View of people wandering in Disney World, unaware of all of these useful Disney World tips

49 Disney World Tips (An Orlando Local’s Insider Secrets)

This is a ton of information available for planning your visit to Walt Disney World. Some over planners (like me) enjoy combing through every detail to make sure nothing is missed. For everyone else, you just need the best Disney World tips to help make the most of your trip.

I have lived just down the road from Walt Disney World for 24 years and I worked there for 12 years.  As you can imagine, I have a lot of experience visiting the Disney parks and staying at the best resort hotels at Disney World.

I could write for hours about my Disney World recommendations, but I decided to narrow it down to my best Disney World tips when you are planning your trip. 

Table of Contents

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49 Travel Tips for Walt Disney World

1. Go Right Around World Showcase

People visiting the Mexico Pavilion in Disney World
The Mexico pavilion, where most people start their journey around World Showcase

A majority of Disney fans say you always need to start your trip around the World Showcase in Mexico (also known as “going left”). I will humbly disagree. By going right to Canada first, you get through a fairly boring pavilion first and avoid the crowds. Plus, you’ll be finishing in Mexico. This is the perfect place to enjoy some tacos and margaritas while watching Harmonious, Epcot’s nighttime spectacular. 

📚 Related Reading: Use my 1-Day Epcot Itinerary to plan your entire day!

2. Use Apple AirTags to Keep Track of Belongings (and Children!)

This is one of my newer Disney World tips, but I need it more now with a toddler running around. Apple AirTags can be attached to a stroller, backpack, child, or anything that you want to keep track of. It is not uncommon for cast members to move strollers, wheelchairs, or ECVs around the parking areas, so AirTags make it easier for you to find your vehicle immediately. 

For children, attach the AirTag to a necklace or secure it in a zippered pocket. This can give parents peace of mind on days with heavy crowds. 

3. Don’t Buy Souvenirs at the Parks

There are a couple of reasons why I do not recommend buying souvenirs at the parks. The first is that prices will be highest at the Disney parks. 

Most convenience stores, grocery stores, and outlets in Orlando will have Disney-licensed merchandise at more affordable prices. You can also find deals at the Disney Store online. Sellers on Etsy have options for personalized items, such as matching Disney shirts. 

4. Special Events (Usually) Aren’t Worth It

Throughout the year, Walt Disney World hosts special ticketed events. The most popular are Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and the Christmas event at the Magic Kingdom. The events may have unique character meet and greets, parades, or shows. Overall, the high-priced tickets are not worth the money when you are already paying for park tickets and lodging for your vacation. 

👉 Bonus Tip: If you especially love the holidays at Walt Disney World or special characters that aren’t usually found at the parks, a special event may be right for you. The tickets usually cost less than a one-day park ticket and you can still enjoy many of the rides and attractions. 

5. Order From the Kids Menu

Grilled cheese and tomato soup on a tray from Woody's Lunch Box
Kids grilled cheese from Woody’s Lunchbox in Hollywood Studios

Ordering from the kid’s menu can help you save money and not waste food. For most quick-service locations, kid’s meals come with an entree, two sides, and a beverage. 

I find that this is more than enough food for me, but those with bigger appetites may be left hungry. If you prefer to enjoy as many meals as possible at Disney World, kid’s meals can help you from getting overfull as you eat your way through the resort. 

6. Take a Midday Break

People enjoying their day in a pool in Animal Kingdom Lodge
Enjoy a midday swim at Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you only act on one of my Disney World tips, let it be this one. My recommended schedule for a day at Disney World is: early breakfast, get to a theme park early, head back to the hotel at midday, and return to the theme park in the afternoon. 

Adding a midday break to your Disney World itinerary is crucial for keeping young kids rested and cool on long, hot days at the theme parks. Take a dip in the pool, enjoy a nap in the room, or eat a slow meal at one of the restaurants. 

7. Take Advantage of Disney Transportation

The author with her son on a Skyliner in Disney World
My son is still not sure about riding the Skyliner

One of the biggest perks of staying at a Walt Disney World hotel is access to the extensive transportation network. Every hotel has bus transportation to Disney Springs, the theme parks, and the water parks. 

