“To all who come to this happy place, Welcome.”-Walt Disney
As a Disney World Annual Passholder you begin to pick up a thing or two that help you enjoy your experience in the parks a little more for the next time you visit. I actually just recently became an AP but I made it my mission to visit the parks at least once or twice a year with friends before going once (sometimes twice) a month now to simply to enjoy the magic within the Happiest Place on Earth with some of the best people in my life. I began to learn interesting facts and information about the parks and what they each hold from friends who frequented the parks as well as other resources like podcasts and online forums. For the most part when I take another trip to WDW with other people I’m the designated tour guide and travel agent since I have been able to pick up on so many things during my time visiting and I’d like to share some of those tips and fun facts with you!
One thing I have found to take up the most time is bathroom breaks. If you’re with a group of people try to visit the bathrooms as a group, even if you don’t feel like you have to go just try! Group restroom trips will help minimize the times your entire group stops at the bathrooms that way you can spend more time visiting the attractions. For the most part you’ll want to keep your group together because navigating a busy park is a nightmare and regardless your group will have to wait on you if they’d like to get in line somewhere because you wont be able to skip lines to get to them.
Speaking of attractions and lines sometimes wait times can become very long. There’s a few ways I like to decide what I’ll be riding and in what order. Rides like Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash can get up to a 2+hour wait easily. I’ve waited 4 hours for Flight of Passage before but I will say it was totally worth it. Regarding FoP I like to ride this attraction first and at the earliest time I can so I can get it out of the way before peak time hits which is normally around noon. Peak time is typically around this time because you have a lot of people in the parks who haven’t park hopped somewhere else yet and people who have park hopped already to that park. Slinky Dog Dash on the other hand can be a pretty short wait at any given time but there’s really no telling when that can happen so when I see the wait is anything shorter than an hour I’ll hop in line for it. One strategy I like to do is to visit the attractions with the shortest wait times first. You’ll get so much done in such a short amount of time that you’ll feel so accomplished and you have the rest of the day to wait in those longer lines without feeling like you’re wasting your time on that one popular ride.
Another way I like to maximize my time in the parks is to decide when and what I’m going to eat. Eating any meal earlier or later than the ‘usual’ time for lunch or dinner means shorter lines and almost guaranteed seating. If you don’t have an ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) your options are to either try and walk up at those nicer restaurants for a table or go to a quick dining spot where you go up to the registers then find your own place to sit. I always like going somewhere that serves items I can take with me and eat as I’m walking to my next destination. Disney has created a magical way of being able to order food while you aren’t even at the restaurant too! Using the MDE (My Disney Experience) app you can use their mobile order option at select restaurants to go ahead and purchase your meal so that it’s ready upon your arrival- no waiting in line! For guests like me who are always on the go this is the option for you.
Another great time maximizing tip is to use the MDE app! You can view wait times to help you decide where to go and this is where you can make your dining reservations as well. When you think about it, the MDE app can save you hours of time just by showing you things like wait times you would normally only know if you physically walked to the attraction. Imagine wanting to ride FoP only to learn it’s over a 2 hour wait and you could have went to Dinosaur or Kali River Rapids instead which usually have a shorter wait time. Walking from attraction to attraction is normally only 5-9 minutes so I would prefer to go to the attractions with the shortest wait first even if they are on opposite sides of the park just to go ahead and get them done.
Utilizing FastPass+ privileges can also help you save some time by skipping the line. There’s almost a science to booking fast passes though. Depending on how soon you book your trip you’re able to reserve fast passes up to 60 days in advance but if you book a last minute trip go ahead and book fast passes for whatever rides they have available. Some rides you shouldn’t waste a fast pass on, like Small World or those that are considered ‘walk ons’ that normally don’t ever have a long wait. Even if you don’t prefer the FastPass+ options that are available go ahead and book them then use the modify option because sometimes better opportunities will pop up and you’ll be able to alter the plans you’ve already made. Visiting the FastPass+ kiosks you are able to refresh your plans and more often than not a better option will show up so sometimes I’ll pass by a few times just to check if I’m able to update my plans to something that works better for me and almost every time I’m able to do it. The Disney DNA podcast has a whole episode dedicated to explaining FastPass+ and they also give some great tips when booking and using them as well.
For my final time maximizing tip I highly suggest to ‘rope drop’ those rides that typically have a longer wait. This means to be at the park before the official open so that you can speed walk and hop in line before the morning rush does. As a quick example, if a park opens at 9 I like to be at the gate by 8:30 so I can be in that first mini rush to scan in and go straight to the high profile attraction. This is a sub-tip to the main tip but also look up which parks have EMH (Extra Magic Hours) and avoid them if you aren’t a resort guest. Resort guests get the opportunity to gain entry to the parks at least one hour earlier than the normal opening time. Most of the time it’s only one park so the majority of the resort guests will most likely plan to go to that park on that day. EMH schedules can be found on the official Disney website.
One of my favorite Disney Podcasts called Disney DNA has episodes dedicated to making your Disney experience more magical with simple ways to maximize time. For more time saving tips give them a listen!
