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?
- How to Take MouseSavers.com Along on Your Vacation
- Essential Equipment
- Ultimate Packing List & Tips for Packing Better
- For Repeat Visitors: The Disney Box
- For Repeat Visitors: Owner’s Locker
- Avoid the Crowds
- Shorter Waits in Ride Lines
- Save Time on Disney Transportation
- Getting Around Disney World Faster
- See Mickey (and Other Characters) Faster
- Participating in Shows & Parades
- Best Places to Watch Shows & Parades
- Treating Cast Members Right
- Lost Kids
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.
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!
By the way, if you’d like to have a MouseSavers icon on your iPhone, Android, Windows Phone or Blackberry that will take you directly to the site, click here for directions.
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:
You might be surprised to learn that cotton socks are NOT the best for walking in the heat. They quickly become saturated with moisture and then they start to rub — voila, nasty blisters. A much better choice are high-tech socks that wick moisture away from your skin. Yes, they’re usually made of artificial fibers but in this case it’s a good thing. CoolMax is a name-brand fiber that works well, but there are lots of good competitors. Amazingly enough, wool socks work really well, as long as you get thin ones designed for summer hiking and not the thick ones designed for winter sports. Look for “performance” socks designed for runners or hikers. They’re expensive, but seriously worth every penny. You want socks made with some combination of CoolMax, polyester, olefin, spandex, 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, in some cases, $12-$18 per pair (that is not a typo) for socks. 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. They worked incredibly well, and now Don has a special “theme park sock” section in his sock drawer that has socks just for Walt Disney World and other travel where there’s going to be a lot of walking. He’s tried Wigwam Cool-Lite, Swiftwick Aspire, and Fox River Wick Dry, all of which worked fine, but finally settled on Swiftwick Pursuit socks, which are made primarily of natural wool, and says they actually keep his feet cooler and more comfortable than the cotton socks he was using. And most important: zero blisters. (Handy tips: check the Swiftwick size chart to make sure you get the right size, and keep in mind that the numbers after the name are just the height of the ankle portion, so a “Pursuit Two” goes two inches up the ankle.) However, there are some cheaper running and hiking socks out there, and all of the various types we tried worked better than plain cotton, so shop around. Champion makes a “Double Dry” sock that’s 95% polyester and not wildly expensive that Sarah wears in the parks. But they also sell other socks under the “Double Dry” label that are 75% cotton, so read the package carefully.
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 parting 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” 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. The average weather in Orlando during the coldest part of winter 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 the last year or so 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. On our last trip, we found that Walgreens makes a generic version, which we found to be extremely similar. It smells a little different, felt good, and worked fine. We’ve also seen multi-packs of it at Costco for decent prices.
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, room key, 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.
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.
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 plentiful water fountains all over Walt Disney World and the water is perfectly safe to drink, but it’s not the best tasting water around. There is an odd sulfur flavor and smell, and let’s just say it’s an acquired taste. 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 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. A filtering water bottle is a good investment. We’ve tried the Rubbermaid and Brita and we liked them both. The Rubbermaid was our overall favorite for a long time, but they recently changed their filter design and it’s not as easy to fill the bottles any more, so we will switch to the Brita when our current filters get old. Note that Brita has at least two different bottles: the “soft squeeze” and the “sport” series. They’re both good, but they use two different filter designs, so make sure you buy the right kind of filter for your 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 bottle, including the Rubbermaid and Brita filter bottles mentioned above, or the popular metal hiking bottles. The strap works well for normal-to-tall adults, and can be adjusted for children by tying a knot in the strap.
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.
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 surcharges are now in place 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.
- To download the list in Windows, right-click on the link and select “Save Target As.”
- To download the list on a Mac, hold down the Option key while clicking on 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 3 ounces are banned from CARRY-ON luggage, and 3-oz 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.
- Need small sizes of your favorite items to fit in a TSA-approved baggie? Check out Minimus.biz, which offers a huge variety of travel-sized items, including toiletries, pharmacy/first aid, laundry soap and lots more.
- Another option is to 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.
“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 indispensible 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
If 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!
Nothing affects the value of your vacation as much as WHEN you choose to go! So, when are the busiest and least busy times at Walt Disney World? Be sure to see the answer in the Frequently Asked Questions section.
“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
- Disney crowd calendar showing you the expected crowd levels, best parks to visit and the parks to avoid, every day for the next 12 months.