Disney World also has the Skyliner, monorails, and boats that connect various hotels and theme parks. Disney transportation is not always the fastest option, but it is the most convenient and magical. 

8. Stay at a Disney Hotel to Maximize the Experience

View of a pool from above in The Riviera Resort
The Riviera Resort is at the top of my list for future staycations

If it works for your budget, stay at a Walt Disney World hotel. These are the best places to stay at Disney World. The experience simply cannot be matched because from sun up to sun down you are immersed in Disney. You can enjoy character meet and greets at your hotel, get a wake-up call from Mickey himself, and potentially view fireworks from your hotel room.

Disney hotels have a variety of price ranges. Value resorts typically have fewer amenities. Deluxe resorts usually have table-service dining options and connections to the parks. For example, at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort, you can eat at five different table service restaurants, access Magic Kingdom and Epcot from the monorail, and enjoy early theme park entry perks. 

See my full guide to the best hotels at Disney World to help pick the perfect resort.

9. Get a Celebration Button

At your hotel concierge or park guest relations, you can pick up a celebration button. There are specialty buttons for birthdays and first visits, as well as “I’m celebrating” and “happily ever after” buttons. Cast members will regularly congratulate you on your button and you may even get some magical moments from it. Also, it is a free keepsake to remember your trip. 

10. Use OpenTable for Disney Springs Dining Reservations

Advanced dining reservations for Disney World restaurants can be found on the My Disney Experience app or website. However, many of the Disney Springs restaurants can also be found on OpenTable. I find that this reservation system usually has more available times than the Disney app. 

11. Hit the Shops After the Park Closes

If you want to grab your souvenirs at the theme park or if you have your eye on an exclusive item, save your shopping until the end of the day. The shops located towards the front of the parks usually stay open for an hour or more after the park closes. You may run into some crowds at this time, but at least you didn’t waste any of your time during the day.

👉 Bonus Tip: If you do end up shopping during your day at the park, you can have your items held at the entrance or sent back to your Disney World hotel room. 

12. Use Minnie Vans to Travel From One Hotel to Another

In June 2022, the Minnie Van transportation service returned to Walt Disney World. This service is operated in partnership with Lyft, but the vehicles are driven by Disney cast members. 

Every Minnie Van is equipped with two car seats for families with young children. Since Disney transportation does not operate between all the hotels, this is a great option to check out other hotels or get to a dining reservation. 

13. You Don’t Necessarily Need Genie+ or Lightning Lane

People at the entrance of Rise of the Resistance
Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios has one of the most popular Lightning Lanes

Unfortunately, FastPass is no more at Walt Disney World. This free service has been replaced with Genie+, a paid add-on, and Lightning Lanes (the previous FastPass lanes). Some attractions are so popular that you have to pay for their individual Lightning Lane, up to $17 per person per attraction. After paying for park tickets, accommodations, and food for your trip, this is an exorbitant price just to wait in a shorter line for an attraction.

Instead, I recommend prioritizing your favorite attractions, taking advantage of early entry for Disney hotel guests, and spending a full day at each theme park. You can get planning with my detailed Epcot Itinerary, Magic Kingdom Itinerary, Animal Kingdom Itinerary, and Hollywood Studios Itinerary.

14. Ride Attractions During the Fireworks

People lining up on the entrance of Space Ranger Spin
Space Ranger Spin at the Magic Kingdom

I may be in the minority, but I think if you’ve seen one fireworks show, you’ve seen them all. If you are like me and don’t mind missing the fireworks, you’ll be rewarded with much shorter wait times at some of the busiest attractions. 

Since most people line up for fireworks and nighttime shows early, you will see wait times drop 30-45 minutes before evening shows. This is one of the best times to ride the Magic Kingdom “mountains” or Test Track at Epcot. 

