16 Disney Planning Tips for the Best Trip Ever (PHOTOS)

Navigating Disney can be a challenge -- there's just so much great stuff going on that it makes it close to impossible to see it all -- but there's enough Disney insider knowledge floating around now to help in the hunt.

Here are 16 tips to make your Disney experience the best possible for you and your family. Don't even try going in without them! 

 

Image © iStock.com/BanksPhotos 

  • Stay at a Disney Resort

    1

    You'll enjoy your days so much more and be able to spend more time at the parks. Each day, parks open early or stay open late for Extra Magic Hours, which are only available to Disney resort guests.  Also, you'll be able to go back to your resort in the afternoon for a rest and a swim when the parks are hot and crowded. Then, head back out for a night of fun.

  • Park Planning

    2

    Before you go, check the hours of each park during your visit and see when the fireworks, parades, and extra magic hours are scheduled.  Check the crowd calendars to see which days the parks will be least busy during your visit. Then, you can plan on which parks you want to visit each day. 

  • Know the Parks

    3

    Review the maps of the parks so you know which rides are near each other and where you can go for meals and snacks. You can even order customized maps from Disney for free! If you're not that familiar with which rides usually have long lines, check out the wait times on the My Disney Experience app. Rides with the longest waits are best to ride with a Fast Pass. 

  • Book Your Fast Passes 30-60 Days in Advance

    4

    Save time and avoid long lines by booking your Fast Passes -- you can reserve three rides per day. You'll get to choose the day and the time that you want to ride and you won't have to wait in a long line. Plan your fast passes after 11 a.m. and try to make your last one before 3 p.m. This way you can hit a few rides early before the crowds but still have time to make more fast passes after yours are gone.  

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  • Dining at Disney

    5

    If you'd like to enjoy a character meal or dine in one of the top Disney restaurants, it's best to book reservations ahead of time. You can check the menus and pricing at all of the Disney restaurants and food stands on the Disney website. If you're not sure whether you want to purchase the Disney Dining Plan, you can decide later and have it added to your reservation up to three days before your trip. That will give you time to decide where you plan to eat and whether the plan is a good deal for you.

  • Save Money and Stay Hydrated

    6

    You can get free ice water at any place that serves fountain drinks, and you can refill your water bottles, too. You can also bring in snacks and food -- no coolers, though. Snacks will not only help to keep little bellies happy in between meals, but they can also help pass the time when waiting in lines or while watching parades.

  • Get to the Parks Early!

    7

    Avoid lines by getting to the parks early. Check the opening times and try to get to the park about 15 minutes before the park opens. Be sure to have a map and know where you're going to make the best use of the valuable morning hours. You'll usually walk right onto your favorite rides or have a very short wait. Once 11 a.m. hits, it's no longer early and the parks can be packed!

  • Plan an Early Lunch

    8

    Unless you have a reservation, plan your lunch around 11:30 to avoid the lines and crowds.

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  • Avoid Long Lines in the Afternoon

    9

    Plan to visit attractions in the afternoon that usually never have lines. Enjoy some shows (and some air-conditioning!) while you relax and escape the afternoon crowds. Then, go back to your resort for a rest and a swim. You'll feel refreshed and ready for a fun night at the parks!

  • Single Rider

    10

    Some rides at Walt Disney World offer Single Rider lines which can help save time and save your Fast Passes for other rides. Test Track at Epcot, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios, and Exhibition Everest at Animal Kingdom all offer a Single Rider Line. You probably won't get to sit next to the others you're with, but you won't be too far from each other, either.

  • Rider Switch Pass

    11

    If a child in your party doesn't meet the height requirement for a ride (or just doesn't want to ride), ask a cast member at the ride for a Rider Switch Pass. One adult can wait with the non-rider while the rest of the party experiences the attraction. Once the other adult in the party returns to supervise the child or children who do not ride, the waiting adult can then board the attraction (with up to three people!) without having to wait in the regular line.

  • Front Row!

    12

    Ask to wait for the front row when it's your turn to board a ride. Rides are so much better when you don't have someone sitting in front of you.

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  • Magic Kingdom Barbershop

    13

    If your kids are due for a haircut, stop by the Magic Kingdom Barber Shop on Main Street. It won't take long, they're not expensive, and the kids will have a blast!

  • Rain Ponchos

    14

    If you're visiting Disney World during the rainy season (late summer / early fall), have your rain ponchos ready. You can bring your own or buy them at the parks. You may also want to use a rain poncho on some of the water rides -- especially on cold days. If you buy one at Disney and it rips, you can exchange it for a new one at any gift shop.

  • Autographs

    15

    If you're meeting characters in the parks or at the restaurants, a fun way to spend a little more time with them is to ask for their autographs. Be sure to bring an autograph book and pen with you. If you don't have an autograph book, you can buy one - or just bring some paper and a pen!

  • Fireworks!

    16

    Find out when the firework shows are planned for each park and end each day with a bang!

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