By now, a lot of people know that visiting any of the theme parks at Walt Disney World just isn’t what it use to be. As a matter of fact, there’s a good chance that tourists won’t see anything, won’t be able to ride any of the attractions unless they have a fast pass, and won’t be able to beat the crowds unless they plan their trip months in advance. That’s right: spending a day at the Magic Kingdom will take so much pre-planning, that it will feel like a part-time job. No one can just casually walk into a Disney theme park anymore without having a master plan.
With that being said, there are also certain times that people should avoid, especially if they plan on visiting the more popular parks. This year, everyone is rushing to get to Hollywood Studios as early as possible. Why? Because it’s where Toy Story Land has just opened, with many fans excited to ride a rollercoaster with Slinky the dog or hanging out with uber-cool space aliens in their space saucers. The same applies to the World of Pandora in Animal Kingdom. That’s why we’ve got 20 things tourists need to know before going to Walt Disney World this summer. Here’s our list.
20 Plan Way Ahead
If it’s currently July and you are planning to visit Walt Disney World in two or three months, you might want to rethink your plans. Because some people are already laying out their game plan for several years from now. That’s right – there’s a lot of meticulous planning involved, especially with the new attractions. The Disney Tourist Blog says, “Alternatively, if you’re really into Star Wars, you should probably wait until at least Christmas 2019 to visit. While an official opening date has yet to be set for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World, the best case scenario is late 2019. Even then, it’s possible the land will be delayed into 2020 or will open in phases.”
19 Avoid Peak Hours
If there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s visit the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday morning. That’s because you’ll be there along with about a hundred thousand more people who are craving a Dole Whip as much as you are. If you want see as many attractions as you can, think about going on a Tuesday… in the middle of February. Yventte Manes of Insider writes, “If you're not into battling huge crowds, you might want to avoid weekends and holidays. Consider visiting the parks midweek, during a time when most US kids are still in school, even if it means playing a hooky for a day.”
18 Don’t Be Scared Of The Weather
When a lot of people think of Orlando, they think of two words: heat and humidity. And while that is most likely true, don’t let the Central Florida weather scare you off. If it’s raining, visit the parks anyway. You’ll be surprised of how much more you’ll get to see and do. "Honestly, if you come on a rainy day you'll have a great time," Meghan O'Neill, a former Disney cast member who worked in Future World in Epcot, told Business Insider. "There are a few rides that go down due to weather, but there will be significantly less people at the parks."
17 Look For Secret Passages
Trust us, Walt Disney World is full of crannies, nooks, and hidden passageways (there’s even a special underground tunnel that only cast members know about). It truly is a magical place. There are never two trips that will ever feel the same. WDW Prep School writes, “If you are at the turnstiles at Animal Kingdom and the turnstiles seem really busy before the park opens, you can try a secret-ish entrance by entering Rainforest Cafe and navigating to the gift shop. Just outside of the gift shop, there is a set of turnstiles available to use. This method doesn’t always save time but is worth a look if the main turnstiles seem particularly busy.”
16 There’s No Breezing Through
There’s no such thing as being able to breeze through Disney World on an impromptu day anymore. That’s because you will most likely be elbowed to death by the other visitors or will have to wait a ridiculously long time to ride 'It’s A Small World’ on a Wednesday. Two words: insane crowds. They are everywhere. You just can’t avoid them, and that’s why you have to work around them. "You can't just go to the Disney parks and assume, 'Oh, we're just going to breeze through Magic Kingdom,'" one cast member told Business Insider. "That doesn't really work very well."
15 Ditch The Cram Sessions
A lot of huge Disney fans think that they will win some sort of medal for visiting all four theme parks in one day or riding as many attractions as they can within 12 hours. But according to Disney experts, you’re wasting your time trying to rush through the parks in one cram session. As much as you should plan your trip, you should also stop, smell and appreciate the flowers. And not just at Epcot’s Flower Festival, mind you. "There are so many small details that people miss by trying to ride everything," a former Walt Disney World cast member who previously worked at Hollywood Studios. "I understand that you want to get your money's worth, but you are missing so much."
14 Fastpass Tips
For a lot of people, fastpass has become a life saver. You get to skip the lines of up to three attractions per day, giving you more time to explore the rest of the parks. Yvette Manes suggests, “Additionally, once your three Fastpasses are used up, you can reserve additional Fastpass, one at a time, for the rest of your day. A good idea is to book your Fastpasses for early in the day so that you can continue to book additional passes throughout your visit. For example, if your last booked pass isn't until 8 p.m. and it's currently 3 p.m., you won't be able to book any more passes until your 8 p.m. one is used up.”
13 Get There Early
If you are looking to do the impossible, and by that we mean see Toy Story Land before all of your friends, family members, and neighbors do, you’ll want to set up your alarm clock for first thing in the morning. And by that, we mean definitely hours before the sun comes up. On opening weekend, many huge Toy Story fans woke up as early as 4am in order to get a good spot in line before Hollywood Studios even opened. And you better bet your bottom dollar that fans and guests will be lining up all summer long to ride Slinky the Dog’s rollercoaster before breakfast is even served.
12 Bring Your Battery
With so many Gram-worthy places all throughout Walt Disney World, you’ll want to make sure that your batteries in both your smart phone and your cameras are loaded up. With so much to do, you won’t have time to stop and charge your phone in the middle of the day. Yvette Manes also writes, “You just have to provide the charging cable, and they will give you a claim ticket to pick up your fully charged phone later in the day. If you aren't comfortable with parting with your phone for a couple of hours, consider investing in a portable charger. Everyone in my family brings their own charger so that no one runs out of juice.”