- Touring Plans with step-by-step advice for visiting the best Disney attractions while saving you up to four hours in line per day.
- Lines, a mobile phone application showing current and future wait times at every attraction (for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and more).
MouseSavers.com readers get an exclusive discount on subscriptions to TouringPlans.com!
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.
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
The original Fastpass, introduced by Disney in 1999, was the world’s first theme-park attraction reservation system. After 14 years of Fastpass running more or less the same way, Walt Disney World replaced it with a new system called “FastPass+.” (All the other Disney theme parks are still using the “classic” FastPass system.) This new system allows guests to reserve several attractions in advance, potentially up to 60 days before they arrive. Here are a few things you should know about FastPass+, a system that can save you a lot of waiting in line:
- FastPass+ is FREE to anyone who is visiting Walt Disney World.
- FastPass+ is available for the most popular rides and attractions, including character experiences and stage shows.
- Guests who are staying in a Disney-owned Walt Disney World resort or the Swan or Dolphin can book their FastPass+ selections for their entire trip up to 60 days before their arrival date. Guests who are not staying in one of those resorts can book their FastPass+ selections up to 30 days in advance of each individual day of their stay.
- To book FastPass+ selections in advance, guests must link their admission tickets to a user profile on MyDisneyExperience.com. Most tickets issued in the last 4 years (and some older ones) can be linked to MyDisneyExperience. To get 60-day advance booking, the guest must also have a linked reservation at a Disney-owned resort or the Swan or Dolphin.
- To enter the park and to redeem FastPass+ selections, guests must have either a MagicBand or an RFID ticket. The RFID tickets are the normal ones Disney has sold for several years; they are plastic and about the thickness of a credit card.
- If you have an older unused or non-expiring park ticket on paper-like stock and also have a MagicBand from a previous trip or purchased from shopDisney.com (formerly DisneyStore.com), you just need to make sure your older ticket and the MagicBand are both linked to your MyDisneyExperience account. Once they both show up on your account, you can enter the park with the MagicBand and access your FastPasses.
- If you have an older unused or non-expiring park ticket on paper-like stock and no MagicBand, you’ll need to swap your older ticket for an RFID ticket at a Guest Relations window before you can use it to enter the park or to redeem FastPass+ selections. There is no charge to swap the ticket stock, and all your FastPass+ selections will be preserved.
- If you have multiple valid tickets linked to your account, make sure to visit Guest Relations before entering a park on your next trip, to make sure the ticket you want to use is set to the highest priority. For example, if you have both an annual pass and an older non-expiring Park Hopper, you probably want to use the annual pass to enter the park, and save the non-expiring ticket for a future trip. As we discovered the hard way, the system doesn’t do the “logical” thing. It just takes a day off the first ticket it finds in your account, and it’s not obvious which one that will be. You can’t change the priority yourself online; it must be done at Guest Relations.
- Guests can book and change FastPass+ selections using most web browsers, or using the MyDisneyExperience app on any recent iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch or most Android phones and tablets. Guests who don’t have a compatible device can use kiosks inside each park to make or change their selections. See below for tips for getting the best selection when using the in-park kiosks.
- The FastPass+ system is still occasionally being adjusted and changed, so check back before your trip to see what the system looks like then. Right now the following rules apply:
- Each guest gets up to three advance-booked FastPass+ selections per day.
- All advance-booked ride selections for a particular day must be at the same park.
- Guests cannot advance-book the same attraction twice in one day. All advance-booked FastPass+ selections for a single day must be for different attractions.
- At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot, there are two tiers of attractions. The first tier contains a selection of the most popular headline attractions, and the second tier contains all other attractions. Each guest can book one advance first-tier FastPass selection. The rest must be second-tier FastPass selections.
- After all your advance-booked FastPass+ selections in a single park have been used or have expired, you can get more selections, one at a time, using your phone or other device or one of the in-park kiosks. You can get extra FastPass+ selections for another park (though obviously you need a Park Hopper ticket or annual pass to switch parks). You can only have one active additional selection at a time; once it has been used or expired, you can get another. Additional selections can be for any ride in any tier, even if you have already gotten a FastPass+ for that ride that day.
