In her new book, Walt Disney World Hacks, Disney expert Susan Veness provides over 350 insider tips. Here are 10 of the best!
Having a magical Walt Disney World vacation may seem like a given, but creating a trip that’s memorable for the right reasons (to borrow a Bachelor phrase) usually requires some planning ahead. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or have never stepped foot on Main Street, U.S.A., Disney World is a lot, and you’re going to want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your time and money.
In her new book Walt Disney World Hacks, Disney expert Susan Veness provides over 350 insider tips to help vacationers of all expertise levels navigate this landscape a little more easily. From simplifying the FastPass+ selection process to landing a competitive dining reservation to making sure you don’t completely blow your life savings, Veness’s hacks will help you arrive in Orlando with confidence.
Below, we’ve picked 10 super helpful highlights from the book.
1. Plan your FastPass+ selections backwards from the last day of your vacation.
FastPass+ reservations are available to all guests of Walt Disney World at no extra cost, but it’s a competitive process to skip the long lines on the most popular attractions. If you’re staying on property at a Disney resort, you can book FastPasses for your entire stay beginning at 7 a.m. 60 days from the first day of your vacation. But Veness notes that “most guests will look for FastPass+ times starting with their first day, so you’ll have less competition if you look as far ahead as possible” and then work your way backward. (Note: If you’re not staying on property, FastPasses are only available 30 days prior to each individual day at the park, and this hack does not apply.)
2. Know which rides to prioritize.
Veness says that the most competitive rides at each park are Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at the Magic Kingdom; Frozen Ever After at Epcot, and Smuggler’s Run at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios (when it opens in August), so book those first.
At the Magic Kingdom, where there are the most rides to choose from, this is her ranking of the 10 most difficult to get on: “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train; Space Mountain; Splash Mountain; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; Jungle Cruise; Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin; Enchanted Tales with Belle; Mickey and Tinker Bell meet-and-greets; Haunted Mansion; Pirates of the Caribbean.”
3. Get ahead of the line at Frozen Ever After.
If you can’t get a FastPass for Frozen Ever After but don’t want to wait in the always-long line, Veness suggests another way in — if you’re willing to get up early for a meal. If you book an 8 a.m. breakfast reservation at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (a medieval princess-themed restaurant connected to the ride), you’ll be in the perfect position to be one of the first in line when the park officially opens at 9 a.m. (Veness notes not to do this when there are early morning extra magic hours at the park, which you can find on the park schedule.)
If you’re going at night without a FastPass, she recommends getting in line right before the fireworks show begins.
4. Position yourself in the right spot at the Haunted Mansion.
Sometimes the best ride experience all depends on where you’re situated. Veness provides tips of the best places to sit on various rides, depending on the experience you want. For the Haunted Mansion, you should “aim for the spot under the portrait of the woman holding a pink parasol” when you’re escorted in to the indoor pre-show waiting room. This is right next to the door that leads to the final queue, so you’ll be ahead of the pack when it comes to getting on the ride.
5. Use your Target REDCard.
If you have a Target REDCard credit card, take advantage of some savings! “Each time you use your Target REDCard to purchase a Disney Gift Card you receive 5 percent off the price, and the cards can be used to pay for park admission, resort rooms, shopping and dining all across Walt Disney World,” Veness says.
6. Dress your kid like a princess for less.
Rather than buying the super expensive princess gowns at the parks and resorts, Veness recommends buying a princess outfit ahead of time at Walmart, Target, or a discount store, and packing it with you for your vacation.
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7. Go to Be Our Guest (and expensive restaurants) for lunch.
Be Our Guest, the palatial Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, is one of the most expensive and competitive dinner reservations to get at Walt Disney World, with prix fixe dinners starting at $110 for two adults and $180 for a family of four, Veness notes. Instead, she recommends finding an off-peak lunch reservation, when you can take in the ornate setting while ordering a few appetizers a la carte. Bonus: It’s a respite from the mid-day heat.
8. Schedule your dining selections backwards.
Similarly to FastPasses, you can start booking your dining reservations up to 180 days in advance of the first day of your trip if you’re staying on property, so Veness recommends working backward from the last day of your reservation for the best chance to get into highly sought-after restaurants.
9. Catch holiday fireworks a day early.
“Two of the most heavily attended days at Magic Kingdom are the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, in part because of the spectacular fireworks shows that end each of those holidays in style,” says Veness. Instead of navigating “shoulder-to-shoulder crowds,” she recommends doing what the locals do and going on July 3 or December 30—when the crowds are not quite as insane—and they’re doing the dress rehearsal fireworks show.
10. Skip the themed parties and head to the golf cart parade instead.
Special nighttime parties like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party are extremely popular during the Halloween and Christmas seasons, but Veness notes they can add over $400 to your ticket prices for a family of four. For holiday fun that’s free, instead head to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, where guests decorate their golf carts and hold parades between October 30 and December 24 (times may vary, so call ahead!).
This is just scratching the surface of the hundreds of hacks that Veness has to offer. Pick up or order her book to read them all and outsmart your fellow Disney-heads on your next visit.