Fun Fact & Things To Do
Disney World has so many fun facts especially about rides which I could literally write a book on so I wont get to go in to too much detail about the history itself but I do want to encourage you to look up some of the rich information about the different rides and lands because it will make you appreciate them so much more. What a lot of people don’t know is that most of the rides tell a story that you don’t really realize until you hear the story. There are rides that I enjoyed but when I learned more information about them I had a whole new love for them. To be honest Animal Kingdom was never my favorite park, I enjoyed it but if I had 3 days to spend in the parks I would skip it all together. I listened to podcast about what the park is based on and the story behind the different parts of it and I was amazed at the detail put in to these stories so much that when I went back to visit I started to notice things I never had before and was excited to see them for myself. So my tip here is to take some time before your trip and listen to some podcasts about ride and land history because the lands have just as much rich information as the rides do. I’ve mentioned a few but here are my top suggestions for Disney podcasts: The Backside of Water, Disney Discussions and Disney DNA all found on Spotify.
Disney Bounding is one of my favorite things to do in the parks because cast members as well as other guests love it and who doesn’t love a compliment! I like to think of a character or something within the park I’m visiting and style an outfit around that. Once Disney bounding as Pocahontas I got to meet her and she gave me a little extra attention during our visit. The same has happened while bounding as and visiting other characters like Jasmine and Russel from Up. Once my husband and I got to skip the entire line on Peter Pan’s Flight dressed as Peter and Wendy- the wait was over 90 minutes! While on my recent visit a group of friends and I did a Star Wars theme group bound and a guest caught us in one of the Hollywood Studio shops and was physically screaming while taking our photo she was enjoying our effort a lot! Before going on my trips i’ll research specific character and park Disney bounds then I’ll look in my closet or visit shops to try and put something together. I have two trips coming up in the next few months and I’m already exploring my bound options.
If you know anything about Disney than you’re more than familiar with the famous mouse that started it all, Mickey Mouse. For years Disney has been notorious for having hidden mickey’s sprinkled throughout the parks which are basically the Mickey head silhouette strategically placed anywhere and everywhere in the entire park. There have actually been books written about these and you can find most of them online but it’s fun to just glance around while waiting in line to see if you can find them on your own. Hidden Mickey’s are literally everywhere; Rockin’ Rollercoaster, Kilimanjaro Safari, Toy Story Mania…everywhere! My favorite, and the largest hidden Mickey on property I actually came across accidentally. It can be seen on your GPS when taking the exit for Epcot- it’s made of solar panels! Another favorite of mine a friend showed me; When leaving Ariel’s Grotto in the Magic Kingdom if you stand in the perfect spot you can see the rocks of the exterior from the grotto form Steamboat Willy. Disney really goes above and beyond in every aspect.
The cast members are just as awesome as the park attractions are. Cast members who work in certain lands or parts of each park sometimes spend a full day or more during their training to come up with a backstory on themselves as if they are actually living in that area. For example, in Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge if you ask the cast members “How did you get here” they will tell you some elaborate story on how and/or why they came to that planet. Some even have ‘alien’ names. In Pandora I met a young lady who was in nursing school on Earth but she was given the opportunity to come to Pandora to further her knowledge in the medical field on the planet and learn more about the Avatars. Another cast member said that when Pandora was discovered he joined a program to visit the planet to research Banshees in their habitat. They even thanked us for asking them about their story because they work so hard on it and not everyone knows that it’s a thing. During the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party you’ll notice the female cast members in their special MNSSHP uniforms complete with bat headbands. My favorite thing to do is to go around and ask them what their bat’s names are and decide my favorite of the night. I’ve heard names like Batty McFly, Sad Bat Hours and so many others. You might find a cast member who’s bat hasn’t been named yet so I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a little help from you!
While you’re in the parks weather you’re on Main Street USA or waiting in an attraction queue make sure to pay attention to the smells. Disney uses what’s called Smellitizers in different places of the parks, not everywhere but in most places especially on rides. FoP is filled with delicious smells, most of the same smells can be smelled on Soarin’. Main Street has it’s own smell and even some of the countries in Epcot! You can actually find candles, wax melts, room sprays and car air fresheners of the different scents from the Magic Candle Company so you can have a little Disney magic at home with you. After riding FoP for the first time I immediately bought the wood wick candle of the ride’s smell “Banshee” before even leaving Pandora. My car currently smells like the Haunted Mansion. They also do subscription boxes if you just can’t get enough!
My last tip about the parks in general is something I do every time I visit. Asking for something you want. Disney cast members strive to make every guest experience magical so if you want to sit in the back of a ride or on the front row just ask kindly or if you’re looking for a particular item in the shops they’d be happy to look up the item and tell you where you can find it. I’m not saying to ask for free food or to skip the lines but if there is something they can do within their power to make you enjoy your time in the parks a little more just simply ask. Disney Photo Pass is an incredible thing the parks offer so you can have photos from your trip and not worry about hauling around a giant camera but if all you have is your camera or phone ask them to take a photo with your device, even if you do the photo pass picture but don’t have the memory maker add on to where you can have your photos watermark free you’ll still be able to capture those memories.
I hope I didn’t lose you in my blabbering on about Disney World but I just returned from a trip and was inspired to share some of the things that I enjoy while on my vacations. I can’t suggest enough to explore some of the podcasts that are dedicated to these types of things. While on my 7 hour drives to and from Disney World I like to scroll through the different podcasts listed above and put in queue the episodes I’m most interested in hearing and I have learned so much that way. Share your favorite Disney tips with me, i’d love to learn more and hear what you most enjoy about visiting the parks!