Five Disney Hacks to save you time, money, and spare you some stress!
After visiting Walt Disney World six times over the course of two years, I picked up a few Disney hacks. Here are five simple hacks I learned that might help you enjoy your WDW vacation just a little more.
- Save money and get in before the crowds by booking Be Our Guest for breakfast, but only order coffee.
- Save time by using resort transportation even if you aren’t a resort guest.
- Save time using your stroller instead of a diaper bag.
- Save time at bag check by arriving thirty minutes prior to rope drop.
- Save your sanity and stay out on Saturday.
Coffee at Be Our Guest
My first tip is one of my favorites. It is a slight modification on a tip I learned from Shannon Albert at WDW Prep School. During our 2016 season of annual passes, Disney was experimenting as they often do, with several variations on before park hours and after park hours special tickets and meals. One such idea introduced was Early Morning Magic hours-Fantasyland. These are not to be confused with Extra Magic Hours that all resort guests receive (see how that’s not confusing insert sarcasm), but instead are additional hours that can be purchased along with a meal in addition to your park ticket. The Fantasyland EMM ticket price comes in at a hefty, $69 for adults and $59 for children plus tax. This extra ticket will get you in the park at 7:45 am to ride attractions located in the Fantasyland area of the park as well as assorted breakfast items at Pinnocchio Village Hause. Disney lists the following on their website regarding EMM:
“Plus, in addition to rising with the sun for some early-morning fun, you can also get your fill of a fantastic breakfast at Pinocchio Village Haus—featuring such scrumptious breakfast fare as:
Chilled juices, coffee and teas
Seasonal fruit and berriesFreshly baked pastries
Cheese and cured meats
Scrambled eggs with assorted toppings
Pork and chicken sausages
Fried potatoes with caramelized onions
While my tip won’t get you into the park to ride the rides at 7:45 am, it will get you into the park that early and in line before any of the regular park guests arrive and it won’t cost you near as much. We utilized this tip and were able to ride the busy Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as well Peter Pan’s Flight several times before the first park guests at the gate made it to the line. First, you must get a breakfast reservation for Be Our Guest. This can be difficult, but if you are diligent to check often or if you utilize a reservation finding service like the one offered at Touring Plans, it can be done. In fact, sometimes, I could snag the reservation after arriving at Disney due to cancellations. Once you get your reservation, you can order your breakfast online up to 30 days prior. Now, if you want to eat breakfast at Be Our Guest, by all means do so. The restaurant is beautiful and the food is good, however, I prefer their lunch over their breakfast. Be advised, also, that the Beast is only in attendance at dinner and those reservations are much harder to get. That is a topic for another post, however.
Because I only wanted to get into the park early, I had breakfast in my room, and only ordered coffee and milks for my kids at Be Our Guest. We were allowed into the park at 7:45 am on a 9:00 am park opening. We had the park nearly all to ourselves and enjoyed taking pictures of an empty Main Street. We checked in for breakfast, waited for our milks, and then left to get in line at the rope before they opened the rides. After experiencing this, I realized if you only ordered coffee, you wouldn’t even have to wait for the waiters as the coffee is self serve. This would cost about $7 for a party of two versus $140. Even if you choose to order breakfast, you would only spend about $40 for two people. As I said, you don’t get to ride the rides until the park opens at 9am so for some people getting that extra hour and fifteen minutes may be worth the cost, but for my family, this was a much more economical way to ride early and still come back later with our FastPass Plus reservations and ride again.
Resort Transportation Not Just for Resort Guests
My second tip is another one that we didn’t take advantage of until we had visited enough times to realize it. When you stay off site and plan to visit the Magic Kingdom, you will park at the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC for short). Upon arrival you will see several options for getting to the Magic Kingdom as it sits across on the other side of the beautiful Seven Seas Lagoon. You can take the ferry or the monorail, but there is also an option for resort guests arriving from other parts of the park or their resort. It is the resort monorail. Because the sign says, “Resort Hotels” one might think that only resort guests can use this monorail or that it only goes to the resorts. However, this is not true. Anyone can get on the monorail and ride it around to the Magic Kingdom. This isn’t always faster, but at park opening it definitely can be the better option.
When leaving the park, take the resort ferry boat to the Polynesian and walk to the TTC. At park closing when the crowds exiting the park are quite large, this can be a bit less stressful. If you are an offsite guest leaving on an evening when there are extra magic hours, the resort transportation options may not be as crowded because most resort guests will be staying for the later hours. The off property guests will be leaving and likely avoiding the signs that say “to the resorts” when choosing their transportation. Wait times can still be long at these options during park closing when everyone is leaving the park so you may have to make a judgment call.
Take Advantage of Stroller Storage to Avoid Bag Check
If you have a stroller, don’t put your things in a bag. It didn’t take long to figure out if you don’t want to wait a long time to get into the park, don’t carry a bag. However, with three kids that can be quite a challenge. I noticed that security only wanted to check “bags” so if I just put my diapers and few snacks in the stroller loose in the bottom, they didn’t make me go through bag check. Easy enough! We put our tickets and/or credit cards in our pockets, dropped 5 bottles of water, wipes, and several diapers in the bottom of the stroller, and off we went! Voila! Saved half an hour.
Thirty Minutes Early Is a Must
It is my understanding that the bag check system has changed since my last visit and guests are now being check at the TTC before arriving at the Magic Kingdom. However, I imagine this tip still applies and would also apply at the other three park locations. Getting through bag check early is what counts. It took several attempts to help my husband understand this. It wasn’t so much getting to the park before opening, it was getting to the park before the lines in bag check got too long. That means getting there at least thirty minutes before park opening. The bag check line swells tremendously within that thirty minute window and in my experience, arriving 30 minutes before vs. 15 minutes before can make all the difference. In fact, I’d recommend if you can’t make it 30 minutes before opening, then just wait until at least thirty minutes after park opening, because right at park opening, those bag check lines are going to be the worst. If you can go without a bag, this will always be your best choice!
Just Say No to Saturday!
Avoid MK on Saturday if you can help it. We typically planned all our visits to the parks around the great touring advice of numerous websites. As a homeschooling family we had that luxury. I pored over various sites comparing them to one another, looking over historic crowd calendars, as well as listening to the advice of several podcasters, before choosing our dates. Generally speaking, unless we were there for a convention for which I had no control over our dates, we limited our visits to lowest park crowd times.
I can say with complete confidence that it didn’t matter if it was a slow week or a busy week, Saturday at Magic Kingdom was never pleasant for us. We had some of the lowest park crowds we had ever experienced on our September 2016 visit to Walt Disney World, but I made the mistake of trying to go to the Magic Kingdom on a Saturday and it was a stressful event. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but if you can at all avoid it, I recommend it. In our experience, Hollywood Studios was generally the best Saturday park. If your schedule allows it, designate Saturday as resort day and enjoy all the great things your resort offers. If you are off site, take a pool day and book a character meal or a special dinner on Saturday. There are so many great things to do at Disney World that avoiding the crowds on Saturday can be a nice change of pace and enhance your overall experience.
These are just a few ideas that our family discovered in our visits to Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, as much as I planned, I was always learning something the hard way on every trip. Hopefully, these can help you beforehand to have a more memorable stress free vacation.