Step 1 – Do Your Research
Reading this article is just the beginning. Knowing the ‘ins and outs’ of the all four theme parks is crucial, so it is important to do your research. If you walk through the gates without a plan you’re going to waste a good portion of your morning improvising one. A lot of the time this improvised plan is a shell of what it could have been if you had just taken some time before your vacation to plan it out. This is a huge blunder when traveling to Walt Disney World, and it will leave friends and family members feeling frustrated. A little research on the different attractions, restaurants, and shows will go a long way. If you’ve never been, or haven’t been in quite some time, you’ll want to research some of the more complex aspects of a day in Walt Disney World. For example, learning how and what a FastPass is.
Step 2 – Make Your FastPass Selections
The four theme parks at Walt Disney World can get very crowded. It isn’t unheard of for attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Frozen Ever After, or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to have waits of two hours or more. This is why FastPass is so important. If you don’t know what FastPass is, it is a free system that is essentially a reservation for you and your family for a particular attraction. This allows you to roam the theme park and enjoy other attractions, shows, and restaurants, while you wait to return to the attraction when your FastPass is available. At Walt Disney World all FastPasses are scheduled through My Disney Experience either on your computer, or on the mobile app. For some, coming to Walt Disney World is a once in a lifetime vacation, so you’re not going to want to miss these attractions. This is why planning out in advance which attractions are most important to your party, and then scheduling them as soon possible, is crucial.
Step 3 – Make Your Advanced Dining Reservations
Dining reservations can get booked up fast. If you plan on having a table service or fine dining experience while you’re on vacation at Walt Disney World you’re going to want to book your dining reservations out as soon as possible. This is another place where it is important to do your research, because not all Disney dining experiences are equal. There are some delicious affordable options, and also some overpriced “fancy” cuisine. This is why it is important to look around for reviews online to see what other people have said about any of the restaurants you are considering making a reservation at.
Step 4 – Set Your Alarm Clock
I am not a morning person. That being said, when I am on a Disney vacation I am the first one up. As hard as it can be to wake up early on vacation it is crucial on a Disney parks vacation. Being there for rope drop allows guests to get on any attraction with virtually no wait, and the first hour or two the wait times are a lot shorter then they will be for the rest of the day. If sleeping in is what matters most to you I am not going to stop you, but in my opinion time is money, and wasting away the day in your hotel room is not allowing you to reach the full potential of what your Disney vacation could be.
Step 5 – Communication
Once you’ve arrived at the parks everyone in your group needs to be on the same page. You’re on a mission to have the most amount of fun possible. It is imperative that everyone is having an open discussion about when they need water, or some time to sit down for a minute. Having an open line of communication will ensure that you don’t tire everyone out in the first two hours of the day. If grandma needs a break maybe it is time that everyone gets ice cream, rides Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, or simply just finds a bench to sit down at for a minute. Open communication is also important to ensure that everyone is having the best day possible. If you leave the park to find out that you went on everyone but one’s favorite ride, it can feel disheartening.
Step 6 – Be Flexible
Yes, you’ve created a plan. Plans are good, but it is also important to be flexible. Things will happen. Rides will close due to technical difficulties, or a massive storm may cancel the parade. If you aren’t flexible the entire day can go off the rails. So, when things don’t go right it is important to hold it together. Make the best of the situation, and try to find the positives. For example a storm canceling the parade may seem like a bummer, but also remember to remind everyone that storms usually keep the crowds away, so the wait times should go down! A positive attitude is contagious, so remember to make the best of even the most frustrating situations.
Step 7 – Be Early For Parades/Night Time Shows
The highlight for some at a Disney park can be the parades and the fireworks/night time spectaculars. It is important to be early to get the best seating for these events. Having prime real estate when viewing either the parades or the fireworks can sometimes make or break the experience. Waiting on the curb on Main Street U.S.A. for a half hour to 45 minutes isn’t unheard of. Depending on how crowded it is, how large your group is, and what particular event you are trying to get a good spot for can all determine how early you should get there. There is no shame in asking a cast member what they recommend when it comes to stuff like this.
Stephen "Steve" Porter started going to the parks with his family in 1996. Since then he hasn't looked back! Steve was a cast member participating in the Disney College Program in 2013. Most recently he graduated from Penn State University!