Are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought of planning your Disney World vacation? Want to avoid the long Disney World lines? Should you bring your own stroller to Disney?
Don’t worry, I have you covered! I’ve put together some handy tips and tricks for your next Disney World vacation. These insider tips that will help you make the most of the most magical place on earth.
And, Just in case your stumped on what items you need to pack for your Disney World vacation, including items you need but might not think to pack, don’t miss this helpful post: Disney Packing List Tips and Tricks
General Tips and Tricks for Disney World
Work with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
This tip is huge: Authorized Disney Vacation Planners are no cost to you and they are an excellent resource, providing recommendations on everything from where to stay to what to eat, and many will make your Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) and FastPass+ reservations for you. I worked with Magical Vacations by Jenn & Nicolette the last time we went to Disney World, and I highly recommend them! Our agent Nicolette worked her magic and scored us a much-coveted Advanced Dining Reservation to Cinderella’s Royal Table and booked all of our FastPass+ requests!
Disney World Tip: Nicolette, of Magical Vacations by Jenn & Nicolette, gave us a very good tip. When you approach the turnstiles when entering the parks, go left. Generally, these are the shortest lines – it’s been proven by a scientific study that the majority of people tend to go right or straight. This works outside of WDW as well.
Stay at a Disney property if you can.
The perks you receive when staying on-site at Disney World can be hard to beat! Some of these perks provide convenience, while others can be the difference between being able to snag a coveted FastPass+ or Advanced Dining Reservation.
Disney’s resorts have several price point categories, including Value, Moderate or Deluxe. It’s worth splurging on a nicer hotel if you can afford it, but you’ll still experience Disney magic at a Value resort!
Disney also offers a timeshare style program called Disney Vacation Club. You can learn more here: Why We Became Disney Vacation Club Members
The benefits of staying at a Disney resort include:
- FastPass+ reservations at 60 days
- Dining reservations at 180+10 days out
- Park purchases delivered to your resort
- Free transportation between the airport and your resort
- Free MagicBands
- Complimentary transportation between resorts and parks
- Disney Dining Plan option
- Extra Magic Hours
- Resort room charging privileges
Disney World Tip: When you’re staying on-property, you can get a wake-up call from a Disney character.
Make your Advance Dining Reservations at 180 days.
I strongly encourage making reservations as close as you can to the 180-day mark. For those staying at a Disney World resort, you’ll have 180 days in advance of check-in, plus you can make dining reservations for your entire stay … up to 10 days.
This means have 190 days to make reservations, rather than 180. If dining is a priority, especially during the busiest times, this gives you a huge advantage! It’s not uncommon to find the most popular restaurants such as Cinderella’s Royal Table already booked at the 180 day window.
Disney World Tip: When booking dining reservations, you can save time by having tabs open for each restaurant. Always make dining reservations in order of how difficult the reservation is to get.
Reserve your FastPass+ as soon as you can.
FastPass+ is Disney’s reservation system that lets guests to book advance reservations for experiences and attractions in the park. This allows you to skip the long lines for the popular rides where wait times often exceed 60+ minutes. You are allowed to book three FastPass+ per day (in one park) in advance. While in the park, you are allowed to book another FastPass as soon as you finish your third FastPass+.
Guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotels can make FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days in advance of check-in for their entire length of stay. Those staying off-site can make reservations up to 30 days in advance of each day of their theme park visit.
Disney World Tip: As soon as you check in for your third FastPass+ reservation, open the My Disney Experience app and get a fourth FastPass+ reservation.
Use the Magical Express if staying at Disney resort.
I love this perk! It’s so incredibly convenient, especially when traveling with young children. Disney will pickup your checked bags and take them to your resort for you. No waiting around, fighting the baggage carousal crowds.
And, you my friend, will be shuttled to your Disney resort on a comfortably-air conditioned bus called the Magical Express!
Purchase Disney Memory Maker.
Carrying around a camera in Disney can be cumbersome and many times I forget to pull it out of the backpack. And my phone is already being drained by checking ride wait times, ordering Quick Service, texting the teenagers who are off doing their own rides. That’s why I love Memory Maker!
