Disney World is supposed to be the happiest place on earth right? Well, I think it lives up to that title, but when I talk to people about Disney World, they are usually in one of two camps. They either love it or they dread it.
I’ve always found that there is one important distinction between these two groups, it all depends on if they took the time to plan out their trip using the vast amount of information and resources that are readily available online.
A good plan can be the difference between waiting in line for hours (not very fun) and waiting very little. There are just a few important things to keep in mind to make your Disney World trip more enjoyable.
Here are 5 Disney trip planning tips that we have found to be the most important to know and follow in order to ensure that you and your family have a good time.
1. If you are able, plan your Disney World trip during non-peak times.
This may be obvious but it is not always possible. If you are trying to plan your trip while the kids are off school, you will most likely have to go during peak times.
I have been to Disney World many times during the busiest times and I can assure you, if you follow the rest of the tips in this article, you can still have a wonderful time with little waiting involved.
There are lots of sites that have “crowd calendars” that you can check to determine the best time to go. These calendars usually not only tell you how busy Disney World is expected to be on any certain day, but they will also tell you the expected crowd level of each of the individual parks for any given day.
If you are limited to peak times because of the kids’ school schedule, you can use these calendars to determine which park to visit on which day. Since we usually go during peak times, this is how I use these calendars, to determine the best park to go to on each day of our vacation. My favorite one to check is at Undercover Tourist.
We have been there many times when crowd levels were at their highest such as in the middle of summer and over Christmas break. In fact, we were even there for New Year’s Eve one year.
The next four tips become particularly important if you are planning a trip during a busy time for Disney World. Although we endured many days at crowd levels of “10” we still were able to have a great time by following the next few simple tips.
2. Get to the park early!
I mean at least 30 minutes before the park is set to open. Get through the bag check line and get in line for the gates as soon as you can. You may have to wait for 20 minutes or so in this line, but if you follow this one simple rule, you will be able to ride rides for most of the morning with little to no wait.
If there was just one single tip that I could give you that will make the biggest difference in the quality of your time spent at a Disney park, this is it. I really can’t stress it enough. Get there early and take advantage of riding all of the big rides before everyone else gets there. And as an added bonus, many times they will open the gates before the stated opening time. This has happened to us several times where we thought we had a half-hour wait, but we only waited for 10 or 15 minutes.
3. Have a Plan
Spend some time in advance before you go and pick out what you want to ride first. Prioritize the newest and most popular attractions first. The morning is the best chance you will have to ride them with little or no wait if you were unable to secure fast passes for them.
Make sure you grab a map (this is important, make sure to grab a map or two at the entrance) and walk quickly to where you are going. If you plan your morning out until about 11 am or so, you will be amazed at just how much you will be able to fit in.
If you want to take pictures, visit shops, watch shows or look at all the lovely scenery, do so after 11! The rides will start to form much longer lines the later in the morning it gets and you can do all of these things then, rather than when the rides have little to no lines.
If you do not have a plan of where you want to go next, you will waste valuable time discussing it with your family or group and actually coming to an agreement on what everyone wants to ride or do next. Even if you re-adjust your plan at some point, that is fine, just make sure you have one that you can at least loosely follow that will prevent any wasted time.
There are plenty of itinerary plans available based on how many days you have to spend at each park. You can print out these plans and they will at least give you a rough guide of the things you want to cover. If you want to really plan out your day, you can use Touring Plans software. For a membership subscription that lasts a year, the price is just $15.95. When you are spending the kind of money you are to get into the parks, this is money well spent in my opinion. However, if you are on a super strict budget, you can print out a free plan at Undercover Tourist.
4. Get your Disney fast passes and utilize them wisely.
I have a couple of different views on the best way to utilize these, but it really will depend on what rides you are able to obtain your fast passes for when you go to get them. On New Year’s eve when we went to Epcot last year, I got a fast pass for Test Track at 8:20 am. That meant we had to get into the park and ride Soarin” prior to 9:20 when our Test Track fast passes expired. We did so no problem and that ended up being a good strategy. This was an exception to my rule though, not the norm. I have more about navigating Epcot on New Year’s eve in a special article here.
Normally, however, I would not suggest getting the fast passes so early because unless it is a new attraction, you simply won’t need it (that does not apply to new attractions, because these fast passes are hard to get at any time in my experience). I would normally get my fast passes starting around 11:00 am and get them as close together as possible after that.
The reason I like to get them all as close together as possible is that once you have used them all you can use the app on your phone to get more. This works like a charm! I have been able to get more fast passes than your allotted initial three this way and I don’t think a lot of people take advantage of this. Either because they have a fast pass scheduled for late in the day or they just don’t know to do it. This is a good reason not to schedule a fast pass for late in the day. Because if you use your first two early in the day but have not used your third, you can’t get more unless you give up that third one for something else.
So if you have the opportunity, my advice is to get them starting at around 11 am and as close together as possible after that. You can read more about how to best utilize your fast passes for Magic Kingdom here.
5. Take a break
If you want to make sit down dinner reservations, make them for around 4 pm when the rides are super busy. This will also allow you to get into the air conditioning if it is in the heat of summer and simply sit down and take a break. This has always been a good time for us to eat because it is not so busy when everyone else will be wanting to eat, but it is late enough that you can take a break, get something to eat and still just grab an ice cream or snack later if you get hungry.
Or if you prefer, you can take a break altogether in the afternoon. If you are visiting in the summertime especially, it is not a bad idea to just go back to your hotel for a few hours during the height of the crowds and the height of the temperatures. This rest will do wonders and you can come back in the evening, fit in some rides or shows and stay for the nighttime entertainment.
If you follow these 5 simple Disney World trip planning tips, you will decrease the time that you have to wait in line and increase the fun!
Bonus Disney Trip Planning Tip
This really isn’t a tip about planning your Disney vacation, but a strategy we sometimes use to enjoy our Disney trip all that much more. We like to combine a park trip with a beach trip. Days spent in the Disney parks can be exhausting. That’s why we like to balance it with a trip to the beach added on to the end of our vacation.
This allows us to get in some relaxation before heading home. I’ve heard so many people say that they need a vacation from their vacation when they get home from going to the parks. There are several beaches you can go to that are pretty close to Disney World. If you know you are going to be spending long days at the park, try this strategy so you can relax a little on your vacation.
If you don’t want to actually drive to the beach, make sure you check out the Margaritaville Resort Orlando review. This might be a good alternative for you.
Also, be sure to check out 10 things to pack in your backpack for the Disney parks to make sure you don’t forget anything.
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