15. Buy Park Tickets in Advance

Walt Disney World is currently using a park reservation system. In addition to purchasing tickets for the theme parks, you also need to reserve the days you want to visit each park. These reservations can be over a year in advance (reservations are currently available through January 2024). 

However, you need to have park tickets or an annual pass purchased to make your reservations. By purchasing your tickets early, you can ensure that you won’t be blocked out of visiting a park because the reservations are all taken.

16. Bring a Portable Fan

You’ll see portable fans on a lot of strollers at Disney World, but this tip isn’t just for kids. Anyone can enjoy the cool air of a portable fan. Disney sells fans and misters at the parks, but you’ll be paying a mark-up price. Bring your own so you can stay cool at the parks. 

👉 Don’t Forget to Pack: My family uses this portable fan and we love it. The bendable legs make it easy to attach to the stroller or prop up on a picnic table.

17. Buy Disney Pins on eBay

Pin trading is a fun activity for all ages throughout a Disney World trip. However, you’ve probably noticed that those pins can cost quite a bit. If you’re not too picky and just want to enjoy the experience of trading pins with cast members, buy some Disney pins ahead of time on eBay. 

You’ll need authentic Disney pins to trade with and this is a great way to get some for a cheaper price. 

18. Do Research Before Your First Visit

You’re already reading here, so that’s a great start! Between the hotels, dining options, theme parks, and additional activities, there can be a lot to plan for a Walt Disney World vacation. 

When you take the time to do some research ahead of time, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. I always love watching video summaries of Disney vacations so I can get a visual of what to expect at different locations. 

📚 Related Reading: After you finish reading all my Disney World tips and tricks, check out my travel guide to Orlando and the rest of our Florida guides on Travel Lemming. 

19. Don’t Pay for Water

People ordering their meal inside Pop Century Resort
Quick-service dining at the Pop Century Resort

Every single quick-service restaurant can give you free cups of water. Some of the restaurants already have water cups available by the drink machines. The water fountains at Disney World have a reputation for tasting terrible, but the water from restaurants is filtered. I recommend bringing an insulated refillable water bottle so you can have cold water available all day long. 

20. Enjoy Fireworks Viewing Outside the Parks

Relaxing view of the beach at the Polynesian Village
The beach at the Polynesian Village is a favorite Magic Kingdom fireworks viewing location

Since Disney fireworks explode high in the sky, there are plenty of places to watch the shows when you aren’t in the parks. Several Disney resorts have views of the fireworks and you may even see them as you drive through the property. Some of the best viewing locations include:

  • Polynesian Village beach
  • California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • North stairs and 4th-floor observation deck at the Contemporary Resort
  • Fireworks dessert boat cruises
  • The bridge between the Boardwalk Inn and Beach Club 
  • Topolino’s Terrace at the Riviera Resort

21. Bring a Rain Jacket (Instead of a Disposable Poncho)

An afternoon rain shower is a safe bet during the summer in Florida. There’s also a chance of rain throughout most of the year. Instead of dealing with a sticky, disposable poncho, opt for a comfortable rain jacket. Many options fold up for easy storage and have breathable vents to keep you cool during the summer. 

👉 Don’t Forget to Pack: I’ve had this Helly Hansen rain jacket for years and it is still in great condition. Plus, you can even buy it at the Norway pavilion in Epcot!

22. Visit Animal Kingdom Lodge to See African Animals

View of zebras in the Animal Kingdom Lodge

If you loved riding Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom but you wish you had more time to see the animals, you’ll enjoy visiting Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can find many of the same species as the safari, including giraffe, zebra, ankole cattle, and more! You don’t need to be staying at the resort to enjoy the animals though, you can just walk around the property.

I recommend grabbing a drink and exploring. There are several areas around the two buildings where you can relax and enjoy the views. 

23. Get on One Last Ride at Park Closing

One Disney World tip that many people don’t realize is that the rides don’t stop operating at closing time, the cast members just close the lines. That means you can sneak on one last ride at the end of the night even if it has a long wait time. Since the crowds usually thin out by the end of the night, you can usually fit in multiple attractions in the last hour that the park is open. 

