This replaced Extra Magic Hours in 2021 and allows guests staying at Disney World hotels to enter Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios 30 minutes before the park officially opens every day.
The best way to take full advantage of the extra time in the parks is to arrive at the entrance about 45-60 minutes before the park is set to open. This way you’ll be one of the first guests through the gates, because the ride lines can get long, even though this exclusive benefit applies only to Disney World hotel guests.
EXTEND YOUR VISIT UNTIL AFTER THE PARKS CLOSE
If you don’t want to wake up super early on vacation just to skip out on the long line for Disney World’s most popular rides, there’s another way. Instead of being the first one in the park, try to be one of the last! Disney does not close their attraction lines until the exact time that the park closes. This means that you can hop in line with two minutes left before the park closes, and you’ll be able to ride after the park closes!
This strategy is best reserved for the rides with historically long lines including Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Slinky Dog Dash and Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Frozen Ever After at EPCOT.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A KID TOO YOUNG TO RIDE
Several attractions at Disney World have a height limit, meaning that your kids may not be able to ride everything in the parks. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t! Disney offers a Rider Switch service, where one adult can wait with those who cannot ride, while the other adult rides the attraction, and then they can switch. The adult who waited with the non-riders doesn’t have to wait in the regular line and can bypass the long wait.
To take advantage of the Riders Switch pass option, you’ll need to speak with a Cast Member at the entrance to the attraction to make arrangements. Note that Rider Switch is not available to those using Disney Genie+ to ride an attraction, as both guests must be paying for the service to skip the line altogether, even if one adult is staying back to supervise non-riders.
STROLLER RENTALS ARE AVAILABLE AT EVERY DISNEY PARK
Whether you’re trying to avoid having to travel with your own stroller, or you happen to forget yours, you don’t have to carry your kids around all day! Both double and single stroller rentals are available at the front of every Disney Park for an additional cost per day.
THERE ARE A LOT OF EXTRA THINGS HAPPENING FOR DISNEY WORLD’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebrations began on October 1st, 2021, and runs all the way through March 2023. During this massive celebration, guests can find exclusive eats and drinks, additional entertainment offerings and more at all four parks.
Check the My Disney Experience app or the park maps to learn about all the special offerings if you’re visiting during this time!
DON’T LEAVE THE PARK WHEN IT RAINS
Heading back to the hotel might be the first thing that comes to mind when it starts to rain in the parks, but don’t! Many other guests have this same idea, meaning that the crowds usually clear out of the parks. This gives you an opportunity to take advantage of shorter wait times at attractions if you stay!
Only select rides will close when there is rain (usually the outdoor ones), so there are still things to occupy your time while keeping dry. And, if you time it just right and go straight to an outdoor ride when it reopens, you can get on with virtually no line at all.
Plus, if you’re visiting Magic Kingdom and it starts raining during a time that a parade is scheduled, you’ll get to see the Rainy Day Parade instead!
SEVERAL ATTRACTIONS OFFER SINGLE RIDER LINES THAT CAN SAVE YOU TIME
Another way to lower the wait times at attractions is to take advantage of single-rider lines where they are offered. This line tends to move faster than the regular standby line, as Cast Members will use it to fill any empty seats on the ride. For example, if there’s a party of three in the regular standby line, they’ll typically add someone from the single-rider line to the ride vehicle to fill the car.
Single rider lines are available at Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Test Track at EPCOT. To enter the line, you must meet the minimum height requirement for the attraction and be seven years or older.
WEAR COMFY SHOES
If there’s one thing that’s almost guaranteed when you visit Disney World, it’s that you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. So, wearing the wrong shoes can really put a damper on your trip as you try to fight through the blisters.
Opt for comfier shoes that you know won’t harm your feet. Whether it’s your truest pair of tennis shoes or even some squishy Crocs, your feet will thank you while you log 5+ miles in the parks per day.
We love these New Balance Women’s FuelCore Nergize V1 Sneakers for Disney adventures!
