We visit Walt Disney World A LOT… and when we say a lot we REALLY mean it! We have writers in the parks nearly EVERY day riding rides, eating food, watching shows, and perusing merchandise so we can keep you up to date on ALL of the Disney park happenings!
We love making sure that we are in-the-know when it comes to all things Disney, and we’ve come to know a few super-simple hacks that are sure to upgrade your Walt Disney World vacay! Because who doesn’t want to save a little money, or enhance your dreamy trip to Disney, amiright?
So let’s get down to it! Here are our top 9 tips to hack your way to the ultimate Disney World vacation!
1. Dine at Character Locations for Breakfast to Save Money and Time
Call us crazy, but we STILL get excited every time we see a Disney character at the parks!
And we know you’re probably going to want to be meeting some characters on your Disney World trip, too! But waiting in long lines? Probably not so much! What if we told you that there’s a way that you can meet a bunch of characters in an air-conditioned room all while feasting on a delicious meal? Um yeah — that sounds like a WAAAY better idea to us!
Character meals are the unsung heroes of Disney World, offering guests the opportunity to dine in a table-service restaurant while various characters come right to your table to take photos and sign autographs!
A downside to character meals is they can be a bit pricey, BUT, there’s a fix for that! Character meals are typically cheaper for breakfast than they are for lunch or dinner, so rouse the troops early for an A.M. feast at restaurants like Chef Mickey’s, Tusker House, Crystal Palace, and Cinderella’s Royal Table!
At Chef Mickey’s you can meet everyone’s favorite sweethearts Mickey and Minnie, along with their best buds Donald, Goofy, and Pluto! At Crystal Palace, you can meet Piglet, Tigger, Pooh, and Eeyore straight outta the Hundred Acre Woods!
Many character breakfasts are about $12 to $15 cheaper than if you were to eat there during lunch or dinner, which totally adds up if you have a large group! And if you’re already hip to the whole character breakfast scene, make sure you check out Artist Point for dinner! Located at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge this spot transforms into a storybook themed dining experience in the evenings where you can meet Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and The Evil Queen!
With so many unique dining experiences to meet characters, there is really no reason to wait in those long lines to meet many of the characters!!
2. Use a Travel Agent!
While we love ourselves some Disney, even we’ve gotta admit they’ve made it REALLY hard to get the most out of your visit without help from the pros! From choosing FastPasses to making dining reservations, booking special events, tours, and more… it can be overwhelming for most families. That’s where travel agents come in! (Click here to find out more about why DFB recommends using travel agents.)
Don’t know where to start? One travel agency we here at DFB highly recommend is our friends at Small World Vacations! They’re EXPERTS, and they know how to NOT waste your money OR time! Plus they know the parks and the hotels like the backs of their hands!
And did you know Travel agents are FREE?! Yep, FREEEEEEEE, friends! They’ll seriously do all the heavy lifting FOR YOU! Can you imagine planning your Disney trip stress-free when it comes to park tickets, hotels, FastPasses, the Magical Express, restaurant choices, secret tips, and more? Get on the horn now with our buds at Small World Vacations if you’re feelin’ the vacation-planning burn! They’re seriously one of the best in the biz!
3. Get More Hours in the Parks for Less by Arriving Early for Hard Ticket Events
Did you know that your hard ticketed special event tickets like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party will often let you into the parks a few hours earlier than the posted start time? This isn’t necessarily published anywhere, but it’s a great hack, if you’re in-the-know!
Special ticketed events can be EXPENSIVE, so take advantage of ALL the time you can with that ticket, folks! Since your event tickets will get you into the park early, you may be able to get away with NOT buying a regular park ticket that day if you’ll be able to get all your park goals accomplished during the hard ticket event. For instance, if Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party begins at 7 PM, often guests can enter with their party ticket starting at 4 PM.
For example, since wait times tend to be significantly lower during Disney’s After Hours events, many guests find that doing After Hours in Magic Kingdom allows them to ride everything on their to-do list in just a few short hours!
So spend your morning by the pool or at Disney Springs to save a little money (okay, maybe not Disney Springs!) instead of buying a park ticket and then head to the parks when your ticket will let you in!
See if we think these events are worth the money by viewing our video below!
4. Ride Attractions During Parades, Fireworks, and Nighttime Shows
Now here’s one of the best ways to save time in line without needing a FastPass! — hop in line for popular attractions and rides during nighttime shows and parades! Of course, we don’t want you to miss out on either if it’s your first trip to Disney World, but if you and your merry band of travelers have already seen the entertainment offerings (and don’t care to enjoy them again!), you can rapid-fire through a bunch of Disney rides in record time while most of the folks in the park are jocking to secure their ideal viewing spots!