24. Decorate Your Door or Window

Decorating your door or window is especially fun for families with children or those celebrating special occasions. The tradition seems to have started on the Disney Cruise Line, where guests regularly cover their doors in magnets and celebratory decor. 

Make sure that all your decorations are easy to remove and do not leave residue on the door or window. This fun tradition can easily be ruined if people do not clean up after themselves. 

25. Don’t Skip the Old School Attractions

Stroller lined up in Enchanted Tiki Room
The Enchanted Tiki Room is usually hidden behind stroller parking

Older attractions, like the Enchanted Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, and Country Bear Jamboree, are typically at the bottom of the list of most-desirable attractions at Magic Kingdom. I don’t disagree that they are a bit outdated and less thrilling than other rides. 

However, these attractions are a great way to enjoy a show while sitting down and cooling off in the air conditioning. The less popular attractions usually have little to no wait time. Kids will be happy that they don’t have to wait in another line and they will still get to enjoy a Disney show. 

26. You Don’t Have to Ride The Seas to Visit the Aquariums

The signage in The Seas with Nemo and Friends

If you haven’t been to Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, you are missing out! This attraction allows the audience to interact with Crush (Finding Nemo) and even ask him questions about life under the sea. This attraction and the large aquarium tanks are located inside The Seas attraction. 

If the line for The Seas is too long (or you just want to skip it), head to the left side of the building and enter through the gift shop. The aquarium inside is very impressive and it includes a 5.7 million gallon tank filled with fish, sharks, and turtles. 

👉 Bonus Tip: If you are SCUBA-certified, you can go diving at Disney World! DiveQuest is a 3-hour tour backstage at The Seas and it includes a dive in the main tank. 

27. Bring Your Own Chewing Gum

Two of the things that Walt Disney did not want at Disney World were alcohol and chewing gum. Now, you can purchase alcoholic beverages at every theme park and hotel. However, chewing gum is still unavailable across the property. The hope is that by not selling gum, there will be less used gum stuck to the ground, on tables, and on ride vehicles.

If you do choose to bring your own gum, make sure it always ends up in a trash can! 

28. Get to Know the My Disney Experience App

My Disney Experience is a planning tool that you can use for your Disney trip. It keeps all your tickets, park reservations, advance dining reservations, and more in one convenient place. Smartphone users can download the app, but a website is also available to manage your My Disney Experience account.

Before you visit Disney World, it is helpful to play around on the app. You’ll want to know how to get in virtual queues, modify dining reservations, and view your PhotoPass. 

29. Mobile Order Your Meals

View of people taking their order in Caribbean Beach Resort
Quick-service dining at Caribbean Beach Resort

Of all my Disney World tips, this one might save you the most time. Most quick-service dining locations utilize mobile ordering. On the My Disney Experience app, you’ll be able to choose the restaurant and time frame that you’d like to eat. Peruse the menu and order your food ahead of time. When you’re ready to eat, head to the restaurant and let the app know that you are ready for your food to be cooked. 

Speaking from experience, my toddler absolutely hates sitting at a restaurant and waiting for his food. Thanks to mobile ordering, we have avoided several meltdowns during Disney World visits. 

30. Let a Travel Agent Plan Your Disney World Trip

If planning your visit to the Walt Disney World Resort seems completely overwhelming, consider booking everything with an authorized Disney vacation planner. These travel agents are able to set up your hotel, park tickets, dining reservations, and more. 

The best part is that using a Disney vacation planner is completely free for you. They earn a commission from the Walt Disney Company for booking your vacation. Since they specialize in Disney World vacations, travel agents are always up to date on the newest experiences and deals. 

👉 Read Next: The Top Things to Do in Orlando

31. Skip the Park Hopper

You do not need park hopper tickets. A park hopper ticket allows you to visit more than one park per day. If you plan on visiting the parks for four or more days, just stick to one park per day. By purchasing one park per day tickets, you can save hundreds of dollars for your vacation. 

