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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Disney World Tips and Tricks

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Disney World.  A trip that can both excite and exhaust us just thinking about it.  I spent my childhood at Disney World.  Every year, often twice a year, my family would make the 12 hour trek down to Tampa, Florida to visit my grandparents and while on that visit we would spend at least one day at one of the Disney Theme Parks.  And now I like to share those experiences with my children.  I've been to Magic Kingdom more times than I can count.  I've been to Animal Kingdom 4 or 5 times.  And I've been to Hollywood Studios (which used to be called MGM Studios wayyyyy back when...) and Epcot a handful of times.

But let's face it, no one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a Disney Vacation and then spend hours waiting in traffic and lines in the hot sun all day.  That's why I have developed a handful of tricks to maximize my time and fun at the parks.

Read reviews and find resort deals on TripAdvisor

Top Tricks and Tips for Making the Most of Your Disney Visit:
1.  Don't Visit During the Summer.  Let's face it, everyone goes on vacation in the summer or on holidays.  It's when our children are out of school, when we have long weekends, and when many don't have to work at all.  Skip the popular times, take time off work, and pull your kids out of school for the week because you will find much smaller crowds in the Fall, Winter, and early Spring.

2.  Go on Halloween Day.  Disney does a great Halloween night event each year.  Most people who are going to that event will be saving their energy for the all-night extravaganza and wont be at the park during the day.  This opens up a great opportunity for you!  Go Halloween day and forgo the evening events.

3.  Visit on Good Friday.  Everyone who visits Disney World the week of Easter will be either traveling to Disney on Good Friday (in order to spend the week after Easter in the parks) or will be headed home on Good Friday (in order to be home for Easter).  Again, this opens up a great opportunity for you!  Use that day to your advantage.

4.  Thursday is their Least Busy Day.  I'm not sure why, but the parks have noticeably fewer people on Thursdays.  This could be because week-long-vacationers have already visited all the parks and are taking a "rest day" or it could be because half-weekers are headed home, or that weekenders haven't arrived.  Either way, Thursday is your best opportunity for shorter lines.

5.  Visit the Other Parks.  Magic Kingdom is the ONE PARK everyone goes to, which also makes it the most crowded.  Many people skip Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.  Use that to your advantage!  Visit these other parks and save Magic Kingdom for another trip or plan to visit that park on one of their less crowded days (see #2, #3, and #4 above).

6.  Plan to ARRIVE an Hour Before You Can Get into the Park.  It takes that long to get through the maze of parking lots and to actually park your car.  Then you have to stand in the line to actually enter the park and get through security.  The closer to the front of the line you are the more likely you will be one of the first to ride.

Getting early entry into the park is also a great time to take that picture that EVERYONE wants!
Notice that we are all in jackets?  That's because we visited in Mid December!  The park wasn't crowded at all!
7.  Take Advantage of Early Opening.  That extra 30 minutes to an hour really makes all the difference for that first ride.  Often, if your early into the park you will have a minimal wait for your first ride, so plan accordingly and get their early.  It's worth the added expense.

8.  Plan Your First Ride.  Which ride do you want to ride the most and which will be the most crowded?  Make that your first ride of the day.  The first ride will often have the shortest line, especially if your utilizing early entry.

9.  Look at the Map Ahead of Time and Chart a Course.  This could perhaps be my biggest tip.  Look at the map long before you even arrive to Orlando and plan which rides you want to wait for and which to skip.  Create a plan of attack with routes into and around the park.  Having a plan ahead of time will save countless hours of deciding where to go next and will also save you from wasting time playing with the map in the park.

10. Get the Park Hopper Option.  The Park Hopper option is critical in my opinion and well worth the added expense.  Getting to switch parks let's you use early entry in one park, switch parks during the day, and then visit the parade of your choice at night.  This let's you have optimum time in each park and allows you to switch parks if you find yours to be too crowded.

Park Hopping or not, expect your children to pass out after the fireworks!
Make sure they have somewhere easy and safe to sleep and get the rental stroller!
Notice how the rental stroller on the right protects her legs from getting bumped into by stranger?
 It also would let a smaller child stretch out when sleeping.  
11.  Use the Rental Stroller.  People are maniacs in the park.  They steal stuff, they bash their strollers into yours to get a better spot in line, they don't look where they are going, and they have no concern for others.  I once had someone step over top of my sleeping child in a stroller and actually FALL on top of her.  The park rental strollers are much sturdier and wider than regular umbrella strollers, thereby protecting your little one.  Using a rental also deters thieves because your nice clean new expensive stroller isn't sitting their advertising your nice things, ripe for the stealing.

12.  Bring Someone in a Wheelchair.  Don't purposefully put someone in a wheelchair that shouldn't be (this is just dishonest) but if someone in your party has an ankle, knee, hip, etc problem let them ride in the chair!  My brother-in-law went with us to Magic Kingdom just weeks after breaking his leg.  It's a little known fact, but wheelchairs are often channeled through the quick pass line.  This is because there is limited handicap seating on rides and the ride staff show preference for those seats to those in wheelchairs and the people accompanying them.

