With an average yearly attendance of around 58 million people, Walt Disney World is the most visited vacation resort destination on the globe. It’s no surprise, then, that the Most Magical Place on Earth, can often feel like the Most Crowded Place on Earth. Read on for our best advice on beating the crowds at Walt Disney World.
Don't Visit During Peak Times
The best way to beat the crowds at Walt Disney World is to avoid them altogether. Most of us already know to avoid Holiday Weeks and School Vacations. You will also want to consider scheduled events at WDW such as marathon weekends and cheer and dance competitions which can add to crowds. Additionally, we’d like to offer some insight into planning specific park days:
- Never go to Magic Kingdom on a Monday. Mondays can be surprisingly crowded. Maybe it’s because people predictably avoid Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and it’s easier to extend your weekend through Monday, than to take a random day off in the middle of the week. Or, maybe it’s because many of us start a week-long WDW vacation with a Sunday arrival and prefer to visit the iconic Magic Kingdom on our first park day. Whatever the reason, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the best options for a Magic Kingdom visit.
- Avoid Epcot on weekends, especially during the Food and Wine or Flower and Garden Festivals. Weekends are when locals and annual passholders head to Epcot to enjoy the festivities in the World Showcase.
- With the immense popularity of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land, Hollywood Studios is almost never slow anymore. Since the implementation of the Park Pass Reservation system, this park consistently ‘sells out.’ Visit whenever you can, and make your reservation early. If possible, avoid weekends.
- Animal Kingdom typically sees it’s lowest crowds on Wednesdays, but Mondays and Tuesdays are often safe bets as well
Oftentimes, it’s just not possible to plan your vacation dates around these constraints. School schedules and family and work commitments dictate our vacation dates. In this case, we offer you some more strategies for beating the crowds at Walt Disney World.
Be an Early Bird
Most of us like to sleep in on vacation, right? We want to relax and take it easy. Don’t do this at Disney. Arrive at the parks well before rope drop and enjoy a less crowded experience while others are sleeping in. You’ll find crowds steadily increase throughout the morning, so get a jump start on everyone else and experience some of the most popular attractions first thing. In fact, we have been seeing some rides and attractions actually running before scheduled rope drop each day, so you’ll get some bonus time too.
Have a Plan
Know that you won’t be able to see and do it all. Do your research and pick which experiences are most important to you. Anything additional you get to do will be a bonus.
Make a Pre-Park-Opening Breakfast Reservation
When they become available, the in-park table service restaurants that serve breakfast will offer reservations before the park opens to regular guests. By making a reservation an hour or so before rope-drop, you can already be inside the park and leaving the restaurant before others have even made it past the ropes. You can get some great photos in a nearly empty park, like the one below in front of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. Please note, however, that if Disney resumes Extra Magic Hours, do not plan a pre-park opening breakfast reservation on a scheduled Extra Magic Hour day for that park.
Take Advantage of FastPass+ and Extra Magic Hours
Don’t miss out on these opportunities when they return. See our post about our thoughts on the Future of the FastPass+. Both of these perks come in very handy when beating the crowds at Walt Disney World.
Ride the Most Popular Rides First
Even if you can’t get to the park by rope drop or can’t snag a pre-park opening breakfast reservation. Crowds at the parks steadily increase through the day until evening, so you will often see the wait times for the most popular attractions steadily increase as well. Though there are exceptions. See next.
Don't Ride the First Headliner Attraction You See
Sometimes the front-and-center locations of these attractions lead to even longer queues immediately at rope drop. Wait an hour or so and use the My Disney Experience app to see if the wait times decrease a little. We MousekeMoms made this mistake on our recent trip to Hollywood Studios when we waited in a 2 hour queue for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway because it was the first ride we saw, and two of us had never done it before. Just a couple of hours later, the wait time was posted at 75 minutes. We forgot our own advice.
If You Can't Be Early, Stay Late
If you simply can NOT get to the parks early, plan to stay late. As families with young children or others who have run out of steam make their way to the exits, crowds diminish a little in the evenings. Experience your favorite popular attractions just before closing or during nighttime shows, parades, and fireworks (when they return).
Take a Mid Day Break
If you do plan to get to the parks early AND stay late, consider a mid day break. Parks are most crowded (and often hottest) in the middle of the day. Head back to your resort for a late lunch, a nap, or some pool time before returning in the evenings. Bonus: this helps prevent mid-afternoon meltdowns.
Always Go Left
I don’t know why, but for some reason, when a line or pathway splits and people face the option of veering right or left, most people choose right. So, go left. It will work 90% of the time.
Eat at Off-Peak Times
Quick service restaurant locations are busiest for lunch 11:30am-2pm and for dinner 5-7pm. Consider planning to have your meal outside of these times and enjoy some delicious Disney snacks to cope. By doing this you will avoid long lines to order, longer waits for food preparation by busy cast members, and more frustration searching for a table. You’ll also see shorter wait times for rides and attractions while everyone else is taking their break to eat! BONUS TIP: When the Festival of Fantasy Parade resumes at Magic Kingdom, head to Columbia Harbor House for a late lunch. Snag a table by the window in the upstairs dining room and watch the parade go by at 3pm on the street below.
Wait Out the Rain
It rains a LOT in Orlando and it doesn’t usually last long. Pack a poncho and stick it out. You can shop and experience indoor attractions while you wait. When the rain subsides, you can be the first in line for any outdoor attractions that may have temporarily closed.
Have a Late Dinner
Make a late dinner reservation at an in-park restaurant. Aim for a time just before park closing. When you are finished with your meal, you will experience a beautifully lit park with very few people. You can grab some great family photos in front of Cinderella Castle, The Tree of Life, Spaceship Earth, or on Hollywood Boulevard.
Book a VIP Tour
If it’s in your budget, VIP tours are a fantastic way for your whole family to get the most out of your WDW park experience. Tours include private transportation, a VIP guide, and customized itineraries.
Whenever you decide to visit, you can rely on these tips to help you in beating the crowds at Walt Disney World. Do you have any tips of your own? Please share in the comments below.
The MousekeMoms, Lori, Jennifer and Juliana, are experienced Disney moms who dole out valuable, honest, no holds barred information on their weekly podcast to help you plan your Disneyland, Walt Disney World or Disney Cruise Line vacation.
After all, Disney moms know best! And they are the best at planning your Disney vacations as the proud agents and owners of Kingdom and Cruise Travel- where vacation wishes come true.
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