10 Disney World Tips & Hacks for the Perfect Vacation
Not only is Disney World the happiest place on Earth, it is also one of the best places to visit in the USA, but it can be difficult to plan you first Disney World vacation. There are so many contradicting Disney World tips that you don’t know where to even start.
This post covers the Top 10 Disney World tips and tricks you need to know. They’ll help you plan the perfect Disney World vacation and make magical memories on your trip.
There are, obviously, a lot more than just 10 Disney World tips I could give you, but these are the most important tips you should know before arriving in Disney World, in America.
These tips will help you have a stress-free Disney vacation and may even save you a little money along the way!
Top 10 Disney World Tips and Tricks you Need to Know
- Top 10 Disney World Tips and Tricks you Need to Know
- Stay on Property
- Get a Secret 4th Fastpass+
- Make Time to Visit Disney Springs
- Take Advantage of Free Activities
- Buy Tickets to Special Events Ahead of Time
- Book Dining in Advance
- Send Packages Back to Your Hotel
- Purchase Photopass
- Dedicate Extra Time to Explore Epcot’s Festivals
- Dine at Hotels
Stay on Property
Disney have 25 different hotels in Disney World. They range from value hotels that cost just over $100 per night to deluxe and luxury resorts that can cost over $500 per night. And everything in between.
Each hotel has a different theme and transports you to a different world when you’re at your hotel. The value resorts even have huge statues of your favorite Disney characters, and kids love them!
But there are number of reasons you should stay at a Disney-owned hotel besides their adorable theming. And did you know that at 155.991 million guests in 2019, Disney is the leading global brand in theme parks?
Everybody who stays at a Disney-owned hotel has access to the following benefits:
- Complimentary transportation to and from MCO airport
- Complimentary transportation from their hotel to the theme parks, Disney Springs, and the water parks
- Extra Magic Hours where you’re allowed into a certain park an hour before opening or two hours after the park officially closes
- Complimentary basic magic bands and a discount on deluxe magic bands
- The ability to make Fastpass+ reservations 60 days before arrival
As you can see, there are a lot of perks that come along with staying on Disney property.
There are plenty of hotels in the vicinity of Disney World that might look cheaper at first glance, but once you take into consideration all the money you’ll save on transportation costs and the convenience of staying on property, it becomes more and more appealing to book at Disney hotel.
Get a Secret 4th Fastpass+
It is widely known that you’re allowed to make 3 Fastpass+ selections per day. You can make your Fastpass+ selections 60 days in advance if you’re staying on Disney property and 30 days in advance if you’re staying off property.
But did you know that you’re allowed to make additional Fastpass+ reservations?!
A lot of people don’t, and they’re missing out on a golden opportunity to get on more rides and cut down on their wait time.
You can get an extra Fastpass+ after you’ve used up your three Fastpass+ reservations on a specific day.
Let’s say you’re at Magic Kingdom, and you booked your 3 Magic Kingdom Fastpass+ selections 60 days before you arrive. You’ve used all 3 of your Fastpass+ selections by 2pm, and you’re not ready to leave the park yet.
You simply go to the My Disney Experience app (or a Fastpass+ kiosk around the park), go into the Fastpass+ tab, and get a Fastpass+ for any ride that still has Fastpass+ available.
As soon as you use your 4th Fastpass+, you can book a 5th. And so on and so forth until there are no Fastpass+ options left or you’re ready to leave the park.
I personally love using my “extra” Fastpass+ to meet a character in Magic Kingdom.
Mickey Mouse, Tinker Bell, and the princesses normally have a long queue, and I don’t necessarily want to use my 3 “regular” Fastpass+ selections on a Fastpass+ to meet them. But I love using my bonus Fastpass+ to quickly meet them while I’m at Magic Kingdom.
After you’ve used your original 3 Fastpass+ selections, you’re only allowed to get one additional Fastpass+ at a time, but there is no limit to how many bonus Fastpass+ selections you can make.
As soon as you’re in the Fastpass+ line after scanning your 4th Fastpass+ get on the app right away to book at 5th one.
You’ll be surprised at how many bonus Fastpass+ selections you’ll be able to make if you play the system correctly.
Make Time to Visit Disney Springs
Disney Springs is a huge dining, shopping, and entertainment district on Disney property. The area used to be called Downtown Disney. In September of 2015, the area was renamed, and it underwent a 3-year renovation.