USE FORECASTED WAIT TIMES FOR RIDES TO LOWER WAIT TIMES
In the My Disney Experience app under Disney Genie (which is free!), you can find forecasted wait times to every attraction in the parks. This feature takes into account the crowds and wait time trends to provide you with an estimate of the best time to ride!
Check this in the morning or as you go throughout your day to decrease the amount of time you wait in line all day.
PICK AND CHOOSE WHICH DAYS YOU WANT TO PARK HOP
Park hopping is a little different in Disney World right now. Guests who purchase a park hopper ticket (which is more expensive) can visit any Disney Park of their choosing after 2pm. Previously, there wasn’t a designated time, so this can really change how you plan your day.
Instead of paying for a park hopper ticket every day, pick and choose the dates that you want to pay the premium price. For example, Magic Kingdom tends to be a busy park with lots to do, meaning that you may not want to park hop that day. Whereas, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has less attractions, making it easier to tackle most of the park in a half day.
Read More: DISNEY PARK HOPPER: YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO PARK HOPPING AT DISNEY WORLD
USE THE MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP TO KNOW WHEN AND WHERE TO FIND CHARACTERS
Meeting Disney characters is one of the highlights of a Disney trip. But, how do you find them all? The My Disney Experience app includes a full list of characters in each park, where to find them, and what times they’ll be out greeting guests!
USE MOBILE CHECKOUT AT GIFT SHOPS IF IT’S OFFERED
Lines at Disney gift shops can be long, but you don’t have to wait in them! Many stores now offer Mobile Checkout. All you have to do is open up the My Disney Experience app and select “Shop In Store” from the “+” menu.
In the app, you’ll scan all your items, input your payment information, and then receive a code to show at the exit. Find a Mobile Checkout station and present the code to a Cast Member, who will give you a bag for your items and you’re on your way!
THE BEST VIEWING SPOT FOR THE PARADE
Magic Kingdom is known for having some awesome parades and cavalcades (which are basically mini parades). You can view these from any location along the route from Frontierland up Main Street, U.S.A., but there’s one spot that offers the best views of all!
Grab a spot at the flagpole at Magic Kingdom, on the curb, but looking at Cinderella’s Castle. You’ll have a straight-on view of the parade coming towards you. Plus, the crowds tend to be lower in this area.
BEST PLACE IN MAGIC KINGDOM TO VIEW FIREWORKS
Along with daily parades, Magic Kingdom is also home to a nightly fireworks show that takes place above Cinderella Castle. Most guests opt to get a spot on Main Street, U.S.A. in the hub area (the big circle at the center of the park). However, you’ll actually miss out on a big part of the show by doing this!
Disney Enchantment features fireworks, projections on the Cinderella Castle, and projections on the buildings down Main Street. Because of this, the best place to view the show in Magic Kingdom is actually a bit further down Main Street. Try to get a spot near Main Street Bakery or the Emporium, so that you can see all the different elements of the show.
HOLIDAY PARTIES ARE THE BEST WAY TO AVOID PARK CROWDS…BUT THEY COST A LOT
Each year, Magic Kingdom is home to two different ticketed special events – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. These exclusive events provide guests with extra time in the park with fewer crowds, and special offerings like holiday parades, fireworks shows, and snacks.
But, these events can cost up to $200 per person, which can be a pretty hefty price to pay for a few extra hours in Magic Kingdom. Though, many guests do find that these holiday parties are worth it thanks to all the exclusive offerings and limited crowds.
Read More: YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO A FUN & SPOOKTACULAR DISNEY HALLOWEEN
FANTASYLAND TENDS TO BE BUSIEST IN THE MORNING
Getting to the park early can be a great way to beat the crowds and ride some popular attractions with shorter wait times. But, if you’re headed to Magic Kingdom, you might want to avoid the Fantasyland attractions in the morning. Most guests with small kids will head there first, meaning that the lines are very long early in the morning.
