My top disney world hacks
As an annual passholder and a Disney Vacation Club Member for the past 23 years (yes that is my entire life), I’ve collected quite a few tips for traveling to Disney World throughout the years. I have stayed on and off site, at the majority of the Disney resorts, have experienced every holiday that Disney celebrates, and have eaten in almost all of their restaurants.
Through the years, I’ve collected quite a bit of knowledge and am going to share my secrets with you here today. These secrets are guaranteed to make your trip memorable and successful, regardless of whether you’re traveling alone, with children, or with your college roommate.
P.S. Tip #1 is GUARANTEED to let you ride the Mine Train without any wait OR a FastPass
Tip #10: Download the MyDisneyExperience App (and use it)
The MyDisneyExperience app is relatively new to Disney World, but it has honestly changed the entire experience for guests. You can manage all of your plans from hotel reservations, restaurant reservations, fastpasses, and photo pass all at the tip of your fingers. Furthermore, you can get directions to attractions, and even view wait times!
Want to change your fastpasses? No problem! You can easily do so while waiting in line for another attraction! Need to get dinner reservations? Easy! Not only this, but Disney World has free wifi, so you won’t be going over on your data plan. You can even view your photos instantly on your phone, and if you purchase the photopass, you can immediately download them and share with friends and family.
Tip #9: Eat at a Character Breakfast
Character breakfasts are the best way to add some magic to your trip. Not only is it a great way to save yourself some time that you would have spent waiting in lines to see some of the more popular characters, but it’s also an easier way to get into some of the more exclusive restaurants. There are countless places to dine, and each offers a different themed cuisine and a different variety of characters- there’s something offered for the whole family!
Tip #8: Purchase the Memory Maker Photopass
Depending on your family’s budget and the length of your trip, a photopass may or may not be a reality. As an annual passholder, a memory maker photopass is included with my ticket. Even if you aren’t a passholder, you can purchase the Memory Maker for $199.00.
Before I purchased an annual pass, I was convinced that I could get all the photos that I wanted on my DSLR (and I still bring my camera- I love shooting at Disney World). Now that I’ve experienced the convenience of having the memory maker, I will never go back.
I found that I stop and get more photos with the photographers, and love that you can immediately download them to your phone! When you get home, you can download them to your computer and print them on your own, or you can add fun frames for free! Furthermore, your memory maker includes photos from rides!
Bonus: Photographers can add animations of your favorite Disney characters to your photos for some extra Disney Magic. Plus, it makes it even more convenient when extra magic photo opportunities appear (like the Tangled floating lantern photo above) and you don’t have to hesitate to jump in line.
Traveling with a group of single adults? Have everyone pitch in and split the photopass. Just be sure to give the photographers the same magic band/park pass that your purchased the memory maker with. You can easily turn a $200 purchase into a purchase that’s $20-$50 per person that everyone can enjoy.
Tip #7: Get into the Magic
You’re in Disney World! That’s something in itself to celebrate! Disney World is notorious for making all occasions magical. There are countless buttons that you can wear advertising what you are celebrating, and cast members will congratulate you on your accomplishment whether you’re celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or simply waking up before 8 AM.
Regardless of whether you’re an adult solo traveler, it’s your first trip, or your 30th visit, there are plenty of ways to get into the magic. So treat yourself to a pair of mickey ears or a pin to wear on your lanyard.
On a budget? Check out the stores on Etsy! You can get custom mickey ears made for a bargain, and you are guaranteed to get more compliments on them than you’ve ever received in your life!
Tip #6: Sign up for a Disney Race (and run it)
Running the Disney Princess Half Marathon was one of the most memorable Disney trips I’ve made. There’s dozens of races in Orlando, Anaheim, and even Paris. Even if you’re not a runner, the races have tons of entertainment along the course, and there’s even characters along the way!! The different races have something to offer for the whole family, and it’s a great way to keep your family in shape while taking a trip.
Bonus: If your purchase the Disney memory maker, your race photos will be included in this purchase! You do NOT wanna miss these great photos of your accomplishment!
Tip #5: Visit Epcot for the Flower and Garden Festival
Every spring, Epcot changes the entire scenery for the Flower and Garden Festival. Not only are the exhibits breath taking, but there are special food stands at every country at the world showcase. These food stands have tapa-type dishes for about $7 each, and allow you to experience the cuisine of each country with portion control and on a budget.
Traveling with children? Pick up one of the passports at the park entrance. It includes stickers to check off which exhibits you’ve visited, which gives the kids something fun to do while you enjoy the beautiful sites and incredible food.
