Disney World Tips by Category

These are the best tips and tricks for going to Disney World. We’ve curated these tips over four decades of visiting WDW and over 20 years of running Guide2WDW. Whether you’re looking for ways to save time, spend less money, or just have more fun at Disney World, these tip pages are a great place to start.

The Latest WDW Tips & Tricks

Mickey Mouse Watch - Disney World Tip

Tip: Set your alarm for before 7 am during your Disney World trip

7 am is a very important time for Disney World guests. With virtual queues, Genie+, and Lightning Lane, you'll want at least one person from your party up at 7 am with the MyDisneyExperience app open to be able to plan your day.

Here's everything that becomes available for your Disney World day starting at 7 am:

  • First draw for Virtual Queues open up at 7 am for all guests. Currently, a virtual queue is used at Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (once it opens on May 27). Disney World previously used the virtual queue at Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Disney has announced that they might use virtual queues at certain popular attractions even on a temporary basis, so be sure to check the MDE app to see what attractions are using virtual queues at Disney World and plan accordingly. If you miss the 7 am draw, more virtual queue spots open up at 1 pm (and 6 pm for Deluxe Resort Guests on Extended Evening Hour nights). You can read all the details you need to know in our Disney World Virtual Queue Guide.
  • Genie+ Lightning Lane access becomes available for all guests at 7 am. You'll be able to make your first Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation of the day starting at 7, so this will be your best shot at getting early Lightning Lane access to a popular ride like Slinky Dog Dash or Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run.
  • Individual Lightning Lane Selections become available for purchase for resort guests at 7 am. Not included in Genie+, these are a la carte Lightning Lane purchases available at the two most popular rides in each park - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Magic Kingdom, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot, Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios, and Flight of Passage  at Animal Kingdom. You can pick which time of day you'd like to purchase your Lightning Lane reservations, and you can purchase up to two per person per day.

If you have multiple people who are up and have the MyDisneyExperience app open, designate one person to focus on Virtual Queues, one person to focus on Genie+, and one person to focus on Individual Lightning Lane Selections. If you are the only person setting all the plans for your party, we would recommend prioritizing Virtual Queue (if the attraction is one of your must dos), Genie+, then Individual LL selections, in that order.

Epcot at Night - Disney World Tip

Tip – You can stay in the park past closing

Disney World theme parks don’t actually close at closing.

Confusing? Kinda. But it actually makes sense. When the park closes, there are thousands of guests still inside the park, and everything doesn’t instantly shut down. The listed closing time really acts as a last call to get in line for a ride. When the park closes, no more guests can get in line, but the guests who are already in line will be able to ride. Disney doesn’t just kick them out. In fact, some shops will remain open past closing time so the final guests who are getting off of their last ride of the day still have a chance to make some merchandise purchases.

EPCOT usually closes at 9 PM. At 8:59 PM, you could jump in line for Frozen Ever After, even if it has a 1 hour wait time. At 9:01 PM, you’d be too late to get in line. But Harmonious starts at 9 PM. You could watch the fireworks show on World Showcase lagoon, and then afterwards leisurely explore the World Showcase as you head to the exit. In fact, this is one of my favorite things to do at Disney World. I love just walking through World Showcase after the fireworks are done and the crowds have dispersed. It’s a really peaceful and beautiful time in the park, and one of the times Disney World is guaranteed to feel calm. After park closing is also a great time to snap some unique pictures.

There are limits to how late you can stay in the park. Disney security will start politely directing guests to the park exits at a certain point, but that usually doesn’t start happening until 1 hour after park closing.

TLDR: You can stay inside Disney World parks past closing, and there’s actually a lot you can do.

Space 220 - Interior Epcot Restaurant

Tip: Remember Park Hopping rules when making dining reservations

Making dining reservations at Disney World used to be simpler. Make a reservation at a restaurant and then show up at the reserved time — like every other restaurant in the world. However, the arrival of the Park Pass reservation program throws a wrench into the works. With the Park Pass program, you need a specific park reservation to enter that theme park on the date. So to enter Magic Kingdom, you need a Park Pass reservation for Magic Kingdom. The Park Pass determines which park you enter first. If you have a single park ticket, that is the only park you can that day. If you have a Park Hopper ticket, you can go to a different park, but only after you’ve entered the park you have a reservation for and when park hopping starts, which is 2 PM right now.

If you have a single park ticket, you must have both a reservation for the restaurant and a valid park pass reservation for the park the restaurant is in. In other words, if you get an elusive table at Space 220, aka one of the hardest reservations to get at Disney World, be sure to also have a park reservation for EPCOT on that date.

