There's a reason why Disneyland is considered the happiest place on Earth! From the magical worlds to the heart-pumping rides and the nostalgic characters, Disney parks really are fun for all the family. But as Scar once sang, you should always "be prepared" when planning a trip to one of these theme parks. Whether you want to grab a seat on the brand new TRON Lightcycle Run or whether you want to ride on Splash Mountain for the 400th time, these Disney park hacks have got you covered.
Always Create an Itinerary Before You Go
There are two kinds of people in this world; there are planners, and then there are those who simply rock up and hope everything falls into place. But if you want to make the most out of your trip to Disney World or any other Disney theme park, you have to be prepared! One of the best ways to do this is to create an itinerary before you leave especially as many of the most popular restaurants can book up weeks in advance.
As the parks are so big, it's also a good idea to look at a map and plan a rough route for when you arrive beforehand. This way you won't miss out on any of the rides that are on your bucket list.
Don't Avoid the Rainy Days
When the rain starts to pour, we all hide inside our houses, right? Well, you might want to think twice next time the heavens open, as sometimes the rainiest days at Disney parks are the best. As most people stay at home, they're normally much quieter days - which means you'll spend less time waiting in line and getting wet. Sure, you'll get a little soggy, but that's why Disney has designed their own ponchos.
As if that wasn't enough, Disney staffers have confessed rainy days are best if you want to spot some animals on your Animal Kingdom safari. Apparently, the animals are extra active these days!
Keep Your Dinner Reservations in Check
From the Be Our Guest restaurant at Magic Kingdom to the Sultan's Oasis in Tokyo's DisneySea, the restaurants at the Disney parks are world-famous. Each one has its own quirk, which is why so many people book months in advance to eat at them. Of course, this can pose a bit of a problem when you're hungry after a long day of rides and experiences. And while it's always a good idea to book the restaurants you want ahead of time, you don't need to worry too much if you don't.
As the restaurants are so popular, many guests make multiple reservations to different restaurants each night. When they ultimately end up canceling, this leaves a space for you and your family to enjoy!
Book During the Off-Season
One of the best Disney park hacks you'll ever hear is to book during the off-season. Of course, Disney parks are always relatively busy and you'll be lucky to find an empty queue anywhere in any park - but they're especially busy during school breaks. With kids off school, parents whisk their family off to the various Disney parks to keep them entertained, and this results in mammoth lines and overcrowded restaurants. So, when is best to go?
According to former Disney staffers, the best time to visit a Disney park is the end of January, the end of September, and the week before both Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Stick to a Budget With Gift Cards
From the Disney theme parks tickets to the hotel accommodation and transport, Disney vacations can seriously add up. And while it's always fun to add some restaurant reservations, snacks, and merchandise into the mix, you might also want to stick to a budget. Of course, it's hard to stick to a budget when you have money easily accessible on a credit card. That's why Disney staffers encourage the use of Disney gift cards.
By loading these gift cards up with your budget for the trip, you can make sure you don't overspend. Plus, you can ask your family for these gift cards for special occasions!
Take Advantage of a RunDisney Race
Disney parks don't just offer thrill-seeking rides and life-changing moments. They also offer unique family days out - like the runDisney events. From short 5K runs to full marathons, these events offer everything for keen runners. And while you can certainly take part in a runDisney event with your children if you're that way inclined, you don't have to be a runner to visit on these days. In fact, people who don't run can take full advantage of a relatively empty park.
As most people are running on those days, lines for rides are short, and Magic Kingdom is like a ghost town. This means you can pack even more into your day without having to deal with crowds.
Order Your Breakfast To-Go
Although Disney parks are full of amazing restaurants and eateries, stopping for every meal can take a huge chunk out of your day. So, if you want to give yourself a little extra time on the rides, it might be a good idea to order your breakfast to-go. This way, you can still eat a hearty meal and set yourself up for the day without having to spend an hour waiting for your food to arrive.
Plus, to-go food is normally a lot cheaper than a sit-down meal. And this gives you some extra cash for a world-famous turkey leg, some cotton candy, or a Mickey Mouse cookie around the park.
Step Aboard for a Sunset Boat Ride
Disney theme park tickets definitely aren't cheap, so why not make every second count? Although most people spend the sunset hours making dinner reservations or waiting for the fireworks to start, former Disney World staffers recommend doing something else instead. That's because a sunset water taxi from Magic Kingdom to Wilderness Lodge will offer you breathtaking views, and offer you a new perspective of the park as you sail around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.
Not only would this be the perfect way to round off a fun-filled day with your family, but it's also a pretty romantic activity for couples - especially if you're on your Disney honeymoon!
