If you remember nothing else, keep in mind these essential strategies, tried and tested by generations of Disney World fans. They’re the Eight Commandments for touring Walt Disney World.
Make dining reservations before you leave home, especially for character dining experiences. If you don’t, you might find yourself eating a hamburger (again) or leaving Walt Disney World for dinner. The onsite restaurants book up fast.
Arrive at the parks at least 30 minutes before they open. We know, it’s your vacation and you want to sleep in. So go to the Caribbean. Or the mountains. Don’t go to Walt Disney World, unless you’ve been there a hundred times and you plan to sit by the pool and play golf more than go on rides. If you’re like most families and you want to make the most of your time and money, plan to be up by at least 7:30 every day. After transit time, it’ll take you 10–15 minutes to park and get to the gates. If you know you want to use the lockers or ATMs, or rent strollers, get there 45 minutes in advance.
See the top attractions first thing in the morning. And we mean first thing. As in, before 10 AM. Decide in advance which attractions you don’t want to miss, find out where they are, and hotfoot it to them when the park opens. If you miss any in the morning, the other good times to see the most popular attractions are right before closing and during the parades. Otherwise, use Fastpass.
Use Fastpass. It’s worth saying twice. The system is free, easy, and it’s your ticket to the top attractions with little or no waiting in line.
Build in rest time. This is the greatest way to avoid becoming overly hot, tired, and grumpy. We recommend starting early and then leaving the theme parks around 3 or 4, the hottest and most crowded time of day. After a couple hours’ rest at your hotel, you can have an early dinner and head back to the parks to watch one of the nighttime spectaculars or to ride a couple more of the big-deal rides (lines are shorter around closing time).
Create a rough itinerary, but leave room for spontaneity. Decide which parks to see on each day, and know your priorities, but don’t try to plot your trip hour by hour. Instead, break up the day into morning, afternoon, and evening sections. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, find out which parks are offering the Extra Magic Hours on which days, and plan to take advantage of the program.
Eat at off hours. Have a quick, light breakfast at 7 or 8, lunch at 11, and dinner at 5 or 6 to avoid the mealtime rush hours. Between 11:30 and 2:30 during high season, you can wait in line up to 30 minutes for a socalled fast-food lunch in the parks.
Save the high-capacity sit-down shows for the afternoon. You usually don’t have to wait in line so long for shows, and you’ll be relieved at the chance to sit in an air-conditioned theater during the hottest part of the day.
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