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Walt Disney World is the place of many dreams for kids and adults alike. It is a magical place with so much to see, do, taste, hear, smell, and feel that it can be hard to plan your visit without tips! Check out these tips and tricks for Disney World with children to help simplify your family vacation and make your life easier inside the Disney parks. There are so many Disney hacks you need to know about so your family can have the best visit possible.
In this post, we share the 15 best Disney insider secrets to help save you time, money, and frustration. Use these tips and tricks for Disney World so you can plan a Walt Disney trip with your family. Our tips for going to Disney World (see also, ‘Disney Cruise Reviews‘) will help make your visit even more magical!
Plan My Disney World Itinerary
Our best tips for Disney World start with planning a family vacation to Disney (see also ‘What Airport is Closest to Disney World?‘). There are lots of things you need to be aware of before you even arrive in Orlando. Read our article about planning a Disney World Itinerary so you can find out what you need to know about a Disney vacation with kids and which Disney World park is best.
Once you know our top tips about the best time to visit Disney World, or what is the best age for Disney, or the “do’s and don’ts” of planning a Disney trip… then it’s time to start thinking about your time at the Disney Parks.
Get our Disney World Planning Guide with Printable Worksheets to help your family plan a fun, easy, stress-free, and magical vacation to Walt Disney World. The 78 printable pages include a selection of Disney World vacation (see also, ‘Disney Vacation Account Reviews‘) planning information, vacation planner templates, and printable worksheets.
Top 15 Tips and Tricks for Disney World
These tips and tricks for Disney World will help you know what to do when you visit the Disney Parks with children.
1. Pack Your Own Food & Snacks
While they have lots of tempting food carts placed throughout Disney World Parks, consider bringing along some healthy snacks and sandwiches for your family. You will save lots of money by packing your own food.
We typically eat a good breakfast at our resort, then pack snacks to hold everyone during the day. We prefer to opt for a less popular dining time around 3:00 PM in the afternoon. This is a great time to get out of the heat, rest in the AC and recharge with a meal. Dining in the mid-afternoon means we only buy one meal at Disney which helps save money on our Disney vacation.
Our favorite Kid-Friendly Snacks for Disney include:
- Peanut Butter Crackers
- Trail Mix (nuts and dried fruit)
- Graham Crackers
- Granola Bars or Nutritional Bars
- Easy peel oranges like clementines
- Applesauce or Fruit & Veggie Pouches
- Cheese Sticks (stored in a backpack side pocket with a frozen water bottle to keep cold, and eaten earlier in the day)
- Fruit Gummy Snacks
- Rice Krispy Treats
2. Arrive Early at Disney World Parks
Get to the parks early to avoid long lines. One of the best tips and tricks for Disney World is to arrive at least 30 minutes before the park opens. This ensures that you’ll be in place in line when the gates open, which means you can spend more time having fun once inside the parks. The wait times will be the shortest at the beginning of the day, so beat the crowds and get there early.
If you’re staying at a Disney Resort then take advantage of Disney Magic Hours, which is when the parks are open early for an extra 30 minutes before the normal opening times. Disney Magic Hours are a perk for Disney hotel resort guests.
Disney World Crowd Calendar
Use our Disney World Crowd Calculator so you can visit Disney World on days when it is expected to be less busy. This is our prediction based on the popularity of holidays and events (see also, ‘When Does Disney Decorate for Halloween‘), as well as admission ticket pricing when lower prices coincide with fewer visitors and shorter wait times.
3. Know Where You Parked your Car
If you are driving to Disney World, rather than using Disney Resort Transportation, make sure you pay attention to where you park your vehicle. Take a photo of the section parking number. It’s hard to remember where you parked after a long day at the park. Some of the Disney parks have names for each parking lot e.g. Magic Kingdom has a Heros side and a Villans side.
We parked in ‘Peter Pan’ in space number 316. But honestly, the signage is limited and it is not easy to notice which parking lot you are in. The most clearly marked parking lot was at Hollywood Studios. As excellent as everything about Disney typically is, the clear labeling of the parking lots certainly has room for improvement.
With all the excitement of going to Disney, you could easily head straight to the park and then have a hard time figuring out where you parked. So I’m sharing from experience… pay attention when you arrive that morning and know where you parked your car!
4. Use these Disney Apps at the Parks
A lot of tricks for Disney World revolve around apps that you can download such as My Disney Experience and Play Disney. These tips and tricks for Disney World will be much easier to follow if you’re familiar with the official My Disney Experience app. Using these Disney apps will help you and your kids enjoy your day at the Disney parks.
