There is so much to do in the Disney parks, and never enough time! If you are a first-timer, haven’t been in awhile, or are just newer in general to the wonderful world of Disney parks, it can be overwhelming. I’ve heard too many frustrated stories from friends who went to the parks and ended up waiting in lines all day, and only managed to do a couple rides. If only they had some Intelliguest training, their trips could have been so much better! Luckily, you are smarter than them. Read on to find out how to save time at Disney World. Maximize your fun to time ratio!
- Decide when to go. This has a huge effect on the crowd levels. Undercover Tourist has a neat rollup for 2017-2018. I agree with their assessment. In general, avoid the summer like the plague. Similarly, avoid being in the parks on major holidays. Watch out for spring break. Weekends will always be busier than weekdays, due to locals. We like go one step further, and subscribe to Touring Plans. This site estimates how busy each day will be, on a scale of 1 to 10. They are not always 100% accurate, but they give you a good idea. I use them mostly to decide which day to visit which park on my visit, as some days Epcot may be much busier than Disney Studios, for example. The service is not free, but my family has found it to be extremely helpful! It could really help you save time at Disney World.
- Get up early. Sleeping in on vacation is nice, but one of the least busy times at the parks is the hour or two after opening. Trust me, it’s worth it to save time at Disney World! Park hours change daily, so check them on the official Disney site in advance. If you are a Disney resort guest, every day will have one hour in one of the parks that is reserved for resort guests. This is a great time to enjoy the parks when they are less busy! If you’re staying at a resort I recommend planning your park days to take advantage of this. If you’re NOT staying in a resort however, I recommend avoiding the extra magic hour parks. They may be busier with resort guests, particularly if they are morning extra magic hours.
- Ride the high-profile rides first thing. If you want to ride a popular attraction and don’t have a Fastpass, you need to be at the park at opening. Preferably, BEFORE opening, to get a closer place in the lineup. When the rope drops, head directly for your chosen ride. Do not stop for pictures or anything else, plenty of time for that later! Your focus now is to save time at Disney World. Don’t waste the least busy park time! If you’re quick, you can probably ride your chosen attraction a couple times with basically no wait. You could even go for a second ride (this works best if the attractions are close together). The rides I always go to first if I don’t have Fastpasses are as follows. Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. Epcot: Soarin’, Mission Space, Test Track. Disney Studios: Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, Star Tours. Animal Kingdom: Expedition Everest.
- Get Fastpasses early. You can book Fastpasses up to 30 days in advance, or 60 days for resort guests. Here is the official Disney site information. There is a limited number of Fastpasses for each ride every day. The most popular ones will run out (not all rides have Fastpasses, but all the ones that get long lines do). So, you should plan your trip in advance, and book your Fastpasses as soon as you can. Fastpasses are not just for rides- they are available for some character greetings and some shows such as Fantasmic. Generally, I like to book my Fastpasses for as early in the day as possible. One, because then I get them out of the way. Two, because if you use your three Fastpasses, you can get another one in the park either with the Disney app or at a kiosk. Get Fastpasses for the most popular rides, it will really help you save time at Disney World. There are many rides where you technically CAN get Fastpasses, but don’t actually need them except on very busy days. Just in case you were thinking Fastpasses were too simple, some of the parks (Epcot and Disney Studios) have tier 1 and tier 2 designations. You can book one Fastpass in tier 1, and two in tier 2. Check out the official Disney site for which attractions are in each tier.
- Plan your day. Before you set foot in the parks, you should know when they open and close, the schedule for any parades and shows you want to see, and which rides you want to do. Also grab a park map and get an idea of where everything is so you don’t waste time wandering around. Make yourself a schedule for the day, starting by placing any set times like Fastpasses or meal reservations. Then, aim to get all the popular rides done either as early as possible, or at less busy times such as during parades or fireworks or right before closing. If you’re in line prior to closing time, you’ll get to ride even if the park is officially closed. To decide what you’d like to do, I suggest making a spreadsheet and ranking each item as “must do,” “like to do,” and the rest you can live without. Or, you can use an official site like Touring Plans. With them you can plan out what rides you’ll do, and when. They even tell you how long each ride will take, and the walk time to the next attraction. Especially if you are newer to the parks, this can be very helpful. They’re not free, but are an excellent tool if you want someone else to take care of a good portion of the planning. We have used them in recent years, but now I’ve gotten to the point where I know the parks well enough to make my own plan.
- Don’t wait in long lines. This is one of my key tricks to save time at Disney World. Personally, if a line has a projected wait time longer than 20 minutes, I will almost always choose not to wait in it. Why? Because, as much as I love Disney, the rides just aren’t worth the long wait. I’d rather walk around admiring the impressive flower gardens or window shop in the many stores than stand around for 2 hours in a line. Now, depending on the season you go, avoiding lines longer than 20 minutes may mean you don’t have many options left. However, since you are an Intelliguest, you’ll go during the less busy times, right? Right! As a side note, Disney has started to help address the long line woes by creating interactive queues on rides like Peter Pan, Little Mermaid and 7 Dwarfs. The additions are neat, but not neat enough to convince me to wait for an hour or more.
- Play to your interests. One of the reasons it can seem like you don’t have enough time to do things at Disney is because you aren’t prioritizing what you really want to do. That doesn’t mean the top 10 biggest attractions, it means what YOU, personally, want to do. If you spend your day running from ride to ride when you really just wanted to sit in the rose garden in Epcot, it will feel like you didn’t have time for what you wanted. Do your research on what Disney has to offer. Rides, shows, fireworks, shopping, food etc.: decide what you will enjoy most. Time management in general is about prioritizing. Everyone has the same amount of time, yet some people get a lot more done than others. The secret is deciding what is most important to you, and spending your time on that.
In summary, plan your trip like you’d plan a battle: your War on Crowds.
Plan thoroughly in advance, preferably before you even go on your trip. It will give you a more relaxing time when you’re actually at Disney World. Being spontaneous is fun, but I recommend planning, and then you can choose whether or not to stick to it! What’s your favorite way to save time at Disney World?