These are our favorite Walt Disney World hacks, tips and tricks! Shout out to the Disney World Cast Members that contributed. You know who you are! 🙂
1. Make your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) 180 days in advance
Dining reservations open 180 days from the first day of your trip if you are planning to stay at a Disney Resort. You can make reservations for the duration of your trip. For those not staying at a Disney Resort, reservations can be made 180 days from today’s date.
This is a must to guarantee you will get into some of the most popular restaurants, such as Be Our Guest Restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus in Epcot, Victoria and Albert’s, and others. Here is how to get those reservations.
2. Cancel Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) at the last minute with no penalty
I debated posting this, because it is a well-kept secret. But, I have used it and it saved me money, so I am passing it on. Life happens and sometimes you need to make changes to your plans, even the Disney dining reservations you may have made 6 months ago.
If you cancel your Advanced Dining Reservation more than 24 hours ahead of time, there is no penalty.
If your reservation is within 24 hours, you may face cancellation penalties or $25 or $10 per person. To avoid the penalty, go to your dining reservation in your mobile app or online and modify it.
First, modify it to just be for one person.
Then, go back in and modify it for another date. Once you have done that, you will be able to cancel with no penalty.
2. Ship things to your hotel if you are flying
You can ship almost anything you need to your hotel. Disney accepts packages on your behalf up to ten days in advance of the first day of your trip. You can call Disney to get the exact address that you should use for your hotel. Your items can be tracked so you know they got there, and they will be waiting for you. This is less of a gamble than checking luggage that can be lost. It can also be a lot easier and less expensive than trying to pack everything. Depending on the cost of extra checked bags, a year-long Amazon Prime membership is usually less expensive than paying for extra suitcases, and shipping is free on most items you might need. And, again, its a LOT easier. Disney said in November 2016 that they MAY start charging guests a $5 fee per box. This was not our experience in mid-December, but it is possible. We shipped multiple boxes with no fee. There is an Amazon option to combine your order into “as few shipments as possible” which we recommend if using Amazon Prime just in case this happens. Some have said that the resorts with conference centers will be waiving the fee, but the application of this potential new policy is vague thus far.
3. Make an Advanced Dining Reservation in the parks before they officially open and get in BEFORE the crowds
Most mornings, the Magic Kingdom attractions open at 9 AM. Disney is now opening Main Street an hour early and two ADRs will get you past the new placement of the ropes. Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Restaurant are both located in Fantasyland, behind the ropes that separate the guests enjoying Main Street from the various park lands. If you have an 8 AM reservation, you will be able to get in even before Main Street opens and get a wonderful photo in front of the castle with no crowd. You may also be able to get on some rides quickly that usually have long waits. This is especially true if you finish your meal quickly! Be Our Guest is known for being the fastest pre-park-opening breakfast option in Magic Kingdom. That may be because it is not a character meal…
At Epcot, Akershus and Garden Grill are your early-morning options to get into Epcot. You can make an early Akershus reservation if you want to get onto Frozen Ever After (the new Frozen ride) and you don’t have a FastPass. Lines can get up to 300 minutes for this one. Although the World Showcase opens at 11, Disney has been opening Frozen Ever After before the rest of the showcase.
At Animal Kingdom, Tusker House is a great early breakfast choice that is very popular! This may be especially useful if you are keen to check out the new Avatar-themed land coming to Animal Kingdom this year!
4. Look into the best ways to get to your destination
There are multiple ways to get around Disney World using their official transportation – buses, monorails, boats, and walkways.
- Get the Transportation Wizard App, one of the apps we recommend. It gives you multiple ways of getting from one place to another. In addition to finding the quickest route, there may be other fun ways to get from one place to another, like a boat!
- Consider a car rental or calling an Uber if you getting where you are going is going to take a long time. Individual Uber rides may be less expensive than a car rental and Uber Family is available in Orlando, they have car seats!
- Walk to Epcot if you are staying at an Epcot hotel and use the second entrance. Nestled between the UK and France pavilions, there is a second entrance to Epcot called the International Gateway. It is a mile walk or less to the second entrance from the Epcot Resorts – Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Boardwalk and Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resorts. Below is the quickest walking route between the Boardwalk Villas and Epcot.
5. Plan a Disney World trip when crowds are lower
For example, September is a great time to visit Disney World. School has started, so the crowds are less intense.
We have a comprehensive, park-by-park crowd calendar here for the 2018-2019 school year as well as one for the 2017-2018 school year if you are traveling sooner.
The weather is warm, but not as hot as the summer months, and prices are lower on the Disney World Resorts. If you are willing to take the kiddos out of school for a few days, you can get a lot more Disney in.
6. Know where to sit when you board
- On the monorail, aim for the middle of the train, it is the easiest to get on and off without battling crowds.
- On Soarin’ at Epcot, ask for the front row.
- On the Safari ride at Animal Kingdom, the back of the car is the best.
- On Splash Mountain, the biggest splash and the best Disney photo spot is in the front.
7. Find great viewing spots for shows and fireworks
Here are some of our favorites:
- For the Epcot fireworks, a table outside the Rose and Crown Pub is fantastic if you can get one!
- If you can get the timing right, onboard the Jungle Cruise is a great place to watch the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom. The FastPass viewing areas are also great.
- Schedule a reservation for California Grill during Wishes and watch the fireworks from the restaurant. The music is even piped in! If you have eaten an earlier dinner at California Grill, bring your receipt and they will let you back into the restaurant to watch the fireworks from the California Grill Lounge or the observation deck.
- The balcony of the Contemporary located on the fourth floor, just before the walkway to Bay Lake Towers, is another great place to watch the fireworks.
8. Go to the parks on a runDisney day
One Cast Member shared that most visitors are running, so lines may very well be shorter during the actual run, especially at Magic Kingdom.
9. Consider trying Early Morning Magic at Magic Kingdom
On select Sundays and Tuesdays, Early Morning Magic tickets are available. This will allow you access to the rides at 7:45 AM. You can get on your favorite rides MULTIPLE times with no wait.
Admission is limited and tickets must be purchased from Disney in advance. The price is $69 per adult and $59 per child (pre-tax) in addition to the park ticket for the day.
This is a splurge, but you will probably get on more than double the usual number of rides in.
10. Look for last minute ADR openings
If you really want a reservation you don’t have, keep calling Disney Dining and checking the My Disney Experience mobile app for last-minute openings, especially during the two days before when reservations are cancelled.
If you are at the park, asking at the hostess stand CAN sometimes result in getting a coveted reservation. It never hurts to try.
What are your favorite tips and tricks? We would love to hear them in the comments!