Thinking about Disney World and actually being in Disney World are two different things. In fact, most folks who visit our site are overwhelmed by the number of tips and tricks that they actually decide to “wing it” and end up being so miserable at the end of their trip by wasting too much time.
It’s impossible to really make things easy without over-planning, but this article will try to break things down on the “time” category.
Here are our suggestions on How to Save Time at Walt Disney World
There’s so much to see in Walt Disney World, and without a time-savvy game plan, you could miss out on the best stuff (or waste half of your vacation waiting in line.) Here are the best tips for planning ahead, skipping long lines and squeezing the most fun out of your trip.
Get Advanced Dining Reservations (aka Priority Seating)
Taking advantage of the system that Disney has created is a time-saver that you should 100% do. Restaurants fill up months in advance, so using the online booking engine (disneyworld.com/dining) will help. You are able to search by number of guests, dates and times…and then make a reservation that you are able to cancel 24 hours+ in advance without a charge. Spending less time waiting for a table will leave you more time to play!
Further Reading: ADR’s to get ASAP
Stay on Disney Property
But we’re not suggesting that you stay at just any Disney resort—pick the one that’s nearest to where you plan to spend the most time. If you’ve got little kids, why not stay near the Magic Kingdom on the Monorail Loop. Another tip…don’t stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge unless your kids are obsessed with animals or you’re going to spend a majority of your time at the Animal Kingdom Park (which usually doesn’t happen). If you plan on traveling a lot, stay at the Polynesian, which is the only resort within walking distance to the Ticket and Transportation Center, the hub to everything in Disney World! If you have older kids, stay near EPCOT at the Boardwalk Area. If you want to save money, stay at an All-Star Resort or Pop Century and Uber everywhere!
Further Reading: How to get Around Walt Disney World
Buy your Ticket before you go.
This may seem like a “gotta”, but it’s amazing how people always forget and end up waiting in an hour-long line in the heat before they even get inside the park. Shop for tickets in advance online at disneyworld.com or at UndercoverTourist.com. Remember that time = money!
Further Reading: Saving Money at Disney
Don’t wait in line for more than 30 minutes.
We see this all the time and it’s important to know when you should just move on. Make it a rule your whole family understands, and stick to it to avoid meltdowns, complaints and whining. If something with a long line like Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train or Peter Pan is on your must-do list, be one of the first people in the parks and go directly to that ride.
Further Reading: Top Magic Kingdom Attractions to do BEFORE 10am
Pick your Fav’s.
Walt Disney World is twice the size of Manhattan, and that can be overwhelming to first-time visitors. You might not have time to do everything you want, because of long lines, or the logistics of attractions being far apart. No, Space Mountain isn’t right next to Expedition Everest. Decide on your absolute must-sees and get to them as soon as you enter the park. Once you check them off your list, relax and see where the day takes you. Disney’s full of amazing, unexpected surprises that may not involve planning…like breaking out into song while walking up Main Street USA.
Further Reading: Top 10 Disney World Rides You Must Do Every Visit!
If a ride has Fast Pass, prioritize and get it for an early time
FastPass+ is a virtual ticket that reserves your spot on the ride for a designated time in the day. Disney opens the reservation system 60 days out (if you’re staying on property) or 30 days if you’re staying off-property, and once the capacity hits…you’re leaving the potential to new capacity opening up the day-of (or if guests who booked reservations 30-60 days out changed their mind). Be Safe…Get FastPass+!
Further Reading: EPCOT Fastpass Recommendations
Use Disney’s Extra Magic hours.
Each day, certain parks are open an hour early or up to three hours later for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resorts. Research Extra Magic hours before you go so you can plan ahead of time which parks you can take advantage of early AM or PM. We are huge fans of EMH, mostly for the photo potential…but it’s still worth getting up early:)
Further Reading: Are Extra Magic Hours at Disney World Worth Your Time?
Shop Late OR Use Package Pickup
When the park closes, they shut down the attractions, but they don’t actually kick you out of the park or close the stores (because Disney likes money). This gives you a great opportunity to spend your valuable time on experiences when they’re running, and shop as you make your way to the turnstiles.
Further Reading: How to Use Package Pickup
Download the right Apps for Florida.
Apps are important as you can use them to sync to your pre-planned schedules, reservations, weather and discount opportunities. You can use some of them to forecast the crowds, read about the rides and make up your own, personalized schedule, plus see park maps, menus and more. The MyDisneyExperience App is getting better and better as they enhance the technology.
Further Reading: Best Apps for Disney Trip Planning
Create “A to B” Plans
The last thing that you want to do is get FastPass+ Reservations that are across the park from where you’re planning to have lunch. Keep an eye on the distance between attractions and you’ll save yourself thousands of steps over the course of your vacation.
Further Reading: FREE Printable Disney Daily Vacation Planner
BYOB (Bring Your Own Breakfast)
At Walt Disney World, eating can become an ordeal. You can save a ton of time in the morning if you bring breakfast to go or pick something up quick at your hotel’s cafeteria/store. We love getting Pop Tarts, as they are easy and straight-forward. We’re also fans of getting the reusable mugs, which gives you the chance to get a soda or iced tea before heading to the buses. Save that time (and money!) for a sit-down lunch or dinner.
