Time is Money: Maximize Time at Disney World!

We all know that a trip to Walt Disney World can be expensive, so maximizing your enjoyment of your vacation time is the smart thing to do! Who wants to spend the whole time standing in line or staking out that perfect spot for the afternoon parade? Here is a compilation of tips and tricks for you to maximize time at Disney World!

In our many visits to Disney World, we’ve learned that some pre-planning (and a few judicious purchases before you leave) can save money and help maximize time at Disney World. On this page we’ve gathered some important “survival” hints that everyone should know before departure.

The Disney fans who visit MouseSavers.com have lots of great information to share. This “Time is Money” page includes many reader contributions. Thank you to all who have shared their tips on how to maximize time at Disney World!

Where Do I Start?

We recommend starting on our step-by-step planning guide page, which will help take you through the major decisions you’ll have to make when you plan your trip.

How to Take MouseSavers.com Along on Your Vacation

Would you like to have this site at your fingertips while you’re at Walt Disney World? Accessing MouseSavers.com on a smartphone (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc.) makes it convenient to look up tips and tricks, check on dining discounts, see what events are happening during your stay, and lots more.

This site works perfectly on any phone that allows you to access the Internet. Just fire up your phone’s Web browser and navigate to MouseSavers.com!

You can also add a MouseSavers icon on your smartphone that will take you directly to the site.

Avoid the Crowds

WHEN you choose to visit can make a substantial difference! Even if you are heavily constrained by school or work schedules, optimizing the exact dates can reduce the overall crowding you experience. Trust us, even 10% fewer people can make a massive difference in your overall enjoyment and how much you get to see. Read our Frequently Asked Questions section to find out the busiest and least busy times at Walt Disney World.

“The first suggestion should be branded on everyone’s forehead, ‘Go during value season.’ There is simply no comparison in the levels of attendance…. This is one’s first line of defense in the ‘Time is Money’ battle.” – Jeff D from Toms River, NJ

If you are traveling with young children who will primarily be interested in Fantasyland rides, make sure to get to Fantasyland first at the beginning of the day! Your first priorities should be Enchanted Tales with Belle, Peter Pan, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which are all popular rides with not enough capacity to meet demand, so they build lines very quickly. They are all three good choices for FastPass+ selections as well. Please note: FastPass+ has been discontinued and will be replaced by a new system called Disney Genie. Disney Genie will be available sometime in Fall 2021.

On the other hand… “Skip Fantasyland during the daytime when it is packed with kids. When everyone is lining up for the parade, that is the best time to visit. Also the parade does not run through Fantasyland, so you don’t get the bottleneck/gridlock effect once it is over. By the time the parade is over and people from Main Street start flooding into the area, head for Liberty Square/Frontierland.” – Kevin P from Bayport, NY

“My own experience as a Disney veteran has taught me to leave the beaten path at the Magic Kingdom and begin in Adventureland and work clockwise through Frontierland… At a good time of year you can easily ride Pirates, Thunder and Splash Mountains in a matter of only an hour!” – James O from East Bridgewater, MA

Shorter Waits in Ride Lines

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Disney Genie, Genie+ & Individual Ride Selection (Formerly FastPass)

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Disney’s latest technological system for minimizing the amount of time visitors spend in line is called Disney Genie. It includes a couple of optional, paid upgrades that can minimize wait times even more, called Genie+ and Individual Ride Selection.

Disney Genie is not yet operational, but will be available sometime in Fall 2021. 

For the last 20+ years, Disney has actually spent a ton of money and time trying to reduce the line waiting time for guests. Their market research tells them that guests love the Disney parks, but hate waiting in lines. Disney, of course, would like guests to have a great time and go back home and tell all their friends how fantastic Disney World is, and lowering the time waiting in line helps customers feel satisfied. Not to mention, every minute a guest is standing in line is a minute they can’t be buying merchandise or churros. Disney’s first system to reduce wait times, in 1999, was called FastPass, and the second was FastPass+. Now they have a new system, which pulls together ideas from both of the previous systems, called Genie.

Disney Genie

The Disney Genie service is a FREE planning and optimizing tool, built into the Walt Disney World MyDisneyExperience app, available for most smartphones. The app is conceptually pretty simple:

  1. At some point (preferably before you arrive), you use the app to select any specific attractions you want to experience or restaurants you’d like to visit. You can also select more generic types of experiences you are interested in, like “Princesses” or “Star Wars”.
  2. The app puts together an optimized plan for you, making sure your favorites are included, plus other attractions that fit into the plan well, trying to pick attractions that match your preferences and minimize wait times as best it can. It also suggests a place to have lunch and/or dinner, and lets you either make a reservation or pre-order your food so you can swing by and eat with minimal wait. It’s smart enough to not recommend a restaurant that is already fully reserved or an attraction that is currently down for refurbishment.
  3. If you aren’t happy with any part of the plan, you can change things around as you see fit. You can either change the plans in the app, or just ignore any part of the plan and do something else. Like a GPS, the app will constantly recalculate its best overall recommendations for the rest of the day, whether you follow its suggestions or go your own way.

Following the app’s plan should reduce the amount of time you will wait in line compared to just randomly going to whatever attraction looks good in the moment. The app knows, for example, that the lines for Haunted Mansion go down a little when a big parade is happening, and can tell you to wait until the parade time to visit that attraction. It knows that in the morning, going on Splash Mountain before Pirates of the Caribbean will be a lower overall expected wait time than going on Pirates before Splash Mountain. These may seem like small things, but we can tell you from experience, it really adds up.

If you don’t already have an optimized touring plan, we tentatively recommend letting Genie put together a plan for you. Obviously until we all see how good the plans Genie builds are, we don’t know how much value they’ll offer. Optimized plans like the ones printed in The Unofficial Guide To Walt Disney World can be very good, and have been proven to save time. It’s unlikely that Disney Genie will generate a plan as good as the Unofficial Guide plans or similar plans from other reliable sources, but we assume that Genie will save some amount of time, and any savings in wait time is worth having. 

People who are used to planning a Disney trip and like to use optimized park plans may not get much out the Genie-built touring plan. The thing is, the average park guest doesn’t use any kind of plan, so Genie has a lot of potential value to offer even if it only builds an “OK” plan. We think the average guest will get a fair amount of benefit out of using Genie, assuming it’s reasonably easy to use and not too confusing.

Disney Genie+

For those who want to take a bigger bite out of wait times, there’s also Disney Genie+, which is a paid upgrade you can buy directly in the MyDisneyExperience app. Disney Genie+ costs $15 per person per day at Walt Disney World. With Disney Genie+, you can get faster access to one ride at a time, selected from a set of popular attractions, all day long. Basically when you go into the app and look at the wait times for the various attractions, some of them will have a “Lightning Lane” button and a future time window. If you tap the button, you reserve that time window to visit that attraction. When you arrive at that attraction during that given window, you can use the Lightning Lane to ride the attraction with minimal wait (typically 10 minutes or less, though that isn’t guaranteed). Once you’ve scanned in at a Lightning Lane attraction, you can use the app to get a new Lightning Lane reservation for another attraction (or the same one, if desired). 

