It’s funny… I never considered myself a Disney fanatic or a Disney Pro. Until friends began approaching me to help them plan their Disney World Vacations. Turns out my 20+ visits to Disney World + a few inside Disney World tips from my Imagineer dad qualified me to help families make the best of their Disney World Vacations. So, in order to help out, even more, people I decided to put together a list of all my best tips, tricks, and a few Disney World secrets. I hope you enjoy!!
Disney World Tips & Tricks- MUST Know Before You Go
In order to save you time and keep things organized, I have divided the tips up by the Walt Disney World parks. Read through them or skip to the areas that you are interested in. And, don’t forget to leave me a comment and tell me what you think 🙂
- Order your Personalized Magic Bands and book Disney’s Magical Express ASAP (Disney Resort Guests Only)- your magic bands and luggage tags need ample time to arrive before you leave. Your magic band will be your most prized possession. It is your room key, park ticket, payment method, photo pass, memory maker tag & more! Magical Express luggage tags mean you won’t even have to go to baggage claim when you arrive- SCORE! (Check out 13 Amazing things Disney Magic Bands Can do)
- Download the My Disney Experience App it’s AMAZING!- the app is available here. And, it links your reservations, lets you search ride wait times, book dining reservations, purchase souvenirs and send them to your room or mail them home and it’s linked to your photo pass!!!
- Stay away from the EXTRA Magic Hours Parks- the parks with Extra Magic Hours for Disney Hotel Guests tend to be the busiest the entire day. If it is an early morning magic hours and you are staying at one of the Disney resorts you can take advantage of the early morning and get out because it gets packed, however, if you oversleep and don’t make it to the early entry, change plans and go to a different park.
- FREE Ice Water. Ice water is free from any cafe with fountain soda service we like to bring refillable water bottles to make it easier to carry around.
- Fast Pass- schedule your first 3 fast passes for the morning in one park, then after you finish you can use the app or visit a kiosk to schedule your next three in the evening at the same park or a different one. (Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Guests can book Fast Passes up to 60 days in advance of their reservation date)
- Single rider- Test Track, Expedition Everest, and Rock N Rollercoaster all have a separate line for single riders.
- Riders Switch Pass- have little ones that can’t or don’t want to ride? Have one parent and said child wait outside while the rest of the party walks through the queue as normal. Then let a cast member know you are doing Rider Switch. They will give you a Rider Switch Pass (like a Fast Pass). You simply enjoy the attraction as normal and exit. Then, you hand the person waiting with the child outside the Rider Switch Pass and they go through the fast pass line with up to 2 additional riders. This way everyone gets to ride and you DON’T have to wait in line twice!!
- Make all of your dining reservations 6 months in advance- you can make reservations on the My Disney Experience App, online here or by calling (407) WDW-DINE.
- Adults can order kids meals at Disney- whether you are health conscious or trying to stay on budget ordering off the kid’s meal can be a great choice. There are a number of healthy options available and the portion sizes were just right for me.
- PhotoPass- Disney has professional photographers throughout the park ready to capture your special moments. They will give you a photo pass or link your magic band so you can view the photos on the Disney Experience app or website at a later time.
- Pro Tip- Did you know these photographers will also take a photo of you using your camera or phone? Pretty cool right?
- Mobile Food Ordering- Nothing is worse than being hungry and then having to wait in line. Lucky for you, Disney has rolled out Mobile Food Ordering directly from the My Disney Experience App. Simply place your order, head to a specially marked window and pick up your yummy food.
- Bring your own snacks into the parks- check out our Disney Packing List + the learn about our FAVORITE Grocery Store near Disney World here (*you don’t even have to leave your car if you use their online ordering).
- Pack a strong but compact umbrella – It rains in Florida…a lot! Let me tell you something. I have done every type of umbrella/poncho. I packed the giant ones but they were a pain to take on the planes and the Disney buses. I did the cheap ones from Disney (cheap made, not price) that broke after a few days. The best umbrella to pack is this one from amazon.com. I have had it for years and every time I use it, whether its to block the sun or the rain.
