If you’re a Disney Addict like me, I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone has been to Walt Disney World or Disneyland multiple times. My family and I have been to Disney World so many times, we can tell you where every bathroom is located, shortcuts to avoid traffic jams of people, and the quickest way to get to your next Fastpass ride. If you have never visited Disney World in Florida or Disneyland in California, or if it’s been a long time since your last visit, there are several mistakes that guests tend to make. Even well traveled guests may not be aware of some of the most common dos and don’ts. I’ve put together a few suggestions to make your first trip to the most Magical place on earth (or the Happiest place on earth) a little more magical.
- Don’t Sleep in Late. – I know, it’s your vacation, so you don’t want to get up early. However, the best time at the parks is first thing in the morning. It’s generally cooler and less crowded. Plan to get up and be at the park about 30 minutes before the scheduled opening (this is known as “rope drop”). Some of the parks have a little opening show, that you will miss if you’re not there early. You can get through security and ticketing, and be ready to roll when the rope drops. Then you can get to that big attraction that you usually have to wait 60 minutes for if you go later. My daughter likes to head to Big Thunder Mountain in Magic Kingdom first, so we can ride it a few times in a row before a long line starts to form. I also suggest eating breakfast in the park. My husband prefers a Table Service breakfast buffet, but a quick service breakfast works fine too. Enjoy the early part of the day, go back to your resort for lunch and a nap, then return in the evening refreshed and ready to enjoy the cooler and less crowded night activities.
- Don’t Leave the Park Early. – Just like being there early, it’s generally cooler and less crowded after the sun goes down. If you took my advice and got to the park early, then went back to your resort for a nap you, should be good to go for the evening. Book your Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) for 6-7 pm in one of the parks and then enjoy the nighttime parades and fireworks after dinner. The last few times I was at the Magic Kingdom, I was at the back of the park at closing time. Sometimes I take my time walking to the front and stop in the shops on Main Street…those stay open about an hour after the park closes. About an hour after closing time, there is a “kiss goodnight” at the castle. It’s really short and it’s not publicized, but it happens each night. You really need to see it at least once. Plus, the buses, monorails and boats are much less crowded by that time. Another thing a lot of guests don’t know is that if you’re in a line at closing time, you can remain in that line until you ride the attraction. It doesn’t matter if you get in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 5 minutes before closing, you’ll still be able to ride the ride before you leave. It’s a nice way to squeeze in one last ride before you leave the park.
- Don’t Eat at Peak Times – One of the worst things to do at Disney is trying to eat lunch at 12:00 noon. Try to avoid eating at a quick service restaurant between 11:30 and 1:00. The lines will be very long and you won’t find any place to sit. You’ll get frustrated trying to carry all that food around without bumping into someone. If you got to the park early, you’ll probably be ready to eat lunch by 10:45 or 11:00. Or if you ate breakfast in the park early, you can wait until after the lunch crowd. Bring a snack or get a Mickey shaped pretzel around 11:00 to hold you over until after 1:00. Waiting in line for Starbucks in the morning is a big waste of time, as well. Grab some coffee at your hotel before you head to the park.
- Do use Fastpass and Fastpass+ – Disneyland still has regular Fastpasses that you go to each attraction, insert your park ticket, and it gives you a paper Fastpass. Disney World now uses Fastpass+ which allows you select your Fastpasses up to 60 days before your trip if you’re staying on Disney property (30 days if staying off-property), and you choose 3 each day. There is absolutely no reason for you not to take advantage of them. It’s free for every park guest. You don’t have to pay extra for this like you do at some other theme parks. At Disneyland, you get your paper Fastpass 1 at a time. When you use one, you can then go get another one, and so on… all day long until they run out. The more popular attractions tend to run out mid to late afternoon. The Fastpass gives you a time frame for you to return to ride the ride with little or no waiting. It’s usually a 1 hour window and you need to return during that time. When you book your Disney vacation with me as your Disney travel planner, I will help you understand and take full advantage of the Fastpass system.
- Do make Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR)– This is one of the things that I can help you with as your Disney Travel planner. Disney World and Disneyland have some wonderful restaurants, but if you don’t make ADRs you more than likely will end up eating chicken fingers and hamburgers every meal. The Table Service restaurants are extremely popular and are generally booked well in advance. We can schedule your ADRs 180 days before your trip for Disney World, and 60 days before your trip to Disneyland. Some of the most popular locations like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest fill up within minutes of hitting the 180 day mark. I will get up early to make sure you get the reservations you want.
- Do use the My Disney Experience App – Disney World has free Wi-Fi in the parks which is great when using the Disney apps. Be sure to download the My Disney Experience app on your phone to keep track of your Fastpassses and ADRs. You can also check-in to your hotel with the app.
- Don’t Park Hop Several Times in a Day – It’s okay to park hop once, but any more than that, you’ll be wasting time in transportation. My suggestion is to go to the park early, head back to your resort for an afternoon nap, then head out to a different park in the evening. Pick a park that stays open later that night. We love to go to Magic Kingdom on evenings it’s open late. The rides tend to not be as crowded, and it feels like a different park at night compared to during the day. It’s my husband’s favorite time to be there.
- Don’t Watch the First Parade – If there are 2 different times scheduled for a parade, always go to the second one. The lines for rides will be much shorter during the parade, and many people leave after the first night time parade. That means you get to ride more rides during the first parade, and then watch the second parade with less crowds. Hit one or two last rides after the second parade while most people exit the parks. By the time you leave, the transportation lines back to the resorts will be less crowded.
- Do use a Disney Travel Planning Expert – A Disney Travel Planner like myself, has graduated from the Disney College of Knowledge and knows many secrets and tricks to make your vacation less stressful and more magical than doing it yourself. My service is free to you. I’ll find you the best deals for your family. I’ll keep checking for new discounts even after you’ve booked. Then if something better comes along, I will adjust your reservation. I’ll stay up late and get up early to make those ADRs you really want, so you don’t have to. You will never pay a penny extra for a Disney Travel Planner to book your trip. If you have a problem during your vacation, you can text me, email me, or give me a call, and I’ll take care of it for you. There are a lot more secrets that I will share with you when you book your Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney, or Aulani vacation with me.