Disney world can be full of fun, memories and magic. It can also be full of crowds, costs and discomfort. These tips will help you get the most fun and magic out of your trip, while saving you time, money and energy.
Beating the Crowds
One of the most common complaints about a Disney World vacation is that it was just too crowded. Its no fun standing in long lines, not being able to get a seat at a restaurant and dealing with rude, pushy guests. Here are a few tips for beating the crowds:
The lowest crowds of the year are always when kids are in school. Holiday weekends, spring break season and summertime are absolutely the most crowded times of the year.
When you see a series of long lines to enter a park, attractions or to have your bag searched, always head to the line furthest to the side. These are almost always the shortest as they are often concealed from view by the larger lines in the middle.
Crowds are at their highest midday. Getting to the park before opening is the best way to avoid crowds, no matter the time of year you are visiting. Many experts suggest arriving early, leaving midday for lunch/naps/swimming and returning later in the afternoon.
Consider doing a Touring Plan to help minimize your wait in line.
Expedition Everest, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Test Track have single rider lines. These can be incredibly short and a practical way to ride an attraction when you don’t mind separating members of your group.
The ‘official’ park closing is actually the time at which the lines for the rides close. The park doesn’t actually close for at least another hour.
Use this extra hour to avoid long lines for buses and traffic jams in the parking lot. Consider relaxing in the peacefulness of being in an empty park at night or doing your souvenir shopping ( many stores stay open after the rides close).
Staying for the Kiss Goodnight show on Cinderella Castle, usually a half hour or so past official park closing, is a great way to avoid the exiting crowds in Magic Kingdom.
While Extra Magic Hours sound fun, the reality is they generally lead to much higher crowds on days they are offered. Those extra hours are mostly spent in line.
On any given day, some parks are much more crowded than others. If you are flexible on which parks you go to on which days, check out this Crowd Calendar Forecast. The least crowded park is always the most fun!
Shopping and Souvenir Tips
If you want to buy a souvenir, but don’t want to have to carry it on the rides, don’t worry. Anything you purchase in the parks can be sent back to your hotel room if you’re staying on property.
If you decide later something you purchased isn’t quite so magical after all, you don’t have to return to the store to purchase it. Most merchandise can be returned to any store in the parks or resorts.
Most stores remain open after the rides close. By saving some of your shopping until the evening, you’ll have more time for the rides.
Pressed penny machines are scattered all over Walt Disney World. At 50 cents (plus a penny) they area a fun and very affordable souvenir for kids.
Pin trading is popular in the parks. Most cast members have a set of pins they’ll happily trade. This is a reasonably priced type of souvenir that is customizable and can lead to fun interactions with the cast members.
Souvenirs sold in Walt Disney World used to be greatly inflated in price, but that’s not as true any more. More often then not, products cost as much in the park as out of the park.
Guests can bring their own food into the parks. Soft sided coolers are allowed too. Combine this fact with one of the several grocery delivery services in Orlando and you can save a lot of cash.
The Chicken and Ribs platter at Cosmic Rays is a ton of food and can easily feed 2 people.
Columbia Harbor House in Liberty Square has an upstairs dining area most guess miss out on. Its much less crowded, much less noisy and well decorated.
Pecos Bills in Adventureland often draws huge crowds at meal times, even on low-crowd days. The dining area is huge, and somewhat maze-like. Take your time and wander towards the back. It will be far less crowded and some of the rooms have great Pirate ambiance.
Get the Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream at Beach Club. Its a giant bowl of eight scoops of ice cream, every topping and a can of whip cream, delivered with flashing lights and sometimes applause. Its less then $30, and can provide a whole family with a sugar rush and a good memory. The rear entrance to Epcot is just a short stroll away, making this a fun stop on your way into the park.
If ordering a drink at Starbucks, and the barista asks for your name, don’t be too shy to off the name of your Disney character alter ego. Its fun to hear: “I have a mocha for Mr.Incredible.”
You’ll want to have cheap, disposable ponchos for any days where heavy rain is in the forecast. They are far more expensive in the parks then at home. Spending $40 in the parks to keep a family dry is stressful and annoying. Spending $3 beforehand gets the person who packed them a high five.
There are many little girls walking around in princess costumes and castmembers are trained to dote on them. These dresses are very expensive in the park. Purchasing one before hand not only saves money, but gives your little girl something fun to pack herself.
If you’re going in late Fall or Winter, make sure to pack layers of clothes. That time of year, Orlando can be warm midday and freezing in the evening.
You can have packages shipped to the Disney resort you are staying at. This is handy for avoiding baggage fees or replacing lost/forgotten items. You can even have groceries shipped in from Amazon.
If you want even more info, this site is the best kept secret in Disney World vacation planning.