Here are some of the moments our Photo Pass captured. And, thanks to the Memory Maker we were provided through DisneySMMC, every picture like this was ours to keep.
- Pro Tip- If you can afford it the Memory Maker is an AMAZING tool!!! It tracks the photos you take on the rides, while meeting characters and any photo you take with a Disney Photo Pass Photographer. The photos come directly to your My Disney Experience app or can be viewed online almost instantly. From there you can download the photos to keep with just one click! There is an additional fee but with all the special photo memories we brought back I would say it’s totally worth the cost. I won’t even bring my big camera next time we go!
- Chewing Gum- if you like gum pack it, none is sold in the parks.
- Purchase Discounted Tickets– We have a full breakdown of where to get discounted Disney World Tickets, however typically Undercover Tourist is our go-to resource for discounted Disney World tickets. Check Current Prices Here!
Disney Resorts – Money Saving Tips
Staying onsite at one of the Disney Resorts is probably my favorite thing in the world. I have stayed at both onsite and offsite hotels, and there is just something magical about staying onsite. I think it’s that the Disney service, decorations, begins the moment you wake up and continues throughout the day. Now, staying at a Disney Resort can be costly. We were lucky enough to make the decision to purchase a Disney Vacation Club when we went to Disney World our first time and it has helped us afford to visit Disney World every year after (sometimes multiple times a year).
Disney Vacation Club – Saves you up to 50% OFF Your Stay
If you plan on visiting Disney World more than once I highly recommend looking into the Disney Vacation Club. The Disney Vacation Club (a.k.a. “DVC”) is a timeshare program that makes it cheaper to stay at one of the Disney resorts in the park. You can buy or rent a DVC resale online from a current DVC owner and save up to 50% off the total cost for a week’s stay at a Disney resort. If you visit Disney often, a DVC resale would be a wise way for you save money while still being able to stay at one of Disney’s wonderful resorts. Browse DVC Resales for sale by owner online at BuyaTimeshare.com and make an offer on an ad of your choice to get started.
- DVC RENTALS – One of my favorite Disney World tips is DVC Rentals. If you are not ready to purchase a Disney Vacation Club, you can also save on your Disney Vacation by renting a DVC timeshare. Disney Vacation Club members are allowed to book resort stays for their guests. There are several sites that allow you to “rent” points from a member. This can save you a considerable amount of money if you are planning to stay on property. Our favorite DVC Rental site is the DVC Request. See how much you could save by renting points by clicking here or clicking the banner below.
- Buy the refillable drink mug the first day you arrive- great for morning coffee, sodas, tea and hot cocoa at night! Plus, a fun souvenir to take home. I think this is my kids favorite Disney World Tip because they remind me to get the mug the moment we arrive. See below.
- Disney Transportation- plan more time than you think you need if using Disney Transportation. It is a great way to get around but buses only come every 20 minutes or so and sometimes they have multiple stops.
- Sign up for a wake-up call- you receive a phone call in the morning from a Disney character and the kids will love it!
- Souvenir Room Delivery- You can have souvenirs delivered straight to your room from any Disney park. This way you don’t have to carry them around all day! You can also order items straight from the My Disney Experience app and have them delivered to your room or items can also be mailed home directly.
- Best Resort Dining-
- Best Food: Kona Cafe (Polynesian), Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge), California Grill (Contemporary) & Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
- Best Character Dining: Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary), Cape May Cafe (Beach Club), O’hana (Polynesian)
- Best Themed Dining- Beaches N Cream (Beach Club), Perfectly Princess Tea (Grand Floridian) & Whispering Canyon Cafe (Wilderness Lodge)
- Best Concierge- Animal Kingdom Lodge – Check Prices Here!
- Best Overall- The Beach Club Villas – Check Hotel Prices Here!
- Best Pools- Yacht & Beach Club + Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani Village) its a tie for me!
