What do the pros do when they visit Walt Disney World? Between arriving early and ordering a kid’s meal to save some money, there are a lot of tricks the pros use to make the most of their day at the “Most Magical Place on Earth.” Here are 25 Disney secrets that will turn you into a pro:
1. Enter the Park BEFORE it Officially Opens
If you’re staying on Walt Disney World property, you can enter the theme parks before they are technically open to the public thanks to Early Theme Park Entry, which replaced Extra Magic Hours since the theme park’s reopening.
Early Theme Park Entry enables guests to enjoy the parks for a full 30 minutes earlier than everyone else, as long as they’re staying at a Disney resort hotel. While 30 minutes doesn’t sound like a long time, it’s certainly enough to knock out one or two of the most popular rides first thing in the morning with little to no wait. With this feature, my husband and I were able to ride Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before the park technically opened to outside guests.
2. Start in Adventureland Rather Than Tomorrowland
You may have heard a rumor that most people start their day at the Magic Kingdom in Tomorrowland, and then take that route to loop back to Main Street, U.S.A., but those rumors have been unfounded, as just as many people start their day off in Adventureland. So why start off in Adventureland if it doesn’t really make any difference?
Simply put, the earlier in the day you arrive in Adventureland, the better chance you have of riding major attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with nominal wait times. This is especially true if you arrive at rope drop, as a lot of families with younger children may still be at their hotel or character breakfast. Once 11:00 am – 12:00 pm hits, the parks become more crowded and most of them are going to want to head to Adventureland/Frontierland to do those popular rides first.
But since you already hit up Adventureland, you’re free to head to the other lands. Plus, Tomorrowland just looks so much prettier at night, so it’s best to wait until then anyway.
3. Use the Single Rider Line
The single-rider line isn’t available at every attraction, but it is available at the following rides:
- Test Track
- Expedition Everest
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
In (usually) all cases, the wait time for a single rider is going to be much less than those who want to stick with their party. Unless you want a ride photo of you all together, Disney pros recommend splitting up on these rides (or at least some of them) to minimize their wait time. Specifically, my husband and I will do this when we want to squeeze in a ride before a dinner reservation. Just keep in mind that you will usually always be separated from your group when you ride as a single rider, but it does sometimes make for funny, awkward photos with other people’s entire families.
4. Watch the Fireworks From BEHIND Cinderella Castle/in Fantasyland
This is a little harder now ever since the introduction of Enchantment, which lights up parts of Main Street, U.S.A. with a bunch of unique projections, but if you’re not worried about seeing all the “extras” and just want to focus on the fireworks themselves, Disney pros recommend watching them from BEHIND Cinderella Castle.
Not only will it seem like the fireworks are right above you, but the area tends to be less crowded than in front of the castle, so you have a better view and can get a better video. Plus, it minimizes the chance of the tallest person in the world standing right in front of you. Another good spot to watch them is in the Tangled section in Fantasyland. Just try to get there early (at least an hour before they start) to snag a seat.
5. Know the Lingo – aka What Does a 13 Minute Wait Mean?
Two rides will mention a 13-minute wait: Haunted Mansion and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. While these numbers are usually meant to be a sign of foreboding, for Disney fans, they mean that their favorite spooky rides have no wait time.
It’s a fun little thing Disney does with these rides, so next time you see a ride with 13 minutes displayed on either the app or the entrance to the ride, get in line fast because you’ll be on the ride in a matter of minutes.
6. Take a Rest During the Day
If you plan on rope dropping any of the Disney parks and staying until closing, then you have to take a rest at some point during the day. This doesn’t mean we recommend going back to your hotel. Rather, take some time in the mid-afternoon to experience all the relaxing rides and attractions such as the Liberty Square Riverboat, Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, Enchanted Tiki Room, and the PeopleMover. These attractions have limited wait times and will allow you to sit down and rest for about an hour (collectively) as opposed to continuing to stand outside in the heat.
7. Prepare for Rain
Just know that if you’re traveling to Florida, it’s going to rain. Florida’s rainy season lasts from May to October and at some point during the day, you’re going to get rained out. So come prepared. Bring a poncho, and some closed-toe shoes you can switch into when it rains, as opposed to wearing flip-flops.
However, don’t use the rain as an excuse to stop riding stuff. Most people will hide out until the rain stops, but since you came prepared and have a poncho and a change of shoes and socks, you can continue riding stuff with little to no wait time. Just keep in mind that any rides that are outdoors will be closed, but you’re a Disney pro – you knew that already!
8. Know the Best Photo Spots
Of course, you’ll want to get that perfect family photo in front of the castle, but what about the side of the castle near Tomorrowland? Or what about in the back of it (sort of) connecting Tomorrowland and Fantasyland? When you visit the most popular photo spots, you’re going to get strangers walking in and out of your photo. But, if you want to minimize that, go ahead and look up the best photo spots ahead of time.
