A trip to Walt Disney World is a magical thing, but the planners of the group know that it also requires a lot of preparation. You'll want to have a plan so that your valuable vacation time can be used to relax and enjoy all that the resort has to offer.
We understand that for some, a trip to Disney World is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, so we want to prepare you to get the most out of this special visit. We've collected some strategies to help you and your family have a stress-free trip. Here are our top 25 tips to maximize your time at Walt Disney World!
25 Tips to Maximize Your Time at Walt Disney World
1. Buy Tickets Online
The first step to maximizing your time at Disney World is purchasing your tickets in advance. You don't want to lose crucial minutes sorting out your tickets at the park entrance. Did you know Undercover Tourist offers hoppin' deals on Walt Disney World tickets? Once you buy and link your tickets, you must also book your Disney park pass reservation for each day of your trip. You can only enter with a valid ticket AND park reservation, so be sure you have both squared away before you leave!
2. Pick the Best Times to Visit
While it's always a good time to visit Disney World, there are times during the year that are busier than others. Crowd levels are always higher during peak times — spring break, summer, the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas through New Year's Eve. Lots of frogs head down to Florida during holidays and school breaks. A magical trip is still toadally doable during busier times, but you'll definitely want to follow all these tips to get the most out of your trip. Hop on over to the best times to visit Disney World for more information.
3. Stay On-site at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel
There are lots of benefits to staying on-site at a Disney World Resort hotel. You are fully immersed in the Disney atmosphere and have quicker access to the parks. You receive extra perks such as extra hours in the parks or early bookings of individual Lightning Lane selections or special event tickets. Staying on property is a great step to maximizing your time as you can remain right in the action.
4. Or Stay Off-Site at a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel
If you're unable to stay on-site, stay close by at one of the many Disney Good Neighbor hotels. Most hotels still get many of the on-site perks, all for typically a lower cost. You may have to deal with a bit more effort with transportation, but this is a great way to remain close to Disney World and have a great vacation. Undercover Tourist offers great deals on Walt Disney World hotels and other locations.
5. Download the My Disney Experience App
A crucial step to a well-planned vacation is downloading the My Disney Experience app. This app is your ultimate connection to planning and maintaining your vacation. It's the same as logging in to your account on a desktop, just more easily accessible on your phone. This will help you with pre-planning, as well as during your trip. You can check wait times, mobile order food, use Disney Genie, access your photos and more. Hop on over to our hop-ful guide for more information.
6. Book Advance Dining Reservations
While the quick-service restaurants in the parks are always an option, it can be nice to book at least one sit-down meal. For that, we highly recommend making Advance Dining Reservations, or "ADRs" for short. With a variety of dinner shows, character meals, fine dining, buffets, special themed restaurants and more, there's plenty to choose from. Reservations open 60 days in advance, while those staying at an on-site hotel can book 60 days plus the length of their trip. Learn more about the ins and outs of advanced dining reservations.
7. Book Extra Experiences
To save time, you'll want to book special experiences ahead of time, such as building your own lightsaber or your own droid at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. These reservations also open up 60 days in advance and are very popular. You may decide to splurge for a fireworks dessert party which provides you with reserved seating for a nighttime spectacular. We suggest exploring any extra experiences in advance so you can secure those bookings.
8. Explore Disney Genie
Disney Genie+ is the paid skip-the-line option currently offered at Disney World. For an additional cost per ticket per day, guests can upgrade to the Disney Genie+ service, which will allow them to choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. Additionally, guests can make individual attraction selections for select high-demand attractions (that aren't included with Genie+) in order to use the Lightning Lane entrance. You can save significant time by bypassing the standby queue. For more details, hop over to our Disney Genie guide.
9. Buy Memory Maker Ahead of Time
If you're going all-in on this magical trip, you'll certainly want to remember it with lots of photos. Disney has lots of PhotoPass photographers stationed throughout the parks to capture these awesome memories. While getting your photos taken is free, you'll need to pay for digital downloads or prints. To get the most bang for your buck, consider purchasing Memory Maker, which gives you unlimited photo downloads from your whole trip. Learn more about PhotoPass and Memory Maker in our complete guide.
10. Know What to Pack
You'll want to make sure your bag has all of the park essentials. First up — sunscreen! It's a must while spending so much time outside in Florida. While it may be considered as the Sunshine State, it also rains a lot, so you'll want to bring your own umbrella or pack of ponchos (this is also a great money saver versus buying the pricer ones in the parks). Next up, a portable phone charger, as you'll be using your phone a lot throughout the day. Finally, bring your own reusable water bottle and some snacks to save time and money.
11. Know What NOT to Pack
You'll want to also keep in mind what items are prohibited at Disney World. Some common items you'll want to leave at home are selfie sticks, wagons, extra-large strollers, alcoholic beverages (except at the hotels) and toys that resemble weapons. There are security checkpoints at all four parks and Disney Springs, so save time and leave those items behind (otherwise, you may need to throw them out or return them to your car or hotel room).
12. Consider Purchasing MagicBands
Entering the park, getting photos, accessing Lightning Lanes — all this and more requires your ticket. Instead of having to pull out the physical card or your phone each time, what if there was a way for it to easily live right on your wrist? MagicBands are wristbands that act as your ticket, allowing you to easily tap into a touchpoint. You can choose from tons of fun designs to choose and you're able to use your band, trip after trip. MagicBand+ debuted in 2022 as the newest iteration of this high-tech band with even more awesome interactive features. For more tech-savvy options, consider using your phone as your ticket with Disney MagicMobile.