11 Save Money On Transportation
One of the great things about staying at a Walt Disney World resort is that transportation is basically free from the resort to Disney Springs or any one of the theme parks. In other words, skip the car rental, because it will be nothing but a hassle. Planning The Magic writes, “I have found from all my various trips to Disney that not renting a car is the way to go. When you stay on the Disney property, Disney’s free transportation is your best friend in helping you get around, and did I mention it’s free! And for the moments where you leave the park whether it’s to one of the other local attractions, or grocery shopping – there is always Uber.”
10 Save On Food, Too
If you are visiting Walt Disney World for the first time, it might be exciting to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the resorts and the theme parks. But keep in mind that there are a lot of specials offered all throughout the year that you won’t want to miss. In other words, plan ahead. Planning The Magic has this tip, “Disney often will have special deals going on but the Free Dining is the most well known. With certain vacation package purchases Disney will throw in free dining of some sort. This special often comes out in April and covers fall dates.”
9 Bring Your Own Food
If you are really looking to do Disney on a budget, bring your own food. That’s right – there’s no rule against bringing in your own packed lunches, snacks, or drinks inside the parks. Sure, you might get some judgmental looks but no one is going to stop you from saving your family loads of money. "Most people don't realize that and, of course, the company doesn't advertise it," former Walt Disney World cast member John Quagliano, who worked in the Magic Kingdom, told Business Insider. "You can physically bring in an entire cooler full of snacks, water, whatever you want."
8 It Is Necessary To Multi-Task
We’ve said this before and we will say it again: you need to bring your A-game when you visit Disney World. There’s no such thing as slacking off and wasting time. You’ll want to multi-task as often as possible, especially if you are visiting with your family. After all, there is so much to do and see. You’ll want to maximize your days at the park as much as you can. "Get in a line somewhere and look at the map," the cast member told Business Insider. "When you're done talking, you will be at the front of the line or hopefully closer."
7 Don’t Forget The Water Parks
A lot of people think that a Disney vacation means spending time at the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Little do people know but there are also two water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. You’re even better off cooling down at the water parks with Mickey then waiting an hour in the hot sun for Pirates of the Caribbean. Also, there are plenty of activities in and around Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk. WDW Prep School says, “People staying at Boardwalk/Epcot-area resorts (Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, Dolphin and Boardwalk) should think about buying Park Hopper tickets to take advantage of being so close to Epcot. Consider spending the first part of the day at another park, and then head over to Epcot in the evenings to eat at a restaurant and explore a few of the countries.”
6 Don’t Follow The Crowds
Just because everyone is walking in one direction, it doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit. If the crowds are headed towards Main Street for one of the Magic Kingdom parades, try taking it all in from a different location. After all, most of the parades stretch from one end of the park to another. You’re bound to find a good spot somewhere. "If you don't want to watch the fireworks on crowded Main Street, my favorite place is beside the Seven Dwarves Mine Train in front of Beast's Castle," a former cast member who worked in the Magic Kingdom told Business Insider.
5 But Don’t Stress Out
Remember, you are on vacation. You came to Walt Disney World for your once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation. Christina Hartless, a former Disney cast member who worked at Epcot, told Business Insider that it's a good idea to chill when you need to. "You're on vacation," she said. "You're there to enjoy yourself. You don't want to be stressing out about every little thing if it's not going exactly the way you wanted it to. Just kind of live in the moment and enjoy what's going on and what you're doing, even if you're on one side of the park and you're missing a fast pass on the other side."
4 Safety First At All Times
If you are visiting with small children, remember to be mindful at all times, and especially in big crowds. Also, cover all of the important safety rules with your kids before entering the parks. As helpful as the cast members are, you’ll want a game plan in place just in case one of your family members get separated from your crowd. No one wants to admit it, but it does happen. Under Cover Tourist writes, “Crowds + tadpoles (children) = sky-rocketing anxiety levels for parents. Review things like 'what happens if we get separated' beforehand. Take a look at Lily’s Safety Strategies for more safety tips.”
3 Pace Yourself
By all means, don’t make it a race or a competition to breathe in as much of Walt Disney World as you can within 48 hours. If you want to truly enjoy everything that the parks and the resorts have to offer, give yourself at least a minimum of one week. Under Cover Tourist also says, “If you or your little ones are completely frazzled by the afternoon, take a break from the parks completely. Let the kids have a swim or a nap and then decide if a trip in the evening — perhaps to the resort's entertainment and shopping areas Disney Springs or Disney’s Boardwalk — might be in order.”
2 Don’t Let Anything Scare You
Remember, Walt Disney World is the most family-friendly destination that you will ever visit on this planet. The theme parks were made with little kids in mind, so don’t let any of the attractions scare you. WDW Prep School says, “People are often scared to ride Mission: Space at Epcot due to the potential for motion sickness. One way to make it easier is to make sure you face forward during the ride. Parents often want to look at their children next to them, but the best idea is to just face forward and watch the screen in front of you.”
1 Remember, It Is The Happiest Place On Earth
You might feel frazzled at times. You’ll probably want to throw in the towel. And yes, there’s a chance that you’ll probably have an epic meltdown that will rival that of your toddler. But remember, you are at the “happiest place on earth,” so by all means, act like it. Under Cover Tourist suggests that along with everything else in your suitcase, pack your patience. The site writes, “The Grinch is great as long as he stays in his place at Islands of Adventure. Don’t let him take over your vacation. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just take a deep breath and maybe a 5-minute 'time-out.'"