These include but are not limited to:
- The seats outside the Plaza Restaurant
- Uptown Jewelers Courtyard
- Underneath the Castle towers
- Hub Grass
- Tom Sawyer Island
- In front of the Purple Wall
The crowds are limited here, so you can get a better picture of just you and your friends and/or family.
9. Use Rider Switch Service
If your child is too young to ride an attraction, Disney offers a Rider Switch Service, which enables one parent to ride and then switch out with the other so someone is always standing by with their child.
Ask a Cast Member if the attraction offers this service, and if so, find out where to wait so you can switch with the other rider when the time comes. Currently, this service is only offered at the following attractions:
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Mission: SPACE
- Test Track
- The Barnstormer
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
- Space Mountain
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
- Frozen Ever After
- Kali River Rapids
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Na’vi River Journey
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
10. Bring Your Own Snacks
Adults can expect to pay around $50 a day for snacks, however, the pros know they can cut down on these costs by bringing in their own snacks. Opt for something that won’t spoil in the Florida heat such as pretzels, crackers, gummies, granola bars, or nuts.
11. Order a Lyft or Uber at the End of the Night
This is going to depend on the night and which hotel you’re staying at, but if you want to beat the long lines at park close, I recommend ordering a Lyft or Uber. Yes, you’re going to have to pay money but the fee is going to be nominal simply due to how close your resort is to all the parks. If you can afford it, it’s a great asset especially when the kids are exhausted and it seems like you’re never going to get on a bus.
I’ve waited an hour at the end of the night just to take a bus back to my hotel and then take the long, exhausting walk back to my room so many times that when I’m just not in the mood to do it, I order a rideshare. It cuts down on a lot of the aggravation.
12. Take a Minnie Van to Your Dinner Reservation
And speaking of cutting down on the aggravation, don’t be like me and make the mistake of trying to take the bus to get to your dinner reservation at a Disney World Resort hotel. During my honeymoon, my husband and I had dinner reservations at Victoria and Albert’s. We left our resort about an hour early to catch a ride over to Magic Kingdom and then take the monorail over to Disney’s Grand Floridian. Unfortunately, we didn’t account for the bus being delayed and the lengthy monorail line, so we ended up being about two hours late. They kept our reservation, of course, because it’s Disney, but it was really stressful and we felt terrible for not planning better.
Now, if we have a dinner reservation, we just order a Lyft. It’s the most efficient way to travel around Disney for those one-off experiences.
Read more: HOW TO RIDE IN A MINNIE VAN AT DISNEY WORLD
13. Look at Crowd Calendars Ahead of Time
When are the parks the least crowded? What upcoming celebrations or events are coming up that you should definitely avoid if you hate crowds? Is a new ride opening up at Magic Kingdom?
Crowd calendars can answer these questions and make it easier to plan your trip. And it just so happens we have the best crowd calendars you can view here!
14. Know What’s Shut Down BEFORE You Go
Whether a ride is being shut down due to a refurbishment or closed permanently, it’s important to know what’s going to be closed before you book your trip. This applies to hotels that are undergoing refurbishments, as well, as this could temporarily shut down restaurants or otherwise take away from the normal aesthetic the resort has.
Years ago, my dad and I were staying at one of the All-Star Resorts and the restaurant was closed, so we had to walk over to the other resorts to get something to eat. After a long, exhausting day at the parks, this was a major inconvenience that could have been avoided had I just looked up what to expect ahead of time. You can find all of these closures on Disney’s website.
15. Use Mobile Order to Save Time and Plan Ahead
With Mobile Order, you can select a participating restaurant, and your preferred menu item, and pay for it all in advance while scheduling your desired arrival window. So, if you’re waiting in line for Space Mountain for the next hour, but want to eat lunch as soon as you get off, you can schedule your pickup time in advance to avoid a long wait time. Best of all, you can change your arrival time at any point, so if you want to pick up your meal earlier, just change your window or tap “I’m here” on your mobile ordering screen. It’s a great way to save time and avoid standing in long lines at the parks.
16. Use Genie+
The jury’s still out when it comes to having to pay to skip the line at certain attractions, especially when it used to be included in the cost of your ticket. However, despite all of this, using Genie+ can save you a lot of time during your trip, especially when it comes to getting on those extremely popular rides like the Rise of the Resistance.
Check out our complete breakdown of Genie+ and drop your comments about how this works or if you see the value in it below.
17. Know Where to Sit on Rides
This doesn’t just extend to which seats offer the best experience, but rather, which seats you may want to avoid to not have a bad time. For example, if you’re riding Splash Mountain, try to avoid sitting on the right-hand side of the log flume, as you’re most likely to get wet from the tiny waterfall you’ll pass on your way to the end of the ride.
Likewise, if you aren’t comfortable with spiders, move all the way over to the left-hand side of the row of It’s Tough to be a Bug. The Cast Member will try to get you to sit in the middle of the bench because this is where the bugs will drop from. If you want no part of that, move as far left as you can.