13. Understand how BIG the Resort Is
If you're planning your first visit, it's hard to wrap your head around just how big the resort is. Walt Disney World Resort covers more than 25,000 acres — it's like its own city! There are four theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs, over 25 resort hotels and more. It's exciting because there's so much to do, but it also means there's some more planning involved. You'll need to adjust to more transit time, especially those used to the walkability of the smaller Disneyland Resort in California.
14. Know Your Transportation Plan
Knowing how large Disney property is, you'll want to allow time for transportation. Disney offers complimentary bus service between the theme parks and hotels, as well as Disney Springs and the water parks. Depending on which park you're going to, you have access to monorails, boats and gondolas (oh my!). Whether you're driving or using Disney transportation, allow extra travel time and know that you can't walk to most places. For more transportation planning, hop over to our Disney World transportation guide.
15. Get to the Parks Early
I know ... waking up early on vacation doesn't initially sound appealing, but trust me, you'll want to make the most of your vacation. Those first few hours can help shape the rest of your day. You may hear the term "rope dropping," which is arriving before the official park opening, where cast members will lead everyone in an organized fashion (typically with a long rope). You'll find the shortest wait times if you can get up and go, not only in ride queues but also in lines for Disney transportation or parking toll booths. It's never fun to lose crucial park hours waiting in a long line of cars.
16. Take Advantage of Early Theme Park Entry or Extended Evening Hours
Speaking of arriving early, if you're staying at a Walt Disney World hotel or another eligible hotel, you'll want to take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry. Early Entry is offered for 30 minutes before park opening at every park, every day! This means getting a head start on popular rides such as Avatar Flight of Passage or Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Select Deluxe Resorts also receive Extended Evening Hours, which hoppen on select nights for two hours after park close. You'll see some of the lowest wait times during these additional hours, so you'll definitely want to utilize these perks!
17. Follow Our Park Plans
To truly maximize your time at Disney World, you'll want to have a plan in place for what you want to prioritize. We've created park plans for each of the four theme parks with our recommended order of rides to help you get as much done as possible.
18. Use Rider Switch, If Traveling with Young Children
When traveling with tadpoles and froglets of different ages, there may be some rides that the little ones won't do, either due to intensity or height requirements. Disney has a great solution allowing everyone who wants to ride to be able to do so. Using Rider Switch, Leap and Tad can wait in line and ride while I wait with Lily. Once they're done, I can then hop right back on with Tad (lucky him — someone always gets to ride twice!). For more information on height requirements and Rider Switch, check out our separate guide.
19. Stay Cool and Hydrated
Florida has its own level of heat and humidity to deal with, especially in the summer, so be sure to drink lots of water (more than you think because being out in the sun is very draining). You can get free cups of water at almost every quick-service restaurant. Be sure to reapply sunscreen regularly. Dealing with a bad sunburn is never fun on vacation. Check out our guide on our top tips to beat the heat at Disney World.
20. Use Mobile Order
We highly recommend mobile ordering your meals to save time (and prevent getting too #hangry while waiting in line). Nearly all quick-service restaurants throughout the resort utilize mobile ordering. It's pretty easy to set up Mobile Ordering using the My Disney Experience app, and we've got a full guide to walk you through it.
21. Eat During Non-peak Hours
A lot of our advice is trying to have you zig while others zag. This also comes into play with meal times. If possible, aim to eat lunch around 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. It's less crowded to eat and you can knock out some rides while everyone else is eating lunch. Ride wait times start to get high in the afternoon after lunchtime, so you can try to reverse that in order to save some time. Disney days often start very early so we usually get hungry for lunch early anyway!
22. Take a Break in the Afternoon
We know what you're thinking — how can I take a break if I'm maximizing my time? It depends on your family. You may need to head back for some pool or nap time in the afternoon, but then return so you're refreshed to stay until park close. If staying in the parks, a break can mean hopping into an indoor show to sit down and cool off. Maybe it's booking a late lunch reservation and taking your time. Whatever you choose, make sure you recharge in the afternoon. Your feet will thank you when you're walking back to the bus at night!
23. Utilize Single Rider Lines
To cut down on ride wait times, consider using Single Rider lines. Some attractions use single riders to fill in gaps from odd-numbered parties. Four attractions offer Single Rider lines — Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Hollywood Studios, Test Track at EPCOT and Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. Remember that your party will be separated, so you will not ride together. This is best for adults or teens who are OK with experiencing the ride on their own. Note that the Single Rider lines may not always be available.
24. Check Showtimes for Entertainment
We highly recommend seeing the many parades, characters and fireworks that Disney has to offer. Check the My Disney Experience app for all showtimes. Head to the map feature where you can filter by wait times, characters, entertainment and more. This is super hop-ful for seeing when a character will come out, as well as how many shows are performing for the day. Fireworks times can vary so it's best to double-check the week leading up to the visit, as well as the day of.
25. Hop on a Ride at Park Close
Disney will close ride lines at exactly park closing time, but everyone in the queue will still get to ride the attraction. So if the park closes at 9 p.m., you can hop in line at 8:59 p.m. and still enjoy the ride. This is when you'll see some of the shortest wait times for attractions — most will be walk-ons. This is when we recommend riding top attractions such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Flight of Passage and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. You'll still have a wait but it will be significantly shorter, and you're using bonus time since the parks are now closed.
How does your family maximize your time at Disney World? Let us know in the comments below!
Related: Planning a Disney World Trip in 2023? Here Are The Key Things to Know