Go in the opposite direction of the crowds and head to Frontierland or Tomorrowland first and plan to loop back to Fantasyland later in the day. The lines won’t necessarily ever be super short (as Fantasyland is one of the most popular parts of the park), but you’ll avoid some of the larger crowds. Plus, you’ll likely have shorter lines for the other attractions you’re headed to in the morning!
DON’T SLEEP IN ON THE DAY YOU PLAN TO VISIT EPCOT
Sleeping in past 7am on the day you plan to visit EPCOT could cost you a ride on the newest roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind!
This attraction is currently using a virtual queue system, in which guests must secure a boarding group to ride. The virtual queue opens at 7am and 1pm daily and is known to fill up fast. So, waking up even a minute after 7am could mean that you don’t get to ride.
KNOW WHAT FESTIVAL IS HAPPENING WHEN YOU VISIT AND PLAN ACCORDINGLY
EPCOT is home to four different rotating food festivals throughout the year – the Food & Wine Festival, Festival of the Holidays, Festival of the Arts, and the Flower & Garden Festival. Depending on when you’re visiting, one of these is likely going on, and planning ahead is important to maximize the food and drinks you’ll want to try!
These festivals also usually have some sort of concert series that takes place in the evenings, and some pretty big names tend to pass through the park. Disney publishes the schedule for these events ahead of time so you can plan what day you want to visit EPCOT to catch the show. You can also reserve a dining package to get guaranteed seating, though you’ll want to plan for this at least 60 days in advance to secure your reservation.
The festivals are free to attend with EPCOT admission.
TAKE TIME TO EXPLORE EACH WORLD SHOWCASE PAVILION
EPCOT’s World Showcase features 11 different country pavilions and each one is intricately designed to transport you to that location. Instead of quickly walking by, take the time to explore each pavilion! Most feature a show, unique gift shops, and authentic food.
LA HACIENDA DE SAN ANGEL IN WORLD SHOWCASE LETS YOU SEE HARMONIOUS
Harmonious is EPCOT’s nighttime fireworks show that takes place in the center of World Showcase Lagoon. You can see the show from any location around World Showcase, however, you can dine and see the show at La Hacienda de San Angel! To do this, make your reservations half-hour prior to the show and ask for a window seat when you arrive.
A few other restaurants also offer great views of Harmonious, including La Cantina de San Angel, Spice Road Table (which offers an exclusive dining package for the event), and Rose & Crown Dining Room (which also offers a dining package). Don’t forget to make your reservations for these locations 60 days in advance!
DON’T SKIP SEEING SPACESHIP EARTH AT NIGHT
As part of Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations, all of the park icons transform into “Beacons of Magic” at night. Most are not all that noteworthy, but EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth is something that you don’t want to miss! Disney Imagineers used hundreds of light points on the big “golf ball” icon to bring it to life with colors and rotating shows throughout the evening.
You can see the show from most locations in the park, though the best view is from the park entrance. Just turn around as you head out!
DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM
DISCOVERY ISLAND AT ANIMAL KINGDOM IS GREAT FOR CHARACTER VISITS
There are many opportunities to meet characters in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but one of the best spots is on the Discovery Island Trail! This is the only location that you can meet Pocahontas in Disney World, and close by is Adventurers Outpost where you can meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Keep in mind that you’ll find wait times shorter in the morning, so plan to head here earlier in the day!
SKIP PANDORA AT THE ANIMAL KINGDOM ROPE DROP
Pandora – The World of Avatar is the newest land in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and features two of the most popular rides in the park. Due to this, most guests arrive at park opening and head straight to this area in the hopes of waiting less time for the attractions. But, this isn’t actually the best strategy!
Instead of rope dropping Pandora, go to a different area of the park first thing in the morning. When it comes to Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey (the two rides in Pandora), it’s much better to go at night, as the lines will be much shorter. Plus, Pandora features some special lighting effects at night which are cool to see!