What is the My Disney Experience app? It will help you navigate your way throughout the parks as well as let you know what’s closed, see wait times for attractions, view restaurant menus, find the closest restroom, how long it takes to get from place to place, and more! We love the My Disney Experience app because it helps us keep track of where we are and what’s going on around us.
The Play Disney app is a must-have for any family visiting Disney. It is a great way to keep kids entertained while waiting in line. The Play Disney app allows guests to have fun and explore the Walt Disney theme parks in a whole new way. These unique activities and experiences bring the surrounding environment to life. Have the kids or your family play together and turn wait times into an adventure.
5. Bring a Portable Charger Power Bank
You will be using the My Disney Experience app all day, especially to view maps of the Disney parks and check wait times. This will kill your cell phone battery. Since you will be on the go all day at Disney it will be difficult to find an outlet to plug in and charge your cell phone. In fact, during our last visit to the Disney parks, we only found one available outlet to plug in and charge a cell phone. That was in the ABC Commissionary restaurant at Hollywood Studios.
Bring a portable charger power bank for your cell phone. This battery pack will allow you to easily and quickly charge your cell phone on the go. There’s nothing worse than being stuck waiting in a line at a Disney Park with a dead cell phone! Or how about not being able to snap that perfect Disney photo because your cell phone is dead and you don’t have access to your camera. And don’t forget to bring your cell phone charging cable. Trust me, I learned this the hard way!
6. Consider Bringing or Renting a Stroller
Disney parks are huge. In fact, you will likely walk about 8-10 miles during a day at a Disney, which is around 20,000 steps. You’re not going to want to walk for miles carrying with your kids in the heat. So if your child is preschool age or younger (4 years and less), be prepared to bring a lightweight travel stroller. Even if your child is early elementary age you may choose to rent a stroller if they get tired.
It’s easy to navigate the Disney parks with a stroller, and there are plenty of designated places for “stroller parking”. Using a stroller tag like this makes it easier to identify YOUR stroller in a sea of identical-looking strollers.
You can also rent a stroller near the entrance to each of the Disney Parks and at Disney Springs. Stroller rental starts at $15 per day and is helpful if you don’t want to bother carrying yours around all day. There is a discount if you pre-book and pay for the number of days that you will require a stroller ahead of time.
7. Stay Hydrated
One of the best tips for Disney World with kids is to stay hydrated. When you visit any Orlando theme park in the summer, dehydration can be a real problem. Most days in Orlando (from spring through fall) it is hot outside and it’s easy to get dehydrated without knowing it.
To keep yourself and your children well-hydrated, consider bringing a refillable water bottle for each family member. I have each of my kids carry a small day backpack with their own water bottle and snacks. The Osprey Daylite Kid’s Backpack is available in a variety of colors. Or the Waterfly Crossbody Slingbag is another great option for kids. The 12oz Thermos Funtainers is the best refillable water bottle for kids because it does not sweat, keeps drinks cold, and is available in a variety of colors and designs.
Many of the food and drink kiosks throughout the Disney parks will allow you to get cups of water for free. Some of the outdoor restaurants have hydration stations with coolers of water where you can fill up cups or your water bottle. This is a great way to save money at Disney World and stay hydrated as you can refill your water bottle throughout the day.
Make sure you drink plenty of water and visit places like Pinocchio Village Haus for delicious drinks like frozen lemonade throughout the day if your kids are thirsty. With so much walking around being done in each park, it is easy to become dehydrated even if you are just taking a stroll inside Magic Kingdom or Epcot!
8. Use the Disney Genie Service and Lightning Lane
Disney World has recently launched its replacement for FastPasses. Guests can pay extra to jump the line by utilizing a Lightning Lane on certain attractions. One of the best tips and tricks for Disney World is to use the Disney Genie service, and consider upgrading to Disney Genie+ or purchase Lightning Lane on days when the park is busy.
What is Disney Genie?
The Disney Genie (see also, ‘Disney Genie Plus Review‘) service is built into the My Disney Experience mobile app. The complimentary Disney Genie service builds and maps out your perfect day at Disney World, based on what you told it you’re most interested in doing. It will also take into account any dining or entertainment reservations you might have. Disney Genie will continue to offer updated suggestions throughout the day, so you can make the most of your time at Disney.
You can upgrade from the free Disney Genie service to the new Disney Genie+ which costs $15 per ticket per day. Disney Genie+ is a great way to make the most out of your visit so you can spend less time in line and more time enjoying the magic. Beginning at 7:00 AM on the day of your visit your can start selecting the next available arrival window for a Lightning Lane attraction, one at a time. By upgrading to Disney Genie+ you can access the Lightning Lane for over 40 attractions all day long.
