These 101 tips & tricks will help you save you time and money, or improve the quality of your Walt Disney World vacation this year or in 2024. Everything is covered, from maximizing Genie+ to discounts to transportation shortcuts between Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and more! (Updated August 3, 2023.)
Not all of these tips will be applicable to all readers (don’t propose if you’re already married–that’d be a bit of a faux pas! 😉 ), but there should be something for everyone here. Whether you’re a first time planner or a weathered veteran who still has nightmare-flashbacks to that Castle Cake of ’96, there are tips for you here. With these tips in hand, you can get the most out of your Walt Disney World vacation.
Some of our more recent additions to this list include tips for Genie+ Lightning Lanes, TRON Lightcycle Run, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, and other recent additions. As operations continue to “evolve” and things go back to normal, we’ve also removed elements from the phased reopening and readded tried & true tips from preclosure that will once again be relevant for the rest of this year and in 2024…
Make sure to also read the additional reader tips in the comments, as some of you readers have some great tips of your own that are really helpful. If you have some good tips, be sure to add them there, too. The more, the merrier! By the way, if you’re looking for Disneyland (California) tips, check out our 101 Great Disneyland Tips post, not this post.
With that said, let’s get started with the list…
1. Free FastPass+ has been replaced by the paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane line-skipping options. These can save you a ton of time, but we do not recommend buying them every day or at every park. See our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney Worldfor everything you need to know.
2. Happily Ever After has made its triumphant return, and it’s better than ever with enhanced effects and projections. For where to watch, consult our Best Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Spots post, which contains a map of the best & worst viewing locations, and stake out a spot around 30-45 minutes in advance.
3. Crowd calendars aren’t nearly as reliable as they used to be, and honestly, that includes our own. They’re starting to get better, but it’s still exceedingly difficult to assign numerical scores to individual days for each park with a high degree of accuracy. Instead, we’d refer you to our new list of the 10 Best and 10 Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2023 to 2025. That’s more useful from a planning perspective, anyway, as most people are choosing a set of dates for their vacation, not cherry-picking single days.
7. In Disneyspeak, a travel agent is called an “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.” Using them to book and plan your trip is a great way to save time and stress, and it doesn’t cost you anything! They get their commission from Disney, so the authorized planners won’t charge you for booking the trip or helping to plan. Request a vacation price quote from an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner here.
9. Speaking of which, “Free Dining”is Walt Disney World’s most popular deal. Although there are no guarantees, we think there’s at least a 50/50 chance of it returning for the second half of 2024. (First half of the year is highly unlikely.) In order to receive Free Dining, you are forgoing a room-only discount. For some families, Free Dining is a spectacular deal, but do the math before assuming it’s best for you–that isn’t always the case!
10. DO NOT MISS the light shows on Spaceship Earth at night, which are brief diversions, but have huge wow-factor. There are typically 2-3 shows that are shown in a rotation (the standard show, one for each festival, and one for EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary). There will be a new show for Disney100 soon, likely replacing the EPCOT40 show.
11. If you are celebrating a special occasion, make sure to pick up a button reflecting the celebration at your resort hotel or in the parks from Guest Services. You may receive special treatment if wearing the buttons. Read our Free Things at Walt Disney World post for other freebies!
13. A sidewalk runs between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, plus all the resorts in between. Walking from park to park takes around 30 minutes and can be faster than any other transportation between the two parks. Read our Time-Saving Disney World Transportation Tips for more shortcuts.
14. Buying pins from Amazon or eBay to trade with Cast Members is the difference between spending ~$1 per pin and $8-10 per pin.
15. TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT are the two newest and biggest thrill rides at Walt Disney World. Neither have standby lines, instead offering (free) virtual queues and (paid) Individual Lightning Lanes. Accessing the attractions can be tricky and confusing as a result. See our Ride Guide for TRON Lightcycle Run for speed strategy and tips for scoring spots in the virtual queue. (Same advice applies for Cosmic Rewind.)
17. In the parks, Sunshine Seasons and Regal Eagle Smokehouse at Epcot, Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Restaurantosaurus & Satu’li Canteen in Disney’s Animal Kingdom all have drink refill stations for free refills.
18. Due to the locations of the Disney Skyliner gondola stations at Caribbean Beach and Riviera Resorts, the best sections of Caribbean Beach to request are Jamaica or Aruba–at least in terms of Skyliner access. At Art of Animation or Pop Century, Buildings 3-6 will be your best options. (Buildings 4 and 5 are preferred, which means they are closer to the food court and feature pool; buildings 3 and 6 are almost as good–without paying a premium for the location!)