Memory Maker is a photo package that includes high-quality digital copies of all the photos taken by expert PhotoPass photographers, which you will find everywhere on Disney properties. Photos and videos that are captured on rides are also loaded to your Memory Maker account, as well as photos taken at Character Meet and Greets.
Disney World Tip: One of the highlights of Disney’s Memory Maker are the “Magic Shots.” Be sure to ask your photographer to pose you for one– and you will take home some really fun photos!
Plan a Resort/Pool/Rest day
You don’t necessarily have to spend the entire day away from the parks, but I highly recommend taking at least one day to relax and rest. Try to take your non-park day at mid-trip so that you can recharge and have plenty of stamina for the second half of your trip.
Disney World Tip: Enjoy the resort pool and/or do some leisurely shopping at Disney Springs.
Ship essential items to your hotel.
Buy items on Amazon before your trip and have essentials like sunscreen, OTC medicine, etc. shipped straight to your hotel. Consider doing this for items that are not easy to pack or will add extra weight to your suitcase. It will be waiting for you when you arrive, without the extra hassle and cost.
Disney World Tip: In Shipping Address Line 2, specify your arrival date.
Don’t plan too many activities in one day.
Trying to do too much is the #1 way people ruin their much-anticipated Disney vacation. This is especially true when you are traveling with tots. Please don’t try to cram all of Magic Kingdom into one marathon day and have dinner reservations at Animal Kingdom Lodge and think you can return to Magic Kingdom for the Fireworks. Some super-humans are able to accomplish this excruciating schedule without meltdowns or mishaps but most of us cannot. Be sure to pace yourself and not be tempted to over-plan each day.
Stock your hotel room with food.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this, food is EXPENSIVE at Disney World. Therefore, make sure your hotel room is stocked up with food and beverages. This will save you money, trust me. Using a delivery service is a money-saving way to stock your room with food. And most services deliver to Bell Services at your specified delivery window.
Mention Special Occasions.
Be sure to mention any special occasions you are celebrating while at Disney World! If you are using a travel agent, have them add it to the reservation notes. Celebration Buttons include birthdays, honeymoon, first visit and more. On our last visit, we mentioned that is was our daughter’s first time at Disney World and she received a “1st Visit” Celebration Button! Just tell the Front Desk if you are staying at a Disney property or stop by Guest Relations in the parks. Many gift shops in the parks will also hand out a free buttons.
Rent a stroller from a stroller service.
Renting from a stroller service will allow your family to take the stroller anywhere without the hassle of bringing your own. Most companies offer top-of-the-line strollers at a very reasonable rental price.
Plus, your rented stroller will be delivered directly to your Disney resort hotel for you pickup at Bell Services. And, picked up at Bell Services on your last day. Even better, you do not have to be present. My favorite Stroller Rental Service is Orlando Stroller Service. They are very reasonably priced and have excellent customer service.
Disney World Tip: Make sure to identify your stroller in a unique way since so many strollers look the same. Items like ribbons or bright scarves tied around the handle will help to make it easier to spot.
Disney World Tips and Tricks For Parks and Dining
Research Parks and Attractions before you go.
Research rides and attractions before booking your FastPasses. There are height restrictions and some parks have ride and attraction tiers (you can only pick one ride from Tier 1). It can get a little overwhelming but there are great resources out there to help you out!
Disney World Tip: Watching the parade at Magic Kingdom can make you feel like a sardine if you are lining up on Main Street. Watch the parade in Frontierland (this is where the parade starts). Many times, when the parade finishes in Frontierland, ride lines are not as long because many are still watching the parade from Main Street and surrounding areas. So go hop on a ride!
Download and utilize the My Disney Experience app.
Why use the My Disney Experience app? Because it will give you the flexibility of making/changing your plans while you tour the parks. You can order meals, check ride wait times, play games while in queue for a ride and so o so much more! Be sure it have it on your mobile device before you leave for your trip!
There are so many things that can be done via the app. But here are the best features:
- Order Quick Service Meals
- Find Your Favorite Character
- Current Ride and Attraction Wait Times
- Memory Maker Purchases and Viewing
- Unlock Your Resort Room Door
- Bus Wait Times
- Play Disney Parks
- Add or Update Fastpass+ Reservations
- Add Dining Reservations
- Buy Official Merchandise
- Early Resort Check In
Disney World Tip: Take a portable phone charger with you! You will use this app throughout the day and your cell phone dying is the last thing you need.
