10 ways to navigate the crowds at Disney
posted by: Mile High Mamas
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Disney World is an amazing place to visit but when the parks are crowded, it can be very frustrating! Short of convincing yourself that you are lucky to be in the “Happiest Place on Earth,” you can do a few things to prepare yourself for the crowds and help to make your trip, and the kids’ trip, that much more enjoyable.
- Crowd Calendars – Before arriving at Disney World, search the internet for “crowd calendars.” Park crowds are rated on a green, yellow, and red scale. Green meaning go for it, red meaning, you might think twice, and yellow somewhere in between. Each park will be rated differently each day. Choose a park to visit each day that is not a red day if possible. Lower crowds, means shorter lines and more time to do what you want to do!
- Fastpass+! – Fastpass+ are Disney’s way of helping to ease the long lines. Fastpass+ selection is available 60 days prior to your trip arrival. You can have up to 3 fast passes at a time. Some rides are more popular than others and therefore the fast passes are more desirable. Even if you don’t get the fast passes you want, don’t panic! You will still get to ride these rides, you will just need to wait in line.
- Touring Plan – Make a touring plan and only maybe stick to it. Everything works better when you have a plan, and Disney is no different. Your plan starts with the crowd calendars and deciding which park to visit which day. After your parks are decided, plan how you will accomplish each park. Know which rides and shows are must dos, so that you don’t miss anything that you have to see. There are touring plans on my website if you’d rather not make your own. The reason I say “only maybe stick to it” is because you are on vacation. If you’re touring the park and want to stop to see or do something else, or if a ride line is short, then by all means, stop and do it! The touring plan provides you will knowledge on how to visit the park, and a “what to do next” plan. It should not be written in stone and cause you stress.
- Tour the parks clockwise! Disney designed the parks in a wheel and spoke layout. You are naturally drawn down Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle (the weenie) and then crowds typically head counter clockwise (right) towards Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Instead of following the crowds, head clockwise into Adventureland and enjoy that side of the park first.
- Have priorities. Because you can not do it all in one trip, decide what is most important to you. I am not talking about which park is most important, I am talking about the nitty gritty. Which ride, which restaurant, which stores, which snacks are most important to you. Do these things first and then add in what you have time for.
- Dining reservations – I recommend that each day you have a reservation for one table service meal. These reservations can be made up to 180 days prior to arrival online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. By providing yourself and your family with a nice air conditioned place to sit and be served, you are allowing yourselves to relax, enjoy the moment and refresh for the rest of the day’s events.
- Rest! Nothing ruins a day or a trip than being tired. Disney is exhausting and (often) hot, which only makes you more tired and irritable. Arrive at the parks early, 30 minutes prior to park open to catch the opening shows, then halfway through your day, head back to the hotel and take a nap. It will be the hottest time of the day, and a great time to escape the heat and refresh. After your naps come back to the park and enjoy the afternoon and late into the evening hours. Guests with young children who have stuck it out during the day, will be ready to head home and the crowds will lighten for your enjoyment. The lightest crowds will always be after the fireworks until park close. If you can rest during the day, so that you are able to keep going after the fireworks, your line wait will go down significantly.
- Line entertainment – On the busiest of park days, even if you adhere to all of my above suggestions, you will encounter crowds and wait in some lines. Hopefully the time in line is less than an hour (I consider this good on heavy park days), but you may be there a bit longer. There is nothing worse than listening to whining, bored children while you’re hot and sweaty, and truly feeling like whining yourself. There is only so much together time and lovely conversations a family can come up with, so make sure you have entertainment in hand. Great entertainment ideas are small coloring books and a bag of markers, (crayons are not a good idea, they will melt in the Florida heat) and your iPhone or other device of choice. I have seen many families enjoying time together while still being buried in their devices. Think family games, hangman, tic-tac-toe, Heads Up, charades and other great app games of your choice. When the going gets really tough, go for the good old- fashioned (you)tube– I won’t judge and those who do, well… they just do.
- Party Tickets – Several times a year Disney closes Magic Kingdom early and reopens it for a “party.” This is a separately ticketed event that sells out. What this means for you is that the crowds are lower and the wait times shorter. In addition to these smaller crowds are amazing festivities, including party only shows, parades, fireworks, food treats and party exclusive merchandise. Some people balk at the thought of having to buy another expensive ticket, but if you ask me, party tickets are THE tickets worth having. They are less expensive than the daily admission (not by much) and if you add up the hours, the fun is typically less than $10 per hour per person. The parties start around 7 p.m. but you can enter the park as early as 4 p.m.
- Don’t try to do it all! Decide on your priorities and start there. Once you’ve completed your must-do list, then add on other activities you want to do. Understand you won’t get to do it all and be ok with it. Disney is massive in size! Four large parks, Disney Springs, endless resorts with limitless amenities, and we won’t even talk about Pirate Ship rides and dinner shows and tours, and.… you can’t do it all in one trip. So if you love your trip to Disney World, just know you will need to plan another, and another… and you still won’t do it all! Be OK with this, relax in the crowd knowing you will accomplish some things and not others. You will enjoy your time much more if you are not stressed about getting it all done. Trust me, I know from a lot of experience. I have been to Disney more times than I can count, and I have still not done it all!
If you need more help or would like to view touring plans, please visit our blog, www.loveofthemouse.com and follow us on Facebook for updated Disney tips. Starting January 1st, I will be in the parks weekly, letting you know all of the great things that are happening in the parks, resorts and at Disney Springs!
Jamie is a Mickey Mouse lover and overall Disney fanatic. She has traveled to Disneyland and Disney World more times than can be counted, and frequently helps others plan their perfect Disney trips. She resides in Castle Rock, Colorado with her husband, 2 young daughters and 2 dogs, but will be relocating to Orlando In December so she can venture to the parks weekly. She currently writes a blog entitled “Love of the Mouse” which can be found at www.loveofthemouse.com. You can also follow her adventures and tips on Facebook and Instagram.