Finding the best Disney World vacation hacks can be invaluable when it comes to planning your first trip to Disney World can be an overwhelming experience.
Packing all of the things you’ve dreamed of doing into a week or two of vacation can seem like a lot, but for families who have saved for years to enjoy the magic of Disney, it’s important that it goes well.
For us, after 10 family trips to Disney World, two to Disneyland, and two on Disney Cruise Lines, it feels like old hat for us, but even we learn new things each time we go and I know there are secrets we have yet to uncover.
Fortunately, with the My Disney Experience App, Disney Moms Panel, and the countless Disney Facebook groups and blogs out there, finding the info you need quickly and easily isn’t much of a challenge.
But there is nothing like first hand experience from other parents to help you make planning your first Disney World vacation go off without a hitch.
I reached out to my Facebook Disney family and asked them to share some of their best Disney World vacation hacks including their best planning, saving, adventuring, and more tips for first timers to help make your Disney World family vacation as magical as possible. And yes, you will want to read this even if it’s not your first time going!
Parents Share Their Best Disney World Vacation Hacks for an Epic First Visit
Best Disney World Vacation Hacks: Planning Your Trip
Gone are the days when you could waltz into the park without plans or reservations and enjoy it all. Plan ahead, including fast passes and dining reservations, to ensure you’ll be doing a handful of things you really want to do every day. -Stephanie S.
Don’t plan out your whole day. Leave some time for spontaneity. -Stacey H.
Use a Travel Agent! They are FREE and can help with so much. -Echo M.
Decide before you go which rides, parades, restaurants & attractions are most important to you, then plan your day accordingly. -Sarah Schwab
We went the first week of December a few years ago, and the Very Merry Mickeys Christmas Party’s worth the extra $$. -Katie Powell
You might be able to save a little money if you call to book your trip. Doing it online is super easy, but when you call, sometimes Disney agents are able to help you save a little cash or plan a better trip. They are experts after all, and they know which deals are happening right now.
Best Disney World Hacks: What to Bring
Get the best walking shoes you can afford. Do not underestimate the amount of walking. -Lisa MB
Comfortable shoes, not cute shoes. -Sarah M.
If you’re going during the summer, bring your kids hats. The ones you wind up buying in the park will be expensive. My dudes love bucket hats always, but definitely at Disney. It’s like 360 degree sun protection on your head! -DudeMom
Buy kids sunglasses before hand. -Echo M.
Carbineers—bring them! We use them to hang water bottle from our bag or stroller. The hats can be clipped to them while you ride. You can even use them to clip your bag to the ride so you don’t lose it while you throw your hands in the air. -DudeMom
Ponchos on Amazon. Buy a bulk pack like this one and take them with you because it is probably going to rain while you’re there. You’ll be happy you’re dry and that you don’t have to spend a ridiculous amount on the Disney version because they are EXPENSIVE. These you can just ball up and trash when you’re done and then pull out another when it starts to come down again. -DudeMom
If you’re going during the hot Florida summer, pack the dri-fit type shirts. They’re light weight and sweat absorbent so we find them more comfortable to be in during those 100 degree 100% humidity days. -DudeMom
Get more packing tips here: Money Saving Packing Tips for Disney World
Best Disney World Vacation Hacks: Disney World Hotels
Take some time to enjoy your resort if you stay at one. If we go again we will plan more resort days. -Deeana M.
Stay where they have a kitchen and/or a washer and dryer. -DudeMom
Go during the off season. It’s cheaper. -DudeMom
Pick a hotel you can walk into a park from. It cuts down on travel time dramatically. -DudeMom
Need help finding a place to stay? Check out this post to find out where families love to stay most: Best Disney World Hotels
Best Disney World Vacation Hacks: Eating at Disney
They cater to special diets. Do your best to get in contact with the chefs. They will take care of you. -Valerie L.
If you have dietary issues let them know ahead of time and they will make sure they have food for you! My nephew has PKU and they have plans for almost every issue or will make one! -Stephanie D.
Best kept secret that’s not a secret: buy the popcorn bucket. It’s like $10 then $2 for refills for your stay. Such a great afternoon snack. -Echo M.
