Going to Disney World for the first time? Or maybe you THINK you’re a Disney expert but fear there are essential tips and tricks out there that have somehow evaded you? No matter who you are, you’ve come to the right place.
We go to Disney World every day — we’ve eaten tons of food, ridden the rides, checked out the shows, and scoured the merchandise shops. Plus, we search for discounts and deals on the daily. In short, we work diligently to know what’s happening in the parks and bring YOU the tricks you need to make your trip the best one yet. Now we’re diving into our years of experience and bringing you some of the top tips that’ll CHANGE your experience in the parks!
1 — Save $$ on Water Bottles
Our ultimate pro-tip when it comes to staying hydrated is to bring your own reusable water bottle from home and refill it (at water fountains or by getting free cups of water), but if you simply must buy a water bottle or other soda in Disney World, there is a way to save money!
Annual Passholders get discounts on a variety of things in Disney world, including merchandise at certain stores. If you are a Passholder and need to pick up a bottle of soda, SKIP the snack cart and head to a Disney-owned and operated store instead!
While the Passholder discount may not work at a place like Cool Ship, stop by the nearby Star Traders gift shop and you’ll find that Passholders get 20% off select regularly priced merchandise. That can often include water bottles and soda found in small refrigerators there, or even packaged snacks.
So before grabbing a snack or drink from the snack cart, check nearby stores to see if the Annual Passholder discount can actually save you a bit of cash!
Click here to learn more about the Annual Passholder program in Disney World
2 — You Don’t Have to Guess What Wait Times Will Be
Ever look at a ride’s wait time in the My Disney Experience app and think “gosh, I want to ride it but I’m wondering if the wait time will go DOWN later today.” Well, you don’t necessarily need to just cross your fingers and wait to see what happens.
While it’s not an exact science and is only an estimation, the My Disney Experience app does show forecasted wait times! Simply search for and select the ride you want to see forecasted wait times for and look for the middle portion where it says “forecasted wait times.”
Again, these aren’t exact calculations. But they could give you a sense of when or whether a ride’s wait times will drop later in the day. And if the app is only showing that wait times will get WORSE as the day goes on, then you may want to consider hopping in line now!
Also, don’t forget that we look at average wait times weekly. That can help you get a sense of just how long you may have to wait for your favorite attractions (on average).
Click here to learn more about My Disney Experience
3 — The Menus Aren’t What They Seem
You might have reviewed all of the Disney World restaurant menus ahead of your trip, but the menus aren’t always what they seem. Several Disney World spots actually have SECRET menu items! You might find secret Strawberry Soup at Disney’s Grand Floridian Cafe, secret bread and snacks at Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom, and more.
Now, there are a few caveats to keep in mind. Secret menu items can and do disappear and change often. So a secret menu item you buy today may not be there tomorrow or in a few weeks. But still, it’s worth it to do a bit of digging, see what might be available, and ask a server about any special off-the-menu items you can order. You might be surprised at what you’ll find!
Remember also that some secret menu items may only be available through Mobile Order, so before grabbing that next snack, see if there are any unique things on the menu that aren’t usually listed there!
We’ve got an entire PAGE dedicated to secret menus here — so click on and see what you might find! And see our video below to learn about more secret eats!
4 — Yes, You Can Bring in That PB&J and Bottle of Diet Coke
Eating can be a HUGE draw at the Disney parks — we know, we are Disney Food Blog, after all! But sometimes you may crave the simplicity (and savings!) of bringing food from home. And you might be surprised to learn just how much you can bring into the parks!
Adults or kiddos in your group may have extremely picky palettes or you may just want to save on breakfast so you can really splurge on that character lunch. Or maybe you just want to make sure that you don’t reach dangerously hangry levels while waiting in a 2-hour line for a ride somewhere. Bringing your own food can be the answer to those problems and so many others.
Now there are some rules to keep in mind:
- You CANNOT bring alcoholic beverages from outside into the parks
- You can’t bring things that come in glass containers (though there is generally an exclusion for small glass baby food containers)
- The food you bring cannot require heating, reheating, processing, refrigeration, or temperature control
- You can’t bring anything with pungent odors
- You should alert a security Cast Member of any food items you’ve got
Overall, those aren’t rules that are too difficult to follow for your basic snacks and even more!