- BONUS- Don’t forget to grab groceries on your way in too! Disney will place a mini fridge in your room + DVC villas have a fridge in them already. Read why Walmart is our grocer of choice near Disney World here.
Disney World Tips – Magic Kingdom
- Avoid the Crowds- work the park from the back to the front and counterclockwise to avoid the crowds. Also, plan to ride the big rides when others are watching the parades. I usually head to Frontierland where Big Thunder is and start working my way back through the park from there.
- Stay Cool- most of the year it’s pretty darn hot. Magic Kingdom Park has some awesome spots to cool off in that will help make your day much better. Try checking out:
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
- Country Bear Jamboree
- The Hall of Presidents
- Haunted Mansion
- Small World
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Pirate’s of the Caribbean
- Under the Sea- Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
*And, honestly if it is just too hot head over to the Walt Disney World Water Parks.
- For the Littles: Splash Mountain has a great playground located at the exit, underneath the train tracks you see below.
- Watch Fireworks with NO CROWDS!- you can view the fireworks from the Dumbo ride in Toon Town if you want to skip/ avoid the crowds. It is still a great view. While most people go in front of Cinderella’s Castle you can relax behind the castle with a great view minus the crowds right in front of Dumbo. Check out the picture below. It was taken in the middle of summer which is a Peak Season for Disney!
- Parade Tip- watch the parade at the second viewing time when possible. It is less crowded bc every one goes to the first one.
- Food Tips-
- Cinderella’s Royal Table– an amazing princess character dining restaurant. Little girls will feel like a real princess.
- Columbia Harbor House is a great option for lunch located near the Liberty Bell in Frontierland. With two stories there is always an indoor table available and the food is good too.
- Be Our Guest has the best food in the park and the kids will love the way the waiters deliver the food straight to your table with a fancy food cart thanks to your magic rose locater.
- Dole Whip is available in multiple locations in Adventureland. One across from the Swiss Family Treehouse and the other by the Magic Carpet Ride.
- Gaston’s Tavern has the amazing HUGE cinnamon rolls that used to be on Main Street. YUMMY!!!
- Check out my top 7 guide to Quick Service Dining at Magic Kingdom & Magic Kingdom Fastpass! Tips and tricks to help you choose the Best Rides
The front of the park is GREAT for Hot Days!
- Innoventions are full of hands-on educational games and simulators for the kids. The attraction is all indoors and air-conditioned.
- Most rides are located inside air-conditioned buildings that are filled with smaller attractions as well. Giving you a much-needed break from the heat.
- There is a playground inside Mission Space’s exit that kids love.
- Check out all the cars inside the exit of Test Track. Kids love pretending to drive them.
- Sample sodas from around the world at the Club Cool sponsored by Coke- it’s free!
- Spaceship Earth- sorry to burst your bubble but this ride is nothing special and EVERYONE goes there first. So, head to the back of Future World to Test Track and Mission Space and save Spaceship Earth for later in the day. We also love Soarin’ over the world.
- FastPasses – There are several shows and rides that offer Fastpass. I have a complete guide to planning your Epcot Fastpass here
- Little Ones-
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends is a great ride for kids and usually a quick queue.
- Turtle Talk with Crush is super fun and it’s located indoors along with a giant aquarium offering ample time indoors.
- Spaceship Earth is slow moving and if you go later in the day the queue isn’t bad.
- Gran Fiesta Tour- boat ride with Donald in Mexico. Our kids love it!
- Plus, Frozen Ever After located in Norway!!!!
- Pro Tip! Head to Frozen Ever After Ride in the morning, not many people head to the World showcase in the morning so the line for Frozen is usually short (or at least reasonable) during that time.
- There is a great character greeting area called Epcot Character Spot– head there early to avoid long lines. It’s great because you wait in one line but get to meet multiple characters like Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, Goofy and Donald usually and it’s indoors and next to Starbucks!!
