Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Disney Tips - Saving Money & Avoiding Lines

In writing, authors are referred to as either "plotters" (people who generally have the entire plot of a book figured out before they begin writing) or "pantsters" (people who just start writing with no real idea of where it might go...i.e. "fly by the seat of their pants").  I think the same can be said about visitors to the Walt Disney World Parks.  There are those that plan their trip down to the first ride to hit and the lunchtime meal, and those that wander into the park around noon and see where the day takes them.  In writing, and in almost everything in my life, I am a proud plotter...and at the Disney parks, during the week long break shared by all the schools in the New England states, this pays off big!  So I'm sharing the best tips I've learned from our previous trips - hope it helps you plan your own visit to the Disney parks.

Tickets:  It's tough to find meaningful discounts, but I go with Undercover Tourist.  It looks like a higher price than the Disney website at first, until you realize there's no $20 tax added to each ticket on Undercover Tourist.  The tickets are legit, and the website is useful for many things.  You want to have your tickets in hand before you walk up to the gate.

On the UT website, there is a calendar with codes for each day of the year, and each park.  Use this to plan which day you should hit each park, obviously going for the least crowds.  I also avoid days with extended hours for certain people.  That draws more people to that park, and that's what I'm trying to steer clear of.

If you have a choice for Animal Kingdom, go with an early opening day.  The animals tend to be up and about early in the morning, and this animal lover wants to see them all!

Speaking of opening hours, you HAVE to be there when the rope drops if you want to avoid the lines on peak vacation days.  Period.  Believe me, no one enjoys getting up early less than me.  I'd gladly sleep until noon if allowed, especially on vacation.  But would I rather get up early, wait in zero lines, and come back to the room for an afternoon nap after hitting every ride the kids wanted?  You bet.  I don't do lines well.

To save money, pack backpacks for everyone who can carry one the night before (and have water bottles cooling in the fridge or freezers to stick in there right before you leave).  We bring plastic ponchos purchased at the drugstore for pennies, in case of rain or to use for water rides.  We bring snacks and drinks, of course (no straws allowed at Animal Kingdom - so no Capri Suns or juice boxes packed for that day).  You can bring soft, handheld coolers, but nothing with wheels and nothing with hard sides.  Remember, you do have to carry the stuff around all day.

Since we're at the park early, and saving money on other things, we like to treat ourselves to a calm, sit down lunch some days.  Our favorites are the Rainforest Café at Animal Kingdom and either the Sci-fi diner or the 50's café at Hollywood Studios.  You MUST make your reservations in advance.  We go on the early side, because (a) we're hungry by 11 (b) most people have lunch later, so less people on the rides or at the exhibits around noon and (c) even if you have a table reservation, the restaurants get backed up as the lunch hour progresses.  Again, I don't like to wait.

On that note, it's important to take advantage of the FastPass system.  A lot of people don't understand how this FREE system works, and therefore don't benefit from this easy way to avoid lines.  There is a little bit of a science to it, and the system was changing at the time of this post, so I'd suggest reading these new FAQs (keeping in mind that now only 3 FPs are allowed in one day).  If you are staying on the Disney property, you can get your FPs in advance - a great idea.  We couldn't do this, and even early in the morning, the line for Soarin' was so long that by the time we got in line to reserve our 3 FPs, all the time slots for Mission: Space were gone. 

On another great website, easy wdw, there are also "cheat sheets" worth viewing, with tips on how to best plan your day around the popular rides and attractions.  For example, my kids don't need to see the parade at Animal Kingdom, so the cheat sheet suggests we do the walk-through animal exhibits at this time, as most people will be lining the streets watching the parade, and a great deal of the park is closed off at that time to allow the parade to complete its route.

On the official Walt Disney World website, you can make FREE beautiful color customized maps for your trip.  The process will allow you to choose the rides, shows, exhibits, and restaurants most important to you, and places them on the map for easy identification.  It's a good way to familiarize yourself with the most popular rides before you get to the park--and you need to give yourself 4 weeks to get these delivered (also free), unless you want to print them out at home.

Our beautiful, high quality map
highlighted with our priority rides

Armed with a plan, you will save money and avoid long lines.  What to do with all the extra time you save?  Why, read a book of course!  Grab one of my ghost story/steamy romances for the plane ride or the pool side and lose yourself in the pages of GULL HARBOR or SILVER LAKE!  Have a great trip, and feel free to leave your tips below.


  1. Hi, Kathryn! I am most definitely bookmarking this page for when The Hubs and I take the plunge to Disney with S and K in tow. (Planning aside -- which I will gladly do because I am Type A -- why do I get the sense that this will still be one of those vacations that will leave me needing another vacation? LOL)

    1. Hi Courtney! Thanks for stopping by - and yes, the Disney trip is not the most relaxing of vacations. But the planning does make it so much better :)

    2. I have the feeling that for the planning alone I need a vacation... For me it´s kind of overwhelming, all this decision making. So thank you for this article! I was wondering whether you happen to know this Ebook that they recommend on www.disneyworldforless.com - I´m thinking about getting it because it would be goof to have all the information you need in one place...

    3. Hi Katrin, thanks for coming by - glad you enjoyed the post! I don't know that book, but it's probably worth a try...good luck and have a great trip :)

  2. I am very much a planner so of course I have been working on our trip this June. (And yes, you almost need a vacation after going to Disney World). One thing to note if you haven't been in the last year is that FastPass has changed. No longer are there paper fast passes and you only get 3 a day so the link to the article on Fastpass is out of date.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for the comment, I did not know that! I'll update this blog with the info and keep that in mind for our upcoming trip as well. Have a great time in June!