Keep a Sharpie on You at All Times
You can't go to Disneyland without getting the autographs of your favorite Disney characters, right? Leaving without them is almost criminal, which is why it's always a good idea to keep a Sharpie on you at all times! But why not just a normal pen? Well, former Disney staffers have spilled the beans and confessed that the character costumes they wear can often obscure their vision. And this makes signing an autograph with a normal thin pen pretty difficult.
By offering these characters a Sharpie they can see more of, you should get a better and more legible autograph from them that you can keep for the rest of your life.
Start Your Day at the Back of the Park
When walking into any amusement park, you want to immediately immerse yourself in the action. But former Disney staffers want you to wait, as they've revealed that it's best to start your day at the back of the park and then move back towards the entrance/exit as the day progresses. And when you think about it, that totally makes sense! This way, you can get to the last rides on my people's lists before them, and skip the lines.
At Disneyland, for example, most people head to Splash Mountain last as it's at the back of the park. By heading there first, you can not only skip the lines - but you can also spend the rest of the day drying off!
Familiarize Yourself With Your Stroller
With rides and attractions for people of all ages, it should come as no surprise to learn that families make up the large majority of those buying Disney theme park tickets. And while these parks are stroller friendly, Disney staffers encourage you to familiarize yourself with your stroller before you go. After all, you definitely won't be the only family with a stroller, and scenes like this one are pretty common at Disney parks.
While knowing what your stroller looks like will help you spot it in the sea of strollers, knowing how to fold it up and maneuver it will also come in handy to save some precious theme park time.
Make a Fast Pass Strategy
In 1999, Disney parks introduced Fast Pass - the sure-fire way for people to get ahead of the queues thanks to a reservation process. This has since been replaced by Genie+, and while it's not available for new and exciting rides like TRON Lightcycle Run, this service still covers the likes of Big Thunder Mountain, Haunted Mansion, and more. If you use this, though, it's important to make a strategy beforehand.
Former Disney staffers suggest using this Fast Pass service for popular rides such as Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. And while you should always reserve beforehand, make sure to head to Splash Mountain first, while you wait for the lines at Space Mountain to dwindle.
Ditch Normal Meal Times
One of the best Disney park hacks is ditching normal meal times. No, that doesn't mean that you can't fill your stomach with delicious turkey legs or the gray stuff at Be Our Guest restaurant (it's delicious!) It just means that you should take advantage of the short lines during regular mealtimes, and then eat when other people are riding. Plus, you're more likely to get restaurant reservations outside of these hours.
By doing this, you can really make the most of your Disney parks experience. And if you get hungry before your late mealtime, just grab a snack along the way!
Consider Riding Solo
If you're heading to a Disney park with a group that consists of all adults, then you might want to take note of this interesting Disney park hack. Without kids to look after, you could take serious advantage of the single-rider lines - and there are loads of them. Disney World is full of single-rider rides, including the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, Test Track, and more. And they're a great way to get to the front of the line quicker.
Although you will be split up from the rest of your party during this ride, if you all board the ride as single riders you won't have to wait as long. Then, you can meet up again when you're back on terra firma.
Use Long Waiting Times Wisely
Unfortunately, waiting in line is just part of the Disney park fun. And while you may feel as though you're wasting your time as you stare at the person's head in front of you for an hour, former Disney staffers suggest using this time wisely - as you could save time in the long run! Yes, instead of absentmindedly twiddling your thumbs during this time, use it practically to get the boring things out of the way.
Not only could you use this time for your family to take bathroom breaks (keeping at least one of you in line at all times), but you could also get your kids to have an all-important nap while you're waiting.
Make the Most of Guest Services
Everyone loves a Disney park hack, right? And while some hacks are well-known, there are others that slip under the radar - and this is one of them! That's because every single member of Disney World or any other Disney park is trained to give guests the best experience ever, but Guest Services staffers are at another level. These people are paid to take your trip that extra mile, and they even offer services many aren't familiar with.
As well as offering first aid stations and lost children areas, Disney's Guest Services also has family essentials on-hand, including the likes of diapers, sunscreen, and more. They're on hand to help, so make use of them!
Plan for Different Weather Conditions
If you're visiting Disney World and want to hear a hack that could completely alter the course of your trip, keep listening! That's because it's super important to plan for different weather conditions when you visit this Disney park. Florida weather is super unpredictable and can change from bright sunshine to thunderstorms and downpours in the space of a few minutes. So, it's best to be prepared for any eventuality.
