Keep in mind these essential strategies, tried and tested by generations of Disney fans.
- Buy tickets before leaving home. It saves money and gives you time to look into all the ticket options. It also offers an opportunity for you to consider vacation packages and meal plans and to register with the My Disney Experience program and mobile app for vacation planning.
- Make dining reservations before leaving home. If you don't, you might find yourself eating fast food (again) or leaving Disney for dinner. On-site restaurants, especially those featuring character appearances, book up months ahead, and you can reserve 180 days before you arrive.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before the parks open. We know, it's your vacation and you want to sleep in. But you probably want to make the most of your time and money, too. Plan to be up by 7:30 am each day to get the most out of your park visits. After transit time, it'll take you 15–20 minutes to park, get to the gates, and pick up your park guide maps and Times Guide.
- See top attractions in the morning. And we mean first thing. Decide in advance on your can't-miss attractions, find their locations, and hotfoot it to them before 10 am.
- Use FastPass+. The system is free, easy, more streamlined than ever with the new FastPass+ online prebooking system, and it's your ticket to the top attractions with little or no waiting in line. Even if you wait to book once you're in the park, you can now schedule up to three FastPass+ events at one time; paper Fastpass tickets are obsolete. Instead, your attraction appointments are loaded onto your MagicBand or plastic ticket, whichever you choose to use.
- Use Baby Swap. Disney has a theme-park "rider switch" policy that works like this: one parent waits with the baby or toddler while the other parent rides the attraction. When the ride ends, they switch places with minimal wait.
- Build in rest time. Start early and then leave the parks around 3 or 4 pm, thus avoiding the hottest and often most crowded period. After a couple of hours' rest at your hotel, head back for a nighttime spectacle or to ride a big-ticket ride (lines often are shorter around closing time).
- Create an itinerary, but leave room for spontaneity. Don't try to plot your trip hour by hour. If you're staying at a Disney resort, find out which parks have Extra Magic Hours on which days.
- Eat at off-hours. To avoid the mealtime rush hours, have a quick, light breakfast at 7 or 8 am, lunch at 11, and dinner at 5 or 6.