Not only was the wheelchair a "get in quicker" tool, but it also
gave the kids a break from the strollers when they got to ride!

13.  Use The Rider Switch Program.  Another little known secrete is that often families will get to ride a ride multiple times with the Rider Switch Program.  Consider this:  you have a family of 5 (2 parents and 3 kids), 2 of the kids can ride everything but the youngest is just a tad too small.  So parent 1 takes the older 2 on the first ride while parent 2 waits with child 3.  The next ride, parent 2 gets to ride WITH THE OLDER 2 while parent 1 waits with child 3.  In other words, the 2 older kids actually get to ride the ride twice.  Total WIN!  The trick is making that time alone with each parent special with the child that doesn't get to ride.  I brought all kinds of fun things with us to do with our youngest while he waited for each ride.

14.  Eat.  Really, eat as often as your children want.  Don't try to make them share the pizza at lunch, don't tell them "it's not lunch time yet", and don't deny them the Mickey Mouse Ice Cream.  Keeping your kids full and happy is CRITICAL in enjoying your time at Disney.  A hangry child wont wait in a line and will not remember this vacation fondly.  Feed your kids.  And buy the big drink to refill!  Florida is hot and your little ones can easily get dehydrated.

15.  Don't Worry About VIP Tickets to Parades.  The parade routes are long and the parade is quick.  It's easy to find a spot to watch them and the VIP area isn't worth the added time and expense.

16.  Plan a Rest Day.  Don't try to visit all the parks back to back.  Even a grown adult will have trouble with this.  The heat and walking alone are enough to exhaust you.  Plan a day or two to just lay around the resort property.  Plan to play in the pool, sipping tropical drinks, and enjoying all the amenities the resort has to offer.

17.  Spend Two Days in Magic Kingdom.  There is just NO WAY to get all of Magic Kingdom done in one day.  If you plan on spending two days in the park it will be much less stressful trying to fit it all in.  This way, you can start your to do list (see #9 above) and if you have to skip something because of a long line then you can plan on making that ride a priority your second day.

18.  The New Rides Will Be the Most Crowded.  Feeling frustrated by the 3 hour line to Frozen Ever After?  For your next ride pick one of the older rides that often get over looked.  Our favorite go-to rides when we are tired of long lines are Small World, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, and Jungle Cruise.  These lines move quickly and are sure to have you on in no time.  We also like Haunted Mansion, the Tiki Room and Pirates of the Caribbean, who have very entertaining line areas (so you feel like your getting to experience the ride throughout the entire wait).

19.  Let your Kids Play.  Areas like Tom Sawyer's Island, The Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, the Boneyard, and Project Tomorrow are great areas to just let your kids run for a bit.  After waiting in lines it's essential for them to get some wiggles out and play.  You'll be surprised how refreshed they are after being out of the stroller for a bit.

Testing out the Gorilla Hands at Animal Kingdom.
The parks are about more than just rides, make sure to enjoy the sites and Play Areas too!!

20.  Big Groups are Better.  As much as traveling as just your little family of 4 sounds like fun, at Disney it's better to travel in large groups (multiple families or extended families, groups of friends).  Just don't expect people to stay together.  It takes a village to raise your kids, so bring your village with you to the parks.  This will most likely give you a small rest (when other's take over the care of your kids for a bit) and lets people with similar interests stick together.

A few more great tips:
21.  Get your Disney Parks Merchandise online instead of at the park!! You will find much better sales and deals here: Fantastic merchandise previously available only at Disney Parks can now be purchased exclusively at the online Disney Store.
22.  Planning to do Breakfast with the Princesses?  Get your costume BEFORE you arrive.  You can save with extra sales here: The Disney Princess Shop - Royal Adventures Await!
23.  Make sure your little one looks great in ALL your Disney pictures by getting them some great Disney apparel to wear.  Check out the sales here: Find the best Disney kids apparel for girls, boys, tweens, toddlers and babies when you do your Disney shopping at
24.  Save a bit by staying off resort and taking shuttles from your hotel.  Check out the deals here: Save BIG on Orlando Travel Deals. Don't Miss Out!

Have you been to Disney World?  What are your tips and tricks for having a good time and making the most of your trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth?  Share your thoughts and advice below.


  1. This is a great read it's my dream to afford Disney one day when my little boy is old enough to remember it

    1. Just don't wait too long. I find that Disney is best for kids between 3 and 9 years old. After about 9 they get more interested in the themes at Universal Studios and less out of the Disney stuff. Travel when they are young and take lots of pictures to remind them of their adventures. They will remember more than you think!

  2. I've never been to any Disney Theme Park, anywhere in the world... I wonder what it's like to go as a group of adults (with no children!)

    1. I went with a large group of adults one time (only one child came with us and she was about 4) and it was really magical even then!! We all got to walk the shops, ride the "grown-up" rides multiple times, and really enjoy feeling like WE were the kids again. There was lots of talking and reminiscing about our childhoods and our favorite characters/movies/Disney shows :)

  3. Great ideas! I can't wait to take the kids when they're a bit older. I've never been before!

    1. It's so exciting when it's EVERYONE'S first time!! Just don't wait too long!! Get planning now so that you have something to look forward to!


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