It takes a little work, but it’s absolutely possible!
Ideally, the best time to travel to the Walt Disney World Resort is during a period when historically, attendance has been lower. While a true “slow time” really no longer exists, there are still some weeks that are just not as popular as others and would be perfect for those seeking the shortest attraction wait times and more elbowroom while strolling down Main Street USA. Who wouldn’t want that and wouldn’t that be grand? The reality however, is that most of us due to work, school or other obligations are constrained to visiting Disney World during a selection of highly popular weeks. Which means, it will be crowded.
What does crowded really mean? It depends on whom you ask and is subject to opinion. In general, if second-string attractions have wait times exceeding 60 minutes, you’re experiencing a crowded time. An hour to wait standby is not unusual for the headliners such as “Space Mountain” or “Rock n Roller Coaster”, but when the wait for “it’s a small world” or “Journey into Imagination with Figment” is an hour, the park is jam-packed.
So what do you do? Not go to Disney World because it will be crowded? Heck no! You plan, strategize and follow through with vital methods to make the best of vacationing with the magical masses of fellow Mickey Mouse fans. In fact, I’m going to supply you with some key strategies and tips to help you navigate your way through the sea of visitors and have a wonderful time.
1. Prepare to Wake up Early
This is my number one tip no matter when you visit, but is absolutely imperative when you are visiting Disney World during a popular time. Plan to be at the park gates about 45 minutes to an hour before opening. Not on the bus, not in the car, be at the gates. Yes, you will have to wait, yes your kids will be bored and already getting on your nerves, but it will all prove to be worth it and very evident at about 11:00am when people are really pouring in. By then, you will have been able to ride, with short wait times, a few of the more popular attractions and will have had a much better start to your day than those that have slept-in.
2. When to Eat
When the parks begin to fill, attraction wait times get longer. Around 11:00 am is when you’ll start to really feel it. For a sit-down meal, I recommend making either the latest breakfast reservation or the earliest lunch reservation you can. By this time, you’ll have been in the park for a few hours, enjoyed a few things and will be comfortably resting and dining in a nice restaurant while the park begins to fill up. Even with quick service, dine at “off” times. Most people will be looking to eat lunch from noon until 2pm, so try for 11am if you’ve only had a small breakfast or after 2pm if you’ve eaten enough to keep you going until then.
3. When to Use FastPass+
If you are on board with my advice so far, have committed to arriving early and eating at “off” times, you are probably wondering when you should use your FastPass+. Now, much of this depends on how you schedule the remainder of your day, (Will you hop to another park? Stay all day? Take a resort break?) but do not make any FastPass+ selections prior to 11am. The standby times will never be lower than before that time, so schedule FP+ for AFTER, when wait times get longer. If you plan to take a midday break and return to a park later, make your FP+ selections for the evening.
4. When to Leave the Park
With the exception of those few days when the parks reach capacity and are in jeopardy of closing (ie: Christmas Day, Easter Sunday. In these cases don’t leave until you are done for the day because you may not be let back in.), after your late breakfast/early lunch and using a FP+ or two, would be a GREAT time to make an exit. Either head back to your resort, park hop, visit Disney Springs or if you are hoping to see the 3pm parade at Magic Kingdom, at very least make your way toward the park exit and secure a viewing area. Once the parade is over, you will be at a strategic point for an easy exit and be on your way.
5. When and Where to Shop
Probably the most spontaneous element of a Disney vacation these days, is shopping. No ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) or FP+ required…yet. Is there a “right” or “wrong” time and place to shop? Not really, but there are better times and locations during crowded days that will get you through the check-out line faster. For instance, all Disney Resort Hotels have wonderful gift shops with much of the same merchandise found in the parks! If you are staying on property, check out your resort for purchasing souvenirs, the lines will be WAY shorter. Even if you aren’t staying on property but are on the Boardwalk, touring a resort or even have a dining reservation at a resort, consider doing your shopping at these gift shops to save yourself some time in line. If you absolutely must shop in the parks or at Disney Springs, go early. Most people wait until the end of the day (so they aren’t carrying bags all day). If you are staying on Disney property, Gift Shops will deliver your bags to your resort for free. So you can shop with lower crowds and not have to carry a single bag around.
6. Navigating the Crowds
In my experience the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios are the two parks where you really do sometimes feel like you are part of a heard. It can be overwhelming and frustrating, particularly with stroller wheels at your heels and strangers too far inside your personal space. If you can’t “let it go” and need a moment to find your inner peace, step aside and take a breather. No matter how crowded, there is always some corner you can find to regroup.
7. Crowds at the Resort
Often we look to a midday resort break as sanctuary, only to find that just about everyone else had the same plan and there isn’t a lounge chair to be had. The pool isn’t the only means of entertainment to be found at Disney Resort Hotels. Upon check-in, you will receive a schedule of events and fun going on during your stay at the resort. Make sure you give it a look, you just might find something more enticing than the pool. If swimming is a must-do and crowds in the water aren’t your cup of tea, your best bet is to swim early or later in the day and evening. Do also check out the “quiet pools” at the resort. While not as exciting as the feature pools, that might be just what you are looking for.
Visiting the Walt Disney World Resort at any time of the year is a wonderful thing! Sometimes more planning is necessary. Like just about everything in life, the better prepared, the better off you’ll be. Join our private Facebook Group for daily Disney chat, advice, tips and information. Of course, if you decide to leave it to the experts, contact us! Happy trip planning![/fusion_text]