Theme Park Survival Tips: Make the Most of a Very Crowded Day

There are few days at Walt Disney World with no crowds, but there are times when the parks are packed with wall to wall guests. The summer months (especially July and August) tend to be like that, as is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. A good rule of thumb to follow if you want to avoid the large crowds is to stay away when schools are out and also around three day weekends. Crowded parks should not keep you to home. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your vacation, even if the parks are jam packed.

Know Your Way Around

Familiarize yourself with the layouts of the parks before you ever leave home. Learn where all of your must do rides and attractions are located, and figure out the best way to get to them. You can view the theme park maps on the Walt Disney World website, so take advantage of the opportunity.

Make Dining Reservations

If you know that you are going to be visiting Walt Disney World during a busy time, make your dining reservations as soon as you can. Reservations can be booked 180 days in advance, so figure out where you’ll want to eat and make the reservations. You can always cancel them later if your plans change. Not every meal has to be at a full service restaurant, but you’ll appreciate having a reservation and one less line to wait in.

Take Advantage of FastPass+

Another thing that you can do before you leave home is to make your FastPass+ reservations. If you are staying at a Disney resort you can make them 60 days in advance, it’s 30 days for everyone else. FastPass+ is the best way to make sure that you can ride the most popular rides. You can make three a day in advance, and they all have to be in the same park. You can change the times or experiences later if you’d like. Once you’ve used all three of your passes, head to a FP+ kiosk and make a fourth reservation. The most popular rides will be gone, but you’ll have one less long line to wait in.

Arrive Early

The best thing that you can do to experience as much as possible on a crowded day is to arrive at the park before it opens. Head immediately to a popular ride that you didn’t get a FastPass+ for. Even on peak days the crowds are light at the beginning of the day, you’ll be surprised by how much you can do when you arrive early.

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Stay Late

On crowded days the Magic Kingdom is usually open for a couple of hours after Wishes. Many people will leave after the fireworks, so you’ll see shorter lines. Stay until the park closes if you can. If you also arrived at opening, take a break in the middle of the day so you don’t end up exhausted.

Watch the Shows

The rides have a limited capacity. That is why the lines for the more popular ones will get long early. It is often much easier to get a seat for a show. Arrive early to get a good seat, you’ll appreciate a chance to sit down for a while. Another fun thing to do on a crowded day is to watch the street shows. Enjoy the Dapper Dans at the Magic Kingdom, or Sergio at Epcot. These shows are outdoors, and they don’t have a limited capacity. They’re entertaining as well, you’ll see and hear things that will amaze you.

Try Less Popular Attractions

On a crowded day you’ll wait for seemingly forever if you don’t have a FastPass+ for Test Track, so head to Ellen’s Energy Adventure instead. If the line is too long for Dumbo, fly on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Find something that you can do at your own speed, such as Discovery Island Trails or Tom Sawyer Island. While others are waiting for over two hours for Toy Story Midway Mania!, you could be laughing along with all of the antics of Muppet*Vision 3D. Every Walt Disney World attraction is special, so find the ones that have shorter lines and get more out of your day.

Use the App

The My Disney Experience App will make your crowded day go a lot more smoothly. With the app you can check wait times and find the shortest lines, see what is closest to you, make dining reservations, find characters, and more. If you’re in line and realize that you might miss your next FastPass+ time don’t worry, you can see what other times are available from the app. Hungry? Check menus at nearby restaurants so you’ll know what to order ahead of time. If you forgot to make dining reservations the app will show you what restaurants have tables available and when. You can even find the closest restroom. The My Disney Experience App is essential on a crowded day.

Know That You Won’t Do It All

Attitude is everything on a crowded day. Know ahead of time that there will be things that you’ll miss and make sure that you’re okay with that. Be prepared to wait in lines. Bring snacks for the kids and drink plenty of water. Instead of spending your time complaining, allow yourself to have fun. Yes, it’s crowded, but you’re at the most magical place on the planet. Eat a Mickey Bar, take some pictures with characters, and enjoy yourself. You can have the vacation of a lifetime, even when the parks are crowded.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.