Disney World Trip Planning Tips
With so many attractions to choose from, it’s important to pick the right FastPass reservations for Magic Kingdom. Which Magic Kingdom attractions are worth your FP+ reservation? Which are worth skipping? Find out in our complete Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Guide.
Having to choose between Frozen Ever After, Soarin, and Test Track can be tough. Use our Epcot FastPass+ Guide and Tips feature to pick the best strategy for riding all of Epcot’s best attractions and saving hours of time in line. Click here for more information.
Did you know you can get a free Disney World vacation planning DVD or streaming video from Disney? This is a great way to learn about what each park has to offer, plus watching it is a fun way for everyone to get excited for your upcoming vacation. You can read more about it here, or you can click the graphic below to order your very own official Disney World DVD.
With a few in-demand attractions like Toy Story Midway Mania and Tower of Terror, FastPass+ strategy at Hollywood Studios is key to going on all the best rides and avoiding lines. Use our Hollywood Studios FastPass+ Tips and Guide to make the most out of your day at DHS.
Want to skip the waits at Animal Kingdom? Use our Animal Kingdom FastPass+ Tips and Guide to pick out the best FP+ reservations.
If you like rides and are planning a trip to Magic Kingdom, one of the biggest things is knowing what to FastPass. I decided to FastPass Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and a character meet and greet. Two other rides that you could FastPass would be Peter Pan's Flight or Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. I know you are probably wondering why we didn't fast pass Big Thunder and Splash Mountain, but there is a trick. Get to the park about an hour before it opens, and get your Magic Kingdom essential-rides when it first opens. A couple reasons why you should get there early is so that you can see the welcome show, and sometimes the park opens early. So as soon as the park opens head down to Frontierland and hop on Big Thunder Mountain: we rode this three times with no wait. When you are done with Big Thunder, head on over to Splash Mountain and you can ride that with no wait as well. After Splash Mountain I would go to the Pirates of the Caribbean, and then you have ridden three of the major rides in the park within the first two hours and then you are done with that area of the park. Then you can use your FastPasses later in the day for rides elsewhere. I hope this helps! Thanks to Hadlea for this tip!
A FastPass and ride strategy for Magic Kingdom!
Disney World is fun for everyone, but that doesn't mean that you're going to enjoy every single attraction. Since time is so limited once you start your Disney World vacation, it's super important to choose how you spend your time wisely. After our first trip to Disney, we calculated that we spent at least a quarter of our time on attractions (including waiting in line) that we wouldn't have gone on had we known what to expect. The solution for first timers is YouTube. Simply search for a POV video of the attraction you aren't sure of. You don't have to spoil the ride by seeing the entire video, you'll know within 20 seconds or so whether it would interest you or not. It can save you a lot of time throughout the parks. Thanks to Luis for this tip!
Everyone can make Fastpass+ reservations ahead of time. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort, you can make reservations 60 days in advance. Annual Passholders and guests with single or multi-day tickets can book Fastpass+ reservations 30 days in advance. All you need to do is create a My Disney Experience account by going to www.mydisneyexperience.com and link your ticket with your account.
The first week of October is a fantastic time to go to Disney World: the parks are practically empty. Even on the weekends, the LONGEST we waited in line was 10 minutes. We literally rode Space Mountain twice within 15 minutes. I talked to several people who said every year was like that. I'm sure there are other weeks that are the same. Thanks to Ellen for this tip!
Make your Fastpass+ reservations for early in the day, but not too early. Lines are the shortest right when the park opens, so try to time your Fastpass+ selections for an hour and a half to two hours after opening, as this will be when the crowds start hitting the parks. Also, by making your Fastpass+ reservations early in the day, you’ll have a better chance of getting more Fastpass+ selections once your third reservation is done.
The best time of the year to go to WDW is the first full week in December. We have gone the last 3 years at this time and we just can't explain it. You have to experience it for yourself. The first time we went at this time, I walked into the Magic Kingdom (the first day of our trip) and cried. I was so caught up in the "magic." The atmosphere and feeling that you will get is absolutely incredible. Where else would you want to be than Disney World during the Christmas Holiday. We always go for 8 days and you can get on rides with "NO" wait. We have found that by the 7th or 8th day of our trip that the crowds start to build. Since our first visit during this time of year, we have converted my older brother, my younger brother, all of our Disney geek friends, and finally convinced my mother to come on vacation with us this year - she has never been to Disney. Everybody loved going this time of year. Try it, you'll like it. Thanks to Sandy for this tip!
