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Disney World Hacks You Need to Know
This post is all about the best Disney World hacks to save you time and money on your trip to Disney World and make your vacation as magical as possible!
I have been going to Disney World for over two decades now so I have picked up a lot of useful tips and tricks along the way. Here are my top Disney hacks for your next trip!
1. Book your trip well in advance.
There are a lot of reasons to book your trip far in advance, the biggest one being that you will save a lot of money! Last-minute flights and hotels can often cost a lot more than booking your trip 6 to 12 months in advance.
You should also purchase your Disney tickets in advance because multi-day tickets cost $21 more at the gate than they do online!
Finally, by booking your trip early you can score FastPasses and ADRs (advanced dining reservations) for the attractions and restaurants you want.
ADRs (advanced dining reservations) open 180 before your trip, while FastPasses for most attractions open 60 days in advance for guests staying on-site, and 30 days in advance for all other guests.
2. Travel during the off season.
Some of my best trips to Disney World have occurred in January and February when the parks have been just about empty. Going during the off season can be a great way to save money and enjoy the parks with less crowds.
As a general rule of thumb, the parks are more crowded during the summer and during holidays (any time when kids aren’t in school) but you can check the Disney crowd calendar to see which days/weeks are best for specific parks.
3. Kids under 3 don’t need a ticket.
If you’re traveling with children under the age of 3, they can get into the parks for free without a ticket. They also don’t need a FastPass to skip the line on rides.
4. Stay at a Disney hotel.
Staying on-site at Disney can be expensive, but depending on the time of year and which resort you stay at, you can also score some great deals.
When you stay at an on-site hotel, you also get some great perks. You can take the free Magical Express to and from the Orlando Airport. You get access to the Disney buses and monorail (depending on the resort) to get to and from the parks. And best of all you can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, which are exclusive extra park hours just for on-site guests.
5. Use a Disney travel agent.
If it’s your first time visiting Disney World, or if you just want the help of an expert planning your trip, you should book with a Disney travel agent.
They are totally FREE to use because Disney pays their commission and they can be a super helpful resource when planning your trip.
6. Get the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.
I always bring my Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card with me to Disney World so I can earn cash back on all my purchases!
When you sign up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, you get a $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months. This is a great way to earn some extra cash before your trip!
7. Buy Disney gift cards at Target.
If you have a Target REDCard, you can buy Disney gift cards with a 5% discount. These gift cards can be used at the park for tickets, meals, souvenirs, etc.
8. Skip the Disney Dining Plan.
It’s usually a lot cheaper to just eat on your own at the parks than to purchase the Disney Dining Plan. Plus, you will have a lot more flexibility on where and what you can eat.
The exception to this is when Disney offers the FREE Dining Plan promotion. From time to time, you can get the Dining Plan for free if you stay on-site. So make sure to check if that promotion is running before you book your trip!
9. Book your first three FastPasses for early in the day.
Every Disney park-goer has access to free FastPasses. FastPasses let you skip the line for a ride or attraction during your designated time slot. You can pre-book FastPasses by downloading the My Disney Experience app or going on Disney’s website.
FastPasses open 60 days in advance for on-site guests (another perk to staying on-site) and 30 days in advance for everyone else. You can pre-book three FastPasses per day.
Once you’re at the park, you can book more FastPasses after you use your last pre-booked FastPass. So it’s in your best interest to schedule your first three FastPasses for early in the day (I usually do them between 10 AM and 2 PM) so you can book more FastPasses throughout the day.
10. Get a free button if you’re celebrating.
If you go to Guest Relations when you enter the park, you can pick up a FREE celebration button.
Disney has buttons for birthdays, weddings, first visits, and customizable “I’m celebrating…” buttons.
11. Use your FastPasses for rides with long waits.
The best way to maximize FastPasses is to use them for rides that normally have insanely long lines.
There is not much point in using a FastPass on a ride that normally only has a 15-minute wait, when you could use it to skip the line on a ride with a 90-minute wait!
This article lists the best rides to use FastPasses on at each Disney park.
12. Pack your own snacks.
You’re allowed to bring food into the parks (even a whole cooler!) so if you want to save money on food, pack some of your own snacks to enjoy throughout the day.
