Through the Disney planning process, I’ve compiled a number of Disney World tips from our amazing Disney travel agent, Alicia, friends and family, and through our own experience. I hope that you’ll find these useful when planning your own trip to Disney World, and if you have any other tips, feel free to leave them in the comment section below!
Disney World Tips
Hire Alicia as your Disney travel agent
I cannot say enough good things about our experience with Alicia. She has been more than helpful every step of the way. If you know me, you know that I’m a planner and a bit of a control freak, so giving all of this planning over to her was a little bit stressful for me at first, but as I talked with her more and saw how knowledgeable she is about every aspect of Disney, it put my worries at ease.
She asked far in advance what things we most wanted to do on this trip – did we want a dining plan, what restaurants did we want to eat at, what rides did we most want to ride, what time of day did we want to eat at each park, etc. Before it was time to book our dining reservation, she had a clear idea of where we wanted to eat and what time of day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and did we want those to be early or later, etc.) She was up early in the morning making these reservations for us, so that I didn’t have to be fighting the Disney system and all of the other people trying to make reservations at the same time.
She was also on the lookout for when the free dining promo opened up. This is something that a Disney agent will have knowledge of before the general public. She knew that we wanted to do the free dining, if at all possible, so she had a plan in place ahead of time. For us to be able to take advantage of the free dining plan, she had to change our hotel from All-Star Movies to All-Star Sports (the free dining promo only includes certain hotels) and she had to upgrade our regular park tickets to park-hopper passes. She got my permission to do all of this ahead of time, so the morning that the promo became available, she was able to jump on it and we were able to get the free dining plan! Even with upgrading our tickets to park-hoppers and upgrading the quick service dining plan (which was free with our value resort) to a regular dining plan (which included table service/character meals) we still saved over $500!
I could go on and on about the things she has done for us during the planning process! She booked our FastPasses, just like she booked our dining reservations, she gave us countless tips on various aspects of our vacation, answered all of my many questions, and alerted us to things we should know before going.
Also, when she first booked our meals, there were a couple that were either earlier or later than we had originally hoped, so Alicia stayed on the look out for a reservation time to open up that was closer to our preferred time. This was something that had we been planning on our own, we probably would have missed, because we wouldn’t have been as diligently watching for openings. The best part is that she’s so patient and kind through it all. I definitely recommend Alicia if you are planning any sort of Disney trip! Check out her site at happilyevermickey.com.
Bring lots of hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and to-go Clorox wipes
You DO NOT want to be sick at Disney World! My brother’s family got sick while they were there, and they said they were miserable. They ended up missing out on a few things they had scheduled to do because they all came down with a stomach bug. I have heard of other people getting sick while they were there too, so I brought Lysol spray and sprayed down the room before anyone else went in. I wiped down all the surfaces in our room with Clorox wipes.
We had some to-go packs of Clorox wipes and antibacterial hand/face wipes that we kept in our park bags, and we had Purell on each of the strollers. I tried to remember to wipe down the tables before we ate and clean our hands frequently. I also used Thieves oil like crazy for the week leading up to the trip and while we were there. We thankfully didn’t get sick while we were there.
Plan WAY ahead (I’m talking at least 6 months)
If you are staying on site in one of the Disney resorts, you can book your dining reservations for Table Service meals 180 days in advance from your date of check-in and FastPasses 60 days in advance. That means you need to be thinking about where you want to eat and what rides you most want to do well before your trip.
Download the My Disney Experience app
I stalked this app for months before going on our trip. I would watch the wait times to see what times of day the rides were most busy. Everything will be linked to your account so you will be able to see all of your dining reservations, FastPasses, and room information through this app.
We were able to do an advance check-in for our resort, which meant that we did not have to check in at the front desk. We got a notification that our room was ready, which room we were staying in, and in which building. We simply parked, walked to our room, and got in with our Magic Bands.
This app will be your most used app during your trip. With the My Disney Experience app you can check wait times for a ride before you walk across the park to get in line. You can mobile order food at certain restaurants. You can check your meal credits if you’re on the dining plan to see what you’ve been charged and how many credits you have left. You can see your credit card charges. You can see your Photo Pass pictures and download them (if you’ve purchased the memory maker).
You can use the My Disney Experience app for mobile ordering for several quick service restaurants (it tells you on the app which restaurants do mobile ordering). Simply order what you want on the app, then when you’re getting close to the restaurant hit the button to tell them you’re there. They’ll have it ready in no time, and you can skip the line!
Snack credit tips
If you have the dining plan, you have 2 snack credits per person per day. There are so many options for snack credits, and some you could actually use as a meal. Here is a great article written by Alicia about how to use Disney snack credits
Bring snacks, waters, and lunch for kids
Disney allows you to bring in outside food and drinks. We packed quick snacks for the girls like goldfish, popcorn, graham crackers, and veggie straws. If you are not on the dining plan, you could bring Uncrustables or lunchables for kids for lunch to save money at restaurants. Most kids meals cost around $7, so this would add up over a week!