If you have a Park Hopper ticket, be sure that any reservations for before 2 PM are at the park you have a Park Pass for. You can enter another park starting at 2 PM, so if you have a Hollywood Studios Park Pass but you get a 3 PM reservation for Be Our Guest, you will be still able to dine at the Beast’s castle. If that reservation was at 1 PM, you would need to have a Magic Kingdom Park Pass in order to use your reservation.

TLDR: If you have a dining reservation at a restaurant inside the parks, make sure you also have a valid Park Pass reservation and know about the 2 PM park hopping rules!

Trader Sam's Bartender - Canon EOS M

Tip – The Trick to Get Validated Parking at Trader Sam’s at Disneyland

At Disneyland, parking can be pricy. You can park in the Simba Lot by Downtown Disney for $10 for the first hour, and then each additional hour is $14. That can add up quickly if you don’t get parking validation. You can get validation with a $20 purchase at a merchandise location in Downtown Disney that gives you an additional 3 hours beyond that first hour, or you can get validation at Downtown Disney table service restaurants that gives you an additional 5 hours beyond the first hour. Parking used to be free with validation for those periods of time, but Disney changed the rules so that you always have to pay for the first hour, even with validation.

But what if you want to go to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, located at Disneyland Hotel? This extremely popular bar is highly themed, but it doesn’t offer any sort of validation for parking, either at Disneyland Resort or at Downtown Disney. Since the wait here can be at least an hour, you could pay a really high price to enjoy a Krakatoa at the bar.

However, a cast member just gave me a tip on a recent trip that lets you use the rules of validation at Downtown Disney to your advantage and get validated parking at Trader Sam’s in a roundabout way. The trick is simple: Go to any of the merchandise locations at Downtown Disney like World or Disney or Star Wars Trading Post. Purchase a $20 Disney Gift Card and have the cashier validate your parking to get an extra 3 hours for free. Then use the Disney Gift Card you just purchased at Trader Sam’s to pay for part of your bill. That way you can get parking validation for Downtown Disney without paying extra for merchandise you might not want.

Tip: This hack will keep your feet dry when it rains at Disney

Even if you’re prepared with a poncho and umbrella, there’s one big problem you’ll run into at Disney World or Disneyland during a rainy day: your feet will get soaked. While packing a change of socks and a Ziploc bag like we suggest in our WDW Emergency Packing Essentials is a good solution, you might not have remembered these items, and your feet might still get wet after you’ve changed into your fresh socks. A few years ago during a rainy day at Animal Kingdom, my wife figured out a Disney World life hack that kept her feet dry all day.

Go into a shop and ask for two small plastic shopping bags. You can wear them as an extra layer between your socks and your shoes, and they do a great job keeping your socks and feet dry. If you’re worried about how this might look, you can easily stuff the extra plastic of the bag into your shoes if you’re wearing regular tennis shoes. But this isn’t a fashion-forward tip: it’s a practical way to avoid having soggy socks and feet all day.

Wet Bag - Umbrella Bag - Disney World and Disneyland Rainy Day Tip

During a recent trip to Disneyland, I actually employed this hack with two umbrella bags that Disney put out in front of the World of Disney store. While my shoes got wet, my socks and feet stayed completely dry. This made for a much better park-going experience in the rain, and I felt much more comfortable throughout the whole day.

You could also use this tip before going on Splash Mountain, Grizzly River Run, or Kali River Rapids to keep your feet dry.

Rise of the Resistance - Disney World and Disneyland Rise

Tip: Rise of the Resistance can close early at Disneyland

During a quick trip to Disneyland, I had made plans to run into the park from our hotel room to ride Rise of the Resistance after my wife and young son had gone to bed for the night. The park was open until midnight, and I was hopeful that I could leverage the evening’s shorter wait times and an Individual Lightning purchase to get on the ride at least twice.

In classic Star Wars fashion, my plans went awry.

No, they weren’t thwarted by an evil Galactic Empire or a Sith Lord. Instead, it was a quirk of the Disneyland operating schedule that knocked my ship out of hyperspace. It turns out, on the day of my visit, Rise of the Resistance was only operating from 8 am until 8 pm, despite the park being open until 12 am. There was a full four hours of park operation time where the number one attraction wasn’t open.

Certain attractions being only open part of the operating day at Disneyland isn’t new. Toontown and certain Fantasyland rides will shut down early. However, I had not been aware of the shortened operating hours for Rise of the Resistance until I discovered the hard way. Rise also had an 8 pm closing time on the second day of my trip, and it’s the closing time on the day of this writing.