FastPass+ Tips and Tricks
FastPass+ is all about saving time in line at Walt Disney World. For that reason, your best bet is to book attractions that develop long lines, and to pick times in the middle of the day (11:00 am – 5:00 pm) when lines are longest. It is tempting to book your FastPass+ selections for the early morning, so you can start using additional FastPass+ selections once you’ve finished your initial 3, but keep in mind that many of the headliner rides will have no FastPass+ selections left (or only very late times) by 10:00, and it’s very difficult to get done with your first three selections by any earlier than 11:15 or so (if the park opens at 9). By the time you finish their initial attractions, the remaining FastPasses will usually be for lower-tier rides. There may still be FastPasses worth getting, in that they’ll save you some waiting time, but they won’t be for the super-popular attractions.
Our advice is to use the early morning to experience attractions in standby lines that will be relatively short, and use your advance-booked FastPass+ selections to ride three favorites later in the day. Once you’ve used your three, go ahead and grab another if there’s something you want to ride that still has available slots, and continue until there’s nothing you can use available.
Some suggested picks for each park are below. We recommend pre-booking the first three in each list that you find appealing and have selections available. In some cases, because of tiering, you’ll only be able to get one of the top attractions.
- All Parks: Character meet & greets all tend to develop long lines. If your children want to meet a specific character and FastPass+ is available, it’s a very good use of one of your slots. Currently the meet & greet for Anna & Elsa is by far the toughest to score, followed by the new Frozen Ever After ride, but that may change as the mania for Frozen dies down.
- Magic Kingdom: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Animal Kingdom:
- Tier 1: Flight of Passage or Navi River Journey
- Tier 2: Expedition Everest*, Kilimanjaro Safari, Kali River Rapids (if it’s expected to be hot), Finding Nemo, Festival of the Lion King, Dinosaur
- Tier 1: Frozen Ever After, Soarin’ or Test Track*
- Tier 2: Mission Space: Orange, Spaceship Earth, Turtle Talk with Crush, Living With The Land
- Hollywood Studios:
- Tier 1: Toy Story Mania or Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster*
- Tier 2: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Star Tours
*These rides have a single-rider line, which is almost always much shorter than the regular line. If your party is willing to be split up and you don’t have any children too small to ride alone, you can skip getting a FastPass+ for these rides and use the single-rider line. You will all ride at the same time or close to it, but you will not be seated next to each other.
If you are staying at a Disney resort or the Swan & Dolphin, you can book FastPass+ selections your entire trip (up to 14 days) starting 60 days from your arrival day. So if you are taking a 14-day trip, you can conceivably start getting FastPasses for the last day of the trip as early as 73 days in advance. If you want to get a tough-to-get FastPass+, like meeting Anna & Elsa, get online on the first day you can book (60 days from arrival), and start looking for FastPasses for the last day of your trip. Work your way backward towards your arrival day until you get the selection you want, then adjust your plans if necessary to be at that park on that day. Do the same thing for any other very tough FastPass+ selections.
Disney may release more FastPass+ capacity over time, and people cancel and change selections constantly, so if you can’t get a FastPass+ time that works, it’s worth checking back regularly to see if times have become available.
It used to be that FastPasses were honored from the earliest time on the pass through the rest of the day, but now return times are enforced, with only a 15-minute “grace period.” If you have one that expires at 10:25 am, for example, you can still use it until 10:40. You can typically also arrive up to 5 minutes early, but be aware that sometimes cast members will make you wait until your time comes up.
It’s OK to borrow the MagicBand or ticket of someone else in your party to use one of their FastPass+ slots they don’t want; Disney does not appear to mind. For example, if some of your group does not want to ride a specific attraction and is willing to give up one of their FastPass+ slots, you can let other people in your group use the non-riders’ tickets or MagicBands to ride the attraction a second time.
If you want to split your group and get one FastPass+ selection for one part of the group and a different one for the rest of the group, here’s the best way: first, set everyone’s FastPass+ selections to the same three choices (whichever the most people want to do) so you all have the same time slots. Now go back and change the attraction for just the people that want to do the different ride. This will ensure that the groups will get the same FastPass+ times (or very close), even when they split up for their different attractions.
Because you can currently only get advance-booked FastPass+ selections for one park per day, if you want to park hop we recommend using your advance FastPass+ selections for the park you plan to be in during peak hours (about 11:00 am – 5:00 pm). Spend most of your time in the other park in either early morning or late evening hours when lines will be lower.
Same-day FastPass+ capacity is not nearly as good lately as it was when FastPass+ was new. More and more people are learning how to use it and pre-booking their FastPass+ selections, so you can no longer count on getting a huge variety of selections on the morning of your visit. Magic Kingdom will usually have a few reasonable rides available early in the morning, but by 10:30 or so the list is pretty picked over.