18. Wait for Sales
You can get great Disney discounts if you’re a Disney Vacation Club member, a Florida resident, or in the military. However, if these discounts don’t apply to you, don’t worry. You’re not out of luck.
Next time you visit Disney’s website to plan out your vacation, scroll to the bottom and find a hyperlink to their ongoing sales. While these sales will be mentioned at the top of their website when you go to book, knowing where to look on the site to help you save a couple of bucks is critical, especially considering how expensive the average Disney vacation is becoming.
Disney usually offers room deals twice a year, so if you can, try to book during those periods. You really can save a lot of money doing so. I ended up paying less at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge than what I did at Old Key West during this sale and had a wild time – no pun intended.
Read more: DISNEY DISCOUNTS FOR MILITARY FAMILIES
19. Wear Comfortable Shoes
I cannot stress this enough, but you’d be surprised by how little people prepare for this for the sake of style. You can wear whatever you want, but please don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes. While they’re advertised as such, Crocs are not comfortable to wear in the parks because they’re not designed for walking around all day. Do your research ahead of time from people who spend a lot of time in the parks or opt for shoes that are recommended for hiking, since you’ll know they can withstand different terrains and a lot of walking.
Read more: THE BEST SHOES TO WEAR AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
20. Buy Stuff AT THE END of the Day
If something is extremely limited or popular, by all means, snatch it up as soon as you see it. But, otherwise, wait to buy stuff until you’re ready to leave the park for the day. Otherwise, you’ll have to carry it with you all day, which quickly gets annoying. Plus, it increases the possibility of accidentally leaving it behind on a ride or in the bathroom.
21. Ask for a Cup of Water
If you go to a quick service location and just need a drink to hold you over, go up and ask for a cup of water. Even when ordering a meal, asking for a cup of water is free, whereas asking for a bottle of water will cost you money.
Plus, since there are so many water fountains around, you can refill your water bottle (if you brought one) to stay hydrated throughout the day. With water bottles costing upward of $5 in the parks, this can save you a lot of money during your vacation.
22. Ask a Photographer to Take Photos in the Parks
Many people may not know this, but if you ask one of Disney’s photographers to take a photo of you, they will…even though they have their own professional camera to take photos for purchase. Just go ahead and hand them your phone.
Since these photographers are in front of the major photo spots throughout the parks, you can get all the best photos you want without having to just take selfies or awkwardly ask a stranger to take one for you.
23. Pack Light to Get Through Security
When you enter a Disney park, you’re going to have to go through security. While this is a great thing, these lines are also pretty long, especially since a lot of people will tend to overpack for a day at Disney because they aren’t totally sure what they’re going to need. Or, people will go ahead and pack their pins in their purse, which will set off the alarm, etc.
We have a great packing list you can view at the link, however, during a day at Disney, all you’ll really need (depending on who you’re traveling with) are some diapers, a change of clothes/shoes, wipes, hand sanitizer, refillable water bottle, sun tan lotion, sunglasses, your wallet, and portable phone charger.
The lighter you pack, the quicker you can breeze through security. Plus, you won’t have to be lugging around a heavy backpack or diaper bag all day. Plus, if you need something during the day, there is a baby station, portable chargers, and first aid available throughout the parks.
Read more: BIGGEST DISNEY BAG MISTAKES TO AVOID
24. Order a Kid’s Meal to Keep Things Cheaper
No rule says adults can’t order kid’s meals at Disney World, and most of the time, these portions are going to be just as filling as the regular meals. Plus, they can save you a lot of money.
25. Watching the Parade From Frontierland
Though it’s totally iconic to watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade slither down Main Street, U.S.A., it tends to get really crowded. Plus, this is where the parade actually ends, so you’ll be waiting a lot longer to see it than everyone else in the parks.
If you want to beat the crowds, stand near the entrance of Frontierland or on your way to Liberty Square to see the parade. The parade starts next to Splash Mountain before it goes through Frontierland, then Liberty Square, and eventually in front of the castle and onto Main Street, U.S.A. Watching from here gives you a better vantage point as it’s not as crowded. Plus, you can quickly head over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Haunted Mansion sooner as people will still be watching the parade.
Have you used any of these hacks that the Disney pros use to make the most of their day at Walt Disney World? Let us know and don’t forget to follow WDW Vacation Tips on Instagram for all the latest Disney tips and tricks.
As a self-proclaimed Mouseketeer, Courtney Dercqu is a fan of all things Disney. Between decorating her desk with souvenirs from the park, to making unique mouse ears and having a dedicated Disney Instagram, Courtney is a true believer in the magic of a Walt Disney World vacation. Having had more than 200 articles published on various content, Courtney’s excited to share her knowledge and experience with everyone! Be sure to follow her on Instagram for all the Disney magic.