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 Magic Kingdom Parades
- Best Places to Watch Evening Fireworks & Spectaculars
- 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!
You can also add a MouseSavers icon on your smartphone that will take you directly to the site.
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, 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.
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 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.
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 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.
- 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.
“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
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!
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
- 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!
Please note: For the July 2020 reopening of Walt Disney World, TouringPlans has updated their Walt Disney World wait time forecasts to reflect the new limits to park capacity and ride capacity.
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
- Extra Magic Hours
- Early Morning Magic – Fantasyland
- Early Morning Magic – Toy Story Land
- Disney After Hours – Animal Kingdom
- Disney After Hours – Hollywood Studios
- Disney After Hours – Magic Kingdom
- Disney Villains After Hours – Magic Kingdom
- Child Swap (aka Baby Swap)
- Single Rider Line
- Special Needs
Please note: For the July 2020 reopening of Walt Disney World, FastPass+ is temporarily suspended for all Walt Disney World visitors.
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. (With one exception: guests staying in a Club Level room, a Polynesian Bungalow or Copper Creek Cabin can purchase 3 additional FastPass+ selections per day; read below for more.)
- FastPass+ is available for the most popular rides and attractions, including character experiences and stage shows.
- To book FastPass+ selections in advance, guests must link their admission tickets or annual passes (and optionally a resort reservation) to a user profile on MyDisneyExperience.com. Most Walt Disney World tickets and passes issued in the last 10 years (and some older ones) can be linked easily to MyDisneyExperience. Only some resort reservations can be linked; see below.
- If you have a linked ticket, but no linked resort reservation, you can book a FastPass+ selection up to 30 days in advance, at any time. You can book up to the number of days you have tickets for, but each day of selections can only be booked at 30 days or less from that specific day. With a linked annual pass, you can only book up to 7 days of FastPass+ selections at once, unless you have a linked resort reservation (see below).
- With a linked resort reservation, you can book FastPass+ selections for your entire stay (up to 14 days long) 60 days in advance of the first night of the stay, though you still need enough ticket days to cover all the days you want to book FastPass+. So if you had a 14-night stay (and enough tickets to cover 14 days), you could conceivably book 14 days of FastPass+ reservations for the entire stay all at once, at 60 days prior to the first day of the stay (which is 73 days prior to the last day of your stay). You can only link reservations from a Disney-owned resort, the Swan, the Dolphin or a Disney Springs Resort Area hotel. We have more information about linking your Disney Springs Resort Area reservation to your My DisneyExperience account.
- 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, 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. Read our tips for getting the best selection when using the in-park kiosks.
- 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.
- Check the FastPass+ tips again before your trip, as the FastPass+ rules and attraction lists do change from time to time. There’s always a chance that a new rule or a change in the attractions in each tier could give you an opportunity to improve your selections.
- Guests at Official Disney-owned Deluxe resorts staying in a Club Level room or a Polynesian Bungalow or Copper Creek Cabin can optionally purchase 3 additional FastPass+ selections per day.
- Each guest must buy a minimum of 3 days of extra FastPass+ selections at a cost of $50 per guest per day.
- The paid selections must all be for different attractions, but they can all be tier 1 attractions at the parks that have tiers.
- The paid selections may be for attractions in multiple parks on the same day (keep in mind that you have to have a Park Hopper ticket or Annual Pass to visit two parks in one day).
- The paid selections can be made up to 90 days before arrival, which means that realistically every ride and time slot will be easily available; there just aren’t that many Club Level rooms at Walt Disney World.
- Our advice: before booking a Club Level room to take advantage of this perk, first price out what it would cost to get a VIP tour. The VIP tour also gets you into the FastPass line at most attractions (plus a dedicated tour guide to drive you from park to park and lead you through each park efficiently), but with no real need to pre-book anything other than the tour, and while VIP tours are very expensive, so is Club Level. In one day of a VIP tour, you can experience an amazingly large number of attractions with very short waits.
- For now, only Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run has FastPass+ in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Rise of the Resistance uses a whole separate “boarding group” system. You can read more on our Visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge page.
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. In some cases, because of tiering, you’ll only be able to get one of your top choices, and will need to select lower-tier rides for your other two FastPass+ selections.
- 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. The meet & greet for Anna & Elsa is by far the toughest to score, but that is slowly changing 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: Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, Slinky Dog Dash or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Tier 2: Toy Story Mania, Alien Swirling Saucers, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster*, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, or 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 nearly so, but you will not be seated next to each other.
If you are staying at a Disney resort, the Swan & Dolphin or a Disney Springs Resort Area hotel 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.
In general, it’s much more convenient to use the MyDisneyExperience app to manage your FastPass+ selections and make changes, but if you don’t have a data plan that works in Florida or your phone is too old to run the app, you’ll have to use the kiosks in the park. 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.”
Please note: For the July 2020 reopening of Walt Disney World, Extra Magic Hours is temporarily suspended for all Walt Disney World visitors.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Villains After Hours night will be offered select nights February 7 – July 10, 2020. There are a limited number of tickets for each date.
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:
- Villains Unite the Night – a castle stage show hosted by Hades and Meg from Hercules, with appearances by Jafar, The Queen, Dr. Facilier and Maleficent
- Maleficent the Dragon, Disney’s fire-breathing parade float will make her way through the park twice nightly. The Villains’ Cursed Caravan will join Maleficent the dragon and feature Gaston, Oogie Boogie, Cruella DeVil, Captain Hook and more!
- Villain-inspired additions on Pirates of the Caribbean and Space Mountain
- Special villain-themed food, beverages and merchandise
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.
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 info for those with disabilities who are planning a trip to Disney World, we list several resources in our Walt Disney World FAQ.
“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:
- 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.]
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? 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.
Please note: For the July 2020 reopening of Walt Disney World, Character Meet and Greets are temporarily suspended. Characters will appear 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.
- 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:
- The Disney Visa character meet and greets are first-come, first-served. No Fastpasses are available.
- The Disney Visa character meet and greets will usually have shorter lines than public meet and greets for the same characters, but there will still be some wait.
- The Disney Visa character meet and greets typically have one or two characters available at any one time and they will rotate in and out, so you can’t be sure exactly which one you are going to meet. You can ask a Cast Member at the entrance if/when the character you want to meet will return, and they may be able to give you a time frame. However, there are a limited number of character who appear at these meet and greets.
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.
Please note: For the July 2020 reopening of Walt Disney World, parades are temporarily suspended. Instead there will be 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 will sail on the waterways; at Epcot there will be processions along World Showcase promenade; and in Disney’s Hollywood Studios there will be 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.
- To make a reservation, use the link above or call 407-WDW-DINE (939-3463). Advance reservations are highly recommended. Park admission is not included.
Please note: For the July 2020 reopening of Walt Disney World, fireworks and evening spectaculars are temporarily suspended.
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!
“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.
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.