Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World Resort is a time when many folks start doing collective research, looking up anything and everything pertaining to the upcoming trip. But for some, after mastering all the “how-to” and “need-to-know” tidbits, the search continues in pursuit of uncovering additional lesser-known tips and helpful hacks. I’m talking about all those things that only a Disney pro would know about or even think to consider, for that matter. From clever ways to save money to offering advice on avoiding crowds, and even some dining suggestions that may prove beneficial, here are the Disney World hacks the experts rely on most.
Go During the Off-Season
While it’s true that Disney World is a popular place to visit any time of year, there are certain months when crowds are lower, and fewer people are out and about traveling in general. These are the best times to visit. First, it’s a well-known fact that airfare prices tend to dip after peak travel times, like summertime or winter holidays. Furthermore, the crowds at Disney World are significantly lower during the end of August/early September and throughout January and February. So, perhaps you will actually get your chance to pursue some of the more high-demand items on your bucket list if you shoot for visiting during these times.
Room rates across the board also tend to dip during off-season travel times at Disney World, and you can score some pretty awesome deals on Moderate and Deluxe Resorts. Then there is the weather. Because the Florida hurricane season tapers off by November, you can feel more confident in the weather conditions of a mid-winter getaway. In fact, “cooler” winter temperatures at Disney World are nothing compared to what most of the continental U.S. experiences during such months. You can expect conditions that most folks elsewhere associate with spring or autumn. This may be a particular win for folks who are bothered by heat and humidity.
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Disney Gift Cards Save Money
Having Disney gift cards on hand can be a real saving grace. They offer the perfect solution for when you don’t want to bring along a ton of cash. They are also the perfect alternative to pulling out your charge card for every little purchase.
It’s advisable for anyone planning an upcoming Disney vacation to collectively start stocking up on Disney gift cards in the time leading up to your trip. And there are even ways to get certain discounts on the ones you purchase, with some deals offering between 5% and 10% off. For instance, purchasing a Disney gift card via Target RedCard instantly gives you a 5% discount. Buying from Wholesale clubs can also get you anywhere between 4% and 6% off. Utilizing Grocery Store Fuel Rewards is another great method. And if you happen to be a Disney Visa Card Member, you can also redeem points earned and have sent to you a Disney Gift Card/Redemption Card at no additional cost.
You Can Park Hop FAST
Many folks opt for Park Hopper during their Disney vacations, yet many still don’t realize how quickly you can hop around. For instance, Magic Kingdom Park and EPCOT are actually a lot closer than you may think, and getting from one to another can easily be done via the Walt Disney World Monorail. It only requires a little stop-off at the Transportation and Ticket Center to catch the other Monorail route and continue on.
Likewise, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are in close enough range to one another that you can catch a boat to ferry you back and forth or even walk via an extended pathway if you are up for it. How about that? You can actually go from the Magic Kingdom to EPCOT and then continue over to Hollywood Studios all in a single day!
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There Are Freebies!
You’ll discover firsthand that nothing comes cheap at Disney World. Surprisingly, though, some things do come complimentary. For instance, while out and about the Parks, you can save a lot of money by foregoing the purchase of overpriced bottles of water and instead requesting a free cup of iced water at any quick-service food location. What’s more, you can even snag a couple of complimentary food samples from several different locations throughout Disney World and nearby Disney Springs. Some well-known examples include Werther’s Caramel Corn from Karamell-Küche in EPCOT, free sweet treats from Main Street Confectionary at Magic Kingdom Park, and Ghirardelli Chocolates from Ghirardelli Soda Fountain at Disney Springs. Complimentary marshmallows are also provided at your Resort during evening campfire events.
If you’re celebrating a milestone, like a birthday or even a first visit, be sure to let the folks at any Park’s City Hall/Guest Relations know, and they will supply you with a free pin denoting your celebration. Sometimes having this callout gets you special attention and even more privileges.
While not exactly a freebie, per se, it’s also good to know that if you ever accidentally break a souvenir you purchased on Disney property, you can let any retail location vending the same item know and they will replace the broken item for free.
Early Arrival is Always the Best
Disney pros know that being on vacation is no excuse for sleeping in and getting a later start. In fact, doing so can be absolutely detrimental. You should, of course, always have a working plan in place, detailing all your targeted must-do endeavors, and they should line up in accordance with whichever Park Reservation you make first. But it’s also imperative that you get in as soon as possible when foot traffic is generally lighter. If you are a Disney Resort Guest, you’re allotted an extra 30 minutes to get in before a given Park’s public opening time. Seize this opportunity. It may seem like a small suggestion but it really does make a huge difference.
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Bringing along proper attire is way more important than you realize for having an optimal Disney experience. You must plan accordingly, considering that impromptu rain showers are always possible in Florida. But also keep in mind the idea that internal and external weather patterns aren’t always compatible, and being in and out of the AC may merit bringing along a sweater or coat. This also goes back to the point of visiting in the winter during the off-season, when evening temperatures may dip.
