There are so many tips that people just don’t know when they’re traveling to Disney World. They may be small and “unimportant” but they make a world of difference by adding some extra magic to your trip. While lots of people write about the “best secrets”, sometimes I find those secrets are overly complicated or just not helpful. So here are my secrets. Hopefully you’ll find them to be very simple, and can apply them during your trip!
Secret #1: Go to the parks EARLIER than opening time.
This one is HUGE and a lot of people simply don’t take advantage of it. I’m going to pack a punch with this short blurb, so pay close attention.
Disney will post their opening times. For today’s exercise, we’ll use Hollywood Studios. In September 2020, DHS (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) had a posted opening time of 10am. I had a gut feeling that the park would open earlier than 10am simply because they are required to avoid mass gatherings of people. I was right!
The line for the Skyliner from Pop Century to DHS was longer than any line I’ve ever seen in my life, so we quickly decided to Uber. We made the right call. Always keep uber as an option when it comes to travel. You’re in the Disney Bubble so everything is close. A $7 Uber ride is totally worth it to beat the crowds. The Uber dropped us at the park at 9:15am, and the gates were already open for guests to enter the park. When we went in, I asked a Cast Member if he thought rides would open early, and the response was “Most likely so, yes”. So we immediately headed over to Slinky Dog. Sure enough, they opened the ride early, and we were getting onto the Slinky Dog at 9:33am. By 10:10am we had ridden Slinky Dog, Aerosmith’s Rock’N’Roller Coaster, and the Tower of Terror. Three headliner rides within ten minutes of the stated park opening time.
The next day, we went to Magic Kingdom. While we didn’t have the same experience with all the rides opening early, we did experience one thing that I do want to mention. We hit the bus stop for 1 hour 15 minutes before the park opened. We were way too early. We learned that the busses don’t officially start running until 30 minutes before opening time, but usually first pick up is 45 minutes prior. In this case, the bus did come 45 minutes prior. However, I’m glad we were at the bus stop early. While we waited, more, and more, and more, and more people started flocking to the busses the closer it got to bus pick up time. With social distancing required because of COVID-19, the busses can only take a very small quantity of people to the parks. I can’t say for fact if they’ve accommodated this by upping the number of running busses (so basically, if they have, it wasn’t noticeable). So, if you’re not there early, you could be waiting quite some time before even getting to board a bus to the parks. If a bus regularly holds about 40-50 people, the busses now only hold maybe 20. So get to the bus line early and be willing to wait, or use uber or lyft.
Meanwhile, once we got to Magic Kingdom, we walked right in, and straight into the line for Splash Mountain. As soon as the clock struck opening time, they walked the line right onto the ride. We were able to ride twice in a row before the line really got going, so once we were done with Splash Mountain, we hopped over to Big Thunder Mountain! Once again, we had a 3 headliner ride morning right at the start of the day.
Secret #2: You don’t have to leave when the parks close.
That’s right. The stated closing time of the park may be 8pm, and at 7:30 you will usually see loads of people heading towards the exits. Welp, good news. YOU DON’T HAVE TO JOIN THEM! No one will fuss at you if you’re in the park for a while afterwords. In fact, many of the restaurants have reserved dining times that are after the park closes. While visiting Disney in September 2020, My friends had reservations for Beauty and the Beast, 45 minutes after park closed. We walked the different areas of the park for 40 minutes, and I hopped in line to peruse the shops when they left to go to their reservation. I was able to stay in the park so long without being fussed at! I shopped for probably an hour (note: they close the Emporium shops from closest to the castle forward to the gates), and once I was done I went back into the park and walked all the way to the castle to take pictures. At this point it was probably 90 minutes after closing time. I never got fussed at. It made for incredible pictures and an experience I won’t forget.
Secret #3: Jump in a ride line before the clock strikes “closing time”.
As long as you’re in line for a ride before the clock strikes “closing time” at a park, Cast Members will let you ride the ride. This isn’t so much of a secret, but a lot of people heading to Disney aren’t aware of this. Use this to your advantage! While at Epcot in 2020, we hopped in a 50 minute line for Frozen Ever After 15 minutes before the park closed. It was a long line (Covid social distancing!) but it kept moving. When the park closed we hadn’t made it through to the building yet, and there were still lots of people behind us too! When we exited the ride, the park was mostly empty, but instead of heading to the exits, we hit the World Showcase! It made for some epic pictures of beautifully lit countries with no people in them! The only catch is, absolutely nothing is open after close. No snack carts, no restaurants, and most souvey shops are shuttered after the park closes. Same thing here: no one fussed at us!
Secret #4 Manipulate the Mobile Order Process!
I should probably do a dedicated post to how I manipulate the mobile ordering process, but for now, here’s a quick tutorial. Since Covid, the only way you can order food is through the My Disney Experience App. While lots of people think that stinks, I’m a huge fan, and here’s why:
Basically, you decide where you want to eat. You get in line for a ride and while you’re waiting, place your Mobile Food Order in the App. What most people don’t realize is that once you’ve placed your order, that doesn’t mean they start prepping your food. The next step is to tell the kitchen “I’m here” through a button on the next screen. Once you click that “I’m here” button, THAT’S when they start preparing your meal, not before. Which means, if you actually click the “I’m here” button once you’re there, you’re going to wait another 5-10 minutes.
So, hop in line for that ride, and place that order while you wait in line. Ride the ride, and as soon as you get off the ride, click the “I’m Here” button while you’re still walking out the exit. Then, it’ll take you 5 minutes or so to walk over to the restaurant you ordered food from. By the time you click “I’m here” as you hop off the ride, then walk over, your food is usually ready and waiting for you. Once the screen turns purple, the Cast Member lets you in to collect your order. This way, you haven’t had to waste a minute waiting for food!
Secret #5 This one is for BEFORE your trip…
If you’re staying on Disney Property for your Disney Vacation, that’s the BEST way to go. Even during COVID, being inside the Disney Bubble is worth the pennies, in my opinion. That being said, if you’re staying at a resort that has a ginormous amount of rooms and is very spread out, DON’T WAIT til you get to the hotel to make a room request. I’m talking about resorts like Pop Century, Art of Animation, Carribean Beach, Coronado Springs, Fort Wilderness Campground (and eventually Port Orleans Resort and others currently closed because of Covid). These hotel rooms are incredibly spread out, and you can end up walking another half a mile after you get off the skyliner or bus when your feet are killing you at the end of the day.
Before you check in online through My Disney Experience, wait until about 7 days before your check in date, and call the resort to request an area of the hotel that you want to be in. If you see that the 100 loop of Fort Wilderness Campground is near the general store, you can call and request that you be near that area. Now, you may not get loop 100, but they will make every effort to get you as close to loop 100 as they can. If you want to be in a room that has the least amount of walking from a bus stop, look up those maps and find the area where you’d like your room. Trust me, it’s better than not making a request at all. After you make your request, start checking in through the site.