If you want to spend less time waiting in line then another option is to purchase Individual Lightning Lane selections. This is available for some of the most popular attractions, click here to see the full list. Guests may select an arrival window one at a time for up to 2 attractions a day. Lightning Lane pricing and availability will vary by date, park, and attraction. Average pricing for a Lightning Lane entrance ranges from $7 to $15 per person, but it could be higher or lower than this throughout the year. Guests of a Disney Resort Hotel can make their first purchase beginning at 7:00 AM on the day of their visit. All other guests can make their first purchase when the park opens.
9. Listen for the Music of the Character Cavalcade
Meeting the Disney characters is on hold due to the pandemic restrictions. The next best way to see Disney characters when you visit Walt Disney World is in the cavalcade. The Character Cavalcade is an organized procession of Disney characters riding on horseback, on a float, or walking along waving and greeting guests at a safe distance. The cavalcade is free with your admission ticket to Disney World.
You will know the Disney Character Cavalcade is on its way when you hear the lively parade music. Head towards the music to join your favorite Disney friends and enjoy the festivities. At Walt Disney World the main character cavalcade is at Magic Kingdom and passes in front of Cinderella’s Castle and down Main Street USA. Get a glimpse of some of your favorite Disney Princesses in the royal procession, or see Tinker Bell, Mickey, and friends along the parade route.
It’s important to know that (at this time, in fall 2021, due to pandemic restrictions) the only other way to see characters is at the Character Dining experiences. These include making dining reservations for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, Hollywood & Vine, Tusker House Restaurant, or Garden Grill Restaurant. Learn more about Character Dining here.
10. Use Disney Photopass
Disney Photopass is a service offered at Disney World for those who want the ultimate souvenir of their magical vacation. There are photographers stationed everywhere inside the Walt Disney World parks. Let the Disney Photopass service create picture-perfect memories. It is the easiest way to capture your whole family in the picture at iconic Disney park locations.
One of my best tips for Disney World is to do Advance Purchase Memory Maker for $169 if you are visiting Disney for at least a couple of days. This favorite Disney World tip will be worth its weight in gold because you can find photographers who know how to get great shots of your family together.
It’s very simple to scan your Disney Photopass card, Magic Band, or your admission ticket card to link the photos to your account. If you are using the My Disney Experience app then the photos will show up in the app on your phone. Typically this only takes a couple of hours, but the photographers may tell you it can take up to 48 hours for photos to be available.
With Memory Maker, you receive unlimited downloads of your photos that are easy to share and print. Remember to download all the photos when you get home. Currently, they are available for 45 days from the date they were taken.
11. Look for the Scavenger Hunts
The Walt Disney Resort is good about providing Disney World scavenger hunt activities for kids to participate in during their visit. The two favorite Disney World scavenger hunts that we did on our recent visit were the Kidcot Funt Stop at Epcot and the Wilderness Explorer at Animal Kingdom.
The Kidcot Fun Stop gives children the opportunity to learn about 11 different countries during their visit to Epcot. There are Kidcot Fun Stop stations “hidden” throughout the World Showcase. At each stop, kids can collect a memento with facts about the traditions and culture of each country. This scavenger hunt at Disney World is a great way to engage kids while waiting on a dining reservation, and it provides something to do between attractions.
The Wilderness Explorer is a program that kids of all ages can participate in at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The program includes activities such as animal observations, wilderness skills, and adventures for children to take part in while they are visiting the park. As they complete each activity or game on their list, they will have earned another adventure badge!
There are over 25 badges available so there is plenty to keep your little one busy. It’s important to note that this program is free with the purchase of an admission ticket into Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park-and it never expires! There is a lot to complete in one day so kids can always bring their Wilderness Explorer book to finish it next time.
We are in the process of creating some Disney printable games that will be available soon. This will be another way to entertain your kids while visiting the Disney Parks and waiting in line.
12. Don’t Make Dining Reservations at Epcot
Typically I would suggest making one dining reservation for each day you’re at the Disney parks. Epcot has some amazing options like Chefs de France or the Rose & Crown Dining Room if you’re wanting to dine in a restaurant. However, I would choose not to make a dining reservation at Epcot. Instead, enjoy small plates of authentic cuisine from the different countries around the World Showcase. If you visit during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival there will be even more food and drink options to sample. This popular annual festival is typically from August to mid-November.
If you do not have dining reservations at one of the Disney restaurants then there are plenty of quick-service restaurants where you can walk up to a counter to order food and drink. Use the My Disney Experience app to view menus and place a mobile food order which will save you time. You can also use the app to check dining availability and make dining reservations.
