If you have plans to go to Walt Disney World, there’s good news: We picked the brain of Len Testa, co-author of The Unofficial Guide: Walt Disney World 2023 ($26.99) and a ridiculously cheerful and helpful resource on all things Mouse-related.
His company studies Disney with wonkish and scientific precision, even paying people to walk around the park all day and write down attraction wait times every 30 minutes. All this so you can get the most bang for your buck when you arrive.
Testa is sharing a few Disney travel tips. Check out his book and helpful companion site, Touring Plans, for more. Much, much more.
1. Be Flexible With the Dates You Go to Disney World
For families with school-age children, your visit to Disney will likely have to happen around the academic calendar. But if you have more flexibility, Testa suggests visiting Disney in February (except during Presidents Day weekend), in September after Labor Day or during the last week of May, or the first week in June.
Summer gets crowded, but he says one really good time to go most people don’t know about is during the last two weeks of August because people are back in school-shopping mode, and the resort prices start to drop around the 15th of the month. (But yeah, Orlando sure is hot in August.)
2. Compare All Hotel Accommodations
There are pros and cons to staying on-site, says Testa. If you’re flying and staying in one of the Disney hotels, you’ll get free bus service to and from the airport, so you don’t have to rent a car.
Along with other perks, you can enter the theme parks an hour earlier and stay later. But Testa notes that “there is a premium of 20% to 40%” for staying in a resort, and, of course, no rental car means no trips anywhere else. So weigh what’s most important to you and make the call.
3. Look for Disney World Discounts
“There’s always a discount for something,” Testa says. Maybe not for a particular hotel on a particular night, but Disney has 25,000 to 30,000 hotel rooms that have to be filled nightly, and there are deals to be had. Our expert is a big fan of mousesavers.com, an in-depth site that provides free info on Disney discounts.
And though Disney never marks down park tickets, there are third-party wholesalers that do. Use Touring Plans’ Disney World Ticket Calculator to figure out the best ticket option for your group. He says the average family will save for 18 months for a trip to Walt Disney World, so make every dollar count!
4. Plan Out Your Trip Before You Go
You can’t just show up at the park at 9 a.m. and then decide what you’re going to do and see. “It’s a system,” Testa insists. “You have to plan in advance or you are going to spend time in line.” His book and site both provide step-by-step itineraries to minimize wait time, so his readers can see double the number of attractions per day than the average Disney guest.
A good Testa rule of thumb? Spend an hour doing research ahead of time for every day you plan to be at the parks. And once you’re there, make sure you have the awesome Lines app, which gives current and future wait times for every Disney World attraction.
5. Use the Free Disney Genie App
If you haven’t been to Disney World recently, you may not know about Disney’s Genie and Genie+ Services (formerly known as FastPass). Disney Genie helps you get the most out of your visit to Walt Disney World Resort. When you download the My Disney Experience mobile app, you’ll find Genie already built in.
Disney Genie is a free service that’s inspired by your top interests to help plan out your Disney trip. It includes an itinerary creator which will map out your visit and update you throughout the day. Genie makes attraction and dining recommendations and suggests a good time to go to an experience and an idea of the forecasted wait. It allows you to make a reservation in advance for a popular ride, meaning you get to skip the long lines.
It’s very handy, and it’s a great way to book time on, say, a water attraction for later in the day when you’re going to want to cool down. But “if the wait is less than 30 minutes for a ride, there’s no point in using your FastPass,” Testa says. Just get in line!
Genie+ is the paid version and includes most Lightning Lane entrances. If you want to go to another attraction or see a certain show again within the same day, you must use the regular standby line. Read the Lighting Lane rules before you decide. According to mousehacking.com, Genie+ starts at $15 (plus tax) per person per day, “but prices in excess of $25 also happen.” The prices change depending on the day.
6. Bring Your Own Stroller
If you’re going to be visiting Disney World for more than a day, Testa says it’s often cheaper to rent a car than a stroller(!). If you will need one, bring your own or buy a cheapo one when you land.
7. Make Restaurant Reservations Before You Go
In 2017, Disney discontinued its prepaid Magic Your Way Plus Dining Plan and hasn’t announced a new one. For about $50 a day, you were able to get a snack, a counter-service meal and one sit-down meal. Stay tuned.
Disney is famous for its excellent food and variety of choices, so completing some due diligence ahead of time is a must. Our expert sends people over to AllEars.net, which lists menus for just about every restaurant at Disney. This way, you can see beforehand what’s offered and get a sense of the cost.
Some restaurants book up far in advance. For example, if you want to have breakfast with Cinderella and other princesses at Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, you need to call up to six months ahead.
8. Bring Your Own Snacks Into the Park
You can certainly save money by bringing food into the parks with you. This is totally allowed, except for glass containers or alcohol. “One cheap way of doing things is to bring in your own water bottles and then refill your water in the water fountains,” our expert says.
9. Take Breaks During the Day
Testa’s research team actually spent time at the parks, listening to the sound of crying children and producing a chart. By noon, there’s some crying. But by 1 p.m., “you can’t NOT find screaming kids,” Testa says.
He strongly suggests those with younger kids head back to the hotel around 11:30 a.m. for lunch, a nap, and some much-needed chill time. It’s easy to get caught up and want to see and do everything and push on. Don’t.
10. Build Up the Magic + Excitement of Disney World
Testa says it’s fun to show your kids videos of the rides ahead of time (check out YouTube). That way, they’ll get excited ahead of time (fun!), and they won’t be as scared or overwhelmed when you’re at the parks. There are many ways to have fun at Disney, so stay calm and enjoy the experience.
The post 10 Disney World Expert Travel Tips To Know Before You Go appeared first on The Real Deal by RetailMeNot.