In the past (with original FastPass), you could get another selection after 90-120 minutes, or when you scanned into the entrance gate for your previous ride selection, whichever came first. It’s unclear whether that will continue to be true. and if so, how long you’ll have to wait. Early reports suggest that Disney intends to allow you to get another Lightning Lane reservation after 90 minutes have elapsed, even if you haven’t yet used the previous Lightning Lane reservation, but that has not been officially announced. Until Disney confirms one way or another or the system actually rolls out, we won’t know whether you’ll be able to get another Lightning Lane reservation before you’ve used the previous one, and if so, how long you’ll have to wait.

You will be able to book your first Lightning Lane selection at 7:00 am, no matter what time the park opens. This time applies whether you’re staying in a Disney-owned resort or other off-property hotel. Once you’ve gotten to the park and badged in for your first selection, you can make a second selection, and so forth. If you are in a park and have a Park Hopper ticket, you can make reservations at a different park, but if you have a one-park-per-day ticket, you can only select rides in the park you are in that day.

Disney Genie+ also includes some animated special Augmented Reality Lenses so you can take fun videos and photos of your friends and family with Disney characters using your smartphone. (These aren’t physical “lenses”, it’s just a feature of the MyDisneyExperience app that lets you take photos and videos with Disney characters magically included.) There are also some special audio experiences built into Genie+ that let you hear Disney artists and imagineers talking about the attractions and décor at various spots around the parks.

Individual (Paid) Ride Selection

There will be a handful of ultra-popular rides in each park that will not be available to reserve via Genie+, but will have a separate paid option to get a Lightning Lane reservation. You don’t have to pay for Genie+ to get access to these paid Lightning Lane options. You can buy up to two of these each day, totally independently of whether you buy Genie+. You can buy them both at the start of the day, or wait and see how the crowds and wait times are looking. Don’t wait too long, though – they can and probably will sell out before the end of the day. The most popular attractions might well sell out very early.

The prices for these attractions will vary, and it’s not yet known what kind of pricing we’re talking about. Our guess is that a single ride will cost somewhere between $5 and $25 per person, depending on the specific ride’s popularity and the time of year. The complete list of specific rides have not yet been announced, but Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Rise of the Resistance are among the rides that will have this option.

These individual ride selections can be chosen independently of the Genie+ selections, so you can have multiple Lightning Lane reservations at the same time, via Genie+ and individual paid selections. 

If you’re staying at an official Disney-owned resort, the Swan & Dolphin, or Shades of Green, you can start making individual paid ride reservations at 7:00 am for that day only. If you’re staying at another hotel, you can start making individual paid ride reservations once you enter a park.

Using Lightning Lane

First, it goes without saying, before you can use the Lightning Lane on a ride you need to acquire a Lightning Lane reservation, either via Genie+ or via paying for an individual ride. There are a few other ways you might end up with a Lightning Lane reservation. Disney might give some out just to “spread pixie dust,” or potentially to encourage guests to move to a less crowded part of the park. Guest Services cast members can give people extra Lightning Lane passes to help make up for a problem or mistake like a ride breaking down. But most of the time, they’ll be ones you booked yourself on your phone.

The MyDisneyExperience app will show your outstanding Lightning Lane reservations, each with a return time window. At any time during that time window, you can go to the Lightning Lane entrance of your reserved attraction and scan either a physical park ticket card, a MagicBand, or your phone (if your phone is compatible with Disney’s scanners). If you see a green light on the scanner, you’re good and can proceed into the Lightning Lane, which should get you onto the attraction (either the loading zone or the first pre-show experience) within 10 minutes or so.

If you scan in and the light flashes blue, that means there’s a problem, and the attendant at the entrance can tell you what’s going on. Typically you’re there too early or late, but in any case the attendant can offer various options depending on the exact situation they see on their console.

In the past (with FastPass+), you could almost always show up for your reservation as much as 5 minutes early or 15 minutes late and the computer would just let you in. If you showed up earlier or later, the attendant might potentially let you in, especially if you had a good reason why you were there at the wrong time. Typically if you were only a bit late, and were held up through no fault of your own (a ride or transportation breakdown, for example), attendants had some wiggle room to let you ride. It remains to be seen if these grace periods will continue with the new Lightning Lane system.

Early Theme Park Entry (formerly “Extra Magic Hours”)

Please note: Extra Magic Hours has been discontinued. Early Theme Park Entry is the replacement.

Starting October 1, 2021, Disney will offer a special feature called Early Theme Park Entry for Walt Disney World hotel guests. If you are staying at one of the official hotels owned and operated by Disney, the Swan/Dolphin, a Disney Springs area hotel, Shades of Green, Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek or Waldorf Astoria Orlando, you qualify for this program.

Beginning October 1, 2021, the Early Theme Park Entry program will allow you to enter any of the four main theme parks 30 minutes before official opening. Early Theme Park Entry will be available every day. Select attractions, dining and merchandise locations will be open. 

It may seem like 30 minutes isn’t really much of a benefit, but it can really add up! By starting your day early, you get a head start on every ride you go on, until at least the mid-afternoon when ride wait times tend to peak. Most rides have a slow build in wait time starting right at opening and going up to a maximum somewhere in the late morning or mid-afternoon, so you’re not just getting to ride your first ride 30 minutes earlier, you’re riding every ride at least 30 minutes earlier.

If you are staying at a Disney resort and have this perk, you should absolutely use it. It will lower your total wait time for the day by a significant amount. Let’s say you have a set of 3 rides you want to go on, and each of them has a slow increase in wait time over the course of the morning and early afternoon. If you ride them back-to-back starting right at 9 am when the park opens normally, let’s say you’d wait 20 minutes for the first, 40 minutes for the second and 50 minutes for the third. By starting 30 minutes early at 8:30, you might now wait 10 minutes for the first, 20 minutes for the second (you’re still in the 30 minute special opening time and crowds are still very low) and 30 minutes for the third. You’ve just waited for 60 minutes instead of 110 minutes and saved 50 minutes of waiting time! And between the 30 minute head start and the 50 minutes you saved in line, you can now get into your fourth ride line a full 80 minutes earlier! For many rides, that will make a large difference. 

To enter a park early, you will need valid admission, a theme park reservation for that park and a valid Resort ID from one of the participating resorts. For Disney-owned resorts, your MagicBand, MagicMobile pass or RFID card is both ticket and Resort ID. For the other resorts, ask what you’ll need to identify you as staying there; usually they’ll give you a printed card that identifies you as a hotel guest and gives your check-out date.

Extended Evening Hours

Beginning October 2021, extended evening hours will be available on select nights in select theme parks for guests staying at a Disney Deluxe Resort, Disney Deluxe Villa Resort, the Swan/Dolphin and Shades of Green. Select attractions, dining and merchandise locations will be open. 