19. Walt Disney World resort hotel guests can upgrade to themed MagicBand designs, including characters, attractions, and more. Here’s how to do it!
20. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is one of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World. To minimize your wait time for the Rat Ride, jump in line while everyone else is staking out a spot for the fireworks (about ~45 minutes before showtime–or even closer if you plan on skipping the nighttime spectacular).
21. Signature Restaurants are poor uses of Disney Dining Plan credits because it is highly unlikely that your meal at a Signature would cost twice as much as a normal table service restaurant if you paid out of pocket, yet they cost 2 credits as opposed to 1. See our List of the Top 10 Disney Dining Plan Table Service Credit Values for 2024, along with general principles for getting the most bang for your buck, and types of restaurants that work best with the DDP.
24. If you’ve never visited Walt Disney World, you should go in with at least a rough plan of attack. We have 1-Day Walt Disney World Itineraries–for every park, both with and without Genie+ Lightning Lanes. If you don’t read those, our best advice is to arrive early and stay late–even if that means taking a midday break. Wait times are shortest the first and last 2 hours of the day in each park.
26. Slinky Dog Dash is the most popular Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation, and it’s incredibly difficult to score. However, the roller coaster often has shorter waits at the end of the night. Jump into line shortly before park closing, when you can expect to wait ~30 minutes, even when posted wait time is ~60 minutes.
27. Unlike both of its predecessors, the EPCOT Forever fireworks are super low stakes and easy to see from just about anywhere in World Showcase because it entirely occurs in the sky (rather than with lower-level elements on the lagoon). You might find advice stressing the importance of staking out a spot early, but that’s outdated. Consult our EPCOT Forever Fireworks Viewing Guide for more, but honestly, it’s not necessary.
28. When deciding whether to pay the premium prices that Disney-owned hotels charge, one important consideration for many will be on-site perks. Unfortunately, there aren’t many anymore–many benefits have been eliminated–either permanently or temporarily. Read about this in Is Walt Disney World’s On-Site Advantage Disappearing?
29. The best viewing place for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade is, without question, Main Street USA. It snows on Main Street during the parade, and the Christmas ambiance is best on Main Street.
30. Overnight parking is once again free for hotel guests. That’s the good news. The bad news is that parking for day guests of resorts has become even stricter. Now, if you do not have confirmed Advance Dining Reservations, you will not be allowed past the security checkpoint for the vast majority of resort hotels. This means no Walk-Up Waitlist or Mobile Order, and it also often means no Uber or Lyft drop-offs, either.
31. The Electrical Water Pageant is a cute little (unpublicized) light parade on Bay Lake outside the Magic Kingdom. It was originally created for the dedication of Disney’s Polynesian Resort in 1971 and was to run one night only. Due to popular demand, it still shows nightly! Approximate show times vary by resort and date, but can be found by searching My Disney Experience.
32. Toy Story Land is lacking in shade, so it’s best to avoid during the middle of the day or when rain is in the forecast. We recommend going first thing in the morning or after sunset. This is also when you’ll encounter the lowest crowds in the new land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
33. Unless you do it during Early Entry or the last couple hours of the day, don’t do standby for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Unless you like torture. The attraction is prone to breakdowns and Lightning Lane buyers are prioritized, meaning you could wait multiple hours in a line that barely moves.
34. We recommend not rope dropping Pandora – World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom. That’s where everyone else goes, so zig when they zag and do Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage later in the afternoon or evening on your Animal Kingdom day.
35. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover is an excellent attraction for relaxing, and offers great views of Magic Kingdom. It’s best enjoyed just after sunset, at dusk.
37. Due to the monorail stop order, it is fastest to walk to the Magic Kingdom from Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and to take the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary (unless there’s a line).
39. If you want to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from outside the park, the best location is from the Ticket & Transportation Center, to the right of the ferry launch. Disney’s Polynesian Resort is an alternative, but the view isn’t as good.
41. Family photos taken from the front, dead-center of Cinderella Castle are most popular, but the back of the Castle is arguably prettier and a much more unique location for that family photo.
42. Walt Disney World counter service restaurants will give you free cups of water.
43. The only good “secret” fireworks viewing spot is in New Fantasyland. However, because this will cause you to miss the projections, we strongly suggest watching the show for your first time from Main Street USA.
46. Besides minor decorations in the Magic Kingdom, the only way Walt Disney World “celebrates” Halloween is with the hard ticket Halloween party, which costs $150+/person to attend.
47. The Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream is a really fun experience, but not the best-tasting dessert. We still recommend it because your kids will love the “show” when the Kitchen Sink is brought to your table.