- Want to see the princesses? Book a breakfast at Akerhaus in Norway and you’ll see a bunch. Book the breakfast before the park opens to be one of the first allowed in the parks 😉
- Kidcot- kids love coloring the Duffy Bears (free) at the Kidcot Fun Stops in the World Showcase. You can start in any country and the kids get their bear and first stamp. The kids continue collecting stamps in each country they visit!
- Pro Tip- kids can also ask cast members in each country to write their name in the cast members native language on the back of their Duffy Bear.
- Phineas & Ferb- kids love racing around Epcot with special phones on a detailed detective mission to save agent P. Their phones unlock special animated features throughout the park!
- Spiked Dole Whip! they spiked the delicious favorite with coconut rum. Get one… it will make your day SO much better!!
- Snack on a Croissant Donut available at a stand near Canada in the World Showcase.
- The Jambon sandwich from France is a great lunch!
- Grab an ice cream or a Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwich or just some delicious Macaroons. All found in France.
- Italy has the BEST latte.
- Le Cellier has fantastic food if you are looking for a gourmet dining experience
- Coral Reef is an incredible experience as you dine inside an aquarium.
- Teppan Edo restaurant in Japan is a fun experience for the kids and delicious too!
- Spice Road Table is a delicious tapas restaurant with a view of illuminations at night.
- Schedule dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel to coincide with illuminations show and request for a table by the window. Their tacos and margaritas are fantastic!
- Illuminations- the show can be seen anywhere around the world showcase so don’t worry too much about finding a seat. 30 minutes prior to show time seems to be just fine!
- Pro Tip- there is a back exit that drops you into Boardwalk which is a great place to walk around, grab a bite (we like picking up a whole pizza pie from the walk-up window) or watch the night time entertainment. You can also walk or take a boat to Hollywood Studios from here. Just make sure if you parked at Epcot you get back to that park before closing.
- Pandora – Pandora opened in May of 2017 and has been quite popular ever since. The Flight of Passage ride is my absolute favorite ride in all the Disney Parks. The only problem, long lines. So, if you haven’t pre-booked your fast pass for the flight of passage, arrive at the park about 30 minutes to an hour before and head straight there. Please check out my insider’s guide to Pandora, it has tips you need to know before you go.
- Morning Safari- you can usually walk right on and the animals are just being fed so many are out.
- Secret Entrance- there is a second entrance at the back of the Rain Forest Cafe Gift Shop if the front entrance is crowded.
- FastPass- schedule a FastPass for Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids. My complete guide to Animal Kingdom FastPass Here
- This park is a great place to meet characters as it typically has much shorter wait times than the other parks.
- Most are located at Discovery Island
- You can also catch the characters by arriving early and heading to the Tree of Life. The characters arrive by car to kick off the day.
- Or book a character breakfast at the Tusker House and see them there.
- Pro Tip- book it before the park opens so you can be one of the first in the park!
- Food Tips-
- Find some great cocktails at the Dawa Bar
- Satu’li Canteen – my kids love this place for the cheeseburger pods, my husband loves the chicken plates.
- Harambe Market has excellent lunch. I love their Chicken Tikka Masala!
- Grab Samosas from the food cart at the entrance of Africa.
- Waffles and Ice Cream are tasty from Tamu Tamu.
- Can’t beat sit down at Tiffins or Yak & Yeti. They are both excellent choices!
- Cool Off-
- plan to get wet, really wet if you are riding Kali River Rapids. Plan to pack ponchos and spare clothing as necessary.
- The Lion King Show is awesome- very entertaining and is in a giant air-conditioned theater.
- It’s Tough to be a Bug is also a great show to cool off in.
Disney World Tips – Hollywood Studios
- Getting there – The Disney buses will take you from any of the Disney resort hotels with the exception of Disney’s Yacht Club, Disney’s Beach Club, & Disney’s Boardwalk Hotels where you can take a boat or simply walk.
- Park Plan- head to Star Wars or Toy Story Mania first if you are at the park early as everyone else will run to Tower of Terror and Rockin Roller Coaster. Get fast passes for those!