You will need valid admission and a theme park reservation for that park to enter; or a valid ticket or Annual Pass with the Park Hopper option, as long as you have already entered the first park where you had a theme park reservation. For Disney-owned resorts, your MagicBand, MagicMobile pass or RFID card is both ticket and Resort ID; be sure it is linked to your stay. For the other resorts, ask what you’ll need to identify you as staying there; usually they’ll give you a printed card that identifies you as a hotel guest and gives your check-out date.

A limited number of Extended Evening Hours have been announced (schedule subject to change):

Early Morning Magic – Fantasyland

Please note: Early Morning Magic is temporarily unavailable.

The Disney Early Morning Magic package allows a very limited number of guests to be among the first to enter Magic Kingdom – Fantasyland to enjoy breakfast and experience several Fantasyland attractions on select dates. You can enter Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom at 7:45 am. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Princess Fairytale Hall, “it’s a small world”, Mad Tea Party and Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid will be open. Tickets also include breakfast at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café from 8:00 am to 10:00 am. Magic Kingdom opens to the general public at 9:00 am.

Tickets cost $94.78 per adult (age 10 and up) and $84.14 per child (age 3-9), tax included. There are a limited number of tickets for each date. Regular admission to Magic Kingdom is required.

Early Morning Magic – Toy Story Land

Please note: Early Morning Magic is temporarily unavailable.

The Disney Early Morning Magic package allows a very limited number of guests to be among the first to enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Toy Story Land to enjoy breakfast and experience several Toy Story Land attractions on select dates. You can enter Toy Story Land at 7:30 am. Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers and Toy Story Mania! attractions will be open and there will be opportunities to meet Buzz, Woody and Jessie. Tickets also include breakfast from 8:30 – 10:30 am at a select quick-service dining location outside of Toy Story Land. Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens to the general public at 9:00 am.

Tickets cost $84.14 per adult (10 and up) and $73.49 per child (ages 3-9), tax included. There are a limited number of tickets for each date. Regular admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is required.

Disney After Hours – Animal Kingdom

Please note: Disney After Hours is temporarily unavailable.

By purchasing a ticket to Disney After Hours, you can enter Animal Kingdom on select dates for an extra 3 hours at night after the park closes to the general public. Select attractions and character meet and greets will remain open, such as: Tree of Life Awakenings, the attractions in Pandora – The World of Avatar, Expedition Everest and more. Ice cream, popcorn and select bottled beverages are included with the cost of admission and available at carts stationed through the park.

There are a limited number of tickets for each date.

Tickets cost $137.39 per person in advance, tax included. Annual Passholders and DVC members can purchase tickets for $105.44 per person, tax included. Tickets purchased the day of the event cost $148.04 per person, tax included.

Disney Vacation Club members get $30 off per ticket. Discounted tickets must be purchased at least 1 day prior to the event. 

Disney After Hours – Hollywood Studios

Please note: Disney After Hours is temporarily unavailable.

By purchasing a ticket to Disney After Hours, you can enter Hollywood Studios on select dates for an extra 3 hours at night after the park closes to the general public. Select attractions and character meet and greets will remain open, such as Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers, Toy Story Mania!, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror and more. There will also be character meet and greets. Ice cream, popcorn and select bottled beverages are included with the cost of admission and available at carts stationed through the park.

There are a limited number of tickets for each date.

Tickets cost $133.13 per person in advance, tax included. Annual Passholders and DVC members can purchase tickets for $101.18 per person, tax included. Tickets purchased the day of the event cost $137.39 per person, tax included.

Disney After Hours – Magic Kingdom

Please note: Disney After Hours is temporarily unavailable.

By purchasing a ticket to Disney After Hours, you can enter Magic Kingdom on select dates for an extra 3 hours at night after the park closes to the general public. About 25 attractions and character meet and greets will remain open, including: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Disney Princess Greetings at Princess Fairytale Hall, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and more. Ice cream, popcorn and select bottled beverages are included with the cost of admission and available at carts stationed through the park.

There are a limited number of tickets for each date.

Tickets cost $137.39 per person in advance, tax included. Annual Passholders and DVC members can purchase tickets for $105.44 per person, tax included. Tickets purchased the day of the event cost $148.04 per person, tax included.

Disney Vacation Club members get $30 off per ticket. Discounted tickets must be purchased at least 1 day prior to the event. 

Disney After Hours Boo Bash – Magic Kingdom

New for 2021, Disney After Hours Boo Bash will take place on select dates early August through October 31 (Halloween) for 3 hours at night, after the park closes to the general public. Select attractions will remain open and there will be character sightings and Halloween décor throughout the park. A Boo Bash ticket allows you to enter Magic Kingdom Park as early as 7:00 pm, without the need for a day park ticket or Disney Park Pass theme park reservation.

Disney Very Merriest After Hours – Magic Kingdom

New for 2021, Disney Very Merriest After Hours will take place on select dates mid-November through late December for 4 hours at night, after the park closes to the general public. Select attractions will remain open and there will be character sightings, a fireworks show, Cinderella Castle projections and Christmas décor throughout the park. Some attractions will have a holiday-themed overlay. A Very Merriest ticket allows you to enter Magic Kingdom Park as early as 7:00 pm, without the need for a day park ticket or Disney Park Pass theme park reservation.

Disney Villains After Hours – Magic Kingdom

Please note: Disney Villains After Hours is temporarily unavailable.

By purchasing a ticket to Disney Villains After Hours, you can enter Magic Kingdom on select dates for an extra 3 hours at night after the park closes to the general public. About 25 attractions and character meet and greets will remain open. Ice cream, popcorn and select bottled beverages are included with the cost of admission and available at carts stationed through the park.

Special events and activities for Disney Villains After Hours include:

Guests are encourage to dress up in attire inspired by their favorite villain, but please review Walt Disney World’s costuming guidelines.

Please note: the villains will not participate in character meet and greets during this event.

Tickets cost $154.43 per person in advance, tax included. DVC members and Annual Passholders can purchase tickets for $122.48 per person, tax included. Tickets purchased the day of the event cost $165.08 per person, tax included.

Disney Vacation Club members get $30 off per ticket. Discounted tickets must be purchased at least 1 day prior to the event. 

Rider Switch (aka Child Swap or Baby Swap)

Will you be visiting Walt Disney World with one or more children who are too short to ride some of the attractions you’d like to experience (or just don’t want to ride)? You and others in your party can still ride as long as you have at least two adults present who are capable of watching the children, by taking advantage of the Rider Switch, which is available on most height-restricted rides and a handful of others. When you enter the queue area, tell the Cast Member you’d like to do Rider Switch. This allows the first group of adults to ride while the second group stays with the children. Then the second group can ride — without having to wait in the regular line — while the first group stays with the children.

