By Alison Fox
June 12, 2019

Anyone planning a trip to Walt Disney World knows it’s a fun and exciting place. But it can also be an expensive and confusing one.

Not to fear, there are plenty of ways to navigate the park, from strategically planning your FastPass+ to getting your food quickly to finding the best places to see a show. Disney expert Susan Veness, author of the recently released “Walt Disney World Hacks,” says all it takes are small changes to make the most of a visit to “The Most Magical Place on Earth.”

“One of the big things at Walt Disney World is you have to be so much more savvy than you used to be,” Veness told Travel + Leisure. “I really remember what it felt like when I was the one planning my family Disney vacations and how complicated it was and how overwhelmed I was.”

“Over the decades I learned a lot of tricks to make it easier, either less expensive or less stressful or just more fun,” she said. “I just really love the idea that I might be able to help other people who are in that same overwhelmed place find a path to making certain things easier.”

Credit: Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images

Beyond savings, Veness says there are a lot of little hidden secrets around the park. In the Japan pavilion in Epcot, for example, Veness said if you stand in the middle of the concentric circles etched into the floor and speak out loud, your voice will come right back into your ear because the building is acoustically perfect.

“The parks are absolutely full of little hidden imagineers signatures,” she said. “People don't know what they're looking at.”

From the best strategy for getting on your favorite rides to beating the heat with a cool treat, here are some of Veness's best tips and tricks from her new book.

Get the best seat in the house.

While Veness said that a center seat makes for the best viewing experience for most shows in the park, there are two exceptions: Voyage of The Little Mermaid in Hollywood Studios and The American Adventure in Epcot. For your journey under the sea, Veness said little kids may have trouble seeing if you’re too far to the front because the stage is very high.

For American Adventure, you want to be further front, she said. “There are details that you can’t see further away,” Veness said. “You're going to see things like Mark Twain's cigar — when he smokes his cigar you're going to see the end light up.”

Mobile order your food.

Don’t wait until you enter a quick service restaurant to place your order. Instead, use the My Disney Experience app to order ahead of time and ensure much shorter wait times. Veness said this also works for the famous Dole Whip (Dole Whip mimosas anyone?).

“Just sit outside where you buy the Dole Whips, mobile order it and then immediately click ‘I'm here’ and walk straight up to the counter and they'll hand it to you,” she said. “No waiting. Normally it’s a very long line, especially in summer.”

Make the most of your Disney Dining Plan.

Veness said that the dining plans can sometimes be way too much food, but rather than feel obligated to sit down to another full meal, you can swap some of your entree credits for snacks. Veness said one entree credit can be split into three snacks — and they can even be used at the food and wine festivals.

“That's a really good way to break it up; you can get three popcorns and your group can split them instead of getting one entree,” she said. “Or you can get three ice creams to enjoy during the fireworks instead of using one entree credit.”

Become the Rebel Spy on Star Tours.

Bragging rights are on the line if you’re picked for this special role on Star Tours - The Adventures Continue. And while there is no guarantee, Veness said there are a few things you can do to help.

“Kids and people who are in big groups have the best chance. Once you sit down, buckle up as fast as you can and then make a stern face or a goofy face and the cast members ... that's the kind of thing they look for,” she said. “They like it to be either some adorable little kid or somebody making a goofy face or someone who just looks like the Rebel Spy. People absolutely will brag about it for years.”

Schedule your FastPass+ backwards.

Veness said you can schedule the three daily rides you want to use FastPass+ for 30 days in advance of your visit to the park (or 60 days in advance if you’re staying at an onsite resort). Instead of scheduling FastPass+ for a popular ride like Avatar Flight of Passage for your first day, schedule it for your last day.

“Everybody's going online at the same time,” she said. “But they’re all starting online with their first day.”

Utilize store cards to buy Disney gift cards.

Veness said that a store card, like the Target REDcard that often offers 5 percent back, can save you money in the long run. (Finding the cheapest times to head to the park can also save some cash)

“People always want to get a discount because it’s a very expensive vacation,” she said. “Say you get $1,000 worth of gift cards at Target, and you pay for them with your Target REDcard, you'll save $50 bucks.”