Walt Disney World…is there anything more exciting to hear when you’re talking about going on vacation with your loved ones? Not in my family there isn’t. Disney World in Orlando, Florida was the vacation of choice during my childhood and even teenage years since my entire family loved it so much. We’d go once, twice, or even sometimes three different instances during the year. My parents would pack up my three sisters and myself all into the giant conversion van they had and off we’d head to spend a week or two with Mickey Mouse and the whole gang. It was some of the best moments of my life and I’ll never forget a single trip.
As time went on and I got older, Disney World was still the place that called my name when vacation time came around. My friends and I would head down there with eventually me taking two summers of my life to work in the parks themselves for the Walt Disney World College Program. Over all these years, I’ve sort of become an expert on all things Disney no matter what it has to do with. Four years of working at a local Disney Store also helps that out, but it is mostly my love of the theme parks that makes my knowledge so complete.
Great numbers of friends, family, and even strangers have come to me asking my advice on trips to Disney World and how they should do them right. I’ve given them tips, let them know some secrets, and even gone as far as to schedule and plan their entire vacations for them. Believe me that it’s not a chore at all but something that is a huge joy to me. My biggest obstacle though is trying to convince first timers to Disney World that they can really enjoy themselves without feeling rushed or missing out on the things they want to get in while on their trip. Yes, there’s a lot to see. Yes, there’s a lot to do. Yes you may not do every single thing, but you’ll have a very fulfilling vacation if you simply put a little thought into it before heading to sunny Florida.
6 Tips for getting in as much of Disney World as you can into your vacation.
~ Buy “Park Hopper” tickets: There is really no better way to save yourself time, energy, and headache then to make sure your tickets aren’t one-park tickets but include the “park hopper” option. No matter whether you have a 1-day or anywhere up to a 10-day ticket, it will cost $60 or less to add this fantastic option. It will allow you to go into any park on any given day, leave the park if you so choose, and go to any of the other three parks without using more than one day off your tickets. You could literally go to all four parks in one day if you wish, but I wouldn’t recommend that if you’re trying to get as much done as you can.
The park hoppers will allow you to take advantage of other parks when whichever one you started at gets too crowded. Say you hit up Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland over in the Magic Kingdom but now its lunch time and the mountains are a bit too crowded. Head up front and to a bus or monorail and hitch a ride to one of the other parks. Spend a few hours there and get in whatever you can and then head home. Whichever one of the other parks is open late for “Extra Magic Hours” may be where you want to end up the night so you can enjoy a late evening of riding some more rides. More on this in one of my tips later on. Just believe me that the park hopper is the way to go if you’re looking to not be a time-waster on your Disney vacation.
~ Check out the parades one time and then forget about them: Unless you are infatuated with the parades and must see them every single night then I advise you get in one viewing and move on. Some of the least crowded times for the bigger and more popular rides are during the running of the parades. Whether it’s the “three o’clock” parade or even the nighttime parades; you’ll get a good two to three hour window sometimes to take in rides you truly enjoy without horrible waits. People like to line up a lot of the time early and get a good spot for the parade so things will start clearing out even before the parade music hits the speakers.
This also goes for the shows like Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios, Illuminations at EPCOT, and the Wishes fireworks at Magic Kingdom so take advantage of that time as well. I know this may prove to be a bit more difficult for parents as kids like the parades, but get them on a ride and often times they’ll forget all about them.
~ Go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom very early: Animal Kingdom is a park that is not one I’ve ever spent a lot of time at. Those I go on vacation with don’t like to go very much either, but it’s still more then worth going to at least one day. To get the most out of Animal Kingdom though, get there really early in the morning. Sometimes it even opens at 7:00 A.M. since it closes early due to the animals going in at nighttime. What you want to do is get there early and hit up rides like Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest first since those tend to get the longest lines the quickest. Then head around the park getting all the other attractions in such as Kali River Rapids, It’s Tough To Be A Bug, and Dinosaur. There aren’t many so it’s not like you have a whole bunch to pick through. After the rides, attractions, and shows are out of the way; then you can focus on hitting up the animal treks, seeing exotic birds, and other such exhibits.
