Disney World is my new favorite place in the world. It’s also a pretty complicated place to visit. You might think you can just book a trip and be done with it, but there’s so much to do and see there that if you don’t plan ahead, you might end up with a really frustrating and exhausting experience.
I know of tons of people who have visited Disney World without properly preparing ahead of time, and many people who went without a plan came home thinking it wasn’t worth the cost. But if you know Disney World well, do your research, and make a plan? The experience is absolutely incredible.
I did a ton (and I mean a TON) of research beforehand, so I felt really prepared for our trip. I was so grateful for the time I put into it, because it made a huge difference in how much we were able to get done. We did everything we wanted to and then some, and I give myself a lot of credit for that, because I knew the parks inside and out before we even stepped foot in one!
So, today, I’m rounding up a bunch of the questions y’all asked me over on Instagram, along with the lessons we learned the hard way, and giving you all of my best tips for doing Disney World with as little stress as possible!
General Disney World Tips & Tricks
- Plan your park days strategically. Over the last few months, Magic Kingdom has actually been busiest on Mondays and quieter on weekends. That may change in future months, but it’s been the pattern for a while now. Epcot, on the other hand, will be packed on weekends, thanks to locals coming to Food & Wine Festival (and all the other festivals they have throughout the year).
- Have a plan, and have a back up plan! Even if you don’t know the details of every single ride, you should know what rides at each park are harder to get on, and how you’re gonna make it on them. Rides will shut down, and if you don’t know where to pivot to, it can cost hours of your day.
- Have a plan for souvenirs for the kids. We told our kids they could pick out one souvenir per park, and that was it. It cut down a lot on asking for random things (like bubble wands or balloons), because they knew they had to choose one thing. They did spend a lot of time asking to go to the shops and focusing on the stuff rather than the experience, though, so we may adjust our approach next time.
- That being said, it’s the dream vacation so don’t be afraid to give in a little. Corey became obsessed with popcorn buckets and drink sippers and we came home with two popcorn buckets and four new sippers. They make him SO HAPPY, so I can’t complain, haha.
- You can bring snacks and water into the parks, and you should! We had a Walmart delivery to our room on our first day, and we bought simple breakfast stuff for the kids, protein bars for me, a few snacks, and bottles of water. It was so nice to have some quick snacks to hand the kids if they needed something and Corey and I weren’t hungry, and having everyone eat breakfast in the room before we left saved a ton of time.
- Bring a refillable water bottle, and fill it up all day! We had everyone drink a Liquid IV first thing in the morning to help with hydration, and we made sure to keep our water bottles full. Most quick service restaurants will give you cups of water for free that you can use, some have water stations set up. We also brought out water bottles into our lunch reservation every day and asked our waiter to fill them up for us. They were always happy to, and it was a simple way to get some fresh cold water!
- Don’t forget to slow down and watch for magic. We saw so many fun character interactions, watched a custodian draw Donald Duck with water on the sidewalk, and saw a few mini street shows just because we weren’t in a rush. There’s magic happening all around you at Disney, don’t miss it.
- Character meals are SO FUN, and we think it’s worth it to have 1-2 per trip. More than that might feel like overkill, though. Especially because they’re pricey. You can see characters all over the parks for free if you’re willing to wait in line for a few minutes.
Now, let’s get into specific tips and thoughts for each park. Some of these are super subjective (especially our opinions on rides, attractions, and food), so take it with a grain of salt.
- Watch the parade from Frontierland, near Country Bear Jamboree. It’s far less crowded, and since it starts there, you’ll be done watching before it even hits the main hub!
- Keep an eye on Magic Carpets right at park open if you want the chance to ride with Aladdin and Jasmine. We saw them over there both days! I believe Alice and the Mad Hatter ride the teacups on occasion too, but we missed that.
- The spring roll cart gets hyped up FOR A REASON. Buy one (or tw0) of each type. You won’t regret it.
- It’s worth it to buy the Individual Lightning Lane for Tron. It saves at least an hour in line for the virtual queue, and it’s a ride worth doing if you like roller coasters
- Carousel of Progress and Peoplemover are highly underrated. We sang that dang song from Carousel alllll week long, and Corey and I could have stayed on Peoplemover half the day.