- Cool Off-
- Indiana Jones Stunt Show
- Star Tours
- Muppet Vision 3D
- Star Wars Launch Bay
- Jedi Training Academy- does your little one want to learn to be a Jedi? If yes, then you better get to the parks early.
- Although, the website says registration begins when the park opens I have found that they begin letting people in about 30 minutes prior to that time.
- Registration is located at the Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost near the entrance of the stunt show. If you are walking into the park it will be on your left.
- All participants MUST be present to register.
- Participants must be 4-12 years of age
- Space is limited and offered on a first-come, first-served basis
- Star Wars Launch Bay- make sure to stop by and give Chewbacca a big hug. Plus, you can also meet Kylo Ren too!
- Disney Pro Tip- The Jawas will trade you. So, bring something that you don’t mind giving away and you’ll get a fun star wars trinket in exchange!
- Rockin Roller Coaster & Tower of Terror- when the line merges into a smaller room go towards the wall with a door. When it opens you will be closer to the front of the line.
- New Toy Story Land Tips! – The New Toy Story land is here and the area will be packed for the foreseeable future. However, head over to Toy Story Land at night and you can hit up all three rides in less than 90 Minutes. Check out all our Hollywood Studios Fastpass Tips Here!
- Food Tips-
- On the dining plan? Mama Rose’s Fantasmic package is included on the dining plan and your meal includes a fast pass for Fantasmic!
- The Brown Derby has the best food in the park in my opinion.
- Pro Tip- they also have a bar called the Brown Derby Lounge where you can grab amazing cocktails and appetizers too!
- 50’s Prime Time Cafe is a hoot especially with tweens as they get bossed around by the funny wait staff. Think “elbows off the table” “eat your veggies” type stuff.
- Hollywood & Vine has character dining with the Disney Jr. Characters. It’s best to book prior to park opening to be allowed in the park early or book lunch because it’s a great place to cool down and relax.
- Fantasmic- don’t stress too much about seating because it’s located in a huge stadium and most seats are pretty great. If there are two shows opt for the second. Most will go to the first and you can ride the big rides at that time with very little wait. Plus, because the shows are back to back you won’t wait as long to sit down either.
- Pro Tip– Watch out because if you sit in the first five rows you will get misted and splashed throughout the show.
Booking your Vacation –
Planning a Disney Vacation is, in my opinion, one of the hardest trips to book, especially if it is your first time. Heck, I’ve been over 30 times and it’s still quite a challenge for me.
Between planning the fast passes, ordering the magic bands, booking advanced dining reservations, figuring out how to get to the parks, it’s just A LOT!
I say, save yourself a lot of time and in many cases, you will save some money by booking with an authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
The best Disney Travel Agents will do an assortment of things for you that will make your trip so much easier. For example, Tink’s Magical Vacations will provide:
- Itinerary Planning
- Fast Pass Recommendations w/ Height Requirement info
- Give you recommendations on which Dining Plan is best as well as what type of Theme Park tickets are best for you and your family.
- Remind you of your Advanced Dining Reservation (so you don’t miss it and get charged $10 per person for a no show… that’s not fun)
- Video Tutorials on how to use My Disney Experience App & Personalizing Magic Bands
- Plus, they always are researching for promotions, so if they find a better price for your vacation, they will call Disney to get you that promo.
There are quite a ton of travel agents to choose from, I always recommend people using someone like Tink’s Magical Vacations who has been to all the parks numerous times themselves. So make sure to ask the travel agent about their experiences at the park. Look for an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, because they have a vast amount of knowledge about the parks. They will have a logo on their site like the one below to let you know they are an authorized planner.
Want More Planning Tips? Order the Disney World Planning DVD on the link below.
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Do you have Disney World Tips that I missed?
Tell me in the comments below and I will update the post and credit you!!
*Disclosure- A special thanks to DisneySMMC for inviting us to their amazing conference. We received discounted theme park tickets and room reservations for this wonderful event. We also were given a few extra perks. This post contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, 100% my own.
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