As well as packing sunscreen for the hot and sunny periods, it's also a good idea to pack layers in your bag. This way, you can keep yourself comfortable throughout the day. Plus, a raincoat, umbrella, or poncho is essential.
Before Booking, Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Deals
Although there's no doubt about the fact that Disney vacations are expensive, there are ways to keep the costs down - and this all starts before you book. Like any other hospitality business, the people behind the Disney parks want their hotels to be full and their Main Streets bustling. Because of this, they often discount tickets, hotels, and food during off-peak periods of the year. This could be a great way to knock some money off the final bill.
Even during peak times, Disney offers numerous deals for different people. You can actually save a huge amount of money by opting for a room-only deal. Of course, you then have to budget food on top.
Take Waiting Times With a Pinch of Salt
There's nothing more annoying than turning up to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom to find that there's an average wait time of 80 minutes! While you want to go on the ride, do you really want to wait that long? Instead of ditching the line and moving on to something else, though, always take these wait times with a pinch of salt. These wait times can be misleading, and sometimes very inaccurate.
Although wait times on the app and on the signs at the Disney parks offer some guidance, the best way to learn the true wait time is to ask a member of staff working on that particular ride.
Head to the First-Aid Center
When a park is full of children and thrill-seeking rides, you can almost guarantee that there are going to be some scraped knees and bumped heads. And while the first aid centers at these parks have all of the necessary care and equipment to look after these ailments, many guests don't realize that they offer much more. Not only are band-aids and ice packs offered for free, but these centers also offer refrigerators.
If you have a child or adult who requires medication that needs to be kept in a refrigerator, this is where you'll go! But it can also just serve as a place to cool down if you need some all-important air conditioning.
Make Use of the MyDisneyExperience App
You know what they say; there's an app for everything! And there's even an app to make your Disney parks experience even more enjoyable. The MyDisneyExperience app can become your own personal concierge during your trip - and there's nothing it can't do. It can arrange your FastPass tickets, book your restaurant reservations, point you in the direction of your favorite ride, give you live waiting times, and even offer live show times. Yes, it'll become your best friend.
Although the app can completely transform your trip to a Disney park, it's important to remember that it will drain your cell phone battery. So, take a power bank with you everywhere you go!
Think About an Annual Pass
If you're someone who loves visiting Disney parks and plan to visit a few times a year, an annual pass could save you some serious dough. At the time of writing, a Disney World annual pass will set you back $1400. And while this seems like a lot, it may work out cheaper in the long run if you really make use of it. In fact, if you plan on visiting more than 10 days over multiple trips, you'll save a ton of money.
Extra perks of the annual pass include discounts on Genie+, merchandise, parking, and meals. So, it's no wonder that former Disney staffers see it as the ultimate Disney parks hack.
Book More Than Three Fastpasses per Day
Genie+ gives you the chance to take advantage of so many Disney park hacks, but many people assume that their allowance of three fast passes per day stops there. However, former Disney staffers want you to know that's not the case at all. Although you start your day with three fast passes, you can book even more once you've used them all. You can do this on the app, or in person at a park kiosk!
In fact, there's no real limit to how many fast passes you can use; you just need to remember to use what you have before booking another. And, of course, you won't be able to book anymore if there aren't any available.
Spend Extra on After Hours Events
Although most people are looking to save money when it comes to these Disney park hacks, sometimes you need to spend a little extra money to make the most of your vacation. This is certainly the case when it comes to Disney After Hours events at Disney World. These events do come at an extra cost (anywhere between $129-$159 plus tax per person), but the benefits sometimes outweigh the cost.
Not only does this ticket give you three hours' extra time in the park to enjoy shorter wait times for the rides, but these after-hours tickets also include snacks and nighttime entertainment!
Head Back to Your Hotel for a Midday Nap
When you're spending so much on Disney theme parks tickets and all of the extras that come with a Disney parks vacation, you want to make the most of it. And while having a midday nap may seem counterintuitive to that plan, it could actually be your saving grace. Former Disney staffers suggest arriving at the park as soon as it opens, heading back for a nap, and then staying until it closes.
This way, you can utilize the park at all hours of the day - including the quieter periods. Plus, it'll be easier to manage a long day when you've rested for an hour or so at lunchtime.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Freebies
It's easy to assume that everything at Disney parks will cost you money. And while snacks, drinks, and merchandise at Disney stores will set you back some of your hard-earned money, it's also a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for freebies. Sadly, the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards have been discontinued at Disney World, but there are still other freebies to take advantage of if you know where to look.
When walking down Main Street, you'll almost always come across Disney cast members handing out free pins, stickers, food samples, and so much more. And we all love a freebie, right?