13. Get Disney World Celebration Buttons
If you are celebrating a special occasion during your visit to Disney then you can ask for a celebration button at no charge. This is a fun souvenir offered to Disney guests. How to get Disney Celebration Buttons? You can ask for one when you check in to your Disney resort. Or go to Guest Services or a merchandise stand at any Disney park and ask for a free celebration button.
The Disney Celebrations Buttons are large pins for First Visit, Birthday, Happily Ever After, and Celebration (fill in the blank). If you’re wearing one of these pins in the park you may get some extra special attention from the Disney cast and characters.
14. Take Advantage of Rider Switch and Single Rider Lanes
This is an important tip for Disney World with kids. If you are traveling with a young child or anyone who doesn’t meet the height requirement of an attraction, consider doing what they call “Rider Switch.” This trick will make your life easier inside the parks when you visit Walt Disney World with children.
Rider Switch allows adult Guests to take turns waiting with younger children or those unable to ride. That way you’ll be able to avoid having to stand in line twice, Cast members can issue a rider switch entitlement which allows the first rider to go through the line and ride the attraction while the second rider waits somewhere else with the young child/non-rider.
Then the first rider can switch supervision with the second rider who can board the attraction without waiting in the regular line. This works for almost all attractions that have height requirements at Magic Kingdom and the Disney parks. Click here to see the attractions at Disney World that offer Rider Switch.
Single Rider Lanes are a great way to avoid waiting in long lines. This is where popular rides use single riders to fill open seats and make sure the attraction is operating at full capacity. You can wait in line with your family members but you will most likely ride the attraction individually. Children must be age 7 years plus to use the Single Rider Lane. This is currently only available for four attractions: Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Plus, Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Test Track at Epcot.
15. Bring the Must-Have Accessories for Disney World
One of our most important tips and tricks for Disney World is to bring the right travel gear. Your day at Disney with children will be more comfortable if you bring these must-have accessories for Disney World (see also, ‘How Many Days for Disney World?‘).
- Wear comfortable shoes and quick-dry clothes
- Disney T-shirts for the family and Mickey/Minnie Mouse ears are popular
- Waterproof jacket or poncho if rain is in the forecast
- Pack all your items in a Backpack
- Sunglasses and a Sun Hat for each family member
- Sunscreen and Bug Repellant (see also ‘Best Ointment for Insect Bites‘)
- Face Masks (see current face covering requirements)
- Hand Sanitizer
- Refillable Water Bottle
- Kid-friendly Snacks
- Baby Wipes
- Change of clothes (especially if your child is potty training)
- Cell Phone with the My Disney Experience app
- Portable Charger Power Bank and charging cord for cell phone
- Credit card/cash
- MagicBand/Park Admission Ticket Card for each family member
- Pins to participate in the Disney Pin Trading
- Disney World Planning Guide with Printable Worksheets
Here are my favorite comfortable shoes for Disney. The ECCO Women’s Flowt Strap Sandal is extremely comfortable for a day walking around Disney, it is stylish and available in a variety of colors. And the Allbirds Women’s Tree Dashers are the best tennis shoes for Disney and lots of time walking and on your feet all day. The Kenneth Cole Reaction Women’s Chelsea Backpack with quilted chevron and black/gold accents is my favorite backpack for a day out. It is stylish and practical for moms with tons of functional storage pockets and comfortable to carry for a long day at Disney with kids.
School-age children are able to carry their own small day backpack with their own water bottle, snack, sunglasses, and sun hat. My 10 year old also took responsibility for carrying her own park admission ticket card, Disney trading pins, and her Disney wallet with spending money.
Best Disney World Tips and Tricks
To learn more about how to choose the best Disney World park for your family read this article. Or discover what you need to know about planning a Disney World Itinerary before your visit.
The tips and tricks for Disney World in this article will help you navigate your times at the parks, by knowing what to do and what to bring (see also, ‘What Time Are Disney Fireworks?‘). This will enable you to take advantage of all the unique aspects of a Disney vacation and make your life easier inside the Disney parks.
To learn more about planning a fun, easy, stress-free, and magical vacation to Walt Disney World check out The Disney World Planning Guide with Printable Worksheets. The 78 printable pages include a variety of Disney World vacation planning information, printable worksheets, and vacation planner templates.
Good luck with your Disney vacation and have fun! I know you will create special memories that will last a lifetime as you visit the most magical place on earth.
And remember, let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey!
Until next time,
For more about family travel check out these posts:
Which Disney World Park Is Best?
Disney World Itinerary Planning: What You Need to Know
How To Start Saving For A Vacation With Kids
Multi-Generational Travel Ideas For Families