I was brought up a Disney Kid. When I was 5 years old I went through a stage where I watched The Little Mermaid on repeat for about six months straight. Even to this day I still watch every new Disney release at the cinema. My whole family are Disney fans, which in turn meant I was incredibly fortunate to spend a lot of family holidays growing up at Walt Disney World in Florida.
I was without a doubt an extremely lucky kid and now in adulthood, I make an effort to visit a Disney park every few years to keep the magic alive.
Disney World in Florida will always be my favourite park, it holds such special memories throughout all stages of my life. I do not know how many times I have visited now but it is far into double digits, which in turn means I have picked up tips and tricks to make the visits to Disney World even better.
These hacks can be used to get the most out of a visit to Disney World, as well as save time and money because I can tell you Disney Parks are not cheap.
Planning a trip to Disney World? Check out my other Florida posts!
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- The best bars in Walt Disney World
- A Disney World Snack Guide – All the snacks you cannot miss at Disney!
- A guide to International Drive, Orlando – Where to eat, stay and play
First of all, The Disney World parks are not just for kids, none of my adult visits has been with young children. At Disney, you will see many groups of adults or couples without a kid in sight. The parks are so much more than parades and characters, there are so many experiences which provide entertainment for people of all ages. Plus, the rides are incredible and not to be missed.
Disney World tips and tricks to make the most out of your visit
Purchase your parks tickets before you visit. In possible at least 2 -3 months in advance. This is important for fast passes. Fast passes are available on Disney World rides to prevent long queues, they are not available for all rides, but they are for the majority. Fast passes become available 60 days before your chosen dates of visiting. Once the fast passes are gone, they are gone. I recommend booking all your passes on the day they become available to ensure you have the lowest queue times possible. For each day you will be allowed two fast passes, both of which need to be in the same park. Go for the popular rides such as Toy Story Mania in Hollywood Studios or Flight of Passage in The Animal Kingdom. These rides always have stand-by queues of at least 1-3 hours. If possible book your fast passes for as early in the day as possible. The reason for this is because on the day, once you use your allocated passes, one more will become available for you to use that day and again, once you use that one, another will become available and so forth.
Fastpasses can be booked through the My Disney Experience App. You will just need to make sure your tickets are linked to the app. I shop around for the best deals when it comes to purchasing tickets, if you are from the UK, Attraction Tickets Direct always have competitive prices. Always purchase tickets which are 14 days for the price of 7 days. These ‘offers’ are always available somewhere on the internet, never pay for 14 days of entry.
Also look for tickets which come with free ‘Memory Makers’. These are the Disney Park photo passes. If you do not have a Memory Maker, you can still have ‘official’ photos taken, you will just need to pay a fee to download each photo. Whereas on the Memory Maker you get unlimited free downloads. Make the most of these photo points, you get incredible photos from the photographers and they are essentially free souvenirs (if you Memory Maker is free). The photographers will also take a photo on your own camera or mobile phone, but it will be just one or two, compared to the multiple on the photo pass.
Early May and early September are the best times to visit Walt Disney World. They will be the cheapest times and the quietest times. If you can visit then for the best Disney experience. If you are travelling without kids, never visit during the school holiday periods, it is busy and at times uncomfortable.
The My Disney Experience App will be your saviour before and during your trip. You can book all of your fast passes, meal reservations and on some quick service locations, you can even order your food. You can use it to see the wait times on all of the rides in every park. It holds all of your photos from your memory maker photo pass. It will even tell you the best route to get between resorts and parks, including the next bus time.
Dress for comfort and not style. I cannot express how important this is. If you doing the parks correctly you are going to be on your feet all day. The parks are huge and you will cover so much ground across one day. The last thing you want is to ruin your feet with blisters on the first day. Opt for comfy, worn in trainers every time. Everyone else will be doing the same. The same goes for clothes, Florida is hot and muggy, dress in clothes which are comfortable.
Both a poncho and a decent suncream are essential. Orlando is prone to sudden downpours, do not ruin your day by getting your clothes soaked. Waterproof ponchos inside the parks are expensive (around $15), buy some before you go and keep them at the bottom of your backpack. On Amazon, you can get 5 for £7.99. They also come in handy for covering your valuables and bags on water rides such as a Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom.
The low down on Fuel Rod chargers. You are going to be using your mobile phone a lot at Disney World, therefore you need to make sure your battery stays charged. Fuel Rods are portable chargers which are available to purchase all over the parks and they cost $30. As soon as it is empty, you place it into the machine and out pops a fully charged one. You can do this an unlimited amount of times, with each rod giving one full charge. This is great for in the parks, however, you can actually purchase a much better battery charging pack before you go, which will be of much more useful once you get home as well. All you will need to do is remember to charge it at your hotel each night.
Talk to the cast members. The cast members in the Orlando parks are by far the most passionate, enthusiastic and helpful that I have met in any of the parks around the world. They genuinely love their jobs. By talking to the cast members you will get a better experience, they will often share hidden Disney secrets, have stickers to give out or help you with photo ops. You know the Disney balloon photo everyone is getting? You get this photo from talking to the cast members with the balloons, not from any photo stations.