Eat lots of snacks!
I know I just said to bring your own snacks into the parks….but those are for the kids! I firmly believe that adults should indulge in all the yummy snacks they want to (kids can have some here and there too, I guess 😉 ) I wish I could go back to Disney right now for the snacks alone. The Fruit and Nutella waffle and Dole Whip at Magic Kingdom were my favorite. Do your snack research before you go!
Browse menus before you go
You can find all Disney World dining menus here on allears.net so be sure to browse these before going to have an idea of what restaurants you’d like to eat at. Menus can also be viewed through the My Disney Experience app.
Bring breakfast foods and eat in the room
This is a great way to save money and time in the morning.
Drinks on the dining plan
If you’re on the Disney Dining plan, your meal comes with a medium or large drink, a bottled water, or an alcoholic drink. If you want a large, be sure to ask for a large when you order. We often got bottled water with our meals because it was included and we don’t drink a ton of soda. This cut down on the number of bottled water we needed to bring into the park. Note that there are no lids with fountain drinks.
The memory maker is $160 and it includes ALL of the photos taken by the Disney Photographers. It also includes all of your photos taken on rides. The good thing about this is that you don’t have to have the photographer take pictures with multiple phones/cameras because all of the photos they take with their cameras (whose quality is probably better than your phone) are included in the plan. You can simply download it onto your phone or onto your computer when the trip is over.
The only downside that I saw to the Memory Maker is that it causes lines to form for these photographers, especially at “hot spots”. We often had to wait 10 minutes or so to get a photo in front of the castle or other iconic areas because more people are using the Memory Maker and don’t want to use their phones. This could be a tad frustrating because kids don’t want to wait in line and by the time it’s our turn, they’re not enthusiastic about smiling for a picture.
*Another tip – these photos can be accessed by anyone in your party. So if you’re going with a group of friends or family, you can split the cost of the Memory Maker.
Two single strollers or one double stroller?
This was a topic of debate for us. We had talked to several people about if it’s better to take two single strollers or one double stroller. I did a poll on Instagram and the majority said double. However the bad of the double strollers outweighed the good and we decided on two singles.
Why? Single strollers are easier to maneuver through a crowd. Double strollers are either very wide or very long and we didn’t want to fool with that extra space. We would rather have two single strollers to push and keep up with. Sometimes we would actually leave one in a stroller parking area and let Raley walk if we knew we would be in one particular area for a while. We decided to take our regular single stroller with storage underneath, and an umbrella stroller. This worked out great because they were easier to fold up and move around on the trolley to and from our car and if we needed to split up for some reason, we could do this easily. I’m firmly on team single strollers, but obviously, consider what works best for your family before going.
*There are stroller rental companies, such as Kingdom Strollers, in Orlando that will deliver your stroller right to your resort. They are cheaper and more comfortable strollers than renting them at the Disney Parks.
*If you take an umbrella stroller, I recommend getting one of these little stroller organizers. It can hold 2 drinks, plus other items such as your phone, camera, etc. It was very convenient since our umbrella stroller had no storage or cup holders.
Drive or ride the bus to the parks?
If you drive instead of fly to Disney, we are firmly on the side of DRIVE to the parks if you have kids! Parking is free at the parks when you stay on site. This is obviously only an option if you have a car to drive.
I polled Instagram on this too, and I ended up going against the majority. After hearing horror stories from friends about toting sleeping kids, strollers, and bags onto the bus to get back to their resort, we decided it would be a firm YES on driving instead of riding the bus.
Use the rider switch if you have young children that can’t (or don’t want to) ride big rides with height requirements. How it works is whoever is staying out with the child will get a Rider Switch Pass (which is like a FastPass) to come back at a certain time and go through the FastPass line to ride the ride. This person can also take up to 2 other people with them the second time around so they don’t have to ride alone. This way you don’t have to stand in the stand-by line twice.
Bring a portable cell phone charger and cord
If your cell phone runs out of battery quickly, be sure and have this handy. We brought one, but actually never needed it. Because we had the Memory Maker, I wasn’t spending as much time taking photos as I would have been. Plus, you’re constantly on the go, so who has time to scroll through social media!
If you’re going during a hotter season, be sure to have a fan. This one on Amazon is inexpensive, and actually rechargeable!
Don’t forget sunscreen
Even when it’s cool out, the sun is usually out too! Don’t get sunburned!
Get cheap ponchos and umbrellas before you go
I absolutely hate the feeling of ponchos, but I hate being soaking wet even more. Grab some cheap ponchos from the dollar store before you leave. They are also great to drape over your stroller to keep the kids from getting soaked.
*You can also use them on rides where you know you’ll get wet like Kali River Rapids or Splash Mountain. If you ride these, be sure to bring a change of clothes.