Tip #4: Make Dining Reservations: Here’s How to Get Reservations at the Coveted Restaurants.
On your Disney Experience app on your phone, you can also make restaurant reservations 180 days in advance. I highly recommend making reservations for dinner. Not only will you have planned dining time in air conditioning, but it’s great to walk straight to your table at the end of the day. The quick service dining is great, but Disney dining has so much more to offer.
Want to get into the exclusive restaurants?: First, if you are staying at a Disney resort, you can start making reservations 180 days before your check in date. This means that if you’re staying for 7 days, you can make reservations for the exclusive restaurants on your 7th day, and you’ll have a 7 day jump start on getting reservations.
Don’t see availability? No worries. Check back frequently on the Disney Experience App. It’s updated as people change their plans (This is how I got a coveted reservation at Be Our Guest- Read about more in Tip #1). Also, you can always call the Disney Dining hotline at (407) WDW- DINE, as they may be able to see availability before the app is updated.
Tip #3: Stay at an Epcot Resort
Everyone is very eager to stay at a Magic Kingdom Resort because of the easy access to monorail and the Magic Kingdom, but what they don’t realize is how isolated this makes you from the other parks. Not only are the Magic Kingdom resorts significantly more expensive, but if you want to visit any other park, you’ll need to take a monorail to the transportation center to get a monorail to Epcot or take a bus to one of the other parks. Epcot resorts sit right between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and are walking distance to the parks.
Not only can you walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, but there are ferries available into the back entrance of Epcot and the main entrance of Hollywood Studios. If you have park hoppers, this also means that if you need to head back to the hotel for an afternoon nap or pool time, you can easily manage that without budgeting an hour for transportation, AND you can walk to another park after your afternoon break. Want to visit Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom? No problem. Epcot sits between the two parks, so you’re only a short bus ride away!
Bonus: You can see Epcot and Hollywood Studios fireworks from your hotel room!
Tip #2: Plan your FastPasses Strategically
Something that most people don’t know is that once you use your 3 allotted fast passes, you can get more. For this reason, it is in your best interest to line up your first three fastpasses to be the three most popular rides back to back right when the park opens. After you use your last fastpass, you can go on your app to book your party’s next fastpass one ride at a time.
But wait… here’s a bonus tip: If you have a larger party, sometimes getting that 4th, 5th, even 6th fast pass can get difficult if you search in the app by your actual party size. BUT if you search for one or two at a time, you’ll have an easier time finding availability. So, if you find fastpasses that have different, but overlapping arrival times, your larger party can all ride together.
Example: You can’t find 6 fastpasses to Splash Mountain? Search for two or three riders. You may be able to find fast passes from 11:30-12:30 and 12:00-1:00. Your party can arrive anywhere from 12:00-12:30 and can still all ride together.
Tip #1: Make Breakfast Reservations at the Magic Kingdom Before the Park Opens
I took my sister to Disney World for her 11th birthday, and this single memory made not only our day easier and more enjoyable, but it was the highlight of our trip. We got breakfast reservations at Be Our Guest for 8:15 AM (the park opened at 9:00 AM that day). When you arrive to the park for breakfast, you simply show your reservation to enter the park early.
You’re allowed into the park at 7:45 AM sharp, and the experience of seeing the park completely empty is worth waking up so early. Not only did Layne and I get to get our pictures taken without hundreds of guests in the background, but Layne’s first view of Cinderella’s castle was even more magical because it was intimate and beautiful as the sun rose behind it.
Why this is the #1 thing you should do when you go to Disney world: By the time we left breakfast, it was 8:30, giving us 30 minutes before the park opened. This gave us thirty minutes to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train three times without a wait.
Normally, the Mine Train has a wait of anywhere between 90 minutes to three hours depending on the crowd. After we rode the mine train, we waited next to the rope blocking off the rest of Fantasyland as we saw the opening show fireworks. When they dropped the rope, we immediately raced to Peter Pan’s Flight, which we rode without a wait again (normally a 90 minute wait minimum).
After this, we used our fast passes to ride Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, and Splash Mountain, and jumped on the less crowded rides in between. Because of our careful planning, we had ridden every ride in the Magic Kingdom before lunch. By the time the crowds were picking up, we were able to return to our hotel for lunch and some pool time without feeling any guilt that we were missing out on any experiences.
With these tips, you are guaranteed to have the trip of a lifetime! Have any advice to add? Did you try out these tips and love them? Let me know! Thanks for reading!
June 28, 2017