If you will need to make your FastPass+ selections at Walt Disney World using the kiosks the day you arrive in the park, or you want to change around your existing selections using the kiosks, these strategies will help you get a good set of selections efficiently:
- Know what you want in advance. Before you leave your hotel, write down a prioritized list of your top five or so picks and any times that will conflict (such as dining reservations or tours). This will help you get through the selection process quickly. Have the discussions about FastPass+ selections during breakfast or on the bus, rather than standing in front of the kiosk with time ticking away.
- Only one person needs to be at the kiosks to choose the FastPass+ selections for the whole group. That person will need everyone’s park tickets or MagicBands, unless you’ve already set up your whole party in MyDisneyExperience. The rest of your party can go ride something while the designated FastPass getter works with the kiosks.
- Once you have settled on a full set of FastPass+ selections, you can take a picture of the screen with your phone, have the system email you an itinerary, or write your selections down. Even if you take a picture, it is a good idea to enter your email address (assuming you can get email on your phone). If an attraction goes down during your return time, the system will email you to let you know, and will give you a special replacement FastPass+ that is good for the rest of the day, for your choice of the original attraction or one of several others.
- You can visit any kiosk later in the day to change your FastPass+ selections or times if your plans change. You can also change your selections using the MyDisneyExperience (MDE) app on your phone, if you have your account set up and your tickets linked.
Tips From Readers about FastPass+
“At Hollywood Studios DEFINITELY get the FastPass for Toy Story Mania. We were there mid-week, not very crowded, and by 11:00 am the wait was 90 minutes (Star Tours still had a 20-30 minute stated wait time, as a point of comparison). We ended up missing out on that particular ride. One of the attendants said that it was the most popular ride of all the rides in all the parks (not just Hollywood Studios).” – Susan R from Arvada, CO
MouseSavers.com reader S.T. offers this excellent point: “I would suggest that under ALL circumstances, always FastPass Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and just wait in line for Splash Mountain. The reason is that the line for Splash Mountain winds underneath a lot of natural shade (trees) and once inside the structure, there is air conditioning. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, on the other hand, has a queue that winds around on itself inside a stifling structure with ceiling fans that do nothing but push hot air around. Thus, you stay cool and comfortable waiting in line for Splash Mountain and you get to walk right on to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when your FastPass comes up.”
Disney offers a special feature called Extra Magic Hours for Walt Disney World hotel guests. If you are staying at one of the official hotels owned and operated by Disney, the Swan/Dolphin or Shades of Green, you qualify for this program.
The Extra Magic Hours program allows you to enter a specific theme park one hour before official opening on certain days of the week. On other days of the week, one of the theme parks stays open to Disney resort guests for two hours after the general public closing time.
Remember, if your ticket does not include the Park Hopper option, you can only visit one park per day. Therefore you would not be able to visit (for example) Animal Kingdom during the day and then “hop” to Magic Kingdom for the evening Extra Magic Hours.
Morning Extra Magic Hours occur one hour prior to regularly scheduled park opening. You will need a valid ticket as well as a valid Resort ID from one of the participating resorts at the park’s turnstiles. For Disney-owned resorts, your MagicBand is both ticket and Resort ID. For the other resorts, ask what you’ll need to identify you as staying there.
- Be sure to check DisneyWorld.com for the exact schedule during your vacation and a list of attractions open during the Extra Magic Hours.
To stay for the evening Extra Magic Hours, resort guests have to have a Resort ID that identifies you as staying at a participating resort. For Disney-owned resorts, your MagicBand is both ticket and Resort ID. For the other resorts, ask what you’ll need to identify you as staying there.
- Be sure to check DisneyWorld.com for the exact schedule during your vacation and a list of attractions open during the Extra Magic Hours.
MouseSavers.com reader Mary C from Pennsylvania has this tip about Extra Magic Hours: “The evening extra magic hours are great, but … heavily publicized for resort guests, so EVERYONE takes advantage of it. After our second night of 30-50 minute lines at midnight, and kids in strollers still in the park and awake, we wondered which park was opening early the next day. Giving up our plan of sleeping until noon, we left for Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 7:15 am. By 11:00 am we had ridden everything and were ready to come back and go swimming. Same luck next morning at Animal Kingdom. Rode Expedition Everest three times by 9:30 AM! Extra magic evening hours probably work at non-peak times, but for anyone planning to go at peak season, we recommend the morning extra magic hours. All those folks doing the parks til 1:00 am can’t get up the next day at 7:00!”
