Disney World is such a fun place to visit, but it can be overwhelming. Disney Parks are such a fun vacation for families, couples, adults, or even going alone (I love my solo trips!). These tips and tricks for the ultimate Disney World experience will help you in the planning process, and enjoy your time in the parks. A trip to Disney doesn’t have to be stressful and the planning can be so much fun.
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Some of these tips and tricks may not be applicable in 2021 with current conditions, although a majority should help and be a stepping stone in the planning process. We included a list of 2021 specific tips.
Disney World Tips and Tricks
- Set low expectations. I cannot stress this enough. People go into their trips thinking they are going to be able to see and do everything, everyone will be happy all the time, you won’t have to wait in line, things will be cheap and it will be the most stress free vacation. Disney can be overwhelming, but if you have low expectations, and realize you won’t be able to do everything in a week, your trip will be much easier.
- Check a crowd calendar. Touring Plans is my favorite site to check but undercover tourist has one as well. Touring Plans is subscription based, but it is definitely worth the cost. Even with current conditions, we used a crowd calendar to plan our latest trip (Nov 2020) and the crowds were fairly accurate to what was predicted.
- If you have young kids, bring a stroller. You can always baby wear, but I highly recommend a stroller. It is nice to have a place to put your baby, and a place to put all of your stuff. Not only are strollers great for babies, but older kids too. Our 8 year old nephew rode in it when he got too tired and it was perfect to stretch out the park day. If you don’t want to pack a stroller, you can always rent.
- Before you go, buy Disney gift cards at Target using your red card for 5% off. It isn’t much, but it does add up and save you costs. You can use the gift cards at most places in the park for souvenirs and food.
- Book your fast passes early in the morning close together. You can book fast passes 30 days in advance or if you are staying on property you can book 60 days in advance.
- Visit during a special time– food and wine festival, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, etc… Some are ticketed events and cost more, but it is a great way to do the park with less people at the event. The Food and Wine festival is a great way to try new food and experience more from the world showcase
- Research rides and look at a map ahead of time. If you have never been to the parks, it will be helpful to know the lay of the land. The best use of time is to stay in an area and not run around the park.
- Download the official Disney World app ahead of time and login. Familiarize yourself ahead of time with the app and how to use it.
- Plan your meals ahead of time- not your exact meal, but look up menus and know how much you could potentially spend. Look up snacks and other things ahead of time so you are not shocked when you see the prices in the park and can roughly plan out a budget.
Packing Tips and What to Bring to the Park
10. External Charger– bring an external charger and cable. If you are using the app, taking photos, etc.. you will likely go through battery faster.
11. Bring Rain Gear– Florida weather is finicky and it will likely rain sometime on your visit. We like to pack an extra pair of dry socks, rain ponchos, and an umbrella. Some people will say you do not need an umbrella, but we sure find it useful. It isn’t any more difficult to navigate crowds with and we just put it in a grocery back to store it.
12. Know your stroller- you may need to fold it up or put the rain cover on it. Make sure you know how to do these things ahead of time and that you have the extra stroller supplies- most strollers come with a rain cover. We also have a removable drink caddy that we love that attached to the handle bar.
13. Speaking of Strollers– bring something that will set your stroller apart from others- tie a bright ribbon on it, or something else that will set it apart from others
14. Bring a backpack and a smaller bag. We use a diaper bag to pack baby essentials and other items for our baby and then use the smaller bag (fanny pack, cross body bag, etc) to hold wallet, keys, important items we don’t want to keep in the stroller.
15. Noise Cancelling Headphones– we bring a small pair of noise cancelling headphones for our baby- they help during louder rides, firework shows, and other times when it may be a little too loud
16. Water Bottles- Bring in as much water as you want, but you will have to carry it. We usually just fill up the stroller bottom with water. You can get water free in the park, but you will have to wait in line to get it. You can also bring an insulated water bottle and refill it.
17. Snacks- pack as many snacks as you want as well. One of the best parts of Disney World is the food in the park, but it can add up and kids may not like what you want to try, so we bring what we know she will like.
18. Layers- pack and wear layers in the park. Florida weather can be funny and your best bet is to wear layers
19. Ziploc Bags or extra grocery bags- we use these for everything- leftover snacks, wet clothes, dirty clothes, leftover food, and your cell phone on splash mountain. Having an extra bag to keep things separate and dry is so convenient. I know it is not the most environmentally friendly option, but we try to recycle everything we can when done.
In The Park
- Photos: have you seen all the fun colorful wall photos people post on instagram? Is there a special spot you want a photo of in the park? Before your trip download a map and circle the areas on the map. If you know where the special walls are and your photo spots it will make it easier to plan when to take the photos. A lot of the time when you get in the park it is go go go and photos may be the last thing on your mind.
- Plan your days: I don’t mean plan every single ride, but if you have wanted to try something, a food item/ treat, or you have a must ride ride, know where it is located and what is around. I missed out on a few of the treats I wanted to try recently because I couldn’t figure out where they were and I didn’t save the photo to figure it out.
- Parades- if parades are important to your Disney Experience, make sure you stake out your spot at least 30 minutes in advanced to get a good spot. Nothing is worse than standing at the back not able to see and wishing you would have just waited.
- Rider Switch-this is our ultimate tip. If you have young kids that cannot ride, take turns! Before getting in line, you let a cast member know you need rider switch and they will add it to your ticket. 3 people can ride the ride again and wait less time. Make sure you get the rider switch before you wait, and often times the cast member needs to see the young kid (not always applicable).
- Souvenirs– If you buy a souvenir in the park and it breaks while in the park, you can go to the nearest store that sells it and get a replacement.
Extras for Kids
- If you have time, stop by a Walmart or Target close to the parks because they have awesome cheaper souvenirs. If you want to save money in the park, this is a great way to go.