No need to spend $5 on a bottle of water. You can ask for free ice water from any vendor to fill up your jugs so you can stay hydrated while walking around. -DudeMom
Know where you want to eat. Even if you are only planning to do counter service (no reservations) know ahead of time where you would be interested in eating and give yourself a couple of choices. The parks are huge. It won’t make sense to plan lunch in one place when you’re over in a completely different area when lunch rolls around. -Shelly R.
The dining plan is a decent amount of food. Get the smallest one possible and then supplement it with breakfast and snacks in your room. The plan tends to be free a certain times of the year, take advantage of that if it is available when you book! We did and we loved being able to say yes to the kids when they got hungry, and we had plenty of leftovers after every meal to take dessert back to our room each day. -DudeMom
You can have groceries delivered to your hotel ahead of time. There may be a package fee, depending on the resort. -Shelly R.
Make dining reservations. -Pamela K.
It’s often easier to get lunch reservations at popular dining spots so try that if dinner is full. -DudeMom
And, last minute reservations can save you. With older kids who have visited many times, we are pretty fluid about where we eat. We usually only book one nice evening sit down meal in advance. Otherwise, we don’t like to be tied to too many reservations. We usually just log on the day before we want to eat and try to book a dinner reservations. People often release them 24hrs before they’re due because their plans changes and/or they’d booked several reservations not knowing which they’d want on the big day. Because Disney charges you if you don’t cancel at least 24hrs in advance, people are pretty good about letting them go on time. -DudeMom
Bring your own water bottles into the park and refill. -Echo M.
And snacks too! Heck, bring your entire lunch if you want Disney doesn’t care. -DudeMom
Need more Disney World secrets? We gotchu: 10 Disney Secrets You Need to Know
Best Disney Word Hacks: Lines & Wait Times
Don’t book fast passes before 11am. The lines are shorter then anyway. –Smarter Travel
For fewer crowds and shorter lines, visit in one of the low season. Our favorite is October followed closely by February. Park attendance tends to be lower (and more affordable) during those times. Also, consider going into the park later in the day and staying until closing. We have found that the families with younger children usually break in the afternoon for naps and such and are back to their rooms by 9pm. You can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours until 11pm or later some nights. -DudeMom
Make rope drop. Arrive at the park gates 30 mins before opening. You ride so much in those first few hours if you are prepared! -Michelle B.
Plan on going on rides during the fireworks at night or during the parade during the day. Lines are shorter. -Vanessa W.
Expect to wait in lines. Planning helps but I’m not just talking about ride lines. There are lines for everything. Security lines before you get into the park, lines for transportation, lines for food, lines for bathrooms, lines for character meetings, lines in gift shops. Just accept that waiting in line is going to be part of your day and plan for it. Put a silly little game on your phone, get a Hidden Mickeys book, bring something to occupy yourself (and your kids) because there will be lines. -Shelly R.
If it’s warm out and the rain doesn’t bother you, go to the parks when it rains (not during thunder/lightening, the rides may be closed then). Especially if it’s a steady downpour, or has been raining for a bit. People just clear out and the lines are nonexistent. -DudeMom
“Go left!” When you get to the point in a line where you have to choose left or right, go left. Most people go right and the line to the left is shorter. -Jennifer B.
Best Disney World Vacation Hacks: Fireworks and Other Special Events
Watch the 3:00 parade from in front of Pecos Bills in Frontierland. Get there 45 min early and stake out a spot by the entrance facing big thunder mountain. -Stephanie S.
When you go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, you may see characters that rarely (or never) do meet & greets in the park. -Undercover Tourist
Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios is one of the most sought after experienes for kids 4-12 (my dudes did it and it was THE BEST) which means it is also one of the hardest to get. To beat the mad dash to sign up, make a breakfast reservation at Hollywood & Vine for 8am. On days when there is no Extra Magic Hour for Hollywood Studios, you can just eat and walk over before the slots get filled. –TripSavvy
The nighttime fireworks at MK are spectacular from near Rapunzel’s Tower in Fantastyland, but you wont be able to see the accompanying castle show. -Stephanie S.
Disney World Vacation Hacks: Gifts and Shopping
Send your purchases to the front of the park FOR FREE! Buy those souvenirs when you see them and send them to guest relations. You can pick them up on your way out (or wait until the next day and they can be delivered to your Disney resort.) -Shelly R.