48. Disney Vacation Club members staying at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort have access to the Top of the World, which is a great, uncrowded place to watch the fireworks. If that’s not open or you’re ineligible, the stairwells at the Contemporary itself are a suitable alternative.
49. Bell Services at Disney hotels will store your luggage, meaning you can enjoy the parks if you arrive too early on check-in day or have a late flight out on check-out day.
50. The front half of Epcot is currently a construction zone, and won’t be finished until Late 2023. Expect to navigate a sea of construction walls if you visit in the next year or beyond.
51. Adults can always order from the kid’s menu, which is a great way to save money while still getting a meal that will satiate smaller/moderate appetites.
52. 50’s Prime Time Cafe serves arguably the best milkshakes at Walt Disney World. If you want one, but don’t want a full meal, stop by the Tune In Lounge located in the same building as the restaurant, where you can order just a milkshake. We highly recommend the PB&J milkshake.
53. PhotoPass Cast Members will take (free!) photos of you with your camera, so don’t be afraid to ask! Make sure your settings are dialed in before handing them the camera, as they will not typically adjust settings.
54. Chances are, it will rain/sprinkle at least once during your trip. Throw-away ponchos at Walt Disney World are almost $10/each. Purchase packs of throw-away ponchos before your trip for ~$1/each.
55. World Showcase has some excellent restaurants, but most are table service. Counter service restaurants throughout the park are generally weak or crowd-pleasing. Do table service, or graze your way around the food booths and snack spots.
57. If there are animal lovers in your family, eat at Sanaa and ask for a window view. Not only are the views great, but it’s one of the most underrated restaurants at Walt Disney World.
58. Attractions don’t close when the parks close, meaning that you can get in a 90-minute line at 10:59 p.m. when the parks close at 11 p.m. and be in the park well past closing. This is a great way to experience rides with perpetually long lines, like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Frozen Ever After, Avatar Flight of Passage, or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without wasting “valuable” time.
59. Both monorails from the Magic Kingdom stop at the Ticket & Transportation Center. If that or Epcot is your final destination, take whichever monorail comes first or has a shorter line. Similarly, Disney’s Polynesian Resort is a short walk from the Ticket & Transportation Center (worth keeping in mind if the Resort Loop line is really long).
60. Don’t request a window seat at Space 220 Restaurant in Epcot. The view is actually better from the second row. (The only way to guarantee a second-row table is booking the lounge.)
61. If you have growing kids, a great spot for an annual photo is the character totem pole in Wilderness Lodge’s lobby.
63. All of the World Showcase countries have little nooks to explore, but Morocco is one of the best. Head deep into the pavilion to find an authentic shop. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s fun to peruse.
64. If you anticipate “needing” a princess dress or pirate costume while at Walt Disney World, buy it from your local Disney Store or DisneyStore.com in advance during a sale. For the cheapest option of all, check out the Disney Princess Dress Up Trunk Deluxe 21 Piece. Much cheaper than Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique!
65. If you plan on eating at Coral Reef in Epcot, book the earliest lunch or dinner reservation possible, show up slightly early to your reservation, and request a tank view for the most spectacular view of the marine life. Your request will usually be accommodated.
68. Fantasyland attractions are best experienced first thing in the morning or last thing at night to minimize waits.
69. Most of the entertainment that makes up Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (a hard ticket event in November and December costing $150+ per person) is shown during normal park hours and included with normal theme park admission from the week before Christmas until New Year’s…however, you will still “pay” for it in the form of ridiculous crowds and higher nightly room rates.
70. Don’t get duped into buying into Disney Vacation Club by the alluring promotions while at Walt Disney World. Wait until you get home and read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. We are DVC owners, but recognize that it’s definitely NOT for everyone. Not even via resale. That’s a really long article, but it could save you tens of thousands of dollars! (No joke.)
71. The bridge connecting Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn is a decent place to watch the fireworks from outside Epcot.
72. Disney’s Character Warehouse is an outlet carrying heavily discounted Disney Parks merchandise, with two locations in Orlando. These are very much feast or famine and not as good as they once were due to eBay pirates and word getting out, but can be worth a visit if you have a week or longer in Central Florida. Read our How to Shop Outlets for Discount Disney World Merchandise post for more info about where they’re located, when to go, what to expect, and more.
73. Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom isn’t a “full” counter service restaurant, but their ice cream and waffle sandwiches, plus other snacks and views of Cinderella Castle are to die for.
