10 Ways To Survive A Crowded Day At Walt Disney World

Main Street
Credit: Disney Dining

If you happen to find yourself at Walt Disney World during a crowded day, leaving the park to get a break from the throngs of people may not be your best option. During busy seasons you may find the park closed because it has reached capacity and you could be blocked out, even though you were in there earlier. For instance, if you want to visit on Christmas Day, you better get there to enter when the park opens because it traditionally closes due to reaching capacity by 10AM.  If you decide to leave to have lunch at a quieter location, you would not be able to re-enter until the crowd total drops down again. So we created this list to help you prepare for putting up with high crowd levels.

10. Arrive Early

Arrive just prior to the opening time for the park. You can get in a few attractions before the crowds really pour into the parks. Have a plan for the day that includes the most wanted attractions. If you get those covered then go back and visit however many other attractions you can get in.

9. Take Advantage of Extra Magic Hours

The most beneficial EMH’s are the early entry ones. You can cover a lot of the park before major crowds are admitted. The late EMH’s are sometimes helpful, and sometimes not. I have experienced literally no wait for attractions, but also endured the longest lines. It depends on what is going on and what time of year it is.  If there are a lot of young people visiting the parks, expect longer lines in the Extra Magic Hours late at night. Extra Magic Hours are enjoyed by guests of Walt Disney World resorts. It is either an hour earlier than regular park opening times or up to three hours after park close, available at a pre-determined park. The hours can be viewed on the official Walt Disney World website. Disney can, and has, changed these EMH’s as often as they want to. You will want to check the website again, or check the Times Guide for that week, available in the Disney resorts lobbies.

8. Figure Out Where You Are Going

If you have a destination in mind it is easier to navigate through the crowds to get there. Try to walk single file, not all the way across the width of the side walk.  Make use of the Guide Map and Times Guide that you pick up at the front of the park. Research the attractions ahead of time to know which ones your party would like to visit. Keep in mind some rides have height requirements. Read the other articles on this site that are here to help you plan your vacation to get the best experience you can. The comments sections often contain great tips and suggestions from other readers that love going to Walt Disney World.

7. Set up My Disney Experience

You will find it on the official Walt Disney World website. Download the MDE app to your smartphone too.  Research the attractions to determine your most wanted ones and get FastPass+ reservations.  Make use of the FastPass+ system, getting the attractions you most care about first, and you will be able to select additional FastPass+ times after the first three are used.  You can also make dining reservations on your MDE account. If you need help after you enter the park just visit one of the FastPass+ kiosks.

6. Attractions during Parades or Fireworks

This continues to be a great way to catch up on some attractions that were too busy earlier in the day. If there are two evening parades or fireworks shows, most families with young children will attend the first show/parade and then leave the park. The repeat performance is easier to get a good viewing spot, making it possible for you to ride attractions during the first viewing and then take in the parade/show in the second performance.

5. Watch Dining Times

You may want to eat breakfast in your resort room with either some food you picked up at the store on your way to the resort, or take out from your resort’s food court. Avoid traditional eating times so you can enjoy shorter lines at the attractions.  Eat lunch slightly before noon to stay ahead of the largest crowds. Then eat park snacks throughout the day and enjoy a late dinner. Another plus for eating a late dinner is you may exit the restaurant to find the park almost empty. It is fun to walk out feeling like you are alone in the park. Consider purchasing a picnic lunch, only at Animal Kingdom right now, which comes with a list of quiet places in the park to eat that lunch. They are inside the park, but in areas not often visited by other guests. Just 30 minutes of time away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds can really rejuvenate you.

4. Use Mobile Order

Even with the dining times plan above, you’ll still want to take advantage of the Mobile Ordering option available at numerous Quick Service Restaurants throughout Disney World Property. Order and pay for your food from the MyDisneyExperience app and pick up your food when you arrive. It’s a great time saving feature!

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3. Find a Quiet Place

In Magic Kingdom, you can visit Tom Sawyer’s Island or perhaps Hall of Presidents; in Epcot visit the Seas with Nemo and Friends; Hollywood Studios the quietest place may be Muppet Courtyard. In Animal Kingdom, you could get a FastPass+ for Kilimanjaro Safaris to experience the longer attraction experience that takes you and a bus load of other guests into the wilds of Africa, at least getting you away from the throngs of guests, or visit one of the shows that takes you away from the midst of a crowded park and pulls you into the show “story”.

2. Avoid Bringing a Stroller (if possible)

Then you don’t have to park it, retrieve it, and try to move through the heavy crowds with it, making your day less frustrating.  If you need to use a stroller and plan on renting one of Disney’s, consider bringing something bright and unusual to tie to it, making it easier to find it in the sea of strollers outside attractions.  Make sure you park your stroller in a designated stroller area so you know where to find it again.

1. Don’t Bring a Bunch of Stuff With You

Backpacks only slow you down. People will bump into them or you will hit people with them, all day.  You can avoid the long lines at Bag Check coming into the park too. Some attractions have small pockets for you to put your belongings in, some don’t. You will have less hassle if you don’t bring a bulky backpack with you. If you have a bunch of bags hanging from or in your wheelchair you will have to take those bags with you when you transfer to a ride vehicle. The Cast Members have to fold the wheelchairs up in order to transfer them around the outside of the attraction, in some cases, to get them to the unload area ready for you to get into. They often have to transport more than one, so being able to fold it closed to quickly move several of them to unload at one time is important.  They can’t do their job if there are bags all over it and hanging from the arms, etc. You cannot ask Cast Members to be responsible for your stuff as you ride an attraction. In some cases you depart on one side of the ride and return to another area or side so do not try to leave it on the loading dock. You can rent lockers in each park to hold any bags you do not need to carry around with you all day, but has things in it you feel are essentials to bring to the park.

I hope this list will help you prepare for coming to Walt Disney World! I look forward to reading your tips in the comments section below.

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.