Whether you’re a family with littles or adults who just love the Magic Kingdom, these top pro tips will elevate your Disney vacation from pretty cool to totally amazing.
1. Use the single-riders line. If you’re with a big group of friends or have older kids, you’ll experience a lot less of a wait.
2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the ideal vantage point for watching the classic Disney fireworks each summer. That’s right. If you can time it properly, this is an amazing perch for watching the show! Make the staffers complicit in your mission – if you get to the front of the line before the show starts, you can ask to wait for the next ride.
3. Another local hack for the fireworks show is to exit the park and watch from the roof of a parking garage. This way, you get spectacular views without having to deal with the mass exodus of park exits immediately following the show. You’re already in the garage and you’ll be able to make a speedy getaway.
4. Even though conventional wisdom says to avoid the busy summer season, there is a caveat. During the peak summer months, the park is open til midnight and that’s one way to get the most bang for the buck.
5. If you’re visiting the park for a special occasion, you get a gift! Main Street City Hall is the hub of celebratory freebies. Ask any cast member there (that’s what they’re called – nobody’s an employee at Disneyland), and they’ll hook you up with a commemorative pin to commemorate your birthday/engagement/wedding/etc.
6. Even if it doesn’t happen to be a special personal day, there are still a few places in the park to get a free gift. The Jungle Book ride will give you a special old-timey map of the ride if you ask (you can also print one out online but this is more fun). And you can also “earn” a special certificate if you ask to drive the Mark Twain Riverboat!
7. Though FastPass can help you avoid spending too much time in line, you should do a little research before you go to find out which rides don’t accept this shortcut. Then book on over to your top rides on that list first – that way, you can avoid the long lines that form all summer long. You can also now pay a little extra ($10) for a MaxPass, which allows you to make FastPass ride selections on your phone (and even make selections for the other theme park if you have a Park Hopper ticket). Maximum efficiency.
8. Disney diehards know that Uncle Walt engineered park logistics to the nth degree. To that end, wayfinding and general park structure is set up to promote you starting your visit moving from right to left. Flout expectations and move left to right – you’ll avoid crowds in the process!
9. People with food allergies as well as Kosher diners should hightail it over to the Plaza Inn on Main Street, where special requests are their specialty and you might have a meal sitting next to Ariel or Mickey himself (yes, some restaurants have “Character Dining” and this one is on the list). If you have very specific dining needs, it’s always best to make a reservation online and notate the special requests.
10. Disney characters are creatures of habit, so rather than tearing around the park all day trying to hunt down Donald or the Beast, check out the “Finding Mickey” page online and stalk your favorite character in real time.
11. Speaking of real time, download the Disney app. You need it. The app will give you projected wait times for every ride along with where the characters are hanging around.
12. For families on a super tight budget, you might like to know that you can actually bring food into the park. We like to save on meals and splurge on a couple of cool, Disney classic snacks. Another cost-saving tip is to skip the pricey park souvenirs and buy your Disney swag at Disney stores elsewhere (the same item prices are wildly inflated inside the park). If you want the full Disney dining experience, check out mousesavers for the best dining deals!
We’d love to hear from readers about your favorite hacks. Please comment below or tweet to us @cheapair. Happy travels!