- Hot take: Seven Dwarves Mine Train is overrated! We ended up buying an individual Lightning Lane to ride it and were so underwhelmed after all the hype. Big Thunder Mountain is better.
- It’s not a day in Magic Kingdom if you don’t eat something shaped like Mickey. The ice cream sandwiches are my personal fave, but the ice cream bars are good too, and the pretzels are objectively terrible but iconic and a must-try.
- Stop by the Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland for a frozen coke. It’s the perfect way to cool off and get a little sugar boost!
- Genie+ is non-negotiable here. There are almost no rides without consistently significant wait times. Just trust me, it’s worth it.
- Don’t listen to the haters on Sci-Fi Drive In. It’s delicious, and we kind of loved the break from talking – with the sci fi movie clips playing we just sat back and enjoyed the show.
- Baseline Tap House is the perfect snack stop. Get the pretzel and the charcuterie board and share it amongst your party. It’s a 10/10.
- Sitting in the front for Tower of Terror makes the ride 100% better, but also way scarier. It freaked Grant out, so keep that in mind if you have littles!
- Toy Story Land is a mad house. It wasn’t that crowded in the park as a whole, but it was body to body over there. Just prepare yourself for the chaos if you have little ones who are going to want to spend a lot of time in that part of the park.
- Skip a dining reservation here and just SNACK! If you see a booth that looks interesting, stop and grab a bite. It was so fun to just snack our way around the world, and we never went hungry.
- Get the Individual Lightning Lane for Guardians if you can swing it. Saves a ton of time in line, and also frees you up to ride twice if you want to (you probably will).
- If you have any claustrophoia, stay far (far!) away from Mission Space. Just trust me on this one.
- Remy’s is incredible, don’t skip it.
- If you are doing early entry or rope drop, enter from the International Gateway, not the front of the park. There are far fewer crowds, and you’re right next to Remy’s!
- Flight of Passage is fine but doesn’t stand up to a lot of the other rides at Disney World. I wouldn’t wait in a long line or buy an Individual Lightning Lane for it.
- We loved (loved!) Expedition Everest.
- Tusker House was a 10/10 for breakfast buffet – don’t skip the chicken and rice. It was my favorite part of the meal.
- Hang by the water if you have a break and watch for a raft with characters to float by! They come by really frequently, and it’s so fun.
Genie+ & Lightning Lanes
Genie+ confuses a lot of people, so let me give you a super simple overview. Genie+ is the name for Disney World’s skip-the-line service. It ranges from about $15-$25 per person per park, depending on the day it is and the park you’re visiting. With Genie+, you’re able to purchase Lightning Lanes for most rides at the parks, which means you can scan in at the front of the ride and go down a different section of the queue, skipping most of the line. We never waited more than 5-10 minutes using a Lightning Lane, even if the posted wait time was 120 minutes!
We found that Genie+ was 100% worth the money and then some. We agreed that we will never not buy it. It’s just a line item in our budget and considered non-negotiable for us at every single park.
Here are some details on how it works:
If you’re staying at a Disney World resort, you can book your first Lightning Lane beginning at 7:00 AM. You should go into each day knowing what your first one will be, because some are super competitive. For example, on our Hollywood Studios day, the best available time I could get for Slinky Dog Dash was 12:45, and I did it right at 7:00!
After your first Lightning Lane, you can book your next one either…
- When you tap in at the beginning of the line, OR
- When two hours have passed (note: this doesn’t start until park open. So if you book your first Lightning Lane and it’s for later in the day, your two hours won’t start until the park opens, NOT at 7:00 when you book it.)
Because of the two hour rule, it’s really advantageous to book Lightning Lanes as close to the current time as you can. Sometimes it’s not possible, but I found our most efficient days where when I was able to book Lightning Lanes within the next 20 minutes of when I was scheduling it!
I learned A LOT from watching this specific YouTube video. If you’re going and planning to use Genie+, I highly recommend watching it. His “Genie Slots” method saved us multiple times and even helped me score a few Lightning Lanes after they had been booked up for the day!
