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.

Epcot at Night - Disney World Tip

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.

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.

Star Wars Rise of the Resistance

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.

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.

Two Disney World guests posing with Grogu

PhotoPass is a great way to get pictures with your favorite characters or in front of Disney World and Disneyland's iconic features. But did you know that there's a way to get even more magic out of your Disney pictures? When getting your picture taken from a PhotoPass photographer, always ask if they can do a Magic Shot. This is a special picture where Disney will add in a fun element. You might suddenly have balloons in your hand, or Tinkerbell might show up on your shoulder. These special shots are location specific: You can pose with Grogu in Galaxy's Edge, or you can see a Banshee flying over your picture at Pandora. Sometimes the PhotoPass photographer will offer up a magic shot pose on their own, but the best way to get the most magic shots is to always ask your photographer if they are doing any special or magic shots. They are almost always happy to oblige (unless there's a technical reason), and you will end up with some very unique vacation photos. This tip works at Disney World as well as Disneyland.

Disney World Paper Straws

Disney World has gotten rid of all plastic straws in favor of paper straws. Great for the environment. Terrible for sipping on a smoothie.

Avoid the pain of having a paper straw disintegrate one minute into getting your Joffrey's Iced Coffee by investing in a set of reusable silicone straws or metal straws. These are eco-friendly and will save you a lot of frustration as you dine around the World Showcase. These sets come with carrying cases that are easy to keep in your backpack or purse, and they are easy to clean.

Recommended Item: Flathead Silicone Straws 10 Pack. These colorful BPA-free silicone straws are an awesome alternative to Disney's paper straws. Be able to sip your iced coffee on Main Street without the straw disintegrating. If you are visiting WDW with kids, we recommend going for the silicone straws, as they are more kid friendly.

Recommended Item: Green Steel Stainless Steel Straws. The #1 best selling adaptive drinking straw on Amazon, this 5 piece set includes 2 straight straws, 2 bent straws, and a straw cleaner. This is for anyone who would prefer a stainless steel straw to a silicone straw. Comes in tall and medium sizes.

Mickey Mouse - WDW Merchandise

Don't worry about carrying around bags full of merchandise. If you make a purchase in one of the gift shops, you can have your items shipped to the park entrance. They will be ready for pickup by two hours after your purchase. This way you can enjoy the rest of your visit unencumbered. Just remember to pick up your items on your way out of the park.

Tatooine Traders Merchandise - Star Wars at Disney World

Disney World and Disney Springs restaurants and shops offer discounts for many different memberships, including Annual Passholders, DVC, Disney Visa Card, AAA, and more. This varies from store to store and restaurant to restaurant, and sometimes discounts can be seasonal. Be sure to ask before paying if the restaurant or shop is offering any discounts that you can take advantage of.

Disney World and Disneyland - New Stroller Rules

Want to avoid losing track of your stroller after you park it in the sea of other strollers? Tie a colorful bow on the handle of your stroller, which will make it much easier to spot. This helps especially because Disney World cast members will regularly move strollers around to accommodate for guest flow.

Mickey Mouse - WDW Merchandise

Don't lug your merchandise all around the parks all day. If you are staying at a Disney World or Disneyland Resort, you can have merchandise you purchase from the gift shops shipped to your resort free of charge. You will be able to pick up your items from your hotel's store.

Slinky Dog Dash - Hollywood Studios - Roller Coaster - Disney World

A tip that some people don't know about is baby swap. If you have a baby or small child in your group, ask the cast member at the front of the line for a baby swap pass. One person can ride while the other person waits with the baby/child. Then they “swap” and the 2nd person can go right in the Fastpass line using the baby swap pass while the 1st person watches the child. The baby swap pass is good for up to three people, so someone in your party could go on the ride twice using the baby swap pass. We had 2 babies in our group, so 2 of us got to ride twice.

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.

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

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!

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.

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.

Space Mountain Exterior - Magic Kingdom Attraction

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.

Celebration Buttons - Magic Kingdom - Disney World Free-Stuff

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.

Walt Disney World Bus

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.

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.

eBay can be a great resource for buying cheap Disney Pins. We've been able to find reputable sellers who will sell a lot of pins 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 cast members will not trade for knockoffs.

Dinosaur - Animal Kingdom Ride

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."

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.

Rose and Crown - Epcot's United Kingdom Pavilion - WDW Dining

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!

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!

Avatar Flight of Passage on Pandora Ð The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Early bird gets the worm at Disney World. If you want to get the most out of your day at 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, Frozen Ever After, or Expedition Everest. Avatar: Flight of Passage will still have a relatively substantial wait if you get there before park opening because of the demand (sometimes as much as 45 minutes to an hour as soon as the park opens), but this will still be significantly shorter than the standby wait later in the day (which can stretch over 2 hours easily).

Hall of Presidents Exterior

A good way to cool off without going back to your hotel room: Head to the Hall of Presidents - 23 minutes of air conditioned relaxation. Other long, air conditioned attractions: The American Adventure at Epcot, the Frozen Sing Along at Hollywood Studios, and Finding Nemo: The Musical at Animal Kingdom.

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.

Walt Disney World Bus

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.

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.

Grand Floridian Lobby - Walt Disney World

Not everything at Disney World has to cost you lots of money. If you would like a great activity that is inexpensive, try Resort-hopping! If you stay on property, then you have unlimited access to all the Disney resorts. All the resorts are unique, and it's worth checking out each hotel's lobby. Take the time to Resort-hop and scope where your next stay might be. You might have some fun along the way!

Disney World Trading Pins

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.)

Flame Tree Barbecue - Animal Kingdom Restaurant

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Epcot Crowd - Disney World

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!

Test Track - Epcot Ride

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.

Splash Mountain - Drop- Disney World

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!

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.

Tip: An old school solution for not losing your group. 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.