Disney Springs is incredible and offers some of the best shopping and dining in all of Disney World, but a lot of guests don’t take the time to visit it because they want to spend all their time in the parks.
This is a mistake!
Disney Springs is the perfect place to get away from the crowded parks and explore a more relaxed side of Disney. Disney Springs is not quiet by any means, but there are far fewer people there than in the parks.
There are a number of boutique stores in Disney Springs that you can’t find in the parks! You can find adorable Mickey soap at Basin and Mickey tea at The Spice & Tea Exchange.
You can catch a Disney bus from any of the parks or your hotel to Disney Springs, and it is the perfect place to spend an evening. Buses from the parks start running at 4pm and run all day from your hotel.
Take Advantage of Free Activities
Free and Disney World aren’t often found in the sentence, but there are a surprising number of free things you can do at Disney World. And they’re all super fun!
This is one of my favorite Disney World tips because I love saving some money on a multi-thousand-dollar trip but still soaking in the Disney magic.
Every Disney hotel offers the following free activities:
- Movies in the evening
- Hidden Mickey hunting
Other free activities around Disney World:
- Have a camp fire with Chip ‘n’ Dale and watch a movie at Fort Wilderness Hotel
- Play with Lego at the Lego Store in Disney Springs
- Take a tour of Boma restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Watch street performers at the Disney Boardwalk
- Listen to live music at many hotels. throughout Disney Springs, and Epcot
- Play Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom at Magic Kingdom
You don’t have to be staying at the Disney hotel that is hosting the free event. You just show up and are able to participate in it. Even if you’re not staying at a Disney hotel, you can still take part in the free hotel events!
Disney World is expensive, but you’re able to cut down on some of your costs by participating in some of the free events listed above.
My personal favorites are the tour of Boma and playing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.
Buy Tickets to Special Events Ahead of Time
Disney World offers a number of special hard-ticket events. You purchase a ticket to a limited offer event (normally in Magic Kingdom) and are given special perks during that event.
- Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (Magic Kingdom)
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (Magic Kingdom)
- Villains After Hours (Magic Kingdom)
- After Hours (Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom)
- Early Morning Magic (Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios)
All the hard-ticket events are super fun, and I love going to them whenever I visit Disney World. They can be quite expensive though. Tickets for these events range from about $80 to over $130.
That can seriously eat into your Disney budget!
Lucky for you, there is a way to save a small amount of money on these hard-ticket events, and that is by purchasing your ticket ahead of time.
You save about $10 per ticket if you buy it before the date of the event. The ticket prices increase if you purchase your ticket on the day of event.
This means you can save a little bit of money even if you only purchase your ticket 24-hours in advance. You don’t need to buy it 30 days in advance or before you arrive like you do for some add on’s.
$10 doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it adds up if you’re a family of 4!
This is one of my favorite Disney World tips because it is the easiest thing you can do to save some money on your Disney trip. You’re not sacrificing anything but still save money.
It doesn’t get any better than that!
Book Dining in Advance
You can book Disney World dining reservations 180 days in advance, and you should take full advantage of this.
You may think that there are so many restaurants at Disney World, and you can wing it and show up at a restaurant whenever you’re hungry. But that isn’t the case.
The most popular Disney restaurants are booked up shortly after their 180-advance dining reservation window opens and many of the other restaurants are completely booked in the weeks before your trip starts.
You can make dining reservations through the My Disney Experience app or on the Disney World website. Reservations are free to make, but you have to provide a credit card number to hold you reservations.
You can cancel your reservation at any time, but you’re charged a cancellation fee of $10 per person if you cancel less than 24 hours in advance.
A sneaky trick to avoid that cancellation fee is to modify your reservation. If you need to cancel within 24 hours of your reservation, use the app to change your reservation and book it for a different day.
Once the reservation is booked for another day, you’re able to cancel it without paying the cancellation fee.
This is one of those Disney World tips that requires some up-front work but pays off in the end!
You have to spend the time looking at menus and deciding where you want to eat, but you’ll be thanking yourself when you’re at Disney World indulging in all the delicious food.
Send Packages Back to Your Hotel
It is fairly common knowledge that guests staying at a Disney-owned hotel are able to send the items they purchase in the parks and Disney Springs back to their hotel for free.
This service saves you walking around the parks with a bunch of bags, but so few people take advantage of this feature.
It is so convenient to be able to send your bags to your hotel and not have to lug them around. I use the service multiple times whenever I’m at Disney World.
