Many of our go-to Disney World tips and tricks look a little bit different right now. Although it may be a while before we can use some of them again, we still think every Disney-goer should know them. There are so many hacks to make your Disney trip a little more seamless, a little less hectic, and a whole lot more magical.
We’re here to share 26 of our tried and true tips! And for those that don’t totally work right now, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered for those, too!
Trip Planning and Packing
Typically, a LOT of planning can go into a Disney World trip. The excitement often begins as soon as you book your vacation (for many guests, often a YEAR out!), and there are a lot of things you can do to make your visit better before you’ve even left!
Choosing Dates For Your Trip
Let’s start off with some of the tricky decisions you have to make when planning your Disney trip. Different times of the year offer various special events (think Halloween or Christmas and the EPCOT Festivals). If there’s an event that’s a must-do for you, then you’re going to want to research those dates and book your trip for that time of year.
If you’re flexible with your time, then you have the ability to choose one of the “slower” times of year to visit. Slow is a relative term in Disney World. It’s always busy, but we’re talking about the difference between a 15-minute wait for it’s a small world and an hour wait! Timing is everything.
The least crowded months typically include January and February (apart from Presidents’ Day Weekend and Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend. More on that below!), September, and October (the farther away from Halloween, the better). Watch out for any 3-day weekends or special events in Disney World though! Those are typically much more crowded and some of them can sneak up on you if you’re not careful! We broke down ALL the events in a Disney World year here!
Even with a reduced capacity right now, we still are noticing higher crowds during the holiday season, so be mindful of when you visit and you can save yourself added stress from crowds, if possible.
Something that will help you at the beginning of your park day — and throughout the day too — is a good park bag! Security lines can get long, and you can make that process easier with a bag that doesn’t have too many pockets and compartments. This will streamline the process and save time during the day so you’re not searching every last pocket for your chapstick. A waterproof material helps as well. We’ve sat our bags in puddles or gotten them soaked in a storm enough to know this is a lifesaver!
If you’re looking to save a little extra cash (and honestly, aren’t we all?) do your best to remember packing those things that Disney will try to sell to you when you need them the most — that’s right, we’re talking umbrellas and ponchos.
If you feel like we sound like a broken record telling you to bring a poncho from home it’s for good reason — this is one of the EASIEST ways guests can save a surprising amount of cash! Disney upsells these pieces of plastic for around $12! Florida is infamous for its almost daily, torrential downpours, especially during the summer. Disney will whip out those umbrellas and ponchos the minute water falls from the sky just about everywhere you look! But if you remember to pack them, you’ll be saving yourself loads of money.
Plan ahead and stay dry! Other essentials that you’ll find at Disney you’ll regret not bringing from home include sunscreen, water bottles, a way to cool off, and many more. Don’t fall victim to the last minute upcharged convenience items.
Ship to Your Resort
Many people don’t know that you can actually have your purchases from Disney sent to your resort! Unfortunately, this service isn’t being offered right now; but typically, as long as you won’t be checking out within the next two days, your items can be sent to your resort. You can also have your purchases held at the front of the park while you go about your day and pick them up on your way out!
Earlier this year after the parks reopened, Disney was testing out certain merchandise holding procedures to pick up your purchases at a designated store. Select stores are currently trying out a new mobile checkout system, as well, to make your shopping experience easier.
When in Doubt, Head to the Check Out
Items in Disney can sell out really quickly, especially when they’re limited or new. If you see something you think you want, we recommend getting it then and there.
Certain merch can only be found at designated locations. For example, it’ll be pretty tricky to find any Avatar merchandise outside of Pandora or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and certain Haunted Mansion merch will ONLY be sold at Memento Mori in Magic Kingdom. When in doubt, it’s best to purchase something and then return it, rather than find out on the last day of your trip that it’s no longer available.
Lots of dining locations in Disney World have gradually begun to welcome guests since Disney’s reopening in July. However, you’ll always want to check which restaurants are open, what their reservation procedures are, and what type of menu they’re offering before booking.