Take advantage of the Rider Switch Pass.
This is an awesome tip for Disney World and many aren’t aware of this family-friendly option; If you want to experience a ride but your little one is too small or too scared, Disney has a great solution! One person can wait outside with the child while the rest of the party walks through the queue as normal. When you get to the ride portion, let a cast member know you are doing Rider Switch. The cast member will give you a Rider Switch Pass (works just like a FastPass). Ride the attraction as normal and exit. Now the person waiting with the child uses the Rider Switch Pass via FastPass line with up to 2 additional riders. Everyone gets to ride and you don’t have to wait in line twice!
Chances are, it will rain at least once during your trip. The ponchos at Walt Disney World are almost $10 a piece. I recommend purchasing a family pack of ponchos from Amazon before your trip.
Plan at least one Character Meal.
You may think that a character meal isn’t your cup of tea. And you might also think that if you’re an adult without kids, or your kids are older, there’s absolutely no reason to book Character Meal. But I believe there’s a place for you at least one of the character tables.
First, there are some REALLY TASTY Character Meals to be found! Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast at Garden Grill and 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian are a few of my favorites.
You’ll get some awesome pictures WITH characters WITHOUT having to wait in long lines. Did I mention in air-conditioned comfort!
Even the crankiest of toddlers, and grown ups for that matter, will be hard-pressed to remain grumpy after interacting with Mickey or hearing the infectious laughter of a Disney Princess.
Disney World Tip: Breakfast Character Meals are less crowded the closer you get to lunch, which means more time with the characters.
Try the free Coke flavors at Epcot’s Club Cool!
Club Cool is a great way to cool down and recharge your battery. You can try eight flavors of Coke products from around the world. If you are adventurous, try the Beverly.
Mobile Order Quick Service meals.
Out of all the tips and tricks for Disney World, this one has really been a game changer for our family. Quick Service restaurants are notoriously crowded, especially around lunchtime. And when you have “hangry” people in your party, waiting in line can be miserable. Now, you have the ability to order your meal from the My Disney Experience app while waiting in line for a ride. Everyone can decide what they want ahead of time and you can pick it up when you’re ready without having to wait. Don’t worry about eating cold food because you will let the app know when you have arrived at the restaurant. It will wait until you confirm before your meal is made.
Don’t go to Parks on their Extra Magic Hours Days.
I know, I know. This goes against every other Tips and Tricks for Disney World article you have read. But hear me out.
The parks with Extra Magic Hours for guests staying at a Disney Property are the busiest park for the entire day. If it is an early morning magic hour and you are staying at one of the Disney resorts you can take advantage of the early morning and get out because it gets packed! But if you decide to sleep in and miss the early entry, change plans and go to a different park.
How to ride Slinky Dog Dash Without FastPass.
Slinky Dog Dash is the one of the hardest FastPass+ to score. Your best bet is to get in line AFTER Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks ends. Wait times are usually 20-30 minutes.
Use Disney’s Resort Hotel Delivery.
If you are staying at a Disney property, you can have park-purchased merchandise delivered to the Gift Shop at your Disney Resort. It’s wonderful to know that you do not have to carry your purchases around the park with you. And you have the freedom to buy something you like right away instead of waiting until the end of the day and looking for the store that you said you would go back to. Your welcome!
Disney provides free ice water at the parks.
This tip for Disney World is essential! Don’t buy bottled water. Every Quick Service restaurant will give you a free cup of ice water if you ask. Plus, I have seen several ice kiosks around the park as well. I prefer this to carrying heavy water bottles, especially if you have multiple bottles of water for your family.
Final Tips and Tricks for Disney World
Don’t expect everything to be perfect.
Because it won’t be. Be flexible, roll with the punches and “take a spoonful of sugar.”
Don’t forget to have fun!
Don’t get too overwhelmed or fall into the tunnel vision trap. It’s easy to allow our schedules and plans rule the entire vacation but be sure to take time to really enjoy the Disney magic all around you.