Most of these rides have a dedicated Lightning Lane entrance, so the second group basically gets a special Lightning Lane entry pass, usually valid for the rest of the day. If logistically it makes sense for the second group to ride later in the day, that can typically be accommodated. On some rides, that won’t work because they don’t use Lightning Lane to handle Rider Switch. If you do want to have the second group ride later, ask the cast member if that will work.

You don’t have total freedom to split your party any way you want, as there’s a limit on the number of guests that can ride in the second group. That limit is usually about 3 or 4, but can vary at Disney’s discretion. For example, if 10 total adults want to ride, you might prefer to have 6 adults ride first and 4 ride second, but Disney might have a limit of 3 adults in the second group. Be sure to check before you make concrete plans about who’s riding with who!

As always, Disney can change specific procedures at any time, but they have had some form of this process for many years. Just ask any cast member at the entrance of the ride if the ride has Rider Switch, and if so, how it works. Be prepared to be flexible!

Single Rider Line

If you don’t mind possibly sitting separate from the rest of your party, use the Single Rider line, which is available at Expedition Everest, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Rock N Rollercoaster and Test Track. The Cast Members loading ride vehicles draw from the Single Rider line to fill in empty seats, so this line often moves much faster than the regular line.

“Always use the Single Rider line for Test Track. 75% of the time my wife and I end up in the same vehicle, just not next to each other. The ride sits 3 across, so a lot of times, they will need 2 people: one in the front seat, one in the back. I’ve walked on line and been on the ride in 10 minutes, while the standby line is well over 1 hour.” – Kevin P from Bayport, NY

Special Needs

Those with special needs (mobility, visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities) can get a special pass, which is called a Disability Access Service (DAS) card. Beginning Fall 2021, you have the option to enroll in the DAS program pre-arrival and DAS participants can then select attractions directly in the MyDisneyExperience app. You can also enroll in the DAS program at Guest Services when you arrive.

Different passes are offered to people with different needs, and depending on the type of pass, may allow you easier access to the various attractions. For more info for those with disabilities who are planning a trip to Disney World, we list several resources in our Walt Disney World FAQ.

Essential Equipment

When you’re planning your trip to Walt Disney World, remember two words: HOT and HUMID. Temperatures in the 90s (Fahrenheit) and humidity readings in the 90%+ range are not at all uncommon in Orlando, even in the spring and fall. Also, bear in mind that there is a LOT of walking at Walt Disney World. Once you’ve trekked through four large theme parks, we guarantee you will have tired feet!

However, there are several items you can bring (or purchase at Walt Disney World) that will help to make your trip much more comfortable:

Moisture-Wicking Socks

You might be surprised to learn that cotton socks are NOT the best for walking in the heat. They quickly become saturated with moisture, which makes them get sticky and rub and chafe — voila, nasty blisters. A much better choice are high-tech socks that wick moisture away from your skin and still feel dry even in humid weather. Yes, they’re usually made of artificial fibers but in this case it’s a good thing. Look for “performance” socks designed for runners or hikers. Some brands are super expensive, but there are some good deals out there. You want socks made with some combination of CoolMax, polyester, olefin, spandex, tencel, wool and/or lycra. Avoid any sock with more than a tiny percentage of cotton. Even if the socks are labeled “performance” or “moisture-wicking,” if they’re mostly cotton they are just not going to work well.

When we first looked into buying these we thought it was crazy to pay $10 or more for a pair of socks (they’ve come down in price considerably since then). But one of us (Don) routinely gets horrible blisters walking around the parks, so we bought a few pairs of different brands to try them out. Don tried Under Armour Resistor, Wigwam Cool-Lite, Swiftwick Aspire, and Fox River Wick Dry, all of which are fine; buy whatever is on sale. You can also find these socks at Target, Walmart, and so forth, but read the package carefully. Champion, for example, makes some nice polyester and lycra “Double Dry” socks, but also sells a cheaper sock also labeled Double Dry that is mostly cotton.

Comfortable Shoes or Sandals

Be sure to buy these well before the trip and wear them on some walks around the neighborhood, to make sure they don’t “rub you the wrong way.” Different people swear by different shoes, but the critical components most people need are arch support and thick soles. Thin-soled shoes of any kind are a recipe for disaster — the hot pavement radiates up through them and they don’t cushion your foot against the cement walkways. Some people love Teva brand athletic sandals. Personally we prefer a good quality pair of athletic (walking) shoes. Zappos is one of our favorite places to buy shoes. It offers FREE shipping and FREE returns (so if the shoes don’t fit or you hate ’em, you aren’t out anything). Zappos has an amazing variety of shoes, so if you have a hard time finding your size, width or exactly the right shoes, we highly recommend checking it out.

Another good place for walking shoes is Amazon.com. Even though Zappos is owned by Amazon.com, the selection is slightly different between the two sites, so they’re both worth checking out.

Moleskin (foot padding)

Don’t worry, moleskin is just thick flannel; no actual moles are harmed to make it! This product is much better than regular sticky bandages for preventing blisters. If you know your shoe is rubbing at a certain point, or you start to feel a “hot spot” on your foot, just cut a piece of moleskin to size and cover that area of skin to prevent it from rubbing on your sock/shoe. It works really well. Available in most American pharmacies under the Dr. Scholl’s brand. Buy it in advance so you can pre-cut some to various sizes. Moleskin is sold in many Walt Disney World shops (usually it’s behind the counter and you must ask for it), but at inflated prices.


A light-colored ball cap or other hat with a brim is a great thing to have at Walt Disney World. It gives your face a little shade, which both keeps you cooler and helps prevent sunburn. (It also helps to prevent sunburn on the top of your head — obviously this is a worry if you’re a little light in the hair department, but you can even get burned along the part in your hair!) Hats are sold everywhere in the theme parks, but $19-$20 for a ball cap is the norm. It’s much cheaper to bring one along from home: you can get Disney-themed hats many places for much less.

We’re big fans of the wide-brimmed “sun hat”  or “boonie” style. The one Don wears most often makes him look like a river guide, but it’s light, breathable, packs easily, and it really keeps the sun off. There are more fashionable hats available that also have a nice wide brim. But any hat with any brim is better than no hat. The sun in Florida can be brutal.


You’ll need lots of this, and get at least SPF 20. Don’t say “oh, I never burn.” You WILL burn at Walt Disney World. There is a lot of water and a lot of light-colored concrete everywhere, all radiating the sun’s rays at you from every angle. This can cause burns in the most unlikely places, like the backs of your knees and under your chin! Every time we go to Walt Disney World we see a number of poor souls who look like cooked lobsters — don’t let this be you! Also keep in mind that if it’s generally sunny year-round in Orlando, with the occasional break for thunderstorms, especially in the Fall. The average weather for Christmas day in Orlando is sunny and 72 F (22 C).

We personally like the spray-on sunscreen, because it just sprays on with no rubbing and feels nice and cool. We find it is very effective, waterproof, light and not sticky. For their faces, Sarah and the kids prefer the sunscreen sticks, but Don just sprays sunscreen into his hand and rubs it on his face. You can buy sunscreen throughout Walt Disney World, but the selection tends to be limited, and it’s a lot cheaper to buy it at home.

