42 Disney World and Disneyland Tips for a Magical Vacation

Whether it's your first time or 50th, these Disneyland and Disney World tips will help you plan the ultimate Disney vacation.

Millions of guests visit Disney’s California and Florida theme parks each year to see Mickey and pals, experience innovative rides, watch the fireworks over the castle, eat Dole Whips and Mickey pretzels, and make happy memories with their families and friends. These days, planning the perfect Disney vacation requires a little more effort than just buying tickets and showing up, but don’t worry. With dozens of tips covering where to stay, when to go, how to use virtual queues, and how to save money, you’ll be an expert in no time. We included general information and tricks to maximize fun and save time and money, plus specific Disney World and Disneyland tips so you have the best theme park experience. Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or the first time in forever, we’ve gathered more than 40 Disney tips so you can plan the most magical vacation. 

Related: Disneyland vs. Disney World — Everything You Need to Know About Both Theme Park Resorts

Balloons and ferris wheel at Pixar Pier, Disneyland

Courtesy of Disney

Disney Tips and Tricks

Start booking hotels, tickets, and dining reservations months in advance.

Popular experiences such as character meals and after-hours events can book up quickly, and park reservations — still required to enter — can sell out on popular days. A last-minute Disney trip is doable, but it’s best to plan at least two months ahead to maximize your dining, hotel, and park choices. 

disney castle

Visit during off-peak times.

Want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed theme park experience? Plan your Disney vacation for off-peak periods. Avoid major holidays and school breaks; January and February can be great months to visit, along with late summer and early fall after kids return to school. 

Stay on property.

From adorably themed rooms to early park access to free transportation around the resort, Disney hotels offer guests lots of magical perks. Staying immersed in the Disney bubble is especially worth it for first-time visitors. 

And consider splurging on a club-level room.

These top-tier accommodations include access to a lounge serving up tasty eats and drinks (including free alcoholic beverages) all day long. 

Download the Disney World or Disneyland app.

Find real-time ride wait times, dining reservations, mobile food ordering, hotel information, and Genie+ (more on that next) in the resort’s helpful — and necessary — app.

Learn about Disney Genie+ before your trip.

Disney’s free FastPass system was replaced with a paid service that allows guests to make selections for expedited ride access via Lightning Lanes. During busy months, it can be worth buying to maximize your ride time, but you might be able to skip it during off-peak seasons. We’ve broken down the intricacies of the system in a dedicated Genie+ guide

The longer you stay, the less you pay per day.

Admission for Disney World starts at $109 for a one-day ticket, but seven-day tickets begin at $69 per day. Depending on your budget and vacation length, it might be worth it to add the extra day. 

Use mobile ordering.

Skip food lines at some quick-service locations by using the mobile ordering feature in the app.

Avengers Campus Food & Beverage – Experiment No. EE10: Pym Test Kitchen, Disneyland

Courtesy of Disney

Check the height requirements of any rides your children want to experience.

Traveling with small kids? You might want to check ride height requirements online before you go to avoid having any disappointed kiddos. 

Take advantage of the rider switch service.

If you’re visiting with a child that isn’t tall enough to ride or have someone in your party that doesn’t want to ride, you can split the group in two with rider switch and trade off waiting with the non-riders without losing your spot in line. 

Look over the ride refurbishment schedule.

Rides undergo scheduled refurbishment from time to time, so check the calendar online to see if any of your favorite attractions will be unavailable during your trip.

Scan the calendar for special events and extra park hours, too.

While you’re looking at the resort calendar, make a note of the park hours (including early entry and extended hours for select hotel guests), nighttime spectacular and parade times, and any festivals or specially ticketed events (like Halloween and holiday happenings).

Celebrate the holidays early.

Want to see the parks decked out for Halloween or the holidays, but don’t want to deal with the crowds? Plan to visit early in the holiday season (early September for Halloween and early November or December — avoiding Thanksgiving week — for the holidays).

Make it to the parks for rope drop.

To maximize the number of attractions you experience in a day, arrive at the parks a little before opening (30 to 45 minutes) so you can be one of the first in and knock out a few major attractions before the lines get too long. 

Prepare kids for long lines.

No matter when you visit, you’re bound to wait in at least a few lines. Download app games to keep kids occupied and entertained in line so the time flies.  

Make a midday table-service restaurant reservation.

If you’re getting to the parks early, you’ll want to take a break around midday to prepare for the afternoon. Instead of grabbing a quick bite, book a longer lunch at a table-service restaurant so you can take the time to cool off from the sun and rest your feet before hitting the rides again. 

Or, leave the park to take a break.

For a more restorative break, head back to your hotel for an afternoon nap or to splash in the pool. Avoid the midday crowds and heat and arrive back in the parks refreshed for a night of rides, fireworks, and fun. 

Apply for a DAS pass if you need one.