The thing with Animal Kingdom is while it is actually rather big in size; it’s kind of small in content. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone there and completed every attraction in the park by noon or a little after. This will allow you to head to other parks so that you can get more done in places, like EPCOT and Magic Kingdom, which have rides that kids (or you) may want to do again.
~ Grab a time schedule and make sure you know when and how many times the scheduled shows have performances each day: Don’t forget that each park not only has rides and attractions, but they have shows. Some are on set schedules and if you’re planning on seeing them then you need to know when they’re going to start and end. If you know when and where the shows are you want to see; it makes it easier to figure out how to go about your day. That’s not planning or plotting out anything to make it restrictive; it’s simply putting your day into some sort of order and doing things maybe out of sequence then what would appear to be logical or “normal.”
A few of these scheduled shows are even “weather permitting” so if it is raining or too windy or sometimes even too cold (it does happen), then you may not get to see a particular show that day. That could affect how your trip goes a little bit because if you really want to get in shows that are canceled or postponed then you will have to either make a trip back to a particular park or make sure you somehow sneak them in to your other day’s plans.
Time schedules are also good to see what time each park closes, when the parades run, and the times that the park-closing shows are going to run.
~ Take advantage of Disney’s Fast Pass: One of the best things that Disney World ever created is the Fast Pass system even though it isn’t without its faults. Put your park ticket into the machine, get another ticket spit out, and you then have a set time to come back and get on the ride with little or no wait. This will help you considerably as you can get your ticket and then head off to do something else until your time frame comes up instead of wasting away an hour or more in a queue.
One little thing that people need to realize and often make the mistake of doing is that you do not have to wait until your current Fast Pass expires in order to get another one. All you have to do is wait until your time “begins.” Let me give you an example.
You grab a Fast Pass for Splash Mountain at the Magic Kingdom and it tells you to come back between 3:30 and 4:30. It’s currently 2:00 P.M. and you decide to head over to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz Lightyear, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and take in a showing of the Carousel of Progress. As you exit the Carousel, you see that it is 3:35 and you want to ride Space Mountain before heading clear back across the park to get on Splash, but the line for Space is over 90 minutes long. No problem. Get out your park tickets, get a Fast pass distributed for Space Mountain, and then trek your butt back to Frontierland for your time on Splash. Yes folks, it does work that way.
Oh, and chances are if you get to a ride for which you have a Fast Pass and your time has expires; the cast member will probably let you on anyway. The biggest thing is making sure you at least don’t try to ride before your scheduled time, but coming a bit later is never really an issue. Don’t quote me on that because I’d hate to see you have wasted a Fast Pass by letting it expire, but I know that nine times out of ten the cast member will still let you on the ride through the express lane.
~ Stay on Disney property: Not only will this save you time and headaches, but it will also save you money and keep you from having to get behind the wheel of a car for at least a week. Sometimes you just need a break from driving at all and need to let someone else do it all for you. That’s the reason the buses, boats, and monorails are there for us everyone. Take advantage of them and use them.
As for saving you time, being on Disney property at any one of the numerous resorts will do that without question. You’ll be able to use all the transportation of course and sometimes you can even walk straight to a few of the parks depending on which resort you’re staying at. The Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin, as well as the Yacht and Beach Club resorts will have you so close to EPCOT that you can end up at the International Gateway in no more then ten minutes. Sometimes not having to load up a car, park it, and walk from your spot to the front entrance is a big time saver.
Another advantage is that resort guests get to participate in the “Extra Magic Hours.” So you spent the day having a great time or park hopping to get all the things in that you wanted to do yet you still aren’t ready to go home. Check with your resort in the morning to see which park has the extended hours so that when it’s time for the other guests to clear out; you and your party can hang around a bit longer and have some fun.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are plenty of ways to have a great time at Disney World and enjoy every single second that you are on vacation. These six tips are simply a small handful of the methods you can partake in to help you have a restful and fulfilling time in the happiest place on earth. No matter if you have two weeks or four days; following my tips will let you rest a bit easier and not have to miss out on things you want to do. Just do yourself a favor and conduct a bit of research before you head down to Orlando or even in your hotel room from time to time. Believe me that it will do you some good and you won’t hear yourself saying, “I totally forgot about that ride,” on your way home.