DON’T SKIP THE NATURE TRAILS
While there are several rides and shows in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one of the best parts of the park are the nature trails. Be sure to take time to walk the Discovery Island Trails, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, and the Maharajah Jungle Trek.
You’ll get to see a lot of different animals like gorillas, tigers, hippos, and more!
PAY ATTENTION TO DISCOVERY RIVER – LOTS OF CHARACTER FLOTILLAS PASS BY THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Parts of Disney’s Animal Kingdom are connected by the Discovery River and you’ll want to keep an eye out on the water as you pass by!
Several Disney Character Flotillas pass by randomly throughout the day and give guests the chance to wave at some fan-favorite characters. Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and even some African drummers have been known to sail by!
THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT DISNEY KITE TAILS SHOWS
In honor of Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, a new show was introduced at Disney’s Animal Kingdom called KiteTails. During the 10-minute show, guests can see this rather “campy” show featuring giant character kites sailing over the Discovery River Amphitheater. But, there’s not just one show – there’s two!
One show is themed to Disney’s The Jungle Book and the other is The Lion King. So, if you happen to see one, be sure to stick around and keep an eye out for the other! The show used to feature smaller kites in a more formal show, however, this portion of the show is no longer available.
DON’T SAVE FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING SHOW FOR THE END OF THE DAY
One of the most popular live shows in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Festival of The Lion King. Located in the Africa area of the park, the show is an abbreviated retelling of The Lion King, featuring songs from the movie, dancing, and acrobatics.
It’s best not to wait until the last showtime to see this though, as this tends to be the most crowded show, often filling to capacity.
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
STAR WARS: RISE OF THE RESISTANCE BREAKS DOWN A LOT IN DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is the most popular ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (and perhaps all of Disney World), but it can be pretty complicated for one reason. The ride often experiences technical difficulties and has to shut down for long periods of time throughout the day. The best way to avoid this is to tackle the attraction early in the day.
You can also choose to purchase a Lightning Lane reservation through Disney’s Individual Attraction Selection service (ranging from $15-$20 per person). If the ride is broken when your reservation window opens, you’ll usually be able to return once the ride is operating again and skip the long wait time.
A 13-MINUTE WAIT FOR TOWER OF TERROR MEANS THERE IS NO LINE
Disney World is full of fun easter eggs and hidden details, and one of those can be found at the Tower of Terror attraction!
Wait times for the ride tend to be pretty long (climbing above 100 minutes often), but on the rare chance that the crowds are low, you might see a wait time of 13 minutes. This is Disney’s spooky way of communicating that there is no wait at all, and you can walk right onto the attraction!
YOU CAN SEE PIXAR CHARACTERS IN AN EXCLUSIVE CAVALCADE SEVERAL TIMES A DAY
Much like other Disney World parks, Disney’s Hollywood Studios features a short parade (also known as a character cavalcade).
Occurring a few times per day, you can see Pixar characters like Edna Mode from The Incredibles, Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Toy Story, and more on Hollywood Boulevard. Be sure to check the My Disney Experience app or park showtimes guide for exact times.
DON’T FORGET YOUR ADVANCED DINING RESERVATION
All Table Service restaurants in Disney World require advanced dining reservations to visit and they can book up fast – especially character meals! Disney allows all guests to secure their dining reservations 60 days in advance, but even booking that far out can be hard for the most popular restaurants in Disney World.
Set a calendar reminder for making your Advanced Dining Reservations! Disney usually drops new reservation times early in the morning 60 days out, so wake up early to secure all of yours. And, if you can’t find the one that you want, keep checking back! People are always canceling and changing their reservations, so you never know when a slot could pop open.
DISNEY DINING PLAN IS ON HIATUS, SO HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR EATING ON A DIME
The Disney Dining Plan was a tool that many guests in the past used to help them budget for dining during their trip, however, it has been unavailable since 2020. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to shell out a ton of money on food! There are a few ways that you can still save on dining in the parks and resorts.