In order to use the service, you need the following:
- Know what hotel you’re staying at
- Know your hotel room number
- Not be leaving Disney World the next day
You simply tell the cast member you’re purchasing your items from that you want to send them back to your hotel. They give you a form to complete and then set your bags behind the counter to be delivered to your hotel.
It is as simple as that!
One important thing to note is that you need to tell the cast member that you want to send your bags to your hotel before you pay for your items.
If you tell them after you pay, they’re still able to help you, but it makes the process a lot more difficult on their end.
So be sure to mention you want your items delivered to your hotel early in the checkout process, and it will be a much smoother process for both you and the cast member!
Of all the Disney World tips on this list, this tip is probably the most controversial.
Photopass is an add on you can purchase that allows you to download all the pictures Disney World photographers take of you and your family and friends.
It is a really fun service and creates the most magical memories for you and your group.
The only downside is the cost. It is $169 if you purchase it 4 days in advance of your trip, but the price jumps to $199 if you purchase it within 3 days of your arrival at Disney World or during your vacation.
Photopass is expensive, but it is well worth the additional cost. It is so nice to have your entire group in the photo, and you’ll even get the occasional surprise visit by your favorite Disney characters in your photos!
The great part about Photopass is that it is unlimited. You can take and download as many photos as you want.
I leave Disney World with over 500 photos every time I visit, so you really do get a good value for the extra money you’re spending.
Photopass may not be for everybody, but it is something to seriously look into. It is so special to have great group photos from your trip at all the iconic Disney World locations.
Dedicate Extra Time to Explore Epcot’s Festivals
Epcot is famous for its festivals. The park hosts 4 unique festivals every year, so there is a pretty good chance you’ll be visiting Epcot during festival season.
The 4 festivals are:
- Festival of the Arts (January through February)
- Flower and Garden Festival (March through June)
- Food & Wine Festival (August through November)
- Festival of the Holidays (November through December)
These festivals are so much fun! They all have unique food booths, decorations, and activities. You can even make candy sushi during Food & Wine Festival!
You can easily spend an entire day walking around Epcot eating all the incredible snack-size food they offer, and you should!
There is so much to see and do during these festivals that you should plan to spend a little longer in Epcot than you would if a festival wasn’t going on.
It would be a shame to rush through Epcot and not have enough time to really get a taste of the festival.
Epcot is always busier during the evenings and weekends when locals are out enjoying the festivals. You should try to visit Epcot on a weekday afternoon if at all possible.
This way you’ll be able to enjoy more of the festival with fewer crowds!
Dine at Hotels
Disney hotels have some of the best food on all of Disney property, but not many people take the time to explore the hotels and eat at their restaurants.
There are a ton of restaurants at Disney hotels that are completely underrated! They’re normally super quiet and make for the most relaxing meal you’ll have at Disney.
My personal favourites are Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Maya Grill at Coronado Springs. I eat at them almost every time I’m at Disney World!
There are, of course, a number of very well-known Disney hotel restaurants that are super busy and require an advance dining reservation to eat at.
Ohana, California Grill, and Beaches and Cream are all examples of busy hotel restaurants. But they are the exception rather than the norm.
In most cases, you’re able to walk up to a hotel restaurant and be sat within a few minutes!
It is not just that the hotel restaurants are quiet. They are delicious and offer a range of cuisine based on the theme of the hotel.
They’re more laid back and relaxed than the restaurants in the parks and Disney Springs. You normally don’t have to deal with being pressed up against the table next to you, and you’re able to take your time enjoying your meal without feeling rushed.
Next time you’re planning a Disney date night, considering eating at a hotel restaurant!
And, there you have it. My top 10 Disney World tips and hacks that everybody should know before arriving at the parks.
All of these Disney World tips are practical and designed to help you plan your perfect vacation! They help you navigate what to plan before you arrive at Disney World, how to score bonus Fastpass+ selections, and even how to save a little money.
Disney World is a dream vacation for many people, but it can be overwhelming to pre-plan so many aspects of your trip. I hope this post made it a little bit easier!
Be sure to say hi to Mickey for me next time you’re in Disney World!
Erica is an avid solo traveler who has been to over 40 countries. She loves spending long periods of time in each country to get a sense of the country and culture. Erica’s favourite travel activities include attending local theatre and dance performances, wandering through museums, eating way too much food, and riding every rollercoaster she comes across.