13. Bring a portable cellphone charger.
Having this portable phone charger with me at Disney World has been a lifesaver. Your phone battery can die quickly between taking photos, checking the Disney app, playing games while waiting in line for rides, etc.
There aren’t many outlets throughout the park for charging, so having your own portable charger will save you a lot of time and hassle!
14. Eat a sit-down meal at lunch, not dinner.
The menus at most of the table service restaurants are cheaper at lunch than they are at dinner. You could pay up to 20% less for the same meal just by going at lunch instead of dinner!
I like to enjoy a sit-down meal for lunch, then go to a quick service restaurant for dinner.
15. Arrive before rope drop.
“Rope drop” is the official opening time for Disney parks. Opening hours for the parks change regularly, so check Disney’s website for the dates of your trip to find the right hours.
Yes, you will have to wake up early but it’s worth it! When the rope officially drops and the park opens, you can usually get in at least two popular rides before the lines start getting long.
16. Screenshot your schedule and set it as your lock screen.
I highly recommend downloading the My Disney Experience app so you can see your FastPasses and dining reservations all in one place.
But to save on phone battery power, screenshot your schedule for the day and set it as your lock screen background so you don’t have to keep opening the app all day.
17. Go on rides during parades/fireworks.
Every night, there are different shows at the parks such as parades, fireworks at Magic Kingdom, Fantasia at Hollywood Studios, etc. You can see the entertainment schedule on the daily brochure available inside the park.
If you’re okay with missing these shows, then it’s prime time for rides! The lines are usually much shorter once the big nightly entertainment gets started.
18. Buy ponchos ahead of time.
It rains a LOT in Orlando. Even if there’s no rain predicted for your trip, afternoon thunderstorms can pop up with absolutely no notice.
Rain ponchos go for $15 each in the parks, but you can save money by buying ponchos ahead of time and bringing them with you to the parks.
19. Eat during weird times.
Most people will take a break for lunch around noon and eat dinner around six. If you eat at weird times (like grabbing an early dinner at four) you can spend peak mealtime riding rides with shorter lines while almost everyone else is having dinner.
20. Order from the kids’ menu to save money.
I love the food at Disney (it’s definitely a step up from typical theme park food) but it can get expensive! One of my favorite ways to save money is by ordering off the kids’ menu at the counter service restaurants in the parks. (These are the sit-down restaurants where you don’t have a waiter, but order food at the counter and seat yourself.)
You might be thinking that if you aren’t a kid, the kids’ meals won’t be very filling. But unless you have a huge appetite or are just starving, the kids’ meals are great for lunch or dinner!
Here’s an example from Pinocchio Village Haus in the Magic Kingdom: For $10.49, you can get a cheese pizza flatbread. On the kid’s menu, for $6.49 you can get a (smaller but still decently-sized) cheese pizza flatbread, two side items, and a small drink!
21. Use the single rider line.
If you don’t care about sitting with friends/family on a ride, or if you’re riding by yourself, get in the single rider line! This line is almost always shorter than the regular line.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Test Track, and Expedition Everest all have dedicated single rider lines that are almost always open. For some other rides like Soarin’ or Test Track, cast members will sometimes call for single riders from further back in the line, so pay attention and you might be able to skip to the front!
22. Don’t buy water bottles in the park.
No one wants to spend $4 for a water bottle at Disney World. To save money on water in the parks, go up to any counter service restaurant and they will gladly give you free ice water in a cup. You can also buy bottled water beforehand and bring a few bottles with you into the parks.
23. Get a carabiner or two for your backpack.
You can attach a carabiner clip to your backpack and hang your souvenir drink cup or popcorn off it for easy access.
24. Use mobile ordering for food at the park.
If you download the My Disney Experience app, you’ll be able to order food from quick service restaurants through the app and then get it with no wait!
This is a great way to save time and not have to wait in line at peak mealtimes when the lines can be out the door for popular quick service restaurants.
25. Pack a first aid kit.
Bring Band-Aids, sunscreen, Advil, etc. in a little pack and carry it with you at the parks. It only takes a few minutes to make your own first aid kit and it’s much easier than having to track down these items at the parks!
For more Disney World tips and tricks, be sure to read:
Enjoy your trip! And don’t forget to pin these Disney World hacks for later: