Here at Disney Food Blog, we’re ALWAYS snacking on cookies, cupcakes, and more to tell you which of the Disney World treats you don’t want to miss, but we’re also constantly on the lookout for new crumbs of wisdom for how to have the best overall experience possible on our Disney World vacations (see what we did there?)!
Our Disney World habits have helped us pick up quite a few tricks over the years which have, until now, stayed pretty much under-the-radar — meaning you’re not likely to find them in any guidebooks or Facebook groups!
We’re sharing our top ten most-handy bits of advice when it comes to prepping for your next trip to Disney World! Let’s get right down to business!
1. Take Screenshots of Your Itinerary on the My Disney Experience App
Capturing a screenshot image of your scheduled Park Passes or Advanced Dining Reservations will really help save your phone battery at the parks! That battery life will start to dwindle FAST with all the opening and closing of the My Disney Experience app you can do in a day!
We like to take this hack one step further by saving the image as our home screen — that way, all we have to do is “jiggle” our phone to see our plans that day! On an iPhone, you can take a screenshot by simultaneously pressing the power button on the side of the phone and one of the volume buttons. Then go into settings and select your image as your background! GENIUS!
2. Also, Take Photos of Your Hard Tickets and MagicBands
By now you probably think we’re a little obsessed with taking pictures of everything — annnnd you wouldn’t be wrong! But we do it for a reason — it’s saved our skins a number of times in the parks!
That’s because it’s a lot easier for Cast Members to help you replace something you’ve lost if you have a record of “having it” in the first place! Hard tickets, Photopass cards, and back of your MagicBand (with its number visible) are all things we always snap a quick pic of — just in case we misplace any of them! Disney can look them up by their number and help you get a replacement that much faster.
3. Consider Buying Disney Gift Cards Ahead of Time
If you’re looking to curb some of your vacation spending habits and save a little money at the same time, consider buying some prepaid Disney gift cards before you head off to Disney World!
They can really help you stay on budget PLUS if you shop at Target, a Target RedCard gives you 5% off your purchase of Disney gift cards! Grab your rain ponchos and any last-minute toiletries for your vacation while you’re at it!
4. Be on the Lookout for Extra Fees
From rental fees, cancellation fees, parking fees, and every fee in between, fees are a pesky problem to have at Disney World if you don’t know about them in advance!
To keep hidden fees from sneaking up on you, here are some common culprits!
Nightly Parking Fees For Disney World Resort Guests
Disney World Resorts began charging an overnight parking fee in March of 2018. Here are the current rates being charged:
- Disney World’s Value Resorts: $15 per night
- Disney World Moderate Resorts: $20 per night
- Disney World Deluxe Resorts & Deluxe Villas: $25 per night
- Valet parking is available at certain resorts for $33 per night
Note: Disney Vacation Club members are NOT charged for parking when using their DVC points to book a room or when staying at a Deluxe Villa because the cost is included in membership dues. For campers, one parking space is complimentary per campsite for guests at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground.
Staying Offsite Fees
If you’re planning on staying somewhere offsite, be prepared for additional fees like the cost of parking at the Disney theme parks.
Theme park parking is complimentary for Walt Disney World hotel guests and Annual Passholders, but everyone else will be paying:
- $25 per day for standard parking
- $45-$50 per day for preferred parking
- $30 per day for oversized parking
Once you pay at one Disney World theme park, you won’t have to pay again if you decide to visit more than one park in a day — just save your receipt! And if you’re a Walt Disney World resort guest or passholder you can upgrade to preferred parking by paying the difference between the standard rate and the preferred rate. Free parking is available at Disney’s Water Parks as well as ESPN Wide World of Sports and at Disney Springs.
Tips can really add up quick at Disney World! Even if you’ve already paid for all of your meals ahead of time with a Disney Dining Plan, note that gratuity isn’t included. (The Disney Dining Plan is not being offered at this time, but we will be sure to update our readers as soon as anything new pops up!)
We highly recommend budgeting an extra 18-20% of your planned table service meals to cover the tip of your hard-working server. Keep in mind, if you have a party of 6 or more, an 18% gratuity will automatically be added to your bill. And if you’re using a Tables in Wonderland card, you’ll also have an 18% gratuity added to your check no matter your party’s size.
5. There Are Special Perks for Kids Under Three
But enough about fees! Let’s talk about something A LOT more pleasant — FREEBIES! And if you have any children under the age of three, then lucky you! There are all sorts of great ways you can save some money! For instance, children under the age of three are allowed to eat off of a parent’s plate for free! This is especially nice at buffets where you’re free to make a plate for your toddler and one for yourself.
And did you know children under the age of three don’t need a park ticket to get inside any of the Disney parks? Just remember, though, that if you plan to fly to Disney they might not be TOTALLY free — while Disney World lets kids under three in for free, children two and up require a full-priced plane ticket to fly. So if you’re in that two to three age range, keep that in mind!
This little tip might really help you plan out when you should go to Disney World if you have children under three! The difference between going a few weeks before your child turns three or after their birthday could mean spending hundreds of dollars more!
6. Don’t Forget About Rider Switch
Worried about bringing a small child along and not getting to enjoy the thrill rides? Don’t forget about a magical little thing called Rider Switch! With Rider Switch, you and your partner won’t have to wait in line twice if you have a child who’s too small or doesn’t want to ride.
Here’s how it works: the person riding can let a Cast Member know they want to use Rider Switch BEFORE they get in line, and they’ll give them a special pass to give to the last Cast Member they encounter before boarding.
When they’re done, they go outside and switch places with the second person, who can hop in the FastPass line to ride without a lengthy wait! Rider Switch has been around for years and it has been a lifesaver for those of us who travel frequently with small kiddos in tow!
7. Start in the Back
Many guests get hung up on the first few attractions they encounter when the parks open (ever noticed Spaceship Earth in Epcot has a LONG wait in the morning?!), but for the shortest wait times, always head to the back!
Lots of times you can knock out some pretty popular rides without a FastPass (please note, FastPass+ is currently unavailable due to the global health crisis. We’ll be sure to update our readers as soon as any new information pops up!) if you head straight to the back of a park and get on ‘em right away! Then you can relax and enjoy a more leisurely pace while working your way back up to the front of the park for the rest of the day.
Keep in mind this doesn’t ALWAYS work — Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a good example of this. The most popular attractions are at the back of this park, like Slinky Dog Dash and all of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, so everyone ELSE will likely be rushing to the back of this park first. In general, this tip works well for the other three parks.
8. Be Ready to Meet Disney Characters
Chances are you’ll probably run into some “colorful characters” at Disney World, especially if you’ll be enjoying a character meal at one of the park’s many dining locations.
To make life even easier for your Disney pals, bring a Sharpie marker from home which is a lot easier for characters with fuzzy or big-gloved hands to hold. They can even sign your shirt or backpack with it (as long as you’re not wearing it)! (Just don’t let it fall into your toddlers’ hands or they could do some SERIOUS damage!) 😉 (Please note, character meet and greets are currently unavailable due to the global health crisis, but we will be sure to update our readers as soon as anything new pops up!)
We also like to keep our autograph books in a Ziploc bag we brought from home. That way, we don’t have to worry if it rains or our bag gets splashed on a ride.
Asking an attending Cast Member BEFORE you get in line how long the character will be out is also a really good idea. Characters can only be out for about 20 minutes at a time, so by asking, you can decide if it’s worth the wait or something you should circle back later on to see!
9. Know How to Exit Magic Kingdom on a Crowded Day (Without a Major Headache)
Did you know many of the gift shops on Main Street, U.S.A. are connected? That means if there are heavy crowds due to a parade or fireworks show ending, you can sometimes escape a little faster and a little easier through the gift shops.
We also like to exit the park through the gift shop to get a nice, cool blast of AC before waiting at the bus stop (which can be a long, HOT wait!).
This exit strategy is also really helpful when it’s raining. You can practically get to the front of the park from Adventureland by entering at Casey’s Corner and exiting through the Emporium. There is a break between some of the buildings on the other side of Main Street, U.S.A., but the same general rule applies when exiting the park from Tomorrowland as well!
10. Always Check the Special Offers Tab Before You Book (and Check It After, Too)
Disney room and package discounts and offers are usually released closer to your travel date, so while something might not be available right when you book your trip, keep checking. Disney doesn’t advertise this, but you can usually get in on any deals by re-booking your reservation with the new discount applied!
Keep in mind, most special offers cannot be combined and some promotions, such as Disney World’s Free Dining offer, and they tend to fill up especially FAST! That’s why we always like to recommend our trusted travel agency, Small World Vacations. If a special offer is announced after Small World Vacations helps you make your arrangements, they’ll even help you get the discount applied to your vacation without you having to do any of the legwork!
We hope we helped provide you with a few not-so-common tips to make the most of your trip. A LOT of work goes into planning the perfect Disney World vacation both before you go AND once you’re there, so knowing how to work around common problems and some tips to save time or money can be a huge help!
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Which tip was the most helpful? Let us know in the comments below!