Here's the deal:
Disney World is just as crazy as it is awesome.
To avoid some of the craziness, here are 10 Disney World hacks to help you navigate the parks.
These tips will help you plan and enjoy a relaxing Disney World vacation!
Tip #1 – Self-Park at the Swan to Visit Epcot
Parking at the Swan only costs one more dollar than actually parking at Epcot ($23 instead of $22).
Once upon a time, it was probably cheaper to park at the Swan, but then again, it also used to be cheaper to park at Disney...
All I know is that parking for Disney is hella expensive!
Okay, back to why parking at the Swan is better than parking at Epcot.
The walk from the Swan to Epcot is beautiful and relatively short. You get to walk right by the Boardwalk!
Plus, you get to use an entrance located right next to France, which is amazingly quiet!
Just keep in mind, that the world portion of the park technically doesn't open until 11 am, so you will be stuck by France until they take down the ropes (at 11 am). So this is a great option for those of you who want to take your time getting to the park.
The real benefit from parking at the Swan comes when it's time to leave. Instead of lining up with hundreds or thousands of other cars, you get to walk away from the crowds!
Since most people parked at the Swan are actually staying there, it will be a breeze for you and your family to drive away!
When Is It Best to Just Park at Epcot?
Park at Epcot if you're planning on visiting another park the same day.
The parking pass that you purchase in Epcot's parking lot will be good for the other 3 parks as well. Just remember that it's only good on the same day that you purchased it!
Don't park at the Swan if you want to be there as soon as the park opens riding rides.
Tip #2 – Book Your Fast Passes As Early As Possible
Disney used to do fast passes on a first-come first-served basis.
And, while it's technically still first-come first-served, you used to be able to show up to the park, go to the first ride you wanted a fast pass for, get it, and return later when your fast pass was good.
For the newer, more popular rides, there was always a mad dash to get the fast passes because they could be gone within the first hour the park opened, but you still had an opportunity to get there first.
Fast passes were never gone before you arrived at the park because no one could reserve them ahead of time.
Now, with the advancement of technology, you can reserve them months in advanced.
Sounds a little crazy, right? Well, it is.
Why Reserve Them in Advanced?
Unfortunately, fast passes for popular and new rides are becoming more difficult to obtain.
Even if you reserve them as early as possible (60 days ahead of time if you stay on Disney property, and 30 days if you don't), some of the fast passes will already be gone.
It's unbelievably annoying.
However, the best thing you can do is set a reminder on your calendar for when you need to reserve them! Also, note that you can make selections starting at 7 am ET 60 days or 30 days (depending on where you're staying) before your vacation.
So, make sure you reserve them then to have the best chance of getting the ones you want!
Make sure you have a game plan. Know which rides your family wants to ride the most and try to get fast passes for those.
Less popular rides (e.g. It's a Small World) will likely have fast passes available on the day you visit, so you can add those after you use your initial 3 fast passes.
However, if your kids will want to drive the cars at the Speedway, I would definitely recommend getting a fast pass for that because it's a terribly long and hot line to wait in.
Tip #3 – Drink Water for Free
This is actually in another one of my posts (10 Things You Ought to Know About Disney World), but it’s such a great tip that I just had to include it in this list too!
How to Get Free Water
Walk up to any snack bar with a soda fountain and you can ask for as many cups of water as you’d like! You don’t even have to purchase anything!
The water cups are small, but if you drink them throughout the day, they will help you stay hydrated!
I would recommend splurging on a bottle of water while you eat (quick-service) because the cups of water a so small, and it can be difficult to get refills at most quick-service dining options.
Tip #4 – Bring Something to Entertain Young Children
Some lines are over an hour long, which can feel like an eternity for most adults, never mind young children!
Do yourself (and your kids) a favor and bring something to entertain them. This could be a tablet or phone for Netflix or a coloring book and a few colored pencils (avoid crayons in the summer)!
Bonus Tip: If you bring a phone to entertain them, also make sure to pack an external battery that way you can keep your phone charged and ready to go all day!
Tip #5 – Avoid the Stress and Enjoy Family Style Dining
If you don’t mind spending a pretty penny on food during your Disney World vacation, try Disney’s newer family style dining.
Why Dine Family Style?
You don’t have to worry about figuring out who wants what.
Everything the restaurant serves is brought out to your table.
You can eat what you want and leave the rest.
Plus, you can ask for more of whatever you like, and desert is included!
This easy, relaxed dining style is fantastic; however, like most things at Disney, it comes at a price. You just need to determine if the price is worth the convenience.
When to Avoid Family Style Dining
If you're trying to do Disney on a budget, there are more budget friendly options offered quick-service restaurants and even some table service restaurants.
Also, avoid the family style dining if you're on a tight schedule. You'd be better off getting something from a quick-service counter that way you can make it to your fast pass in time!
Tip #6 – Make Lunch and Dinner Reservations
If you plan on eating in the park at a sit-down restaurant, which includes everything except quick-service, make sure you check to see if they take reservations!