Will you be visiting Walt Disney World with a child who is too short to ride some of the attractions you’d like to experience? You can still ride as long as you have two adults present, by taking advantage of the Child Swap, which is available on most height-restricted rides. When you enter the queue area, tell the Cast Member you’d like to do Child Swap. This allows the first adult to ride while the second adult stays with the child. Then the second adult can ride — without waiting in line again — while the first adult stays with the child. If you are using FastPass, the system works the same way, except that you get in the FastPass line.
If you don’t mind possibly sitting separate from the rest of your party, use the Single Rider line, which is available at Test Track, Expedition Everest and Rock N Rollercoaster. 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
Those with special needs (mobility, visual, hearing or cognitive disabilities) can get a special pass, which is called a Disability Access Service (DAS) card, from 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 great info for those with disabilities who are planning a trip to Disney World, we recommend Teri’s Disney Travelers’ Disability FAQ.
Walt Disney World Express Transportation
Disney is now offering a faster park-to-park transportation option that has the potential to save guests a lot of time when park hopping, called Express Transportation. It is only available from inside one park to inside another park, and it costs extra: currently $19 for one day or $29 for seven days. You need to have a ticket that allows park hopping (either a regular ticket with Park Hopper option or an Annual Pass). When you use this option to go from one park to another, you exit and enter through cast member entrances at the side or rear of each park, and avoid having to go through the front gate and bag check at the second park (you do have to go through the bag check at least once when you enter the first park of the day, or if you leave the park completely and come back).
The transportation is provided by regular Disney buses, and there are dedicated routes from each park direct to each of the other four parks. The buses currently come every 30 minutes on a set schedule, which may change from day to day but will be consistent for that day. Just ask at the Express Transportation kiosk in each park what times the bus for the park you are going to will come. It might be at 10 and 40 minutes after every hour, or 20 and 50, etc. Your pass gives you unlimited express rides for the whole day (or 7 consecutive days if you buy the multi-day option).
You can buy this option in person at any Guest Services location or at the Express Transportation kiosk in any of the four major theme parks.
- Annual Passholders can buy an Express Transportation Summer Pass for $59 which gives them unlimited Express Transportation rides through August 10th, 2017.
Other Transportation Tips
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:
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- [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.]
“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
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:
- You need to wait for the transportation to come, which might take as long as 20-30 minutes.
- 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.
- 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? Click here to download PDF maps you can load onto a tablet or phone, or print out if you have a large enough printer.
- 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
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.
- Animal Kingdom Parades and Shows
- Epcot Parades and Shows
- Hollywood Studios Parades and Shows
- Magic Kingdom Parades and Shows
Rivers of Light Dining Package
Rivers of Light can be seen on select nights after dark on the Discovery River between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There are several Dining packages that include admission to a premium seating area for Rivers of Light. You will receive the voucher for the reserved seating area when you arrive for your dining reservation. Please note: seats in the reserved area are first-come, first-served, so plan to arrive at the theater entrance located closest to DinoLand U.S.A. 15-35 minutes prior to showtime.
The Tusker House Dining Package is available for the breakfast, lunch or dinner buffet on the day of the show. You must dine at least 2 ½ hours prior to showtime.
The cost of breakfast starts at $41.54 per adult (age 10 and over) and $25.56 per child (age 3-9), tax included. Park admission is required. Lunch and dinner starts at $55.38 per adult and $34.08 per child (ages 3 to 9), tax included. Disney’s Animal Kingdom admission is required.
The Tiffins Dining Package is available for lunch or dinner and includes an appetizer, entrée, dessert plus a non-alcoholic beverage. You must dine at least 2 ½ hours prior to showtime.
The cost starts at $71.36 per adult (age 10 and over) and $27.69 per child (age 3-9), tax included. Disney’s Animal Kingdom admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Rivers of Light Dining Package page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
“Japan at Epcot is a very underrated area to watch IllumiNations. You are closest to the sphere here as well.” – Kevin P from Bayport, NY
“A favorite place for IllumiNations at Epcot is the Rose and Crown Pub. We request the last dinner seating and check in early and ask for a lakeside table. We then have our dinner while watching the fireworks display from our front row seat! It is a perfect end to our day in Epcot.” [Note from MouseSavers: reader Laurie H reports that the pub no longer honors seating requests, but it can’t hurt to ask.] – Lynn M from Knoxville, TN
The Frozen Ever After Dessert Party gives you reserved seating for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and, after the show, a special ride just for the dessert party guests on Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion. The party, which takes place in World Showcase Plaza East, overlooking World Showcase Lagoon, features décor, drinks, desserts and snacks inspired by Frozen.