Want to pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a quick and cheap lunch? You can do it! What about packs of chips for the whole family? Done! Soda and water bottles for the entire group, and maybe some orange juice too for a breakfast drink? Totally okay! How about a bunch of fruit snacks to keep you satisfied throughout the day? That’s fine!
Really, you could bring enough snacks, sandwiches, and other goodies to fill your entire day, saving you from having to spend a dime on food in the parks. Whether you want to do that is up to you (because, again, eating really can be half of the fun). But bringing your own snacks can really be a budget and hunger saver.
If you’ll be driving, pack the snacks in the family car. But if you are flying and won’t have room in your luggage, remember that you can have groceries delivered to your hotel or you could stop by local grocery stores to get the essentials.
Click here to see some of your top questions (and answers) about bringing food into the parks
5 — The My Disney Experience App Can Be Your Friend
You likely already know that you can use the My Disney Experience app for things like Genie+ and to Mobile Order your meals, but the app can do SO much more for you. We already highlighted the forecasted wait times feature above, but there are a ton of other things you probably didn’t realize the app can help you with.
Did you know you can filter the park maps by characters, PhotoPass, or even RESTROOMS?! That’s right, no more running around when you’ve got to go. Simply go to the map (it’s the second icon on the bottom row), tap that center down arrow and a select category option will pop up, then select restrooms and you’ll know just where to go!
But wait…there’s MORE. You can also use the My Disney Experience app to set up MagicMobile, a service that’ll essentially turn your phone (or even Apple Watch) into a useful tool that can help you scan your ticket at the front of the park without even pulling out a MagicBand.
Here are just a few more things the app can help you do:
- Join Walk-Up Waitlist for popular restaurants (this can help you grab a last-minute spot at select restaurants)
- Skip the lines at merchandise stores (by using Mobile Merchandise Checkout)
- Use a Car Locator feature to mark down your parking spot (before you walk away and forget!)
- Watch videos about Disney World updates
- And MORE
So, take our advice and familiarize yourself with the app well before your trip. You might be surprised how much it can do for you!
Check out some things you NEVER knew the My Disney Experience app could do!
6 — You Might Not Need to Actually Sit Down to Eat at a Table Service Restaurant You Love
Want to grab that amazing bread service from Sanaa but don’t feel like sitting down for a full meal? Or maybe you’ve been craving a steak from Steakhouse 71 but you’d rather take it back to the room and eat it while watching a Disney movie on TV. Well, you might just be in luck!
Disney has a service called Mobile Order Table Service To-Go and it’s something you MUST know about.
Mobile Order Table Service To Go lets you pick up some of your FAVORITE meals from select table service restaurants mainly at Disney World’s hotels. Like the regular Mobile Order service, you’ll place your order through the My Disney Experience app, select a pick-up time, pay for it in advance, and then pick it up from the restaurant. Where you eat it is up to you — take it to a bench nearby, enjoy it in your room, or whatever you want!
Now keep in mind that the service is only available at a few select spots at Disney World’s hotels, namely:
- Steakhouse 71
- Three Bridges Bar & Grill
- Olivia’s Cafe
- Kona Cafe
- Geyser Point Bar & Grill
- Ale & Compass Restaurant
And at some places, a message may pop up saying it is only available for guests staying at that hotel (just be sure to check when placing your order). But even given its limited availability, it can still be a HUGE perk.
You might just get the chance to try a meal you otherwise wouldn’t have had the time or energy for — so give it a shot the next time you’re in Disney World!
Learn all about Table Service To Go here!
7 — The Kids’ Menu Is NOT Just for Kids
Do you want a hamburger but aren’t hungry enough to finish the adult-sized portion? Want to save a bit of money by ordering a kids’ portion of a meal? Or maybe you’ve got a picky eater in the group who can’t imagine ordering anything but the kids’ chicken tenders? If you think that the kids’ menu is off-limits simply because you’re a little older than your traditional “kid,” you’d be WRONG.
That’s right, the kids’ menus aren’t just for kids! So feel free to order a kids’ meal at a quick service restaurant (in person or via Mobile Order). The Cast Members won’t judge you! Having the kids’ menu as an option can be helpful for many of the reasons we mentioned above. It could get you the food you really want and the portion size you’d prefer at a price that’s a bit easier on your wallet.
The only time you may find this to be more difficult is at Table Service restaurants. They may bring adults a larger (and more expensive) portion of the food from the kids’ menu or otherwise make certain restrictions. But it never hurts to ask and see what they can do.
Click here to see some of the BEST kids’ menus in Disney World!
8 — There Are Some Substantial Disney World Hotel Perks (But Other Hotels Qualify Too Sometimes!)
Staying at a Disney World hotel comes with a good amount of perks, some of which you probably already know about. For example, there is FREE Disney transportation to the theme parks. Plus, those staying at Disney World hotels get FREE theme park parking, so if you’d prefer to take your car, simply show them your hotel reservation and you can park for free. And recently Disney World brought back free overnight self-parking at the hotels for hotel guests (so no need to pay an extra fee for overnight parking).
Staying at a Disney World hotel can be important for other reasons too, but sometimes you can get Disney World hotel perks at non-Disney hotels too!
For example, did you know that ALL Disney World hotel guests can currently get 30-minute EARLY access to any park of their choosing (provided they have a Park Pass reservation) any day of the week? This is a perk called Early Theme Park Entry and it’s set to stick around through 2023.
And while all Disney World hotels qualify, other select hotels qualify too like the B Resort & Spa (at Disney Springs), the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, and the Holiday Inn Orlando (Disney Springs). So you are able to get a Disney hotel perk without spending Disney hotel prices! Click here for a full list of participating hotels.
And what about Extended Evening Hours? This perk lets you spend EXTRA time in select parks on certain nights after the rest of the crowds have gone away. It’s available to those staying at Disney World Deluxe Hotels and Deluxe Villas. BUT it’s also available to those staying at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels, the Swan Reserve, and Shades of Green.
And what about Genie+? That has some special hotel perks too! All Disney World hotel guests can make their first Individual Lightning Lane (pay-per-ride) selection at 7AM on the day of their visit. BUT that perk is also available for those at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and Shades of Green. Everyone else has to wait until the park opens, but those extra hours can be helpful in securing the Pay-Per-Ride selection you want at the return time you need!
So the key here is to know that Disney World hotels do come with some good benefits beyond just the free transportation and fun theming. But also keep in mind that select other hotels may qualify for some (not necessarily all) of those benefits too, so you may be able to score the big perks with a smaller price tag (depending on where you stay).
9 — OpenTable Can Score You a Seat in Disney Springs
By now you likely know that you can make Disney World dining reservations through the Disney World website and My Disney Experience app, but if you’re going to Disney Springs, check out OpenTable too!
A few Disney Springs restaurants are actually available through OpenTable, so you may just be able to score a table at a place that otherwise looked full through the My Disney Experience app.
The key here is to remember that not all restaurants are available through OpenTable, only some! But it can still be a very helpful tool when trying to grab that must-get seat!
10 — The Secret to Saving on Park Tickets
Sometimes Disney offers limited-time park ticket discounts (often for Florida Residents), but aside from that, how can you save on your access to the parks? Well…you just might be able to get a SNEAKY discount if you know how to look.
When looking at multi-day tickets, you’ll be asked to select the start date for your ticket. Let’s say we decide to buy a 4-day park ticket. The start date won’t restrict us to just the date we selected and the 3 days that follow that. Instead, you’ll notice that Disney says you can use the ticket on non-consecutive days for quite the range PAST 4 days surrounding your start date.
Why is that important? Well, if you play around with the start date, you could get some savings! For example, let’s say the days you actually want to go to the parks are April 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th. If you select the 5th as your start date (and pick a ticket that gives you access to 1 park per day), the price starts at $566.15 per ticket.
But, look at what happens when you select a start date of April 2nd. It still encompasses your desired dates (5th-8th) but the price suddenly DROPS to $551.47 per ticket. You’ve just saved almost $15 for doing…nothing really!
You’ll just want to feel confident about the days on which you want to go to the parks and remember you’ll need those Park Pass reservations for each day!
Click here to see the cheapest days to visit Disney World in 2023
11 — Look for a Back Entrance
Want to experience part of an exhibit without going on its main attraction? You might be able to — just look for a back entrance!
For example, if you want to visit the aquariums at The Seas pavilion, you do NOT need to go on The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride first. Instead, head to the left of the pavilion, find the gift shop, and enter through there. You can then explore the aquariums at your leisure, no ride wait necessary.