It gets to a certain point where restaurants will not take walk-ins, which means you will be left walking from restaurant to restaurant trying to find an empty table so you can feed your hangry kids.
Yeah, not exactly ideal...
So, you can browse Disney's different restaurants and make a reservation here!
Have questions about dining at Disney? Get them answered here!
Tip #7 – Know When to Quit
Why Rest? It's Freakin' Disney!!!
Disney is exhausting, and most kids won’t make it through an entire day. They need rest. Honestly, it's tough for most adults to make it through the entire day too.
Make sure you schedule in some rest time for the kiddos, especially if they're on the younger side.
You can choose to sleep in and arrive to the park late morning or you can arrive right on time and leave the park early.
Alternatively, I would recommend that you arrive when the park opens, stay until the early afternoon, go back to your hotel, take a nap if you need to or just rest, and then head back to the park in the late afternoon.
Essentially, take a break for a couple of hours in the middle of your day.
This is great because you’ll miss the hottest and busiest part of the day.
Tip #8 – Try and Minimize Bathroom and Food Stops
Why? This Seems Ridiculous!
This sounds incredibly controlling and it absolutely is, but you’d be amazed at how much time is wasted standing in line for the bathrooms and food.
When traveling with a decently sized group, it can be difficult to get everyone using the bathroom and eating at the same time.
Just eat together no matter what, and if someone needs to use the bathroom, everyone should use the bathroom.
It's really not difficult, and it will likely help cut down on the number of bathroom breaks and food stops.
Tip #9 – Bring Snacks!
Reduce the number of hangry kids and adults by packing snacks. (This will also help reduce the number of food stops!)
Just try to avoid packing snacks that will melt!
Trail mix is a great idea so long as it doesn't have any chocolate. Instead of chocolate, dried fruit will help to sweeten the mix!
Also, some Nutrigrain bars would be a great snack to pack.
Just in case, you should bring some wet wipes for any sticky fingers!
Tip #10 – Remember Where You Are and Why You’re There
This is seriously the best tip I can give you because, no matter how much you plan, something is going to go wrong on your Disney vacation.
Why Is This Important?
Despite the fact that it’s the happiest place on earth, Disney tends to bring out the worst in people (kids and adults).
Your children will be full of sugar, over-stimulated, and over-tired. It’s just the way it goes.
Be patient. And remember it’s your vacation.
Little inconveniences and annoyances will only ruin it if you let them!
Keep a positive attitude no matter what, and just do your best.
You will see a lot of other families that aren’t having a good time, which is a shame.
So, when you’re hot, sweaty, exhausted, hungry, waiting in a long ass line, and trying to keep your kids from bickering, just remember to take a deep breath and have a positive attitude!
Tip 1 - Self-Park at the Swan to Visit Epcot
This doesn’t save you money, but it might save you some sanity if you’re only planning on visiting Epcot that day. Also, note that if you self-park at the Swan, don’t arrive any earlier than 10:30 am because the around the world portion of the park doesn’t open until 11 am.
Tip 2 - Book Fast Passes ASAP
If you’re staying on Disney property, you can book them 60 days in advance and 30 days in advance if you are staying off Disney property.
Tip 3 - Drink Water for Free
You don’t have to buy bottled water! You can actually ask for cups of water, which are FREE! You can get one at any snack stand or quick-service restaurant with a soda fountain!
Tip 4 - Bring Something to Entertain Your Kids
You should download some movies onto your phone (bring an external battery too) just in case the lines are long, which they likely will be. You can also bring coloring books and a few colored pencils if you’d like. However, make sure to leave the crayons at home!
Tip 5 - Enjoy Family Style Dining
If you’re not a tight budget, you should definitely enjoy the family style dining that Disney offers. This is an all-you-can-eat dining style. They bring you everything they serve, and you can enjoy as much as you care to, which can be a relaxing dining option.
Tip 6 - Make Lunch/Dinner Reservations
Not every restaurant takes reservations, but if you know where you’d like to eat, you should check! Many restaurants fill up quickly and don’t take walk-ins.
Tip 7 - Know When to Quit
Disney is exhausting. If you have kids, you shouldn’t expect to spend the entire day at the park.
Tip 8 - Minimize Bathroom and Food Stops
If you’re traveling with a big group, you should try and get everyone to eat at the same time! Waiting in only one line for lunch will help save you time! Also, try and take the same bathroom breaks, which means that when one person has to go, everyone should try!
Tip 9 - Bring Snacks
Don’t be hungry in line! Bring some healthy snacks like trail mix (without the chocolate) and granola bars to help ensure that no one’s blood sugar drops too low.
Tip 10 - Remember Where You Are and Why You're There
Do not let discomfort or little inconveniences put you in a bad mood! You may not have control over what happens on your vacation, but you do have control over how you react! Choose to be happy!
I hope that you found these 10 Disney World hacks helpful!
What is your favorite Disney World hack? Let me know in the comments below!
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Want to keep reading? Try How to Plan a Disney World Vacation - The Ultimate Guide; I think you'll love it!
Until next time,