Disney World restaurants are known for serving up some pretty hefty portion sizes. So, instead of ordering one meal per person, share a meal instead! Or, rather than having a Quick Service or Table Service meal, opt for a snack that is big enough to be a meal (like a Mickey Pretzel) to hold you over.
And, don’t forget that Disney allows you to bring your own food into the parks, which can be a really big savings for a family!
SAVE ON FOOD BY SNACKING
You don’t have to head to a Quick Service restaurant or have a dining reservation to get a full meal in Disney World. In fact, you can fill your stomach up for the day much cheaper by opting to snack instead!
There are many different snacks that are large enough in size to be considered a full meal. This includes things like the Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich at Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom, the Colossal Pretzel with Beer Cheese at Pongu Pongu in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the Charcuterie Board at Baseline Tap House in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
DON’T MAKE A DINING RESERVATION AT EPCOT
One of the best Disney World parks to eat at is EPCOT, which is why you shouldn’t make any dining reservations for the day you plan to visit! With four rotating festivals that focus on food and drink, you’ll want to save room in your stomach to try something from all the food booths.
Dining reservations also tend to take up about 90+ minutes from your day, so skipping out on Table Service restaurants will also save you time.
MOST QUICK SERVICE RESTAURANTS GIVE OUT FREE CUPS OF WATER
It can get hot in Central Florida, but you don’t have to shell out $5 per water bottle to keep you hydrated! Most Quick Service restaurants in Disney World will give you a free cup of water — all you have to do is ask!
This includes most Starbucks locations, where you can ask for a Venti Ice Water free of charge.
ADULTS CAN ORDER OFF THE KIDS’ MENU AT MOST RESTAURANTS
Another money saving dining tip is to order off the kids menu, even if you’re an adult! Usually Quick Service restaurants will let you do this and the portion sizes are still pretty large.
This is not usually permitted at Table Service restaurants, but you certainly can ask!
WHISPERING CANYON CAFE AND 50’S PRIME TIME CAFE ARE FUN RESTAURANTS IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR ANTICS
If you want more of a dining experience without paying character dining prices, make a reservation at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge or 50’s Prime Time Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Cast Members at both of these locations do more than just serve you food and will have you laughing throughout your meal.
Ask for ketchup at Whispering Canyon Cafe for a fun time. And, at 50’s Prime Time Cafe see what happens if you leave any vegetables on your plate.
MOBILE ORDERING CAN SAVE YOU TIME
You can wait in line at the restaurant and order at the counter. But, this isn’t the best way to do it! Using Mobile Order through the My Disney Experience app makes it so you can skip the line altogether and get your food at a preselected time.
The entire menu is available with Mobile Order and you’ll receive a message when your meal is ready to pick up at a designated window.
CLICK “I’M HERE, PREPARE MY FOOD” WHEN YOU START WALKING TO THE RESTAURANT IF YOU MOBILE ORDER
If you are opting to Mobile Order, you’ll notice that after placing your order you’ll need to select “I’m Here, Prepare My Food” when you get to the restaurant.
Instead of waiting until you’re standing in front of the location, hit the button when you’re on your way. This will trigger the Cast Members to start making your food so that it’s ready by the time you arrive!
JELLYROLLS AND TRADER SAM’S ARE FUN ADULT-ONLY LOCATIONS
If you’re on an adults-only Disney World trip, or you have someone to watch the kids for a night, Jellyrolls and Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto are can’t miss locations! Jellyrolls is located at Disney’s BoardWalk and is a dueling piano bar. Just note that there is a cover charge.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is free, but you’ll likely have to join a waitlist to get in, as it’s a very popular lounge in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. It is themed to be an extension of the Jungle Cruise attraction, so you can expect themed drinks and lots of cheesy jokes.