A few other tips:
- As we walked into the queue on rides, I’d have my phone out and ready to book the next one. I spent very little time with my face in my phone – it was really quick and easy!
- To make this easier, keep your Tip Board updated with rides that are close to you! This is explained in the video I linked above, and this strategy worked so well for us.
- Some rides have two tap-in areas, so if you tap in once and you can’t book a Lightning Lane, just wait for the next one.
- Remember you can only use Genie+ one each ride once per day. So if you happen upon a short wait that you don’t mind waiting in, it might be worth it to stand in the regular queue and save your Lightning Lane for later.
- Some character meet & greets offer Lightning Lanes, and it’s SO WORTH IT to use them!
- Some rides aren’t on Genie+ and instead offer what’s called an Individual Lightning Lane. You have to pay for it separately and it’s anywhere from $10-$20 per person. We found it to be worth it for some rides (Guardians and Tron), but not others (I’m looking at you, Seven Dwarves).
- Genie+ slots will fill up for the day. If you notice a specific ride is showing a return time that’s really late in the day, that means it’s probably close to selling out.
- You have one hour to get to your Lightning Lane when your return window starts, but at most rides they’re nice about letting you go even if you’re late (NOT on Tron, though!). You can also modify your Lightning Lanes if something comes up.
Caribbean Beach Resort
We heard a lot of mixed reviews about this resort before going to the parks, so we weren’t fully sure what to expect. But, we ended up absolutely LOVING it, and plan to stay here again and again. Here are a few tips and thoughts:
- You have to eat dinner at Sebastian’s. I’d even come here for dinner if I wasn’t staying here! It’s so incredibly delicious, and comparatively affordable.
- You can see the Epcot fireworks from the pool, a lot of rooms, and the bridge that leads to the island on the lake.
- If you’re in the lobby midday, you might see some surprise characters!
- The food is all so so so good. The Cuban sandwich at Centertown Market, the chicken bowl at Centertown, the charcuterie board at Banana Cabana…all incredible.
- If you are requesting a location, we found Jamaica to be absolutely PERFECT. It was a quick walk across Caribbean Cay to get to the main pool and restaurants, and we had a bus stop and the main skyliner hub within a 5 minute walk. We were in building 46 and will request it again next time, too!
- The 5th sleeper room is so nice if you have multiple kids. Ours technically can share a bed, but it was totally worth the upgrade to let them each have their own.
When you’re deciding what resort to stay at, know that transportation plays a HUGE part in how convenient it is to get to the parks. We only have experience with the skyliner and buses, since that’s what was available at our resort, but the convenience of the skyliner couldn’t be beat!
Here are some tips we learned:
- Keep an eye on the bus schedule for your resort, so you don’t show up to the stop right after a bus leaves. We learned this one the hard way!
- The skyliner doesn’t have to just be used for getting to parks. We used it to visit Art of Animation and the Boardwalk area. It’s basically a ride in itself!
- Same goes for the boats over in the Boardwalk. We used one just to ride from one side to the other just for fun!
- Minnie Vans are totally worth it if you can swing it, especially when leaving Magic Kingdom if your only option is the bus. It’s pricey, but at the end of a long day it’s so nice.
- We used Away We Go for transport from the airport to our hotel and back. It was definitely more expensive than taking a bus or an Uber, but I loved the reliability and having the scheduled pickup time, and it was zero stress.
Whew. That’s a lot of tips! It honestly only kind of scratches the surface of everything you can know about Disney World, though. If you want to do some more research, I suggest:
- Following Ear Scouts on YouTube. He shares SO MANY really helpful tips and I learned a ton from him. I recommend all of his videos on early entry, park day guides, etc.
- I love Disney Tourist Blog as well, and found myself reading and re-reading his guides to early entry, his 1-day itineraries for each park, and his restaurant reviews.
- And finally, if you want a really fun YouTube channel to follow along, the kids and I LOVE All Ears! They share great tips and tricks but always in a really unique and funny way. We love watching their challenges and games, and their videos were such a great way to hype ourselves up for the trip.
And that’s that! If you have any questions about our experience or other tips and tricks, drop ’em in the comments! And, if you want to get caught up on our trip recap, just click here!