Everyone from Super Bowl champions to your 5-year-old wants to go to Walt Disney World. It can be the experience of a lifetime, but because of the cost, you might only make one trip in a lifetime to “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
When you do go, make the most of your time and money by following these 25 Disney visit tips.
1. Schedule your visit at the right time
Both your wallet and your family will thank you for putting some thought into when to schedule your trip. Thanks to a change in pricing in 2016, ticket prices are now tied to the expected crowd size in the parks that comprise Disney World: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
You’ll pay the most for peak days — weekends and around the holidays — while value day tickets are cheapest. September seems to be prime time for value tickets. Weekdays through most of the summer are typically regular admission price days.
Not only will picking value days save you money, but you may find shorter lines and have more fun when there are fewer people in the parks.
2. Buy tickets early
Raising ticket prices has become an annual ritual for Disney World. You can hedge your bets against a price increase by buying your tickets well in advance. The fine print on the Disney World ticket page says you have until Dec. 31, 2019, to use tickets bought now. Tickets bought through other sites may expire earlier, so check dates carefully before making a purchase.
Also, if you’re buying value or regular price tickets, keep in mind that those days haven’t yet been set for 2019.
3. Skip questionable discount tickets
You may find people on Craigslist or other websites offering to sell partially used multiday tickets. This may sound like a great way to get a good deal, but it’s against Disney World rules. What’s more, you have no idea if the ticket you’re getting is valid. You could end up being out a lot of money and with no way to get in.
Check out this post from Mousesavers.com for more about Disney ticket scams and how to avoid them.
4. Buy multiple-day tickets
One last tip about buying tickets: If you’re going for the best value, multiday tickets are where it’s at.
Single-day tickets are by far the most expensive way to get into Disney World. You get a discount for buying a ticket for two to four days, but for the cheapest per-day price, go for a multiday ticket that covers five-plus days.
Remember, you have 14 days, once activated, to use all the days on your ticket. They don’t have to be used consecutively either. So if you’ll be in Orlando, Florida, for a week, you can break up your days in the Disney World parks with some non-Disney activities.
5. Look for a free-dining package
To help fill up the parks during off-peak times, Disney typically offers free-dining packages once a year to those staying at select Disney resorts. These packages are usually announced in the spring and available for dates in the fall. You can watch for availability on the Walt Disney World Special Offers page.
While free dining can significantly reduce your food expenses, you may have to book a room in a deluxe resort to get it. If you were already planning to do that, visiting Disney during free-dining days is a no-brainer. If you planned to stay in a value Disney property or find a hotel off-site, do the math to determine whether it makes sense to upgrade your accommodations just to downgrade your dining costs.
6. Buy a dining package
If you’re not booking a free-dining package, you may want to buy one if you expect to eat all your meals on Disney properties. There are quick-service, regular and deluxe dining plans available, and you can download a spreadsheet calculator from Dad’s Guide to WDW to determine whether a dining plan will save you money.
If you’re still not sure whether to buy a dining plan, here are a couple more things to consider. The sit-down meals that come with a regular and deluxe plan will take some time out of your day. For some families, it can be a welcome chance to sit down and relax, while others may not want to cut into their time for rides and shows.
On the money side, you do have to pay for your food up front when booking a reservation with a dining plan, but that may not be all bad if it helps you stick to your budget by avoiding impulse meals.
7. Make dining reservations in advance
Whether you’re on a dining plan or not, make your reservations for sit-down restaurants well in advance. Do not expect to show up at a popular spot during your trip and be able to get a table. That’s a great way to feel let down and spend precious time looking for an alternative restaurant.
You can make your reservations up to 180 days in advance. Tables can fill up quickly, so don’t delay once you know where you’d like to eat.
8. Book a character breakfast
Speaking of dining reservations, you may want to make one of them a character breakfast in the Magic Kingdom. A breakfast reservation before 8:30 a.m. not only gets you into the park early to eat, buy it also may let you get in an extra ride or two without having to wait in a line if you finish breakfast before opening time.