And you want to have comfortable shoes for getting around, as you will be doing a lot of walking. You may even want to bring multiple pairs in the event that one set gets unnecessarily wet.
Lastly, you want to adhere to the Disney Dress Code and avoid any unnecessary problems along the way.
Save Money Buying Toiletries at Home
In getting back to the overarching idea that things tend to be more expensive at Disney World, you’d do well to bring as many of your own toiletries and personal care items from home as possible. This will prevent you from paying extra for the same items, in smaller quantities, onsite at your Resort’s gift shop.
Lunch is Cheaper
Is there a particular restaurant you have your heart set on trying out but worry about how such a splurge will affect your slated budget? Well, it may benefit you to know that some establishments have cheaper rates during lunchtime rather than during those coveted dinner hours. This also rings true for certain venues that operate for breakfast. Of course, this is not a promise that mutually extends to all Disney dining designations, but it’s good to be aware that it applies to some and can save you dough in the long run.
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Book Dining ASAP
To have a better chance at scoring all those sought-after dining opportunities, you would do well by getting an early jump in making advance dining reservations as soon as possible. You can make dining reservations up to 60 days before your arrival. So why wouldn’t you? It gives you plenty of time to plan your itinerary accordingly and prioritize must-dos closer to your dining spot on the scheduled time and date. It also allows you plenty of time to contact Disney about any food allergies or special dietary requests/accommodations.
Last-Minute Dining IS Possible
While booking advance dining reservations is always ideal, making last-minute dining changes without complication or penalty may also be possible. Didn’t get that desirable dining spot you were longing for? Keep checking the My Disney Experience App, even up to the last minute, and you may just luck out.
On the flip side, if you need to cancel a dining reservation you already made, you may do so at least two hours before your reservation time without being charged a fee. Just log into the My Disney Experience App and choose the “Modify” option to either cancel your time or change it for later, in the event that you may end up still wanting it.
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You may face long lines and wait times even when you opt for quick-service meals. That is why you really should utilize the mobile ordering feature through the My Disney Experience App on your phone. Again, it may sound small and menial but it really does go a long way in saving time.
Use Single Rider Lines
The riding experience at Disney World just isn’t the same as it used to be, now that FastPass+ has been permanently retired and Lightning Lanes just aren’t on equal footing regarding convenience and budget-friendliness. But there’s still at least one somewhat underrated ride hack that’s been around for a while, yet so many folks seem to have forgotten. I’m talking about Single Rider Lines. For those who do not mind splitting from the rest of their party for a solo ride or partnering with a complete stranger, this is an excellent option. Single Rider Lines generally move much quicker with far less waiting than traditional standby lines. Currently, four attractions at Disney World Parks have permanent Single Rider Lines: Test Track in EPCOT, Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, and both Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Hollywood Studios.
Dine and Ride When Others Aren’t
Sometimes you just have to go against the grain to get the best non-crowded experiences at Disney World. In short, plan to do things at times when others generally are not. Don’t try to dine at that must-do establishment during regular peak mealtime hours. Instead, opt for the times when others are engaged elsewhere, perhaps during a major event, like a parade, show, or even during one of the Nighttime Spectaculars. The latter is also an ideal time to check out some of those rides that are in such high demand. You can also jump in line for an attraction even if the Park is about to close to the public for the evening, and be guaranteed a chance to experience it!
Know Where to Watch Fireworks
There is a common misconception that you must crowd around as close as possible to enjoy the fireworks and Nighttime Spectaculars throughout the various Disney Parks. But the fact remains that there are so many awesome alternate locations where you can watch from. In fact, Disney World is designed in such a way that you can still watch fireworks far away, even on location at certain Resorts. Booking a Fireworks Cruise is also a wonderful, unobscured suggestion to consider.
If you do happen to be in one of the Parks for the grand event, however, it may be best to keep your distance and slowly make your way closer to the exit as the show progresses. That way, you won’t be caught in the crowd when everyone tries to leave simultaneously. An alternate suggestion is to head for stores following the Nighttime Spectacular until the mad rush ends and then continue through to the exit.
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Enjoy Your Resort
If you are staying on location at a Disney Resort, make time to enjoy it. Don’t get so caught up in the whole Park frenzy that you forget to enjoy all that your Resort has to offer in the way of amenities, activities, and recreational endeavors.
Pros know that spending every minute in Disney Parks, trying to do everything at once, can actually be more limiting in the long run and lead to burnout. So, it is advisable to take breaks during the day. You may want to do a morning in a Park, return to the Resort midday, and then go back out later on.
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There are many other more obvious hacks to keep in mind as you prepare to plan your visit to Walt Disney World Resort. But you will find that every single tidbit and piece of advice can prove helpful in the long run in making all of your Disney vacation wishes come true.