Looking for the best Disney World tips? You’ve come to the right place.
The Magical World of Disney is something that most people dream of, especially those with kids. It’s almost every parent’s dream to take their children to Disney World. At least it was once mine. Almost 20 years ago, I made my first trip to Disney World with my now ex-husband, oldest daughter, and both of my sons, and we had such a magical time that we have made the trip almost yearly since then.
I have been to Disney World more times than I have fingers and toes, and I have experienced 10 of the 12 Disney Parks worldwide, my favorite being Tokyo DisneySea. No matter how many times I’ve visited, the magic is always there, and I’ve since then picked up a bit of Disney knowledge that I can share with you.
Whether it’s your first time or tenth, these are my top Disney World tips to help you make your trip to Disney World as time and cost-effective as possible and will have you navigating Disney World like a pro. It will also make your trip to the happiest place on earth as magical as it should be and help you avoid these Disney World mistakes.
Read Also: Basic Disney Vacation Planning Checklist
1. Book Your Trip in Advance
While you can book last minute, and that can be fun, especially if it’s a surprise, booking a trip in advance can save you money on your airfare and, at times, even your hotel rate.
Booking in advance can also help with dining reservations if there is a restaurant that you just have to visit. Advanced reservations for dining open up 60 days before your trip, so if you’re interested in eating at one of the more popular restaurants, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom, you will want to book that reservation AS SOON AS YOUR 60 DAY WINDOW OPENS UP!
2. Go During the Off-Season
People always ask, “Is there really an off-season for Disney World?”, as it always seems crowded no matter what time of the year you go. However, I’ve found that the parks are usually less crowded during the months when kids are in school. That means skipping the summer and major holidays.
Some of my best trips to Disney World happened during September, when the kids had recently returned to school. I was able to ride some of the more popular rides numerous times without very long lines and was able to book my FastPass rides easily as well. However, as of October 19, 2021, FastPass has been replaced by Genie, Genie+, and Lightening Lanes.
3. Stay At a Disney Hotel
This has always been a tip that I’ve shared with numerous friends and family members thinking about visiting Disney World. Staying at one of the many Disney hotels is hands down the best way to make your trip more magical. I have personally only stayed at Deluxe and Moderate Resort hotels, so I can’t give my opinion on the Value Resort hotels, but I’m sure they’re just as amazing without the added cost.
There are quite a few benefits to staying at a Disney hotel as opposed to staying somewhere else. One of the main perks is being transported to and from the resort to the airport on the Disney Magical Express for FREE! You also never have to worry about parking at the parks as transportation is included to each and every park, including Disney Springs. You also get early theme park entry (30 minutes before anyone else) at all 4 Disney World theme parks and even extended evening theme park hours in select theme parks on select nights. This is a great way to beat the crowds.
4. Download the Disney App
The Disney app is a lifesaver! It will help you book your Genie+ rides, keep track of your dining reservations, Photopass or Memory Maker photos, and even find where you’re parked.
You can also use the app to chat with a Disney cast member if you have any questions or problems that need to be addressed. The app will also aid in helping you navigate around the parks as it has a built-in GPS.
5. Skip the Disney Dining Plan
It’s expensive to eat at Disney World, and you may be tempted to purchase the Disney Dining Plan. As a matter of fact, we did that as a family the very first time we visited Disney World, and we found out that it was actually cheaper to eat on our own at a restaurant of our choice than it was to do the dining plan. There’s also a lot more flexibility in where and what you can eat when you eat on your own.
However, there is an exception, and that is when Disney offers their FREE dining plan promotion. It’s not often offered and it’s given to those who stay on-site, so be sure to check and see if they’re running that promotion before you book your trip.
6. Bring Your Own Snacks and Water
This is another one of those tips that seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do it. Disney World can be a very expensive place, so I always recommend bringing your own snacks and water to the parks.
You are allowed to bring in food and drinks as long as they are not in glass containers. I like to pack some granola bars, trail mix, and fruit cups for my snacks and then fill up my water bottle at one of the many water fountains located throughout the parks. If you’d rather not bring a water bottle with you, you can go up to any of the counter-service restaurants and they will gladly give you a free cup of iced water.
7. Eat At Non-Peak Times
If you want to save time when it comes to dining, I recommend avoiding the peak lunch and dinner times. Instead, try to eat a little earlier or later than everyone else. You’ll find that the restaurants are not as crowded and you’ll have a much easier time getting a table.
Eating earlier or later than everyone else also means shorter line times for rides as most people would be eating around the peak times.
8. Bring Your Own Stroller
This is a must-do for families with small children. Renting a stroller at Disney World can be expensive, and they’re not always the most comfortable. The daily rental for a single stroller is $15, while a multi-day rental is $13. I recommend bringing your own stroller from home. This way, your child will be more comfortable and you’ll save money in the long run.
9. Plan Your Days Accordingly
When I say plan your days, I don’t mean plan every single minute of every day. What I do mean is decide what type of park hopper you want to be. There are two types of park hoppers- those who like to go to one park per day and those who like to hop between parks on the same day.
If you want to go to one park per day, I would highly recommend getting a Park Hopper pass as it will allow you the flexibility to leave a park and come back later that day or even go to another park if you want.
If you plan on staying at one park for the majority of the day, I would recommend doing some research on what rides are at each park and planning your days around that. For example, if Animal Kingdom is your favorite park, but you really want to ride Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, make sure to go on a day when Animal Kingdom is open late so you have time to do both.
