I have always been part of a family of teachers; therefore, my trips to Walt Disney World happen during school breaks, which typically fall during school breaks for many around the country. This means I tend to visit during some of the most crowded times of the year; however, I rarely wait more than 30 minutes for any ride and thoroughly enjoy my days at Walt Disney World (and keep returning again and again and again). I hope to share some tips with you that will help you maximize your days at Walt Disney World if you happen to visit during peak seasons.
Stay on property
There are so many benefits to staying at a Walt Disney World resort, but there is one that helps during peak seasons: transportation. While some say that Disney transportation can take a lot of time, I would argue that it saves a lot of time. Magic Kingdom is the best example of how Disney transportation can help maximize your time. Those who drive to Magic Kingdom will park at the Transportation and Ticket Center. From there, you will need to take a ferryboat or monorail to actually arrive at the entrance to Magic Kingdom. You may also need to catch a tram from your car to the monorail and ferryboat entrance. This can easily take up to an hour in the mornings and an hour in the evenings. Disney buses, however, will drop you off just outside the tapstiles of the Magic Kingdom, saving valuable time and energy. After a full day at Magic Kingdom, the last thing you will want to do is spend an hour waiting for a monorail or ferryboat, and then a tram just to get to your car.
Rope drop each morning
I understand that not everyone is a morning person. In real life, I am as far from a morning person as anyone can be! But at Walt Disney World, the magic takes over and I am up and ready for the adventure to begin. Being at the parks for opening is often referred to as “rope drop”. Arriving before the parks open allows you to get a head start on the families that take their time getting up in the morning, eat breakfast, and then wait for a bus as bus lines start increasing. You will see that many areas start getting very crowded between 10:30-12:00 each day. Those couple of hours in the mornings will allow you to ride several rides with little to no wait, and possibly even ride some rides multiple times.
Use Genie+ and Individual Lighting Lane effectively
While it isn't the FastPass of the golden years, this is still my biggest tip for anyone regardless of when they travel to Walt Disney World. Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) are amazing ways to ride many rides with little to no wait. Both are paid services, but can be invaluable on those days with big crowds and loooooong waits. Individual Lightning Lane options consist of 2 headliners at each park. You pay per attraction and can select up to 2 ILLs per day. Guests staying at a Disney property can make their ILL selection at 7am, while those staying off-property have to wait until the park opening time. Genie+ selections include most other attractions and costs (at the time of publication) $15 plus tax per person per day. Once you use a Genie+ selection, you can then book one at a time throughout the day using the My Disney Experience app. My method is to arrive at rope drop and ride a few rides and then have my first Genie+ selection starting around 10:30 or 11. This means I can take advantage of short standby lines in the morning, ride something fun with my Genie+ selection, eat lunch, and be ready to keep booking more throughout the day. I recommend booking the attractions that are closest to the current time. For example, if it is 1:30 and I can get a Genie+ selection for Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid starting at 1:45, I grab it. Some people end up stuck with a selection that may not be available for 90 minutes; thereby limiting them to standby lines while they wait. There is a 2 hour rule with this, but that starts getting complicated! Also, keep in mind that you can book another Genie+ selection as soon as you tap into your existing selection. I will often tap in and then book my next using the My Disney Experience app while I walk onto the attraction. Having a strategy with your Genie+ and ILL will make your day much more enjoyable!
Take an afternoon break
Many people advise taking an afternoon break. This can look differently to different people. Some like to go back to their resorts and nap or swim. This can take several hours out of your day, though. My advice is to be creative with how you take your break. I like to rest for a while by scheduling a mid-day table service reservation, a trip or two on lengthy attractions, or a visit to a nearby resort. Most table-service meals take at least an hour and most take longer than that. This is a great way to rest your feet, be refreshed by the air conditioning, and refuel with a good meal. Another option is to ride some attractions that are lengthy. Carousel of Progress and Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom are great ways to take a break. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios offer 30 minute shows that allow for a nice rest. At Epcot, take a ride on Living with the Land or sit and watch the marine life in The Seas for a midday break.
While some of you may not have much choice on when you travel, there are many great ways to maximize your Walt Disney World vacations no matter the crowd size. If you want help making the most of a WDW and get all the inside scoop, start HERE, and we will get the ball rolling!