Get pin locks for your pins to stay on your lanyard. We’ve lost a couple because they come loose as you walk around the park all day. You can find the pin locks at gift shops and if you don’t see them just ask! -DudeMom
Buy some souvenirs online cheaper before you go and surprise your kids with them throughout the trip. -Katie Powell
Buy it when you see it. If there is a souvenir you like, buy it that day. Don’t wait until the last day to shop. Unless it’s a common souvenir (magnets, pins, etc) you may not make it back to that original shop. Buy it when you see it and follow the advice above. -Shelly R.
There is a Super Target right on Orlo Bronson Highway in Kissimmee that has a Large Disney section with Disney merchandise at Target prices.-Stacey H.
Disney World Hacks: Saving Money and Budgeting
For larger families (4+), it may be cheaper to book two rooms and ask for connecting one as opposed to booking a suite or other option. Disney will guarantee that your rooms will be connected if you have party with kids under 18. –WDW Prep School
Skip the stroller rental. Instead, order one on Amazon and have it sent to your hotel. It can be there when you arrive. We got one of those little $20 umbrella strollers delivered and we didn’t even bother to bring it back. We gave it to another family when we left. -DudeMom
Check out the special offers. Just launched 30% off the hotels in the spring and summer. -Chris N.
Buy Disney gift cards at Costco to spend in the park. -DudeMom
Sign up for Mousesavers and follow the Walt Disney Offers page. Both are great sources for finding out about special promotions and offers. -DudeMom
Best Disney World Vacation Hacks: Transportation
Overestimate how long it takes to get places. If you’re using the free Disney transportation there will be lines. There will be stuffed buses. There may be traffic. Don’t go by mileage. Plan extra time to get from one place to the next by bus, boat or monorail. You must pass through security to get on the monorail from the monorail resorts. Plan time for that. Consider using Uber or Lyft. -Shelly R.
We used Uber a ton on our last visit. It was easy to get from place to place when we were on a schedule. -DudeMom
If you’re staying on property at Disney World, the best way to get from the airport to the resort is via the Magical Express. Book it before you go down, and then just check-in at the kiosk on the lower level (follow the signs), wave your Magic Bands, and board the bus they instruct you to board to your hotel. It’s easy and free for guests. -DudeMom
Save on a rental car and park parking by staying on property or at a resort that has a free shuttle. There are several transportation options between the resort and the parks—buses, boats, and monorail to name a few—and when you’re not able to utilize one of those, Uber is a pretty inexpensive choice. You can have everything you will need while at Disney room delivered to your room so paying for a car is an expense you don’t really need. -DudeMom
Best Disney World Vacation Hacks: Fun Things & Other Miscellaneous
Don’t forget to tell them it’s your first time when you’re buying your tickets. -DudeMom
We went to Petco and got him a dog tag with our phone numbers on it and clipped it to his pants, since he didn’t reliably have our phone numbers memorized yet. -Lizz P.
Get some lights or markers for your strollers. When you come out of rides at night and the stroller people have moved them all around you will thank me. -Deanna M.
I took a picture of my kids each morning before we left the hotel so I’d have a picture of them in what they were wearing that day. We’ve had two short-term missing incidents, and when you are stressed it’s hard to remember details like that. -Anne Parris
Download and use the My Disney Experience App. We download it the moment we start planning our trip because it allows you to manage all of your reservations—Fast Passes, hotel, dining, Magic Band orders, transportation—EVERYTHING. It also has helpful info like park hours, maps, ride times, and ride closures that are really hand when you’re in the parks. -DudeMom
You do not have to buy the photo package to get pictures. Photopass photographers will take your picture with your own device, for no cost to you! You won’t get the magic shots but you can still get good pictures. -Shelly R.
Volunteer to be in the Indiana Jones show at Hollywood Studios. I have been in the show as a volunteer FOUR times. To get in, sit down low close to the stage (you can be a few rows back even) and, when they call for volunteers, be excited and animated like you really wanted. I get picked every time I try and if you’re not shy, it’s a fun experience for your family to witness! -DudeMom
If you have boys, take them for a haircut at Harmony Barber shop in the Magic Kingdom. My boys love it and they finish them of with pixie dust. Best part, the haircuts cost less than $20 which is the same or even less than what you will probably pay at home. -DudeMom
Be sure to also check out these 30 Amazing Disney World First Timer Tips for more Disney World vacation hacks and tips before you book your trip.