Rise of the Resistance Hours - Disneyland App

Operating hours are fluid and can change from day to day. The lesson here is to check the Disneyland app to see the operating hours for Rise of the Resistance. Tap on the attraction on the park map or the Disney Genie tip board to open the details page for Rise of the Resistance. Scroll down and you’ll see the hours listed. Then you can adjust your plans accordingly!

Note: This tip applies to Disneyland, which regularly has longer operating hours than Hollywood Studios. Rise of the Resistance typically runs from park opening to close at Hollywood Studios.

Tower of Terror - Disney World

Tip: Why you should always go on Tower of Terror or Haunted Mansion when there’s a 13 minute wait.

If you're superstitious, 13 can be a spooky, scary number. But if you're at Magic Kingdom or Disney's Hollywood Studios, 13 can be a green light to go on one of Disney World's best rides with no wait. At both Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror, if there's a posted wait time of exactly 13 minutes, it's code that there's almost no wait at all. When there's a 13 minute wait posted, it usually means you can walk straight through the line and into the pre-show room almost immediately, so a 13 minute wait may actually mean a 5 minute wait or shorter. This is a fun way that Disney adds theming even to the wait times, and it's a nod to Disney World pros that they should put a dead stop to their current plans and go on these spooktacular rides.

Slinky Dog Dash - Disney World Roller Coaster

Tip: Pick your Lightning Lane priorities as your “Top Picks” in Disney Genie

When you sign up for Disney Genie, you'll be asked what your Top Picks are in each park. This lets Disney Genie know your preferences and give you smart suggestions throughout the day. But for power-users, there's an even more useful way to use Top Picks. The Tip Board section of Disney Genie lists all attractions alphabetically, but it places your Top Picks at the top of the list. The Tip Board section is also where you will be booking your Lightning Lane reservations. You can save yourself a lot of scrolling and put the attractions that you're most interested in getting Lightning Lane reservations for as your Top Picks. That way when you scroll to refresh the Tip Board, you'll see the updated Lightning Lane slots for the attractions you're interested in first. This tip could be the difference between snagging that elusive Slinky Dog Dash Lightning Lane slot and missing out.

Star Wars Rise of the Resistance

Tip: What to do if your Individual Lightning Lane attraction breaks down.

If you purchase an Individual Lightning Lane reservation, it is non-refundable and non-cancellable. But what happens if the ride breaks down during your return window? It can happen, especially with technically complicated rides like Rise of the Resistance. First of all, your return window will automatically be extended to the end of the day. So keep checking the official Disney app to see if the ride reopens. This information can be found in the Disney Genie Tip Board or the park map in the app. If you are able to go back onto the attraction at a later time, then just arrive at the Lightning Lane entrance. There might be a mini-rush to get in line as soon as the ride reopens, so if you have time, you might want to wait a little bit for the initial glut of guests to die down to have the shortest wait time possible.

What if the ride doesn't reopen for the rest of the day? Unfortunately, you won't be able to go on the ride with your Lightning Lane reservation. Fortunately, you will be automatically refunded, but only if the ride doesn't reopen for the rest of the day.

What if you can't go on the ride once it reopens? This is a trickier situation. If there's a reason that you can't make it to the Individual Lightning Lane attraction after it reopens, such as a dining reservation, or you left the park and you couldn't come back, you will need to go to Guest Relations. They will be able to give you a refund, but it won't be automatically triggered. This is the only scenario where you can get an Individual Lightning Lane refund.

For more in-depth info, check out our Guide 2 Disney Genie, which lets you know everything you need to know about Disney World and Disneyland's new line-skipping systems.

Tip: Lightning Lane offers a grace period

Running a bit early or late for your Lightning Lane reservation at Disney World? No worries. Like FastPass+, Lightning Lane offers a grace period buffer outside of your reserved time slot. The Lightning Lane grace period lets guests be 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late to their Lightning Lane reservation. If you have a Haunted Mansion Lightning Lane timeslot for 12 pm - 1 pm, that means your actual window is 11:55 am - 1:15 pm. This extra 20 minutes can help you plan accordingly if you have overlapping reservations.

This applies to both Genie+ Lightning Lane and Individual Lightning Lane Selections.

If you are running more than 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late for your Lightning Lane reservation, talk to the cast member stationed at the Lightning Lane entrance. In our experience, if you explain your situation politely, they will usually be accommodating, but this is not guaranteed.

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Want to go more in-depth? These articles take our tips and tricks and explain them in much more detail. For even more ways to plan your Disney World vacation, don’t miss our Disney World Guides.

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