If you are planning on booking dining experiences, just make sure the dining locations match up with your theme park days. This is easy to organize since you need to make park reservations and dining reservations in advance. 

32. For Luxury, Book a Club Level Room

Club level is not a necessity to enjoy your Disney World vacation. Nevertheless, if your budget allows, club level is a luxury experience for your trip. All the deluxe Disney hotels and Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs offer club level rooms. 

The main perk of club level rooms is access to snacks, beverages, and alcoholic drinks throughout the day. Additionally, guests staying in club level rooms have access to dedicated concierge staff. The concierge can help you modify experiences or reservations (and they may even be able to get you a last minute reservation at a popular restaurant). 

33. You Don’t Need a Rental Car When You Stay at a Disney Hotel

If you are planning to spend your entire Orlando vacation at Disney World, there is no need for a rental car. Other than transportation from the Orlando airport to your Disney resort, you can use free transportation to get around. 

Disney Springs, the parks, and the Disney Resort hotels are all connected by bus transportation. Additionally, the monorail, boats, and Skyliner connect several hotels to Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

34. Give Each Disney Park At Least One Full Day

People taking a photo in Winged Encounters
The Winged Encounters show at Animal Kingdom

You’ll frequently see people online say that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a half-day park. Some people also say it about Hollywood Studios. I disagree completely. Every single park offers plenty of attractions and entertainment to enjoy a full day. Plus, you won’t feel the need to rush over to a second park in the afternoon. 

📚 Related Reading: If you’re not aware of all the awesome offerings at each theme park, check out my 1-day itineraries:

35. PhotoPass Photographers Will Use Your Phone or Camera

At the best photo locations, including in front of Cinderella Castle, you’ll find PhotoPass photographers. They have their own cameras and you can purchase these photos through My Disney Experience. Many people don’t realize that the photographers can also use your phone or camera to take pictures. Just have your settings ready to go, because they will not adjust photo parameters. 

36. Check For Last Minute Dining Reservations

As a local, I accidentally stumbled upon this Disney tip. Currently, you can begin making dining reservations 60 days out. The best Disney restaurants and character meals tend to fill up extremely quickly. 

However, I found that the day of or the day before, you can find several reservations open up! It can be stressful to wait until the last minute to find dining reservations, but this is when I have the most luck in getting my preferred restaurants. 

37. Be Smart When Drinking Around the World

You already know that you should drink responsibly, but many people don’t take the weather into consideration. Florida is hot for most of the year. World Showcase does not offer a lot of shaded areas when walking around. When you mix alcohol and heat, it can lead to serious health problems. 

As you drink around the world, make sure you are also eating and drinking water along the way. I also recommend checking out the attractions and shops in the different countries as a way to cool off. 

38. Pack Less and Do Laundry

Every single Walt Disney World Resort hotel has laundry facilities. This means that you can afford to go a little lighter when packing for Disney World. Less luggage means less hassle on your road trip or flight down to Orlando. 

If you are visiting for more than a few days, enjoy a relaxing day at your hotel in the middle of your trip. This is a great time to get a load of laundry done, so you can enjoy fresh clothes for the rest of the vacation. 

To make sure you remember all the essentials, bookmark my Disney World packing list.

👉 Don’t Forget to Pack: SinkSuds can be used for handwashing a couple items in a sink or for washing an entire load of laundry. You can also purchase detergent at laundry facilities.

39. Bring Your Own Food

One of the best ways to save money at Disney is to bring your own snacks and make your own meals. Since the Disney Dining Plan has not returned since the pandemic, you can no longer enjoy free dining promotions or cut costs with the dining package. You are allowed to bring your own food into the parks and you can sit at any quick-service restaurant to eat. 

It is easy to eat a simple breakfast in your room before heading out for the day. If you want to prepare more extensive meals in your room, make sure you book a Disney Vacation Club villa because they all have kitchenettes or kitchens.

40. Use Rewards Points at Partner Hotels

the Walt Disney World Swan from the outside
The WDW Swan is a Westin property

There are a few hotels at the Disney World Resort that are not owned and operating by Disney. These include the Swan & Dolphin Hotels, the Four Seasons, Wyndham Grand, Waldorf Astoria, and more. 

