Do you know all about the parks in your neighborhood and all the best areas, hiking trails, or playgrounds to enjoy there? Most likely, you do. The same can be said about those who call Disney World their local Park. To get the most out of your trip to Walt Disney World, hit the Parks like a local. Here are tips from a Disney local on how to enjoy your family’s vacation to the fullest:
A successful Disney trip takes planning. The stress of showing up and trying to figure out the many systems associated with getting around, reserving tickets, dining, virtual queues, etc., is way too much to try to throw together at the last minute. Do your research to understand the Genie+, Lightning Lane, and virtual queue for rides like Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind. I firmly believe half the fun of a Disney trip is in the planning and build-up of anticipation by discussing what everyone really wants to do, see, eat, and ride.
Know that you can not and will not hit everything in one trip, so make sure to set everyone’s expectations accordingly. I like to find out the one ride, show, or character meet and greet that each person in the family wants to hit at a Park so that we can prioritize those things, and everything else can feel like it’s a bonus!
I know, I know, I just told you to make sure you plan. But don’t over plan every minute of the day. Make sure that you are open to opportunities that may arise, like walking past a ride with a super short wait time that you can walk onto.
Do Go Early/Stay Late!
The best times in the Park are the first couple hours of the day and the last couple of hours. Wait times are the shortest, and the temperatures are typically the coolest. There are usually special shows that are only available at those times, whether that is a short morning welcome show or nighttime fireworks specials like Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom or Harmonious at EPCOT.
Don’t Go All Day!
Are you confused yet? Yes, the best times are the first couple and the last couple of hours of the day, but that doesn’t mean you have to do both on the same day or straight through. I personally am a believer in the plan of going early for Park open and then leaving a few hours in to get out of the sun, grab lunch, and possibly a good nap for myself (errr…I mean the kids). I find that my group is always rejuvenated by the midday break and enjoy the fireworks or rides at night much more when they are well rested and haven’t been pushing it non-stop all day long. I know some may disagree with this point and love to hit a Park from rope drop till Park close, and we have had great days doing just that. In general though, and for most groups, I find everyone has a much more relaxing and enjoyable day with the break.
Do Enjoy a Day Outside the Parks
For anyone coming to Disney World for a trip longer than a weekend, it is almost a must to schedule a day outside of the parks. Recharge your batteries and take some time to enjoy some parts of Walt Disney World that do not require a Park ticket. If you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, there are often activities planned throughout the day that you can find a schedule to partake in. Some of our favorites include Chip ’N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long, movies by the pool, or one of the many Resort tours.
Don’t Forget to Pack the Park Essentials
In our house, we have the “Disney Go” bag always ready to be grabbed for a last-minute trip to the Parks and pre-packed with our must-have items. First, this is Central Florida, a rain shower at some point or afternoon thunderstorm is to be expected, especially if your trip is in the warmer months between May and September. Bring comfortable rain jackets or ponchos for everyone in your party — we even keep a couple extra in there for friends or house guests. This tip alone can save you $10+ per person, as you will most likely buy a poncho in the Park if you forget to pack them. Pack a portable charger to charge your phone, or at least remember your charger. If you don’t have a portable charger, or don’t care to buy one, there are some locations at each Park where you can plug your phone into an outlet. Fuel Rod vending machines are also available if you want to pay per charge throughout your visit. Other things to consider packing for your group may include pain relievers, motion sickness medication, Benadryl, hand sanitizer, snacks, a water bottle, and sunscreen.
Do Use the Apps
The official Disney World app “My Disney Experience” for your phone is one of the most useful tools to use throughout your day. Useful information like wait times for attractions or scheduled times for parades or shows can be found here. Also, use it to book a dining reservation or mobile order for many quick-service dining locations throughout the Parks. For mobile ordering, we recommend linking your credit card in the app ahead of time, as we have seen people have trouble setting up via in-Park Wi-Fi or cellular data. When you are ready to order, just pick your restaurant and enter your order a bit ahead of time, maybe while waiting in a line for another attraction. Then let the app know when you are almost to the dining location, and it will alert you when the food is ready, so you can skip the line straight to the pickup window to grab your food.
You can also download and use the Play Disney Parks app to help pass the time. One of my family’s favorite ways to pass time, while waiting in line, is to play one of the many trivia games in the Play Disney Parks app. Some ride queues have games that can only be unlocked to play while standing in that queue.
Do Plan an Early Breakfast
If you consider booking a meal at a table service restaurant like Chef Mickey’s, I suggest making it at breakfast. First, breakfast is almost always the cheapest meal at any given restaurant. There are also many character dining opportunities available, like Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Garden Grill at EPCOT, Hollywood & Vine at Hollywood Studios, or Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Character dining meals can save you precious Park time not waiting in lines for meet and greets, and early morning breakfasts are often available before the Parks open. If you are staying at an off-property location, you can often save money on parking by booking your breakfast at a nearby Resort and walking into the Park or taking the Skyliner, monorail, boat, or bus over to the Park you are planning on visiting that day.
Do Enjoy Your Trip!
Finally, if there is one thing you have to do from a local’s perspective, it is to make sure you enjoy your trip! Keep the local mindset and remember you won’t see everything, and that’s ok because you’ll be back. I see too many people in the parks that are so concerned with doing that they aren’t even enjoying it. Watching someone spend an entire ride on their phone looking at the other wait times rather than their child’s joyous reaction is like watching someone pay for a five-star meal, but scarfing it down like Joey Chestnut in a hot dog eating contest. Slow down and savor the magical moments with your friends and family and the memories you are making.