I visited December 26-December 30. I would never visit again during the Christmas Season: the lines and parks were unbearable! But I still managed to steal some time for enjoyment. If you're visiting during that time, just be sure to set your expectations accordingly! Thanks to Ruth for this tip!
Christmas is one of the most crowded times of the year.
Our family always waits for Free Dining to come around to book our trip. But, not only do we take advantage of that, we add on more food and park days than we are actually staying. It only costs a little bit more. Why would we add on more days if we aren’t staying that long??? You can reserve restaurants that take 2 table service meals and you don’t have to pay a lot more for a more expensive meal. Suddenly eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table doesn’t cost too much! Thanks to Bryan for this tip!
When making an Advanced Dining Reservation (especially during non-peak seasons), you should try making one as late in the day as possible. In many cases, priority seating is available around the time a park is closing. For example, when we were at the Disney's Hollywood Studios, it was closing at 7 pm, yet we got priority seating at the Brown Derby at 6:50. That allowed us to spend more time at the attractions, and by the time we left the park, we were almost alone as we walked to the exit and there were no crowds waiting to leave the parking lots. Thanks to Andrew for this tip!
Often the prices at sit-down restaurants are quite comparable to the "quick" food places when you consider all you'd need to buy at the snacky places to make an ample meal, plus you get more food at table service restaurants. More importantly, you'll get a much-needed break to rest and relax, away from the crowds! Eat off-hours and you'll also have the traditional meal hours to take advantage of much shorter lines, while everyone else is busy eating or standing in line at the counter service places! I couldn't imagine going to Disney World and not having a sit-down meal break once a day. Disney restaurants are often very good (check reviews and menus), you can make Advanced Dining Reservations ahead of time so waits aren't usually bad, and they provide atmosphere. Thanks to Julie for this tip!
If you really want a reservation, keep calling up until the day before to check for availability. I called today for the Cinderella breakfast and got a reservation for next Wednesday, exactly what I wanted. :-) People who made an ADR two months ago are now canceling their reservations. This also works for making reservations through Disney's website. Thanks to Aida for this tip!
The Epcot Food and Wine Festival makes September through November a great time to visit Walt Disney World, but watch out for the weekends. Epcot can get VERY crowded on Friday evening and all day Saturday. If you are at Disney World for vacation, try a different park at those times and hit Epcot during the week - the crowds are much better then. Thanks to Jim for this tip!
Avoid the park that is open for the early Extra Magic Hour. It’s nice for the first hour or so, but by 11:00 that park is usually packed, while the other parks are less crowded. If you are staying on Disney property, maybe go in for the Extra Magic Hour and then park hop to a less crowded park by 11.
Extra Magic Hours are a great perk, but can mean that the park will get crowded.
Before arriving at Disney World, plan what you are going to do each day. Check which parks open early and stay open late if you are staying onsite, decide if you want to go to do Extra Magic Hours. If you have a park hopper, plan on going to more than one park each day. Find out what days are for Extra Magic Hours nights for Magic Kingdom and take advantage of it. We did that on our last trip to WDW. We stayed at the All Star Movies Resort and we were able to go back there every afternoon for 2-3 hours; eat lunch, let the kids swim; take a nap. We went to all 4 parks using a 5-day park hopper, and we were able to see and do everything we planned on. So plan, plan, plan! You will be glad you did! Thanks to Debbie for this tip!
We went to the four parks and Blizzard Beach during our week there, so we were pretty busy. It definitely helped to have things mapped out ahead of time. We used Fastpass 2-3 times per day for the key rides, and it worked out great. If you Fastpass the busiest ride of an area, you can usually work it out so you enjoy the surrounding attractions and then just walk onto the busiest ride during your one hour window. Taking advantage of Fastpass and planning out which attractions we would go on, we never waited more than 15 minutes for a ride. Thanks to Stan for this tip!
Do not visit the Magic Kingdom on a Monday. It is packed! For many people, Magic Kingdom is the first park they go to, which makes the days or day after most people arrive typically very crowded. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are always better for the Magic Kingdom. Instead, visit one of the other three parks on Monday, as they will be much less crowded.