- Autograph books- you can buy an autograph book ahead of time from amazon, or at Walmart or Target close to the parks
- Polaroid Camera- if you have a polaroid camera, bring it for the kids to use and let them take photos from their perspective.
- Sticker Books- sticker books are light and so easy to pack. They take up hardly any space but are a perfect thing to bring in line with you for littles
- Grab a free button- you can get one for all kinds of things-birthday, anniversary, graduation, or I’m celebrating and fill in your own.
Hacks and Tips for Eating in the Park
- Buy the Refillable Popcorn Bucket– it is good in all parks and for the duration of your trip and refills are only $2.25. It is the best snack and great for waiting in line.
- Mobile Order– save time and mobile order your food from the app. It is super easy to do and you can just walk up when it is ready to pick it up without having to wait in line.
- Snacks are sometimes better than food- we usually eat breakfast, or pack breakfast in and then snack our way through the park. Disney has the best snacks and there are always so many to try. After Snacking, we eat an early dinner/late lunch.
- Split Meals- splitting a meal can save on costs. Some food places give a ton of stuff and it is easy to split. If we don’t split a meal, we always get two different things so we can be sure to try two different things
- Order a Kid’s Meal- kid’s meals are the best value. They come with a good amount of delicious food and are pretty inexpensive.
- Character Meals- if you are going to do a character meal, do it outside the park on an off day, or make it a super early reservation for breakfast before the park opens.
- Eat Breakfast and Dinner, skip lunch. If experiencing dining is a must on your list, eat a late breakfast and early dinner in the park and you can enjoy more meals, and save a little by skipping on lunch.
Check out our Amazon Store for Our Disney Must Haves
Mistakes Not to Make at Disney World
Disney World is such a fun place, but there are a lot of mistakes you can make that will make your trip less than desirable. Plan ahead for a more magical time. Here are tips and tricks for mistakes to not make at Disney World.
- Not buying your tickets ahead of time. Gone are the days where you can walk up to the ticket booth and expect to get in that day. Make sure you have your tickets ahead of time and days reserved.
- Trying to stick too closely to a plan. It is nice to have a plan, but it will likely not go perfectly. Rides break down, schedules change, kids do not cooperate, etc.. it is best to not try to follow to closely to a schedule.
- Not getting to the park early enough. Rope Drop is key (rope drop means being at the park before opening ready to go right away, before the pandemic, people would crowd together in anticipation of the day) and we can get done more rides in the first couple hours of park opening than we can the rest of the day.
- Forgetting Rain Gear– forgetting rain gear when a Florida down pour happens, is not fun. Make sure to pack ponchos and a stroller cover if you have one.
- Not pacing yourself– it is easy to arrive at the parks and get caught up in go go go, but most likely you have more days in the park left and you don’t want to burn yourself out day one.
- Not packing the right shoes– do not buy new shoes that you have not broken in for your Disney Trip. Pack shoes you are comfortable walking in miles and miles a day.
- Not taking breaks– it is easy to not want to miss a single thing in the park, but taking breaks is essential. Finding a bench, enjoy a longer lunch break, whatever you need to do to give your feet a rest. Pace yourself and give yourself down time.
- Forgetting Sunscreen– nothing is worse than getting sunburned day one on your trip and being in pain the rest of the trip. Pack your sunscreen and apply often- even if it is raining
- Riding rides at the wrong time– if Toy Story Mania is already at 75 minutes, it is likely going to be 75 minutes all day long, don’t start your day in a 75 minute long line. Go to the shorter lines first where you can ride more before you spend the rest of the day waiting in line.
- Not downloading and becoming familiar with the app before you go. The app at Disney is everything and so valuable. Do not wait until you are in the park to try to get to know it.
2021 Specific Tips and Tricks in Disney World
Disney changes their policies a lot right now as they are adapting to new circumstances, make sure you know what changes have been made before you go, check their website for official procedures and policies. These tips and tricks will help you plan the ultimate Disney World trip in 2021.
- Park Hopping– you can now hop again to multiple parks in a day after 2:00 pm. First, you will start in your reserved park and then if you want after 2, you can hop to another park if the capacity is available. You cannot make a reservation for the second park (or 3rd or 4th), but it is first come first serve. You can also go back to your original reserved park.
- Fast Pass + is not available right now. I actually loved the park without the fast pass system and it was less stressful.
- Park Reservations– you must reserve your tickets on line in advanced and reserve a park for each day. This must be done in advanced to avoid stress and ensure that you will be able to visit the park. Currently this system allows for reservations through 2021, so you can expect this practice to be around for a while.
- Masks– face masks must be worn at all times and must be approved (see their site for more details), just be prepared at this time to wear a mask.
- Lines– with limited capacity, ride times are a bit longer. Be prepared to wait in lines. It isn’t bad though. We always play games, chat, scroll our phones, whatever we can do to pass the time.
- Dining– not all dining is open and if you are hoping to do a sit down meal, make your reservations ahead of time. There is limited availability for walk up to some dining day of, but it is not always available.
- Mobile ordering– widely available and you can schedule a time to pick up food when it is convenient. Do Not try to order food during busy lunch time for right away. If it is noon and you are hoping for a noon pick up, you are likely going to have to wait even longer.
- 50th Anniversary Celebration– Disney World is celebrating 50 years this year on October 1. They have not announced any details but if you are planning on going later in the year, you may take that into consideration and park passes are already filling up.
Visiting Disney really is a magical experience- if you let it be. Yes it is expensive and crowded, but if you go with the right attitude and expectations, you really will have a special, magical vacation and will understand all the hype. If you enjoyed Tips and Tricks for the Ultimate Disney World Experience, you may like
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