Mickey Mouse Watch - Disney World Tip

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.

Space 220 - Interior Epcot Restaurant

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!

Wine Bar George Upstairs Patio

Are you at Disney Springs and don't see any dining reservations in the Disney World app? Check again on OpenTable. Many Disney Springs restaurants also use OpenTable for dining reservations, and we've had a lot of good luck grabbing last minute lunch or dinner reservations using OpenTable. As an extra bonus, OpenTable offers rewards and a more lenient cancellation policy, so you might want to use their system over the Disney World app or website when you can.

OpenTable Disney Springs

Here are a few of the Disney Springs restaurants that are available on OpenTable:

  • Wine Bar George
  • STK
  • Terralina
  • Raglan Road
  • Paradiso 37
  • Splitsville
  • House of Blues
  • Planet Hollywood

If you are planning to go to WDW during the summer, be prepared for afternoon and evening showers. It's a good idea to bring your own poncho. Of course, you can buy a poncho at Disney World, but those can sell for $10 each. Amazon sells a poncho pack of 10 for around $13-15, a huge savings over spending $40-$50 for your whole family at WDW.

Disney World Unique Offer Code

Disney will send out personalized, non-transferrable offer codes to guests that they want to nudge towards booking a Disney World vacation. These Unique Offer Codes (formerly known as PIN codes) can be some of the best Disney World discounts available. You can increase your odds of getting one of these codes by signing up for free Disney accounts. Check out our guide on how to get a Unique Offer Code to find links and get more information.

Frozen Ever After - Epcot 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.

Toy Story Land - Disney's Hollywood Studios - Walt Disney World

Extra Magic Hours are a great perk, but can mean that the park will get crowded. 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. If you are not staying at a hotel that is eligible for EMH, definitely avoid the park that is open for the early Extra Magic Hour.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - Roller Coaster- Magic Kingdom Attraction

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!

POV - Dumbo the Flying Elephant - Magic Kingdom-Attraction

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.

Everyone can make Fastpass+ reservations ahead of time. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort or a Good Neighbor hotel, 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.

Space Mountain Exterior - Magic Kingdom Attraction

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. 

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.

Magic Kingdom Tips - Cinderella Castle - Walt Disney World

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.

Santa Claus in the Parade - Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

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!

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!

Hollywood Brown Derby - Hollywood Studios Restaurant

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.

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.

If you really want a reservation, keep checking DisneyWorld.com or the Disney World app up until the day before to check for availability. I checked 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.

If you want to see, take pictures, or otherwise interact with Disney characters, I highly recommend that you schedule a character meal. We did breakfast at both Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Although pricey, we got into the parks before other people, ate, interacted and took pictures of at least 5 characters at each venue. This will save an indeterminable amount of time waiting in line elsewhere in the park.

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.

Eric's Castle - Journey of the Little Mermaid - Magic Kingdom Attraction

Tip: Planning can be the key to your Disney World vacation. 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!

Tower of Terror - Fastpass Plus

Tip: Make a plan before you head to Orlando. 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.

Magic Carpets of Aladdin - Magic Kingdom Attraction

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.

Be Our Guest - Sandwich - Magic Kingdom Dining - Disney World

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!!!

Ms Piggy Fountain - Muppet Vision 3D - Hollywood Studios Attraction

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.

MyDisneyExperience - Fastpass+ Selection Screen

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!

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, and you will be able to book Fastpass+ reservations 30-60 days in advance when you link your ticket to your Disney World account.

Premiere Annual Pass

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!

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!

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.

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.

If you are in an area that Southwest services, get their Ding! service from their website and sign up for Rapid Rewards. Ding! is a free app for iPhone, Mac, and Windows PCs that gives you access to specials that they do not put on their website directly. I just purchased my flights for 4 people in late September/early October and saved over $100 off the lowest listed fares on the website.

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."

Lamb Chop - Be Our Guest - Walt Disney World-Dining

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."

Polynesian - Disney World Resort

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."

Tip: A small cooler can be a Disney World essential. 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. Not every hotel room will have a fridge. 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!