We were lucky enough to get the Disney Dining Plan included in our booking, this was a great bonus it saved us a fortune. Disney has done this promotion several times over the last few years. If you can get the free Disney Dining Plan during your trip to Disney World, I definitely would say get it! It's a great value!!! Thanks to Steve for this tip!
If you are planning to go to WDW at the end of August, be prepared for evening showers. It's a good idea to take your own poncho, since they are normally under $5. Of course, you can buy a poncho at Disney World, but those can sell for $10 each. Thanks to Miros for this tip!
When you go to the parks, get there about 30-40 minutes before the park opens because you’ll be able to ride all of your favorite rides before the crowds come. You’ll have very short waits for popular rides like Toy Story Midway Mania, Space Mountain, Soarin, or Expedition Everest.
Early bird gets the worm at Disney World.
When visiting the parks, I always set up a landmark with my party to meet up at in case we get separated and one of our cellphones runs out of battery. The key is that we pick a more obscure, less visited landmark, so that it’s easier to remember and easier to spot the other person among the crowd. Some examples: Fire Station at Magic Kingdom, Miss Piggy fountain at Hollywood Studios, Club Cool at Epcot, and the entrance of Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom.
Before you go to Orlando, make a rough itinerary with what you want to do each day. You can be as specific as you want to be, but at least having an idea of which parks you want to go to each day will help out a lot. By listing out which parks you want to visit each day, it will make selecting your Fastpass+ and dining reservations even easier. Once you have all your plans finalized, write it out, or use Disney’s MyDisneyExperience app to keep track of your reservations.
We put our clothing together in outfits and packed them that way. When we got ready each day, we weren't trying to figure out what we wanted to wear and what would go together. This is great for everyone, but especially people with kids. Let your kids put together outfits before the trip, pack them so that when you pick it up you have the whole outfit together, you dress, and you're off! Thanks to Becky for this tip!
Order your Disney World tickets before you leave for your vacation. You can do this by either going to your local Disney store, through a travel agent or AAA, or on Disney’s website. This saves you valuable time once you are at the park.
Sometimes it is worth it to get an Annual Pass, even if you are only visiting once in the year. Annual Passholders receive discounts on resorts, food, merchandise, and much more. Plus, the Annual Pass gives you the freedom to visit the parks for only a few hours in the day without worrying about wasting on of the days on your ticket. If you haven’t considered a Disney World annual pass before, take a look at your WDW vacation plans. It might actually save you money.
I recently booked a 10 day trip to WDW for our July visit. I made reservations at the Caribbean Beach through Disney directly. With a little prodding I was upgraded to the Polynesian for almost the same price as the Caribbean Beach (I'm paying about $25.00 more per night). The nice WDW representative said that you have to ask if invitational upgrades are available, they won't offer it to you unless asked. These "invitations" aren't always available, but if they are they'll bump you up one class of Resort: Value to moderate or moderate to deluxe. It never hurts to ask! Thanks to Bruce for this tip!
It never hurts to ask!
Don't be afraid to ASK for something. We recently stayed three nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge but had booked a room overlooking the pool (about $70/night less than a Savannah room, overlooking the animals). When we arrived we asked the very polite person behind the counter if we could get an upgrade to a Savannah room. She looked into and said yes. We saved $200 by asking that question AND had a much better room for three nights! Thanks to Jerry for this tip!
We purchased our Disney World tickets with our AAA discount at the AAA office prior to our trip, and it saved us more money than purchasing a package through Disney. Be sure to check with AAA to see what discounts are currently available. Thanks to Kathy for this tip!
We decided to rent a van during our trip. We didn't need it to get to the Disney parks, but thought it was an economical way to get back and forth to the airport, and we drove to the beach and a few other places also. You can find some good car rental deals on the internet, but snatch them up fast if you see them, because they are usually limited quantities or times. Thanks to Kathy for this tip!
We just got back from a trip to WDW. We drove from North Carolina to Orlando, so we had packed a small cooler in the car for the drive down. We took sodas, bottled water and some snacks. I had heard about people renting refrigerators for their room, but there is an ice vending machine on each floor. We just kept changing out the ice each morning or evening when it had melted and kept things cold. We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge, so we went to the Mercantile and bought pints of milk every other day or so, some small boxes of cereal and some other "breakfast" foods and just kept ice in the cooler. We kept the milk cold and didn't have to buy breakfast everyday. We also had cold water and sodas for whenever. So, I would recommend packing a small cooler and just keeping ice in it. Save your money on a fridge for souvenirs! Thanks to Karen for this tip!