I recommend the Swan and Dolphin hotels because you can walk to Epcot and access Disney transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The other hotels have buses or shuttles to get around the property. 

41. Save Money By Purchasing Disney Gift Cards

For the real couponers or savings fanatics, I recommend purchasing Disney gift cards to pay for your vacation. At Target, you can use your REDcard to get 5% back on gift card purchases. BJ’s and Sam’s Club have Disney gift cards at 1-5% off. If you use a cash-back card, you can enjoy even more savings. While this might not seem like a lot of money saved, Disney vacations cost thousands of dollars, so 1-5% adds up.

👉 Bonus Tip: Consolidate your gift cards on disneygiftcard.com so you don’t have to keep track of them all.

42. Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris in the Rain

The author heading onto the Savannah on Kilimanjaro Safaris
This is my favorite view of the savannah!

You’ve probably heard people say to ride Kilimanjaro Safaris first thing in the morning. I actually recommend waiting an hour after the park opens to see the best animal viewing. 

After working on the safari for over 6 years, I can confidently say that riding in the rain is one of the best experiences at Disney World. Many of the animals run around and enjoy cooling off in the shower. The absolute best part of a rainstorm is that the elephants like to hop in their pool and splash around. 

43. Ride Outdoor Coasters After Dark

Since the theme parks are set up to operate into the night, riding outdoor roller coasters after dark is especially fun. Sometimes it feels like a completely different experience from riding during the day. My favorite coasters to hop on in the dark are Slinky Dog Dash in Toy Story Land, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Expedition Everest, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. 

🚗 Read Next: Where to Find Free Parking at Walt Disney World

44. Protect Your Trip With Travel Insurance

We all know that things happen that are out of our control. Since a Disney trip can cost thousands of dollars, look into travel insurance to protect your vacation. Depending on the plan you choose, travel insurance may cover medical bills, rental car accidents, lost baggage, and more. 

You can get a quote now through World Nomads here.

45. Be Weather Aware

Florida is hot for most of the year, so be prepared for warm weather. This means hydrating and eating throughout the day, as well as wearing appropriate clothing. Additionally, thunderstorms are common at Disney World, especially in the summer. 

When you hear thunder, it is a good time to find an indoor location to ride out the storm. Don’t worry though, most summer storms pass through quickly and you’ll be back to the fun in no time.

For more information, read my guide to when to visit Disney World.

46. Bring a Unique Item for Autographs

Of course, you can bring a traditional autograph book to collect character signatures. For a unique souvenir, bring an item like plain Mickey ears or a photo frame. You’ll be able to display your collection of autographs in a fun way. 

47. Connect With Friends on My Disney Experience

If you are traveling with multiple people, connect with each other on My Disney Experience. This will allow anyone in your party to create dining reservations and book Lightning Lanes for the entire group. 

48. Request Specific Seats on Attractions

You may not realize that you can request specific seats or rows on attractions. Many thrill-seekers love to ride in the front row of roller coasters. Did you know that the back row typically feels like the fastest and whips you around the most? One row I would avoid is the back row on Kilimanjaro Safaris because the road can get a little too bumpy. 

49. Get Your Star Wars Fix on Star Tours

View from the inside of Star Tours in Hollywood Studios
C-3PO greets you in the queue line

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the most popular land in Hollywood Studios. The attractions regularly have wait times of an hour or more and dining locations are always busy. If you want to visit a galaxy far, far away without the hassle, head over to Star Tours. This is the original Star Wars attraction, but the wait times are typically a fraction of the wait times for the newer attractions. 

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📚 Related Reading: Make sure you check out all my Disney articles to plan the ultimate vacation!

Now that you’re equipped with my top Disney World tips and tricks, you’re ready to make the most of your vacation! 

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One Comment

  1. Enjoyed your article. We are Vacation Club Members and make a couple of trips yearly to Orlando. Always can use additional information about the area.
    Thanks

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