10. Check the Weather
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t check the weather before their trip. Florida is known for its unpredictable weather, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the forecast leading up to your trip.
I would also recommend packing for both warm and cool weather as the temperature can vary throughout the day. I like to pack a light jacket or sweater for the evening as it does tend to get chilly once the sun goes down.
11. Always Pack a Poncho
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Disney World in the summer and it never not rain. I’m not talking about a light drizzle, but almost like a torrential downpour that seems as though a hurricane is coming through. You’ll save money by taking along a cheap poncho that you can possibly pick up at your local dollar store as compared to purchasing one at Disney which cost $12 for adults and $10 for kids. Simply fold it and pack it in your backpack along with your snacks and water.
If you do happen to get caught in a rainstorm, don’t worry! There are plenty of places to take shelter inside the parks. And, if you’re really lucky, you might even get to see a rainbow!
This is also a great time to take advantage of the shorter lines and the crowds as most people tend to show up at the parks when the weather is nicer. However, most of the rides will continue to run during the rainy weather.
12. Wear Comfortable Shoes
This is probably the most important tip I can give. You will be doing A LOT of walking at Disney World, so it’s important to wear comfortable shoes. I would also recommend breaking in your shoes before your trip, as you don’t want to be dealing with blisters while you’re trying to enjoy yourself. This is one of the reasons I would never wear Tieks at Disney World ever again.
If you can, I would also recommend packing a pair of flip-flops or sandals to change into in the evening. Your feet will thank you!
13. Bring an External Battery Pack/Portable Charger
This is a Disney World tip that you must remember. Trust me, you’re going to need it. Between checking the Disney App to look at the wait times for rides, taking photos, or even talking/texting on the phone to keep up with the rest of the party throughout the parks, your phone battery is going to take a hit. There are very few outlets within the parks, and who wants to sit around waiting for their phone to charge while they could be out having fun? Simply bring along an external battery pack or portable charger and you will never have to worry about your phone dying. I usually take this portable charger along with me everywhere, and it’s been a lifesaver.
15. Take Advantage of Early Entry
This is where staying at a Disney Resort hotel comes in handy, because you’ll tend to be able to take advantage of early entry, sometimes up to an hour earlier than the official start time when the park opens. I’ve personally been admitted into Magic Kingdom an hour earlier than it officially opens at 9 am all because I was a Disney Resort guest. Guests have this benefit from the day they check into their hotel, until the day they check out.
This is the time for you to take advantage of all the popular rides you can before the park officially opens for all the other guests.
16. Use GENIE+ LIGHTNING LANES
If you’re planning on going to Disney World during peak season, I would highly recommend purchasing GENIE+ as it will help you save time, although not money, by allowing you “skip” the lines for some of the more popular rides. Lightning Lanes is the new name for the FastPass+ lanes. Genie+ costs $15/day and expires once the park/s (if you’re park hopping) closes.
There are also Individual Lightning Lanes which are separate and can be purchased as well for select rides.
If you’ve purchased Genie+, you can start making your Lightning Lane Reservations at 7 am. However, if you’re a Disney World Resort guest, you can begin making both Indidviual Lightning Lane reservations at that time as well. All other guests will have to wait until the park opens before they’re able to make Individual Lightning Lane reservations. It does pay to be a Disney Resort hotel guest. This way, you can plan your day accordingly and make the most of your time at Disney World!
17. Go On Rides During Parades/Fireworks Shows
If you want to avoid the crowds, go on rides during parades or fireworks shows! The parades generally happen a few times throughout the day (check the Disney app), and almost everyone (except you) will be gathered in one place watching the show, so the lines for rides will be shorter. This is a great time to knock out some of those must-do rides.
18. Take the Single Rider Line
There are currently four single rider lines. Two at Hollywood Studios (Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, and the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run), one at Epcot (Test Track), and the final at Animal Kingdom (Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain).
These rides usually have very long lines and very long wait times, so if you’re comfortable riding by yourself, this is a great way to save time. The single rider line is usually shorter and moves much faster than the regular line.
19. Skip the Souvenirs
On my first trip to Disney World, we spent hundreds of dollars buying all the Disney apparel and toys and almost everything we could get our hands on. Since then, I’ve become a lot more frugal and tend to do Disney on a budget. You can purchase Disney souvenirs much cheaper online, and you can even order your tees from Etsy or Amazon. It’ll be a steal compared to purchasing one at the park. Consider purchasing your autograph books in advance on Amazon as well, instead of buying them in the parks.
If you do insist on getting a few things, consider purchasing them at the Disney online store and shipping them to your home to save on overpacking and quite possibly overweight luggage fees at the airport. Take it from someone who’s been through it before.
20. Get and Use the Chase Disney Visa Rewards Credit Card
I never visit Disney without my Disney Visa Rewards credit card. It’s a must-have and the only card I use at Disney. The best thing about this card is that there’s no annual fee. You save 10% at the stores at Disney World and also at most restaurants. If you shop at shopDisney.com, you get to save 10% on select purchases there too. With a child who always wants a Disney costume for Halloween, I couldn’t be happier. You also get 1% back in Disney Reward Dollars on every purchase you make. There’s a current promotion of earning up to 500 Disney Rewards Dollars when you apply and qualify. There are usually promotions surrounding the card, and promotions are always subject to change.
I hope these Disney World tips help you with planning your next Disney World trip! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via Instagram or email. I’m always happy to help!