Further Reading: Top 10 Disney Breakfast Reservations Recommendations
Avoid the Magic Kingdom during peak hours.
It might sound like I’m speaking double-tongue, but the lines can be insane and the crowd unmanageable between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. Go to the Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning for a couple hours or go back later at night (especially if there are Extra Magic hours.) In between, grab a nap at the resort, visit Disney Springs or Resort hop to enjoy the air conditioning. After that, everyone will be refreshed and excited to go back at night!
Further Reading: 20 Things to do at Walt Disney World without a Ticket
Know how to avoid lines for Disney Bus Transportation
The Magic Kingdom is walking distance to the Contemporary Resort, which has its own bus service. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a short bus to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the home of some of the best dining on property. EPCOT is walking distance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These are all tips that you’ll want to know if you are trying to avoid the worst time-sucker of them all…Disney Buses.
Say you’re staying at Pop Century Resort. You can use the Art of Animation buses, as it’s a short walk across the bridge to your resort while waiting a fraction of the time and with a small percentage of the guests that are waiting to go to Pop.
Further Reading: My 25 Best Travel Tips After 10 years of Travelling to Orlando
Catch the “Single Rider” line.
Some rides, like Expedition Everest and Test Track, offer single rider lines, which move way faster. So if you want to go on something popular and doesn’t mind going alone, why not skip a bulk of the waiting and catch the ride solo.
Further Reading: How To Use Single Rider Lines at Walt Disney World
Head to the back of the park.
When you first get to the park, walk straight to the back. Most people will start with the first ride they see (and Disney counts on this!). This is especially true for EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth, the ride that welcomes people to EPCOT. If you come back later in the day (or use a FastPass+ Reservation); it will still be there…in all it’s glory!
Further Reading: Top EPCOT Attractions to do BEFORE 10am
Consider Renting a Car.
The Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) (the hub which connects visitors to anywhere on Disney Property) gets pretty packed early so if you will rely on it to connect from your hotel to a park before opening or after close, rent a car. It costs more but the time you’ll save might be worth it to you. Plus you’re able to gain freedom by leaving Disney property and checking out other attractions like Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Legoland or the Orlando Premium Outlets!
Further Reading: How to get from Disney World to Universal Orlando without a car
Get FastPass+ and ride standby.
If you know that you want to ride something twice, get your FastPass+ for late morning, and while you’re waiting for your reserved times to start, get in the standby line. By the time you wait and ride, it will probably be time to use your reservations. This is perfect for the Best Attractions in Disney World (like the Haunted Mansion or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train)
Further Reading: Rank it: The Best Magic Kingdom FastPass+ Reservation
Always Think Left.
It is most people’s inclinations to go to the right first, so if you see two lines for an attraction (like in Space Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean), hop in the left one to shave off a little waiting time. If you’re going around World Showcase at EPCOT, start on the left side at Mexico and go counter-clockwise to end in Canada!
Further Reading: Break it Down: Walt Disney World’s Four Theme Parks
Get in line right before the parades.
30-45 minutes before most parades start, guests will put a halt on their attraction and ride plans to score a premium parade spot. If you don’t care about getting a primo spot (or if you already have a FastPass+ reservation), use this extra time to get in line for big rides.
Further Reading: Best Shows at Disney World
Take an UBER.
If you’re trying to get from one park to another, or to your resort and you sense the fam are at the end of their rope, take an UBER. They are almost an “unofficial” transportation method that we support if you don’t want to deal with packed buses. It’s a little extra money but sometimes it can save you about an hour if the bus lines are long at the end of the night or first thing in the morning.
Further Reading: 10 Tips to Make the Most of your Universal Studios Orlando Vacation
Plan your wardrobe.
Plan what you’re going to wear and pack it together, so each morning you can just grab a full outfit from your suitcase. Preparing for things like DisneyBounding is fun, and knowing ahead of time that you can always do laundry at the resorts will save you time and effort during the packing stages. Choose your outfits ahead of time is actually a fun way to get psyched for the trip, and eliminate bickering over what to wear while you’re on the trip. Remember to pack “basics”, as you’ll be going through a ton of t-shirts due to the fluctuating heat levels.
Further Reading: Best Ways to get around the No Adult Costumes at Disney Rule
Bring Technology (iPhone/iPod).
If you have a big party, it can be hard to keep track of everyone. With the WiFi in the parks and the addition of iPods, you can keep tabs on the group if they split for different rides or if someone needs a break. Kids will have fun with the camera feature, especially during the scrapbooking phase after the trip!
Further Reading: How to Keep your Phone Charged at Disney
Pick the right time to visit.
Finding out which of the less-hectic weeks fits with your schedule is one of the biggest choices that you have to make. Crowd calendars or basic outlines are all you’ll need to start, as they’ll go into details like special events (marathons), extra-hour events (like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party) or long-weekends. Some sites will also tell you what to expect that week; for example, if there are generally lots of rides closed, the ticket prices and so much more…so it’s worth the research before booking.
Further Reading: Planning Your Disney Trip in 10 Steps
Use these tips to save as much time as you can, but if you do end up waiting, remember you’re there to spend time together—so just enjoy every minute and take tons of photos!
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