General Tips for Walt Disney World
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.
If it's your birthday, be sure to wear your complimentary birthday button around the parks and resorts! You can get them at Guest Services at each park, or ask the front desk at your hotel to see if they have any birthday buttons. At the very least, cast members will give you a nice birthday greeting throughout the day, but you can sometimes get special treatment, like a free dessert or FastPass. This might also work for special occasions like anniversaries. Want more Disney World freebies? Check out our list of the Best Walt Disney World Freebies. Thanks to David for this tip!
If you're anxious about beating the crowds at the end of the day to get your bus back to your WDW hotel- don't! The buses run up to an hour after the park officially closes. Relax, take your time, and then get the bus after the crowds have dissipated. This isn't the best for small children who may be exhausted, but for older families, couples, etc. - this is a really good option! And you get a slightly calmer Walt Disney World. Thanks to Margaret for this tip!
eBay can be a great resource for buying cheap Vinylmation or Disney Pins. We’ve been able to find reputable sellers who will sell a lot of pins or Vinyls for the fraction of their retail price. It’s great to buy a bunch of these and then go in and trade with Cast Members. Beware of knockoffs, though. Some shady people sell counterfeit pins and Vinylmation, and cast members will not trade for knockoffs.
Guide2WDW reader M recounts a story about what happened when he lost his backpack on a ride: "On Dinosaur in Animal Kingdom, be sure to use the net bags for any loose articles you bring into the car including backpacks. Although we weren't even aware of it until the ride ended, our fully loaded backpack flew out. This happened on our first ride of the day and could not be retrieved until 5:30 after the ride closed. Even heavy articles on the floor will not stay in the car. This ride has cameras throughout and the staff was able to pinpoint the location of the backpack and put our minds at rest that it was out of harm's way. All lost items found are brought to the Guest Relations building in the front of the park at the end of the day." Thanks to M for this tip!
I was at Epcot last fall and it was raining, humid and very warm. There were many Disney poncho’s on the visitors. Just about everyone was sweating under the rain gear. I decided to buy a small collapsible umbrella, but I could not find one. I asked the cashier and she had some under the counter. The umbrella worked perfectly, I stayed cool and it folded up into a small package which I stuck into my back pocket. Thanks to John for this tip!
Sometimes a small umbrella can beat a poncho on a humid day.
When you're at the World Showcase at Epcot, explore every inch of every country. You'll find loads of fun things just off the beaten path. Morocco is a lovely pavilion that is so much fun to explore. Go through each of the shops in each country. Lastly, there is a little area kind of behind and below the pub in England, which is a really great place to watch IllumiNations! Thanks to Jeff for this tip!
Is it your birthday? Be sure to wear your birthday button, available from Guest Services at each park. Cast members will wish you a happy birthday, you might get a free birthday dessert at certain Disney World table service restaurants, and the Dapper Dans might even sing you their rendition of "Happy Birthday to You." It's a great way to feel even more special on your special day. Thanks to Jennifer for this tip!
If you are celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary, or even your first visit to Disney World, head to guest relations and let the cast member know what you are celebrating. They will give you a free button that you can wear depending on what you’re celebrating!
The lines to a lot of rides get shorter around one hour before a parade, as people start lining along the parade route. If you have already seen the parade (or don’t care to see it), this is a good time to ride the most popular attractions.
Save money at Disney World counter service restaurants throughout the parks by requesting the entree without the sides. They normally don’t list this as an option on the menu, but they will do this. By ordering a sandwich without the fries, you can often save over $2!
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.
If you want to ride a popular ride, but couldn't get a Fastpass+ reservation and the standby lines are too long during the day, get in line within a half hour before park closing. Two reasons for this. 1: Disney policy is that anyone in line at park closing gets to ride, even if they don't get on until after the official closing time, and 2: there will be very few Fastpass riders entering (none after closing), so the actual wait time will be MUCH shorter than the posted standby time. Thanks to Joel for this tip!
When using the Walt Disney World transportation system (mainly the buses from the resorts to the parks), make sure you catch the right bus. Ask the driver where he/she is going and what stops if any there are: you may be farther away from your goal then you think. Be careful if a bus pulls up and the scrolling destination in the window changes. Ask the driver where he/she is going. Don't EVER assume a bus is going somewhere, you may be taking a long ride. Finally, during really busy seasons, try to get to the bus before the park closes...jockeying for a seat with 100 other tired, sunburned guests as everyone leaves can be a nightmare...this is especially true if you have small kids. Leave the park early and it is much smoother. Thanks to Jason for this tip!
Even if you do buy your own cheaper and smaller pins at home before taking a trip to Walt Disney World, Cast Members will always trade with you. Don't feel bad for buying a bunch of cheap pins off of eBay and then trading them with a CM: they don't even buy their pins. They are provided to CMs by management, and those pins are free anyhow. I have personally seen the stacks of pins in the back offices of most parks and Cast Members just pick out of a big box. (Sidenote: when buying pins off of eBay, be sure you're not buying counterfeit or knock-off pins. Cast Members will only trade their pins for legit Disney pins.) Thanks to Mike for this tip!
Whenever I have visited Walt Disney World (always in July/August), it has been extremely hot. To save money on drinks, ask for a large cup of ice! The ice is free and cools you down. Counter service restaurants will always give you a free cup of ice or water. Thanks to Karen for this tip!
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.
Annual passes can save you money, and a lot of stress!
Bring a backpack to the theme parks to carry extra water bottles and snacks. By buying them beforehand and bringing them into the parks with you, you can avoid some of the high prices for these items. Thanks to Karen for this tip!
The best grocery store to shop at in the WDW area is Publix - much better prices than Gooding's. Take a right out of the main gate and go about two miles and look for the green Publix sign. I talked to the locals and that is where they go. They call Gooding's the tourist's grocery store. Thanks to Roger and Denise 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!
There are two Disney Store outlets in the Orlando area that carry park merchandise. We’ve been there a few times, and we’ve found the items they have in stock to be great! We’ve even found some items that were still on sale in the parks at a deep discount. This is a great way to get save money on shirts, bags, Vinylmation figures, and pins. Read more about one of our trips to the Disney Character Warehouse Outlet in Orlando here.
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!
Try using the single rider line at Test Track, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Expedition Everest. If you don’t mind riding alone or being split up from your party, your wait time will be dramatically reduced.
Look out for the single rider line at some of WDW's most popular rides.
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!
My fiancée and I have been to Disney World a total of 5 times since 2000 and it was really just last year that we started to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours benefit offered to guests of Walt Disney World Resorts. What a difference going a bit early or staying a bit late makes in terms of waiting in lines! First of all, it’s much cooler than in the middle of the day when the sun is its warmest. Second of all, the waits for rides are cut in half!! There aren’t as many people around at these hours, especially at night, so a normal wait for Splash Mountain might take 2 hours, but at night you might only wait ten minutes. I understand that staying late might be difficult for families with young children, but if you can manage it, then I highly suggest you do it. Thanks to Heather G for this tip!
If you are traveling with more than two people, I recommend purchasing walkie-talkies before you go. We had 2 Cobra walkies during our Disney World trip, and they were unbelievably useful. My husband and I could split up with the kids and always be in contact. They are especially useful if someone is going to "meet you by the castle" later. We've done that pre-walkie and always wandered around looking for people. They have a 2 mile range and give you freedom and security of not being separated! Even though we also have cellphones, we find these useful in case we run out of battery or can't get a signal. Thanks to Elise for this tip!