If you or someone in your party has a disability, you may be eligible for the Disability Access Service. For more details about this service and who can use it, check out our DAS guide.

Mickey Mouse waves to the crowd in Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World

Courtesy of Disney

Book at least one character dining experience.

If seeing characters is important to your crew, plan at least one dining experience to guarantee a little face time with your favorites. Instead of waiting in line to get their photos and autographs, the characters will come right up to you for a meet and greet.

Ask for a free special occasion button.

Celebrating something? Whether it’s a birthday, first visit, honeymoon, anniversary, reunion, or any other festive occasion, let a cast member know so they can give you a free celebratory button. 

Consider a VIP tour.

For the ultimate luxurious Disney World or Disneyland experience, book a VIP tour. Your friendly and super-knowledgeable guide will help you plan the perfect Disney day, escort you to the front of ride lines, and provide lots of fun facts about the park along the way. 

Bring the essentials.

Sunscreen, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, wipes, a hair tie, any over-the-counter medications — be sure to stash the essentials in a fanny pack or backpack.   

Invest in FuelRods.

Speaking of essentials, you’ll need a portable charger, and FuelRods are a great choice. There are places to exchange these little portable chargers all around Disney parks, and after you buy one, you can swap them out for free for limitless phone charging throughout the day.

Wear your most comfortable shoes.

You can easily walk miles around Disney parks, so you’ll want to wear your most comfortable sneakers or sandals

Look out for hidden Mickeys.

There are Mickey heads hidden throughout the park in discreet (and not-so-discreet) locations, so keep your eyes peeled for those three iconic circles. 

Disney World Tips 

See all four parks.

While Magic Kingdom is the most iconic Disney World theme park, each of the four parks is well worth a visit. If you have the time, it’s a great idea to budget a day for each theme park. 

Get familiar with on-property transportation options.

Because the property is so expansive (it’s the size of San Francisco!), you’ll need a little help getting around. Thankfully, Disney World has you covered with an extensive, included transportation system of buses, boats, gondolas, and the famous Monorail. 

Go resort hopping.

There are more than 20 hotels at Walt Disney World, and thanks to their fun themes, many are worth visiting in their own right. Spot giraffes from dinner at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, grab a Dole Whip or tiki drink at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and stroll the lively promenade at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. 

Don’t miss Disney Springs.

This dining, shopping, and entertainment district has something for everyone, and it’s a great place to go for a bite to eat after a day at the theme parks. 

Prepare for summer storms.

Summer rainstorms are common in Florida, so having a poncho or umbrella on hand is always helpful.  

Lieutenant Bek in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland

Courtesy of Disney

Disneyland Tips

Book a nearby hotel to save money.

While staying at a Disney hotel offers plenty of perks, travelers hoping to save money will be happy to know that there are tons of affordable hotels within walking distance of the park.

Or, splurge and stay on site for exclusive perks.

In addition to the Disney hotel benefits listed above, guests staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa can take advantage of a special Disney California Adventure Park entrance connected to the hotel. 

Get immersed in Disney history.

As the first Disney park, Disneyland is packed with history and nostalgia. You can experience that yourself when you ride still-operating opening-day attractions and spot Walt’s apartment. 

Spend the extra money on Park Hopper passes.

Hopping between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park takes just a two-minute walk, so we recommend getting a Park Hopper ticket so you can experience both in one day.


How to Save Money at Disney World and Disneyland

Bring your own snacks.

Did you know you can bring snacks to the theme parks? Stashing a few items in your bag can help you save a few bucks on pricey in-park eats. 

Use the ticket calendar to save money.

Disneyland and Disney World use dynamic ticket pricing, so the tickets are more expensive on busier days. That typically means that tickets during holidays, school breaks, and weekends are more expensive, while midweek tickets during off-peak times cost less. Visiting during these less crowded times may require some flexibility, but you’ll be rewarded with shorter lines and lower prices.  

Use points to book a hotel.

There are major chain hotels very close to both Disneyland and Disney World. You can easily find Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, and more properties near Disneyland Resort. The Walt Disney World Swan, Dolphin, and Swan Reserve are Marriott Bonvoy properties located close to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 

Check for special offers.

Always check to see what special offers are available on the Disney website — there may be a money-saving package available for your trip.

Include a resort day in your itinerary.

Tickets are one of the greatest costs for a Disney vacation, so spend a day outside the parks taking advantage of your hotel’s included amenities and activities. 

Don’t pay for water.

You can always ask for free cups of water at Disneyland and Disney World dining locations, so you don’t need to shell out for a bottle every time you’re thirsty. Better yet, bring a water bottle to refill throughout the day so you can stay hydrated.

Buy T-shirts (and other souvenirs) before your trip.

Target, Walmart, and H&M — so many retailers sell relatively inexpensive Disney apparel these days, so this is an easy way to save money on your Disney trip.

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