Disney introduced mobile ordering in 2017, and what once was a convenient option has now become a way of life! Right now, most quick service locations will strongly suggest that guests use Mobile Ordering. (By strongly suggest, we mean borderline mandatory unless you’re paying with cash or need assistance!) This alleviates long lines and makes your ordering process much simpler and quicker.
Prior to the park closures, this was one of our BIGGEST tips! Nowadays, be sure you’re familiar with how to use Mobile Order BEFORE you hit the parks. Ensure you have a credit card tied to your My Disney Experience account and you’ll be a Mobile Order pro in no time.
Character Meals can be kind of hard to come across right now, and those that ARE still taking place are happening quite differently. Under normal circumstances, we would recommend that if a character meal is a top priority for you, eating breakfast rather than lunch and dinner, which can be pricier.
Right now, you can still get your fill of character meals at spots like Garden Grill in EPCOT, Topolino’s Terrace at the Riviera Resort, and Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood Studios. The newest addition to this lineup, the return of character breakfast to Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, began on December 16th! Whichever character meal you choose, note that you probably won’t see characters for too long, and you can’t get autographs, hugs, or take any up close and personal photos.
There are lots of snacks at Disney World that are large enough for two people to share. Kids’ meals are a great option because you’ll still typically get a decently sized portion for a much lower price.
If you have two adults that aren’t ravenous, you can likely get by splitting an adult-sized entree. These are usually far larger than your average meal you’d find back home, so you can stretch those dollars even further.
Knowing the Best Seat in the House
Many Disney World restaurants have super interesting things to see while you chow down. However, it does matter WHERE in the restaurant you sit if you want the best views! For instance, Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Kidani Village has an incredible savanna view. You can watch animals roam inches from your table while you eat…if you remember to request a table by the windows!
If you head over to San Angel Inn in the Mexico Pavilion at EPCOT, you can request a table on the waterfront and watch the Gran Fiesta Tour float by while you dine. Or, just across the walkway at La Hacienda de San Angel, you can request a table by the windows to have prime fireworks views in the evening once they return. Be sure to do your research and let your seater know exactly where you want to sit upon checking in for your reservation. They’ll do their best to accommodate you.
When you check the wait time for an attraction on your My Disney Experience App, or at the ride itself, the posted time is often longer than the actual amount of time you’ll wait in line.
These trends do tend to fluctuate, but if you’re feeling discouraged about the wait time of a ride, more often than not your wait will actually be shorter than what’s posted!
Rider Switch is a great option for people traveling with little kids. This service is still happening right now in reopened Disney World! Rider Switch allows one or more guests to wait in line for the attraction, while someone waits outside with the guest not riding the attraction.
A Cast Member will scan your MagicBands, and after the first riders exit the ride, the second rider will, well, swap with them and enter through a much shorter line than the full standby line! This saves you some time by preventing you from having to wait in line twice!
Knowing Which Seats are the Best
Similar to knowing which table is best at a Disney World restaurant, your ride experience can also be affected by where you’re situated on the ride.
This attraction will have you gliding across the sky, but sometimes things can look a little…warped. Depending on the row you’re in and your location on each row, your view of the screen might be kind of wonky! Plus, maybe you don’t want to see a bunch of dangling feet in front of you!
For this attraction, ask for the center of the first row. In the boarding groups, this is typically the B1 section you’d preload into. Your view will be centered (meaning no curved, distorted Eiffel Tower) and you won’t have to worry about any feet blocking your view of the world.
While you can get pretty wet in any row on your Splash Mountain boat, one thing we can practically guarantee is that you’re more likely to get wet sitting on the right side of the boat in comparison to the left side…and it’s not because of that big drop.
Near the end of the ride, after that big ol’ drop, your boat will pass what you may think is a tiny, seemingly harmless waterfall — wrong. Boats often back up to this spot as ones farther up at the exit unload. This means you could be parked here for a minute or so. This waterfall will definitely splash on that right side of the boat and often get you far wetter than that drop ever did! Maybe trick your friend into sitting there if you don’t want to get as wet. 😉
Rise of the Resistance
This extremely popular attraction actually offers TWO different experiences depending on which transport vehicle you’re sorted into, once you get to the trackless portion of the ride.