In recent years we’ve been really pleased with Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen. We’ve tried the spray-on, the cream/liquid and the sticks. Compared to the ones we were using (mostly Coppertone and Banana Boat) it feels much less greasy. You don’t feel like you’ve been coated in plastic when it dries. It also smells nicer, which is a big plus for the kids. It’s definitely more expensive, but for us it’s worth it. We’ve also seen generic store-brand versions of the Ultra Sheer at Walgreens and CVS, and both of them work just as well.

Handy sunscreen tip: if you wear a hat with a decent brim, you can skip putting sunscreen on your forehead. This solves the problem of sunscreen mixing with sweat and dripping down into your eyes.

Waist Pack or Backpack

A waist pack (aka fanny pack, or “bum bag” as our British, Aussie and Kiwi friends would say) makes it much easier to carry your stuff (ID, hotel key card, money, credit cards) around, is relatively secure against pickpockets if you wear the bag in front, and keeps your hands free. Yes, they look kind of silly, but so do Mickey Mouse ears! Don’t worry, you will see lots of people at Walt Disney World sporting both.

Alternatively, consider a small backpack/daypack. As long as it’s small and squishy enough, you can probably cram it in beside you on any rides that don’t provide storage space for personal items. A favorite of many Disney park fans is the Baggallini Messenger Bag, which is sort of a sling/backpack hybrid with lots and lots of pockets and compartments, including an outer mesh pocket that’s perfect for a water bottle.

Personal Handheld Fan with a Mister/Spray Bottle Attached

These fans are a low-tech personal “air conditioner” that can be surprisingly effective on a hot day. They usually come with a long strap so you can sling them over a shoulder. One brand name (widely sold in the theme parks for $17) is Squeeze Breeze by O2 Cool. It’s a good idea to buy these BEFORE you go, because the exact same item or even a fancier version can often be found for a lot less, either online or at a discount store like Target or Walmart! Thanks to Pam P for the info.

Cooling Towel

This is a high-tech towel that holds more water than a plain cotton or microfiber towel. Typically they are mostly made from PVA (polyvinyl alcohol, a type of water-absorbent plastic), and they are like a thin sponge with a stronger polyester backing to keep them from tearing or falling apart. To use one, you wet it and drape it over your shoulders, and as the water evaporates the surface cools, which draws heat from your body and also cools the air surrounding your head and chest. When they get dry enough to stop working well, you just re-wet them in the nearest bathroom sink or water fountain. These work best when the air is dry (thus increasing the evaporation and cooling), so they work really well in a very dry place like Arizona, and not well at all in a very humid place like New Orleans. Orlando is somewhere in the middle and unless the humidity is unseasonably high you will generally find that wearing the towel keeps you cooler than not wearing it.

You can buy various name brands like Frogg Toggs or O2 Cool either online or at big chain stores like Target or Walmart, or just buy the cheapest PVA towel you can find. They’re often sold in the auto store or auto section of discount stores as car drying towels or “synthetic chamois.” You can cut them in half or even smaller if you find that wearing a whole one is overkill.

Rain Poncho

It often rains in the afternoons at Walt Disney World, but the showers tend to be fairly short-lived. We find umbrellas a hassle to carry around. A rain poncho is much easier, because it squishes down to almost nothing and can be put away in a pocket, backpack or waist bag. A poncho comes in handy for wet rides like Kali River Rapids, too.

We were able to buy a large multi-pack of thin disposable ponchos for about $1 each online, and we just grab a handful before each trip. You can carry one easily in your pocket or pack. They aren’t super sturdy, but they work fine for keeping the rain off. When it stops raining, you can just toss it. MouseSavers.com reader Cheryl D has a good tip: “Walmart has 87 cent ’emergency ponchos’ in their camping supply department that are quite nice. They are transparent, hooded and roomy. We buy them by the dozen since ponchos never seem to fold up into those tiny little packages after used.” You can also often find semi-disposable ponchos at dollar stores.

If you don’t find a poncho that cheap, or don’t want to carry a poncho with you, don’t worry. Better-quality plastic ponchos are sold everywhere at Walt Disney World for about $9. A good thing to know is that if your Disney World poncho rips during that trip, you can take it and your receipt to the nearest Disney World shop that sells them and they will replace it.

If you’d like a lightweight windbreaker that will also keep the rain off, we bought a packable nylon jacket for Don, and it works well and packs into its own pouch (the pocket turns inside out and becomes a mesh bag). It’s also nice in the mornings on those days when it’s just a little nippy or windy, but is going to warm up later.

Water Bottle and Strap

You will need to drink a lot of water due to the heat. There are plenty of water fountains all over Walt Disney World and a fair number of water bottle filling stations, so bringing your own bottle is a great way to save. You can buy bottled water, but it’s very pricey. Any counter-service restaurant or stand that serves drinks in cups will give you a small cup of cold filtered water FREE at any time, but you may have to wait in line, and it’s no help if you’re halfway through the line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with a thirsty child. Regular plastic water bottles or metal water bottles work fine, but the water in Florida can taste and/or smell a little odd, so if you’re picky about taste, a filtering water bottle is a good way to go. We like the Brita personal filter bottle.

A strap or sling makes water bottles much easier to carry with you. You can easily buy one that will fit most disposable water bottles when you arrive, as they are available for about $4 in every park. If you want something a little more durable or you want to carry your own reusable water bottles, we use these ChicoBag Bottle Slings. They are super light and hold almost any personal water bottle, including the Brita filter bottles mentioned above. The strap works well for normal-to-tall adults, and can be adjusted for children by tying a knot in the strap.

Pop-up Hamper

OK, a pop-up hamper really doesn’t count as “essential” but it is handy for traveling. It has a sewn-in springy wire, so you just unfold it and it pops out into a small hamper. We like the rectangular kind with a circular opening on the top. We have one from DAZZ and one from StorageIdeas and like them both. They only weigh 8 ounces, fold down to a small circle, and fit nicely into hotel and stateroom closets. The instructions provided were cryptic, so pay attention when you unfold them. It’s easy to fold them down to a flat rectangle, but to then collapse that to a small circle is trickier. Hold the rectangle on opposite corners, then twist the two corners in opposite directions like you’re trying to make the springy outer wire into a figure 8. This will cause the whole wire to sort of collapse in on itself and make one circle with three stacked loops. Wrap the elastic band that came with it around it to keep it coiled up. Try it a few times when you unpack it to get the hang of it.

Ultimate Packing List & Tips for Packing Better

This one will definitely save you some time even before you head to Walt Disney World! We’ve updated and reorganized a great list originally compiled by Michelle E from Charlotte, NC. This packing list includes everything you would ever need, and a lot you don’t — it’s smart to pack as light as possible since there are surcharges at most airlines for checked bags!

It’s in Word format so that you can adapt it to your own needs — just delete any items that don’t apply to you. Also includes a checklist of things to do before you go, such as stopping the paper and the mail, etc.

