It’s finally happened. You’ve booked your flight, reserved a room at the best hotel you could afford, and are standing with your Disney World tickets in hand. The hard work has been done . . . or has it?
Particularly for a first-timer, a trip to Disney can be mentally as well as financially draining. Your vacation isn’t all about just getting your money’s worth — your time is every bit as valuable as your dollar, and there are ways to optimize your touring to ensure that you get the most out of each. Here are a few guidelines to remember when planning your itinerary for your days at the parks.
Select the right time of year to visit.
According to the Undercover Tourist website, the least-crowded times to get Walt Disney World tickets and to go tend to fall in January, with a few weeks in February and March sprinkled in as well. If you can go during one of these times, then you won’t have to fight as many crowds, and wait times will be shorter to begin with. Just keep an eye on spring-break calendars or any special events that Disney might be hosting during your stay.
This may not be an option for you — some families have no choice but to plan their Disney trip at the height of summer, or during the holiday season. If that’s the case, fear not: You can have a wonderful time no matter when you go.
Arrive at the turnstiles before opening.
According to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, this is the single most important piece of advice you can receive. Not only are you guaranteed to be admitted to the park — which is far from a sure thing during the busier times of year, at least if you aren’t staying on Disney property — you’ll reduce your wait times significantly. The parks are far less crowded during the first hour or two of operation, meaning you won’t spend nearly as much time waiting in line for the most popular attractions. Often, you’ll find yourself just walking right on to the first ride or two you encounter.
In the last few years, Disney has instituted a new reservation system for its most popular rides and attractions. Called Fastpass+, it allows you to reserve a one-hour window in which to experience an attraction — even before you’ve left home. The service is available for one to three attractions, depending on what type of ticket you’re holding. Not that this differs slightly from the old Fastpass system — if you visited Disney in the past and were used to the old way, remember that a little more advance preparation is required this time around. If you’re a first-timer, it’s still important to take advantage of the perk as early as you can. Again, this will reduce the amount of time you spend standing in line, leaving you more time for fun and relaxation.
Plan for breaks.
Speaking of relaxation: the Disney parks are huge, and a few hours spent navigating them can be exhausting, no matter how much fun you’re having. If you’ve followed the first line of instructions and arrived at the park before opening, plan to leave just before lunchtime, when the crowd levels start to increase. Not only will you save money by eating lunch outside the park — prices are higher when you’re a captive audience — but you’ll welcome the opportunity to relax and refresh yourselves. Go back to the hotel, take a dip in the pool, put on a movie and doze off for a while. You can return to the parks in the afternoon, wide-awake and ready for an evening of magic.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped for the optimal Disney experience. Have a magical trip!