We stayed on Disney property, so we did not need a car. We did book Murray Hill's Transportation Company to pick us up from the airport. It was wonderful. Our driver was there when we got off the plane waiting for us. He helped us with our bags. For the cost of $50 you get a grocery stop at Publix, a local grocery store (far less expensive that some of the more touristy stores). We picked up bottled water and munchies as well as styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons, milk and cereal. We brought along a collapsible cooler to keep the milk and water in and then just kept filling up the cooler with ice from the hotel. Having cereal in the morning was quick and easy and a real money saver! Breakfast at the food court will run you about $30.00 for a family of four. Thanks to Jennifer for this tip!
I have read several tips about sending packages to your hotel with snacks and other treats in the package. This is very costly even in comparison to buying treats at Disney World. What I have done in the past is pack another suitcase filled with snacks, crackers, candy, cereal bars, or whatever my children like for that moment. This way I haven't spent any money sending a package to the resort AND I have an extra empty suitcase for all the trinkets that are purchased in Disney World. Thanks to Molly for this tip!
Pack a suitcase full of snacks: Save money and have space for souvenirs on your return trip!
We booked a room at Wilderness Lodge for $197 per night with AAA discount. I then bought an Annual Pass (just one) and it knocked me down to $155 per night plus I was eligible for the DDE card. You don't need an Annual Pass for everyone in your party, you just need one to get the discount. Thanks to Frank for this tip!
Sometimes it really pays be thorough about your vacation. Beth writes, "Since I am obsessive in nature, I have been calling the 407-WDW-MAGIC line every day the last four days since I made my WDW reservation. I get new information regarding my reservation every time I call, depending on who I talk to. First, I asked if I could apply my AAA discount and was told I couldn't since I have a package deal. Don't assume they are saving you money with package deal! I got a Magic Your Way package for four nights, and three base passes for the park. When I asked for the break down, the person said she didn't have one. I needed to just add it myself and figure it out. I was too trusting at the moment and didn't bother. I then did my homework and saw no savings! Even worse, I found the vacation insurance they include as part of the package costs over $100. I called the next day to take it off and the representative admitted that I wasn't saving anything with this package--it comes out the same (only when I asked her about it). I called again today, got someone else, and told her that I would like to purchase rooms and tickets separately so that I could apply my AAA discount. I saved $220 by changing this. In just two days, I have saved myself $320 dollars by just being a pest and calling them each day." Thanks to Beth for this tip!
The Disney Dining Plan can save you a lot of hassle and planning while you're at Disney World. Plus, if you get it as part of a Disney resort package, you can pay for it in increments before you arrive. Guide2WDW reader Kim writes, "Could my family eat a lot cheaper than what I pay for the Dining plan? Sure. But with the dining plan, we get more character breakfasts and more themed dining than what I would pay for when we got there. Not to mention, when I get there, my entire vacation is paid for and I didn't have to charge anything or worry about trying to save the money to pay for it when I arrive." Thanks to Kim for this tip!
Guide2WDW reader Blaine advises to always call before you book your trip: "I was just reading an article stating to book everything online... Not so fast! Get the information and prices for your trip online, but call directly. They always have special codes that are not published to the general public if you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort. You have to ask for them. I found out a month before the Magic Your Way Tickets were upgraded for free to include the park hopper and more just by asking. ALWAYS CALL, either Walt Disney World Travel or your travel agent." Thanks to Blaine for this tip!
When going into the parks around mid-day, check your schedule to see which park opened 1 hour early that day. It will be the most crowded park for the remainder of the day! Thanks to Randy for this tip!
When we go to the parks, we try to get there early in the morning before the big crowds hit. We usually stay for a couple hours depending on the crowds, when it gets busy we head back to the resort and relax by the pool and catch an early dinner. We then return around 5pm (depending on which park and when it closes) the lines are considerably shorter and as the evening wears on the lines keep getting shorter, it is cooler and less humid. Last year we rode Splash Mountain 4 times in a row. The last time they did not even make us get out of our boat! Thanks to Jocelyn and Mike for this tip!