How to maximize your time

Whether you’re a first-time Disney guest or a Disney Pro, it should come as no shock that there is a LOT to see and do at a Disney park. Depending on how long your vacation is, you may find it really hard to be able to accomplish everything in one trip. And since Disney is ever-changing, just because you’ve been before, doesn’t mean you’ve experienced it all.

When you go, will also be a big factor in how much you will be able to do. Weekends, Holidays, school vacation weeks, and summer break will always mean busier parks, longer wait times, and having a harder time to see/do everything. If you’re someone who goes to the parks all the time, maximizing your time may not be a huge concern to you. But for those of you who have never been, don’t go all that often or (if you’re like me) go a lot but still want to do as much as possible, planning out your days and having a strategy definitely comes in handy.

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Since you have to make park reservations, some pre-planning is going to be inevitable. From there, you can decide how much or how little you want to plan. For the sake of this blog, I’m going to assume you want to pre-plan every detail to maximize the most of your time.

So, how do you get the most out of your Disney vacation? I’m glad you asked!

Disney is not “just a theme park”

If you’re a Disney first timer, please.. please.. please. Do not underestimate the magnitude of Disney. Would you go to a foreign country and assume it was just like home? No. You’d do some research. Figure out where you’d stay, what to eat, and popular attractions. Disney (especially Walt Disney World) is a full on vacation. Not just your average local theme park with a few rides and you’re done in one day.

Having a good “plan of attack” is definitely most beneficial when heading to any Disney park. Now, I’m not saying you need a trip itinerary like the one above. I personally just like to see it all on paper. However, I do suggest having a general plan for your park days.

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Once you’ve made your park reservations, you’ll then be making your dining reservations. There are a LOT of places to eat at the Walt Disney World Resort and a good amount at Disneyland Resort. One thing to keep in mind is that “most” table service restaurants will take about an hour out of your day. So if your plan is to ride as many rides as possible, having multiple table service reservations might not be the best idea for you.

My Disney Experience app “My Plans” Screenshot

So you know what parks on what days and what (if any) dining reservations you have. Now you come up with your plan of attack for each park day.

Rope Drop

“Rope Drop” is a term that means: Entering a park before or at the posted park opening time. And the Cast Members literally hold a rope at the entrance of every land and either remove the rope or walk guests into the land (to deter guests from running). The benefit of rope dropping is that this is when the wait times are at their lowest. Within the first hour that the park is open, you might be able to get on 2-4 rides. This is dependent on how early you get to the park prior to park opening and what rides you choose.

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If you are not a morning person or just really don’t care to race to the parks first thing in the morning, you will be less productive and spend anywhere from an hour, two or even three hours in line for those popular rides. So be sure to keep that in mind.

Most people head right over to those popular rides (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Flights of Passage or Slinky Dog Dash). First thing in the morning; despite the fact that a good chunk of people are headed there as well, it is your best option to be able to get on these rides with the shortest wait. From there, you want to head to either the next closest ride OR head to the next busiest ride. Zig-zagging all over the park may not be the most ideal plan of attack but sometimes it can allow you to do more within a shorter amount of time. Other times, moving through the parks in a geographical order makes more sense and that way you’re not wasting time walking.

My Disney Experience app Screenshot
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For us, the deciding factor is always the wait times. We are CONSTANTLY checking the wait times on the My Disney Experience app. Our initial plan might go right into the trash if the wait times are a lot longer than we anticipated. Say we had planned on riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and then heading to Big Thunder Mountain…Only when we got off Mine Train, Big Thunder has a 50-minute wait. From there it’s usually an “Ok, Pirates only has a 20-minute wait. Let’s hit that”. And off we go. However. If this is your one and an only trip for a while and your little Prince or Princess HAS to ride Space Mountain and it’s a 65-minute wait, you might just say it is what it is because everything at that point in the day has a long wait.

Gimme all the snacks!

Maybe you’re someone who loves all the snacks. I mean how can you go to Disney and NOT get something Mickey shaped? Pretzels, cookies, cupcakes, donuts, ice cream bars…the list goes on and on! And if you’re someone who wants all those Instagrammable photos. Odds are, you probably don’t care about how many rides you get on in a day. Or, maybe you’re in Epcot during the International Food & Wine Festival and your goal is to try all the newest eats, drinks, and desserts. I always have a long list of food and drinks I can’t wait to try, and seeking them out can be a full-day task with little time for rides.

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Quick Service Mobile Ordering

Even if you don’t make any advance dining reservations, you should have an idea of where you are going to eat. Almost all of the Quick Service locations require you to place your order on the My Disney Experience app.

Having a general idea of where you want to eat when you’re in the parks should be factored into your day. Some locations can have a gap between when you are placing your order and when your order will be ready. It’s best to order your food ahead of time to make sure that you will be able to eat when you want.

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Once you have an idea of what rides you want to hit, where you want to eat, or what dining reservations you have, and if there are any parades or fireworks shows you have to watch, your daily itinerary should start coming into shape.

Regardless of how you prioritize things during your trip or if you were able to hit all 4 parks in one day (Yes, the 4 Park Challenge is a real thing for avid Disney goers); my only goal of this post is to help you organize, familiarize and come up with a general idea of what you want to do in the parks. Again, treating a Disney vacation like it’s any other amusement park is a huge misjudgment. Even if you’re someone who enjoys going with the flow and has no desire to plan your days out, please do not underestimate how much walking you will be doing. Having a least a general sense of what you want to do and knowing where things are will save you a lot of aggravation when you’re there.

For even more planning tips, check out my Ultimate Planning Guide for Walt Disney World

Spreading magic one post at a time

Kristin

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