Read More: DISNEY FOR ADULTS: 17+ FUN THINGS YOU’LL LOVE
USE THE WALK-UP WAITLIST FEATURE TO EAT AT RESTAURANTS WITHOUT A RESERVATION
It’s important to secure your advanced dining reservations up to 60 days in advance, but there’s also a walk-up waitlist feature for day-of availability. To join the waitlist, just search for the restaurant in the My Disney Experience app and click “join waitlist” if it’s available. You’ll receive a text message or push notification when your table is ready.
Using the walk-up waitlist feature does not provide you with a guaranteed dining time. Instead, you’ll receive an estimated wait time and will need to be in the area of the restaurant when it’s your turn. There’s also no guarantee that the restaurants will have walk-up availability.
THERE’S A STARBUCKS LOCATION IN EACH PARK
Need your morning coffee to kick off your day in the Disney World parks? Disney has you covered! You can get your daily Starbucks fix at the Main Street Bakery in Magic Kingdom, Creature Comforts in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Trolley Car Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Connections Cafe in EPCOT.
There are also various Joffey’s coffee locations through the parks, which tend to have shorter lines.
DON’T SCHEDULE MORE THAN ONE DINING RESERVATION PER DAY
A dining reservation can take up well over an hour from your park day, so don’t pack too many into one day! To maximize your park time, choose to dine at one Table Service restaurant per day and opt for quicker options for your other meals.
MOBILE ORDER AT CANDY SHOPS
Mobile Order is available at most Quick Service restaurants, but you may not know that it’s also available at select candy stores throughout Disney World. When you order through the My Disney Experience app, you’ll get to skip the line and get to snacking on those tasty treats quicker!
This is available at Candy Cauldron and Goofy’s Candy Company at Disney Springs, Karamell-Küche at EPCOT, Zuri’s Sweets Shop, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the Main Street Confectionery at Magic Kingdom. Just search for the store and click “Order Food.”
STUDY UP ON DISNEY GENIE+ BEFORE YOUR TRIP
In 2021, Disney discontinued FastPass+ and replaced it with a new way to skip the line at popular attractions throughout the park – Disney Genie+. The new system is now an additional cost of $15 per guest, per day, and there are quite a few differences between how it works compared to the former FastPass+ service.
Due to its many confusing aspects, you’ll want to be sure that you review all the Genie+ information on Disney’s website and study up before your trip. This will help you get the most out of the cost and tackle the most amount of attractions with little to no wait.
ONE RIDE IN EACH PARK IS A SEPARATE COST FROM GENIE+
Not all rides are included in the cost of Disney Genie+, as some are an additional or separate cost altogether. This includes Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT, and Avatar Flight of Passage in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They can range in price anywhere from $7 to $18 per person, depending on the ride and the date that you’re visiting.
Keep in mind that the prices will be higher on weekends and busier times of the year (like holidays), and you can only purchase up to two of these attractions per person, per day. You do not need to purchase Disney Genie+ in addition to these, so you could choose to just skip the line at these attractions and wait in the regular standby line for others for free.
STACK MULTIPLE DISNEY GENIE+ RESERVATIONS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR PARK DAY
One of the trickier aspects of Disney Genie+ is what is referred to as the “120-minute rule.” Basically, Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations (a.k.a. the time window that you have to skip the line at an attraction) can be made (1) after scanning into a ride that you reserved, or (2) after 120-minutes have passed since you made your reservation. This means that even if you weren’t able to score a return time at your next attraction until the end of the day, you’ll still be able to reserve other rides, essentially stacking your reservations.
The 120-minute rule and the ability to stack multiple Genie+ reservations is Disney’s way of making sure that you can ride as much as possible when you purchase the service, even if the park is busy. So, be sure to take full advantage of this trick!
ONLY PURCHASE DISNEY GENIE+ FOR CERTAIN PARKS
$15 per person, per day, can really put a dent into your Disney World vacation budget if you’re planning to use Disney Genie+ every day. However, Disney allows you to pick and choose which dates you purchase Genie+, and knowing what parks it is most helpful in can save you a lot of money!
Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios tend to be the parks with the longest lines for attractions throughout the day. Whereas, wait times for rides at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and EPCOT tend to be lower (though lines can still get long at these parks during holiday seasons). So, be strategic and only opt to purchase Genie+ for those busier parks, where you know it will actually save you time!
YOU DON’T HAVE TO PURCHASE GENIE+ TO HAVE A GREAT VACATION
Disney Genie+ can be a great tool for maximizing your park days, but it’s not necessary to have a great time at Disney World! All attractions still offer standby lines for free, so you don’t have to pay to ride if you don’t want to. Use other time-saving tips to lower your wait times instead!
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DISNEY TRANSPORTATION
Disney’s transportation system is completely free of charge and includes bus, boat, monorail, and Skyliner transportation options.
Instead of driving your car everywhere you go, it’s much more efficient (and less stressful!) to take full advantage of these. In fact, you don’t necessarily even need your car at all during a Disney World vacation!
STAYING AT A RESORT WITH ACCESS TO THE DISNEY SKYLINER CAN SAVE YOU TIME
The Disney Skyliner is a gondola transportation system that connects Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and Disney’s Riviera Resort with EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Because you ride high up in the sky, there’s no need to worry about traffic, and you’ll get to the park much more efficiently. So, one of the best tips and tricks for saving on transportation time is to stay at one of these resorts!
BUDGET ENOUGH TIME FOR GETTING FROM PLACE TO PLACE
Walt Disney World is double the size of Manhattan, which means that it’s going to take some time to get from place to place! Disney recommends leaving one hour for travel, and you might want to budget even more if you’re visiting during a busy time.
Of course, travel time will fluctuate a lot, but it’s better to be safe and leave a big time buffer to get where you’re going.
BUS WAIT TIMES CAN BE FOUND IN THE MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP
When you’re at Disney World, the wait time for the next bus to the park can seem like forever. But, there’s actually a way to know when the next one will pick up at your hotel!
In the My Disney Experience app, guests staying at a Disney World hotel will be able to view current bus wait times. Just note that this is only available when traveling from the hotel to a park, and not when traveling from a park back to your hotel.
DISNEY HAS ITS OWN TAXI SERVICE
Another option for getting around Disney World is Minnie Vans. These are Disney’s official taxi service that can pick you up from virtually anywhere in Disney World and get you to your next destination. They’ll even take you to and from the Orlando International Airport!
The Minnie Van service can be accessed through the Lyft app and costs are calculated based on the distance between your two destinations. Each Minnie Van fits 6 guests, and the service operates from 6:30AM to 12:30AM daily.
CONSIDER ALL YOUR OPTIONS FOR GETTING BETWEEN THE AIRPORT TO DISNEY WORLD
Disney’s Magical Express is no longer available in Disney World, meaning that all guests must find their own transportation between the Orlando International Airport and their resort hotel.
Shuttle bus options include Mears Connect and The Sunshine Flyer, or you can opt to use a rideshare program or rent a car. All of these do have a cost associated with them, so you’ll want to weigh your options and decide which is best for you and your family in advance.
MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP IS A MUST
The My Disney Experience app is a one-stop planning tool for every aspect of your Disney World vacation. It includes all hotel and dining reservation details and confirmation, your park tickets, maps of each park, current wait times for attractions, and much more.
It’s nearly impossible to plan your trip without it nowadays, so download the app and log into your account prior to your trip so that you’re all set when you arrive!
SET YOUR DISNEY GENIE PREFERENCES IN THE MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP IN ADVANCE
While Disney Genie+ is an additional cost for guests, Disney Genie is a free planning feature that is also available within the My Disney Experience app.
Prior to your park visit, you can go into the app and set your preferences for the day, including what characters you want to meet, what attractions you want to ride, where you want to eat, and more. The app will then take all of that into account and give you a full itinerary for the day.
So, if you take the time to input your preferences in advance, you won’t even have to think about what you’re going to do next – the app will tell you!