74. The Resort Loop monorail stop order is Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the Transportation and Ticket Center, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
75. Don’t be afraid of having some fun by decorating your room window in a Disney hotel. Lots of guests do it, and it can be a lot of fun for the kids. Christmas lights, posed stuff animals, and homemade signs are just some of the things you can use to set the “scene.”
76. Shops on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom are open up to an hour after the park closes. Do your shopping once you can’t do rides.
78. The Hollywood Brown Derby serves exceptional cocktails. The Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake also make a nice, light meal if you don’t just want a liquid lunch or dinner.
79. The most common proposal location at Walt Disney World is right in front of Cinderella Castle. For a slightly more unique twist on the same thing, go to the Wishing Well on the right side of the Castle.
80. If the Magic Kingdom is especially busy, take the monorail to Contempo Cafe in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Gasparilla Island Grill in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, or Captain Cook’s in Disney’s Polynesian Resort for a counter service meal. Likewise, the boat to Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness is a great option. These resorts offer some of the best counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World.
81. Request a free wake-up call each morning from Mickey or Stitch on the resort hotel phone. It’s better than a buzzing alarm, and it’s a cool way to wake up (it might even get your kids excited to start the day!).
82. If you are visiting when there are two showings of Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, always see the second showing. The line will be much shorter and you’ll get better seats.
83. Jellyrolls is a fun dueling piano bar (for adults) located on the BoardWalk at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. We recommend it on this weekends when it’s busier, which gives a better energy to the experience.
84. A few restaurants in Epcot’s World Showcase offer views of the fireworks. La Hacienda has the best view. Make late reservations that are at least 30 minutes before the fireworks, arrive early to them, and request a window table. Inform the server that you’re willing to wait 20 minutes for the window seat. Not only will you have a great view of the show, but your meal will end after the park closes, giving you a tranquil walk out of the park.
85. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its headliner attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, both require strategy and take time to experience. You can read all of our tips for best experiencing it in our Ultimate Guide to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
86. Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Hall of Presidents are very divisive shows in the Magic Kingdom. All rarely have lines, too. Try them for yourself and form your own opinion rather than skipping them based on someone else’s opinion. At worst, they’re nice chances to relax and recharge in air conditioning.
87. Dole Whips have a reputation that precedes them, but the lesser-known Citrus Swirl in the Magic Kingdom is just as delicious.
88. You can experience Turtle Talk with Crush without doing the Nemo dark ride by entering The Seas pavilion through the gift shop at the exit.
89. Disney hotels will hold packages mailed to guests for pickup by the guests. This is a great way to save money on Disney prices (or checked bag fees) by mailing yourself food or supplies you might need on the trip. Some hotels charge a small pickup fee.
91. Select attractions have single rider lines that will save you a lot of time if you don’t mind splitting up from your group. The best of these is Test Track, where it’s not uncommon to save an hour or more on the posted standby time.
92. Disney Springs has really come into its own, with great shopping and dining. Read our Disney Springs Tips & Tricks that might help make the experience more enjoyable.
93. Winter is no longer off-season at Walt Disney World, and hasn’t been for a few years. A lot of people are learning this the hard way. There is only one monthof the entire year that is consistently and reliably uncrowded, and it’ll be a non-starter for many families (…which is precisely why it’s the lowest crowd month!).
94. If you give a PhotoPass photographer a (discrete) heads up, they generally can help you capture photos of your proposal.
97. Eating at table service restaurants is not as simple as showing up or even reserving spots a few days in advance. See our Guide to Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney Worldfor all of the many ins & outs and confusing policies (such as the “60+10 rule”). The good news is that ADRs are getting easier again!
99. There is a detailed miniature train and village in the Germany pavilion. Special seasonal touches are added to the village during various times of year.
100. Animal Kingdom is home to great “spontaneous” entertainment. Be sure to check the entertainment and character times guides for Kevin and DiVine, both of which are can’t miss encounters. (Also, don’t skip over Otter Grotto, which is easy to miss at the front of the park. That’s not entertainment–it’s the real animals. But they’re very entertaining. And adorable.)
101. Chewing gum is not sold anywhere on Walt Disney World property. Plan accordingly.
There are literally thousands of things to do at Walt Disney World, many of which are quite known and popular, some of which are relatively unknown. Read as much as you can when planning your trip–you can never know too much about Walt Disney World, but you can definitely know too little.
Want personalized help from someone who has a myriad of their own Walt Disney World tips? We recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan. They get their commission from Disney, so none of the authorized (key word) planners will charge you for booking their trip and helping. Here’s one such recommended Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
What do you think of our tips for enhancing your experience in the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs? If you have solid Walt Disney World tips that aren’t mentioned here, please post them below! Do you agree or disagree with our tips? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!