Disney World Vacation Ultimate Packing List

  • To download the list in Windows, right-click on the link and select “Save Link As.”
  • To download the list on a Mac, hold down the Option key while selecting the link.

TSA Packing Hints

Be sure to check out the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web page that discusses baggage limitations and tells you what NOT to pack in your checked luggage — some of the items may surprise you.

In addition, bear in mind that liquids and gels over 100 ml (3.4 fl oz)  are banned from CARRY-ON luggage, and 100 ml or smaller bottles or tubes must be carried through security in a single, clear, quart-sized zip-top bag. This includes items such as deodorant, suntan lotion, toothpaste, perfume, makeup, contact lens solution, bottled water, etc.

Please note: Due to COVID-19, TSA is allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces per passenger in carry-on bags until further notice. Please confirm this information before packing for your trip.

  • Need small sizes of your favorite items to fit in a TSA-approved baggie? You can buy a TSA-approved bottle set and fill them with your favorite lotion, hand sanitizer, shampoo, etc.

NEVER pack valuables in checked luggage! Keep anything valuable (electronics, jewelry) or hard to replace (prescription medications, glasses/contacts, photos) with you, in your carry-on luggage. You should also keep all travel documents for the entire trip (flight/hotel/rental car confirmations, trip insurance documents, etc.) with you in your handbag or carry-on.

For Repeat Visitors: The Disney Box

“We make a Disney trip every year with our children, and the most frustrating thing we find is having to ‘re-purchase’ souvenirs like autograph books, Disney hats, etc. Here’s my hint for keeping that to a minimum: if your kids are like mine, their Disney souvenirs are treasured possessions after they return…until the next big thing comes along, like the start of school or whatever. When they sort of lose interest in them, I box up the pin lanyards, autograph books, pens, ponchos, fans…anything that provided comfort or seemed indispensable to them. I just label the box ‘Disney’ and I store it with the luggage. When I am packing for the next trip, I slip the things into a suitcase and don’t let on that I have them until we arrive. This saves me a bundle, and the souvenirs are there when the kids need them the most. The box is also a great place to ‘pre-pack’ the sunscreen [note from MouseSavers: be sure to check the expiration date – it loses its effectiveness after a while], sunglasses, and other stuff you don’t think about until you are at Disney and faced with paying a premium price.” – Susan F from Seattle, WA

For Repeat Visitors: Owner’s Locker

Owner's Locker VanIf you’re a regular visitor to Walt Disney World, you should look into a service called Owner’s Locker:

Owner’s Locker allows you to store your vacation gear between visits, which means less packing, less hassles, less hauling and less stress!

Owner’s Locker provides you with a container to store personal items that you regularly use at Walt Disney World, such as toiletries, an air bed, a water filter, your favorite liquor — just about anything that makes your stay more pleasant.

Owner’s Locker picks the container up from your resort when you check out and stores it in a climate-controlled warehouse until you return.

Here’s the great part: Owner’s Locker will have your container waiting for you at your resort’s bell stand when you come back!

Save Time on Disney Transportation

“If you want to go to Epcot — or just the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) — at the close of the Magic Kingdom, but you want to avoid the crazy rush at the monorail to the TTC, take the monorail labelled ‘Magic Kingdom Resorts’ instead. It’s a lot less crowded and will take you to the TTC, too! In the meantime, you’ll get a nice look at the Magic Kingdom Resorts. There are not as many monorails running on the Magic Kingdom Resorts line, but it still seems to be the quicker way to go–with a lot less pushing & shoving.” – Elizabeth H from Northumberland, PA

“Taking a bus from your Disney resort to the Magic Kingdom can dramatically reduce the time required to get there. The buses drive AROUND the Seven Seas Lagoon and drop you at the gate to the park. [Note from MouseSavers: If you arrive by car or by the Epcot monorail, you must take a ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom, which takes extra time.] The ferry trip is charming and part of the anticipation building element of getting to the Magic Kingdom, but there are times when you just want to get there as quickly as possible, and avoid another round of queuing and waiting. This is obviously most effective at non-peak traveling times of the day, when the buses are not full and stopping at every stop (e.g., leaving for, and returning from lunch at the hotel). This is also most effective at busier times of the year if you’re forced to travel then.” – Jeff D from Toms River, NJ

“If you are staying at a Disney resort and are planning a night out at Downtown Disney [now Disney Springs], it is faster to drive your own car or take a cab. You might even be able to share with someone else going that way. The buses make several stops along the way.” – Tasha B from Jacksonville, FL

Augie from Long Island, NY offers these great hints for those who don’t mind a little extra walking to save a lot of time:

  1. Going to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Epcot from the Swan, Dolphin, BoardWalk, Beach Club or Yacht Club? Or vice versa? Walking always beats the boats!
  2. When leaving a theme park and taking the bus back to BoardWalk, Beach Club or Yacht Club, you can get on the Swan/Dolphin bus instead. It is usually a shorter or no wait, and not as crowded, and it’s a short walk from the Swan/Dolphin to the other hotels. Get off at the Swan stop for the BoardWalk or the Dolphin stop for the Beach/Yacht Club.
  3. When going between parks, if the Magic Kingdom bus line is crowded, get on the bus to the Contemporary. It’s a short walk to Magic Kingdom from the stop. Similarly, if the Epcot buses are busy, take the Beach Club or Boardwalk bus and walk to the International Gateway from there; it’s roughly the same amount of walking.
  4. [Note from MouseSavers: Another good one to remember is that when going from the Polynesian to Epcot, it’s typically faster to walk to the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC) to pick up the Epcot monorail.]

Getting Around Disney World Faster

First time visitors to Walt Disney World are often surprised to find out that the parks, hotels, and other locations are miles away from each other and getting between them really requires some kind of motorized transportation. You can certainly use Disney transportation, which is free, but it has a few downsides:

  1. You need to wait for the transportation to come, which might take as long as 20-30 minutes.
  2. The transportation often makes other stops rather than going directly to the destination you want. Most of the Disney buses, for example, serve multiple hotels.
  3. There is not always a transportation option that goes directly between your current location and your desired destination, especially if you are travelling from one hotel to another (for example, to eat dinner at a different resort restaurant, or to go to the Polynesian Luau or the Hoop-De-Doo Revue). In such cases, you generally end up having to change buses, which takes a lot of extra time.

Driving your own car or a rental car is a faster and more flexible option. However, even if you’re just going to another part of the Disney property, you’ll have to navigate a somewhat confusing complex of streets and freeways inside Disney property, almost none of which have normal street signs.

If you own an auto GPS receiver (or are considering the purchase of a GPS unit), this is a great use for it! Best of all, there is an exclusive MouseSavers Points of Interest file you can upload to most GPS units, which will help you navigate to pretty much anywhere mentioned here on the site.

Alternatively, a good map will prove very helpful. If you are a member of AAA, you can get maps for free from your local office.