ID Bracelets for kids
I mentioned in this post last week that we put these bracelets from Bushel and Peck Paper on the girls every day. I highly recommend doing this. I can only imagine the feeling of panic a parent gets when they lose a child in a huge crowd like this, especially if whoever finds the child has no idea how to get in touch with the parent.
Find a comfy pair of shoes (and bring extra shoes)
I absolutely loved these Sketchers sneakers. I was worried about how my feet would feel after 5 full days of walking around, but they actually felt pretty great! They were tired, but not sore. No blisters or sore spots where the shoes rub the wrong way. Find you a comfy pair that works for you!
I would also say, pack extra, different shoes. Pack sandals and tennis shoes, because they are going to wear on your feet different ways. I had extras packed but never needed them because these sneakers were great!
Pack a small bag of first-aid medications and band-aids.
I had a quick go-bag of medications that we could possibly need in the parks – medicine for headaches, nausea, diarrhea, indigestion, band-aids, neosporin, alcohol prep wipes. Because no one wants to feel bad when they’re at Disney World! The band-aids are also great if your shoes happen to rub a blister on your feet
If there are two parade times at Magic Kingdom, watch the second one. The crowd is lower and you can ride rides with a lower wait time while a majority of the other people in the park are at the first parade.
You do not have to be close to the castle to see the fireworks show. We made this mistake on our night at Magic Kingdom. When we scoped out a spot, it seemed like a good one, but we ended up in the middle of a huge crowd of people and it was very difficult to get out of the park. We would have been better off further back on Main Street and closer to the exit.
Take advantage of the special ticketed events
Like the Christmas Party and the Halloween party. Disney only sells a certain number of tickets to these events, so the park is much less crowded and the wait times on rides are minimal. We had a great time at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
If you have a question, ask a Cast Member
Cast Members (Disney staff) are everywhere and are happy to help. We did not run into a single person who seemed unhappy to help us with what we needed, whether it be a question about a ride or where the nearest bathroom is.
Buy Disney gift cards at Target ahead of time
Stock up on Disney gift cards at Target using your Target Red Card and get 5% off your purchase! Like money in your pocket.
Single Rider Line
Expedition Everest, Rock-n-Roller Coaster and Test Track all have single rider line, which usually have very few people. They use these “single riders” to fill in seats with uneven parties. It’s sort of like a FastPass, but you’ll sit with a stranger.
Tinker Bell gifts
This was a fun idea from our Disney agent, Alicia. Bring a few small gifts with you for Tinker Bell to leave in the room for the kids each night. She only brought them if they were good that day though!
Get to the parks early
If possible, get to the parks before they open. This will allow you the opportunity to ride those big rides that everyone wants to ride before there is a huge crowd.
Toy Story Land
Our plan was to spend the entire first half of our day at Hollywood Studios in Toy Story Land, riding rides, meeting characters, and having a snack or lunch. I think this was everyone else’s idea as well. I’m not sure how Toy Story Land is later in the day, but it was chaos in the morning. The walkways, in my opinion, are not wide enough, and it just felt claustrophobic. It’s hard to enjoy the magic of it all when there are so many people. Watch the My Disney Experience app and notice the wait times for rides in Toy Story Land before you go. This may give you an indication of the least crowded time of day. Or it may be like that all the time, and in that case, you’ve been warned.
Check the Times Guide when you get to each park in the morning for times and locations of character meet and greets. This information is also available on the My Disney Experience app.
We opted to do several character meals as a way to meet characters, rather than wait in line. We loved this option, especially on the girls’ first trip, because we were able to eat while the characters came to us – two birds with one stone!
The downside to character meals is that they take about an hour and a half to eat and see all the characters, so this takes time out of your day doing other things.
Baby Care Stations
Each park has a Baby Care Station with nursing rooms, changing stations, high chairs, toys, and more. If you are traveling with infants or small children, this is a good place to cool off and take a break.
First Aid Stations
All parks also have first aid stations. Know where these are in case someone gets sick or hurt.
You can get in line for an attraction until the park closes.
If the park closes at 9:00 and you get in line at 8:59, you will still get to ride.
Save your shopping for the end of the day
…if your children can handle it. Stores in the parks stay open 1-2 hours after park closing, so shop then! There will be less of a crowd, and if you’re riding the bus, you’ll miss the mad dash to get back to the resort.
Have your merchandise purchased in the park sent to the front of the park or to your resort.
If you purchase any merchandise in the parks, you don’t have to carry it around all day. Have it sent to the front of the park to pick up on your way out or to your resort and you can pick it up about 24 hours later. I was afraid that we would forget to pick it up on the way out, so we had our merchandise sent to our resort and we picked it up in the gift shop the next day. You can also have it shipped to your house if you don’t have room in your luggage.
What Disney tips would you add to this list?
If you’d like to read about our Disney World vacation, you can start here!
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