MAGICBANDS AREN’T NECESSARY, BUT THEY’RE HELPFUL
MagicBands are a Disney World accessory that serves as your hotel key, park ticket, payment method, and more.
The MagicBand is a bracelet, which means that you have everything you need for the day on your wrist. However, they are an additional cost ranging from $15 to $50+ depending on the design, so you may choose to use Disney’s other ticketing and access systems instead.
Read More: 17 DISNEY MAGIC BAND SECRETS YOU’LL APPRECIATE KNOWING BEFORE YOUR TRIP IN 2022
MAGICBAND+ UNLOCKS NEW AND UNIQUE EXPERIENCES THROUGHOUT THE PARKS
New to the parks is the MagicBand+. This accessory has all the features of the original MagicBand, but it also does more! With the MagicBand+, you can interact with Disney World’s 50th Anniversary golden character statues, play a bounty hunter game in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and it even lights up and vibrates to coordinate with the nighttime fireworks shows.
MagicBand+ starts at $34.99 and can be purchased in Disney World gift shops or prior to your vacation online. It is a brand new technology, so more opportunities to interact with the parks during your visit will likely be added in the future.
MULTIPLE PEOPLE CAN MAKE RESERVATIONS THROUGH MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE AT THE SAME TIME
Between Disney Genie+, individual attraction purchases, and the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind virtual queue, there’s a lot to get done on the My Disney Experience app at the same time. Being just a second late to any of these can cost you the chance to ride an attraction.
Instead of designating just one person to make all the reservations, have multiple people on the app at the same time. Even if it’s just having multiple people trying to get into the virtual queue at 7AM or 1PM, the app is designed to function with multiple users under the same account at the same time.
DON’T SKIP OUT ON DISNEY SPRINGS
Disney Springs is a shopping and dining district in Disney World that is free and does not require a park ticket. It was formerly known as Downtown Disney, and you can find tons of shops (including Disney and designer shops), unique dining options (including a Coca-Cola rooftop bar!), and entertainment options. There is also a bowling alley, movie theater, and even an exclusive Cirque du Soleil show that was created just for Disney World.
Some of the best times to visit Disney Springs is on the first or last day of your trip. This makes it so that you don’t have to purchase a park ticket for a day that you won’t be able to be there from opening to close.
Read More: 31 FUN THINGS TO DO AT DISNEY SPRINGS YOU’LL LOVE
AN ELECTRICAL WATER PAGEANT HAPPENS EVERY NIGHT NEAR MAGIC KINGDOM
A little-known entertainment offering in Disney World is the Electrical Water Pageant.
This short nighttime show takes place on the Seven Seas Lagoon traveling between Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. It lasts about 15 minutes and can be seen from anywhere that provides a view of the water!
DON’T FORGET TO REST
With so much to do at Disney World, it’s easy to forget that you’re on vacation.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle and reserve one day as a non-park day where you can stay at your hotel and enjoy the pool, go resort hopping and visit places you aren’t staying or go to Disney Springs. You’ll end your Disney World trip much more refreshed!
STAY UP TO DATE WITH CHANGES
Gone are the days of being able to plan your Disney World vacation months in advance and not think about it again until you step foot on property! Since reopening in 2020, things have been changing often at Disney World. Between health and safety policies, the introduction of Disney Genie+, restaurant reopenings, and more, there’s a lot to keep up on.
Be sure that you’re checking Disney’s website often for any updates that you need to know and review your plans prior to your arrival date. Following Disney on their social media platforms can be another great way to stay informed!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO DISNEY WORLD
- YOUR FLORIDA THEME PARK VACATION
- ROLLER COASTERS: 9 Thrilling & Fun Disney World Roller Coasters
- BEST STROLLERS: 2022’s Best Stroller For Disney (From A Mom In The Know)
- MINI GOLF: The Ultimate Disney Mini Golf Guide
- RESORTS: WDW Resorts Comparisons + Insider Tips
WHERE TO STAY NEAR DISNEY WORLD
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