Want maps of the Walt Disney World parks? We’ve got links to PDF maps you can download onto a tablet or phone, or print out if you have a large enough printer.

See Mickey (and Other Characters) Faster

Please note: Character Meet and Greets are temporarily suspended. Characters are appearing in the parks in new ways, for example: sailing the waterways of Animal Kingdom or processions along the World Showcase promenade at Epcot. You may also see characters as you are walking around the parks, or waiting in line for a ride or attraction.

Some tips from a Character Attendant who escorts the characters:

  • Believe it or not, everyone will get through the character lines more quickly when families get in one line together. Holding places in line and then having to round up family members, or having the family photographer off on the side and then trying to jump in to take pictures adds to the confusion and slows the line.
  • Have everything ready to go before you get to the front of the line. Have cameras out of camera bags, turned on and lens caps off. Have autograph books out and pens ready with the caps off. Have your children out of the stroller before it’s time for them to go up and visit the characters.
  • If you have a large group, have a plan. Decide in what order you are going to go up for your photos before you get in the line. For instance, you might decide little Bobby and Sally will take a photo with the character first, then Aunt Judy and Uncle Jim, then Grandma and Grandpa.

Thanks to Jim R for the info!

“We wished we’d known early on about the weekly schedule (a 1/3 size sheet of paper) available at each park. It lists any attractions that have unusual opening or closing times, parades, shows AND where and when to find the characters who are posing for pictures and signing autographs. Once we found that, we were able to find the character greeting spots (or ask about alternate indoor locations when it was raining) and get to one of the early sessions before the lines got quite so long.” – Susan R from Arvada, CO

“I would like to share a tip I received from some of the staff at WDW. My son loves the characters and we always seem to just miss them. I finally was talking to one of the attendants at the Aladdin ride and she was kind enough to call in on her 2 way radio and find out all of the times that the characters would be in her area. We did that in every area (Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, etc..) and got tons of autographs. Another tip she shared with me is that if you visit the parks in the late fall and early winter you will see more characters due to the fact that they can stay in their suits for longer periods without needing hydration.” – Janna M from Jacksonville, FL

“Book a character breakfast in Magic Kingdom just before the park opens. We had breakfast with Pooh & Friends at Crystal Palace with 9:10 am reservations. We got to the gate at 8:30, walked through the crowds, entered the park early. It was beautiful walking through empty Main Street. We stopped to take some family photos. Then to our surprise, Mickey & Minnie were in front of the castle posing for pictures. We only had to wait for 2 families and then we were able to casually take a few of our own. The kids loved it!!!” – The S. Family from Commerce Township, MI

“We caught Mickey the last two years at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. He has his own studio there, and right when he opens at 10:45 there is not a line. Last year he was open when we went by at 10:30. My son went in, had his picture taken, spent some time. My daughter was, at that point, scared of all characters. Mickey motioned to her to come in, but she would not. So he came out to her!!! He spoke with her, and she got up and held his hand for a picture. That was the highlight of the whole trip.” – Penny J from Eden Prairie, MN

“At the Merry Christmas Party, we … ended up watching the first parade and got good seats in front of Town Hall. Since this is where the first parade ends and the second parade starts, all the characters stay in the general area between parades. We got pictures of Goofy, eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Chip and Dale, etc. all in their Christmas garb. Also it’s where Mickey and Minnie are located, and the only place you can get a picture of the two together with the kids. We didn’t have to wait in line more than a couple of minutes for anyone, including Mickey and Minnie. You do need to wait about 10 to 15 minutes after the parade ends for the characters to go out, but it is well worth it.” – Penny J from Eden Prairie, MN

Disney Visa cardholders get access to two character meet and greets, which include complimentary downloads of your Disney PhotoPass photos. The Disney Character Experience is available daily from 1:00 pm – 7:00 pm in Epcot at the Disney Visa Photo Spot in Future World, next to Journey Into Imagination With Figment. The Star Wars Character Experience is available daily from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Star Wars Launch Bay in the Animation Courtyard. You will need to show your Disney Visa card to enter these meet and greets; offer valid for up to 6 people per cardmember account (each cardmember account may be used for entry only one time per day). Some things to keep in mind:

Participating in Shows & Parades

We’re frequently asked “how can we be in the parade or get picked to participate in a show?”

For the shows, they are looking for certain physical “types” (which vary) and for very enthusiastic audience members. Your best chance is to stand up, cheer and generally make a spectacle of yourself! (Exception: Jedi Training Academy. See below for how to participate.)

There is really no way to have a better chance of being selected as a “parade family.” Disney Cast Members pick families randomly off the streets in the theme parks to ride on a float and wave to the crowds. Usually it seems as if they are looking for an “average” family of four with small children.

Jedi Training Academy

Star Wars: Jedi Training Academy is a 30-minute live show at Disney’s Hollywood Studio, featuring inspiring music and awesome lightsaber duels. Approximately 15 Padawan participants (guests ages 4-12) can register for the show. They will be invited to don a brown robe and pledge the sacred Jedi Oath. Then they will grab a lightsaber and hone their battle skills as they learn age-old techniques from a real Jedi Master.

If your child would like to participate in Jedi Training Academy, be sure to take the child directly to the ABC Sound Studio (go to the central plaza and turn left) first thing in the morning, where you can sign up. The child must be present in order to sign up. Registration typically fills up by lunchtime.

Best Places to Watch Magic Kingdom Parades

Please note: Walt Disney World parades are temporarily suspended. Instead there are unscheduled appearances in each of the theme parks throughout the day. In Magic Kingdom, Disney characters walk or ride the the Magic Kingdom park parade route; in Animal Kingdom they sail on the waterways; at Epcot there are processions along World Showcase promenade; and in Disney’s Hollywood Studios there are motorcades on Hollywood Boulevard. 

Parades in Magic Kingdom generally go through Town Square, down Main Street, U.S.A., around Central Plaza (also known as The Hub, in front of Cinderella Castle) and then go over the bridge to Liberty Square, along the waterfront and into Frontierland. Some of the parades will start in Frontierland and some will start in Town Square. But they follow the same route. Viewing spots are first-come, first-served anywhere along the route, unless you purchase the Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package, which includes access to a reserved viewing area.

Our recommendation is to watch the parade from Liberty Square or Frontierland as most folks will gather on Main Street, U.S.A. or the Hub (in front of Cinderella Castle) to watch the parade. You are more likely to find a good spot in Liberty Square or Frontierland without having to show up quite as early, and, once the parade has passed, it can be a bit easier to get away from the crowds and back to the rides! (One exception to this recommendation is the Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party; this is a smaller parade that comes down Main Street and ends at Cinderella Castle with a dance party.)