Eating in the parks is expensive. Especially if you do it every day. Fill up on breakfast before you enter the park and bring in snacks. Unless you have dreams of eating in a certain restaurant such as ‘Be Our Guest’ in the Magic Kingdom. Eat at quick service restaurants which are located all over the park. Disney is so much more than burgers and chips, you can get incredible quick service meals, and my particular favourite is Harambe’s Market in the Animal Kingdom where you can also get ice cold Sangria! Also, water is free from all Quick Service restaurants, so be sure to carry a refillable water bottle on you at all times.
Save money on souvenirs by collecting free badges. Inside guest services, at all parks (and resort check-in desks) you can ask for a free badge (or button as they are sometimes known). They include the ‘I’m celebrating..’, ‘first visit’ and ‘happily ever after badges’. Wearing these badges often get you more attention from cast members and at character meets as well.
Alternatively, do you Disney merchandise shopping outside of the parks. Character Warehouse sells official Disney merchandise for a fraction of the price it is inside the parks. Occasionally they will also have spirit jerseys in stock. There are two locations: one at the Orlando International Premium Outlet and the other at Orlando Vineland Premium Outlet
Related post: Thinking Disney is just for kids? 12 Reasons to love Disney as an Adult
Tips and tricks to beat the ride queues at Disney World
It sounds crazy to say you have to have a strategy to make the most of your time at Disney World. But you do. If ‘doing everything’ is your goal, you need to have a plan. I have already mentioned the importance of fast passes but if you do not manage to get your chosen fast passes you need to arrive for the park opening. As soon as the park opens head to the busiest ride, move quick and you will get the shortest queue time.
If you are staying on Disney property make use of magic hours, which you can find out more about below in the ‘Disney resort hacks’ section.
Again, keep checking the My Disney Experience app to keep an eye on queue times. They are mostly very accurate. I will also let you in on a Disney secret if you ever see a 13-minute wait on either The Haunted Mansion or Hollywood Tower of Terror, head straight there – as it actually means there is no queue!
Make use of the single rider queue. This will cut your queue time by at least 50%. Unless you really want a ride photo with the person you are travelling with, always opt for the single rider queue, on the ride you will not be talking to each other, and chances are your friend will be on the carriage behind, if not same carriage as you anyway.
Skip the parades. I am not a massive fan of the parades, they get crowded and they are long. Maximise this time to get on the best rides, as I can guarantee the queues will be a lot shorter while everyone else is off watching the parades. When you enter each park, there will be a leaflet at each one listing the parade times, keep this on you, so you know when to be heading to busy rides. You will also find the quick-service restaurants are a lot quieter during parades as well.
Again if you are not a fan of the Firework shows, then ride during these times as well. Although I highly recommend you see Happily Ever After and Fantasmic at least once.
Tips and tricks for staying in Walt Disney World Hotel
Staying on Walt Disney World property is like another theme park world in itself and if you find a good deal, it is something I highly recommend doing. In fact, my parents still visiting Orlando at least once a year, they do not even visit the parks anymore, they just spend time on Disney property and soak in the atmosphere.
If you want to stay on Disney property, look for times when they offer free dining planning. This will serve you a mountain of money and you will get all your food for the holiday. Just Google ‘free Disney dining plan’ to find out more. You can also use leftover snack credits to get treats to take home as free gifts.
Guests staying on resort get access to ‘extra magic hours’, these are a few hours at the start or the end of the day to explore the parks when they are not open to the general public. The magic hours change each day, so you will need to plan in advance, but it is another way to help beat the bigger queue times. Always use the extra magic hours at the Animal Kingdom to ride Flight of Passage. It is not unusual for the queue for this ride to be over 3 hours long in standby.
At certain resorts, such as the Carribean Beach, you can watch the Happily Ever After fireworks from the comfort of the beach, with the music played over the speakers. This is a perk just for Disney resort guests and is a great hack to watch the nightly show without being squashed in the crowds. This option is available to anyone staying on Disney property, not just if you are staying at the Carribean Beach. For guests of the Contemporary resort only, you can also watch from the top of the resort.
Spend time at the Boardwalk, it is a beautiful area of Disney property and home to, in my opinion, the best Disney World bar – Abracadabar, a magic-themed cocktail bar. Talk to the bartenders to ask them to show you the hidden secrets inside the bar. The Boardwalk is open to everyone, not just Disney Resort Guests and it is usually a lot quieter than Disney Springs.
If you are a fan of pin trading, there are cast members in pretty much every gift shop in the complex to trade with. However, to get the best trades, every so often in the Polynesian Resort, they bring out three massive boards of available pins to trade. You can only trade two pins per visit, but there is a chance to get some rare pins there. There is no rhyme or reason to when this board comes out, but again talk to cast members in that resort, you never know what politeness may bring.
Make use of Disney Transport but not just the buses. The buses are great for getting in between parks, but there are so many other ways to move around Disney property, including by boat. Riding the boats between resorts, where possible, give a really unique way to see Disney. These can be even more beautiful when riding them at sunset.
Feeling the Disney blues once you come home? Purchase some Maple and Whiskey room fragrances and candles from Etsy. They smell so much like certain areas in the parks and resorts. I have ‘Main Street Bakery’ and ‘Over Africa’ which takes me straight back to being on Soarin’ in Epcot.
I can guarantee you will have the time of your life at Disney World, no matter what your age is. Disney World is truly magical and by following the tips and tricks you will really get the most out of your visit. It is important to remember to give yourself time to rest as well though, Disney World can be exhausting, so be sure to allocate time for just sitting by the pool and resting your tired feet.