Time flies when you’re having fun, right? Boy, does it ever…especially when you’re at the most magical place on earth! One of the most fundamental ways to have a great Disney vacation is being time-savvy, regardless of whether you are staying one day or a dozen of them. Disney minutes are precious and seem to tick by a whole lot faster than “real world” minutes. We here at Disney Fanatic are passionate about helping people make the very most out of their Disney World vacations and have come up with 8 ways to save you time on your next trip so you can squeeze every last ounce of fun out of your vacation.
8. Decide on Your “Must-Dos” in Advance…
…And then plan, plan, plan! Do not spend your entire day waiting in lengthy lines. If Soarin’ and Splash Mountain are “non-negotiables” on your next Disney trip, then get those FastPass+ selections secured on your My Disney Experience page. You can make up to 3 FastPass+ selections (depending on availability) each day at one theme park. These selections can be made up to 30 days in advance of your theme park visit, or if you are staying at a Disney Resort up to 60 days prior to check-in. Keep in mind, the newer/popular attractions get scooped up rather quickly so don’t wait to secure the experiences you truly desire!
7. Theme Park Maps are Like Treasure Maps
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” This philosophical quote from Yogi Berra can just as easily be applied to your next Disney vacation. If you haven’t frequented the Parks enough to know your way around, you might find yourself spending more time wandering and wasting time then you’d like. Park maps are made available in advance of your trip either online at the Disney site or by mail and are as valuable as treasure. Get yourself familiar with the attractions’ whereabouts and their neighbors. If you have a FastPass+ selection for a specific ride, make sure you enjoy the nearby attractions while you are in the vicinity to make the best use of your day. And let your dining reservations align neatly with your FastPass+ selections too. For example, if you have a dinner reservation at, say, Be Our Guest restaurant, perhaps try making your early evening FastPass+ selections in Fantasyland so you’re not losing time walking from one end of the Park to another.
6. Dining Smart
I could write a book about this, but I’ll try and keep it short. Be smart with your dining. If you are absolutely certain that you want to dine at a table-service restaurant inside the Parks, book your reservation in advance! And, if you can book it outside of a prime dining hour (i.e. 4:00pm for dinner) then you can potentially save yourself a considerable amount of time by being able to enjoy attractions while the majority of people are sitting down to eat. If you don’t book an advanced dining reservation, you can still beat the crowds by eating during unconventional dining hours. If you are all about experiencing as many attractions as possible on your theme park visit, then perhaps reconsider eating at a table-service restaurant as this can eat up a couple hours of your day. Disney has plenty of enjoyable counter-service food options as well as food carts, allowing for quick eating or eating on-the-go. My last bit of advice on this topic is to stay on Disney property if at all possible. Many Disney guests consider driving off property to save money on food and while I’ll never turn my nose down on those who choose to do this, I WILL say that this decision, while saving you dollars, will still cost you in lost Disney time. If time is money and because we all know that Disney theme park ticket wasn’t cheap, then eating on Disney property is probably worth the extra bucks it costs.
5. The Early Bird Gets No Lines
If you want to get the most out of your theme park day, set that alarm clock! The first hour in the Parks is the BEST time to get in the most popular rides, saving you time that waiting in lines would eat up. You could certainly knock out several of your “must-do” attractions in this first hour, granting you a more leisurely and open schedule to the remainder of your day. Grab a banana, granola bar and coffee on your way out to the Parks and enjoy the attractions while everyone else is waking up and sitting down to breakfast. Also worth noting: Depending on the time of year, the last hour can potentially be just as uncrowded, especially if it’s during off-season and the Park is open late (Magic Kingdom is known to stay open as late as 2am on certain nights!).
4. Extra Magic Hours
Who doesn’t love an extra hour or two of Disney magic? I know I do and I try to take advantage of them whenever I vacation at Disney. The catch? You have to be a Disney Resort guest. The Extra Magic Hours vary, but each day throughout the week, one of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to 2 hours after regular closing time. This gives you more of an opportunity to take advantage of prime Disney attractions without having to wait in exhaustive lines.
3. Set a “Wait-Time” Rule of Thumb…
…And stick to it! Decide ahead of time with your family how long you would be willing to wait in line for an attraction (Thirty minutes? An hour?), and if the quoted wait-time exceeds that then move on and attempt it later (perhaps during a parade or a prime lunchtime hour when the attraction crowds inevitably dwindle). This will also aid in avoiding line meltdowns if you are a parent of a young child.
2. Vacation at the Right Time
The more crowded the park, the less time you’ll have to enjoy the Park due to long waits. If at all possible, plan your Disney vacation outside of peak seasons and times when the Parks will be busiest (i.e. during a marathon weekend, week of a major holiday, etc.). Though the Parks will likely still be crowded, it won’t be quite as bad as it tends to get during certain days during the year. There are plenty of websites available to help you decide the perfect time of year to visit Walt Disney World, even some that factor in prices, weather, wait times, ride closures and major events.
1. Take Advantage of the Single Rider Line OR a “Rider Switch” Pass
This is a HUGE time saver! If there is a popular attraction you truly want to experience and don’t care that you will likely be experiencing it next to a stranger, then you can opt to move through the “Single Rider” line, bypassing lengthy wait times completely! I have done this numerous times with people in my party and in some rare cases, was even sat right next to them as they loaded the attraction cars. But don’t count on this—more times than not you will be sat outside from your party. Is it worth it? We say “yes!”
The Rider Switch Pass is a wondrous thing—especially for us parents—and many aren’t even aware of its existence. Here is how it works: If someone in your party can’t or doesn’t want to experience a particular attraction, you can ask the Cast Member for a Rider Switch Pass. After the people in a party wait in the regular queue and experience the ride, they can then “switch off” with the waiting adult who was supervising the child/person not going on the ride. This waiting adult does not have to get in the back of the line—they simply go up to the Cast Member, present the Rider Switch Pass and they will be able to board the ride without waiting. The waiting adult (IF they waited ALONE with the child) can also take ONE person from the party back with them to experience the ride without getting in line. A tremendous time saver indeed!