Skip the Afternoon Parade
There's no doubt about the fact the Disney World parade is a bucket list item. The Festival of Fantasy Parade runs every day throughout the Magic Kingdom at 3 pm - and while it's definitely something you should see once, you should always consider skipping the second time around. That way, you can take advantage of the quiet times on the rides, and get to the front of the line in half the time you normally would!
Yes, while everyone else is waiting to see the magical characters pass them by, you could be checking out the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or heading over to Animal Kingdom to explore Pandora.
Benefit From Line Jumping at Disney Hotels
When you don't have the money to pay for the Genie+ lightning lane service, it can be pretty annoying to see people skipping to the front of the queue. But if you know that you really want to go on a particular ride and you're staying at a Disney-owned and operated hotel, then you get to make use of a very specific perk that could see you skipping to the front of the queue instead.
Those staying at these hotels can utilize the Individual Attraction Selections service. This allows guests to make use of the lightning lanes of two rides per day, and they get access to this at 7 am! This service opens up to everyone else at around 8 am.
Take Advantage of Free Ice Water
No matter whether you're enjoying Disney World in Florida, Disneyland in California, or even Tokyo Disney Resort, you're going to get pretty thirsty throughout your day. Non-stop rides and hot temperatures can leave you dehydrated in no time, but you'll be happy to know that you don't have to shell out on expensive bottled water if you follow this Disney parks hack. That's because you should always take advantage of free ice water in restaurants.
Every quick-service restaurant in Disney parks will have an ice water fountain, and they're allowed to hand guests a cup of ice water for free, even if you don't buy anything else there!
Consider Leaving the Disney Parks
It seems almost counterintuitive to book a Disney World vacation to then leave the park, but a Disney trip is so much more than just the rides and the attractions. If you leave the parks for a day or even just for a night, you can experience so much more of the magic. In fact, many Disney fanatics won't leave without heading to Disney Springs at least once - even if it's just for dinner.
With eclectic stores, restaurants, and entertainment, Disney Springs allows you to experience the magic of Disney World without actually having to buy a park ticket. Plus, the Boardwalk is legendary!
Look Out for the Hidden Details
With so many rides and attractions to see, Disney parks are a sensory overload. Most of the time, you don't know where to look - but Disney staffers are encouraging people to look out for the hidden details. That's because every single piece of decoration in Disney parks has been thought out, and there are so many easter eggs to be seen if you're just willing to take a second to look.
For example, there are hidden Mickeys all around Disney World, and the sidewalks down Main Street all have their own secret meanings. So, take some time out of your day to keep your eyes peeled.
Try to Avoid Extra Magic Hours
Disney-owned and operated hotels like to offer guests something extra to entice people to stay there, and while many of these perks are useful, it's also important to realize that this isn't always the case. This is certainly true when it comes to Extra Magic Hours. This service is offered to all guests of Disney hotels and allows them to visit the parks one hour before or after opening and closing times. Of course, this sounds great - but in reality, it's a mess.
Thousands of people stay in these hotels every single day, which means that they all descend to the parks for these extra hours. So, in reality, it's not as quiet as you'd think it would be.
Ask for a Specific Seat
Although Disney officials want us to believe that every seat is the same on their rides, former Disney staffers have refuted this claim. Sure, it doesn't matter where you sit on some rides, but other seats on very specific rides can offer you the best experience. For example, the back seats on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain allow you to feel every single twist and turn!
So, next time you go on these rides, ask for the best seats in the house! You might have to wait a little longer in line to get these seats, but that extra time is worth it to some people.
Order Food Easier With Mobile Ordering
A huge portion of your Disney parks day will involve standing in line, and we all know that there's nothing worse than standing in line when you're hungry. Luckily, you don't have to! Since 2017, guests have been taking advantage of the best Disney park hack of them all; mobile ordering. By using the My Disney Experience app, you can order your food even before you've gotten to the quick-service restaurant.
Not only does this mean that you don't have to wait in line, but it also means that you can peruse the menu and order so that it's ready by the time you arrive.
Don't Over Plan Your Trip
Of course, it's always a good idea to plan any trip to a Disney park. It's best to buy your Disney theme parks tickets before you go, and it's beneficial to have a general itinerary in the bag before you get there. But it's also important not to over plan your trip. There are so many amazing things happening every single day in Disney parks, and sometimes it's these spontaneous moments that turn a good vacation great.
Plus, you need to remember that your Disney parks vacation needs to be relaxing! Don't sweat the small stuff, or worry if your plan veers off slightly. Just enjoy the magic.