The cost is $79 per adult (age 10 and over) and $47 per child (age 3-9), tax and gratuity included. Epcot admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Frozen Ever After Dessert Party page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
- General Show Watching Tips for Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Fantasmic! Dinner Package
- Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party
Fantasmic! is offered twice a week (usually Mondays and Thursdays) in the off-season. During peak season times, additional performances may be added. Due to its popularity and the limited number of performances, normally you need to show up at the Fantasmic! theater about 90 minutes before the show and line up to get a seat. This is especially true at high season times (spring break, summer, holiday weekends, Thanksgiving, Christmas).
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a nightly Star Wars-themed fireworks show set to Star Wars music. To get the best view of the projections, you will want to stand in the Animation Courtyard facing The Great Movie Ride.
If you’re interested in seeing Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, one way to avoid a long wait in line for seating is to book a Fantasmic! Dining Package. With this package you pay for a regular sit-down meal at The Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose or Dining with Minnie and Friends at Hollywood & Vine and you get preferred seating for Fantasmic! at no extra charge. With the Fantasmic! Dining Package you can walk into the theater 45 minutes before show time and have a guaranteed seat.
The cost at Mama Melrose is $47.93 per adult (age 10 and over) and $19.17 per child (age 3-9), tax included. Disney’s Hollywood Studios admission is required.
The cost at The Hollywood Brown Derby is $69.23 per adult (age 10 and over) and $23.43 per child (age 3-9), tax included. Disney’s Hollywood Studios admission is required.
The cost at Hollywood & Vine, available for lunch only, is $55.38 per adult (age 10 and over) and $34.08 per child (age 3-9), tax included. Disney’s Hollywood Studios admission is required.
The lunchtime Fantasmic! Dining Package is Dining with Minnie and Friends at Hollywood & Vine. The cost is $60.71 per adult (age 10 and over) and $37.27 per child (age 3 to 9), tax included. This is a Disney Character meal with Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. Disney’s Hollywood Studios admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Fantasmic! Dining Package page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
The Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party is offered nightly at 8:15 pm, with special viewing for the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks at 8:30 pm and Disney Movie Magic.
You can enjoy an out-of-this-world selection of desserts and specialty drinks—including alcoholic beverage options. Each guest will receive a souvenir stein featuring Chewbacca.
The cost is $79 per adult (age 10 and over) and $45 per child (age 3-9), tax and gratuity included. Disney’s Hollywood Studios admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
- General Parade & Show Watching Tips for Magic Kingdom
- Tiana’s Riverboat Party – Ice Cream Social & Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Viewing
- Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package
- Celebration at the Top – Sip, Savor, Sparkle
- Fireworks Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing
- Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace
- Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise
- Highway in the Sky Dine Around with Fireworks Viewing
The fireworks and projection shows at Magic Kingdom (such as Happily Ever After or Once Upon a Time) are best viewed from as close to the center of the Hub as possible (the area just in front of Cinderella’s Castle with the statue of Walt and Mickey) or on Main Street U.S.A. The further you are off to the side, the more likely there will be trees blocking your view of the projections.
“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 the 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!”
“On my last trip to the Magic Kingdom, my boyfriend and I made a reservation at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. We got there early and and asked for an outside table. From there we had the perfect view of the parade.” – Allison M from Raleigh, NC
“Catch the Ferry that runs to and from the Magic Kingdom from the Ticket and Transportation Center at fireworks time. The boat is virtually empty and the view of the fireworks is one of the best we have found!” – Bill M from Fredericksburg, VA
Tiana’s Riverboat Party Ice Cream Social & Parade Viewing includes a visit with Princess Tiana and Naveen while enjoying ice cream and soft drinks at the Liberty Belle Riverboat dock. You then board the riverboat to enjoy a bird’s-eye-view of the parade and a cruise around Tom Sawyer’s Island. Princess Tiana and Naveen will join the group on the Liberty Belle Riverboat after the parade for photos.