9. Send supplies to your hotel
You only have so much room in your luggage, and you definitely don’t want to spend your time at Walt Disney World shopping for groceries, diapers and other supplies.
Thankfully, there are a number of options to send groceries, snacks and other goods to your hotel room. While Amazon Prime's two-day shipping has long made it a popular choice for Disney travelers, the company also offers Prime Now, which can deliver goods in as little as an hour. Reviews are mixed, however.
10. Think twice about being a park hopper
There’s a difference of opinion about the Park Hopper option. It adds $55 to the price of a one-day ticket but allows you to move — or hop — from park to park within Disney World. Without the Park Hopper option, you can only visit one park per day. A Park Hopper Plus option is also available for multiday tickets and provides access to water parks as well.
Here’s why you might want to add the Park Hopper: If you’re going to be at Disney for one to three days, the Park Hopper will give you a chance to experience each of the four parks during that time.
And here’s why you might want to think twice about the Park Hopper: Not only does it increase your costs, but it also decreases your time in the parks. Depending on the crowds, it could take you an hour or more to get out of one park, wait for transportation and get into another park. If you are with young children or elderly adults, it could take even longer.
While the flexibility of the Park Hopper is nice, decide whether it’s worth the time and money. Remember, there’s plenty in each park to fill an entire day.
11. Stay in a Disney property
Disney resorts aren’t the cheapest accommodations, but they do come with perks that can help you make the most of your tickets.
In particular, those staying at resorts get early access to FastPass+ reservations (more on FastPass+ later), as well as access to Extra Magic Hours. The Extra Magic Hours allow you to spend an extra hour each day in one of the Disney parks. You can either arrive an hour before the park opens, or stay an hour after it closes.
12. Use park transportation options
While Disney likes to tout its complimentary transportation services for resort guests, the reality is that all visitors can use Disney transportation to move between parks. There are buses, boats and, of course, the iconic monorail. If you get the Park Hopper, don’t waste time driving. Use these free transportation options instead.
13. Use resort package delivery or souvenir pickup services
Hauling packages around Disney all day is no fun. Fortunately, the parks offer two free options to reduce the hassle.
If you’re staying in a Disney resort, your purchases can be delivered for free to your hotel. Or, if you’re staying off-site, you can request souvenir pickup. With this option, all of your goodies will be waiting for you by the exit when it’s time to leave.
14. Show up before opening time
As with any amusement park, getting to Disney early has its benefits. While plenty of other people will also be arriving right when the parks open, showing up a little early helps you get inside as quickly as possible.
Then, head straight to whatever popular ride is on your to-do list so you can be near the front of the line. After that, you can fan out to other nearby rides and find some short lines before the park fills up.
15. Download the My Disney Experience app
Really, there are no two ways about it. If you have a smartphone, you need to download the My Disney Experience app. It will make your life so much easier.
You can sign up for FastPasses, check line times, review Disney PhotoPass pics taken by park photographers and make reservations. Whole articles have been written about all you can do with this official Disney app.
16. Front-load your FastPasses
Once you have the My Disney Experience app, you can do your FastPass+ planning in advance. FastPass+ allows you to reserve an hourlong block in which you can bypass the regular line and cut to the front of a ride. You might still have a short wait, but it’ll be more like 15 to 30 minutes instead of two to three hours.
You can initially select three FastPasses for each day for free, and they can be reserved up to 30 days prior to your visit. If you’re staying in a Disney resort, you can begin making your reservations 60 days in advance.
Rides are divided into tiers, and you can only reserve one of the most popular Tier 1 rides each day in advance. There are only a limited number of FastPass+ spots available for each time slot on each ride so don’t wait until the day to book them.
New in 2018 is a system that will allow some guests the chance to book additional FastPass+ registrations as well as get other perks for $50 per person per day.
17. Use FastPasses at peak times
There are differing theories on how to make FastPass+ reservations. The reason for that is once you use up your three initial FastPasses, you can reserve additional passes, one at a time, throughout the rest of the day.
Some people argue you should schedule all three FastPass+ reservations early in the morning so you can access as many additional passes as possible throughout the day. However, others argue that lines aren’t as long in the morning, and you’re better off scheduling your FastPasses for the peak hours of midmorning through midafternoon.
If you want to minimize your time in lines, the second option seems to be best. Just be sure that you’re using your reservations on rides where the usual line length will justify the use of a FastPass+. Then, be sure to schedule your FastPasses in quick succession so you can quickly use your first three and then be eligible for another one.
For more information about how to make the most of the FastPass+ system, read this article.
18. Don’t forget: You can Rider Switch
While the official name for this service is Rider Switch, you’ll hear it referred to as Baby Swap or Rider Swap as well. It allows two adults to take turns going on a ride when they have a child or someone else in their party who can’t participate.
For example, let’s say Mom and Dad want to go on Space Mountain, but Junior is too short. Mom tells a cast member they would like to use the Rider Switch option. She rides Space Mountain while Dad and Junior wait off to the side. Then Dad can take his turn without having to get back in line.
You can find a list of rides offering the Rider Switch options here.
19. Use the single rider line if available
Popular rides like Expedition Everest and Test Track offer a single rider line that can be another way to reduce wait times and get the most out of your Disney tickets. Cast members will pull riders from this line to fill empty seats after other parties have boarded.
If you don’t mind being separated from your group and sitting with strangers, these lines tend to move quickly. However, be aware that on rides like Test Track, you will miss out on some of the interactive features included in queue.
20. Check the daily schedule
On the day of your visit, check the schedule for special events, parade times and, most importantly, which rides or attractions might be closed for the day. Before you trek across the park to a specific site, make sure it’ll be open.
21. Remember Disney credit card perks
If you have a Disney Visa card, you’re eligible for special character meet-and-greets, Star Wars character experiences and discounts on dining. You’ll need to show your card for the experiences and use it to get the discounts.
22. Rethink the parades
Disney parades are an amazing spectacle of sight and sound. But you should still think about skipping them. Yes, unless you really love the idea of a parade, you may be able to make better use of that time.
The parades themselves aren’t long — only 15 to 30 minutes — but people start snagging prime viewing spots up to 45 minutes in advance. That means you’ve got about an hour to enjoy the park with a thinned-out crowd.
Plus, you avoid the grumpy scene that often occurs when someone has been waiting in the hot sun for 45 minutes, only to have someone crowd in front of them once the parade starts.
23. Bring a water bottle
Did we mention the heat? This is Florida, and even when it’s not the middle of summer, it can be balmy in the Sunshine State. If you want to make the most of your Disney tickets, you need to stay hydrated.
Disney lets you bring food and water into the park, so be sure you pack a water bottle. They can be refilled at water fountains throughout Walt Disney World. You can also get free water from any quick-serve restaurant that has a soda dispenser.
24. Bring a stroller
We really can’t overstate how much walking you’ll do at Walt Disney World. You will walk and you will walk, and you will feel like you’ve never walked so far in your life, and then you will walk some more. Now, imagine you have short little legs and are trying to do all that walking in the stifling heat.
A gigantic stroller can be a gigantic pain for parents. However, umbrella strollers are cheap, foldable and a godsend when you have a toddler who can’t take another step. They will keep the smallest members of your party happy and let you navigate the crowds more quickly.
If bringing a stroller is a no-go, you can also rent one in the park. However, remember that finding and renting a stroller from guest services takes away from your time enjoying the Disney magic.
25. Take advantage of child-free time
Disney is a magical place for kids, but it can be magical for adults, too. To get the most out of your trip, plan some time sans children.
Families traveling before Aug. 1, 2018, can use one of Disney’s three children’s activity centers to give parents some time off. The activity centers are being closed on that date due to diminished demand, but Disney can facilitate in-room babysitting for its resort guests through child care provider Kid’s Night Out.
Those are 25 tips to get the most out of your Disney vacation. Tell us what we forgot in the comments below or on our Facebook page.