This is a great option if you can’t get a FastPass for your must-do attraction. Keep an eye on the ride wait times via your My Disney Experience app during nighttime events and parades — and you may be surprised at the difference!
Start checking an hour or so before a nighttime event, when guests often being to find spots to view from, to see when wait times start to fall. Who knows, maybe you’ll time it right and get to drop on Splash Mountain while the Happily Ever After fireworks are going off! 2 birds with one stone, bb!
5. Keep Your Phone Charged with These Tips
We always suggest bringing a portable charger to ensure that your battery level stays high and your stress level stays low. Disney does sell portable chargers called FuelRods in the parks for $30, but you can likely find much cheaper and faster-charging options at home. (Especially after all the hot mess that was the addition of the recent FuelRod replacement fee then reversal in Disney World!)
Another great way to make sure your phone stays charged is to use the charging locations throughout the parks. There are a few locations set up where you can bring a cord and plug in your personal device while relaxing in the air conditioning. Other locations are set up outside but have seating in the shade. Our favorites in Magic Kingdom? There are chargers hidden around the Tangled-themed restrooms in Fantasyland, in Storybook Circus, and at the exit to Space Mountain.
Many newer Disney buses now also feature charging ports underneath the seats! So next time you’re headed from A to B, you can plug in and charge up while you wait!
Do you often find that your battery life has dropped substantially after using your My Disney Experience app? Well, to help avoid this, we suggest taking a screenshot of your FastPass+ selections and dining reservations for the day and setting it as your home screen or lock screen!
6. Plan Ahead for Dining
There’s nothing worse than sitting down at a restaurant you booked six months ago and realizing that your family won’t eat anything on the menu. MAJOR bummer alert!
In order to maximize your savings as well as your family’s enjoyment, you need to do your research! How? Online menus and reviews, people! Make use of the Disney restaurant menus (and OUR REVIEWS!) posted online before making your dining reservations. That way you can see if the restaurant you’re thinking about booking is a good fit for you and your fam before you commit to it!
And hi, we’re DFB! Have we met? If not, well allow us to introduce you to our exhaustive, comprehensive list of reviews for any and every Disney World restaurant you could possibly be considering! We have reviewed every dining location AND menu option on property, so be sure to spend some time exploring our site!
And a friendly reminder — reservations can be made and canceled up to 24 hours beforehand without a fee, so don’t be afraid to make a reservation and cancel if need be! (Just don’t be that guy who makes 50 reservations for the same meal ’cause he doesn’t know where he wants to eat! Think of other folks. 🙂 )
Click here to see all the Disney World restaurants along with our expert restaurant reviews and articles!
7. Purchase Gift Cards Outside of the Parks
A great way to save money is to purchase Disney gift cards at a discount before you travel at locations like Target and Sam’s Club! For example, if you have a Target REDcard, your 5% discount applies to Disney gift cards! Did you know that? Well, you do now!
This little hack can save you loads of money, especially on gift cards with larger amounts. So if you purchase a $100 gift card, you’ll only be spending $95. That means the extra $5 was basically free money, and free money is goooooood!!!
8. Avoid the Crowds with Extra Magic Hour Hacks
Here’s a great tip for ya: the Disney theme park offering Extra Magic Hours will likely be that day’s most crowded park. (If you’re not sure what Extra Magic Hours are, they’re a perk that grants Disney World resort guests bonus time in a rotating park each day, but often it means whichever park has the Extra Magic Hours will be heavier with crowds that day!)
Here’s YOUR plan as an insider: Go to morning Extra Magic Hours if you’re a resort guest, but then get outta Dodge and head to the park that had Extra Magic Hours the previous day (nobody’s there — they’re all at today’s Extra Magic Hours park!). Same applies to evening Extra Magic Hours — avoid that park most of the day and head over in the evening to get the most bang for your buck.
This way, you get the benefit of your extra hours without having to deal with crowds for the rest of the day. Remember, Magic Hours are exclusively for resort guests and change week-to-week and season-to-season!
9. Grab Some of Our DFB Guides!
If you’ve enjoyed all the helpful tricks and tips we’ve shared with you so far, there’s A LOT more where that came from! Swing by our DFB Store and see what we’ve got to offer! We think you’ll find the perfect guide for any and EVERYTHING you could need when planning your trip to Disney World! We’ve even got bundles to choose from — to save you the max amount of dollars!
And speaking of saving some paper, all of our guides come in e-Book form, which means NO WAITING! Once you purchase one, zip, zam, zoom! It’s downloaded and ready to use! So what are you waiting for? Our DFB Guides are updated regularly and sure to help you along your way on all your Disney World vacation planning endeavors!
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Did you know any of these tips? Any you’d add? Let us know in the comments!