Cost is $49 per adult (age 10 and over) and $29 per child (age 3-9), tax included. Magic Kingdom admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Tiana’s Riverboat Party page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package includes a 3-course lunch at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and VIP viewing for the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, in front of the flagpole on Main Street., U.S.A. The dining package includes your choice of appetizer, entrée, dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage.
You will receive the voucher for the reserved seating area when you arrive for your dining reservation. Please note: seats in the reserved area are first-come, first-served, so plan to arrive at the Main Street, U.S.A. flagpole 15-35 minutes prior to show time.
Cost is $47.93 per adult (age 10 and over) and $18.11 per child (age 3-9), tax included. Magic Kingdom admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
Celebration at the Top – Sip, Savor, Sparkle provides you with a view of the Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular fireworks from a private observation deck at the top of the Contemporary Resort, along with light bites and refreshments from the California Grill. Dessert is served after the fireworks show.
Guests should check in an hour before the fireworks show begins at the California Grill check-in podium, located on the 2nd floor of the Contemporary Resort. A Cast Member will then escort you up to the Sonoma Room and the Napa Room at California Grill on the 15th floor. These private rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and connect to a private observation deck—with views of Bay Lake and the Magic Kingdom. (Other observation decks will be available for guests who are dining at California Grill.)
Celebration at the Top reservations are available select evenings, mostly on Sundays.
Cost is $105.44 per person, including tax and valet parking. Guests are asked to adhere to the dress code of California Grill.
- To make a reservation, go to the Celebration at the Top – Sip Savor, Sparkle page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
On most nights, Disney offers a Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing of the current fireworks show. The party begins at the Tomorrowland Terrace one hour before the scheduled fireworks. As showtime nears, Cast Members will escort you to a prime location in the Plaza Garden for priority viewing of the nighttime spectacular. Please note: there are no seats in this viewing area.
The party includes an extensive dessert buffet and non-alcoholic beverages such as coffee, hot tea, iced tea, lemonade, milk and water.
The cost varies: usually it is $59 per adult (age 10 and over) and $35 per child (age 3-9), tax included. During peak periods (spring break, summer, Christmas, etc.) the price goes up by a few dollars. Magic Kingdom admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Fireworks Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
On most nights, Disney offers a Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace with reserved seating for the fireworks show. The party begins one hour before the scheduled fireworks and runs for approximately 30 minutes after the fireworks start time.
This is a very good viewing area and you’ll have a reserved table for your party, plus access to an extensive dessert buffet and non-alcoholic beverages such as coffee, hot tea, iced tea, lemonade, milk and water.
The cost varies: usually it is $79 per adult (age 10 and over) and $47 per child (age 3-9), tax included. During peak periods (spring break, summer, Christmas, etc.) the price goes up by a few dollars. Magic Kingdom admission is required.
- To make a reservation, go to the Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise provides you with a view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from an exclusive spot on Seven Seas Lagoon with desserts and drinks. Desserts from the chefs at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and the pastry kitchen on Main Street, U.S.A. are available along with specialty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in souvenir glow glasses. The medley of famous Disney songs and the voices of Disney characters are piped through the boat’s sound system.
The cruise departs one hour before the fireworks begin on the iconic, double-stack ferryboat. Check-in at the Transportation and Ticket Center will begin 15 minutes prior to the reservation time.
Please note: on Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very-Merry-Christmas Party nights, the fireworks display will be Happy HalloWishes or Holiday Wishes—Celebrate the Spirit of the Season.
Cost is $99 per adult (age 10 and over), $69 per child (age 3-9), tax and gratuity included. There are a limited number of tickets per cruise.
- To make a reservation, go to the Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
Highway in the Sky Dine Around is offered select Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings and gives guests priority boarding on the monorail for a dining journey that includes Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The evening begins with check in at The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for a welcome cocktail. Guests then board the monorail and head to Disney’s Polynesian Resort for South Pacific-inspired sips and appetizers. Guests hop back on the monorail and head to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for their entrée with a wine pairing. After dinner, there is sparkling wine and artisanal cheese in the lobby. The final stop is at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for dessert, cordials and coffee on a private patio with a view of the fireworks over Cinderella Castle.
The cost is $170.40 per person for ages 21 and older only, including tax and gratuity. Valet parking is included.
- To make a reservation, go to the Highway in the Sky Dine Around page or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended.
“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 I 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.
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, tickets and FastPasses), 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.