I’m about to tell you some very important pieces of advice. These are crucial to planning your day(s) at Walt Disney World, as they will tell you what not to do and what to look out for. I’ve seen these mistakes multiple times (I’ve even been guilty of making a few of them myself) and I feel like they need to be addressed. Don’t worry, it’s not a long list, but I hope you’ll take all of these into consideration, they might make your time a whole lot better.
1) No tight schedules
Alright, this one is basic, but it’s not well known. When visiting Walt Disney World, you have to be flexible, strict schedules and Disney do not mix. I understand, FastPass and Dining Reservations make this idea very tempting, but there is a huge difference between that schedule and a strict pre-planned schedule of events. I’m talking about things like: “We’re riding this ride at 3:00, then going to meet Mickey at 3:15”. These don’t work, and here’s why: Weather Closures, Ride Malfunctions and Long Lines. Many attractions are primarily outdoors, and Disney’s policy is that once there’s lighting in the area (even if it’s not directly over the park) the outdoor rides are all shut down until the weather passes over.Rides can also malfunction, some of them can break down every hour *cough* Frozen Ever After *cough*. When rides malfunction, they’re normally closed for about 30-45 minutes while they fix it. Finally, wait times vary throughout the day, so if you entered the line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 3:00 and expect to be done by 3:15, your schedule is going to be thrown way off (maybe by about an hour and a half).
(throughout the day, that Peter Pan wait time might drop down to 40 minutes before climbing back up to 75 like it is here)
Now, FastPass reservations are technically a pre-planned ride schedule, but those are windows of time. Each FastPass gives you a one hour window to go ride it, and you can go ride at any time during that hour.
2) Don’t skip Character Meet and Greets
Character Meet and Greets are often overlooked when people are planning their trips, we’ve even done it a few times in the past. However, I have to tell you, character interactions are not to be missed. If you have a child, it’s the most magical thing to see them run up to their favorite Princess or Hero and get a hug from them. It’s even magical for adults too! Most adults believe it’s weird to go meet a character if you’re not a kid, but I can assure you, the characters love to meet adults too! I’ll give you an example:
When I went to meet Elena (From Disney’s Elena of Avalor) for the first time, I was the oldest person in line to meet her. In a situation where most would assume that the character would brush me off quickly after taking a photo since I wasn’t a small child, Elena actually talked with me for a while, helping me plan my next trip to her home kingdom of Avalor.
Character Meet and Greets are unforgettable experiences, and the photos of you or your party with the character serve as great souvenirs!
3) Don’t skip out on staying after dark
A lot of people leave the parks between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM, but leaving around that time means that you’re missing out on all the nighttime entertainment the parks have to offer! In Magic Kingdom, leaving early means you miss out on both Happily Ever After, Magic Kingdom’s Fireworks display, and Once Upon a Time, a pyrotechnics show projected onto Cinderella Castle. In Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you miss out on Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, a fireworks and pyrotechnics show based on the Star Wars cinematic universe, and Fantasmic, a water and pyrotechnics show starring Mickey Mouse. In Epcot, Seven Seas Lagoon is home to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, their nightly fireworks show. Finally, just recently opened is Rivers of Light, the brand new water and projection show in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. So, you see, you miss out on all these amazing shows if you leave early, and trust me, these shows are absolutely amazing.
4) Make sure to do some research on what’s open and closed
*Note: This is not my schedule, photo credit: touringplans.com
The sad thing about Walt Disney World is that, sometimes, they need to have refurbishments done on various rides. These refurbishments can be both long and short, and rides can be closed for one repair or for a general facelift. The point is, these refurbishments can last from three days to three months, but lucky for you, Disney always announces when these particular rides will be closed. There are schedules online for the time periods when rides will be closed, so be sure to check those before your trip so that you’re not disappointed. Soon, I will be making a page on this website that gives an updated schedule, so be on the lookout!
5) Try to avoid going on holidays
Alright, this is the most important piece of advice I will give you. You might figure that on major holidays, the parks will be deserted, as everyone will be home celebrating with their families. Well, unfortunately so does everyone else, which leads to the parks being extremely crowded. Christmas Day is a prime example. No one thinks that people will actually go to the parks on Christmas Day, so they end up going. When they actually get to the parks, they will quickly discover that they weren’t the only ones who thought that. Not having experience with the parks on Christmas Day, I cite this fact from the YouTube channel, SirWillow, a former Disney Cast Member who perfectly explains the mess that is Walt Disney World at Christmas, you can hear it here (it’s around the 2:30 mark). After Christmas, the second busiest time of year is probably The Fourth of July. Now, that one I have experienced. The park was absolutely crazy that day! It was very crowded and unlike anything that we had ever seen, but the special fireworks show made it worth it, so, I guess it wasn’t too bad. In summary, avoid going too close to Christmas, and go on The Fourth of July only if you’re feeling brave.
If you are planing on visiting the parks around the holidays however, please check out my article on After-Hours Holiday events here.