You’ll encounter some different things (no spoilers here) depending on which ride vehicle you’re in, but regardless you’re still in for an incredible experience!
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
This is another Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction where your experience is dependent on your position on the ride. In this case, you’ll be assigned to the position of either pilot, engineer, or gunner.
Pilot is definitely the most hands-on role as you get to navigate the Millennium Falcon! Gunners will mostly just hit a lot of buttons but at least feel like they’re contributing. Poor Engineers sit in the back and just mash buttons hoping for the best ?.
The expansive views of the savanna are definitely immersive on this real-life safari tour in Animal Kingdom, but we think one side of the safari vehicle has a teeny advantage over the other. The left side will get you closer to the majority of the animals, like the crocodiles, hippos, and the African wild dogs. While the right side might give you a better view of the giraffes.
Unless giraffes are your absolute only priority, try sliding down towards the left of your row (meaning be first to board when it’s your turn!).
Generally speaking, any ride that incorporates a fast-moving, train-like ride vehicle like Expedition Everest, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster, the intensity of your ride will depend on where you’re seated.
For a less intense ride, hop in the front! If you love thrills, aim for a seat in the back as you’ll get pulled along and whipped around a whole lot more!
Now, FastPass+ is NOT currently available and it’s unclear when it will return. However, when it does — these are the tips you’re going to want to use to maximize your time in the parks. **Reminder that these tips are from pre-closure Dinsey World. If/when FastPasses are reintroduced, we’ll update with accurate info!**
When You Can Start Booking
Figure out when your window opens to select FastPasses for your vacation. If you’re staying at a Disney resort or one of Disney’s Good Neighbor Hotels, you can book them beginning 60 days before your trip. If you’re staying elsewhere off-site, you can book them 30 days before your trip.
When FastPass+ becomes available again, one park you’ll want to strategize FastPass picks is Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s got most of the newest attractions, including Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Slinky Dog Dash, and the ultra-popular Rise of the Resistance. If you’re able to secure that boarding group at 7AM, you’ll then be able to use your FastPasses while waiting for your boarding group to be called.
It’s unclear if the boarding process will remain the same once FastPasses are back on the table for this ride. Rise wasn’t using FastPasses pre-closure and was instead relying on the virtual queue system we’ve seen in place before and after reopening (with modifications since introduced). It’s possible the current system that allows guests with Hollywood Studios Park Passes for that day to secure their boarding group at 7AM without being scanned into the park will remain in place.
Timing Your FastPasses Efficiently
When you initially book your FastPasses, you’re allowed to select three for that day. Once you’ve used those three, you can then book more, one at a time, as available — YAY!
If you want to maximize your FastPass usage, you’re going to want to make those selections for earlier in your day, that way once you’ve finished them and the day continues on, you have more opportunities to make even more!
Fireworks are also on the list of things that aren’t happening right now. Though we were pleasantly surprised to see some in the Magic Kingdom recently as part of the Christmas projections!
When Happily Ever After does return, here are some unique spots to watch it from when in front of the castle and on Main Street, U.S.A. are just too crowded.
Within Magic Kingdom, one place that offers a really different view is the Swiss Family Treehouse over in Adventureland. You won’t get to hear the soundtrack, but the elevated view will make your experience a little more unique than it would normally be on the ground.
A spot that will give you an opposite vantage point of this nighttime spectacular is over in Fantasyland. From behind Cinderella Castle, you’ll have a completely different view. It’ll feel like the fireworks are right on top of you!
Although you won’t be able to see the castle projections, this is a really unique perspective!
The beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort offers a good panorama to see the fireworks from a distance. Speakers at the resort pump in the show’s music so don’t worry — you’ll still be able to sing along. However, you won’t be able to really see the projections on the castle from this far away.
Another popular spot (for good reason) is California Grill and California Grill Lounge in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This restaurant gives a sprawling view of the fireworks. You’ll be able to use the expansive viewing deck on the evening you dine at this location, regardless of your reservation time. Just save your receipt.
