Walt Disney World isn’t necessarily a vacation in the sense many people think about—to make the most of your time you are not going to be able to sleep in and lounge around. You can do Walt Disney World that way, but if you do you won’t be able to experience as much of what the resort has to offer. I always tell my travel clients that you can sleep when you get home, Disney is for fun! And I advocate making a park plan that gives you some earlier evenings to make up for the early mornings, and to plan in a break day to not only enjoy your resort, but also refuel. So here are 8 of the things you’ll miss if you choose to snooze.
8. Cooler Temperatures
While this might not matter in parts of December-early March, it is of vital importance during the dog days of summer. Central Florida is hot & humid (this is not breaking news, I know), so one of the best ways to beat the heat is to get up early and get to the parks first thing in the morning. My personal touring strategy is to arrive early (in summer it will still be hot, but not surface of the sun hot), tour through lunch time pretty intensely so that after lunch when it is hot-hot-hot I can slow down a bit.
7. More Time
This is an obvious reason. The earlier you get up and get to the park the more total hours you have to tour the parks. Many people on their first visit think 1 day per park is enough, but really even at the parks with fewer attractions a day is pushing it to see and do everything there. You want to maximize your ticket value, so get up and get to the park! Rope Drop to Fireworks friends!!
6. Pre-Opening Breakfast
Many people like to take advantage of a pre-park opening breakfast. A lot of these involve characters like Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom, Akershus Princess Storybook Dining or Garden Grill at Epcot, Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, or Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios, but Be Our Guest is also a contender. These are often the most sought after breakfast times because you get a few advantages. 1. You are not “wasting” open park attraction time on eating 2. You may have some photo-ops in a relatively empty park. 3. Some of the locations put you in an advantageous spot for attractions once the park is officially open. For instance, Akershus is located just outside the entrance to Frozen Ever After; Garden Grill is just upstairs from Soarin’, and Be Our Guest is right around the corner from 7 Dwarfs Mine Train.
Being at the park before it opens allows you time to take a mid-day break. This is the touring strategy my family follows and it works well for us. We get up and get to the park before it opens, tour until just after lunch, come back to our resort to swim, nap, or just sit in air conditioning and relax. That break is perfect to refuel, cool off, and rest up. And the timing is perfect because we are leaving the park just as it gets the hottest, the most crowded, and the greatest chance of those afternoon pop-up thunderstorms. Then we return to the park close to dinner time to enjoy a meal, nighttime entertainment and fireworks and usually a few more attractions.
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4. Early Morning Activities
Waking up early is a requirement for some of the “extra” activities you may want to add on to your Walt Disney World vacation. Disney offers fishing excursions from select resorts, and those depart pretty early in the morning when the fish are biting (and temps are cooler). You might want to do a behind the scenes specialty tour that requires you to be at a park at 8:00am. You may even have an early morning opportunity to experience attractions if you reserve something like Early Morning Magic at Magic Kingdom. And if you are a Walt Disney World resort guest you have the advantage of the Extra Magic Hours at select parks on select days. If you choose to go to these during holiday weeks when those Extra Magic Hours start at 7am you can beat the crowds, but you definitely can’t snooze for that. All of these enhancements are great reasons to get up early!
3. Peace & Quiet
This is one of my favorite reasons to get up early. I love the early morning time at my resort—any resort. Before all of the hustle and bustle, before everyone else wakes up to start their days. I like to grab my refillable mug and head out on walk. I usually run into just a handful of people—some dads or moms with all of the mugs going to get breakfast or drinks to bring back; runners; resort staff readying the resort for the day. I see lots of animals, bunnies, ducks, birds. I hear the sounds of the world waking up. If I’m at a Magic Kingdom or Epcot resort I can hear the boats coming in and the park waking up (especially at Magic Kingdom with the train whistle & steam). All of the resorts are so beautiful in their own way, it is a great time to walk around and enjoy them. Or, if you are at a deluxe resort, early morning is a nice time to go sit on your balcony, take in the sights, and prepare for your day.
2. Opening Shows
Sadly, Disney has eliminated a lot of the opening fanfare that used to accompany the start of the day at each park. But, a few things still remain, and it is a nice way to kick off your day in that park. But if you sleep in you will miss it! At Magic Kingdom you can enter Main Street and shop or grab some breakfast or Starbucks (a great photo op time) and there is a show on the Castle Stage. At Hollywood Studios you will often encounter the Streetmosphere Characters out in full force as the park opens. At Animal Kingdom they have a beautiful experience with some of the birds at the park to open up that really sets the mood for your experience that day.
1. Lower Crowds
My #1 reason for recommending that you get up early, resist the temptation to hit the snooze button: Lower Crowds. This is vacation, not everyone is willing to get up early, so the best way to guarantee yourself some lower crowd park touring time is to get up out of the bed and get to the park before it opens. Line up for “rope drop” so that you are one of the first people in the park. Even at the most crowded times of year, first thing in the morning is going to be the least crowded time of the day in the park. This is my primary itinerary recommendation for travel clients. If you are one of the first in the park and plan your first 2 hours or so to go from attraction to attraction while the standby wait times are low and haven’t had time to get backed up—you will be astonished at how much you are able to accomplish before lunch. And this makes those breaks in #5 possible so that you can rest and relax in the afternoon when everyone else is just arriving or just getting to their 2nd or 3rd attraction because they arrived too late to take advantage of the shorter lines.
When you are on vacation at Walt Disney World do you like to get up and take advantage of the early mornings? Or do you choose to hit the snooze button and sleep in?