Effectively planning your Walt Disney World holiday is essential for maximizing your trip and minimizing stress. With so many exciting rides and attractions, engaging activities, and magical details, planning a Disney World vacation can be complicated. Fortunately, Disney travel planning experts MagicGuides have compiled their top tips on how to get the most magic out of your Disney vacation.
Tips for avoiding standby lines
Maximizing your Walt Disney World experience involves strategic planning for standby wait times, which tend to peak mid-afternoon. For key attractions, consider “rope dropping” by arriving at the park before it opens and heading directly to the desired attraction so you can ride it with as little wait as possible.
To further minimise wait times, consider exploring attractions during the afternoon parade or peak meal times. The Disney Genie section of the My Disney Experience App offers wait time forecasts, aiding in precise arrival planning. Additionally, for enhanced comfort, prioritise rides with outdoor queues either early or late in the day to avoid the scorching midday sun, leveraging the refuge of indoor, air-conditioned lines that are also less susceptible to closure during afternoon thunderstorms.
Utilise Genie+ and Lightning Lanes wisely
Understanding the Genie+ service
For a usual fee of approximately $15-$30 (varies based on date/demand/park) per person per day, Genie+ lets guests make reservations on the morning of their visit and then make additional ride reservations, one at a time, for the remainder of the day.
Individual Lightning Lane entry
Individual Lightning Lanes are available for the most popular attractions in each park, which are not included in Genie+. Guests can purchase one entrance per day for each ride offering this individual entry service. The cost usually ranges from $10-$20 per ride and varies based on the attraction and date, available for purchase only on the day of your visit.
Download the My Disney Experience App
The My Disney Experience app will be your ultimate guide throughout the trip, offering park maps, wait times, and mobile food ordering. The app is easy to use, and you can access your account via a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Once you create an account, simply login to make your reservations and check every detail of your trip.
The app allows you to:
View your tickets and reservations
Access the Disney Genie itinerary planning service
Purchase priority access to certain attractions through the Genie+ and Lightning Lane service
Enter a virtual queue for highly demanded attractions
Access entitlements under the Disability Access Service, if applicable
Place mobile orders for selected quick-service restaurants, helping you avoid lines when ordering food
Take advantage of Mobile Ordering to avoid lines
Reservations are not offered for quick-service dining at Disney World, though some locations do provide a mobile ordering service through the My Disney Experience app. For these locations, you can view menus in the app, order and pay ahead of time. When it’s time to eat, you can bypass the regular order/payment line and go straight to the mobile pickup window to get your food, which minimizes the length of your vacation spent in lines.
Pro tip: Time your meals strategically
Unless you have breakfast reservations for an in-park restaurant, we advise against having breakfast in the park. You’ll likely miss out on some of the lowest ride wait times of the day if you’re off getting food right after the park opens. Instead, have breakfast at your hotel’s restaurant before heading to the park, or have a quick snack for breakfast and opt for an early lunch.
Additionally, having your meals during an off-peak time is a great way to avoid wasting time waiting in long lines at counter-service restaurants. If you have lunch at noon and dinner at 6 PM, you’ll quickly notice that everyone else in the park has the same idea. Not only will there be longer waits in line, but you might even have to “hover” a bit to find an empty table.
Tips for deciding on the length of your stay
We recommend that any trip should last at least four days, with an ideal range of a full week or so. It depends on your budget, time limitations, who you are traveling with, and your trip goals. But with so much to see and experience, a day or two won’t even scratch the surface of what Walt Disney World has to offer.
How long do most people stay at Disney World?
Most Disney World vacations last 3-7 days. Many guests devote one full day to each of the four Disney World theme parks. Given their size and number of attractions, it’s certainly possible to spend two days each at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Additional days can be spent re-visiting one of the parks, going to a Disney water park, or doing other various activities inside or outside of the park.
Many guests like to spend a day or two at other (non-Disney) Orlando-area attractions – such as Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Legoland Florida, or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Other guests set aside a day or two for golfing, boating, or just to simply relax at the pool.
Take breaks to avoid burnout
Balancing your Disney World vacation is crucial; going nonstop may lead to midweek burnout and a less enjoyable experience. We highly recommend avoiding the draining afternoon sun. A midday break, especially for those staying on-site, can be revitalizing, offering time for a nap, pool dip, or exploring resort amenities.
Incorporating a designated “day off” or regular breaks during your trip allows for relaxation or alternative activities like golf, resort-hopping, or a visit to Disney Springs. Considering both active and restful periods ensures your vacation stays on course without derailment.
Top tip: Buy a Park Hopper ticket
The Park Hopper ticket option allows guests to visit multiple Disney World theme parks on the same day. After starting the day at one park, guests may then easily ‘hop’ to a different theme park later in the day. We especially love the Park Hopper for spending the first part of the day at one theme park, then spending the evenings at Epcot to take advantage of the wonderful dining options at the World Showcase.
Choosing your Disney World hotel: On-site Vs. off-site
Disney owns and operates more than 20 on-site hotels, or, as an alternative, you can choose to stay at a hotel not owned by Disney; that could save you some money, but you’ll miss out on several perks offered exclusively to on-site guests.
Benefits of staying at an on-site resort
- Each resort has its own distinctive character, charm, and identity to surround yourself with Disney magic, 24/7.
- Each resort is close to all the parks and has direct access to monorails, boats, skyliners, and buses. A few resorts are close enough to walk to Magic Kingdom or EPCOT easily.
- Early Theme Park Entry – This perk allows guests to enter each of the four theme parks thirty minutes before they officially open.
- Ability to book Advanced Dining Reservations and Lightning Lane entries ahead of non-Disney resort guests.
- The only major disadvantage of staying at an on-site Disney resort is the cost. With the extra perks and proximity to the park, these resorts are more expensive than off-site resorts, so your decision will depend on your budget and the priorities of your vacation.
Off-site properties, while often farther from the park and lacking direct Disney transportation, can still provide proximity, with some situated directly on Disney-owned land. If your party exceeds five guests, off-site options offer better value compared to the relatively pricey on-site 5-person+ options. Opting for a non-Disney resort is a budget-friendly choice for those comfortable with some distance from the action, but for a fully immersive experience in the magic, we recommend on-site hotels.
Dining reservations are crucial
If you plan on dining at table-service restaurants during your vacation, reservations are essential. Disney calls its restaurant reservations “Advance Dining Reservations”, which lets you secure your table at some of Disney’s most popular table-service restaurants.
Guests staying in a Disney Resort hotel may make dining reservations for the entire length of their stay (up to 10 days’ worth of reservations) as early as 60 days in advance of their hotel check-in date. All other guests can make their reservations for dining as early as 60 days in advance of the meal.
Take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry
A great perk of staying at an on-site Disney hotel is having extra time in the parks before the public is allowed in. While not all attractions operate during these extended hours, it’s still a great way to get a few extra rides in with typically lower wait times.
Disney Resort hotel guests may enter the Disneyworld parks 30 minutes earlier than the general public, every day of the week. Additionally, guests at Disney Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villa Resorts, and a few other select hotels may also enjoy additional time at specific parks on specific nights. Guests should check the latest schedule to verify which dates and parks are available during your trip.
More tips and info from MagicGuides: https://magicguides.com/how-to-plan-a-disney-vacation/