We’ve also heard from several readers with their tips and strategies for watching the Magic Kingdom parades:

“We like to watch the parade from Frontierland, where it usually starts. Once it passes you have a clear shot to Adventureland, which is pretty empty because people are still watching the parade. Parades are also a great time to get into your favorite table service restaurant for a late lunch or early dinner.” – Tasha B from Jacksonville, FL

Another reader agrees: “I would suggest watching the afternoon parade from Frontierland. The parade generally begins here, and therefore your group can get into more attractions while others are still watching the parade. Also, there is an added perk – my children have been picked from the crowd to dance and play with the characters bringing up the rear of the parade, and other children have been invited each time we’ve watched from this location. It’s worth a shot to make your child’s day!” – Elizabeth L from Centerville, Ohio

“Since we had seen the parade before we didn’t feel the need to see it again …. we wanted to take advantage of everyone watching the parade to get on some of the more popular rides. Much to our surprise the parade found its way to the back of the park where we were waiting for some rides. Instead of the mobs of people, we were able to get an up close and personal view of the parade. Almost all the walking characters stopped in front of us to pat the heads and shake the hands of our children. They were awestruck. So our advice… is to watch the parade from the back of the park, where you will thoroughly enjoy front row seats.” – Philip and Karen S

“For the afternoon parade in the Magic Kingdom, I tell people to sit on the left side of Main Street as you look at the castle and across from the bakery. It is always shady at that time of the day. If you get there 45 minutes before the parade (as you’d have to, if you want to get the curb seats) you can send someone over to the bakery to get cookies, or our favorite, the ice cream cookie sandwich. Also, cold drinks are available. So while you are waiting in the shade for the parade to begin, you have great seats and a snack and can people watch too.” – Gayle S from Fairfield, CT

While you’re waiting for a parade to start, MouseSavers reader Jennifer S from Munster, IN suggests the following: “take a deck of cards into the park with you (or buy a deck there). While waiting for the parades to begin, my kids play cards! You cannot imagine the number of kids who want to join in with them. Often they have a 10 kids playing and it sure passes the hour or so waiting time!”

If you were planning to have a sit down lunch, and want one of the best viewing spots for the parade, you can purchase the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package. This package includes lunch at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and admission to a VIP viewing area for the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. The cost is $57.51 per adult (age 10 and up) and $20.24 per child (age 3-9), tax included.

Best Places to Watch Evening Fireworks & Spectaculars

Please note: Some firework shows and evening spectaculars have returned. Many dessert parties and special viewing options are temporarily unavailable. On October 1, 2021, two nighttime spectaculars celebrating Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary will debut: “Disney Enchantment” in Magic Kingdom and “Harmonious” in Epcot World Showcase.

Each of the Walt Disney World parks has an evening fireworks show or “spectacular” and there are a variety of viewing options from simply grabbing a good spot early enough to a range of dinner and dessert packages. We cover all the viewing options and have recommendations on our Disney World Evening Fireworks & Spectaculars page so that you can find an option that makes the best use of your vacation time and your travel dollars!

Treating Cast Members Right

“Cast Member” (CM) is a Disney term for employee. The reason for this terminology is that Disney expects its workers to act as if they are “onstage” whenever they are working with the public.

The vast majority of Cast Members are exceptionally friendly, kind and helpful. However, they take a lot of abuse from guests who don’t realize what a tough job it can be to deal with large crowds of demanding people all day. As a guest, it’s easy to go into “vacation mode” and start thinking of CMs as if they are Audio-Animatronic or “just part of the Disney experience.”

In reality, of course, they are only human. Being polite to you and assisting you is a Cast Member’s job — but as with any employee anywhere, they can choose to do the bare minimum. That’s why having the right attitude can change your whole experience at Walt Disney World. So few guests really go out of their way to be friendly, kind and patient toward CMs that when you make that extra effort, it is often returned tenfold!

Joe M from Columbus, GA offers these words of wisdom about Cast Members, which we couldn’t agree with more!

“Be friendly to all Cast Members. They are not responsible for the heat, crowds, obnoxious guests, or prices. They do, however, control most of your park experience.

We have been offered priority seats (when available) just because we were having a friendly conversation with the attending Cast Member. On our last trip we were given 3 free drinks for our children because we have befriended some Cast Members and we ALWAYS stop by their location to say hello. Our sons were given a special FastPass because they were polite to a Cast Member. I had a special dish made for me at a WDW restaurant because I mentioned how much I enjoyed and missed it. (The entree had been discontinued). We have been given special seating for fireworks and parades simply because we were nice to the Cast Members working that event.

We never ask for anything, we just recognize that these people are working very hard to be sure OUR vacation is the best.”

In short, when it comes to dealing with Cast Members, the Golden Rule definitely applies: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” Treat a Cast Member with a little extra kindness and friendliness, and that CM is much more likely to “go the extra mile” for you.

Lost Kids

A parent’s worst nightmare is losing track of small children in a crowded theme park. It happens surprisingly often, because everyone (kids and adults) can get distracted by all the fun things going on around them. Going on a hunt for a lost child can really put a damper on your day.

For that reason, be sure your kids know what a Cast Member badge looks like (white, oval). If they become separated from you, tell them to find the nearest Cast Member, who will help them find you.

If you can’t find your child, don’t panic. Locate the nearest Cast Member, who will direct you on what to do next. There is a centralized “Lost Parents” system and usually they’ll have you all reunited in minutes. Good to know: no child has ever been kidnapped from a Disney theme park (perhaps because there are hidden cameras everywhere).

To make it easier for a CM to reunite you with your child in case you are separated, it’s a good idea to make sure each child has your cell phone number and/or other contact info physically on him somewhere. There are many commercially-produced ID products for kids, ranging from rubber bracelets to temporary tattoos to dog tags to shoelaces printed with your contact info. However, there’s no need to spend money on any of those. You can write the information in permanent marker on a piece of white fabric and safety-pin it into the back of the child’s shirt collar, or put it on a slip of paper that is slipped into a shoe or pocket. If your kids are wearing lanyards (for pin collecting or just to hold their room key and ticket), the attached plastic sleeve is a good place to stow a business card with your contact info, or at least a piece of paper with your cell number. Don’t put your child’s first name or nickname anywhere that is visible to a casual observer.

MouseSavers.com reader Francis T has this additional suggestion: “Use a digital camera to take a photo of your kids BEFORE you head out to the park. Take a close up head shot and a full body shot. In the unlikely event that you and your children become separated, you have digital photos to show cast members, security guard or local police. Descriptions are great, but a picture is worth a thousand words. And don’t forget to retake the photos when you buy and wear that new Disney sweatshirt, tee shirt or hat!”

MouseSavers.com reader Cristina C from Mexico has this suggestion for those whose kids don’t speak English: “My kids speak only Spanish so I write with permanent ink on a piece of white fabric and attach it in the back of their shirts on the inside. As soon as we get somewhere I teach them who can help them in case they get lost and tell them to show that person where they have the information tag with the info in English: ‘I only speak Spanish.’ ‘My name is…and nick name is…’ along with both mom’s and dad’s names and cellphone numbers.” Don’t put your child’s first name or nickname anywhere that is visible to a casual observer.