These spots will let you enjoy the fireworks without tons of crowding and a just about perfect view!
We’re patiently awaiting a date when EPCOT’s new fireworks show, Harmonious, will begin. But in preparation, here are the best restaurants around the World Showcase Lagoon to snag a seat to watch the show.
Dining at Rose and Crown in the UK Pavilion will give you a stellar view if you request a patio table. You’ll have to guarantee your viewing by making an Advance Dining Reservation, which currently becomes available 60 days before the day you wish to reserve. Dining reservations are slightly different right now — you will need valid park admission and a Park Pass reservation for that park.
La Hacienda de San Angel is another great spot to catch the show (and you remembered to request a window table from our earlier tip, didn’t you?!). Its expansive windows provide a clear view of the World Showcase Lagoon. We recommend grabbing reservations for this location as well! It’s quite popular when the fireworks are happening.
There are also a couple of spots like Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the UK and La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico that won’t necessarily give you the best view of the fireworks, but you won’t need to worry about making a dining reservation for these spots. Just grab a seat early!
Another cool vantage point to see EPCOT’s fireworks from is Disney’s BoardWalk! You won’t see any of the lower to the ground spectacles that happen on the lagoon, but anything up in the sky is definitely fair game and really puts the scale of these nightly fireworks shows into perspective!
Grab a cupcake from BoardWalk Bakery and pick out a bench on the BoardWalk while you’re waiting to watch the show.
Although we’re loving all the different character cavalcades that occur randomly throughout the day, we can’t wait to see Festival of Fantasy coming down Main Street once again. When this parade does come back, we think the best spot to watch it from is Frontierland.
It’s typically the least crowded there, and this is where the parade begins so you can see it and then move on with your day.
Acing Disney World in 2021
Masks and Hand Sanitizers
These items are undoubtedly essentials right now. Pack a couple of comfortable masks for each day, in case one gets sweaty, wet, or you drop it. Mask chains that attach to the sides of your mask are also helpful because you won’t have to worry about where to put it when you take it off! Our DFB Store even has our own face masks featuring unique Disney designs!
We have some really fun designs that are also available in matching pouches, leggings, and more!
Keeping hand sanitizer in your bag is a MUST because you’ll always have it right there when you need it. Disney’s sanitizer can range from too watery to smelly to kind of…grainy. BYOHS (bring your own hand sani, obv.) and you’ll avoid any of the yuckier sanitizers and never be without. We love the kind that clip on our park bags. Hand sanitizer can also really dry out your hands, so pack some lotion, too!
Checking Park Times Frequently
We’ve noticed that Disney makes changes to its park hours pretty often. That’s why, when reserving your park passes, you should check the park’s hours. Then check back closer to your trip. Then check back the day before you visit. Then check back that day. You get the point — they change often and unpredictably, so make sure to stay updated.
Modified Return of Park Hopper
Beginning on January 1st, Park Hopping is returning to Disney World! You’ll need a park ticket with Park Hopping capabilities to be able to do this and still need to reserve park passes for the day for the park you wish to start your day in. You must visit your first reserved park of the day, and you can start hopping beginning at 2PM if there’s availability!
Entrance to the parks while Park Hopping is still based on capacity limits, and you can’t get a boarding group at Hollywood Studios by hopping over there at 2PM, so keep that in mind!
Doing your research and being flexible during your trip will help it feel more relaxing. Being unable to plan FastPasses and character meet and greets into your day right now leaves a lot of wiggle room. Your favorite dining spots you had hoped to visit may not be open, and you may even have to wait in lines to enter some stores.
Even before the closures, being flexible was a big key to success in Disney World. Things go wrong all the time — rides break down, it rains, or your bus never shows up on time. The new challenges are navigatable, but flexibility is key. Being flexible will help you to relax and enjoy — you’re in Disney World, after all!
And those are 26 tips that every Disney World pro knows! How many of them have you tried? As things in Disney continuously change, we’re always learning new tips, and improving upon some old ones — we can’t wait to share even more of them with you!