While it may be the most magical place on Earth, Walt Disney World can also be one of the most crowded places on Earth. Luckily there are some tricks to get the most out of your day at the parks. Here are our top 10 tips for beating the crowds at Walt Disney World, so you can spend more time enjoying your vacation and less time standing in line.
Reserve breakfast before the park opens
The easiest way to get a head start on your day is to reserve dining at one of the restaurants that offer breakfast inside the parks. All four Disney World theme parks offer at least one location that opens an hour before the park. You'll be able to enter the park before everyone else, enjoy your meal and then start riding rides while most people are still waiting in line at the park's entrance! Bonus tip: Book a character dining breakfast and you'll be able to meet characters like Mickey Mouse without having to wait in a long line later.
Watch for Extra Magic Hours
If you're staying at an on-site hotel inside Walt Disney World you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. At least one of the parks will open an hour early or stay open up to two additional hours at the end of the day. This is a great way to ride several popular rides before the park even opens. If you're not staying on-site, be sure to look up which parks are offering early entry for hotel guests and start your day at a different park. That way you're not entering a park that's already filled with guests when it opens.
Back and to the left
Most theme park visitors start with the rides and attractions closest to the entrance, so you should consider walking all the way to the back of the park to begin your day. Then you can work your way forward as everyone else is making their way to the back. Also, most people naturally turn right after entering, so you may want to start on the left. While everyone else is heading to Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom, maybe try heading to Frontierland instead.
Ride when everyone isn't
One of the best times to ride is during the afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom, during Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios or while any of the evening fireworks shows are going on at the parks. Check the park schedule when you arrive and plan to do a ride with a longer wait when everyone else is watching the show. Another tip is to eat lunch early or late, when everyone else isn't. You'll not only avoid the lunch rush, but you'll enjoy shorter lines while most folks are eating.
Watching the wait times
Download the official My Disney Experience app to your phone and you will be able to check the wait times for all the parks no matter where you are. Keep an eye on the rides you want to experience most and as soon as the wait time drops, head over there immediately. It may take some extra criss-crossing around the park, but it will be worth it for how many attractions you'll be able to experience in one day.
Take it easy in the afternoon
When it's the hottest part of the day and the crowds are becoming unbearable, it may be a good time for an afternoon break. You can spend some time back at the room, take a dip in the pool or stay in the parks enjoying some of the more relaxing attractions (where you don't have to wait in line.) Check out the animal paths at Animal Kingdom, take in a show at Epcot or Hollywood Studios or explore Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom. The lines will get shorter in the evening, so enjoy a nice little break until then.
Maximize your FastPass+
FastPass+ is a free service for everyone that visits Walt Disney World that allows you to skip the lines for attractions. You can reserve up to three attractions per day in advance. Guests staying on-site can book their FastPasses 60 days prior and everyone else can book 30 days in advance. After those first three passes are used, you can get additional passes, one at a time. Reserve your first three for earlier in the day and you'll be able to get more all day long.
Keep refreshing the app
There's a trick you can try to get a FastPass for that one ride where the line never seems to get any shorter; rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Avatar Flight of Passage, Toy Story Mania or Frozen Ever After. It's not a guarantee, but additional FastPass times for major attractions are often released the day of. You can refresh the app (over and over) at different points throughout the day to see if the ride you want becomes available. Modify or overwrite an existing FastPass reservation if and when that better option comes along. Try this when you have time while waiting in lines for other rides.
Single Rider and Rider Switch
Some rides offer a Single Rider line which can save you tons of time waiting. Your party will be split up as you'll be used to fill empty seats, but you will get on the ride much faster. If visiting with a small child you can take advantage of the Rider Switch service for rides with a minimum height requirement. One adult waits in line while the other watches the child. The first adult will be given a return ticket so the second adult can ride without waiting after. The best part is, up to three guests can ride using that ticket, so other people in your party get to ride twice while only waiting once! Plus, the return ticket is valid all day, so no need to do it back to back.
When – and when not – to visit
While on your vacation, it's always better to visit the parks on a weekday. Spend the weekends enjoying the hotel and the pool, but save the parks for a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday for less crowds. If you can, try to avoid visiting during peak times of year like spring break or in the middle of summer. Also, do your research and avoid certain parks when they're having special events like marathon weekends.