The same is true over at the Imagination pavilion. If all your kiddo wants to do is check out those play areas at the exit of the ride, you can skip the Figment ride itself, go in through the gift shop, and check out the play zone.
Remember there’s also a “back” entrance/exit to EPCOT as a whole — over by Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort. It’s between the United Kingdom and France pavilions and can connect you over to various EPCOT-area resorts and even a walkway that’ll take you all the way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
In other words, don’t let the main entrances fool you. Be sure to check and see if there’s a way to get into whatever you want by seeking a side or back entrance. Just make sure it’s an approved spot for you to enter through and follow any Cast Member directions when finding your way!
12 — There’s MORE You Can Get for FREE Than Just a Button
You might already know that you can get free buttons to celebrate special occasions in Disney World, but you might be surprised to know how many other things you can get for free in the parks!
For starters, at many quick service locations, you can get a FREE cup of ice and water — a much-needed thing on those hot Florida days! Simply ask a Cast Member for a cup of water or look for any free water that might be arranged nearby. Oh, and you can grab free water at Starbucks too!
But wait, there’s MORE. Over at The Seas with Nemo and Friends, you can actually pick up a FREE booklet to complete the Finding Dory’s Friens Scavenger Hunt.
Within the booklet, there are activities to complete and more that’ll keep little ones (or bigger ones!) entertained and can serve as a great souvenir.
You can also get a FREE Wilderness Explorers booklet as you work on getting your badges in this activity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Again it comes with activity pages and things that can help you as you unlock your badges throughout the park.
You can also pick up free maps at the parks.
And if it’s your birthday, be sure to wear that birthday button proudly. Though it’s not guaranteed, you never know what magic might happen!
For more about FREE things in Disney World, see our video below.
13 — MODIFY (Don’t Cancel) Your Genie+ Selections
And finally, we will briefly touch on a Genie+ change that you need to know about. In late 2022, Disney changed Genie+, allowing guests to modify their selections. That brought about an important adjustment to the 120-minute rule.
One of the more complicated parts of Genie+ is the “120-minute rule.” If you book a Genie+ selection at 9AM for a return time that isn’t until 3PM, you don’t have to wait until the afternoon to make your next selection. With Genie+ you can make your next selection either:
- After you use your Genie+ selection,
- After your Genie+ selection expires (if you don’t use it), or
- 120 minutes after you made your selection (if you make the selection at 7AM, that 120 minutes doesn’t start until the park opens)
whatever happens first.
So here’s where the Genie+ change comes in. Let’s say you book a Lightning Lane at 7AM for a return time at 6:15PM. Because you booked it at 7AM and the park doesn’t open (let’s say) until 9AM, the next time you could make a Genie+ selection would be at 11AM (120 minutes after park open).
But what if at around 9:30AM you change your mind about the Genie+ selection you want? You could CANCEL your existing 6:15PM Genie+ selection and then make a new one for another ride at (let’s say) 5PM. But that would RESET your 120-minute timer. So instead of being able to make a new selection at 11AM, it would reset to 120 minutes after 9:30AM — 11:30AM.
The other option you have is to MODIFY your existing Genie+ selection. Here’s the important part: when you modify, your 2-hour window to wait to book another Lightning Lane remains the same. That means, in this example, 11AM would still be the next time at which you’d be able to make a Genie+ selection.
So by modifying (instead of canceling), you’d save yourself from having to wait another 30 minutes to make your next Genie+ selection. Yes, it’s confusing. The key is to MODIFY instead of CANCELING your Genie+ selection so you can make your next Genie+ selection as quickly as possible.
Click here for our post on this topic!
And there you have it — 13 insider tips for your next trip to Disney! Got more tips and tricks you like to use? Share them with us in the comments!
And stay tuned for more Disney information.
Planning a Trip to Disney World? We’ve Got Everything You Need to Know
Tips, Hints, Lists, and Videos for Planning the BEST Disney World Trip
The ONLY Disney Dining Planning Tool You’ll Need Is Here – Get the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining!
Join the DFB Newsletter to Get All the Latest Disney News Delivered Right to Your Inbox! Click Here to Subscribe
What is your best Disney trick? Tell us in the comments!
Leave a Reply